Europe 2002 Diary

7 [ Amsterdam and London ]

In this part we stay in Amsterdam for two nights, then have a day of driving down to Paris. At this point I left the tour, as did a lot of other people, to get the Eurostar back to London.

See also parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6.

7.1 [ Amsterdam ]

The drive from St Goar to Amsterdam took a long time - it seemed that once we got into The Netherlands the traffic increased dramatically. We checked into the hotel, which was located near the airport, outside the centre of the city. Although this sounds crappy, it was made up for by the standard of the hotel. The quality of hotels we stayed in throughout the tour was impressive, especially when comparing the rack rates to what we payed for the hotel.

We took the bus into the city, where I had a quick dinner at KFC. Then the entire tour group walked through the Red Light District, which was a real eye opener. The district is huge, and difficult to comprehend without actually being there. After a quick walk around we all went to a sex show. I was the first person to go up on stage - I assumed Shana had told them it was my birthday, but apparently not. So that was interesting. Al, Nicole, Dave, Dave, Chris, Chris, and Phil also got up on the stage during the night (some more willingly than others).

Unfortunately we couldn't take photos in either the show or the Red Light District.

The next day was our free day in Amsterdam. We started, like we often did, with a bus tour of the city with Shana pointing out the main sights and giving us some background on the city. We were amazed at the number of bicyles they have, there's even a three level bicycle parking area, shown in the photo below.

Bicyle parking in Amsterdam
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The weather that day was cold and wet, so we tried to stay inside as much as possible. A few of us went to Anne Frank's house. I found it very interesting, despite being the only person in the world who had never heard of Anne Frank before. The house is very well presented, and it gave me some understanding of the ordeal that the family had gone through.

I spent a long time at an Internet cafe that afternoon, both in an effort to stay out of the rain and because I had no change smaller than a €5 note. Next stop was the Heineken brewery. For only €5, we had a self-guided tour of the old brewery, three glasses of Heineken, and a Heineken glass to keep. It was possibly the best value alcohol in all of Europe, and hence very much appreciated.

We sat in an Irish pub for a while, where I had a hot chocolate to try to ward off the cold. When the others turned up, we went for our final group dinner, strangely at an Asian restaurant. The food was good, except there was way too much of it! Perhaps the restaurant wasn't used to dealing with such large groups. We went back to the Irish pub for a quick drink, then headed back to the hotel and bed.

7.2 [ Back to London ]

April 27 was quite a sad day, as it meant the end of the tour for most of us. We had a long drive from Amsterdam to Paris, during which I had ample opportunity to try to use up the remaining storage on my camera. Here's Al (sleeping), everyone relaxing on the bus, Chris (sleeping), and Kate (sleeping).

Al sleeping
Everyone on the bus
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Chris sleeping
Chris sleeping

We stopped for lunch at roadside services in the north of France. It was as we remembered the French services to be. I took a photo of the Kumuka bus, then took Shana and Steph by surprise as I got back onto the bus.

The Kumuka bus
Shana, esteemed tour leader

Most of the trip was spent trying to sleep, and writing down email addresses for each other. I exploited this by taking photos of people trying to sleep. Here's Kate (not looking at her best), Melbourne Dave (with video camera as always), Gerard sleeping, and our driver Martin carefully watching the road.

Kate sleeping
Dave with video camera in hand
Gerard sleeping
Martin, our driver

After arriving in Paris, we said goodbye to Steph, Fiona, and Nicky who were continuing on the tour through France and Spain. We had a couple of hours to wait for a train. A few of us had Royales with Cheese for the last time. When we boarded the train we found that we had a whole carriage almost to ourselves. Phil brought out the cheap Irish Cream that he had purchased in Germany (we called it Billys, because it wasn't quite Baileys).

Phil pours drinks on Eurostar
Phil serves drinks on Eurostar

When the British passport control guy came along to check passports, Nicky asked if she could get a stamp on her passport, because having an EU passport she never got to get any stamps. He obliged, so then everyone asked for a stamp. So now I have a Channel Tunnel stamp on my passport! Nothing much happened for the rest of the trip. We said goodbye to Clive and Sandra when they left the train at Ashford International, then I amused myself by taking even more photos. First is Sally and Chris, then Gerard, Peytee, Phil, and Thelma playing cards (it's a long exposure shot, hence the blueness), and then an example of the healthy snacks consumed on Eurostar.

Sally and Chris
Playing cards on Eurostar
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Healthy snacks on Eurostar

So that was it. The tour was over. We said goodbye to the people who weren't going to be able to make it to lunch the next day, and headed off to our hotel. Chris and I took the Underground to Paddington, then walked to our hotel.

7.3 [ London and the Trip Home ]

The next day was really the last day of our holiday, since the following day we would do nothing but travel. In the morning Chris and I went to Camden Markets for a look around, because it had been recommended to me. Nothing exciting, but I didn't feel like being very touristy anymore.

We met Gerard, Paul, Kate, Jamey, Dave, and Dave for lunch at the Punch and Judy pub. Good food, good beer, and great company made for an excellent lunch. Then we went to an Aussie pub, and had a couple more beers. I paid £3 for a VB, which is possibly the most expensive VB in the world.

Paul, Jamey, Gerard
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We walked around for a while so that Italian Dave could see some of the sights before flying out that evening, and we got rained upon because of Gerard's reluctance to pay for the tube. Chris and I said goodbye to everyone for the last time, and went back to the hotel.

That night we went over to Jamey's place, where she cooked us dinner, took us to the student bar (and £1.40 pints!), and introduced us to Lauri. Then we said goodbye to Jamey, and got the train back to the hotel. Here's me, Jamey, and Chris outside Great Portland Street station, Chris looking happy on the Underground, and me looking like I've had too much to drink.

Me, Jamey, and Chris
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Chris at Great Portland St
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Me at Paddington
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The next day, Chris and I paid £12 each for the Heathrow Express out to the airport, then spent 20 hours flying home to Perth via Kuala Lumpur. The flight seemed to go far quicker than the flight over, even though it was only two hours shorter. We left at midday on Monday and arrived home at 3pm on Tuesday.

It was good to be home, but at the same time sad that the holiday had come to an end. I went to some fantastic places, became friends with some fantastic people, and loved every minute of it. It was the best thing I've ever done.