Who knew exams took up so much time? Well, they lasted long enough to drag out a four-night trip to two months… But right here, right now, is the time we pull together the loose ends of our Netherland adventure!

Canal cruise sailed, Heineken drank and ‘Wok to Walk’ consumed, what next? Oh yes, the evening’s cultural activity. #77 had explored Amsterdam on a previous vacation so we handed him the reigns to take us on a well thought out experience. All packed up and ready to venture into the night, Brown revealed our destination, we were all off to… the Red-Light District! Wait. What? You give them one thing to do. I’m pretty certain any unfortunate events that could possibly occur in that area would not be covered by our University Sports Co-ordinator. But, curiosity got the better of us, so we put our trust in the night’s honorary leader.

After the low-down on what the different coloured lights displayed in each window meant and a stern warning not to take pictures (think that one was aimed at me) we arrived in what was actually a delightful little area of the city- I mean if you take certain things out of the equation. I’ll never forget the look on the guys’ faces as they huddled at one end of a bridge after meandering down the first street. Talk about life lessons. We decided two streets were plenty and headed back, entertained by #9 and #11 discussing the evening’s events in dismay, extreme dismay.

Safely tucked away in the top bunk, I drifted off to the sound of cartoons, snoring and the occasional sleep talking, I wouldn’t have chosen to be anywhere else.

Our second day brought a leisurely morning, some solo time (a chance for the guys to actually go in the right direction for once) and then a lunch meet-up before the big game. After asking multiple locals- from the tram to the sports centre- how to get to our fixture, we arrived at a sports hall filled with young kids and a women’s team. Of course, I received some untrusting looks and finally came the question bothering all of us- ‘Sophia, are you sure you booked the right place?’. Now maps, not my speciality, but surely talking to a travel company explaining that you were a male university team wouldn’t have been that testing, even for me. Turns out we had arrived early and the opposition hadn’t yet turned up, phew, stuck the landing and even got us there with time to spare, yep I’m the best fluke ever.

As the Harlem Lakers strolled onto the court, all 25 (50) of them, we Barons took a moment to look at our diminished and coachless selves. We kept mumbling ‘this is gonna be fun’ and ‘let’s just do our best’. Ahah. Regardless of what we thought we could achieve, or the domineering presence of the home team, the competitive streak never left. This concoction of doubt and determination meant we left the court that night, having given everything we had, completely wrecked. Unfortunately, we couldn’t overcome the Dutch, we couldn’t even get em to crack a smile on court! But credit to them, they could play the game and had a strategy to prove it. We conversed with the home team a little afterwards, no hard feelings shared or even contemplated as we had the opportunity to represent the Barons and our university in another country and laughed throughout, and the opposition were really welcoming. So, a huge thanks to the Harlem Lakers, we’ll get you next time!

Post-game tradition respected, even in torrential rain, we allowed Ed to dine in the nearest Macdonalds and spent the night, you guessed it, playing our favourite literary game. The final two days were spent recovering from the game physically, achieved with ample food and a few Heinekens.

Amsterdam is renowned for its vintage boutiques and quaint antique stores, something on my list of things to do. But how do I accomplish it with this lot on my case? Team outing to the vintage shop!? I think so. It was more of a, ‘come on guys, it’s gonna be great, completely nothing to do with clothes shopping, it’s more of a cultural experience’. Well, it worked a charm, after a few detours (something accepted and expected by now) I’d introduced them to the wonders of second-hand clothing! Surprisingly, Ed bought more than anyone, fashionista in the making. But we had a blast trying on the merch then running away before the shop knew we’d been taking pictures, something apparently banned.

Our final stop before trying to make it back home was a cute little brunch place I’d spotted on the first day. Only the equation didn’t factor in an entourage comparable only to a heard of bulls running right through that china shop. But, the café specialised in Bagels and Coffee mmm. Penned into a corner, we attempted to decipher the menu and, with so many choices, there was a lot of ‘I’ll have the same as him’. Although no one ordered the crispy insect bagel, slightly curious as to how that worked.

Satisfied with our holey bread, the Barons made the journey back to the airport, although we did have to split to collect the team case from the hostel. A bad decision as the heavens opened and we found the missing three huddled in a Macdonalds near the train station on the afternoon we were supposed to visit the Science Museum… yes #11 was involved, go figure.

A minor dance off between #7 and a little kid on the airport escalators passed the time to customs and a few impromptu toilet stops as the gate was closing ensured I experienced that tour leader stress until the bitter end.

Sitting back into those luxurious economy seats, I looked around, go-fish being played between rows, sour Asian sweets being passed across isles, and snoring being projected all over the damn place, we’d done it. The Barons went global and, considering all events, the most important point is the fact we managed to keep a Golden Chocolate Bunny intact throughout the lot!

 

 

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