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Day 9 in Edinburg continued

Filed under: Europe,Travel — Christelle May 29, 2006 @ 1:52 pm
So after the Internet cafe I went back to the Golden Mile near the Edinburg Castle. I walked along that street trying to find nice gifts for people back home. In the end I did! So watch out people! You might be getting something from Scotland. Then I walked back down the hill towards Princes Street, orienting myself using the Castle on the hill. So Edinburg is quite easy to navigate in that way! At the HMV I bought the live Stereophonics CD for 9.99£. It's crazy... Here in Scotland they have their own paper bank notes, the Scottish £. It's the same value as the English £...! Then I came back to the Easy Internet Cafe. I installed MSN Messenger and chatted a bit. I also watched the news bulletin from Radi0-Canada (using their Zap Media). It's awesome. I used to watch it all the time the year I lived in Amsterdam. You can also watch TV shows and everything! I have to go back to the hostel soon I guess. I am a bit scared of not knowing where the bus stop will be but I'll ask the driver I guess.

Day 9 in Edinbourg

Filed under: Europe,Travel — Christelle @ 11:32 am
This morning I got up at around 6h45. We were staying at a guesthouse just outside of Newcastle, in Whitley Bay. I showered, washed my hair and got ready for the day. Then at about 7h45 I went downstairs for breakfast. I got the "cooked breakfast" because that was included in the accomodation rate: beans (I don't eat), sausage x 2 (I don't eat), egg (though it was sunny side-up and I usually like them cooked on both side I ate it), bacon (though it seemed more like ham with texture/look it was saltier, I ate it), pieces of toast and orange juice. It was alright... Then at about 8h30 we were off to Scotland! We drove and drove and arrived at the border of Scotland at 10h. Then we drove some more... And arrived in Edinburg around 12h. We found the hostel after getting good directions from a tourist information near the major road. It was just tricky really finding the Crescent the hostel was on! I entered the hostel and there was a cute cat sitting in the middle of the reception hall, looking at the door/incoming visitors, welcoming us it seemed! So cute! My aussie friend checked us in while I patted the cat. Then we transferred our luggage from the car to the luggage room. Found a parking space. And were off to the city, by bus. There wouldn't have been any parking for the car in the city. The bus was 1£ and it was a double-decker, my first time in one! It was quite neat. Then arrived in the middle of the city we all split up. My aussie friend went somewhere, his family off to the castle and I wanted to go see the Camera Obscura first! So there I went. It cost 5.50£. I explored the place a bit... They had fun stuff on the different floors. And on the top floor the camera obscura! It was neat actually seeing one as I learned about it in one of my classes at Concordia. This one was built in 1853. Then off to the Edinburg Castle. It was quite expensive to get in 10.30£. It was pretty. I joined a guided tour which was also informative. But the castle I'd seen the previous day in Conwy was more fun. This Edinburg Castle is much more touristy. And crowded. And big. The Conwy one was better because I could roam wherever I wanted. This one no. Still I guess it was worth the visit. Though I would lower the price of an entry ticket!! I also got hungry so I had a chocolate muffin and a hot chocolate for 4.10£. I kept bumping into my Aussie friend's mom and aunt... They were also touring the castle at the same time as me! Then I went down the hill. On Rose Street I saw a photo shop. I am running low on memory card space (2 x 256MB cards full, on the 128MB now) so I thought I'd bring one of the 256 MB cards to them to burn the pictures onto a CD. I paid 5£ for that. And then I went to the nearby Easy Internet Cafe. I then saw they also burned photos to CDs for even cheaper! Grrr! But oh well! I got a 24h Internet pass for 3.50£ (1 hour was 2£ so!). I arrived here at the cafe around 15h and it's now 16h30. I will now go out and explore a bit more of the city of Edinbourg. Then I will come back here for another couple of hours before making my way back to the hostel. The stupid thing is that I didn't bring my journal to type the previous days over on the weblog... I forgot it in my backpack in the car!! Grr! So angry at myself. But this is nice anyways... Being in contact with the world again. I felt so cut off from everything in Wales two days ago and last night in Newcastle!!


Filed under: Europe,Travel — Christelle May 26, 2006 @ 7:33 am
I'm now in Bath. I can't use the Internet for very long so just a quickie... And I will eventually write up the whole days stories. Bath is very pretty. Houses made out of sandstone all in rows... I toured the Roman Baths this morning... Got a guided tour and it was quite informative. I'm really sick though... Which sucks. I'm starting to miss home, my own bed, etc. Especially now that I'm sick. But I'm still happy to be here...!

Day 4 in London

Filed under: Europe,Travel — Christelle May 24, 2006 @ 2:53 pm
This morning I woke up at 8h15... Though I had set my alarm on for 7h45! Maybe I didn't hear it or something went wrong. Or maybe I was simply tired. So I slept through my roommates getting their stuff ready to leave! Nuts. Then I quickly showered. I was getting dressed and grabbed my stuff to head downstairs but couldn't find my passport belt! I usually left it with my wallet/camera/etc at night in my bag. But it wasn't there! I searched everywhere and couldn't find it. Finally I remembered where I put it last night... In my little blue bag with my tooth brush! I was happy. Then I went down for breakfast, 10 minutes before the end of the service at 9h. And my throat is hurting... And my nose is snuffy. So I think I'm starting a cold. Grr.. I always get sick when I come to Europe. It seems they have a different virus than in Canada and I get more easily affected. It happened in Venice last Summer too! So after breakfast I took it easy and used the Internet at the hostel for an hour. There was a woman (presumably the owner) and a man (presumably some guidebook/newspaper writer) touring the hostel. The man was taking notes while the woman explained everything. Then I went back to my room and packed my stuff for the day. I then left, around 11h30. I took the tube to Barbican Station but there was something wrong and it was delayed a lot along the way. I still made it to my destination! I explored a bit around the area, churches, houses, but it wasn't the nicest I've seen. I then went to the Museum of London. It was quite ordinary as well, mostly objects. I still enjoyed seeing the period clothing and making an old medieval style print with block letter of my name. After that I took the tube to Tower Hill station. There I walked along the Tower Bridge. It was a nice view of the city just from the bridge's deck so I decided not to spend money to go higher on the passerelle. At the end of the bridge on the Southbank I went to a sandwich shop. There were Italian waiter & waitress. I ordered the smoked salmon sandwich but the lady was the most rude I've ever experienced. She asked white or brown bread. I was thinking which would suit better the salmon... But she lost patience and showed me a slice of white angrily asking "this one?!! or the other?" I didn't like the lady at all. I also got a yummy juice, Sumol Nectar Mango, all for 4£. It was good food so it compensated for the stupid lady. While I was eating my sandwich rain fell outside. When I was done and ready to go the rain had stopped! Perfect timing! I walked back towards the Tower of London. I bought my entry ticket... It was quite expensive at 12£. Luckily I got the student price. I have a "fake" ISIC student card. Why "fake"? Because I changed the year of validity from 2005 to 2006... Just added a little black line on the 5. And until now it's been working great! I could have probably got a new ISIC card before the trip but wasn't sure as I was graduating from Concordia. So anyways... I really hoped the Tower was worth the price!! In the end it was. I enjoyed walking around in the towers. I also enjoyed a little re-enactment with three men dressed in period clothing. They were quite funny. And also through the story they told a lot about the history and how it was way back then at the Tower. I also enjoyed viewing all of the Royal Crowns on display. Too bad photographs were not allowed of those! So pretty! All these precious stones... I was at the Tower of London from 15h15 to 17h10. So it is a long enough visit! After that I stopped by at Subway for a chicken breast sub, a Fanta and a cookie. It was a good snack for 4.30£. But the Fanta was too sweet and made me feel even more sick! So I only drank half of it. Then I took the tube back to the hostel. I bought 2 oranges and 1 apple at a local store for 1.09£. At the hostel it seems I won't be having any roommates tonight... The other 3 left this morning. And there is still no one at 19h30! I hope no one arrives tonight... It would be great to have my own room for the night. I will go shower, pack my bag and have everything ready for check-out tomorrow morning. I'm leaving London for a few days... I'll be touring a bit of the UK... I'll try to continue updating my weblog as I've done until now... But it will depend on the availability of Internet!

Day 3 in London

Filed under: Europe,Travel — Christelle @ 5:12 am
So the day started at 8h. I got up, woken my my roommates getting ready for their day of sightseeing. It was late enough so I got up. I had breakfast at 8h30. The breakfast is everyday the same. Cereals, cold croissant, chocolate muffins, juice. The only thing I can vary is the kind of cereal and the jam on my croissant. So I am getting a bit tired of this breakfast! But it's good because it's "free"! Then I used the net for half an hour and headed out to the city. I took the Underground to Notting Hill Gate station. From there I started walking around the neighbourhood. I went the wrong way because it was ugly. So I came back to the station and went another way! This time, walking along Portobello Road, it was pretty. I saw antique shops, nice clothes shop, expensive bed stuff (sheets and such) shop, and so on. After that I walked along Notting Hill Gate towards the Kensington Gardens. Along the way I finally found a place to buy stamps! I bought 15 for 8£ something. I then put them all on the cards. And I found a mailbox. It had two slots. One marked as "stamped mail" and the other as "franked mail". I had no idea what franked mail was. And my cards had stamps. So I put it in the stamped mail box. Then I arrived at Kensington Gardens. I saw the Diana Memorial Playground... It seemed like such fun for the little kids! But also the perfect place for pedophile lurkers. I hoped kids were well supervised! I walked towards the Kensington Palace. It was quite expensive to get in, 9£, but in the end it was worth it. They gave you an audioguide to tour around. It's much more informative! So each room you pressed in the number and got a TON of info! After the visit in the garden near the Palace a squirrel came running up to me. Usually squirrels are scared and run away. But not this fellow! I was almost scared of him, charging on me like that! I then walked to the big impressive Albert Memorial and left the Kensington Gardens. I saw the Royal Albert Hall which looked like a neat place to go to for a concert. I passed along the Albert Court houses where I'd like to have a flat! Then I passed by the V&A Museum (which I had already toured) and the Science Museum. My guidebook presented that museum as an interesting one. So I went inside. But by now my back was aching (maybe because of the crappy mattress at the hostel?)... And I was feeling sick a bit again. So I didn't feel like walking in the museum. Instead I went to the cafe and had a bit of food. I felt like having a soup but they only had cremes, so I got the mushroom creme, with a breadroll and a glass of juice, all for 4.20£. I ended up not liking the creme much so I ate just a bit of it. I also walked around the museum's store, maybe to find something for my brother's birthday but didn't spot anything worth it/that he'd like. I then took the tube from South Kensington station to Covent Garden. I saw the Royal Opera House (from the back... but didn't know it) and got my ticket for that evening's show. The man had a bit of trouble locating my ticket. And when he did he wouldn't read out my name, maybe by fear of saying it wrong. So he asked "what's your name", looking at the enveloppe hesitantly. I pointed to my name and said it out. He then smiled, said "oh ok, here's your ticket then" and handed it to me. I then browsed around in two stores, one with gadgets/nicknacks and the other with papers/cards/notebooks (I love these papeterie stores!!!). After I walked a bit in the area, seeing the Covent Garden market, St Paul's Church (where there was a public amuseur) and pack to Leicester Square tube. I took the tube to the hostel. I first stopped by a grocery store to get some food I had been craving... Fruits, veggies, milk products. Usually at home I eat a lot of these but haven't been during this trip. So I bought a tomato, an orange, a piece of cheese, a YOP (yogourt) drink and a tiny baguette. It cost me 3.67£. At the hostel at 16h I rested a bit, ate my snack, got ready for the show and left around 18h. I took the tube back to Covent Garden. I walked another route to get to the Royal Opera House and that's when I discovered the facade! It looked much nicer than what I thought was the front...! I was there a bit early so I went up to the Amphitheatre bar area and watched the people on the lower levels. It was a neat view! Then I walked up more stairs to get to the Upper Amphitheatre and where my seat was. The Sleeping Beauty ballet started at 19h30 and finished at 22h30. It was very very very pretty! I loved it. It's good that I knew the story a bit so I was able to follow what was happening. I liked the solo of Aurore on her birthday (simply amazing) and the boat ride with the Lilly Fairy and the Prince the most (because of the neat decor). But it was all awesome! The costumes! The decors! The music! The atmosphere! The theatre itself! Some parts were funny too, like the duo ballet of the cats and red riding hood with the wolve. In the booklet it was written that ushers can provide cough drops. I wondered why at first. But then it was clear! People coughing during the show is really annoying/distracting! Too bad photographs were not allowed... I still sneaked in a few but could have made really pretty pictures if I didn't have to be quick! At the end the "best" dancers got flower bouquets while they were bowing. And the crowd clapped a lot! Growing up as a kid it is something I would have liked... Classical ballet lessons. I did do dance. But it was nothing like this. I would have also liked piano lessons. Anyways... After the show I took the tube back to the hostel. I was there at about 23h. I got ready for bed and slept. It's been 3 days in London now using the Underground a lot so a few comments on that... I bought a 7-day Travel Card which is handy. When you go in the tube you put it in the machine, it spits it out, the doors open, you go in. When you exit again the same process. It's convenient. Except when the station is really busy! Like last night at Covent Garden for example. There was so much people! And still everyone had to slide/Oyster (another type of card) to get in. In Montreal security stands near the tourniquets and allows everyone to get in just by showing their card/putting the ticket in a box. It speeds up the process a lot! But here nope. Then once inside the escalators are much more angled than in Montreal. And much more quicker too. People really stand on one side (right) and let others walk by on the other (left). That's much more efficient than in Montreal. Then there is the directions/lines. They are clearly indicated by name/colour and you have to know if you're going North/South/West/East. You can also look at the stations listed on the big signs but it takes longer than just knowing the N/S/W/E. Until now I haven't got lost on the tube. I'm so happy. I thought I would confuse the directions/lines/etc but nope! Another good point is the frequency of the trains. They run much more often than the Montreal ones! If you miss it a few minutes later there's another one, even later at night (22h-23h). A bad point compared to Montreal is the noise the trains make on the tracks... Montreal has tires which absorb the noise. Here it's metal agains't metal. So it gets noisy. And I said they had escalators... Well one of them has a lift! At Covent Garden you have to go in a big lift to go to the street level... Otherwise it's about 200 steps...!

Day 2 in London continued (evening)

Filed under: Europe,Travel — Christelle May 23, 2006 @ 4:20 am
So yesterday after using the Internet I came back to the hostel. I was really feeling sick, like I was about to throw up and my head hurt. I just drank some water, took the 3rd Tylenol of the day and went to lay on my bed. This time the hostel was more quiet, no cleaning ladies or loud people in the hallway so I was able to sleep... I slept until 18h30 and felt a bit better so I left for the Tottenham Court Road Underground station. From there I walked around in Soho trying to find a good restaurant to sit. None seemed to suit me, in what I felt like eating. I finally just decided to go in one. It was called Bar Carpe Diem... It featured comfortable banquette seating with huge Ikea cushions. Very comfortable. I sat in a spot where I could watch the images of MTV Germany (why Germany, no idea) being projected on the wall and also outside the people walking by. The good points were quiet (only 3 other customers), no smoke, quiet music. All things I needed because I was feeling sick. The bad points were the overpriced food for the quality/quantity and the slow waitress... Not too good for a restaurant! I had a ceasar salad (though I asked for the chicken ceasar salad... It came without... And I didn't want to fuss around ordering another one), a crepe with Nutella as well as a 7up (which the waitress didn't understand what it was and called it "lemonade"... sure). Anyways... 15£ later I had a belly kind of full I left the resto. It seems this resto was overpriced because it was in Soho. My meal at the West Kensington pub from the previous evening was 10000 times better and also cheaper. So note to self, avoid restos in the city centre and try to find little places locals go to. I walked along Oxford spotting shops for later shopping and took the tube from Oxford Circus to Westminster station. I walked around looking at the illuminated London Eye, Big Ben, Westminster Palace and Abbey. It was raining quite a lot. So it was sucky. But still the buildings looked very pretty at night! I had decided to wear my Puma shoes to go out last night. And that was a mistake. Because after walking around in Soho to find a resto and walking around at night they were soaked. My socks were soaked. My feet didn't feel comfortable. So I am glad I brought my Ecco boots and that's what I will continue wearing in the London rain. Tonight I am going to the Royal Opera House for the Sleeping Beauty ballet. I'm excited about that!! And also thanks to the people who have been commenting on my trip reports. It's good to hear from people back "home"!

Day 1 continued & Day 2 in London

Filed under: Europe,Travel — Christelle May 22, 2006 @ 10:52 am
Until now I had been using the Internet at the hostel, 1.50£ for an hour. Yesterday I spotted a cheaper place, 1£ an hour so that's where I am right now. It's about 3 minutes away from the hostel. I'm not feeling too good today. I don't know why. I feel tired. I feel hungry (but I ate enough today and feel if I eat I'd be sick). I feel cold (except in this Internet place where it's warm!). I feel like my feet hurt (from all that walking). I keep sneezing (like 15 times today, usually I rarely sneeze!). I'm wishing I was home and could veg out in front of the television for an hour or two. With a hot chocolate. In my pjs. And then take a nice long warm bath. But I'm not! I'm in London! So I better just forget I'm feeling sick and try to enjoy the city. So what happened last night? On the Internet I found a pub called Cumberland Arms that was in the same neighbourhood as my hostel. I had read the menu online and it looked alright. So I went there around 17h30. But I read on the board that the dinner service only started at 19h! So I walked around a bit in the neighbourhood. At around 18h I went in. I took my coat off and put it on a chair at a small round table near the bar. I then went to the bar and asked the barman & barmaid what their suggestion was for a beer. They had a lot of different ones on tap but I knew none of them! I told them I wanted a blonde/not strong beer. The barman allowed me to taste one before ordering it. I liked it so I got a pint for 2.70£. I also asked them what was the custom for tipping in pubs and they said usually no tips. So I followed their advice... I'm on a tight budget! I sat down with my beer and started writing postcards to friends/family. Then at 19h I ordered a salmon dish with a half-pint of the same beer for 12.85£. It arrived shortly after. The presentation of the dish was beautiful! And the food was very good too! Definitely worth the money. The only negative point of London pubs is that people smoke. And they smoke a lot!!! I enjoyed observing the clientele. There was a regular, an old man. He was limping. He had a beer. I heard the waitress say "See you later" and he left. He indeed later came back and had a glass of red wine. He sat, staring at other clients. There was also a man in his late 30's. He was wearing a suit. He was flirting with the barmaid. The first time he came to get drinks he asked her when she usually worked. The second time he touched her hand asking about a ring. She replied she got it for graduation. He asked what did she study. She answered it was her grade 6 graduation. A woman entered, probably another regular. She told the barmaid her hair looked good today. A youger guy in his mid-20's sat at the round table next to mine. He drank beer, typing away on his laptop, talking on his mobile phone. When I returned to the hostel I met two of my roommates, Monica and a guy whose name I've forgot. They were also Canadian, from near London (Ontario). I think they had done investigative work using my backpack that had been sitting in the room. I have three patches on my backpack, a Canadian flag, a Concordia Uni patch and an Amsterdam city patch. They knew I was Canadian. They then asked about Concordia (but I had not said anything about that... So definitely from my bag). They asked where that was... In Montreal of course! They left this morning early, around 5h30. In other news... Last night when I got back from the pub I was airing out my red sweater as it stank of smoke. I hung it back up and what did I see hanging out of the pocket?? My watch!!! I was super happy!!! I had been "wearing" it all day without knowing! I am so glad it did not fall out accidently... The pocket doesn't close or anything. So this morning I had breakfast and left the hostel at around 9h. I went to Westminster tube station where I saw Big Ben and the London Eye. I then walked along Westminster Palace, following Millbank all the way to the Tate Britain. It opened at 10h and I got there just on time! I toured the modern Britain artwork. I mostly enjoyed seeing Riley's work in real. I had studied her a bit in one of my classes at Uni... But photocopied works/slides don't have the same impact! So I examined her paintings upclosed and from far. Really neat stuff. So easy to do these days with Photoshop though! Then I walked back... I stopped at St John's Smith Square. Then I arrived at Westminster Abbey. But from the wrong side! I was in the college area... There were students everywhere. And when I finally found an entrance to the Abbey I was told tickets were available on the other side! So that's where I went. It was a long queue. I waited from 11h to 11h20. Then I toured the church until 12h20. My favourite room was Lady Chapel at the back. After the church I walked along Whitehall. I saw Downing Street and it's gate protecting the Prime Minister. I also saw how they really inspected cars at another building's gate... Going all around it with a mirror looking for a bomb! Then I saw the Horse Guards Parade... The same horses as yesterday but this was their home, right near the park. There were two horses/guards near the entrance, and tourists taking their photographs with them. I then bought a sandwich, pineapple pieces and orange juice. I took the tube from Charing Cross to the hostel. I was tired. At the hostel I tried sleeping but couldn't. The housekeeping crew were cleaning. Later my new roommates arrived. They are from France and it's a couple with their daughter. I was there from 13h45 to 15h20. Then I came to this Internet place. I was thinking about going to explore the Soho area to find a place to eat. And then visit the parliament (Westminster Palace) which is opened until 22h. That would allow me to see the Abbey/Palace/etc with the night lights, which I was told was very pretty. But I don't know if I feel like it. I also need stamps but I have no idea where to buy them. That's it for now.

Day 1 in London

Filed under: Europe,Travel — Christelle May 21, 2006 @ 11:19 am
I forgot something about yesterday! The lady at immigration/passport contril when I arrived in London. She was the most suspicious of me ever! Usually they ask "why are you travelling?" or something simple and stamp the passport. But not this lady! She asked "how long will you be staying in the UK?", "are you visiting friends or family?", "why are you doing this trip", "I see you spent 3 days in Amsterdam, correct?", "are you still a student in Canada" and finally "can I see your return ticket to Canada?". Man! A lot of questions. Maybe it was because I went from Canada to Amsterdam to London that made her suspicious? Who knows. Last night I went to sleep at around 00h. I had showered and prepared most of the stuff I would need in the morning in order to be as quiet and respectful of my roommates as possible! About 20 minutes after I was in bed ready to sleep two of my roommates arrived. They were very silent, whispering, being careful with the door or the zippers of their bags, and so on. They eventually went to bed too. At 01h40 the last roommate, sleeping in my bunk under me arrived. Man was he noisy!!! He wasn't careful at all. But eventually he went to bed and I fell asleep again. That was until 4h40 this morning. I was awoken by the snoring of someone on the top of the other bunk. Great!!!! I couldn't fall back asleep, I only heard the VRooomm GRrruuf of his snore. So I put Sigur Ros on and half-slept until 7h45. At that time I got up and got ready for the free breakfast. It was quite crowded, about 15 people there already. I ate a croissant, a bowl of cereals and drank some juice. I also had an extra muffin but I just brought that one with me. So at 8h30 I was out of the hostel and ready for my first day of exploring London! I walked to the tube station... The train was there, the doors were closing just as I arrived on the platform! But to my surprise it was not like in Montreal where they just close and the train leaves. Nope! Here the train doors stopped and allowed me to get in before closing!! How awesome is that! So I took the Underground to Hyde Park Corner. As I got out there were a lot of ladies dressed in pink walking for breast cancer. It seems this was the end of the walk... They all looked so tired! I walked past Wellington Arch, an Australian War Monument, through Green Park and arrived at Buckingham Palace just as the rain started to fall again. I didn't see the change of the guards but I did see two of them standing near the entrance. The Palace's flag was up so that means the Queen was there! Then some Royal horses passed by on The Mall. I left the Palace area to walk on Pall Mall and saw an hotel... It's name was Quebec and it had a huge Quebec flag!! I walked passed St James Square but it was closed... Still peaked through the gate. Then I walked by shopping arcades and the Jermyn Street shops but they were all closed still. I arrived at Piccadilly street and walked along there (passing by St-James Church and buying 15 postcards for 1£) to the Piccadilly Circus. The double-decker busses were everywhere! I like them! So typical of London! Just like these red phonebooths (see in the banner above). Piccadilly Circus is the place with huge screens on a building kind of like Times Squares in miniature. There are also a lot of shops and restaurants around there. It seems like a neat night time area. I then took the Underground from Piccadilly Circus to Charing Cross. Trafalgar Square is pretty impressive with it's two fountains (and a monument that was being restaured). I saw the National Gallery and there was also the Canadian Embassy! The Quebec flag was in the middle of the building, near the main entrance, having more importance it seems (or so I like to believe)! I went inside the National Gallery and toured only the paintings from 1700-1900. I liked Van Gogh's Sunflowers and Monet's works... The ones we know, right? After the Gallery I was hungry. I didn't have my time so I couldn't say how late it was. I followed my body's request and went to a mini-supermarket to get some food. I bought a BLT sandwich, some orange juice and apple pieces for 3.90£. I then ate some of my sandwich hiding from the rain under the Gallery's porch. The time was now 12h! My body knew exactly that it was lunch time! With my belly a bit satisfied I continued on walking to Leicester Square which is an area with cinemas/theaters/restaurants. Then I walked through Chinatown. I then took the metro from Leicester Square to South Kensington. I decided since it was raining to go see the Victoria & Albert Museum today. There was a handy tunnel from the Underground to the museum. It's good because you keep dry but bad because you don't see much. The V&A Museum is HUGE! Gigantic! And it's like a multi-level maze. It took me a while to figure out the map but once I did it was fine. I enjoyed the clothing collection the best, followed by old British objects. I liked creating my own coat of arms on an interactive computer... I then was able to email it to myself! I also saw some Asian artefacts, the cast courts which were huge reproductions of foreign masterpieces and more. I was tired so I decided it was time to head back to the hostel. The time was now 14h30. At the hostel 15 minutes later I went to my room. I decided to take a little nap. I slept for about 40 minutes. And then came down to the computer room. Tonight for dinner I'd like a real meal but I don't know where to go. And eating alone in a pub/resto sucks. It's really the thing I hate the most about travelling alone.

Travelling from Amsterdam to London

Filed under: Europe,Travel — Christelle May 20, 2006 @ 5:14 pm
So this morning I got up at around 9h. I was still sleepy but wanted to get up to spend some time with the boys before my departure. So I played with the youngest and is VDamon (or whatever they are called) toys and chatted with/watched the oldest boy while he played around on the computer. Then I had breakfast with the boys and their mom. After that I showered and packed my bag. I was ready to leave but there was still the whole afternoon to spend in Amsterdam. So I hung out around the house. I watched a part of a movie, I took a nap, I read the newspaper. Not much really. I think I've lost my watch. It's really bugging me. I remember the last time I took it off was at the house near the computer. And I don't remember having it after that. So I asked if they had seen it but nope. It really sucks if I lost it! It was not a cheap nor a really expensive watch but I liked it a lot!!! Now I can't tell what time it is... Then at 16h30 I said my goodbyes and the father brought me to the airport. I checked in with Easyjet for my flight... It was the longest cue until now during my trip... I had to wait 15 minutes! Then security and passport control were both quick. I looked around the stores for watches but none were to my liking both in style and price. So I thought I'd wait and buy one in London! So I waited around to get the gate number... I got some chocolate with my left-over Euro coins... And then proceeded to go there. The flight left on time at 18h50. The Easyjet planes are really new. But the seats still are not the most comfortable in the world! So thankfully it's a short flight, 50 minutes. I landed at Gatwick airport and thanks to my work on May 17th I knew right away where to go to buy my ticket. It cost me 40.20£ for the return train card airport-city and a 7 day travel card. I then went on the slow (and cheaper) stop-train at 19h23. The journey was going fine until half-way through where they announced that there was a delay because of some incident. So the journey which was supposed to be 40 minutes max turned into an hour. Not so bad, I wasn't in any rush. On the way I thought the UK looked pretty sad... I saw garbage and crap laying around everywhere!!! Compared to Holland which is much cleaner this was ugly! I arrived at Victoria station and walked across to the Underground. I then got on the District line and came to the hostel. On the hostel's website there were directions and I had printed them out. I read these and followed them right to the hostel! Yay! I checked in at the hostel at 21h... I got room 301. And it's a small room with 4 bunk beds on the third floor. It's cosy let's say. And I was assigned a top bunk! Oh great (not)! I just hope I will be able to sleep well. In my room I opened my bag. And oh no! A leak! On my way to Amsterdam my shampoo bottle had leaked. So for today's flight I had sealed it with tape. Obviously that wasn't enough. And this time it wasn't in a plastic bag so I got some shampoo on my coat which was next to it in my bag! Great! So I cleaned all of that off, took me about 30 minutes. After that I came down near the lobby area to use the Internet. I am excited to be in London but right now I'm mostly tired. I didn't eat a proper dinner yet. And I won't. I'll just eat one of the raisin rolls I bought from the Albert Heijn, shower, and go sleep! I just looked at the weather forecast in London for this week and it's rain, rain and more rain. I really hope it changes and I get at least cloudy skies if not sun. Keep my fingers crossed!

Zaanse Schans and Volendam

Filed under: Europe,Travel — Christelle @ 4:11 am
So last night I went to the Zaanse Schans with my Dutch family. We saw the nice windmills. And old wooden houses. It was really windy but I was happy to be able to see the windmills! After that we drove to Volendam, a little fishing village. We first walked around in the harbour area. And then we set out to find a restaurant. The first one turned us down... The kitchen was closed because there were not enough clients the waiter said. The second one also turned us down because it was full so there was no place for us! The third restaurant finally gave us a table. I had a nice meal... A tomato soup for starters. Then a cod filet with mostard sauce, nice potatoes, nice sweet peas, rhubarb compotte, etc. And finally dessert was a Dame Blanche, ice cream, whipped cream and melted warm chocolate...! Mmmm! I went to bed tired, belly full and happy!

Day 2 in Amsterdam

Filed under: Europe,Travel — Christelle May 19, 2006 @ 9:43 am
So this morning after grocery shopping I took the tram to the city centre! The family dad lent me their Museum Card which allows to visit museums for free! Yay! I went first to the Verzetsmuseum (Dutch resistance) where I saw their permanent exhibition. It was quite interesting to learn about how the Dutch lived during the German occupation. For example they had food stamps smuggeling, ladies wearing pregnancy corsets would bring them in there. They also had cook books on how to make good food during war time with the few things that were available. They showed how women smuggled guns, in an hidden compartment in a baby carriage for example. They also had objects made post-war using german soldier hats, for example a pasta strainer! It was informative. I was there from 11h10 to 12h15. After I walked towards the Rembrant house. I was hungry and wanted an Albert Heijn to buy lunch. And all of a sudden there was one 2 minutes away on foot! I was so happy! I went in and bought a sandwich, apple pieces and a freshly squeezed juice for 5.35€. I ate sitting on a nearby bench with a view on the canal. Then I looked at the entrance prices for the Rembrant house and it was 5€ so I decided not to go! Instead I walked to the Oude Kerk where the World Press Photo exhibition was set up. Again free entrance with the Museum Card. The church itself was pretty impressive inside. And the photographs of the exhibition also. I really enjoyed it there! It took me from 13h to 13h45 to view this exhibition. Then I walked to the Bijenkorf store on the Dam. I browsed a bit inside the store. And continued walking to the Flower Market on the Singel canal. I bought 50 tulip flowers for 5€!!! That's 0.10€ per flower... While in Canada 1 tulip flower cost me 2.10€!!! I got the flowers for my Dutch family to say thank you for having me over. At 15h20 I was back home with the tram. The weather outside today wasn't really nice... Rainy, windy, cold. But I still managed to have a nice day in the city!

Albert Heijn

Filed under: Europe,Travel — Christelle @ 4:10 am
So this morning after breakfast the kids opted for their father bringing them to school. Why? Because it was raining. And he has a car instead of a bike like me! So off they went! The rain eventually stopped. It is now cloudy and windy. So I took the bike and went to a small tobacco/depanneur sort of shop to mail my postcard, buy a strippenkaart (ticket for the trams/metro) and withdraw some money at a nearby ATM machine. I then went to the Albert Heijn grocery store. I wanted to buy a lot but kept reminding myself that I would have to carry it around in London... So I only bought: strawberries (to eat now... mmmm), some fresly pressed juice (for the plane trip tomorrow... mmmmm), paprika Wokkel chips, ontbijtkoek & kandijkoek (2 typical Dutch morning breads), De Ruijter hagel 8 little packs of different kinds (little pieces of sugar/chocolate that you sprinkle on your bread after having put butter), saté saus, the special soap for my mom (it was on sale, 3 for the price of 2), the mix to make poffertjes, Rexona spray deodorant and raisin roll breads. It came up to 18.65€. Most of these things I can't really get in Canada so it's worth it! The family's father lent me their museum card this morning. It gives free entrance to most of the city's museums! So today I will go to the Occupation Museum and the Rembrant House Museum. It's raining so indoors activities are the best...

Day 1 in Amsterdam

Filed under: Europe,Travel — Christelle May 18, 2006 @ 9:07 am
This morning I left the house to go to the city centre at about 9h30. I took the tram to the Central Station. From there I walked over to the Scheepvaartmuseum... It was a long walk, about 20 minutes. When I got there I got a ticket (6.75€) and then proceeded to view the exhibition about the Dutch maritime history. There were a lot of small boat replicas, paintings and objects. Then the most interesting part was to go around the replica of a VOC ship from the 1750's. I knocked my head hard twice because there was not much ceiling room in some areas... In the ship's hold space I could hear the people on the floor as when they walked the ceiling cracked so hard! It took me a while to figure out where the noise was coming from! Also touring the ship were school classes... Grrr! They ran everywhere and were loud. But I still really enjoyed the visit! After the museum I walked back towards the West. I saw a boat crossing the bridges... It was a too big boat so then they have to open the bridge for it... It stops all traffic from the bridge... It is neat to watch! I stopped at Waterlooplein's flea market (they sold everything from porn to antiques to clothing) and bought a Patat met Ketchup and a Fanta Orange (3.65€). Then I continued walking... I liked the Zuiderkerk's music that was playing from the church's bells. It gave a special atmosphere to the walk! I bought a postcard at a small tobacco shop. I then sat on a bench to write the postcard. Then a man in a tiny boat arrived. There was a music roll and he was also playing the trumpet. He played two-three songs and then passed around a long stick, tall enough to reach from the canal to the people around/on the bridge. From the stick was hanging a wooden shoe in which we could give him money. I gave him some (1€) as I had really enjoyed his original show! Then I walked to the Kalverstraat where I went shopping! Oh yes! I went to the Hema to buy some house stuff, pillow cushions, apron, etc and some socks! I like Hema because they have good basic products at a nice price! Then I also went to We but didn't find any clothes worth the price. And finally at Bershka I bought two tops, 1 camisole with pokadots and another long sleeved blue shirt. I won't be buying anything else at stores here... Except for some food at the Albert Heijn! Then at about 14h20 I took the tram back home and I am really tired now!!!

Up at 6h45… That’s 00h45 Montreal time!

Filed under: Europe,Travel — Christelle @ 2:59 am
They are fixing the street outside of my Dutch family's home. The streets here are made out of bricks. So they took all of the bricks out... And made huge piles. And now they are expanding the parking area in front of the houses. They have been working for two days. And they did make good progress. The only thing is that they start working very early... This morning I got up at 6h45... That's 00h45 Montreal time! I could have slept in longer but my alarm went on. I wanted to have breakfast with the family and then bring the kids to school. So I got up, got dressed and came downstairs. The father had started preparing the breakfast so I helped him best I could. Before when I lived here preparing breakfast was my task! I had delicious ontbijtkoek (mmmm), 2 slices of bread (1 with chocolade hagelslag and the other with jam) and an egg "à la coque". Then at 8h I left with only the youngest kid. We both took our bikes and went to his school. The oldest kid went by car with his dad. I liked going to the school with the kid... The route is the same, his classroom and teacher are the same, things (building, streets, etc) haven't really changed. I'm happy that now it seems the sun will stay out... It's shining. Clouds are almost gone and the sky is becoming blue! Last night there was a huge rain storm... And the two walls that give out on the outside are filled with windows. So I could really hear the rainfall hard!!! It woke me up. But now the rain seems to have gone. For now anyways...

Crossing the pond

Filed under: Europe,Travel — Christelle May 17, 2006 @ 2:38 pm
So I left home at 11h30... My boyfriend brought me to the airport. I checked in which was very quick! 2 minutes! No waiting! And it was the same through security. It seems the airport is dead during the day in the week! I bought a book, Night by Elie Wiesel. I also ate a pizza slice with some salad. Then it was time to board the plane. I flew with Zoom. They had a very old aircraft! The crew was nice though. Sitting next to me was an English smelly backpacker. We stopped in Halifax for 1h30 and had to wait inside the plane... It was long! During the flight to London I watched two movies, Last Holiday (which I kinda liked) and Fun with Dick and Jane which was ordinary. They gave us a snack sandwich/cheese/crackers/kit-kat and later the meal pasta/bread/chocolate cake. At 4h20 (London time) I arrived in London! I had 4 hours to wait before checking-in for my flight to Amsterdam. I tried to find a spot to sleep but couldn't! I was laying on 3 seats of a row but other people moving on the row made the whole thing vibrate and it disturbed me. So I decided to listen to music. As soon as I put Sigur Ros on I was able to get 1 hour of shut eye. Then I explored the airport a bit, spotting the train tickets/train platforms/etc for when I go there on Saturday. Then I checked-in with EasyJet for my flight to Amsterdam. I then went through security and in the lounge with all the shops and travellers. That's where everyone was! Really crazy/busy area. I bought two delicious pastries from Upper Crust, a chocolate bread and a raisin twist. The flight with EasyJet left 40 minutes late. In Amsterdam I took the train and metro to my Dutch family home where the kids were waiting for me! Tonight I had a nice dinner with the mom and kids. And now I will shower and go to bed. My eyes are so tired! But I am happy/excited to be here.
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