Archive for July, 2012


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 !


Hi there ! I’m baaaaack ! !  * waves *

Back from Europe !  Honestly, I don’t know how to start this. It’s so overwhelming. I guess the only way is to  do this chronologically, right from day one.  Don’t be surprised though if  I jump from one topic to another. (  Meh. I’m like that, so what’s new, hahaha ! )

First off, the trip felt so fast   and really , really tiring. Everything was so regimented, and scheduled to the last minute.  The tour director was our Nazi timer, and he was very strict.

6:00 AM ——- Wake – up call

6:30        ——– Luggage out  and Breakfast

7:15        ——– Departure

Yeah, something like that.  We were advised to bring an alarm clock, which we did, and Mom set it at 5: 30 AM everyday.  The countries we went to were  England, France, Italy, Holland, Spain, Monaco, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland…… The Vatican is another country, right ? but I’m not counting that.  It’s the smallest country in the world, by the way.

So, June 17 , we left  San Francisco Airport  for London’s Heathrow Airport on British Airways.

I forgot to take a pic of our dinner on the plane, which was rice curry with some chicken ,  some sort of veggie salad,  5 pcs. of grapes. And here’s breakfast….

This was actually a small box. The red thing was a small box of raisins, and that round thing was mint candy.

.Compared to the meals I had on Philippine Airlines, these ones on British Airways were pitiful.  And about British Airways….. I don’t mind the tight space, but the service was atrocious. One of the stewardessese who looked like the drag queen Ru Paul was rude. When we were asked by this woman what kind of juice we wanted, my cousin asked what kind of juice she had…. and the woman answered, ” if  I had to list the kind of juices I have here, I’d be standing here the whole day. ” That small cart she was pushing only had 2 or 3 kinds of juices, so what the f*ck was she talking about …. bloody rude.  Mom will report her to BA soon.

Anyways, here we are at Heathrow, looking like refugees after a tortous 11 hour- flight.  We were met by a Cosmos Travel driver and driven to our hotel, the Hyde Park Hotel. It was rather disorienting to be seated on the left side of the driver.

Our hotel is right across from Hyde Park  and Kensington Gradens, and just  a  2 minute walk to Notting Hill and Portebello Market Sts.

.Above are the beautiful buildings beside the hotel . Note the Smart car parked on the street. This is the car driven all over Europe.  It is small and practical, and its length is the same as a motorcycle’s, which is the favorite mode of transportaation in Europe, aside from bicycles.

I did say before I wanted to eat authentic fish and chips and kidney pudding, didn’t I ? Well my first dinner in London were fish and chips (which was yummy) and kidney pudding , but I didn’t like  kidney pudding.  Fish and chips cost about 5,95 Brit pounds, while pudding was 6,95. I thought it was expensive but soon found out it was rather cheap compared to the cost of food in other countries of Europe.


.June 20 was our second day in London. Our breakfast was free at the hotel. If it wasn’t free, we’d be paying 15 pounds each, ha ha ha.  ( Exchange rate is 1 Btitish pound= $ 1.60 )

Bacon, beans, hashed potato, sausage, omelette, sunny side up,  and see that black round thing ? That’s blood sausage.  I thought I would like it, too, as a Philippine -American who eats blood soup , but I didn’t like the taste of this sausage  much… too much oregano in it, too mask the bloody taste, I ‘m sure.   I had seconds after this…. ham, fruits, croissants, 2 cups of cappuchino, another sausage, and mushrooms.  After a hearty breakfast, we purchased a an all-day transportation ticket for 7 pounds each,  a hop on, hop off kind of thing, and armed with a map and a full stomach, we headed out to see London.


I think that’s the Queen’s residence. Buckingham Palace.   We were lucky we were there when the Queen’s guards came marchimg in.  We wanted to see the changing of the guards but  it was too early. They do it at noon, I think.

I also said I’d go to King’s Cross Station to see  Harry Potter’s Platform 9 3/4, didn’t I ? I wouldn’t miss that for the world ! !

.I felt so geeky posing  at the imaginary platform ( yep, it’s between Platforms 9 and 10.)

I know. I couldn’t help it. I just had to pose.  What used to be  such a common scene in London, the ubiquitous red phonebooths, are now an endangered species . Everyone has a cellphone now.

I’m not sure about this but that’s the old King ‘s Cross Station.  Maybe that’s the one they used for Harry Potter scenes, because the new one has very modern interiors.

 I took this pic while riding a red double decker bus.  Take note of the street lanes. I wonder why they aren’t straight.  Also, European pedestrians don’t follow street rules.  They cross streets even on red. I gasped so many times  seeing pedestrians almost getting getting hit by vehicles, It was crazy.  At first, we’d wait for red to turn green before we crossed streets,  but then, we;d see people crossing anyway, so, what the heck, when in Rome, do as the Romans do.  Just  run for your life !

Do you see the flags in the pic?  The Olympics is going to be held in London on July 24 th, I think.  They’re sprucing up the place in preparation for this event.

This awesome building is by King Cross Station. It does look like the facade of the pic that I thought was the old King Cross, but I’m not sure now. It looks like a church, doesn’t it?

.That’s No. 10 Downing Street., the official residence and office of the Prime Minister.  I couldn’t get a better pic of the place because there were a handful of protesters in front.  No. 10 is the most famous address in the world. It should have been 1600 Pennsylavania Ave., that’s the address of The White House, but I don;t think many  Americans even  know of this address. O.Oa

.A ceremonial guard at No. 10. Oooops, I don’t know the lady in the pic. She’s some random Korean tourist, he he. I can distinguish a Korean from a Japanese even without listening to the language spoken. The Koreans have replaced the Japanese as No, 1 tourists in the world. They are all over the place.  It’s amazing to hear a cacophony of different languages  at these tourist spots.  Our tour group though are English-speaking…. Australians, Americans, Canadians, and a couple from new Zealand.  Believe it or not, after weeks of being with them, I almost acquired a slight Aussie accent. Even my friend, Thalin, an Australian who became close to me during the tour, noticed it. He he he  Oh, I winked at the guy  on the horse when I took his pic, and Mr. Gorgeous winked back, Wooohoo !

The Westminster Palace is the seat of the Parliament of the United Kingdom.  Nearby is the famous River Thames, and is also just walking distance from Buckingham Palace.

That’s the famous Big Ben.

.We took this station to get back to our hotel.

That’s the River Thames. That huge ferris wheel is supposed to give a panoramic view of  the Westminster area. In my opinion, though, it’s kind of an oddball  and sticks out like a sore thumb among amazing hundreds of year olds buildings in that area.

Well, this is all for now. I have  hundreds more of  London, but I don’t think I can post them all here.   I’ll save some for Part 2. I love London, guys .

I hope you don’t get bored. I take lousy pics. Well, Mom took the pics where I’m in them, he he he and she’s worse.

Good day !