Hopping off another plane, stepping out into another country, into another culture and hearing another language.

The kids and I made it to the Netherlands, and we set up shop in The Hague, where Jeff, my uncle, is working and living during the week. We spent a majority of the time cooked up inside, content with our books and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

Aside from the chilly nights, occasional drizzly-days and sightless fog the Hague is a fairly interesting place to live. A multitude of museums await travelers and interested eyes.

I stocked my backpack with stroopwafels in preparation for the flight back to the United States, as the week in the Netherlands is my last. I recall saying that I'd lost a few pounds from eating Asian cuisine. Well, they are back.



These thin, crunchy caramel filled waffles are decadent and addicting. May I note that these waffles are actually baked butter. Yes, baked butter... and people say Southerners are bad. Starbucks may have these jewels at checkout, but I promise you, they aren't like those you buy in little shops and street corners.

I am in the land of leaves, here in the Netherlands. By leaves, I mean marijuana. For those that remember a column I wrote earlier this year, this might make you chuckle. A coffee shop in the Netherlands is not like Mamma Mocha's or Coffee Cat: One whiff and you know they aren't selling pumpkin spice lattes.

On a cloudy day, the kids and I trotted through the city, hitting the most prominent sights.

Girl with the Pearl Earring was a sight to see. The painting takes house in Mauritshuis House in the Hague. I think Scarlett Johansson thoroughly prepared me for seeing the painting.

After a traditional gallery like Mauritshuis House, we ran just a few blocks and ended up on the steps, dripping wet from rain, to the Escher museum. I found that Escher's work spurs the mind and leaves you appreciating the patience that was required to produce such intricate works.

After a long day of city searching we stopped for some french fries at Frietwinkle. I'm not exaggerating when I say that they tasted like baby angels. Like I said, the pounds are back.

I'll see you shortly, Auburn Rec.

A sunny Monday we took the train fifty minutes and arrived in Amsterdam, a city to be reckoned with. After only an hour, I had fallen in love with the city. While on the streets, you hear bike bells ringing from every direction, music trickling from the windows of the skinny, dancing houses and laughter. Even on a Monday, the city was alive, upbeat and ready for a get-together.

As per my request, the Anne Frank house was the first stop when we arrived in Amsterdam. Although fairly crowded, the house stayed quiet. An unspoken respect for the annex resonated throughout the tiny rooms.

Anne's smiling face graced each wall and her words of hope, fear and youth were carved into almost every surface. Reading about her dreams of becoming a journalist and novelist humbled me. At the end of the walk-through there is a book for those who chose to leave a message entailing the effect that Anne Frank had on their life.

One main idea echoed throughout the establishment: Because she believed her writings mattered, hope and courage spreads.

After a heavy morning, the kids, Jeff and I took a boat tour through the iconic canals. We floated along, seeing the city from a different, more fitting point of view. The city was painted from building top to pavement art with EuroPride ads.

Amsterdam is an experience, to say the least. Passing the red light district and walking through clouds of marijuana smoke can really catch you off guard, especially if you were raised in a conservative household. That isn't to say that negative thoughts brewed in my head. As we spent more time in the city, I began to appreciate it's authenticity — it's soul.

It's a free city and being there is liberating.