A Travellerspoint blog

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Day 31

LUCURNE

Another big day! Because we arrived a bit late into. Lucerne yesterday, we had more to do today than usual. Our first port of call early I n the morning was a lake cruise on one of the many cruise companies big boats. It was a beautiful morning, not a breath of wind, and the lake was picture perfect. We cruised up both sides of the lake, sipping a nice cool beer and wine, and marvelling at the superb houses, the estates, and the magic of Swtizerland. It was one of the memorable moments of our trip.

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After the cruise we had some free time in Lucerne. The shooting was understandably very expensive so there was a lot of window shopping and not much buying. Jenny and I took a stroll along the waterfront at lunchtime and had a great lunch in the Wilhelm Tell floating restaurant. Very nice and very Swiss.

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The bus picked us up again after lunch and we proceeded to one of the highlights of the trip, the WW2 Bunkers of Lucerne. We had low expectations of this visit but how wrong we were. The bunker we visited was part of the 200 bunkers carved into the mountainside in 1942 to resist the German threat from the border. The gun emplacements and the various rooms inside the mountain were left as they were in 1945. They were extensive and impressive and the local guides, who now maintain the bunker on behalf of the community, were very knowledgable and quite funny. We spent nearly two hours inside the mountain and thoroughly enjoyed it all.

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We were tired by the time we arrived back at the hotel. After a quick freshen up we headed off into Lucerne to a Swiss Folklore evening with dinner. What a night this was! We were crowded into a large Swiss pub, there were probably five or six tour groups and a number of locals as well. There were probably over a hundred people on the night. A band entertained us while we were well fed and watered. The beer was served in litre steins and those not drinking beer were well served with wine. Once we had been well primed the real entertainment started. We saw flag throwing, alpine horn demonstrations, xylophone playing, and, of course, yodelling. The audience was invited to join in some the activities which caused much hilarity. By the time we had to go we didn't want the evening to end. We did a big conga line at one stage and there is apparently a video of Jenny and I doing the bird dance. We were very tired by the time we went to bed.

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Posted by Ian.jenny 12:38 Comments (0)

Day 32

HEIDELBERG

This was probably the quietest and least eventful day of the trip, and no fault of Trafalgar. We set off from Lucerne very early in the morning and passed back into France for a short time before entering Germany. This was an impressive country. The scenery didn't change greatly from the maize and sunflower fields of the rest of Europe. But the towns and cities we passed through were clean and attractive and the service stops were much superior to Auustria and certainly Italy. We passed over the Rhine River too which was to become a focus of our next two days.

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We were due in Heidelberg mid afternoon but unfortunately we got entangled in a massive traffic holdup on the autobahn and lost over two hours hardly moving. It was unusual for Kiwis and Aussies to be standing around on the road with everyone out of their cars waiting for some movement. When we eventually made it to Heidelberg it was after 5.00 at night and we had a rushed tour around a very beautiful town. Dominated by the ruins of the castle high above the town, Heidelberg is a lovely mixture of old and new and it was fascinating wandering around town on a very busy Saturday night.

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Once we had seen the main attractions in the old town of Heidelberg we moved on down the road to our Ramada Hotel in Hockenheim. This is located near the famous Formula 1 track but we didn't get a chance to to see it. We dined at a local restaurant and after a long and tiring day it was time to head to bed before our last journey to Amsterdam.

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Posted by Ian.jenny 12:42 Comments (0)

Day 33

AMSTERDAM

The end of our wonderful tour. This is the last day of our trip before we head across the ditch again to London. We started the day with some lovely Facetimes with family as it was my birthday. Very special and got the day off to a good start. We headed off in the bus at a reasonable time and visited a local Dutch farm that made cheeses and clogs this was very interesting and fun. Many of our group bought clogs and we bought some fun items for the kids.

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We moved on later to a typical Dutch seaside village for lunch. This was picturesque and interesting and we explored a bit before settling down to a nice coffee with the locals.

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The bus dropped us back in town. Jenny and I didn't want to go to the diamond polishing display, we wanted to see the Anne Frank house. So we grabbed a taxi and headed across town. The queues were long but we had fun talking with two NZ and Canadian couples. Once inside it was a very sobering journey through the house where Anne Frank and her family lived during the war. I knew some of the story but being there just brought it to life. We were very quiet when we left the house.

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By now the heavens had opened and Amsterdam was a very wet place to be. We made our way back to the rendezvous with the bus, on the way doing some shopping and having a beer and wine in a very pleasant pub. We got back to the hotel, wet and very satisfied after a good day. We then had only a short time to get ready to go out to an Amsterdam restaurant for our farewell dinner. This was great, the meal was superb, the wine and beer flowed, there were some speeches and a haka from yours truly, and it was a great way to end the tour.

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Posted by Ian.jenny 14:27 Comments (1)

Day 34

AMSTERDAM

Another early start! At 7.15am we headed off to the Rhine River to take a cruise along the river. It was quite away down the road and we arrived at about 9.00. The Rhine is powerful and fast moving, a little like the Clutha, and we immediately noticed the heavy traffic, some barges, tourist boats like ours, and the occasional river boat on a full Rhine river cruise.

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It was a delightful cruise, very relaxing with a coffee on the upper deck and a full view of the houses and castles on the banks around us. It took about an hour and was only a taste of Rhine cruising but we enjoyed the experience. It amazes us how many tourists the are throughout Europeand the large boat we were on was full of other bus loads.

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After we disembarked from the boat we visited a little town on the side of the Rhine where the Guiness Book of Records largest handmade cuckoo clock was on display. An interesting little visit. From there we made the final journey on to Amsterdam and were amazed to see the immediate change in scenery once we crossed the border. The maize and sunflower fields were replaced by fenced paddocks, cows, sheep, and some flower and vegetable fields. Although windmills are now obsolete we saw several on the way across the Netherlands.

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We went straight to the centre of Amsterdam on arrival in the city and met our guide, Frank, who took us on a river boat along the canals. This was an intriguing way to see Amsterdam and was a great journey, especially with his humerous commentary. The canals were crowded with tourist boats and on shore the pubs and cafes were full of people enjoying their Sunday afternoon. We went past Anne Frank's house, the mayor's house, many examples of Renaissance and Romantic architecture, and did a full tour of most of inner Amsterdam.

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The boat ride was magic, even though we were all a bit tired but more was to come. Frank took us on a walking tour through the red light district of Amsterdam. I'm not sure what we expected but it was an intriguing and slightly unsettling walk through the seething, aggressive crowds in the narrow streets. We were a little disappointed that not many windows were open but we got a good look at the setup of the streets and how it must be at peak time. It was unusual to see sex so explicitly displayed but we were all pleased we had made to effort to go there. Frank's commentary again made the journey more memorable.

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After a bit of free time to explore and grab something to eat we went tour Ibis hotel by the airport and thankfully went to bed on our second to last night of this magical trip.

Posted by Ian.jenny 23:27 Comments (0)

Day 35

LONDON

It's all over! After a hard night out last night it was up early again for the final journey back to London. We had to say goodbye to some of our new friends who were either staying in Europe or were flying home directly. It was sad as we had made very good friends with some of the group but we made sure we would keep in touch in the future. We have even arranged a Melbourne Cup visit with a group of Aussies. The journey to Calais was uneventful. Many of us were sleeping off last night. We passed through Belgium (I think) and on into France once more. One thing we have noticed in most European countries is the number of wind turbines. They are everywhere, particularly in France, the Netherlands and Belgium. They are much more advanced in sustainable energy decision-making than we are in NZ.

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By the time we reached Calais the weather had turned nasty and we all got soaked getting through customs at the terminal. The ferry ride was quite rough but most of us were too tired to notice. We docked in Dover and the sight of the White Cliffs was very welcome indeed.

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After a long journey back in to London we at last arrived at Trafalgar headquarters where we said our farewells to our fellow travellers. It was a bit sad as we had come to enjoy the company of many of the group. We all promised to keep in touch and we probably will. A long but fantastic journey was over and we had a couple of days rest to get ready for the next adventure.

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Posted by Ian.jenny 01:42 Comments (0)

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