We drove all day today - we were stuck in really bad traffic. We were in traffic when the time for us to go to a museum came and went. We were disappointed but at least we would still get to go to the chocolate factory, we decided. We were still in traffic when our appointment time for the chocolate factory passed. We did eventually arrive in Brussels - much later than we had planned. We had dinner pretty late and then went to our hotel. The leaders offered to take some of us out for a walk around the city, and so I and a dozen or so other kids decided to go. We went in a souvenir shop and a chocolate shop and then were on our way back when we heard music and saw lights.
What we found was this church that was lit up with lights that went along with music that was being played. It was really cool, so we sat down on the smooth cobblestones to watch it. It was over pretty quickly, but we all felt like we'd witnessed something pretty exciting. (The unplanned stuff is always amazing!)
You may want to turn the speakers down a bit - the violins go up really high on this clip!
This is the ending of the last song that played that night...
Somehow we managed to take a wrong turn and get lost after that. We walked around until we found someone who gave us directions, and we made it back to our hotel somewhere around 1 am. (I don't know about everyone else, but I had a lot of fun being lost and getting to see more of the city!)
We left Brussels in the morning and drove on to Holland. We stopped in a little village named Volendam for lunch. We got to walk around a bit after we ate.
Next we went to a cheese factory and learned how they make cheese. It made our mouths water for some cheese, which is good because next was the tasting!
There was a lot of cheese to try and I had a little bit of each. (And a little bit more of the ones I particularly enjoyed.) There was a basic cheese, a cheese with stinging nettles in it, a garlic cheese, a goat's milk cheese and a smoked cheese. The smoked cheese was definitely my favorite but the stinging nettle was second favorite. (You wouldn't know it had stinging nettles - it just tasted like some really delicious herbs.)
We walked right from the cheese factory to the maker of wooden shoes, where we got a quick demonstration. (The actual carving doesn't really take that long.) Below is what the ceiling looked like.
You can't really leave Holland without riding a bike, can you? I ride my bike a lot and I'm used to going pretty fast, but it was nice to slow down a little and see the sights as we peddled by.
Halfway through we stopped at this lake and were invited to swim. We didn't have swimsuits, but we all wanted to go in so we went swimming with our clothes on! It was so warm and so perfect. We all wanted to stay in a lot longer.
Much too soon we had to get out of the water and get back on our bikes. We were all dripping but I don't think anyone who went in regretted it.
Our bus driver, Tony left that night. We all had grown very attached to him and we gave him a bunch of goodbye presents. I missed him before he even left!
After breakfast we went to visit the Anne Frank House, which was my favorite museum of the trip. It really is the place where she hid during WWII. I read her diary right before I left on the trip so that I would know her story, and I'm glad I did read it. There were no photos allowed, which is why I don't have any!
After lunch we went on a boat ride on the canals in Amsterdam.
The ride lasted an hour and a half, and somewhere in there I decided to take pictures of random things like Liam's sunglasses.
When the boat ride was over we walked to a diamond factory, where we learned how diamonds are cut and how they are classified. Below we are being shown different carats.
After dinner that night we were greeted with a torrential downpour. It was a bit of a walk back to our coach, so we were all nice and wet when we climbed into our seats. It was not a good time to be wearing glasses!
That night in our hotel we had a little party for the four delegates who had birthdays on the trip. We then sang a song to our delegation manager Viki, who was awesome, and also gave her some presents.
Since it was our last day, bed checks were at midnight. I know I wasn't the only one who wished the trip wasn't over!
In the airport the next day we said goodbye to Viki, because she would be going on a different flight. The leaders posed for one last picture with her before she left. (Our fourth leader, Tammy, wasn't there because she had to go help one of the delegates in a different part of the airport.)
The flight back was nonstop, and much easier than the flight going over. They even served pizza and ice cream, which I have never had on an airplane before! (That was probably the best airplane meal I'll ever have.)
Once we'd gotten through customs we all went to meet our parents and we had to say goodbye. I've already seen two people from the trip around town, though, and I practically just got back!
It was an absolutely amazing trip and I really wish it could have gone on longer. Thank you again everyone for your help. I couldn't have done it without you!