Thursday, May 26, 2011

Riding a bike in Amsterdam

They make it look so easy...

Euro Trip Day 13: Amsterdam, Holland, Frankfurt, Germany, Toronto, Canada

Day 13 was pretty much spent travelling. Got up at 5:30 am in Amsterdam, and on the autobahn by 6:00 am for the 429 km run to Frankfurt airport in Germany. I had one final chance to drive like a bat out of hell on the Autobahn,
not surprisingly, we were there by 9:00 am.Our plane took off from Germany at 3:45pm for the 6100 km flight home,and we arrived in Toronto 8 hours later at approximately 6:00pm local time.In 13 days we had travelled 5289 kms, visited 6 countries and 2 states. It cost us about 980 euros for accommodations along the way, in some really nice places and some not so nice, but never less then a 2 star with its own bathroom and never once did we see a bug of any kind.
Another 500 euros in gas, and about 200 euros in highway tolls, mostly in France.
In total, about $2000-2200 a person, not including spending money.
The car gave us freedom to go where we wanted to, when we wanted to. Yes this is the little monster I've been talking about...;-)
And finding a hotel in the town we ended up in, helped us stick to that plan. It also helped that we had a mapped out our general route before we left so that we could get the most out of our days abroad. We had hoped to rely on a fold-out map that we bought from MEC and some google maps that I had printed up before we left, but we quickly found out that these would not be enough. (We had to buy a very comprehensive European map book at a gas station in Austria before we could continue our journey on day 3)
I would highly recommend if you go, that you take a detailed map of Europe with the highways clearly marked, as well as detailed maps of the cities you plan to travel to. Navigating city street was tough, endless one way streets and poor street signs didn't help either. A smart phone would of helped us out immensely but it was way too expensive to be of any use to us abroad. The language barrier was an issue in most countries, but for the most part we managed to muddle our way through and communicate with people for just about everything we needed. Most people could speak a little English, and although they appreciated it when we tried to speak their language, they almost always answered back in English or found someone who could.
5289 kms in 13 days may seem like a lot to most people, but for us it really wasn't. We love travelling and seeing what the world has to offer, and especially love doing it by car. Could we of done it, if we had to stick to Canadian speed limits? Probably not. But that's part of what made this trip so special for me, I was able to drive as fast as my little car would go on the autobahn and not worry about getting a speeding ticket. I'm pretty proud to say that there are quite a few Audi and BMW owners out there that were surprised that a diesel Renault Picasso can go as fast as it did.
Definitely a trip of a lifetime for both me and my wife.

NOTE: Did you notice the giraffe in the last couple of shots and wonder what is up with that?
Stay tuned, I will explain in a future post.....

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Euro Trip Day 12: Amsterdam, Holland

After we got squared away in our new hotel, in a room on the third floor up the steepest three flights of stairs you will ever see,
we set out to enjoy the sights of Amsterdam.
We checked out the open air market,
went for a cruise through the canals,
rented some bikes and explored the city,
had dinner along the canal
and then a leisurely walk through the streets back to the hotel.
Amsterdam was by far my favorite city on our trip. The vibe was very laid back and friendly, people biking everywhere and coffee shops on every corner. Definitely my kind of town.

Euro Trip Day 11: Antwerp, Belgium and Amsterdam, Holland

Day 11 found us on the second last leg of our journey. We needed to get from Amiens, France, our overnight stop, to Amsterdam, Holland, with a stop in Antwerp, Belgium. 262 kms to Antwerp and then another 159 kms to Amsterdam. Finding a hotel for this leg of the trip had been a bit of a nightmare and we didn't find one until 3:30am in the morning. So when we started out the next day at noon it was a little bit later then we had hoped. But as soon as we left France, our speed picked up considerably and we were in Antwerp by 2:00pm.
We spent the afternoon touring the old city and the diamond district. To say this was my wife's favorite city would be an understatement. The scooter traffic had changed to bike traffic and everyone seemed to understand and speak english. As soon as my wife saw the woman riding bikes in high heels, she knew this was the city for her.
We left Antwerp in the middle of rush hour and arrived in Amsterdam sometime after 8:00pm that night. Again, finding a hotel was a bit of a problem. We managed to find a room for 85 euros
a night, the smallest room of our trip by far.
And the surprising thing was that this same room was going for 179 euros the very next night.
Needless to say we found another room to stay in, for our second night in Amsterdam.
After we had settled in, we took a walk through town,
and were surprised to find out that Amsterdam was not a 24x7 kind of city. This city actually does sleep! We had to search for a place to eat as not a lot of places serve food after
11:00pm. And then it was off to explore the red light district,
and check out a coffee bar.