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blue pin: visited; yellow pin: transit;

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Summary of the trip

Countries visited:
France, Monaco, Italy, Vatican, San Marino, Austria, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Germany, and Holland

Languages learnt:
French, Italian, German, and Dutch

Currencies used:
Euro and Swiss Franc

Total pictures taken:

Local foods tried:
France: Baguette, croissant, Lyonnaise salad
Monaco: Kir
Italy: Pizza, pasta, lasagna, panini, gelato
Austria: Chicken and beef schnitzel, apple strudel, sachertorte, goulash soup, schnapps
Germany: Sausages, pork knuckles, black forest cake
Holland: croquettes, smoked ham, spekulaas

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Day 24: Paris (France) - Doha (Qatar) - Singapore

Charles de Gaulle airport was really crowded at this time. We didn't have much time left and still need to claim a tax refund. We asked the girl at the counter to give us the last row seats on the plane. The girl said there were no more seats at the tail, it was fully booked. So we just received the boarding passes without saying anything. I took a glance to find out the boarding time, then I noticed a word "Business" class at the corner. Was it for real? Hmm.. I better not to be happy too soon.

Then we queued for the custom stamp, it was really a very long queue and it was so slow. And then we also had to queue again to get the refund. I didn't think we have enough time. I heard people around me said that Paris had the worst service, other places like Rome was not so bad. So we just queued for the stamp and then have to run to catch the flight. I found out that we could get the refund in Singapore as long as we had the custom stamp.

We boarded the plane, I just realised that my seat number was really small and I felt so excited. I couldn't believe it, our seats were in business class section. The seat was much bigger as well as the tv, and there were buttons to position each section of the seat. It had a massage function too, we could either choose shoulder, back, or lower back massage. Only could activate one area at a time.

For the welcome drink, there were choices of wines, champagne, liquor or cocktails. For the main meal, I had a lobster salad for the appetiser, followed by a chicken with some gravy, and some cakes. The lobster was nice, but the chicken was very dry. Afterwards, they served cheese platter with crackers. The meal was laid nicely on a white napkin cloth with branded WMF cutleries complete with a small porcelain bottles of salt and pepper. No more paper napkins and those salt and pepper packets!! It was then finished with a box of Godiva chocolates for everyone.

It was time to catch some sleep, I didn't turn on the tv at all, that could wait for the next leg. I didn't think we would be so lucky to get an upgrade from Doha to Singapore. The seat was really comfortable, six hours of flight passed really fast, and I didn't feel tired at all!!

The next 8 hours journey from Doha was not so comfortable anymore. The flight was really full, and it felt worse after I experienced the better ones. But I was still lucky to endure 8 hours instead of 14 hours. Going home was not so bad after all..

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Day 23: Amsterdam (Netherlands) - Paris (France)

It was time to say goodbye to the rest of people. The Contiki 21-days had been completed and we were leaving Amsterdam for Paris by train. The Thalys was exactly on time, arrived at Amsterdam Centraal Station at 9.10 am and left 5 minutes later. This train was very very fast, I think it should be running about 200 km/h. And it was very comfortable even though I was only sitting in the economy class. It took 4 hours to reach Paris.

Amsterdam Centraal Station

Thalys train

The train stopped at Paris Gare du Nord, and from there we took a metro to our hotel at Montmartre area.

Moulin Rouge during day time

Moulin Rouge at night

Sacre Cour is located at the top of the hill nearby Montmartre area. We walked up 290 steps to reach there. Besides climbing up the steps, there is a funicular that goes straight up to the church.

Sacre Cour


The most expensive restaurant in Paris.

Next to it is Minim's, the cheap version.

Pont Alexander III

It's the most decorated bridge in Paris

Hotel des Invalides

Formerly an accommodation for disabled and wounded soldiers.

Next, we had an evening boat trip along the Seine river that passed the Louvre, D'Orsay museum, Eiffel Tower, and Notre Dame cathedral. It really brought back the memory of our first day here.

Paris version of Statue of Liberty

That was the end of our Europe trip. Even though we had travelled for more than three weeks, it didn't feel enough... :P I felt so sad that we had to go back home and face the reality. It was time to be a slave again to the job...

Monday, October 03, 2005

Day 22: Amsterdam

Edam village
It had been a long time since I rode a bike and now I got a chance. It was a classic granny bike with no hand brake!! The brake is at the wheel, it can only be activated when we cycle backwards. The Dutch love to ride their bikes everywhere, and a granny bike is very common in Amsterdam. If you ride something fancier, your bike will be the number one target for the thieves. The rule of thumb is to spend more on the lock than on the bike. We had a leisure ride around the village, and along the way we see a dyke and windmills.

Edam village

Riding granny bike

A dyke

A windmill


Anne Frank statue

A canal in city center

Koninklijk Palace

Nationaal monument

Nieuwe Kerk (New church)

De Waag (it was once a city gate, now it's a restaurant)

You should be able to find bikes in most photos above. Yes, the bikes were parked everywhere.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Day 21: St Goar (Germany) - Amsterdam (Netherlands)

The Netherlands (Holland)
The landscape is pretty flat and we could see very far far away without any mountains or hills that block our view. The country has a lot of canals, like Venice. Because the land is pretty low, the country is prone to flood. To encounter this, they build dykes which is a water gate that can be closed during the high tide to prevent water from coming in. Some of the canals are man-made to facilitate the overflowing water and serve as waterways. The Dutch also build windmills which use wind energy to pump the water out. That's why there is a saying: God created the earth. The Netherlanders created the Netherlands. Holland is also famous for its agriculture.

Holland's countryside

We visited a cheese and clog making factory. There was no demonstration of cheese making, instead the girl just explained to us how to make cheese followed by cheese tasting session. Afterwards, we had a chance to see the clog making demonstration. According to the clog maker, a Dutch guy has to make a pair of clogs to present it as a wedding proposal to their dream girl. It will take someone three to five years to master the skills. And if the girl doesn’t like it, then they have to make another one. But he said, try to give it to other girls first. :)

The colourful clogs

The giant clogs

Demonstration of clog making

Afterwards, we visited a diamond factory. The diamonds were expensive, they were generally double the price in Singapore, and the style was quite old fashioned. :P

Imitation of famous diamonds in the world

At our hotel nearby was a small port where a lot of yachts were parked. It was almost like Nice in France.

My dream home


When we had our dinner, I realized that there are a lot of similarities between Indonesia and Netherlands in terms of food and language. (Indonesia was colonized by Dutch for 350 years.) Some of the Indonesian local snacks like croquette and rice crackers are also available here with the same name.

After dinner, we were heading to the infamous red light district. It was really an eye opener. There were rows and rows of cubicles which were dimly lit. Inside the cubicle, the lady strutted out her stuff in a provocative way in front of the glass door. Curtain being drawn meant she is busy. :)

There are a lot of coffee houses in Amsterdam that sell drugs. They are legal in this country. I saw souvenir shops selling cannabis lollipops, cannabis pastilles, and the plant itself!!

Sex museum at red light district.

Koninklijk Palais

The Royal Palace at Dam Square

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Day 20: Mt. Pilatus (Switzerland) - St Goar (Germany)

St Goar is a small town in Germany. It is well known for its wine produce, especially the ice wine. Ice wine is sweet, not like other wines. The grapes used for ice wine are picked from the vineyards only when it's frozen at a certain degree. Because it's difficult to harvest, a bottle of ice wine is generally more expensive.

In the evening, we had a river cruise along the Rhine river. From here, we could view the castles on top of the hill and also the Lorelei Rock which is a statue of a mermaid. The legend said that sailors who saw the beautiful mermaid would get distracted and they would probably encountered some accident later.

Rhine river

Lorelei Rock