Friday, July 31, 2015

Europe Tour - London

This marks the last day of our tour, officially. This would also be the last time we'll ever see Howard or Peter, or all the others on tour with us. I was feeling rather reluctant to leave Europe, but we've all got to come back to reality when we're done frolicking. We changed buses at the other hotel. Peter and Howard would be taking the guests to the airport in Paris, while the other coach would take us to Calais and then back to London.
Breakfast was super early at 6.30am but we had gotten so accustomed to waking up at 5.30am for the past 11 days that we had no problem waking up for an early breakfast.
After breakfast, we went down to the lobby with a heavy heart. We were already bidding each other farewell and exchanging contacts while Howard and Peter dealt with our luggage. It would be the last time they wheeled and carried our bags around. That kinda has a depressing ring to it, don't you think? Everyone who would be leaving Europe boarded the coach one last time, but there was a complication. We were boxed in left, right, front and back. And we were running late. Time ticked by, 5 minutes 10 minutes, and we were still boxed in. Howard and Peter were talking to the hotel staff to tey to deal with the situation. It was imperative that we left on time because some guests had early flights, and then this happens. Someone had probably told Peter to do the impossible as his arms were sweeping around in wide gestures which looked impossible to do with his coach. Howard had a very irked look on his face. Guests missing their flights would be very bad for his repertoire, after all. The driver of the coach in front of us refused to move and eventually the bus behind us moved out of the way. Peter reversed out of the small parking space and onto the road with his usual amazing expertise. We applauded his efforts and skill then took off for the neighbouring hotel just a couple blocks away, where the other coach was waiting.
We got off and I swear, I'm sure I left a small part of me behind on that bus that we've traveled all through 11 days on. All the drama we've gone through- the broken window, the crazy dancing, all that snoozing, the jokes, the history lessons, the friendships forged, the serious conversations shared- all of this I'm going to miss dearly. I'm sure, when we go on another tour some time in the future, I'm going to be saying the same thing, but for now, this is a good as it gets. A year from now, 5 years or maybe even 10 years down the road, I will remember the adventure of going around Europe and experiencing the people, their rich culture and basking in the glory of its ancient history. Ah, I've fallen in love with Europe, as you can already tell. One day, we will return, but for now, home calls.
We switched buses and I bid au revoir to Peter and Howard, then turned my attention forward. I had a long chat with Andrea on the bus, who was travelling on the parallel tour and whom I've been bumping into on the various road stops. Charlotte, the travel director for her group took us under her care, and with what's left of our group and theirs, we left for Calais.
The ride was long, with a quick stop to switch buses again. Our new driver was called Mo/Moe? who drove a British bus. It felt kinda strange to be riding on a vehicle with the driver on the right and driving on the left. I guess 12 days is a decent length of a time to become accustomed to something. When we arrived at Calais, there was terrible traffic. Due to the recent crisis of flocking immigrants trying to breech British shores through the freezing Channel, security had been upped two fold. Thus, we had to get in line behind five other buses just to get through customs. In Charlotte's words, it was like watching a kettle boil.
When it was finally our turn to get off the bus, another queue greeted us, a long line of tourists. Fortunately, said line moved pretty quickly and we were soon back onto the bus. The British officer was pretty nice and even cracked a joke, despite his stoic façade. Like I said, we made it back into the bus and by a miracle, we even made it for the boat! If not, we'd have to wait another hour for the next one, which would've ruined everything scheduled for. Anyway, everything turned out well, we got onto the boat by coach and onto the deck where we had our light lunch and watched the endless sea before us. It wasn't all that amazing, really. If anything, it was cold and bustling with activity, activity meaning snoozing, eating and plenty of chatter to go around. The trip lasted 90 minutes and in no time, we were back on British soil. Ah Britain, how have I not really missed you. The only thing I was grateful for, was the ability to use internet data again, and mind you, it's unlimited (until it expires some time in August), so you could imagine me going crazy with the internet and having my phone battery almost sucked dry. The London roads were not kind, nor accomodating towards our coach. I forgot how narrow the streets can be in certain places. We were first dropped off at the Trafalgar reception, then towards some hotel in Euston and finally, we arrived at our last stop at the Olympia Hilton where we got off to catch a cab to our little b&b in Chiswick. I had no idea how drabby the place was. Our room kinda smelled like piss, but oh well I can't complain, it was cheap, and at least we've got a place to stay that was near the airport.
I could go on about the day, but our Europe tour really ended when we left Calais, so this is where I'll stop. If you really want to know, after checking in, we went out for a stroll along the street laden with shops that appeared like hidden gems. Of course at that time, most of them have closed, so yeah. So that is the end of our Europe tour! I really do hope to travel with Trafalgar again. I know I'll not be disappointed.

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