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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Amsterdam-Belgium- London

August 3-16, 2007
Amsterdam-Belgium- London

Friday- August 3 Houston

Gary and I left for Houston around 2:30.  Gary had to stop by his school to talk to his professor…
From there onto the airport.  Pretty heavy traffic, made it there in good time even though waiting a little bit for the Parking Spot shuttle.
Flight was uneventful and little bumpy..  but good!
Tried to get some sleep… didn’t get much…a little!

Saturday-  August 4th (Amsterdam)

Arrived in Amsterdam around noon. Great weather, sunny and pretty…went through customs and stored the luggage.  Went by train to Central.  Walked towards the Dam square, very busy and packed with people as was most of Amsterdam seeing it was the Gay Pride Weekend.

Went to the Hard Rock Café for lunch, now around 2 pm, felt good to rest and eat.  Bought souvenirs for niece and SIL…then headed onto the Van Gogh museum.  We didn’t have tickets so we had to wait in a short line… not bad at all.  Since we were there for only one day we hurried through to the Van Gogh paintings.  Saw the famous Sunflowers, very neat to see it…

Since we had to be at the Anne Frank House at 5:30, we had pre-bought tickets online.  So had about an hour and a half to get there…kind of got turned around plus stopped to take a few pictures, so for the last 4 or 5 blocks we took a cab.  There was a LONG line for tickets…  so glad we bought them online.  We just went up to the side door and straight in.
I LOVED Anne Frank’s house.  Just the fact I was actually there.  I have read Ann Franks Diary several times.  I encourage everyone to read it.  So good to see it in person.  Still has her pictures on her bedroom wall.  After looking around went to the gift shop and had a snack at the café there.  Decided to just get a few postcards and I am planning on ordering a book on like from the museum.
Heading back to the train station the parade was just ending. Still floats and a lot of people, took a few pictures. 

Back to the airport to get luggage and take train to Antwerp.  We did accidentally get off at the wrong stop and had to wait an hour for the next train.  Other than that the train ride was uneventful.  Finally made it to Antwerp, around 11PM.  Took cab to hotel. Checked into the hotel (Holiday Inn express) very tired and GLAD to be finally in the room.

Sunday - August 5th  (Ghent & Bruges)

Today we got up around 8, ate breakfast at the hotel then walked to the rain station to leave for Ghent.  Great weather, very pretty.  Ghent was beautiful.  They were having outdoor markets in several areas.  Walked around through those.  Ate frits for lunch. Stayed for about 3.5 hours, sight seeing. Then took the train to Bruges..  the train rides always seemed to rock us to sleep.  Really enjoyed the train travel when we had seats. LOL!
Stayed in Bruges for about 2 hours..  A LOT of walking.  Very pretty though.  really enjoyed the two towns.
Trained back to Antwerp, stopped in at Pizza Hut on the way back to the room.  Decided to walk to the Grote Market, then by the harbor towards the room.  Finally back at the hotel around 11:00 (stayed daylight until around 9ish)  Even though very tired had trouble getting adjusted to the time difference.

Monday- August 6th (Antwerp)

Gary had to work today through Friday.  We got up around 6:30, I ate breakfast with him downstairs, then came back to the room.  Overcast and sprinkling.  Wrote out postcards, slept a little more.  Walked down to the shopping area around noon.  Bought a few gifts.  Took pictures, just looked around.  Back to the room around 4:00.  Gary got off work and back to the room around 7:00, stayed in watched TV. (Had a few English channels)

Tuesday- August 7th (Antwerp)

Overcast today, ate breakfast with Gary again this morning.  Stayed in for most of the day.  Only left to buy a few groceries a couple blocks over.  Gary came back around 10:00.  We ordered a Pizza from Pizza Hut.  VERY GOOD.

Wednesday- August 8th (Antwerp)

Raining and cooler today.  Ate breakfast with Gary.  Walked to the Groote market for shopping. Stayed a few hours, started raining so took a cab back to room.  Stayed in for the rest of the day/evening.  Gary came in around 8:00

Thursday- August 9th (Antwerp- Gary’s B-day!)

Rainy and cool today, ate breakfast with Gary then decided to pack up most of our things.  Gary got off at 5:45, we went to Pizza Hut for dinner, then walked around the Diamond market, back to the Grote Market for a few last minutes gifts and pictures.  Back to the room around 10:00!

Friday- August 10th- Antwerp/Brussels

Prettier today.  Ate breakfast with Gary, last night at the hotel.  Pack up the rest of the backpack.  Went to the chocolate store for last gifts and grocery store for water and snacks.  Gary’s last day to work.  He got off around 2:00.  Trained to Brussels for the evening.  Looked around, sightseeing, taking pictures.  A lot of souvenir shopping since it was our last night in Belgium. 
Trained to Antwerp for the last night.

Saturday- August 11th- (Antwerp to London via Brussels)

Up early. Ate breakfast at hotel for the last time. Called a cab for train station. We had just enough Euros’ to pay the cab fare. Made it to Brussels with no problems. Only problem we did have once arriving at the Brussels train station was I had to use the restroom and we had no Euros and it was .50 Euro to go in. So Gary had to stand in the Bureau of change to change in $4.00 for me to use the restroom… I had to wait about 30 minutes total. It wasn’t fun…LOL!
After I finally had some relief we went to check in for the Euro star to London. We made good connections so we were about 2 hours early for our 11:59 train.
Euro star was fine. Took about 2.5 hours and we were in London! Arrived at Waterloo. Bought our Oyster cards for the tube, then onto Paddington Station. We stayed at Quality Crown Hotel at Paddington Station. The room was very small, but clean and modern. Only draw back was it WAS so close to the underground you could hear it and feel the vibrations form the train. On the flip side is was nice to be that close to the underground. There is a Mc Donald’s next door, Garfunkel’s is an American style restaurant. Food isn’t that great, but convenient. Across the street is an all night mini market. The Hilton is a few blocks from Paddington also.
We put the luggage in the room. Freshened up a bit, then headed out to sightsee! Walked to Hyde Park, saw the Diana Memorial Fountain. Went to Harrods. It was SO crowded. People everywhere. All I bought was water..LOL! Did a little shopping. We had to buy a battery charger since ours stopped working. Then onto hard Rock Café. A 2 hour wait. So we went next door to the gift shop and toured the vault. Ate, then back to the room at 11:30. VERY TIRED from long day.

August 12, Sunday (Salisbury/London)

Today is Stonehenge, the only thing Gary wanted to see on the entire vacation! We left the room around 8:00, stopped at Mc Donald’s for breakfast to eat on the train. Trained to waterloo, then bought tickets to Salisbury. Made it in perfect time to catch the bus to Stonehenge. We didn’t have pre-paid tickets so bought tickets, only like a 5 minute wait. Pretty day and got great pictures. There were a lot of people there but it was very peaceful, almost like a hush over the crowd. We bused, trained back to London by 3:15, from there we decided to go to the British Museum. The Rosetta Stone was the main thing we wanted to see. Stayed only an hour, looked mostly at the Egyptian displays. Walked to Oxford Street, on to Covent Garden, shopped, watched the performers. Went to the London Eye for pictures. Walked to Westminster Abby (I think the prettiest church) Big Ben and Parliament. Decided to call it a day/night. Back to the hotel for some much needed rest!

August 13th Monday

Up at 8 am…ate breakfast then headed to Buckingham Palace. Started using our London Pass today. Bought it for 3 days. I think it was a good buy. Easy access to every site. Nice weather, some clouds rolled in during the day but no rain.
Arrived at Buckingham just in time for the 10:30 tour. It was so much prettier than I imagined. I kept telling Gary when we would enter a room.. “This is my favorite…”, and then move to the next room which was even prettier. Enjoyed the tour very much! After the tour, shopped in the gift shop then went to watch the end of the changing of the guard. It was SO crowded. We stayed on the outskirts.. I don’t like being in the middle of a crowd that size. Gary took a few pictures best he could. We went during the Queen’s 60th wedding anniversary, so I thought it was neat to see her wedding dress and the exhibit.
Next up was Kensington. Took a few pictures at the gate… went inside for the tour. They were also having an exhibit here for Diana. I think some of the dresses I had already seen on tour in Houston, but maybe not? The gardens were very pretty. Took a few pictures before moving on…
Notting hill, Portobello Street was next on the itinerary. While we were trying to read the map and find out which direction to go and sweet little lady came up and offered directions. She was so nice. Loved the fact that she was happy to see tourist. I LOVED Portobella Street!!!! So neat… we walked around for about a hour enjoying the out door vendors. Took pictures. Loved all the house with the gardens. Very neat!!
Went back to the room around 4:00 to take a nap and rest up for the evening. Back out around 6:00. Headed to Piccadilly Circus for dinner and took a few night shots. From there we went to the London Eye/ Big Bend to take a few night shots.. They turned out very good. The London Eye is so pretty at night. A lot of people were out taking pictures. I should add in here that I never once felt unsafe in London. Back to the room around 10:00 pm for the evening.

August 14th- Tuesday

This morning we slept in. Left the room around 10, stopped to get breakfast for the train ride to Windsor. Weather was TERRIBLE. The only day I can say it was YUCKY. Very windy to say the least and COLD. Used our London Pass again here. Line was a little longer wait but that was okay, at least we were dry while waiting. Toured for around 2 hours. Tried to take pictures. It was so wet I couldn’t really take the pictures I wanted. Took a few, bought a book at the gift shop then back to the train. Decided to go to Tower of London next. Weather cleared up to just a drizzle which was nice. We were able to set up the tripod to get a few pictures of us in front of Tower Bridge.
Went back to Piccadilly Circus for dinner, (we liked this area). Then to Abbey road, a highlight for me. I am a huge Beatles fan. Gary took pictures of me crossing several times. They have a web cam and I was able to talk to my mom and she could see u while we were crossing. Very neat. My parents were there in May and I saw them also on the web cam! Fun!
Back to the room for the evening!

August 15th Wednesday (last day)

So up around 9:00…I couldn’t decide if I wanted to go to Hampton Court or not. But I’m so glad I did. We LOVED it! The gardens are amazing there. Just as I imagined. Of course we went through the maze. We took a lot of pictures here. Trained back to London around 3:00. Had lunch, went back to Buckingham Palace to get a few pictures with the tri pod and less people. Walked through Green Park. Very pretty weather today. Went to St. Paul’s so I could see where Diana was married. Took a few pictures. Back to Paddington area, did the last of the souvenir shopping, had dinner then in for the evening to pack. Packing was difficult. We only took backpacks. So I had to really organize. LOL!!
August Thursday
Left the hotel at 7:45, trained to Victoria, then to the Gatwick Express, very crowded! Made it through customs, bought a 2007 Christmas ornament at Harrods, a few snacks for the flight and then waited to get on the plane. Tried to stay awake for most of the flight. Wanted to be able to get back to a normal sleeping schedule. Had a good flight, seat between Gary and I was open so I was able to stretch out! Very nice.
Picked up checked luggage at the Houston airport. Stopped to eat Mexican food and then home! Nice to be in my feather bed!
We had a great time. A wonderful trip. Lots of pictures and wonderful memories!

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