knit twisted

where the cats in my head unwind the thread of my thoughts around the legs of the furniture.

Monday, February 12, 2007

epic journey

I'm going to stick the story.. or a version of the story.. of my trip last month in here, for.. posterity. please feel free to ignore it. :)

On January 4, 2007 I boarded a plane in columbia at.. 5ish pm and flew away. arriving in philadelphia around 6:30ish, I schlepped myself and my overburdened backpack from the far end of terminal F to the far end of terminal A. fortunately, there was a shuttle so I skipped E thru B. :) terminal F was pretty boring but there was some interesting stuff to see in terminal A, a store selling liberty bell stuff, a giant artwork made of hair, an astronaut.. the appropriate gate at terminal A was crowded and mary sue found me before I finished playing where's waldo and located her. :) I had dinner.. a cold chicken and pasta creation that was quite tasty, actually, at the airport. the plane was crowded but it was OK. it departed around 8:20. at some point they fed us "lunch".. lunch was another pasta dish (there was a beef and mashed potatoes option but.. didn't appeal), and a sack of carrots and a tub of ranch dip and a cute package of 2 little slices of bread and a cute package of a slab of cheese and a pack of crackers and a tub of butter? and a big tub of vanilla yogurt mousse pudding.. something. I think that's all. they gave us beverages a few times and towards morning they gave us a cuppa coffee and a rectangular donut-like thing. I watched the devil wears prada, part of another movie.. the departed.. is that a movie? I didn't understand that.. so I quit it, and most of mulan, and knitted.. mostly in the dark. mixed results with that. :) what I didn't do was sleep.

we arrived in london, went through immigration, collected our luggage, schlepped it a bit and found a guy holding up a globus sign who took over the transportation of my suitcase and mary sue's suitcase, the boys were on their own.. and we stood around a bit until he escorted us to a train, which took us to london. perhaps we were already in london.. it was maybe half hour train ride. we were met at the train and escorted to a bus where a very very chatty man drove us to the hotel. we checked into the hotel and were told our rooms would not be ready until.. 2, or perhaps before, we should check back. I really have no idea what time that was, maybe 11? 10:30? so we checked our bags in to the baggage checking place, and then went to talk to the globus lady who left us sit while she went to try and bully us up some rooms. it took her a half hour or so but she was successful so we reclaimed our backpacks and went to our rooms and our luggage arrived and we showered and napped, for a short bit.

after our naps we headed out of the hotel after a bit of a stop at the concierge, and got day passes for the transit system, and headed for the tower of london.


that was interesting. we saw the crown jewels and a buncha armor and some old fake horses and stuff. after that we went back to the subway and went to where some theaters are, to find the cut-rate ticket place. but we were very hungry, because despite having many meals between thursday morning and friday morning, we had not had any meals between very early friday morning and then.. which was.. sometime past 6, so we found a pub and got some food. and beers for the boys and wine for us. I had a sammich that was beef in a yorkshire pudding wrap, which was an odd thing but quite tasty. :) after we ate we wandered around til we selected a place to purchase tickets (there were many places selling them.. if there was one specific designated place like TKTS in NYC, we didn't find that but we did obtain tickets to "we will rock you", which is a made up story with queen music, for the following night. then we navigated the subway system back to our hotel, watched a bit of tv and were asleep for the night by 9:30. :)

saturday morning we got up and went downstairs to breakfast (breakfast every morning was included in the package). this was billed as a full english breakfast, and appeared to be one of the more deluxe of the breakfasts we would have.. and it lived up to that expectation.. what a crazy buffet! it had your cereals and yogurts and fruits, including oatmeal and for some inexplicable reason there was a bottle of scotch.. which appeared to be intended for the oatmeal?. there was an array of cold meats and cheeses and salad-like vegetables. there were eggs, scrambled, sunny side up, they might have been making omelets.. there were waffles and pancakes, potato cakes, oat cakes, sausages of several types, bacon, blood pudding, haggis, some fishes, both cold ones and hot ones. there were cooked mushrooms and tomatoes and beans and toast and croissants and pastries and rolls and.. really, if you couldn't find something you really wanted for breakfast that day, you were pretty hopeless.

then we met up with our group for the first time and were whisked off by our guide for the morning, Mick.. and our driver, Ted.


we went on a coach tour of london, with hopping off stops at st. paul's cathedral.. actually, is that a cathedral? big church.. westminster abbey? yes.. cathedral, and we got out and walked around the buckingham palace neighborhood a few blocks.. we would have seen the changing of the guard but they didn't change that day because they don't do so in the rain. nobody asked if they just casually rather than ceremoniously changed on rainy days, or if the guys that were supposed to get off were stuck on til the next sunny change day. mick was a hoot, full of anecdotes and information.. he seemed most impressed by money and ww2 so we heard a lot about rich people and where they live and how much real estate costs and where they shop, and lots of ww2 stories at st. paul's, and other stories too. there is a small restaurant in the cathedral.. that seemed kinda weird to me.. and a nice gift shop.. that seemed less weird.. I bought a christmas ornament there, my only real purchase in england.

it was pretty much lunch time when we got back to the hotel but we figured to go on to our next activity.. we'd decided to go to the british museum.. and find lunch once we got there, so we consulted the concierge as to which tube stop was best for the museum and he told us, then asked why we weren't taking the bus? so.. we took the bus.. but first to the tube station to get new day passes.. then on the bus.. which was very foggy,, er, the windows were all fogged up and while we knew where to get off (right in front of the museum!) we weren't sure how we were going to know when that was, since we couldn't really see out the windows.. but we found our way easily when a bit later we were discussing how we needed to find the theater at some point, so we'd know where to go / how to get there that night and the man sittin' to my left said it's just around the corner here, then we turned the corner and he said "see, there's our fred.." and by golly, there he was, gigantic golden likeness of freddy, standin' on the marquee. next stop, british museum! but first, some lunch so we found another pub, with the slowest service in the world and had a bite to eat, I had a chili and cheese jacket potato. was tasty. :) then the museum.. which was HUGE and had the most miserable stairs I've encountered in a while.

oh! the pub the night before had the coolest stairs, it was a circular staircase that forked, about 2/3 of the way up.. first time I ever saw such a thing. the lady's room was up there and there was quite a drama taking place in there, for our entertainment, perhaps.. some girl having some sort of crisis.. then when I came back down some large man had parked himself right in the path to our table and some smaller man was changing clothes in the middle of the alternate route, leaving me in a bit of a quandry as to which was the best way to proceed.. eventually I decided to steer the widest possible path around the half nekkid man rather than ask the blocking the floor man to move but mary sue, following a bit behind, chose to move the man and didn't even notice the stripper.. actually, really, he was de-stripping by then so we met at the table and giggled a bit about the drama and I allowed as how the man changing clothes was more off-putting and she was like.. there's a man changing clothes? and I was like yeah, right over there and he was finishing up by then and not very remarkable so I added.. eh.. he's got pants on now, and she was like he didn't have PANTS?! and we cracked up.. because truely, he didn't,, he was standin' there in the pub in his tighty whiteys when I was tryin' to get by him. we saw a lot of mens underwear in england, it was kinda odd..

anyway, the british museum.. cool stuff in there, wicked stairs though and only bathrooms in the basement.. at one point mary sue and I hiked down all those stairs to the restroom and while we were washing up after this man came barrelling in to the ladies room and blew right past the line of women waiting for stalls and walked right into one as a woman exited and we cracked up again.

after we finished the museum we hiked to the tube station and went to picadilly circus because when we'd gone by there on the bus tour in the morning we'd noticed that fortnum and mason had their windows all done up for the holidays in alice and wonderland scenes and aidan LOVES alice in wonderland so photos had to be taken.. mary sue took those photos though.. then we grabbed a snack at a cafe.. latte and a chocolate chip cookie for me.. then we went back to the subway and back to the theater and went to the show, which was excellent but they want 3.5 lbs for a playbill in london and we had no pounds so we didn't get one.. then we negotiated the subway back to the hotel after, with some difficulty because it was the weekend and repairs were in progress and that disrupted the routes and so it was a bit of a challenge but at least it was in english, 'eh? back at the hotel, I showered, we read a bit, and crashed but that latte and my knees argued against sleep for a good while.

the subways and the museum did my knees in and they yelled at me for the rest of the trip. wasn't a huge ordeal, walking was always fine, speed was sometimes a challenge but walking was fine.. sitting down and standing up and staying sitting for long times and sleeping.. those were the hard bits. still are, actually.

Ok.. so.. sunday we woke up at some impossibly early hour and got dressed and got our suitcases out in the hall to be collected and they delivered breakfast to us that morning as we were due to depart at 6:30, which was when the restaurant opened. they delivered quite a fancy breakfast though, fried eggs, sausages and bacons and potato cakes and mushrooms and tomatoes and a roll and butter and jelly? and juice and hot water and corn flakes and milk and yogurt and a banana. I toted the roll and the banana with me for a while, tossed the banana eventually.. the roll is still with me, growing mold in a ziplock bag, now that I look at it.. I'll toss that.

we convened in the lobby cafe area and met our long-term guide, sandrine, and loaded on to a bus with.. our ted again? I forget.. but onto a bus and off to waterloo station to pass through british and french immigration both and then wait around for a bit.. we purchased sandwiches for the journey there and I abandoned a sweatshirt :( but eventually we got on the eurostar train and sped off through the chunnel to brussels. in brussels we got off the train and on the bus and proceeded on our way to amsterdam, with a stop at a rest area/restaurant area to eat those sammiches we got in london.

was an interesting drive, there were windmills and sturdy small horses and plenty of sheep and a flock of pigs.. herd of pigs.. whichever but none of the cows the netherlands are supposedly famous for. we learned that there is a language of windmills but I forget what they can say. actually.. they can say they're resting, they're having a long rest, they're happy, and they're sad.. what I forget is how to tell what it is they're saying.. depends on how they're parked. there were also way cool big power generating windmills.. we should have some of those, they're fun to look at and benificial to boot and I think they should have one of those art competitions/events things like with the cows in chicago and the palmetto trees in columbia and whatever they paint wherever else they paint things, with the giant windmills.. roadside energy-generating art.. right? good idea? there were a few inexplicable sights to see too.. which.. I can't explain any better than that.. otherwise they'd be explicable.

we arrived in amsterdam in the rain and approaching dark.. but it was still cool.. bicycles are the obviously the preferred mode of transportation there.. which is not to say there weren't plenty of motorized vehicles and traffic congestion but there were bicycles everywhere! there was a three story bicycle parking garage.. amazing thing to see. we got off our bus and onto a canal boat and went on a bit of a tour, then we got back on the bus and went to our hotel. our luggage was already in our rooms, some of it in the right rooms and some of it in the wrong rooms.. which was the pattern all through the trip but not that difficult to take care of. :) mary sue and I headed right back out in search of a bit of shopping and an ATM to get some euros.. our hotel was right beside the flower market and it was still open, even after dark on sunday so we poked in there a bit, bought some dutch chocolate at a shop alongside, headed over to a shopping district and poked in here and there, I got the kids some gummy things in a department store, I think that was the bulk of our shopping there.. then we went back to the hotel and met up with our group and headed off for an "authentic dutch dinner and walking tour". this was an optional (extra cost) event so not all of us went, but most of us did and it was the best dinner we had as a group.. mainly because there were choices, and there was alcohol. :) I think between the 4 of us we had all the choices.. maybe not all the starters.. there was a fish sampler plate that most of them got and there was a pea soup that I got and there was a meat and melon thing that I don't think any of us got but.. someone did, and I don't remember if there was a 4th choices there.. for main course there was a fish and a beef and a pork and a chicken.. I had the chicken, nathan had the pork, collin had the beef, mary sue had the fish so we tried them all. :) there were desert choices too.. whatever it was I chose was tasty. and wine or beer with. then we left there and met up with a local guide who took us on a walking tour of "the city" which turned out to be a stop in the square for a bit of a talk and then a brisk tour of the red light district which was interesting and educational and somewhat entertaining. I don't believe I'd choose to go there except in an escorted group but it was interesting. we passed a condom store that had all sorts of interesting wares including a statue of liberty condom that I am still confused by.. and a santa one that had dress up clothes.. I didn't understand that either. it was sorta like a barbie with a wardrobe, 'cept it was a condom. ::shrug:: the rest of 'em were entertaining but not confusing.. condoms with arms and/or clothing.. ?? probably it's best I don't understand it.


so then we went back to the hotel and in the morning I snagged a few minutes on the internet and emailed home, we had adequate breakfast, and then we got back on our bus and headed to heidelberg. we stopped at a fancy rest stop at the border and I bought some dutch magnets, we must have stopped at another one and had lunch.. I don't remember lunch that day, but I'm sure I ate.. that's odd, I think that's going to be the only meal I can't remember.. we stopped somewhere and went on another boat ride, this time on the rhine river and took lots of photos,


then we went on to heidelberg.. where we walked around a bit and took some photos and did some shopping, I bought ted a christmas ornament that is a mantle with stockings and a train on top, rather like ours at home :) and then one of our gals found me and said she'd found a yarn shop a few blocks down so I hightailed it there and got 5 balls of yarn and a set of needles for less than 3 balls woulda cost me at home so I was happy.. we met back up in front of this ancient hotel and got on our bus and went to our hotel where we thought we were having dinner but turned out dinner was at the hotel we'd met up in front of so sandrine called the bus back and we went back.. and had dinner, which was a "typical german dinner" and totally unremarkable.. beef broth with a couple thin noodles, a sorta hamburger/meatloaf thing with gravy and mushrooms, steamed carrots, some tiny potatoes and dessert.. the highlight of the meal, whatever it was. then back to the hotel where we had another adventure with the internet.. this one was a real adventure.. the keyboard was german.. which mostly meant the y was where the z should be and the z was where the y should be and when you're trying to share 30 minutes of internet 3 ways and your name is zanders, that's a problem so I spent a good portion of my share of the minutes getting my "who's" right and then told 'em the kezboard was crayz and they should swap the y's and z's and then I just typed so the new word for celebration is zaz!! and.. then we went to our room and read a bit and slept.

the next morning we got back on our bus and headed for switzerland.. we stopped at the cuckoo clock place, which was fun to shop at, the old man was entertaining and plied us with thimbles of cherry wine, we shopped some.. I got a cat figurine, we shared some black forest cake, it was tasty enough but I won't mind if I don't taste it again, took some photos..


back on the bus then we stopped again at rhine falls, had lunch there at a snack bar place, I had.. schweinschnitzel or somethin' like that which turned out to be a chickenfried pork patty.. rofl. well.. I was hungry, and I've had worse food but I don't need that again either.. mary sue and the boys had some kinda albino sausage that didn't look like I woulda enjoyed it more..

then we got back on the bus and went to lucerne. we checked into our hotel there, which was being remodeled and our rooms were in a you can't get there from here place.. you could get there from here but it took a little work.. but it was nice enough once we got there.. the hotel in.. heidelberg? had this horrible tub with no shower curtain and just a tiny glass wall and I tell ya, it's hard to wash alla this hair and alla this me in a shower with just a tiny glass wall without making an ocean in the bathroom.. so lucerne was much better. we met up again and went on another walking tour, into a church, across a bridge, through the old parts and shopping places, back to the hotel for another included dinner..


this time it was fish.. I don't eat fish but I ate that one. every bit of it. my piece was nice and flat.. lisa the gal sitting next to me had a much thicker fish, I don't know that I would have eaten hers so I was glad I got mine. fish and broccoli? and rice w/veggies in and apple strudel for dessert. and really good bread, before. maybe a salad? before, too. I.. don't think we went back out after dinner.. no.. we went back to the room and I showered and we tried to find something on tv to watch.. earlier we had watched a bit of some dating show that made adequate sense even though we didn't understand more than 3 words but nothing was good after dinner so we settled on radio and read.. and then mary sue started laughin' huge and I looked at her and cracked up without really knowing why til I realized we were listening to polka and we cracked up more and she got her camera and made a movie of the floor and the polka music and we laughed more and we continued to laugh about that occasionally for the rest of the trip. :)

the next morning we got up and had breakfast which was not a bad breakfast but not the best, and then we got on our bus and went to mt. rigi.. or to whatever the town at the bottom is, and rode the cogwheel train to the top, and it was SO pretty.. favorite excursion. :)


then we went back to lucerne and had the rest of the day on our own.. we wandered around, shopped, had lunch at this brew pub place where mary sue and I had pretzel sammiches and the boys wished they did :-P and they had beers they enjoyed, and we went to this picasso museum where there were more photographs of picasso than artworks, but there was an adequate supply of those too, and shopped some more, mostly chocolate, and I got aidan a cd of swiss rock and roll.. that was an adventure too, the record store guys were like.. you want swiss rock? swiss.. is yodeling! haha.. they were cool though.. and found me a compilation.. and shopped some more and had fondue for dinner and I was glad I had a bottle of water with me because a glass of water at that place cost more than a pitcher of beer! was amazing.. the rest of 'em had beer. :) on the way back I had a few swiss francs I'd gotten in change I needed to get rid of so we went to the news stand outside the hotel and spent 'em on 3 chocolate bars with marzipan in the middle and 3 post cards. I bought 2 stamps at the hotel desk because I forgot to take addresses with me so aidan got a post card and mom and dad got one and I still have one. then we went to bed, after wandering the tv and winding up with radio and reading for a bit first.

the next day we got back on the bus for a real long day on the bus, to paris.. we stopped at a number of rest areas and ate lunch at one, which was pretty fancy.. they had a salad bar so I had salad. weird salad and a really good piece of bread and a bottle of lemon water. we got to paris and it was a REALLY nice hotel.. mary sue and I stayed local and wandered the pedestrian shopping area nearby, shopped some, had dinner at a crepe restaurant where all the other patrons were local people, that was cool and tasty :).. the boys went in to the main part of the city and wandered around and we were all back at the hotel by quarter past 9. eventually we went to sleep and a smidge past 12 the fire alarm went off causing a bit of drama but not really as much as it should have.. it was pretty much over by the time we woke up enough to react..

spiral stairs!

good breakfast at that hotel.. then we got on our bus and did a driving tour of the city.. went up the eiffel tower.. drove some more then we went to the louvre, had lunch there, did the museum a bit, shopped a bit, went back to the hotel.. got back on the bus and went to montmartre.. the train thing to the top was closed! so we had to walk up the steps to the top.. it was a lot of steps and my knees were already dead but walk up 'em we did.. I don't know how many steps.. I counted steps per segment on the way down, was 25 but I didn't count the number of segments ever.. was at least 7, maybe 8.. lot of steps. my already dead knees were doomed but again.. the walking isn't the problem.. it's the sitting and standing after that's the problem so it was good. took some pictures, walked around, had dinner with a lot of the group, onion soup for me. :), mary sue and I haggled with an artist for a painting for my birthday, walked back, down the stairs.. one of our group had a bit of drama with a street thug.. back to the hotel, had a couple drinks in the bar area with some of the group, went up, packed up, slept... breakfast and shuttled to the airport and I shopped enough to spend my last euros and chilled.. got on the plane, I watched.. talledaga nights.. I'm sure I spelled that wrong.. and an italian movie.. the wedding director.. and flyboys.. and an episode of 2 and a half men and.. an episode of boston legal and they fed me several times and beveraged me a few more, had an empty seat beside me so was more roomy.. got through immigration, claimed my luggage, got through customs, went through.. something.. and then back out, to find a bathroom to dump my french water, went back through whatever that was, rechecked my luggage, wandered through the terminal, found the shuttle, rode a bus, wandered through another terminal, refilled my bottle with american water, collapsed in the waiting area, chatted with lucy.. haha.. I knew I'd see someone in some airport I knew, I always do.. didn't occur to me it might be lucy.. got on the plane.. to detroit.. glad I figured out I was on the wrong plane before the plane left.. got off the plane.. snagged my backpack back outta the pile to be checked onto the plane to detroit.. had a giggle with the people at the right gate.. they had been looking for me.. dumped my backpack in the pile waiting on the way to the right plane.. got on.. obsessed that my backpack was going to detroit.. watched it get on the plane.. flew to columbia...

ted was there to meet me, and erin and alfred and aidan too. :) came home, had dinner, visited, crashed...

there ya go. that's the story.


Blogger lbquilts said...

Hello Anno!
Your 'epic journey' brought back memories of my 3 trips to Europe with my husband/his HS students back in the '80s. We visited some of the same places. How fortunate you have been able to put it on the computer for posterity...I wish I could have done the same!

10:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think I must have taken the same trip in 93. I loved every minute somehow but it was a lot of work and we had to change money 8 times. I wouldn't take anything for the memories and the education. I love your socks. I wasn't into knitting then. Charlotte in Arkansas

3:51 PM  

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