Buzzing about Europe… V2

Grand Place Brussels
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On Day 3 of the journey we got on a bus and departed London for Dover, in the south east of England, to Calais, France. On the ferry we treated ourselves to an upscale meal – mine consisted of cheese, meat, and more cheese. I tried the Welsh Rarebit and the Baked Camembert.

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After a 2 hours ferry across the English Channel, I collected my second passport stamp of the journey while giving my best “bonjour” to the Customs Agent. He then asked if I spoke French (clearly he was being kind as my American accent is hard to mask through my extremely infantile French). I replied, stupidly, “Je suis Anna” (I am Anna) and then I quit – but gave him my big, toothy smile and he seemed as amused as a French Customs Agent could be.

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Back on the bus, and we got a full introduction from our tour guide, Adam from Holland (yes, that’s how we’ll refer to him). He’s a young guy who’s entire job is taking tour groups around Europe – pretty sweet gig, if I do say so myself. He also introduced Pascal, our very talented driver who took our massive tour bus through the twists, turns, and tiny roads of Europe, sometimes in reverse. I’ll note that Adam took some days to warm up to us Americans, but our habits of smiling and making eye contact certainly throw some people off.

On the bus we met the other passengers. We all came from different parts of the world, but most everyone had one person in their party who spoke English. Really makes me feel dumb – I need to get on Spanish, if it’s the last thing I do… One of my favorite new friends is a college-aged gal from Mexico who was studying abroad in Florence and jumped on the tour. If you know anything about Mexican culture, you’ll know that they have very long names, she creatively made her name an acronym – so now you’ll hear about Malisa. Malisa quickly became my buddy and we bonded over being short enough to share the same umbrella. She has an excellent sense of adventure and became my exploring partner when we’d tuckered our small group out. We also met Harriet, who was Malisa’s random roomie for the trip. Harriet was a 60s-ish model-esque fashionista from Chicago – she is truly a fabulous woman.

That night the bus took us to Brussels, right into the heart of the old city after a driving orientation. We had one hour outside of the tour to eat, see what we wanted to see, and explore. Of course I had sites picked out.

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  • Grand Place
  • Manneken Pis – the peeing boy of Brussels. You just have to. (And don’t say “that’s it?” so irritating…)
  • Eat waffles, chocolate, and drink beer… all accomplished!

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Regrets for Brussels:

  • Not enough time to discover such a beautiful city
  • I did not see one monument, even a tchotchke commemorating my beloved Little Belgian, Hercule Poirot

    Hercule Poirot, the Little Belgian

Ladies European Adventure: V1 – London

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Almost two months later, I am ready to re-cap my latest European Adventure. Let’s start at the very beginning

This was a 11 day, 7 country adventure through Europe with Cosmos Tours. Cosmos arranged everything for us from the flights, to all transfers, hotels, transportation, and optional excursions – including all breakfasts, and some dinners. I highly recommend the company, but maybe a less ambitious pace!

Saturday, March 21 6 a.m. – Arrival in London

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We arrived very early at the hotel and not all rooms were ready. So we dropped our bags and hit the road. Personally, I love traveling by rail – rarely a delay, no traffic, and I can get to and from on foot – To The TUBE!

Thankfully, we ordered our London Pass before leaving and chose the option with transportation. The pass entitled us to skip lines at many sites, included admission fees to these sites, and the optional Oyster Travelcard got us on and off the Tube all over London. Busses and river cruises were also included.

I’ve left my references and travel things in this just for fun – page numbers refer to the page in the London Pass booklet. Onto the adventure:

TUBE: Hammersmith Station (District Line – green ) to High Street Kensington

  • tour Kensington Palace (via London Pass, skip the line, page 55)

On our walk from Kensington Palace through Hyde Park we saw actor Hugh Grant as we walked towards the Notting Hill Gate – how apropos!!

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Get back to TUBE High Street Kensington (Green/District) to Westminster OR Walk through Hyde Park and Marble Arch to Buckingham.

Refer to page 26

Afternoon Tea, yes, please! We traveled back in time to the 1800’s to Mr. Fogg’s of Mayfair. Mr. Phineas J. Fogg opened his parlor for select patrons in his speak-easy tea house, reminiscent of what I’d expect a mercury-induced hallucination would be like in MadHatter style. Tipsy Tea was a Saturday option. I chose the champagne tea, and my guest chose gin. It was really a champagne cocktail in a lovely teapot served with finger sandwiches and sweets – the perfect way to end the first day in London.

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This was close to 36 hours of trans-Atlantic travel and site seeing in one of the most vibrant cities in the UK – we saw much but might have gone to bed shortly after the sun set for the night.

Sunday, March 22 – London Day 2.

TUBE: Hammersmith Station (green District line) to Westminster Station, walk to the Westminster Pier

Walk across the Westminster Bridge – page 30

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City Cruises (good for 24 hours from when we pick up the Red Rover ticket that has on/off privileges) Page 110 Sounded great – but the tide was too low to travel from the dock we were at. We could have switched piers, but the other 200+ passengers beat us to it and we didn’t want to wait longer in line. We never made it to the cruise.

Depart from Westminster Pier, get off at Tower Pier:

  • Tower of London (skip ticket office & line – page 63)
  • Tower Bridge Exhibition (open 9:30am-5:00pm)IMG_5768IMG_5754

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We did a lovely day of wandering around the city including a lunch of traditional Fish N Chips with a side of peas.

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Trafalgar Square even had a bagpiper blowing his lungs out to ACDC!

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Did a walkedIMG_5779_2-by on:

  • London’s Eye (45 minute 1x revolution; not included in the Pass)
  • Globe Theater Tour (via London Pass)

Afternoon Tea at The Rose Lounge was every bit the proper tea experience we expected. The Lounge bills it as informal, but it was very formal for us American travelers. Thank God they started with a glass of Champagne! They even had a gluten-free option for sensitive tummy’s like mine. (I could have suffered through the lovely regular version, but my 40+ travel mates we were meeting the next morning wouldn’t have liked me very much).

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My regrets for London:

  • We did not make it to a show at one of the famed Theatres of London.
  • Despite our repeated efforts, we missed out on the River Thames (“teh-ms”) cruise. Had I not stopped for the loo….
  • No time for visiting outside the city to sites such as Kew Gardens, Windsor Castle, The Churchill War Rooms, or the Beefeater Gin Distillery Tour (all found on the London Pass)

Around 2000, I traveled England for 2 weeks with my beloved Grandparents. We had an apartment in Knightsbridge and really had a chance to absorb British culture, This 2-day trip was very nice, action packed, but it only whet my appetite to return.