Friday, September 30, 2011

Day 14: Cologne (Sept 30)

Here's the Flickr link to today's pictures.

This turned out to be almost a day off for me, I ended up doing not very much and it was nice. I had learned my ticket lesson already and had booked a reservation on the Amsterdam to Cologne train on the day I got to Amsterdam. The train leaving Amsterdam was about 15 minutes delayed, and stopped in Utrecht, Basel (last stop in the Netherlands), Arnem (now 20 minutes), Dinslaken, Oberhausen, Duisburg, Dusseldorf (now 40 minutes), and finally Koln.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Day 13: Amsterdam (Sept. 29)

The set of photos from day is on Flickr here.

The first place I was going to go today anyway was the Anne Frank House. Online reservations were sold out, so I took the suggestion of arriving early before the first admission at 9am so I could stand in line for a non-reserved ticket. It was about a 15 minute walk from the apartment, and at 8:30 when I left it was during the hustle and bustle of morning rush hour, yet it didn't seem busy. I only waited about 15 minutes in line at the house before going in.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Day 12: Amsterdam (Sept. 28)

Today's photo set is here on Flickr.

So apparently they're serious about this whole reservation thing. It's like The Amazing Race where you go up to the counter and buy the earliest ticket to the destination if the direct route isn't available. Since I didn't make a reservation on the 8:25 Paris to Amsterdam train, it was sold out (who knew that it would be a popular route on a Wednesday morning?), and so they booked me on the 8:58 to Lille, Flanders, arriving 10:00 with a 5-minute layover to catch the next train, the 10:05 to Antwerp, Belgium, arriving 11:55. From there I had an 8 minute layover to catch the noon train to Amsterdam, arriving 14:09. If I miss any of the trains, there's another one an hour later. However, I planned on arriving direct at 11:43 so I'm already thinking of how I'll have to rearrange my 2 days in Amsterdam schedule.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Day 11: Paris (Sept. 27)

Today's photo set is here on Flickr.

On my last day in Paris, I started with the dead and finished with a boat ride down the Seine.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Day 10: Paris (Sept. 26)

Today's photo set is here on Flickr.

While waiting at Notre Dame last night, I discovered that one of the things I planned to do today (Monday) was closed, so I swapped my entire Monday and Tuesday schedules. Fortunately it was easy.

I started out with another Rick Steves suggestion, take the #69 bus from the Eiffel Tower to the Pere Lachaise Cemetery. That gave me time to eat my curry chicken on a bagel sandwich sitting in the Champs du Mars waiting for the bus, looking out over the Tower. It occurred to me that most Parisian are probably jaded and don't think twice about seeing it every day. Among other places, the bus took us past Invalides (the Army museum and Napoleon's Tomb), along the Seine near Notre Dame, and past the Bastille Monument before arriving at the cemetery.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Day 9: Paris (Sept. 25)

Today's photo set is here on Flickr.

With today's changed schedule, I was kind of stuck because while everything else was open all day, I wanted to see the organist at St Sulpice church, and that was only open from about 12:30 to 1pm, so I decided to sleep in. Got some lunch and after a trip downtown I arrived at the church. 

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Day 8: Paris (Sept. 24)

Today's photo set is here on Flickr.

Because of my schedule, I only had Saturday and Sunday to use the museum pass. Monday many of them are closed, and I leave Wednesday. I tried to figure out which of the museums I wanted to see and tried to cram as many into those 2 days as time and location allowed. Yes, it was going to make for a long day. The original plan was to do Rick Steves' historic Paris walk around the Ile de Cite area, followed by the Louvre, the Orsay, and the Orangerie, all by 6pm when the last of them closed for the day. After that, a walk down the Champs Elysees from Concorde to the Arc de Triomphe to catch the view from the top at night. Somewhere in there I'd catch dinner.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Day 7: Paris (Sept. 23)

Today's photo set is here on Flickr.

The train from London to Paris was so uneventful that I slept for half of it, somewhere inside the tunnel until I arrived at Gare du Nord station. It took a bit to get my bearings there and figure out where to go, how to get money, where to buy the museum pass, and where to catch the #4 train to the Reamur/Sebastopol stop. I managed to figure that all out (got the museum pass and the hop on/off bus ticket at the TI kiosk at the far end) and met David, my host, at the apartment. He gave me some tips on the area and the key to the tiny flat which was mine for the next few days.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Day 6: London (Sept. 22)

Today's photo set is here on Flickr.

Last day in London. Boo! There's still so much to see and do and I don't have any more time! Well, that's what the next trip is for.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Day 5: London (Sept 21)

Blog post coming soon! Highlights: Millennium Bridge, Tower of London, Tower Bridge, Windsor Palace and the Royal Collection, and the play "Wicked". In the meantime, here are today's pictures.

(Originally published 9/29/11 at 2:09am, Amsterdam)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Day 4: London (Sept 20)

Here's the set of pictures on Flickr for Sept 20, 2011.

The plan for today was to get up and go to the train station for a tour that goes out to Stonehenge and Salisbury, leaving at 9:15 and returning at 6:45, then grabbing a bite to eat and heading to the Globe Theater to watch a play. I got to see Stonehenge, at least.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Day 3: London (Sept 19)

Here's today's set of pictures on Flickr for Monday, Sept 19, 2011.

On my first day in London yesterday, I was knackered from lack of sleep so I decided to push my 8am bus tour into a 10pm bus tour. I slept in a bit longer than I had anticipated and made it out to Buckingham Palace for the Changing of the Guard a few minutes late, but it turned out that it didn't matter because they're on every-other-day status now instead of every day, and nobody bothered to tell me. That was the only time I had allotted and I'm not sure if I can swap other things around to make room for it on another day. We'll see. Will and Kate never answered my email about a private tour of the Palace (neither did Harry or Pippa) so I was left at the gates.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Day 2: London (Sept 18)

Here's the entire Flickr set of today's pictures.

After my Virgin Atlantic flight landed on time despite a late start, I breezed through Customs (my questions were "What's your name?", "What's your purpose here?", and "When are you leaving?", I'm not sure if the Customs official even looked at me), my first order of business was to figure out where I was going. It was more difficult because there was no free wifi in the terminal, which I had been counting on. Fortunately I remembered the name of the Tube station, Kennington, and I figured out how to get from the airport to the Kennington Station. I bought a one-day Travelpass which allows unlimited use of the Tube and bus system, and gives discounts on other travel (like river cruises).

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Day 1: New York City (Sept 17)

Here's the Flickr set for today in NYC.

My trip was planned with a 9-hour layover in New York so that I could see some people I used to know when I lived in the area as a kid. For various reasons, nobody was able to come out, so I was stuck having to take a 7:50am flight getting in at 12:20 with no plans until my flight left at 9:30pm. So I figured I'd head down to the World Trade Center site and then spend the rest of the afternoon at Stout NYC, a bar conveniently just a block away from Penn Station (which is where I entered and exited NYC from Newark Airport).

Monday, September 12, 2011

Prague details

My initial plan was to spend 3 days touring Prague, and one of my weekly days off, making 4 days altogether. But both Frommer's and Rick Steves said I could to pretty much all I needed in just two days. I took a look at the guide books and split the difference - I'll do their 2-day trips in 3 days (really 2-1/2, since I get in early afternoon from Berlin on the first day), all of which include a lot of easy wandering and meandering, which I'm good at. And to me that's relaxing too, just checking things out without a tight schedule. So I'll leave a day earlier than planned, and use that in Budapest.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Berlin details

For some reason, the sights in Berlin seemed to me to not be as quantifiable in how long I should spend there, so I just grouped them in rough chronological order in geographic regions. First day after the bus tour is west to east along Unter den Linden, from the Reichstag to Alexanderplatz. Second day is the stuff south of Unter den Linden like Checkpoint Charlie and the Jewish Museum, then the Museum Island stuff north. Third day is the west and central stuff like the Ku'damm and Victory Column. I think I've arranged it so that I have good areas for lunch and dinner/evening.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Copenhagen details

At the moment, still working out when to go to Cologne (Koln) and whether I'll get to Copenhagen from there or from Amsterdam, but wherever I get here from, they both arrive right around 10:00am.

The other unplanned hitch is that I didn't read the rail guide carefully and I assumed that the overnight from Copenhagen/Malmo to Berlin runs every night. In fact, it only runs Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday night. So I had to choose between staying my 3 days in Copenhagen/Malmo (Saturday 10/1 thru Monday 10/3) and flying from Copenhagen to Berlin on the morning of Tuesday 10/4 (otherwise it's an all-day train ride, getting in mid-afternoon), or cutting a day out here and saving it for later. Right now I'll do the latter, and have a spare day in my itinerary.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Amsterdam details (plus a bonus day in Cologne)

So, originally I had 4 days planned for Amsterdam, 2-1/2 for sightseeing (I get in from Paris around noon) and one for a day off. I took one of those days and gave it to London. Now I have to take another day and plan for an unexpected side-trip to Cologne (Koln), Germany.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Paris details

Paris is the second stop on my trip. I was last there in 1988, and this is the last stop that I have already been to. Here's what I came up with back in March.

The first two full days in Paris are front-loaded with museums. I was pretty much forced into putting them on Saturday and Sunday since most are closed on Monday and/or Tuesday, and I arrive in Paris at lunchtime on Friday and leave Thursday morning. I'll get a Museum Pass, which is free admission to all the places on those two days with an asterisk in front of the name. I tried to lighten my days on Monday and Tuesday, since I will not have had a day off since I got to Europe - late starts, strolls, etc.

I've got a couple of cousins I've never met who live in Paris (our great-great-grandfathers were all brothers, making us 4th cousins), I'm hoping to be able to meet up with them at some point.

London details

Looking at my itinerary, I kept getting fooled that I had one extra day in London, but I was bookkeeping my first airplane travel day against London. So really I only had 4 days, not 5. And with one of them taken up by a full-day trip to Stonehenge, I needed another day. I was able to steal one from my time in Amsterdam; after reading the guidebook for that city, I found that I had given myself one too many days there. Overall, though, I did pretty well with my original rough cut back in March.

So, here's my detailed itinerary for London.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Milan, we have a problem...

Looking to book a ticket to see DaVinci's "The Last Supper" in Milan on my only day there, Monday Oct 31st (maybe my Halloween costume should be a Disciple?). Of course, that's the only day of the week that the museum is closed. There are slots available the day before I get there, while I'm taking the train across Switzerland, and one week after, while I'm in Rome.