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!

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.

Skagway, not a personal transporter: July 5, 2019

I finally decided to go on an excursion Julia is still fighting her cold – so she just kept sleeping. I went with Julie, Lori, Becca, and Becky on the train ride to just inside Canada and back. It was about a 3 hour experience. We got to stand on the back porch for the whole ride!

Our little guide, Benjamin, was great – answering all of our weird and random questions about the town, the train and the history that goes along with it. Turns out he makes great money – so much he could work his four months and then take the rest of the year off to travel (many youngsters do this)!

After the fun train ride we all headed into town to find something to eat. We managed to grab even more Olivia travelers, but then dropped them because we couldnt decide on food choices. The usual group of us headed to a brewery. i was so happy with the options!! I ended up with beer cheese soup – but sadly they were out of pretzels (this should be a crime, they go hand and hand). Julie loved her fish and chips – it was halibut and tator tots! Becky got a salmon burger (who knew that was a thing) – everyone really seemed to enjoy their food.

After our lunch we headed out into town to check out all the little shops. Everyone was able to get their souvenir they wanted/needed including Harley Davidson stuff! On our walk back to the ship Julie almost got hit by a bus!! It was so crazy She would like me to explain how and what happened. I had been talking about renting scooters and Julie was staring at them and debating them when a bus turned the corner and came so to her we all screamed. Becky totally saved Julie from her death!! Hero status!!

Everyone kind of broke up near the boat – and Becky and I headed out on a short hike while others went back to the boat. It was a cute little 1/2 mile hike that ended up at a point with a great view of the water and the boats. Much easier than the last hike I did!!

Once back on the boat I headed up to the Crow’s nest for the team trivia – solo edition! There were about 18 of us – and my friends started to flow in AFTER it started. Of course I managed to get the gang to come – I think they started to just give in and come to appease me. The best part was – this was the first trivia we won!! Woohoo!!

Per usual we hung around together after our trivia event. After a bit we parted ways again to get cleaned up for a show. The whole group of us (including Julia) showed up. It was a pretty cool feeling to have such a large group to find seating – tough but Im not going to lie, I felt cool. I just love these women!!

Julia left the show partway in and I went to join her so we could play games, Bananagrams of course!! Once the show was over we all headed down to dinner. Its so awesome – our table needed to get bigger and bigger, we just added chairs and squished together – good thing we like each other!!

After dinner, we all parted ways with the assumption we would meet up for breakfast – yummy yummy breakfast!!

A train ride

Today I had to say goodbye to Riomaggiore and say hello to Milan (only for 5 hours-ish). I caught the train with Lisa and Emma to the first stop, they continued onto Pisa, then Florence and I switched trains to Milan. The train ride was 3 hours, 3 long hours and I was so tired, just because we were on a train, not for any other reason!! I slept for like 30 minutes though, I forced myself to stay awake!

When I got to Milan I checked my bag at the bag check and headed to the Metro to take me somewhere. It took me to the Duomo. This Duomo wasn’t as big as Sienna’s but it sure was cooler! It had buttresses everywhere, and you could climb up to the roof and walk around!

I headed down a street and treated myself to a 4 cheese pizza and water and enjoyed my own company. I took my time and watched some Englishmen make fools of themselves. After lunch I grabbed a gelato and headed back to the Duomo. I climbed the 250 steps (dad, these were easy steps too!!) to the top and walked around. You could see all the details of the buttresses and of Milan.

I had no idea what there was to do in Milan, but knew I was going to need something to hold me over on the train so I popped in a hotel and got directions to a market. It was 15 minute walk, but it was the cutest little market! I got a yogurt and grapes (which magically were seedless and I had no idea!) water and a gatorade.

I decided to head back to the train station and just wait there. I ate my dinner by the tracks and went and fetched my bags around 7. My train got called at 720 so I boarded early and checked out my sleeping quarters. I thought they would be rough but they have lots of room. I’m in a 4 person sleeper (couchette) and so far there are only 2 of us (we’ve been on the rail for an hour now) since we don’t have much luggage and there are only 2 of us, I think that’s why it seems larger! It has a sink in our compartment too!!

The train ride is 12-13 hours, overnight, and I will arrive around 9am. Barcelona is expecting a cool off and some showers these next couple days, and I couldn’t be happier! I’ve been hot for 3 weeks, a cool off sounds wonderful!

New country, new food, new language…all when I wake up 🙂

Last day in Cinque Terre

Today is my last day here, and I just didn’t know what to do. I laid in bed until about 9, then got up and people watched from my window until about 10. Then I got ready, bought a banana and a yogurt and headed out to another town. I caught the train to the 4th town to shop and relax. I am currently sitting on steps in the 4th town just people watching and it just feels so wonderful to not have anything to do.

I’m now writing from the train on my way to Milan! Yesterday was just the perfect day!

I got lunch in the 4th town, the caught the train to the 3rd town. From the 3rd town I walked back to Riomaggiore. The walk is just so beautiful, right above the water the whole time! When I arrived back in Riomaggiore I went and changed into my swimsuit to go sit on the beach (rocks really). All I wanted to do was enjoy the water because I was so hot. Unfortunatly the waves were too rough to swim in with all the rocks around so I sat on the rocks with the locals and let the water crash onto me and cool me off. I sat there for awhile but grew tired in the heat so I decided to try and nap on the beach. Surprisingly its easy to get comfortable on the little rocks, so I laid down and fell asleep for a bit. the heat woke me up though so I grabbed my stuff and headed back to the room. My new roommate, Kate, had just arrived and she was heading down to the beach. I warned her about the waves, but she didn’t seem to care. I laid down and fell asleep for 2 hours, it was so refreshing!

When I woke up, Lisa, Emma and Kate had just gotten back. Kate got beat up by the rocks I warned her about!! Kate and Emma left and Lisa hopped in the shower. While they were gone, my towel fell off our line to the line below!! I couldn’t reach it even with a broom, so I headed down and buzzed the people, they weren’t home. I headed down to the ground and tried again with the broom, no luck. I eventually was able to get it because of my triopod. I extended it as far as it would go, headed down to the ground and after 5 minutes managed to knock it off the line. A lady was laughing at me, but I couldn’t help but laugh as well. I learned my lesson: no more line drying without clothespins!!

I got washed up and met Lisa and Emma for pizza. I found clothespins for the rest of my travels and grabbed a Fanta before we headed down with our pizza, to the rocks. We enjoyed our pizza and good conversation down on the rocks by the water. It was the most beautiful night, calm sky and calm water, it was just perfect!!

I am currently heading to Milan, Italy to catch my next train to Barcelona, Spain! I get there tomorrow at 10ish in the morning! I have 4 hours in Milan, then a 13 hour train to Barcelona! Long travels!!