Sunday, July 19, 2015

Europe tour - Amsterdam

We left the hotel this morning at 4.30am by taxi. It was cold and drab - a typical London morning. Then we headed for the Trafalgar Reception on York Road. Unexpectedly met a friend from uni whom I thought would be attending the Europe tour with us, but unfortunately not so. Anyway, we left a little after 5.30 am and headed for Dover. 


I'm not sure how long it took us, but it was definitely a shorter trip from London than from Nottingham. There's about 54 people on this tour, mostly Americans, a family of what I'd reckon are Indonesians and a pair of mother and daughter from the Philippines? A rough assumption. Anyway, yes, Americans - it's interesting listening to them talk, it's like listening to an American show on the tele, except they're right behind you and in the flesh. #jakunmoment
From Dover, we took a ferry - Pride of Kent - to Calais, France where we switched buses. 


Calais

Boy is the driver good looking. He looks rather young, about late twenties, is Dutch, speaks French and a dialect of Dutch (which I don't remember what it's called) and some English. Plus, he wears a nice navy suit with a tie and sunglasses. Nice. Our tour director, Howard, is also Dutch (who sounded extremely proud of his country as he took us on a verbal history and cultural tour of his nation) is not as young but he seems very experienced in his field of work.
After passing Dunkerque, we headed north east along the coast to Belgium. We basically only stayed in France territory for half an hour. After briefly passing through said country, we emerged to the Kingdom of Netherlands! (As Howard proudly puts it several times in his explanation) we took a pit stop at a R&R after a 2 & 1/2 hour ride, (photos on facebook) and grabbed some grub. 


The place looked amazing! There were fresh fruits everywhere (even as deco) the pastries looked delicious, and fruit juices were fresh. Unfortunately we could only stay for 30 minutes including toilet time (super long queue). We managed to get some pastries and a drink but quickly packed them into my grandma's backpack as we couldn't eat in the bus (except for light snacks). Netherlands's landscape is mainly flat with plenty of farmland where fat cows, horses, sheep and the occasional pigs graze.




1 & 1/2 hours later, we passed through Amsterdam's borders! The weather was gorgeous with bright blue skies accompanied by a cool breeze. Perfect weather for touring in the Spring.
We checked into The Golden Tulip Hotel, 5 star I'd reckon, or maybe 4. The rooms were fancy despite it's tight space. And an even better plus, free wifi! (Side note: I kinda hate how I can't seem to live without wifi).


We were given these red things, a Vox radio? Those things tourists wear with ear pieces. Anyway, we headed for a paid excursion, roughly €28 for a canal cruise and a walk through the city with a local tour guide.
We walked through the red light district and damn are the ladies scary. No one is allowed to snap photographs, for obvious reasons, of course. One girl from our group was taking a picture of a mural between the windows and one of the ladies stormed out with a whip in hand swearing, just when my grandma and I walked past. You could say my grandma was shocked and stared as I hurriedly pulled her past without batting an eyelash. We also walked past numerous 'coffee shops', one such chain being The Bulldog. My grandma was shocked that such businesses were open like that. There's lots of graffiti that adorn the old red bricked walls. Bicycles fill the streets as well, I'd think even more than Paris has. It's crazy! 

Not as many cars as well, obviously because of the many narrow roads. Lots of house boats along the canals as well. Some were formally boats, while some were built on more solid foundation (still) on the water. It really is like Venice! 



The canal cruise lasted an hour. My dad went trigger happy with the camera lol.
Anyway, the canal tour ended just around dinner time, and we were allowed to have dinner on our own. We sorta picked between two restaurants and even switched (shameless asians). After we settled down and ordered, guess who we bumped into? Jane and her parents! 


We go way back in primary school and church. It was strange how we never met in the UK, but met here of all places. We had our "ahhh!" moments, snapped a few pictures and bade goodbye. Dinner came and we had spaghetti, (dry) half a roast chicken which we thought was rather small and bolognese spaghetti. Towards the end of our meal, around 9pm, it started to drizzle, which then turned into a sudden pour. It lasted about a minute or two then subsided into a light drizzle again. We left for our superawesome hotel at 9.30pm and I indulged myself with the shower and the entire bathroom. The floor was heated too!

Tomorrow we'll be having an early start and heading off to Germany, specifically Cologne and Rhineland.

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