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Amsterdam – Heineken Factory

September 6th, 2009 No comments

Amsterdam – Heineken Factory

Due to my “chemical engineering” mind, I decided to check out the Heineken factory with fellow Contiki travellers… yeah I’m full of fun reasons. The museum is quite a complex set-up where history and equipment abound.

Look at me! I’m a beer Label… and clearly not a standing upright one either…

Interesting factoid – Heineken bottles sold in Netherlands and some other countries are sold in the original brown bottles. However, when marketing to the US and some other more “western” countries the bottle colour they used was green because in those markets brown was associated with well… you know.

Above is a picture of the Contiki Crew, whereas below is my chemical engineering instincts took hold!

Although admission to the museum was a bit expensive, it was worth the price of admission (if you like beer 🙂 ).

Amsterdam

September 6th, 2009 No comments

Amsterdam

Amsterdam was our first city on the Contiki – European Inspiration Tour. The city with the Red Light District and Painted Elephant Statues…

Canals everywhere, feels a lot like home (Ottawa’s Rideau Canal).

There were a lot of bikes as well, the city is almost littered with them (in a good way).

Amsterdam also boasts the Van Gogh Museum, my primary reason for visiting this city. It’s a great museum except that no cameras are allowed inside so this a short blog entry.


To Amsterdam

September 6th, 2009 No comments

To Amsterdam

A quick glance at the white cliffs of Dover and we got on a ferry bound for Europe!

The Trip over was pretty uneventful, time to talk to fellow travellers and start planning out Amsterdam.

We had to drive through Belgium, pretty nice country-side.

And, of course, the first place we stop… Mc Something or other!

We did stop along the way for windmills, once we were in the Netherlands!
Next, we visited a small town, and got to bike around to see the sights.

Our Bike tour took us along one of the multitude of canals.
We eventually reached a man-made lake, pretty cool to see.
Then, we headed back to the bus to head off to the next place – Cheese & Clogs!

European Inspiration – Tower of London

September 5th, 2009 No comments

Tower of London

The stuff of english stories of claims to power in the English Royalty, the tower of london and the unforgettable white tower (shown above). I couldn’t pass this hot ticket item up while in town – in fact I would say that this attraction represented by far the best dollar for value in the city. After the outer gate we are met by a Beefeater for the free Yeoman’s tour. Read more…

Day 1 – European Inspiration – Ferry Ride down the River Thames

September 5th, 2009 No comments

Day 1 – European Inspiration – Ferry Ride down the River Thames

After a ride on the London Eye , my plan was to head towards the Tower Of London, but it was about a 30 minute walk down the Thames in the heat of the day (sun more an issue than the temperature). I decided to grab a ferry ride at the base of the Eye for around £8.

Once we were underway, one of the shipmates gave us a guided tour down the river, explaining what each building was called, and if time allowed a bit of history on each.

We did pass by the Shakespeare’s Theatre; an open top round building which was built in the style and location of the original theatre. The last time that I was in London, I was able to attend a show, which was great and I suggest it for fans of Theatre.

Also, apparently, London has a tall ship docked for your amusement.

There were some really neat buildings to see along the shoreline which were more modern in design.

Oh, and we passed under the “London Bridge” the real bridge, which is not very exciting.

Not to be confused with the tower bridge!

As you can see below, the ferry kindly turned so that we could all get a photo of this amazing bridge!

The ferry then drops you off at the docks right beside the Tower of London, convenient!

Day 1 – European Inspiration – London Eye

September 5th, 2009 No comments

Day 1 – European Inspiration – London Eye

Definitely one of the newer attractions in London, the London Eye is basically a huge ferris wheel which allows for an exquisite view of the city of London (Official Website).

When I got there, the lines weren’t long and, other than a small issue of a “pen knife” (swiss army knife – which they hung onto while I was on the Eye and returned at the exit) in my bag, getting on was hassle free.

Getting into the capsule is a pretty straight-forward procedure as the capsule slows for you to get on. Once in the capsule you and about 10 other people ride the full circle of these white capsules which are covered in clear glass (which is surprising clean – all things considering).

Picture of me as we crest the top of the wheel!

And the view you came for, Big Ben and the English Parliament Buildings.

Day 0 – European Inspiration – The British Museum

September 4th, 2009 No comments

Day 0 – European Inspiration – The British Museum

There are three things I like about this museum.

  1. Its Free*
  2. It has interesting exhibits from around the world
  3. They allow Photography

Here is a link to their website –> http://www.britishmuseum.org/

*There is a special exhibit section which is not free. I think you need a museum membership or pay a small fee, but unless your hard set on seeing whatever the special exhibit is, there is so much other stuff in the museum to keep you busy.

If you have hoarding tendencies and think you’re bad, you should visit this museum to get an idea of what real hoarding is. They have so much in this museum that it would be hard to cover it in one day if one were to read everything in detail.  If you’re me with a camera and quick feet, it only takes 2 hours and 15 minutes and 350 photos :-).

Let’s Start with the Egyptian Section, by far the largest section in terms of collected statues, mummies, and tomb items. The primary hall is full of large stone statues such as one one shown below, some reaching all the way up ~30 feet into the air.

Once you go into the side halls, you can see various mummified remains behind glass enclosures, I’d suggest bringing a small cloth to wipe away all the finger prints; especially at child level. Overall, I wasn’t as impressed with the mummies as they seem to lack a lot of the golden head dresses, etc. that one would normally think of when talking about mummies (aka King Tut).

So I continued on and there were more statues to be found… a lot more.

They also had a section of mechanical clocks and compasses, which I though was really neat.

The reality is that this is a huge museum, with many things to see from many different parts of the world which used to be part of the British empire. It’s worth a visit if you are visiting London.

Day 0 – European Inspiration – London Cabs and European Cars

September 3rd, 2009 No comments

Day 0 – European Inspiration – London Taxis and Big Cars

Although I didn’t take a London cab during this visit to London, there were a lot of them, and what stood out was all the colourful advertisements painted on the side, enough so that I took a few pictures. Read more…

Day 0 – European Inspiration – Sherlock Holmes Museum

September 3rd, 2009 No comments

Day 0 – European Inspiration – Sherlock Holmes Museum

As any fan of the books or movies knows, 221b Baker Street is The Place to go! It’s just south of Regents Park and right around the corner from Madame Tussauds (London). There is also a statue of the Great Detective not too far off as well.

And if that wasn’t enough for you to deduce the location of the museum (as some people may point out there really wasn’t a 221b baker street in his time), I’m sure that the green sign (shown above), and the era appropriate police man standing outside, will surely point you on your way (and through the right door to purchase a ticket).

The Museum does have a webpage with information about Hours of Operation and Admission Fees, but  the museum website does not have many pictures. There is, however, a youtube video that someone has made. I’ve embedded below for your enjoyment.

Each floor of Sherlock’s home is filled with memorabilia from his many adventures. The main floor has the Parlour room where one can sit down and enjoy the ambiance.

There is further memorabilia in the various rooms, along with placards explaining what some of it is, although any fan of the books could tell you if they have a keen sense of detail, not unlike Holmes himself.

Also upstairs are rooms full of wax reincarnations of various characters in the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle series.

Overall: In my opinion, it’s one of the pricier choices around London considering a “bang for buck” enjoyment, but if you’re a Sherlock Holmes Fan, it’s worth the trip and the admission charge. Unfortunately, you may not meet the Great Detective himself as he and Watson take turns greeting the many visitors, but if Holmes is out, you get to wear his hat and play with his pipe.


Day 0 – European Inspiration – To London

September 3rd, 2009 No comments

Day 0 – European Inspirations – To London

As I was going to be in Europe for quite some time, I decided to take along some extra storage space. Although there are many photo storage devices available, they tended to be quite expensive when compared to SD cards and normal hard drive space.

I have a netbook so I decided to take it, along with a portable 500GB hard drive, to store my trips worth of pictures and act as a backup.

Before I left for the airport, I did a final check of all my equipment.

However, after I had passed through airport security and reached the gate, I wanted to send a quick email via the air port wi-fi to tell my folks that I had made it to the departure gate without issue and that the airplane was indeed leaving on time.

Imagine my surprise when my computer failed to boot-up! A quick check of the bios and playing with restarting off plugged-in power, I discovered that the entire operating system (an Asus linux variant) was corrupted :-(.

Well, there was nothing that I could do in the airport, so I took the alternative and phoned my parents, gave them the good and bad news, and assured them I would be in touch as soon as possible once I had arrived in London and reinstalled an operating system on my computer.

The nice thing about traveling from one capital to another is that there is a direct flight.

From Ottawa, Canada to London, England (Heathrow), one only has to leave at 6pm to arrive at 6am. Assuming you can sleep on the plane or at least reach a restful state, as flight attendants and passengers continually move about the airplane only to be halted for some well timed turbulence, you can arrive in London jet-lag free and ready to start your day on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.

After collecting my bag from the airport terminal, I took the subway to Russell square. When I arrived at the designated subway station I got off and followed the various morning commuters off of the platform. We all eventually reached a couple of elevators and at the end of a hallway there was quite a big line-up. I thought that it would take a while to clear, so I decided that I would just take the stairs which were conveniently located to my right.

My first guess should of been that no one else was taking the stairs…

It was only a short walk to the hotel (after I got turned around few times).

I was fortunate as the room was available immediately, so I was able to get in a quick shower and modify my backpack and luggage from the configuration that I use for traveling on a airplane to the more desirable exploration configuration. That meant mainly moving most of the computer gear to the suitcase from the backpack along with the general minimum clothing which I had in my backpack (required if my check luggage had failed to make the journey with me.)

It was about 8:30am as I set out to explore the city. Time to really pull out the camera and get some shots. As the picture in the banner might suggest, I tend to go by foot whenever possible so as to not miss anything along the way.

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