Day 4 – The wheels on the bus go ’round and ‘round
31 March 2015
London > Dover > Calais > Amsterdam
We were to leave London at 8:30am, to start our two week-long tour of Europe! The Cosmos tour we chose was the European Highlight. I grabbed the following from the tour page explaining what we were to look forward to:
“Experience Europe’s major highlights on this extraordinary vacation. Begin in London with two overnights and free time to discover the UK’s capital. Cross the English Channel and travel by motorcoach to Amsterdam for guided sightseeing and a canal cruise. Journey through the German Rhineland, passing castles and vineyards, then drive through the Tyrolean Alps from Innsbruck to the floating city of Venice. On to Assisi, St. Francis’ town in the Apennine hills. Spend two nights in the “Eternal City” of Rome, visiting archaeological jewels such as the Colosseum and the Roman Forum. Next up: Tuscany with a visit to Florence, the “Cradle of the Renaissance,” and a walking tour that features the Duomo and Signoria Square. On to Pisa with its famous Leaning Tower, then an overnight in fascinating Lake Como, a stop to discover the Swiss subtropical town of Lugano, and Lucerne with its medieval wooden bridge and surrounding mountains. Stop in Interlaken before reaching Lausanne on Lake Geneva, then drink in the beauty of the French vineyards in Beaune. Your adventure concludes in fabulous Paris with two overnights and included guided sightseeing.”
We chose this tour as it fell within the dates of our planned leave, to make the most of the Easter holiday break and it would be a good introduction to Europe, visiting the main attractions we wanted to go see in the first place.
As we waited for the departure time at the hotel lobby, we got a sneak peek into the people we were to hang out with for the next 15 days haha. We were a bit surprised to find out that half the bus were Filipinos haha! Some from the US, the Philippines and Australia. Others came from Malaysia and India. It was a mix of honeymooners, seniors and families. We said hello to a few, there was plenty of time to get to know more people, we were to be stuck together for 14 days so there was no rush haha.
It was time to go and Wifey and I were the first on the bus and so we took the closest seat at the front so we can get a good view. It took around 2 hours to get to Dover port, a cliffside town on the English Channel. We boarded the ferry at 1:30pm, found a nice spot for us to enjoy the scenery and just relax as the trip was to take an hour and a half. The cruise was smooth, the ferry was clean and the couch I was laying on was comfortable and soon enough we reached Calais, France.
After getting off the ferry, we were met by our tour director Clarisse who was very lovely. She was of Korean descent but grew up in France all her life. She introduced us to our driver for the whole duration of the tour, Raffaele who was Italian. Then we were off to Amsterdam. During the drive we were briefed on what to expect of the tour and were given some rules. From time to time Clarisse would tell us some history, facts about the area we were passing through. We passed through the Belgium countryside, saw a few windmills, both old style and new. Would have been good to have taken a photo but the bus was too fast haha. It was not part of the tour anyway. We stopped at a service station were we had dinner. Wifey and I shared a Japanese udon noodle soup. Happy that the person at the resto could speak English really well. We reached Holiday Inn Express hotel at around 9:00pm. Our hotel was a little far from the city centre plus we were quite tired from the journey and so we just had an early night.
Day 5 – Blink and you’ll miss Amsterdam
1 April 2015
Amsterdam > Koblenz
Wake up call was at 7:30am. Got ready, had breakfast, no bacon :(. They offered continental breakfast. I had the flakiest croissant ever in my life. It was delicious. No scrambled eggs either but they did have hard boiled eggs so I had a couple haha #protein.
Things on the to-do list:
1. Canal cruise
2. Tour of the Diamond Museum
3. Free time at the city centre
4. Drive to Koblenz, Germany
It was a freezing morning. Probably less than 8 degrees. The sun was shining though but the forecast was for showers to come often during the day. We were last to go on the boat for the canal cruise. Our local tour guide did not show up for some reason, maybe they were still in bed in their boat house somewhere, perfect weather for it lol. And so we had to make do with the recorded tour guide on the boat, we all received some earphones to listen. Crusing down the canal we noticed the houses on the side looked like they were leaning forward. And there were pulley systems were installed at the top of them. Recorded tour guide told us that the house were built to lean forward and together with the pulley system, it was a way for the house owners to transport furniture and other big things that could not be transported via the front door due to the narrow design of the houses. The forward lean reduces the impact of goods pulled up by the pulley, keeps it away from the windows and walls of the houses #genius. Halfway through the cruise, it started to rain. We saw the line of tourists at Anne Frank’s house, it was really long.
After the cruise we got back on the bus and we were taken to the Diamond Museum. Luckily Wifey’s already happy with the diamond ring I proposed with two years ago hahaha so my credit was not used during this visit. We didn’t really get to see much of the museum, well we only had 45 mins to check it out but we used most of that time lining up for the toilet haha. Just one thing with Europe, there are not many free toilets around, most public toilets you pay around 50 cents to 1 euro to use and so whenever there were free toilets, our tour guide Clarisse would let us know. P.s. she called them “magic rooms” haha. We were one of the first ones to get out since there was little to see in there. Luckily our meeting place was right next to the “I AMSTERDAM” sign. There were however a lot of people taking pics and so we didn’t really get a proper photo there.
We were then dropped off at the city centre. We were given an hour and a half to look around, before the bus was to leave for Germany. That was not a lot of time I thought. So Wifey and I quickly looked for a place to eat. We chose a pizza place. We shared a slice of pizza and some pasta. And then I told her that we needed to find the canals again and take pics haha. We walked and walked and walked some more haha and eventually we found a nice spot to take a selfie :).
And then we were off again, headed towards our meeting place to make sure we weren’t late for departure. On the way we passed the Nine Streets, the Flower Market and the Dam Square where the Royal Palace was at. We bought a souvenir – a tiny pair of wooden clogs. We saw a few “Coffee” Shops, our tour guide told us that you can’t buy coffee from these shops, these are “special” shops where people go to smoke marijuana haha. It is legal to consume cannabis in Amsterdam. If you wanted a coffee you’ll have to go to a “Cafe” instead.
We arrived at our meeting place with 5 minutes to spare. We got on the bus and it was a 3 hour journey to Koblenz. We arrived at our hotel, had our free dinner, German food was pretty good. I don’t remember what it tasted like but during that time I’m sure I liked it lol.
Amsterdam was a wonderful city, just wish we could have stayed longer. Another city to go back to when the time comes :).