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.

What Im all about…

Lets be real. If you read blogs or follow traveler accounts on Instagram or Facebook – you dream of living your life through them. You want the followers they have, the experiences they have – but, you are a real world human who has to go to work on Monday morning. I am that person too.

I work hard and spend my money on traveling and seeing the world. I am often asked by friends if I can help them plan a trip or how I save the money to be able to do this. Honestly, its not an easy going thing – but I enjoy every minute of it. I love helping others plan trips, find deals, ideas for what to see, and how much it is all going to cost.

What I have learned about planning a trip, funding a trip and enjoying are trip are all found here on my blog. I share valuable tips to make your trips more exciting and less work – and unforgettable. Below you will see me having fun, laughing, taking in beautiful views – world wide! I am a real human! Im not financed by some company looking to sell items – if I promote it, I use it.

How can I help you?

Are you looking to travel? Do you need some tips? Dont know what to do next? Reach out! I am here for you – I am NOT kidding – I love traveling! I get excited FOR YOU, when I know you are planning or thinking about traveling to somewhere new. Dont worry, Im not going to charge you, in fact, Im not going to do anything other than share with you what I would do if I were in your position.

No such thing as dumb questions – and Im not looking to get rich off of this. Traveling is the reason I work so hard and I love every part of it (TSA and all!) I hope I can inspire you to adventure out (even if its just to another state or city!)

Dont forget to follow the Instagram and Facebook page for even more travel tips!

WOW!! We got blown out of Iceland

Today was our final day in Iceland. We started the day off with breakfast on the top floor of our hotel. The bread in this country is just amazing. Always so light and fluffy, full of flavor. After breakfast we headed out for our last little excursion – a trip to the city’s church (Hallgrimskirkja)

Apparently Christianity has been around for like ever on Iceland. However, while 90% or so of the island is Christian (mostly Lutheran) there are not that many religious people and about 55% of the island believes in elves, so take all these numbers with a grain of salt. Anyway, this church was started back in the mid 40s and finished mid 80s. So this church, Hallgrimskirkja is a Lutheran church – interesting style and made to stand out.

It has a HUGE organ and to me the outside of the building also looks like a weird organ. You can take an elevator ride up to the top floor (level 6) and then walk up 2 flights of stairs to the clock tower. From there you get a beautiful view of the city. It was something like $9.

We were greeted at the top of the church with a wonderfully powerful wind storm outside. We were watching the freezing rain whip and whirl, people hustling and trying to protect themselves from the crazy weather. We headed down after checking out the views and attempted to head out of the church. The wind was strong enough to move you. Strong enough to make you second guess how much you should be pushing against it. And then BOOM, it was gone. So we moved quickly to get down a street to get a bit more protection from the wind.

By this time we realized we needed to eat again before our flights, but that we werent hungry. So option 2 – go pack. We headed back to the hotel to pack up our belongings. After what seemed like far too long to take to pack, we headed out to lunch. The expert she is, Lauren was able to find us another vegan hot dog place. And once again, it did NOT disappoint. It wasnt served on a bun, but instead with some roasted root vegetables and micro greens. I loved it. Lauren was able to get a final Icelandic beer before we headed out. So we left full, happy and relaxed (or as much as one can be….)

We walked back to the hotel and grabbed our things, checked out (cuz you still gotta do that here) and hit the road to the airport. KEF is about 45 minutes from downtown Reykjavik and we also needed to get gas and return our rental car. So first of course, find gas. They had two stations within minutes of the airport, so I picked the closer of the two to our destination. What I have learned about Iceland and their fuel pumps is that they are not reliable. Today the issue was with the internet connection. Both times Ive had an issue with a pump its been an extremely windy day. Regardless of the reasons, I had to venture to the other gas station. I fueled up one last time and headed to Ace-Rent-A-Car to drop our little car off. This is when we found out Lauren’s flight was over an hour delayed.

A now extinct WOW airlines flight attendant

Once at the airport we parted ways to check our bags and we were supposed to meet back up by Lauren’s bag check area, but apparently that was not at the actual WOW airlines desk. I should back track a bit….Lauren is flying WOW air to Boston. WOW air is currently trying to avoid shutting down. We have been hearing rumors that no one will be bailing them out and you will be stuck if they shut down. So last night Lauren found another flight as back up on IcelandAir if WOW was to go out of business before her flight.

Ok, back to the story. So I checked in and went to the WOW desk and there was no Lauren. So I waited a minute, went and did my tax free paperwork and then went back to WOW. Still, no Lauren. So I sent her an email and headed up through security. I got a special “fast track” line because of my upgrade on IcelandAir. Didnt do me much good because they pulled all my stuff off to be checked. I was waiting and watching for Lauren – and all of a sudden there she was, on the other side of security! We met back up and hit the Duty Free shop. No wine gums could be found in said Duty Free.

We walked around the airport a bit, and I went to see if I could bring a guest to the lounge, but no such luck. While I was upstairs Lauren got an email from WOW asking them to come to the gate in an attempt to beat the weather they were going to try and board and leave as early as possible (while still being delayed). They assigned her gate and off she went! I headed back up to the lounge to gab some snacks and a 7up before the flight.

When they assigned my gate I headed out, still needing to hit passport control. When I got downstairs, apparently every person in Iceland was also hitting passport control. We weaved and weaved and weaved. But it was so fast. They are just so relaxed here, its a nice change from the States. I walked to my gate and they basically started the check in process right away. I hopped in line, and got on the plane. And I have NO ONE next to me, tons of leg room and a fancy meal coming my way shortly!

I had an amazing time exploring Iceland with Lauren – we did so much laughing, it was like we worked out! We’ve already set up our google doc for our next trip – so be on the lookout for the next L&L adventure! Before that adventure I will be hitting up Maui, Hawaii in April, an Alaskan cruise in July and have decisions to make about the fall!! Safe travels everyone!

Ok, so DRAMA!! About 3 hours into my flight there was some bustling around happening a few rows in front of me. Of course, being a nosy Nelly I had to do my best to get all the info. This lady seemed drunk and was basically yelling “Im going to hijack the plane” and then rambling things I couldnt hear in my seat. It was about 15 minutes of scuffle before the 5 flight attendants were able to get her to walk back into coach and put her in a row all on her own. At this point she was handcuffed!! They then proceeded to strap her down to her seat, legs, chest, etc; while she remained handcuffed behind her back. She continued yelling for a bit and even said “Im fine, this happens sometimes, this has happened before.” Needless to say it made for an interesting hour or so of chatting about it up in front.

When we landed the EMS, Fire and Police came on board, a police officer said “No one on this plane is getting off.” So everyone sat back down. It was about 20 minutes of talking to her and negotiating with her to get her off the plane. We then had to wait about another 10 minutes before they let us disembark. The poor father who had to deal with all the drama, he got police escorted through customs, passport control and luggage area. Other passengers were getting upset over the fact that passport control was taking longer than they wanted it to, even calling out minorities as non-Americans in the US passport line (they were all Americans, by the way). Happy to have gotten in my Uber and hit the road home!