Nov. 14th, 2009

bougiebohemian: (london)
29-Oct: Was my overnight flight to London...Took off at around 11pm EST. It wasn't bad but I didn't get much in the way of sleep. Saw the Harry Potter movie on flight.

30-Oct: Landed into London Heathrow @ 9am in the morning. Bought an all-day tube pass and took the train to my hotel @ Russell Square...The tube was easy to use and the hotel location was pretty convenient...Right around the corner from the train station & lots of stores around.

I met up w/two of my travel group mates (another American & a British guy who took us around town). We saw all the touristy spots- Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace, Parliament Building, Big Ben, the ferris wheel on a quick whirlwind tour. I called two homegirls that I met through Black Women in Europe. They both lived in London and we had made tentative plans to hang once I flew across the pond. Had to borrow the British guy's mobile phone cos mine went kaput.

Later in the evening, we met the tour manager & the rest of the group for registration, etc. The group itself is like a mini UN! There were about 6 Americans, one Brit, three South Africans, two Mexicans, one Colombian, one Brasilian, a Pakistani, a Saudi, three Kiwis a few Canucks and a large group of Australians!

Registration took only a few minutes, not long @ all. Afterwards, I met one of my BWIE homegirls and she gave me a tour of London @ night. We had coffee @ a really cute café, ran into a candlelight vigil @ Trafalgar Sq, for a gay man who was recently murdered there. It was interesting.

After that, we walked around to see the nightlife...And I went back to my hotel room, where I went to bed and prepped for the BIG TOUR!

31-Oct: Woke up early, called my mom to let her know I'm still alive...Got my bags weighted and got on the bus. The bus got onto a large ferry which transported us to the mainland. From there, we drove through Belgium to get to the Netherlands. Got to the hotel in the evening, washed up, had dinner and went into Amsterdam for our optional excursions- a river cruise (w/unlimited amounts of alcohol) and a live sex show!

The cruise took us around the canal and everyone was being filled up with an abundant amounts of wine & beer. I had about 4 glasses myself! After the cruise, we walked around the Red Light District which is....WhOOO! The old Times Square had nothing on this place!

First off- Prostitution is legal in Amsterdam & the hookers have their own union! You would walk into the side streets and see these storefront windows with the girls standing behind them like mannequins! If the shades were shut- that meant she was servicing a client. There would be seedy mofos to the left and right tryna get some paid stuff! And these dudes look sleazy as hell! I just passed by the windows and waved to all the hookers cos I had no idea what else to do!

And if the hookers didn't get you, the random whiffs of mary jane would...yes, marijuana is legal in Amsterdam as well and people smoke them in cafes. Dutch weed is extremely potent and will stop you in your tracks!

And if that didn't get you, then the open urinals will...They have open urinal stands w/no partition, no door and the guys just go there, whip out their manhoods and do their business. I guess it's better than peeing in a corner, but still...OMG! :O

And then there is the live sex show, which I didn't go to, so I walked around A-dam @ night. From what I heard one of the Aussies in our group PARTICIPATED in the show! :O

Everyone was pretty hammered @ this point. The Aussies were ROWDY as hell and I knew from that day, we were gonna have a wild group w/that bunch! A Canadian guy got sick on the bus...Vomiting everywhere! It smelled HORRIBLE! He puked once all over people & had to puke again...he ran to the bathroom, which was in the back of the bus near me. I flew over my seat and landed in a guy's lap to duck flying barf. HAHA!

1-November: I woke up an hour behind...And found out my tour group left without me no note, nothing! I was scared shitless. Thankfully there was another Contiki group in the hotel. That tour manager gave me the mobile # of my tour manager, who told me where they were and how to get there.

After I got to Amsterdam Central, I only had two hours left of tour time before the bus left to Germany, so I roamed around town and took pics. Ate their famous fries w/mayo. I didn't get a chance to meet up w/F or her gf, who wanted to give me the grand tour of A-dam! :(

Amsterdam is a beautiful old city, with their 500 year old churches, leaning buildings and cobblestone streets. However, it is not one of my favourite places as it is pretty dirty (There would be piles of garbage on the streets!) and overcrowded w/tourists. And if you didn't get damn near hit by an obnoxious biker, then it might be a car or trolley. Grr.

It does get nicer though the farther away you are from the red light district.

From there we drove to St. Goar, Germany, which was in the Rhine Valley. We made pit stops along the way. What I noticed about Europe is how expensive things are. A 20-oz bottle of coke can run you about $4-5 USD and candy bars, chips, etc. about $3 or more. Plus, their sales taxes are high up into the teen percentages (in France it's about 20%)...I never want to hear Americans complain about paying taxes or cost of living again after seeing my money being sucked up as bad as it was in Europe.

Once we crossed the German border, there went my chance to have a decent meal. It was all about sausages, large legs of lamb, whole chickens and plenty of beer to wash it down with. So I ate yogurt, fruit & pastries. Which wasn't a problem because the food was phenom! The yogurt was thick & creamy, the fruit fresh and the sweets so buttery and flavourful (as opposed to the pure sugar & preservatives that is loaded onto US snacks). I felt filled with that little bit of food.

We arrived in St. Goar @ night. It's a very small & picturesque village, with hilltop castles hidden behind thick fog...The hotel room was little to be desired. No heat/hot water and the bathroom was a throwback to the 50s. Was super happy to check out in the morning.

2-November: We had breakfast & did do a little souvenir shopping, where people bought beer steins and Birkenstocks for super cheap. I just got postcards and a medallion for my co-worker @ job #1.

We drove to Munich, which was in the state of Bavaria (Bavarians separate themselves from the rest of Germany). It rained the entire time. Regardless, the drives throughout Europe have been really scenic and beautiful. On the sides of the where you see old farm houses, cows, horses & sheep roaming freely in the grass and often times, small cottages &/or thick, dense forestry. I could see myself living in the middle of all this nature & serenity.

It was really pouring by the time we checked into Munich...I loved my hotel room and didn't want to leave. But I already paid for an excursion- walking tour around Munich.

The whole time we walked around Munich, it was raining and cold. I was miserable. But Munich was a gorgeous old city. By the end of the tour, we dried out @ a beer hall. Where large platters of dead animals were served by waitresses in dirndls and the lager was free & flowing in liter sized mugs. The Aussies were chugging them bitches down like water! And I got hit on by a drunk German. Ew.

I had tea w/rum & a platter of kasespatzle, which were these cheesy noodles w/onions atop. Nom!

After the beer hall it was back to my hotel room for a bit of rest, relaxation & a little German TV...Which of course was all in Deutsch. Even the American shows were dubbed in German...LOL

3-November: We left Munich to make the drive to Venice, Italy. En route, we stopped in Innsbruck (Austria), which was stunning! Snow capped mountains, lush, green hills, cozy cottages, clean streets & air! Sadly I had no pics of this place as I locked my camera in my suitcase.

We only spent an hour in Innsbruck, where we visited & toured the Swarovski crystal shop. Those who were able to, stocked up on jewels. I didn't. We also had pizza in Austria. The slice was HUGE and about the size of two NY slices. But it was amazing. From Austria, we went to bella Italia!!!

Part two to come: Italy, Switzerland & Paris! Oohlala!!! :O


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