Hi ! It’s me again, Ren ! Here’s Part 2 of MY TRIP TO EUROPE. I hope you’re not bored yet , coz I’m going to finish this all the way to the end, ha ha ha.
The official tour with Cosmos Travel actually began after London. London was our “free ” time, which means , we were on our own. In a way, I liked being on our own. We were more relaxed and unhurried. We could rest when tired, shoot better pictures, take our time posing , buying for souvenirs, and savoring the atmosphere. I recommend travelling this way if you have longer vacation time, know how to read maps, and over-all, know what you’re doing. Otherwise, group tour is for you, and you do not mind looking like this after a brutal schedule…..
Anyway, back to London…. The places we went to were Trafalgar Square, Picadilly Square, shopped at Soho ( bought a pair of shoes ) had lunch at Mark and Spencer, went to other places before we went back to the hotel,,, we didn’t stop there… we went out again to shop for souvenirs at the Notting Hill area. By the way, there was still sunlight at 9:30 PM , thankfully, though the shops there close quite early.
.That must be the national library. It says ” Bibliotheca “. There sre so many people loitering outside the library. Why don’t they instead go inside and read, ha ha ha…. kidding. That big clock/timer shows a countdown to Olympics. It says 38 days, 6 hours, 58 min, 13 sec to Olympics. The other building says Ripley’s. That must be the Ripley’s of Ripley’s Believe It Or Not. I should have insisted on going in to check out what macabre stuff they have in there, like Jack The Ripper’s scalpel or a poor guy’s dried, shrunken head…… my cup of tea. ….
Good thing the sun goes down at 9:30 P.M. in summer, so it was still bright and and nice to walk around Notting Hill and Portebello Markets Sts. , near the hotel.
Portebello Market St. is a narrow street with quaint little shops selling old things, used goods and antiques. Mom bought 4 old door knobs.
Well, that’s it for London. …… 2 days wasn’t enough , of course. I hope I can come back again and see more of England. When we got back to the hotel, we received a note from the Tour director for the first time.
6: 30 ——-wake -up call
7 :00 —–Luggage out and breakfast
8 :00 ——Departure
The next day was the first time we met our tour group. So we departed London at exactly 8 AM, travelled to Devon for 3 hours where we boarded a ferry to take us to Calais, France. The scenery from London to Devon was ordinary, though.
.Me on board the ferry.
So we got off in Calais, boarded a Cosmos motorcoach to take us to Amsterdam. We passed by Belgium, stopped over there for lunch for 3 hours. I wasn’t hungry, but I thought I’d have a doughnut, but when I saw the price, I was like, what the #$%^& ! 1,95 Euro ! ! ( $ 2.70 a piece ? ) A dozen Krispy Kreme doughnuts here in the US is only $ 5.00 ! But I was thirsty, so my mind was protesting as I took out 1,90 Euro from my wallet for a small bottle of H2O. ( $ 2.65 ) I realized these stores were catering to tourists, but that was literally highway robbery. Good thing the scenery from Calais to Amsterdam was spectacular, though it did get a little bit boring after looking at same scenery the whole day.
We arrived in Amsterdam at around 6 PM. That was a long drive, though there were pit stops every 2 hours…..( some sort of tour regulation, mainly for the driver ), and usually at this place called Auto Grill where we could use the toilets and have snacks, some hot foods, but mostly sandwiches. About the sandwiches……. hard baguettes( spelling? ) that would crack one’s teeth, with some ham, wilted greens, and they were very, very dry… tasteless too. How I longed for some McDonald’s ! ! ! … Give me some soft hamburger buns, and a quarter pounder, please. And some ketchup… mayo, mustard, pickles, tomatoes, onions….. ( Sorry, ranting here…. so, my cousins from the Philippines who went to Europe were right about the sandwiches. ) Each to his / her own, though, so don’t hate me. Perhaps, it’s just my ” unrefined” American preference for a sandwich with everything in it. @–@ ”
Back to Amsterdam….. So, we arrived at our hotel ( Best Western, Blue Tower Hotel ) earlier than expected. Since there wasn’t ” free” dinner at the hotel, we decided to go somewhere, specifically the famous ( or infamous ) Red Light District of Amsterdam for dinner. RLD is at the Central Station area. Also, we didn’t think our tour director would take us there to see the ” sights”, anyway, so we went there on our own.
.The 4th photo is the street where we saw semi-nude women showing off their ” wares” at ” display ” windows, gyrating, swaying , dancing…. and there was even a topless one who looked bored while polishing her nails. Check out some of the guys on the right… they were ogling…… I feel sad these women have such kind of livelihood. I’m not judging…. they’re legit, organized and pay taxes, too. We weren’t supposed to take pics, ( or we might get roughed up or whatnot) but we did manage to take photos of the area without flash. Secretly, by the way, and very fast.
.The area is compact and not all the streets cater to pleasure-seekers. as you can see from the photo above……… there are souvenir shops, good restaurants, even a convenience store where we bought something to eat ( pastries and soda )
Oh, and check out the pic below …. Weed is perfectly legal in Amsterdam, right? High snack !
.Next day was group tour. We started with a canal cruise on Amsterdam’s famous canals. The area along the canals have been put on the list of UNESCO’s World Heritage. What does this mean? It means, it now belongs to humanity, and its preservation is funded by UNESCO.
Those are hundred year old rich Dutch merchants’ homes, and if you notice, they’re very narrow and tall, with very narrow doors, and I assume , narrow stairs. They also served as warehouses, i.e. that’s where they stored the goods they bought or sold. For a long time, Amsterdam was the richest city in the world, and the Dutch were the first to establish the first multi-national corporation, The Dutch East India Co. Going back to these homes……. do you notice those beams jutting out at the top of each house? They were used to haul up or down the merchendise, the top rooms serving as storerooms. They were also used to haul up a person having a ” Dutch headache” ( hangover ). First they would dip the person in the canal, then haul him up. Ahahaha ! Well, Heineken is Dutch. ^–^ Now, why do you think the houses are so narrow ? You’d think land is limited and expensive, especially those along the canals , but the merchants were very rich and could afford to buy large tracts of land. Just like any shrewd businessmen all over the world, they built vertically to avoid paying huge real estate taxes….. because tax in Amsterdam then was based SOLELY on the WIDTH of the house. Therefore, the narrower the house, the smaller the tax. 6-6…. Don’t be surprised then about where the origin of “Dutch treat “came from. A guy gets a huge salary increase and invites some friends to celebrate, but , sorry folks, it’s Dutch treat. Which means pay your own way, or the bill is split to the last penny. In short, a penny pincher. lol ( Mom says this term is very common in the Philippines. Filipinos will fight to pay the bill, and therefore , to say that a celebration is actually a Dutch treat is an embarassment, a social faux pas. )
But I digress….
The house with reddish/purplish windows was where Anne Frank and family hid from the Nazis.
.Take note of the bicycles parked on the road. Bicycles are THE mode of transportation in Amstaerdam. They have weekend bicycles and weekday ones. The weekend ones, I guess, are those with baskets and baby seats. I’d seen those. The Dutch leave the least carbon footprints in the world. Very nice.
Our canal cruise ended at a diamond center where we disembarked and were shown around the diamond center.
.We were aware we were brought there to shop for diamonds… I don’t know who got commissions, but I heard one in our group purchased a small rock. They have a shop there, expensive stuff… jewellery, and expensive watches…. We couldn’t afford the diamond, nor the Rolex, hahaha, so Mom just bought a Swatch watch, for me. I think that was the least expensive item on display. But thank you !
So, back to the motorcoach, and here I end our day-long tour. Part 3 will still be some Amsterdam, ( just a few photos)… and Germany.
.Peace and good day !