Link to photos (London to Lucerne), copy and paste:
Monday 17th September
Day 2 – Amsterdam – Rhineland area (near Cologne), 350km.
The wake up call came at 6.30am, breakfast was at 7.15 and we had to be on the bus to leave at 8am. Chris got the time wrong, and we were late getting away, so he was fair game to rip the piss all day. Aussies…
We had a very slow trip into the centre of Amsterdam, taking nearly an hour to get there. Chris suggested we should have left earlier to miss the traffic, haha. We get on a canal boat and cruise around Amsterdam, a bit of a history lesson here, and then stop at a diamond factory. Tony was surprised that we were allowed to take photos in the shop at the first part of the tour. We did not have a long time to look around as they whisked everyone away, we thought to go on a tour… but it was to a private viewing room for the sales pitch. We were briefly shown the different types, sizes and cuts of diamond, and shown some examples. Then came the pitch as they brought out a selection of bling. They had shut the door behind us, and we all assumed we had to stay in the room, for security, but we later found we were able to leave at any time. We had time for a very quick free coffee in their gift shop afterwards, but no time to shop there.
The coach dropped us off in the centre of Amsterdam so we could have free time. We walked up to the big square in front of the Palace and had our lunch. The pigeons were very bold, coming right up to Tony to take crumbs off of his boot.
We head off to a department store to find a free loo, it is for customers only, but we use it anyway. We won’t be buying in here though, bit out of the price range! Cynthea wants to stay in the store for a while longer, and Tony wants to head off for a walk. There are some VERY interesting shops in Amsterdam, LOL. There is even a sex museum. There is a coffee shop here that does not accept cash, payment is by card only.
Back at the bus stop a few of the group are having a beer, but there is no sign of Cynthea. Tony signals her by calling her phone and hanging up to let her know she should be here. She answers as Tony hangs up, bugger – hope the roaming charges aren’t too steep. Tony’s phone rings, and it is Cynthea, so he answers, she is lost. Well, not too lost, she is at the bus stop area, but cannot find us. It turns out a bus was blocking her view, and she is soon with us, a tad upset. We had to leave on time or the tour company would be fined for overstaying the allocated stop, so she was worried she would be left behind.
At 2pm we leave for Germany, we have one pit stop near the boarder and then on to Monheim, near Cologne. It is difficult to know where we are, there are no detailed maps to guide us.
Our tour guide, Mariella, tells us payment for the optional tours can be paid 25% in cash, and the rest by credit card, but wont take debit cards. What is with that? No bloody good to us, the credit card is maxed out until a bank transfer goes through at the end of the month, and we cannot do interweb banking easily here. We have to get a swag of cash out at an ATM, not a problem, but we don’t like taking out large amounts of cash to carry with us. We find out later that debit cards are no good for the company in case the account is cleaned out by the time they charge it, so they only accept a credit card.
We arrive at the Achat Hotel, Monheim, near Cologne around 5.30pm. The area looks a bit dodgy, and it appears there is not a lot to see outside of the hotel. Dinner is included here, and we are asked to be down by 7pm, as they won’t start serving until everyone is seated. By the time we shower and change there is no time to even get out of the hotel for a look at the place, not that you would want to go out after dark around here. Our room is on the ground floor (yay), but it is very basic and sterile, not at all like last night. Two single beds, no tea and coffee facilities, there is a small bottle of water to share between the two of us. The meal was “ok”, nice, but the servings are small, and there was no menu choice. Risotto, followed by a veal dish, and for dessert there was custard. A small beer was EUR3, and a 250ml bottle of wine EUR5-EUR8.
After tea we check the bank account, (still no pay for Cynthea), and try to book flights to Iceland again, but they still wont accept our card. Tony messages the bank and asks if there is a problem. Some of the days’ photos are put up on Facebook, and then we hit the hay, we have an early start – up at 5.30 to leave by 7am.