Swiss….cheese? Chocolate?

Thursday, August 15

I had to get up at a reasonable time today to pack up and head to the train station – because I am going to Buchs, Switzerland! I was texting with my friend Heidi and she mentioned her dad loved Liechtenstein – so I thought well I should go there! I couldn’t get a train into the country but considering it’s only about 7 miles wide that makes sense, so I went to the town that boarders Liechtenstein and has buses that go between the two cities and countries.

I found an Airbnb that looks promising, I got my train tickets and realized I am going to the German-speaking portion of Switzerland – so wish me luck – German is not an easy language!

I checked my train ticket one last time on my walk to the subway and I am glad I did because I would have ended up at the wrong station! I have no officially used all three train stations in Paris. Because of this change, I opted instead for an Uber because I did not feel like transferring trains. My uber came quick and I was on my way.

I got to the station about an hour and a half before departure. Unlike planes, there are no security checks and if someone ever does something violent to change that, the industry could or sure take a hit.

Anyway, I decided to wait at the tables until my train was assigned a platform then headed to get a croissant (when in Paris and all) and headed to the train.

This train is headed to Zurich and somehow it is not that busy in my car. I am not sure why trains assign you seats right next to someone when a whole lot of other seats are open, but they do. Luckily, all the seats have a little screen above them to tell you when other ticket holders take them – so after about 30 minutes and two stops I moved to the open four seater with a table.

It was a very uneventful ride to Zurich. Once there I had to switch trains to get to Buchs. A quick four-minute transfer and I was on my way. This train was much busier and I had two Americans across from me and an English woman next to me. The American man worked for Amazon and they had lived in Luxembourg but honestly they were both snotty and not that bright. For living around the world for the last 5 years, you would think they would be a lot more street smart in Europe, but it sure does not seem like it.

They got off about halfway to Buchs and some new people came on – new people with a toddler! Therefore, I realized no one was sitting across from us anymore and I moved over to let the little family have all the space. (And to escape a sticky handed child on a train)

I made it to Buchs around 4pm and headed to the ticket counter to make sure I could buy my ticket form Vienna to Prague (as I was unable to do this portion before). For some reason there was no way to buy a seat reservation on the train I wanted so I asked for the next day, but then realized I’d have to pay for it since my pass was going to run out – so back to the original day, but just taking a longer transfer in Vienna, all of 30 minutes longer.

With my ticket in hand, I was ready to find my Airbnb. The host, Markus, had said it was an easy 10-minute walk and was not kidding – 2 turns and a walk down the main street. He had left the key in the post box – it is funny because only outgoing mail is locked, not incoming!!

I let myself in and the space was updated and modern – perfect space to sleep for a few nights. I was getting ready to head out and walk around when Markus came home. He told me to head over to this old little village about 10 minute walk from the flat and I would see a pond and old houses. It was a great little walk – even though it was raining (again, rain jacket to the rescue!) I wandered around, walked up to the old castle and when I got there the rain stopped and a big rainbow appeared over the valley.

I hung out on the hill top for a bit then decided I was hung so I found a Thai place down the street. I have decided to listen to podcasts when I am walking – but often find myself not paying attention – so I am not exactly sure what is going on in them – and during the rain, I paid even less attention. That walk from the castle to the restaurant, not a clue what the podcast was about.

Regardless I made the quick walk to Thai and was the only one there, but the best part about Thai food is it is the same in every country, including Thailand! I ordered my food and started reading my book (it is very long, very, very long) and all of a sudden people started filing in. Clearly, I picked a good spot – I just got there a bit early. While I was there, the rain came down in buckets – it was crazy! I am glad I was inside for sure.

After I paid and the rain let up, I decided to walk back to the flat. On the way, back I passed a gelato shop – so of course, I had to stop – but it was the most expensive gelato ever – thanks to the Swiss. Everything is about 30-40% more expensive in Switzerland (I learned they do not have free trade) Regardless, it was good gelato and a great way to end the day. Tomorrow I am going to Liechtenstein and I cannot wait!

Tonight Markus came to get me to check out the fireworks happening in Liechtenstein, but the cloud cover made it look like bombs!

Paris by Jump bike

Wednesday, August 14

I got up today and decided to do the hop on, hop off tour. Last time I was here and took one there were three routes – this time, only two. They removed the yellow route. I walked over to where the bus would come and decided, no, I am not going to do it. Instead, I decided to go eat “brunch” and read in the Luxembourg gardens. It was a quick 10-minute walk over there. The garden was huge – there were many people reading, picnicking and running around. They had chairs everywhere, it was wonderful. I opted to walk over to the palace and sit where people were picnicking. I had my yogurt and sat there and ready and people watched for a while before heading out.

I decided to head to the Pantheon. It was only a 20-minute walk from the gardens. I decided to go inside because I do not recall doing it before. It was huge and there is some sort of clock in the middle of the junction – a big brass looking ball hung by a string that somehow tells time, I have no idea how it works but it was awesome. I walked to the crypt and checked out some of the crypts of people I have heard of. Most notably the man who invented Braille and Marie Currie – Noble prize recipient.

After the Pantheon I wanted to go to the Eiffel tower – but it was like a 1.5 hour walk – there were many scooters around – but without a helmet and the with the cobble stone road, I wasn’t very confident. I had Googled “bike rules in Paris” last night, so instead I found a Jump bike and decided to try it because I felt I understood the rules of the road and it was not busy in the area.

Getting the bike was easy, quick scan of the QR code and the bike was ready for me. Most of the Paris streets have a bike lane – or are labeled for bike access, even one way streets have bike lines in both directions.

I was confident I could make it over to the Eiffel Tower – a 30-minute ride is what it said. The main street it wanted me to take was actually under construction – so it proved to be a little bit more difficult than I had planned. They are redoing their bike lane to make it even safer, but in the meantime, it is a nightmare to actually ride. I just weaved my way around – over the river and bike. I finally saw a bike on the road and decided to follow that local rider.

The best part about Jump bikes is they are electric assist, so you can go 25-35 KMh to keep up with traffic when needed. I followed the guy until I got to where I would drop my bike. You can only park in certain areas or they fine you. It is smart – they are presumably paying a fine if they are caught in a “no-bike zone” so they charge the person who put it there before they are fined themselves.

I had made it to the Eiffel tower!! I rode the bike – confidently, safely and happily – I made it! I walked through the park and noticed since the last time I had been there how much had changed. The amount of terrorist attacks are clearly leading the French to protect their landmarks more securely now. You can no longer go under or near the tower without a ticket. They have this glass wall all the way around. Therefore, I saw people queuing for security, then queuing for the lift line. I have been up there a handful of times so I opted out of going up and instead I decided to read, people watch and eat a chocolate bar in the park.

I laid out my rain jacket as a blanket, took out my book and read for a little over an hour. I saw a couple get engaged – the most anti-climactic proposal ever – they even put the ring on the wrong hand!! And just like that, they were gone, it was over.

After sitting there for a while, I decided I am going to go do a bike tour of Paris – so I grabbed another Jump bike and headed to the Sacre Couer. This ride was about the same distance (30 minutes) but uphill – thankfully for the Jump bike it was easy. I made it to the side of the Sacre Coeur and immediately saw a tram to take you up – but I decided for the stairs. I eat so much good food in Europe – it is always best to burn as much as I can. I went to the steps and looked out over Paris. From my view, I couldn’t see the Eiffel Tower, but I could see Centre Pompidou and Notre Dame, the Louvre, and Museum D’orsy. I tried to imagine what it would be like to see Notre Dame on fire from here – and I just couldn’t even get a clear through about it.

After people watching for a while, I decided to head down to Centre Pompidou – something I had never seen before, but have wanted to since I saw it in my high school French book. I grabbed a Jump bike again and took off. The ride took me through parts of Paris I had never been before – through the district that sold traditional Indian and African apparel and finally Centre Pompidou.

CP is a library and museum. I did not want to go in, but to see the exoskeleton of the building. They consider it an “inside-out” building because structure, mechanical and plumbing are on the outside of the building. It’s an eye sore for sure – sticks out like a sore thumb – but it is pretty neat to see how it is all color coded, each mechanical pipe is green and water is blue.

After my quick pull off to stare at the building I decided to head back to the hotel. This was just a quick 10-minute bike ride back over the river. I locked the bike and headed upstairs to do some work. It also gave me time to have a snack (some cheese, duh) and drink some water. It was not hot – only about 73* but it was sunny and I was a bit sun burned and knew I needed more water than the 32oz I had today.

At around 9pm I went for dinner – I had pizza. I cannot help it, it is just so good. I met a woman and her two teenage kids from Boston. She had traveled in her younger years – doing Asia for a year on her own – but when it came to now she and her daughters were a bit embarrassing.

They wanted things lickety split and nothing is fast around here when it comes to food. They want you to relax and enjoy the food, and these women just would not settle down. We chatted a bit – I finished my food, paid and wished them luck.

After dinner, I decided to find a crepe. It was late, which means the crepe stands are out. I found one, one block from the hotel and got myself a Nutella crepe. I only like the sweet ones. I headed back to the hotel because tomorrow I was off to Switzerland to bus into Lichtenstein.

France and clean underpants

Tuesday, August 13th

Today I got up and headed over to Saint Michel square where I was meeting my free walking tour. I got there about 20 minutes early and there was no one there – the guides showed up about 15 minutes before the start and all of a sudden there were warms of people!! It was crazy! They ended up having 4 tours – 2 in Spanish and 2 in English.

My guide was Harry from the UK. He confirmed he was not part of the royal blood (he had red hair, so people must believe he is or something). We started our tour learning how much of the city had been demolished in the 19th century by Napoleon III and much of what we know as Parisian architecture is “new.”

The tour used to cross the bridge to the front of Notre Dame, but yesterday the city blocked the bridge to begin lead abatement from the fire. It’s pretty controversial in the city because people who live on the island are allowed home but the schools have been closed and now this specific part of the island.

We continued our walk to Saint Chapell, an old prison, a square, and a finally the Louvre.

It wasn’t a long walk but our guide did a great job of skeaping and teaching me things I hadnt heard on other tours.

After the tour everyone else went to the café he was going to be sitting at – but I paid him and left. I was actually getting chilly so I headed back to the hotel for my rain jacket. The market across the street was open so before I went up to the room I grabbed some rolls, cheese, water, blood orange juice, and of course Nutella.

I decided to lunch in my room and then go back to Notre Dame to get a closer look. On my way to Notre Dame, I decided to check out an original Banksy. He is an anonymous street artist who has been brought to fame through his political and controversial art. I brought my phones and my Kindle and headed out to Notre Dame. My hotel is only like a 15 minute walk over there. The Banksy was on the way, so I snapped a picture and continued on.

On the south side of the cathedral you can get a bit closer, but on the east side you can basically walk within 20 feet of the structure. Construction continues – today they were using cranes to build another crane. They have installed protection over all the windows and wooden support for portions of the structure. I stood in awe for a while – took some pictures and realized my phone’s camera was acting up.

I reached out to Google for assistance and was troubleshooting with them right next to the cathedral. With the amount of lead they say is around there Im sure Ill end up with lead posioning – but I did make sure not to lick my fingers.

After my troubleshooting I went to read in the park behind Note Dame. I spent some time there before my work phone started to ring – and the work didn’t stop so I decided to head back to the hotel to eal with work. I worked until about 8pm and decided to go get food – I actually used Google maps to find some good food and settled on a French place one street over.

I ended up with the most amazing onion soup, some cheesy pasta (duh) and a crème brule. I wanted a 7up but they only had Limonade – which ended up being a more lemony 7up – it was good.

After dinner I headed back to the hotel to do laudnry. I only packed enough clothes for 5 days so it was time to wash some clothes (and by some I mean all).

I headed to the laundry room, fully expecting to pay $5 for a load, but it was free!! They even had soap – but I had brought mine from home – including Bounce sheets!. It took just shy of two hours to get it done, but it is nice to have clean clothes for the middle part of the trip.

Luxembourg….er; France

Monday, August 12

I arrived in Luxembourg after a nice relaxing train ride. This is one I had to buy because they didnt have any more Eurail spots. I got off the train and found the left luggage place – $5 a piece – but better than lugging around my backpack and duffel all day.

I didnt have a list of things to see so when I was done at the station I opened Google Maps and clicked the “attractions” button. It is very handy when you are lazy – just pops up and tells you the things to do near where you are at.

The first thing to pop up was the Notre Dame Cathedral (no not the one in Paris). It looked to be a pretty central location to start so I walked the 10 minutes over there. The church location had a lot of history – dating back to 800AD. It had some pretty stained glass so I hung out in the cathedral for a bit and took it in. My step dad is Catholic and every time I enter a church I take a moment for him, taking in the peace of the place.

They also had a crypt so I went to check it out – just another chapel really, with a very modern looking crypt for someone who I did not know.

It was raining pretty hard after my visit so I put on my handy rain coat and headed to find food. I opted for some “fast food” Chinese. It didnt have much flavor leading me to believe it didnt actually have a lot of salt.

The rain stopped while I was eating, but stayed pretty cloudy. I got out the handy Google maps app again and found they have a really old bridge with a rand new pedestrian walkway underneath – I decided to head there.

The Adolphe Bridge is over 100 years old. It rises 140′ above the ravine and is about 500 feet long. Recently, in the last 5 years, they have added a pedestrian bridge underneath it. It was semi disappointing to see they had cut in and removed some original structure so they could put this bridge in, but its safer for all involved being below the traffic. From the bridge you could see the beautiful ravine below and the garden area near the church.

While I was on the bridge I noticed there was a carnival type ride that takes you up in a compartment and slowly turns around the city providing an aerial 360 view. I decided to walk over and check it out.

It started to rain again just as we got in the ride but was just sprinkling. The views were really neat, on a clear day you can see really far away into the country side. There is a huge ravine that runs through the city and you could see the gardens and houses below. It provided a different view of the area than the bridge did. It was about a four minute even then we slowly went back down.

I wanted to explore more of the city but I just wasnt enjoying myself and when I would walk from place to place I saw how dirty and grimmy the city really is. Luxembourg is supposed to be like the wealthiest country in Europe (they did have really nice cars) but they had trash in the streets and lots of loitering groups – mainly men – but some women. There were also lots of people begging – especially near the train station. So, instaed of exploring more I took my own internal advise and headed back to the train station over an hour early to do some work in the safety of the station.

In all my travels I think this may be the first time an uneasy feeling has washed over me. So, Im glad I followed my gut.

I did a bit of work and then it was time to head to my platform to catch the train to Paris. It was an almost empty car – except for the family with two very loud kids – SO LOUD!! I was seated next to someone – but realized after the second (and last) stop that the whoel four person seating in front of me was open so I grabbed my stuff and moved up. It was about a three hour train ride to Paris; a beautiful ride out of Luxembourg into the French countryside.

I got to Paris at around 915pm and needed to make my way to my hotel for the next few nights. I hopped on the metro line – after I was finally able to communicate (what little French I can remember and my mom did the trick!) and got a metro pass to my stop. The machine would not give me a ticket to my stop – for some dumb reason! I was able to find the hotel no problem!

I had picked this place because it looked close to metro lines and the river – and it has a washer and dryer!! Ill need to do laundry while I am in Paris. I took the worlds smallest triangle shaped lift to the 5th floor where my room was located (Rm 69).

The description said it was nothing fancy, but it was exactly what I needed. A small room with a fridge, fan and large window to open. They also have super fast internet which is great for having to set some work done.

It was past 10 when I got to my room but I was so amped to be in Paris I struggled to sleep. I just wanted to go explore the city – but forced myself to stay in and relax. I decided to book a walking tour for the morning, it ended up meeting just a few blocks from the hotel.

Den Haag…another day with no joke

Sunday August 11 – Den Haag

I slept in again today – my back was hunting again – but I had looked yesterday and almost everything was closed until noon today, so there was no reason to rush out of the house. I love taking walking tours and recommend them to anyone traveling. Usually it gives you an opportunity to explore the city center – including many places you may not have checked out on your own while giving you historical and cultural information. Many of them end with a trip to a pub or a coffee (depending upon the time of day).

I got ready and walked over to the meeting point – Im sure I would make most others nervous or anxious with the lack of planning I do – but it said it was going to meet in this square and the email didn’t necessarily tell you where.  I had a feeling it was near this cartoon statue – so I checked the website and I was right. There were 14 people on the tour, great size group – we had Russians, Texans, Germans, and some Asians – all different points of views on the world. Makes for great conversation when you find out how everyone learns a different history about many parts of history.

Our guide was Denny – he normally does architectural tours but he was filling in for his friend while she was on holiday with her family. He had a lot of insight on the architecture of the buildings so we got to see a lot of little details most people don’t notice – or if they do itll take years (according to Denny). He took us through parks, gardens and we walked all over the city center. For me the highlights were realizing how old the city and the fact that they are still ruled by a king! They vote here for the people who keep the government in check, not the actual government since the king appoints them. They also have like 25+ parties – so they are forced to work together and it is hard to bribe them since the group changes so frequently.

We also learned about the canals throughout Holland – basically they are all locks and dams meant to assist with water problems (rising and lowering due to weather) most of Holland is below sea level. They aren’t afraid of rising sea level because they are prepared for it – they worry about the world, but not themselves.

At the end of free tours they say “now is judgement time.” This is when you get to place value on the tour, since many people who come on these are backpackers or who don’t want large expensive tours, often times $10-15/person is a reasonable rate. I usually give $10 – if they do really good $15 – those are the ones who can answer all my crazy questions. After the tour I walked over to the city volunteers (they have these people with maps and candy to help tourists) and got a map because I want to take the tram to the beach, but first – LUNCH!

I ended up finding another pizza place but opted for pasta and soup this time. I really want some fries!! I haven’t found a stand open when I am actually hungry for them though.  I sat and wrote up to this point in the blog, read some of my book and enjoyed the food for a while. After lunch I walked around for a bit, then went to figure out the tram system so I could check out the beach. Luckily you can buy tickets with a card on the trams themselves – the signage and information at the stops is actually very good here. I rode line #1 from the city center to the beach area. It was about a 25 minute ride. The tram went down tree lined streets – everything so lush and green – make the outskirts of the city seem farther away than it really was.

I got to the beach stop, opened Google maps and headed towards the water. On the way over I ran into a bunch of kids teaching each other parkour. It was a pretty cool site to see – looked like a legitimate club – they had shirts and leaders and stuff. Getting to the beach from the tram line was a quick 10 minute walk. It smelled like fish the closer I got to the water – but the beach views were gorgeous. It was (and usually is) very window, so there were many windsurfers out on the water. I didn’t see many people camped out on the beach – but it was pretty cool  out (all of 64*).

After I checked out the beach I went back to the tram, I really wanted to get some digestives (ya know fiber full crackers, with chocolate!) and chocolate for my adventures tomorrow – luckily there was a shop just at the tram stop. I gathered my snacks and got on the tram back to the city center. I stopped at the Peach Palace as my guide recommended it. However, you can you cant actually go in and they only have a small visitor center to check out. I took some pictures and headed back to the tram. The Peace Palace is an international group of people appointed by each country that handles international arbitration. In order to participate each side must agree to the final settlement.

Once back at the city center I decided it was time to head back to my Airbnb and relax for a bit before the concert and also change, it was already cooling off and it was only 5pm. I got back to my room and no one else was home (woohoo) but I just went to my room to watch some Friends and take a nap before my super wild night ahead. I full expected to be out late (and I was!)

The concert started at 7pm – but tickets said P!NK had two openers – so I didn’t leave the house until after 7pm since the park was only about a 15 minute walk. People were filing in from the trams, buses and trains – all so orderly and excited. I followed the wave of people into the park. There was a bike parking lot at the venue (and many people didn’t even lock their bikes up) and a locker facility in case you wanted to leave stuff outside of the park.

I decided I had come all this way I should buy a shirt with the concert dates and places on it, so I waited in the long line and got a shirt. After that I headed to ticket check in. I paid for the closest area (the Golden Circle) which meant my line to get in was super short. They scanned your ticket, put on a wristband and made you throw away your ticket. You then have your bags looked at, but no metal detector or pat down. Europe (ok maybe just this area) has concert venues figured out. No cash at the food or beverage lines. You instead buy tokens – plastic round coin like pieces that can be split in half to pay for food or beverages. The minimum you could buy was 5 tokens – for $15. So I went with the 5 tokens because they had FRIES!! The friends were 1.5 tokens and the drinks (non-alcoholic) were 1 token a piece. I got fries, fanta and a water. They even had water refill stations around the site – its super nice!!

Den Haag – The Hague….

Saturday, August 10

I was so tired from traveling that I slept in until about 9am! It was wonderful actually, minus the fact that my back always hurts when I sleep that long. I decided to get ready for the day so I can catch my train to Amsterdam.
I always wonder how older people live in these flats with the two foot step into the shower/tub – it can be difficult for a healthy, able body person! I packed up my bags and headed out on my seven minute walk to St Pancras station to catch the Eurostar train to Amsterdam.

The ticket said to arrive 45-60 minutes before the ticket time and I got to the station one hour before. I probably should have checked exactly how to do the Chunnel portion = because I kept waiting for the board to announce my train platform and it just said check the website – which had ZERO information on it. I finally stood up and found a sign that said “Eurostar” (the Chunnel train). I headed there to find out that even though I was there 30 minutes before the train departed I may not make it because I am taking the Chunnel and they need to do passport control – luckily they rushed me to the front of the ticket line – but I was tuck in the passport and security line. Im not quite sure why they have you go through security  other than to check for guns? I never saw a single person get stopped or had their luggage pulled aside. I realized later because I was in such a hurry that my trusty sunglasses were left in the security bin – but I did make my train, with time to spare! In fact, the platform had just opened up and I got just hopped in line and got right on!

I was determined to stay awake because I really wanted to see all the sights along the way. The tunnel or Chunnel (channel tunnel) is about 31 miles long – there are actually three tunnels – one for each direction and one for maintenance. It was completed in 1994 and took less than 6 years to complete at a cost of about $12 Billion in today’s value.

It makes trade and travel easier between the UK and Europe main land. The tunnel comes out in France, and the rail splits between east and west – east going to Amsterdam and Brussels and west going to Paris. The train starts in the heart of London and heads out to the country side before heading to a shallow depth of 150 feet under water in the tunnel. I was expecting my ears to pop due to the change in pressure, but that never happened. The tunnel was to be expected – no cell service and dark. The train can reach speeds of 100 MPH in the tunnel, but 186 MPH on land.

The train stops in France and Belgium before heading into the Netherlands. My ticket was to Amsterdam, but I opted instead to get off in Rotterdam since my Airbnb host was hoping I could arrive early, and lets be real it cut about an our off my travel time.

I got off in Rotterdam and had to buy another ticket all of $5 (+$1 for the ticket itself) to get to Den Haag (or The Haag as they say it in English). I made my way to my Airbnb and knocked, and knocked and rang the bell (which is just a bell attached to a knocker inside), and nothing. I messaged the host and told him I would be sitting on the stairs. After about 5 minutes he opened the door and was like “why didn’t you knock?” Well, I had, but whatever. The room was exactly as the pictures showed – bright and airy and pretty large for a bedroom in Europe. I only met Alejandro, the husband, not the kid or the wife. If I had known there was a child, I may not have booked here, but she was so quiet that I never had to worry.

I dropped off my stuff, collected the keys and headed out to find myself some sunglasses – much needed after a whole day of bright sun without them! The city center was about 25 minutes by foot away from the house – but it is such a great little town that walking is no big deal at all. This is a bike country though, so I feel like at some point I should rent a bike. It probably wont happen – but it should.

I found some cheap ($2) sunglasses at the trustee H&M (they think H&M is expensive – but the prices are the same in the states and we think its cheap!). Im much more comfortable with sunglasses on, so I continued to explore the center – which is mostly shopping – and decided to find a place to sit so I could figure out wat to do tomorrow before the concert. I found a place called Binnenhof which is the government office building – but it is so pretty – right on a little pond (man made from the locks and dams and canals). There is a “garden” in the middle – with a large church and a pretty fountain – and that is where I started to plan my day tomorrow.

I wanted to find a free walking tour so I can get the most out of my time here and see all that I can. It took a lot of Googling – which is crazy – but I finally found one. I picked the 10am start time so I could go to the little amusement park later in the afternoon (its not rides, its just like a 1:25 exact replica of a lot of the important things of Holland, called Madurodam.

After I made my reservation I decided it was time for dinner. Of course I wanted pizza – there is something about a paper thin pizza that makes the world a little better. I was going to go to Jamie Oliver’s restaurant – but it was a chain (similar probably to a smaller Biaggi’s) and I feel like I should have done it in London since he British. So, instead I found a place with good reviews on Google next to the city center church. I arrived at the perfect time – it was full downstairs so they opened the upstairs just for me – but within 10 minutes the place was almost full upstairs as well.

My pizza and caprese salad were a perfect way to end the day. After dinner I decided to go find some ice cream or white chocolate bar (or anything by Milka really). I put my headphones on and started to walk towards home. I was enjoying my podcast when someone tapped me on the shoulder. He was a 35-40 year old man from Congo. At first I was a bit taken back – but we chatted a bit and I said I was walking home but wanted to get something sweet first. So we chatted on the way to the gelato shop.

I ended up talking to him for over an hour and a half. He was a nice guy, there was some language barrier – but it was great to hear about life in Holland, especially as an immigrant. I finally bid him ado, dropped him off at the train station, and continued on my way. Because I didn’t know him, I made sure he got on the train before I left, I didn’t want him stalking or anything – but he didn’t even look back.

Show me the way OUT of San Jose

Thursday, August 8 – Friday, August 9

I worked today before my 8pm flight – but didn’t walk enough and when you are going to be stuck on a plane for 10+ hours, getting in your steps becomes very important. So after my very slow (not just because of traffic, but because my driver really like the right lane, never once getting in the HOV lane!) Lyft to the airport I got through TSA, got to my gate and began my pacing. I got to the airport with only 4,500 steps and had just over an hour to get the rest of my 10,000 steps in – so I paced and I paced. I ended up grabbing my Kindle and reading and pacing – Im sure as it got closer to boarding the people were getting annoyed with my pacing – but I don’t care – I was on a mission!

I hit 10,000 steps (insert happy dance here) right as boarding was to begin. I saw some people queuing – they call that “gate lice” in Passenger shaming terms – and I wasn’t going to be one of them. They announced that the systems had crashed and that there would be a delay in boarding. It only lasted about 10 minutes, but once we were able to board, it went very slow, the computers were running slow and there were only half the amount of check in computers available. Because of my Platinum status on American I got to board with the elites on the flight – well after first class of course.

I had asked before the flight if the middle seat was taken and they confirmed it was, I am bummed because I changed my seat last night so I could have an open seat. Once I was by my seat the guy on the aisle was already on the plane (he must be status too) and since boarding was going slow because of the delay, I opted to put my pillow and technology bag on my seat and go stand in the galley

The flight attendants I talked to were just amazing and hysterical. We talked about how crazy the TSA regulations in the states are, as well as the UK version. For example, in the States the flight attendants don’t have a liquid allowance, but in the UK they do. And in the UK the armed forces can take their riffles and guns through security as long as they have a pass, but they cannot take water, as it may be used as a weapon – as opposed to the guns they have with them?!

We also talked about how crazy people are on airplanes and having to detain people mid-flight. Theyre given four types of situations and the solutions to all of them. Once of the flight attendants is a volunteer police officer in his town – and he knows (or seems to know) his stuff.

Boarding was complete; I had to return to my seat, and to my surprise, the middle seat was open! Woohoo! I had to bother the aisle guy again to get in and that’s when I noticed it – I was in a window seat with no window!! However, the lack of window actually means Ill be warmer on the flight since there is no window, there is no loss of heat!

They served the first mean about an hour and a half into the flight. I was really trying to exhaust myself so I stayed awake for it. They had what they called “red chicken curry” or the “vegetarian option” (I never did figure out what that actually was). I went with the curry; there was nothing “curry” about it, I never actually saw or tasted any curry – but it tasted really good. Simple salad, roll, dinner and some lemon custard, jello thing for dessert.

I don’t recall much after I finished eating because I fell asleep, and I slept hard! According to my FitBit I slept for over 5 hours. Im glad I brought my full size pillow (yes I know, judge away, but the Dr said it would help my back and he was right) it made sleeping so easy.

I woke up a bit before we landed – I missed breakfast (which is always my favorite part of the meals). We had left about 30 minutes late and arrived about 20 minutes early – yeah!!

After deplaning, came customs – many countries now have a chip in the passport that means you can bypass the annoying passport control people – it also means you don’t get a stamp – but I already have a London Heathrow stamp, so that’s fine by mean. I needed to get to the Underground station. I followed the signs and bought a ticket – I ran into someone who works for the Underground and he said it was delayed about 40 minutes and so I should take the TFN train and transfer along the way to the Underground. I followed all the directions and made it to the transfer point. The ticket guy there wasn’t as friendly as the airport – but he wasn’t mean. He kept trying to keep my card and I kept asking for it back – finally he opened the gate and let me have my ticket back.

My Airbnb was only about a 7 minute walk from the Kings Cross Station (trains and Underground). His directions to get to his place were spot on – but Google did assist a bit. The host, Mike, must be a shy guy. He lives, sleeps and works in 60% of the flat and the remaining is a storage closet, shared bathroom and guest room. It’s a great set up for Airbnb and its on the first floor (or in every other country in the world, the zero level). We chatted for a bit, I reviewed the binder he had set out for important information of the area, put on shorts and headed out to explore.

The moment I went to walk out the front door it dumped rain – so I ran back in to get my rain jacket that I had decided at the last minute to bring, sure glad I did that! I decided to put in the GPS – Westminster Abbey – since there is a lot to see and do in that area. I started the one-hour journey by foot and had to stop once because it was raining so hard.

On my way I decided to add a stop at the British Museum . It has been ages (like 15 years??) to my route – it was halfway between my flat and Westminster Abbey. Its free to get into the museum, I had forgotten this. They ask for a $5 donation – but its not required. You can now even text a number and make your donation that way!

I wanted to check out the Rosetta Stone again – its just a great part of history!! Its shocking to think that we learned so much from this stone – that before was just a guess! I walked around a bit more and then continued on my walk, I was getting hungry. My walk took me through the off-Broadway theater neighborhood – very busy, everyone is out on this Friday night to go see a show. I decided I was really hungry now so I looked for a place to eat and finally decided on an Italian place.

I got myself some olives and pizza with a 7up and water. Literally EVERYTHING tastes better here. A big reason is they don’t allow artificial colors (like Fanta isn’t cartoon orange, its like orange juice orange), and they don’t modify their food either. They don’t cut pizza here – you cut each bite yourself. I really like that because it forces me to eat slower. I wrote out (and re-wrote my boarding pass writing) most of this blog there. Once the food is delivered I switch over to reading (current read: Nelson Mandela’s Autobiography).

After dinner I continued my venture over to Westminster Abbey. Last time I was here Big Ben was under construction, it has been over 2 years since Ive been here so I expected it to be cleared – but when I got to the neighborhood I realized in fact there was ever MORE scaffolding that before!! They are doing a full restoration of the Parliament and Big Ben (much needed). Its an amazingly large project, but it will be great when its done. I walked around a bit, went to the Abbey gates and then hopped on the Tube back to the Airbnb. I was exhausted and worn out – exactly what I needed to sleep through the night.