Thursday, December 8, 2011


Travel Day. I wake up with a start at 5:09am with a txt from my sister that beeps under my pillow filling my head with beep. Bleary eyed (the guy in the bunk above me had plumbed timbres of snoring last night I hadn't even thought possible), but excited, I trundle into the dark and still morning, down the road to the Royal National Hotel, where our Grand Tour departs. I meet my fellow travelers for the first time, as we que to get our bags weighed, and then onto the bus and we're off! We were missing two South Africans, who it turned out were weather bound in an Airport and would have to meet us on the way. We thus learned a valuable lesson - the bus will not wait for you!

Driving out of London, we were introduced to our tour manager Ryan and our driver Pedro, with whom in time, all the women on the bus would fall in love with (and the guys too). A brief two hours later, we were at Dover!

The weather for the crossing was beautiful, with the sun rising over the distant coast of France, bathing the white cliffs in warm light.

We drive quickly through France and then Belgium, only stopping for a rest in a truck stop on the boarder.

Finally we arrived in Amsterdam, with our introduction to the local culture as "Ding Ding! Hallo!"
Amsterdam is an incredible biking culture, with bicycles pretty much having right of way to everything except trams. It was incredible walking down a street that had four clearly distinguished and signaled modes of transport; trams in the middle, then either side cars, bikes, and finally footpaths. Although most of the time, walking through the narrow lanes around the canals, the only thing you had to watch out for were bikes.

The buildings in Amsterdam were beautifully narrow and thin, like rows of bean-sprouts.

And of course we tried on the famous clog, at a place called "Cheese and Clogs."

But the most incredible place we visited in Amsterdam was Anne Frank's house, where she and her family hid in the attic for over two years.

This was her front door.

This is the attic window she would gaze out of. It was so still. It was also the only window that wasn't covered in thick blackout cloth, cloaking the rest of their house in permanent darkness.
The window into Peter Van Pels room (black). She would have been able to look out at this church clock tower from the attic above. One of the saddest things was she had started re-writing her diary, as a novel called "Secret Annex." In her diary she wrote "In my head it is as good as finished." I just wish I knew how she would have ended it.

Amsterdam also turned out to be a pretty funky place! As I was walking I passed this strange structure in the middle of the road.

That turned out to be a subterranean exhibition celebrating Super Mario, using space created by the continued drilling of the Amsterdam metro system (over budget, behind schedule, and still incomplete a taxi driver told me later).

Cruising down the canal, Amsterdam was very cold and misty, and very beautiful.

Next: Germany!

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