Friday, July 11, 2008

Vernon and Vancouver

The rest of the flight went pretty smoothly although the with a 747 there is a lot of luggage to come off and with all the people the customs/immigration lines are long too. Also my Dad and Uncle Jim were waiting at the airport and had been for a couple hours, although they didn't seem too put out as they spent most of it in the airport pub. So I got my first taste of driving again and on a stick too. I don't know when the last time I drove a stick was, must be two years or more. No problems though. It was now almost 9pm and we had a late, yet very delicious, rib dinner back at Uncle Jim's place. Then after chatting for a bit I started struggling to keep my eyes open. Of course I'd been awake for 24 hours at this point. So me and Cara said goodnight around 11pm and went to bed.

Getting over jet lag sucks and I was awake at 5am. I forced myself back to sleep though and got up at a more regular 7:30. After some breakfast we all hit the road, but stopped in a MEC for a little pit stop. A couple of my merino wool garments had developed some tiny holes in them, and as they were quite expensive, I exchanged them for new ones. Cara also bought a new backpack for cycling, as she's hoping to cycle to work for the summer. After the short stop we really hit the road and started driving back to the Okanagan. We stopped for lunch in Merritt and Cara and I were relieved to see Canadian pricing again. Traffic in Kelowna was horrid, as usual and even with the new bridge up and running, getting through town is a pain. Back in Vernon we received a warm welcome from my Mom and Sikko.

We're finally home now and it feels good. I'm sure we'll eventually wish we were back traveling again, but for now we're just happy to have things like washing machines and large showers at our finger tips. For right now we're staying a few days at my parents house so we can catch up with all the people that want to see us safe and sound with their own eyes. So when we get back to our house in Salmon Arm we'll be even more impressed with things like a closet full of clean clothes and a selection of shoes to wear. It's all the little things you miss, like having a fridge where you don't have to label your food.

So I hope everyone enjoyed the Blog! I did it for ourselves of course too, so we can look back and read about all the stuff we forgot about too, but I wouldn't mind knowing who found it interesting. So if you did read it please leave a comment with your name and any suggestions for future blogs. Too much info, not enough info, less boring pictures of stuff and more people pictures? I was thinking about making an abridged version for people who thought it too lengthy. Anything you might think will make it better. Thanks for reading,

Nathan and Cara

London at Long Last

Finally in London and we were about 45 minutes late. Caleigh and Tom were there at the airport though and so that was nice, again the friendly face is nice to see. We didn't have too much time to waste though so we all got on a train and then took metro to London proper. We checked into the hostel and dropped our bags in the room before going deeper into London. I thought taking the London Eye would be a cool experience that we could all do together. I wasn't aware of Tom's uneasiness with heights though, but he had agreed before I found out - what a good sport. I also didn't know it was so expensive, at 15 pounds each (30 CAD) it cost a dollar a minute to experience the view. Oh well the ride was pretty good actually and neither Tom nor Cara seemed to have a problem with it. It was good times, but before we knew it, it was time to think about heading back, because Caleigh and Tom had a 2 hour train ride back to Portsmouth. So we found a place to eat in the train station so they could run off when their train was ready to depart. Dinner was ok and reasonably priced, the company was much better and we got to catch up. Soon they had to leave, but it was no tearful goodbye as they are coming to Canada in August for a vacation.

Cara and I remained at the pub while Cara finished her meal and afterwards we caught the metro back to our hostel. We were actually surprised when we checked in and saw an X-Box and a TV and DVD player in the room. Also they have free loaner DVDs in the office, so we were looking forward to relaxing and just watching a movie, but alas both the X-Box and DVD player were broken, so we settled for some British programming, "Nevermind the Buzzcocks" - hilarious! Along with the broken DVD players, I wasn't impressed with the place. It obviously hadn't been vaccumed or swept in ages and the free barbeque was nowhere to be found. Even the common area only consisted of a shabby picnic table in a rundown backyard.

Monday morning we got up early and had our free breakfast sitting on bean bag chairs in the office watching Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Pretty random, but good nonetheless. After breakfast we headed out on the town not really sure what to do. It was raining so we thought a museum or two were in order. All the major museums in London are free and the Natural History Museum was pretty good and covered all sorts of biology and geology. It was huge though and by the time we were done there we had no time to do another museum. After the museum we headed out and had some really excellent Asian food at a place recommended in our guide book. Still can't get over the prices, but it's near the end so suck it up I suppose. After an early dinner, we took the tube to the mega store that is Harrod's. 5 floors of everyting you could want. We looked in on lots of it, but the huge toy department and the map room stuck out. The map room had original antique maps, some selling for 10,000 pounds (20,000 CAD). After Harrod's we took the tube to King's Cross and checked out platform 9 3/4 (from Harry Potter fame). Only recently they put up a sign as well as the half stuck trolly. After snapping a few pictures we got back on the tube and headed down to visit London Bridge. Nothing special there, but we also walked around the Tower Bridge, which is special. The most photographed sight in London it would be hard to take a unique picture of it, but I still took a couple. After that we tubed it back to the hostel so Cara could phone Nan and set up dinner for Wednesday. We were originally planning on going to Legoland with her, but we realized our flight is at 5 and not 9, so no time for that. I'm bummed but we've decided to do a 1-2 week trip to the UK at a later date, so we'll have to do that and all the museums we missed then. After getting things organized we headed for bed again.

Tuesday morning we got up early and went in search of a special souvenir. It turned out to be a wild goose chase, but in the end we found a goose. It all started at Harrod's the night before and after not finding it there they recommended a place that we now were trying. Not there either so we got referred to another place nearby. So after 3 stores and a lot of walking and metro I finally got that all important souvenir. We were also planning on taking a final free walking tour and so we rushed off to join up with that. The walking tour wasn't as good as the other ones, but it was still pretty good. Apparently London is the least desireable place to work for the tour company, because it's the most expensive to live, so the guides are a bit sub-par. But we actually saw the Queen, which is highly unusual. Granted she whizzed by in a car and so we didn't really see her that well, but a sighting nonetheless. The changing of the guard was cool too and the horse guard even cooler. After the walking tour we circled back around and went to St. James' Park. A czar gifted a flock of pelicans to the city/royals about 300 years ago and the descendants are still there, but just recently they've developed a bizarre habit in which they eat pigeons whole. We didn't see this happen though. After the park we went back to the Tower Bridge area and walked across the Millenium Bridge and looked at some of the sights in the area. Then we met up with Cara's friend Ross from Edinburgh for a beer at a local pub. Scottish Ross had some gossip to fill Cara in on and we had a good chat about other topics as well. After having a few pints we headed back to the hostel and headed for the supermarket to pick up a last few items, such as high quality tea. With that finished we headed back to the room and grabbed a Subway sandwich on the way. For 4 pounds it would have been difficult to buy the ingredients and we didn't need leftovers at this point. Back at the hostel we found a bunch of Canadians, a Spanish girl and a New Zealand guy out in the rundown courtyard and had a couple beers and ate our sandwich. A few of them headed to the pub afterwards, but we weren't really enjoying their company all that much, so we headed to bed.

Wednesday morning (the day of our flight back home) we got up early and checked out of the hostel. The baggage room was pathetic, but we left our bags there anyway. Then we hopped the tube back out to the Camden open air market. We didn't really know where we were going, but I was looking for a particular t-shirt and stopped in at the first shop I saw. A sketchy shop with some shady looking attendants. I looked but didn't see much and when I went to leave they started pressuring me a lot to buy something. I declined and went to leave again but the guy insisted I take a look downstairs. I didn't have a good feeling about it, but I went down anyway, because honestly, what could happen? Downstairs was nothing, a basement with some second hand coats. Then he got really sketchy and blocked our way upstairs. I agreed to buy a shirt for 15 pounds, and he let us back upstairs. We paid and left, with a decent shirt and a special London experience. I wasn't worried that something might happen down in the basement, but the guy was definately making it seem as if something might, so I can't help but wonder how many people have fell victim to his act. We had to pay in Visa because we were short of cash, so we'll have to watch our accounts, because I definately wouldn't trust those guys as far as I could throw them. T-shirt in hand, we finally found the real Camden market and it was huge and the shops that were open, were really cool.

Unfortunately before we knew it, it was time to make our way back and meet up with Nan for lunch. We tubed it back to the hostel and then tubed it to a train station and then caught the train to Gerrard's Cross. We arrived early (and in an e-mail we read later, found that that was the time we were supposed to be there, so that was lucky) and met Nan for lunch at a restaurant nearby. It was excellent food and very nice of Nan to treat us to a final meal in Europe. Then after she was nice enough to give us a lift to Heathrow, we said our goodbyes. Check in was so easy and security was a breeze. We were thinking maybe Terminal 5 had all the kinks worked out. We did some duty free shopping and, after waiting around for a couple hours, boarded our flight with an expected delay of 20 minutes. Apparently we needed to wait for some connecting passengers and their baggage. After the delay turned into an hour we finally made our way out onto the runway, only to turn around due to a 'baggage discrepancy.' After the delay was over 2 hours we finally took off. Should have just left those late passengers in London. To fight jet lag, we're planning on staying up until Vancouver. So we've just watched our 3rd movie and our dealing with a grumpy flight attendant, because we ordered special meals (sorrrrry). Hopefully my Dad got the news about our delay and isn't waiting for us for ever.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Double Dose of Dublin

We arrived back in Dublin late, but caught a bus to our Hostel. The reception was closed for a staff changeover and after a half hour we finally got our room. We received a bit of surprise when we found out we booked a dorm room. I remembered why we did that when I saw that private rooms where almost twice that of dorms. We were tired and weren't looking forward to the 8-bed dorm. We got to the room and everyone was already in bed (at 10:30pm) so we did the same. The most annoying part about dorms is tiptoeing around while people sleep.

Saturday morning we got woken up by some early risers catching a train and a few hours later we snuck out to have breakfast. By the time we returned around 10am, people were still sleeping so we tiptoed again and got ready for a day out. Right away we headed out to take in a couple of the free museums. The National Gallery was pretty good and Cara got her painting fill for the day. After the Gallery we went to the National Museum. I thought it was pretty interesting and got my museum fill for the day, but we rushed through the last half because we wanted to visit the Kilmainham Gaol. It was all the way across town though and took a good walk to get to. We got there eventually and had just enough time before closing to take the last tour. It was really excellent and gave a good view into Ireland's turbulent past and struggle for independence in the early 20th century. After the jail closed we walked to the Guinness brewery, guiding some lost Americans along the way. At the factory we showed the ticket checkers our used stubs and said we just wanted to visit the gift shop. We did that and bought a lot of product. I still think they should give me the stuff for free if I'm going to walk around with a brand name on my chest, but since they weren't having that, I paid for the stuff. Then we went into the museum, even though we weren't supposed to, but we already paid once. We tried to buy a Guinness at the bars upstairs, because it really did taste better than anywhere else, but they were closed so we ducked into the tasting room for a little thirst quencher. Then we walked back to our hostel and it poured rain the whole way. Back at the hostel we finally had the room to ourselves and got cleaned up before heading out for the night. We ate some awesome Korean food and walked into the heart of the night life in Dublin. We looked into a couple of live music places until we found one we liked. It was perfect although a bit crowded. After the first act finished it cleared out a bit and a stagette party took up the seats next to us. We had a good chat with one of them and found out that Dublin is a pretty popular destination for Brits on a bender. We saw lots of stagette party groups around town too. After a couple pints we made the walk home. Back at the hostel we headed for bed around 2am. Next morning we were up at a decent hour and had breakfast before hopping a bus to the airport around 9am. At Dublin airport the lines were non-existent and everything ran smoothly. The only thing that didn't go smooth was that I realized I also lost my Visa. Now I was completely without any plastic, since I lost my bank card back in Croatia. With 3 days left though it wasn't devastating. I tried to phone Visa, but after 15 minutes of holding I got disconnected. After that we went through security and spent our last Euros on some food. The plane departed a half hour late and that makes the total for on time Ryan air flights 1 for 3. So far the flight has been uneventful and we hope Caleigh and Tom don't show up too early to meet us, because we'll be late.

Green Grass in Galway

The trains in Ireland are a bit old but that isn't a problem, still much better than Croatia. We caught a bit of sleep and got into Galway at a decent hour. We walked to our hostel, halfway across town, and it only took us 10 minutes. We checked in and checked out our sweet digs. It is actually an apartment that they rent out to students in the slow season, but now, when things are busy, they use it as private rooms for the hostel. It had a kitchen, a living room and a bathroom shared between us and another couple of people. The kitchen wasn't equipped so we used the main one in the hostel. So first order of business was to get some food, so we hit the conveniently close grocery store and bought some stuff to make stirfry and some breatkfast, and a bit of Irish beer. We went back and made use of the hostel's giant kitchen: 3 stoves, 2 fridges and 2 sinks. It was great and had all the equipment and dishes you needed. After that we got down and did some internetting. And then we got ready for bed. Before bed we decided we would use the washing machine in the apartment common space to do some needed laundry. BIG mistake. The front door on the machine leaked and water went everywhere, and for some reason the water was brown. Luckily Cara was scared we might get caught using the machine and went to check it out, so it only leaked for 5 minutes. That was enough to get the comon room pretty wet. So we spent the next half hour soaking up all the water with our shirts and wringing them out in the sink. Then I went down and asked to use their pay machines to finish our already soaking laundry, but it was closed for the night, so we had to let it sit on the balcony all night. Not a great start. Next we went to have some showers and someone had used all the hot water and we both had a couple of freezing cold showers.

Thursday morning we woke up early, too early. I had forgot to change the time on my tablet and the alarm went off an hour early (the UK is an hour behind continental Europe). Didn't get much sleep for the next hour, until we were actually supposed to get up. Thursday was dedicated to taking a bus tour out to the Cliffs of Moher. There were lots of sights on the way to the cliffs and one of my favorites was the Dunguaire Castle. We also stopped in a little town to grab some lunch. Me and Cara both had some seafood cowder and it was delicious. After the lunch stop we made our way to the cliffs taking in some more sights along the way. I loved the scenery. Ireland is a really rocky place, really rocky. So before the land can be farmed the farmers had to clear it of any stones. What to do with thousands of stones? Build fences, beats piling them up in piles. It really adds to the scenery. Also in this part of Ireland, because it's so close to the sea, the farmers would haul wagons of seaweed up to add material and fertilizer to help the plants grow better. We also caught some background on the potatoe famine. Back around 1845 there were actually almost twice as many Irish living in Ireland as there are now. After 1850 there were about half there are now (from 8 million to 2 to the current 4). For three years the famine lasted and all because of a fungus that attacked potatoes. Back then there were no world organizations and the British actually made the Irish work in work camps in exchange for food. Most people immigrated to the US, but a many died too. All interesting stuff, if a bit sad, but before we knew it we were at the cliffs. The cliffs were cool in their own right: sheer drops to the sea below, some over 200 meters high. There are puffins that nest on the cliffs as well, but the park is fenced off and everyone is kept on paths, so the only viewing point was too far away even for my zoom to really get a good shot of them. At the far end of the park though, the path ends and there is a huge sign saying "Private property don't go beyond this point". But everyone was, and even the Rangers didn't seem to care. We joined in, although you could see a few more ethical people glaring. We were borderline, but decided to go because the stop was 2 hours and we'd already walked most of the park. It was much more what I was expecting and you could get right up close to the cliffs. Apparently, this is what the park used to be like, until they changed it because of too many accidents (people were falling off the cliffs into the sea). So I think that's why the Rangers didn't care, because they don't, as long as no one gets hurt inside the actual park, they aren't liable. It was spectacular and after we had our fill we visited the visitor center and watched a lame 3D movie and read some boring geological stuff (sorry Adam). Then the tour was off again and we took in some more Ireland scenery, including a 6000 year old burial site. There were people on the tour who needed to catch a train at 6 and we made it with only 10 minutes to spare. We both know that feeling. We got off at the train station too, just to walk through town again. We stopped at a mall and Cara found the "most amazing store". It was pretty good though and I even bought something. We're going to be trying hard to make weight on Ryan Air, but our allowance jumps 8kgs on British, so that's good.

Back at the hostel we went to make dinner. Luckily we only had to make rice because we had leftover stirfry. There was some Australian field trip in the kitchen trying to feed 40 kids. Way too many cooks in the kitchen and they had comandeered almost all the cutlery, dishes, and even the tables. Pretty annoying, but we managed to squeeze into a corner and get our dinner made. There were some really anoying Americans sitting next to us saying stuff like "you're American first and formost, before even human" and talking about some fat German girl (like she might not understand English and that Americans aren't the fattest nation on earth). We also noticed that they labeled their food in the fridge "America F@#% Yeah". Funny how Amercians think that movie is awesome and not poking fun at them. I felt like telling them that I've always heard people like them existed (the "ugly American") but until now haven't seen such a prime example, most of the Americans we've met on our trip have been pretty good.

After getting over our annoying American experience we headed out into the town of Galway for a taste of a traditional pub. We got to a packed local pub and found some standing room at the back. It was pretty cool and the music was great, although they threw in some CCR and the like now and again. After a pint of Guiness we decided to check out a different bar. We liked the second bar too, but it was even more crowded and that made us try another place. The last stop on our self made pub crawl was more party and less traditional. Galway is actually comprised of 1/3 university students, so that added to the tourists, makes it a pretty big party town. I recognized most people from the hostel. Suddenly we realized (by eavesdropping) that it was July 3rd and at midnight July 4th would be upon us, so we got the heck out of dodge, before the annoying Americans got going. Back at the hostel we packed up a bit and went to bed.

Friday morning we got up early again, ate breakfast and checked out of the hostel. We felt like there wasn't much else we wanted to do in Galway so we decided to take the second bus tour out to the countryside of Connemara before taking a bus to Dublin. We were a bit nervous after the close call of yesterday and made it clear to the bus driver we were catching the train. The second tour was really good too, but the Driver was not quite as funny, but once you caught on to his humour, still pretty good. We stopped at very cool, secluded, and delapitaded friary, called 'Ross Errily Friary'. That was really the highlight until we reached Kylemore Abby and Gardens. Kylemore didn't always used to be an Abby it was actually a gift by some super rich guy in the late 1800's to his wife, who liked the area while on vacation. After the guy had a bit of bad luck and two deaths in the family, he moved back to Manchester and sold the place. It sat for a number of years until a group of nuns, looking for an Abby bought it. Since them and until 2012 it will be a nunnery, but after 2012 it will be 100% a tourist destination. Currently half is roped off for tourists. A cool stop, but a bit rushed. After we got back on the bus we started back to Galway, catching a couple more sights along the way. We got dropped off at the train station a full 20 minutes early, so that was good. When we got to the train station we were a bit puzzled by the strange setup they had going on, and we had to ask a couple people before we realized there was a huge snaking line to get on the train. We had a chat with a nice Irish fellow, who quelled our fears about the train getting too full. After a few delays we got on the train and found a seat in first class no problem, but left a full half hour late.

So here we sit on a train to Dublin. Our very brief encounter with western Ireland was really good and, althought we had to join in with the true blue tourists to see the country side, it was all worth it. We especially enjoyed the Cliffs of Moher and the traditional pubs. Hopefully we can take in some more pubs while in Dublin.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Paris Pitstop

The ride to Paris was pretty packed and our first class tickets paid off again, as people in second class were standing in the aisles. Once in Brussels we tried to phone Manon with our 40 minute layover. The phone call ended up costing 5 euro because the phone card we bought in Brussels only lasted a few minutes. It really puts things in perspective when you pass up a dinner or museum because it's a bit expensive when you can easily pay 5 euro for a 4 minute phone call to a place that is really only 300 km away. Oh well we got through and got the info we needed, so we waited for and then boarded a train heading to Paris, complete with gourmet lunch. We got into Paris at just past 1:30 and were due to meet Manon in La Defense at 2:15. So we went straight to the metro and with all our bags went to La Defence. The metro was totally packed and not a pleasant ride. We arrived about 5 minutes late. After an iced coffee at a nearby cafe, Manon needed to get back to work, so we said goodbye and took the 45 minute ride back to the east side of Paris. We found our cosy hotel, called Hotel Cozy, without difficulty and dropped our bags off. We then rushed out and tried to get to the Catacombs before they closed at 5pm. It was now 4:30 and wasn't looking good timewise. There was a closure on the metro as well so we scrapped the plan and scoped out the arena where Iron Maiden was playing and bought some shirts, before heading back to the hotel, where we got ready for the concert. We rode the metro back to the venue and found a huge lineup and started waiting in line. I even checked with a couple people in line to make sure it was the right one, of course a guy came by about a half hour later and yelled out in French that we needed to go to the other side. We waited in a much shorter line and got in no problem and found some decent seats, which made me wonder what kind of seats I could have gotten had we found the right entrance off the bat. The long line was for standing room on the arena floor. We watched an Irish heavy metal band preform and then Avenged Sevenfold came on. The people in Paris did not like them and booed them a couple of times. Might have been because he said something to the effect of "we're Avenged Sevenfold and we're from the #%*&ing United Stated of America". And also they didn't even know how to say "hello" in French, or didn't want to, I'm not sure which. Anyway, I liked it, but I don't think they were giving it their best. But that's ok, because Maiden came on shortly after and they were awesome, again. I particularly liked the 'Fear of the Dark', the 'Rime of the Ancient Mariner' and, one of my favorites, 'Wasted Years'. Of course 'Run to the Hills' and 'Number of the Beast' are always a crowd pleasers. We walked away sweaty and happy, especially myself. After the concert we had to unfortunately get to bed, and that happened around 2 minutes to midnight... Zing!

Wednesday morning we got up really really early: 5:15. Then took metro and then a bus to the Beauvais Airport. Typical Ryan Air, complete with 70 minute bus ride. We got to the airport and waited in a ridiculous line to check in and then avoided a monster line by asking a securtiy person where we should line up. So we got the express security line which was good, because we only had a half hour to takeoff by this point. The flight was uneventful and we touched down in Dublin on time. We paid for an express shuttle to the train station, but still missed the train to Galway by 5 minutes. Too bad and now we had 3 hours to kill. Hmmm... what to do with 3 hours in Dublin... I know: Guinness Tour. We had a breakfast at 11am of 50 euro cent french fries and then hit the Guinness tour. It was pretty good and even with 3 hours we didn't get through it all, but we made sure to save time to get our free pint of Guinness. So we'll be heading back to the gift shop on our way back through Dublin in a few days. After visiting the happiest place on earth, we sped-walked our way back to the train station and caught the train to Galway.

Now we're making our way across the Emerald Isle to the west coast. Galway should provide a convenient and different look on Ireland from Dublin. To really get a feel for Western Ireland you need to get more off the tourist track than Galway, but with only 4 days, we didn't want to spend too much time on the rails getting away from the crowds. Hopefully weather permitting we'll rent some bikes and see some countryside tomorrow, but right now we're feeling pretty tired and are going to try and catch up on some sleep.

Alternative Amsterdam

The train ride from Berlin to Amsterdam took around 5 hours and we changed trains just outside Amsterdam, in order to go all the way to the central station. We had planned on making reservations to Paris before heading out, but once we got off the train it slipped our minds. Instead we concentrated on finding our hostel. The directions were good and after a 10 minute tram ride and a couple minutes walk we were there. The hostel was highly rated and well run, although we think we must have gotten a trainee because she told us we needed to sleep in separate bunk beds (as in each of us on a bottom bunk, sharing the bunk with a stranger). Once in the room we saw that one bunk was completely empty and we asked to change beds and a different lady didn't see any reason why not. We made our beds and settled in. Then we headed out and started getting familiar with the city. We walked to the center and got some falafel at a place recomended in our guide book. As long as you don't eat all your dish (the pita) you get endless salad bar. So we filled up on cous-cous, salad and various vegtables. It was pretty good and cheap too. Then we made our way back to the train station because that is where the tour of the redlight district started from. We have really like the New Europe guides so far and this time we decided to take one of their paid tours. Those Australian party dudes made the red light district seem shady and not safe, so we opted for the guided tour. The guided tour was interesting but somewhat less so than we thought. I guess I was expecting to see some sort of Las Vegas or taboos or something. But it was pretty tame with the Redlight District being just another section of town with red lights and very small 'offices' for rent. Basically a tiny room with a bed and a sink and a 'sex worker' inside. We were told that several companies own the spaces and the girls rent the rooms for about 120 euro for an eight hour shift. Each girl is self-employed and according to our guide made lots of money. Since it was the Euro Cup finale that night, the tour group was small and the Redlight District was fairly dead. We were assured though that if we came back later after the game it would be without a doubt alive. There were some interesting stops on the tour, including a Prostitue Information Center (PIC) and a daycare situated in the heart of the red light. Apparently a film crew interviewed some of the kids and they think the girls are selling kisses. We also saw the Catholic church that sold more 'indulgences' than any other in the world at one point. Indulgences are piece of paper sold by the Catholic church at one point that absolved your sins, but it cost ya.

The tour ended at a bar with a free shot of Jagermeister and 2 for 1 beers. We finished watching the game there and made a friend from Brazil, who seemed to be getting a little tipsy. She was staying at a hotel near our so we decided to walk back together. On the way back she saw a coffee shop and insisted we stop. In case anyone isn't aware, 'coffee' shops are where they sell marijuana. Mostly to tourists though, because less than 10% of Dutch people indulge. We didn't really want to leave Amsterdam without seeing one, so we agreed to acompany her inside. After she got what she came for, she proceeded to act very strange and became pretty pale. This was a headache we weren't really excited to have. We managed to find out where her hotel was and we took her in a taxi back to her hotel. After ensuring she would be ok, we went back to our hostel, swearing not to accompany another stranger on an adventure like that again.

Next morning we woke up and got the free breakfast included in the price. It was pretty good and after we headed out and found some internet so Cara could e-mail her friend Manon in Paris. Then we met up with New Europe again, this time for the free walking tour. We got a good look at the town this time and saw historical stuff. All in all it turned out better than the Redlight tour and for less money (see smallest house in Amsterdam to the left). After the tour we tried to rent some bikes, but we were leaving too early in the morning to return them and nothing we said could convince them to let us drop them off. So we went bikeless and walked to the Central station. Here we waited in line for an hour before being able to book tickets to Paris. All trains were full going direct and we needed to connect through Brussels for a hefty price. We aren't flexible anymore though, so we paid. After that craziness we got some Thai food at a place recommended by our tour guide. Excellent food and decent prices. We were planning on biking out of town to see some windmills, but with that option gone we took a tram to one in town instead. It was still cool to see, but it didn't have the sweeping farmlands in the background that I wanted. It was getting late though and we needed to be up early. So we caught a tram back to our hostel and got some internet before heading to bed.

Tuesday morning we woke up early and quietly cleared our room. We were at breakfast a half hour early and convinced the ladies setting up to let us in early. There wasn't the great spread we had yesterday, but it was some free food to have before we left on a train. After breakfast we caught a tram to the Central station and then boarded a train heading for Brussels. Here we sit and I am very anxious for the Iron Maiden concert tonight. Then it's up early for our flight to Dublin. Hopefully making our way to the airport isn't a problem by train.