Vincent does Europe

Monday, June 13, 2016

Our '69 Runion chair Vincent Yim and the misses are off to Europe. Everywhere in Europe.

He and his camera shall now report...

Other than that the place was empty.

Every night from 7 to 8:00 they have a complimentary heavy pupus.  Last night's theme was PIZZA.  

They had about 8 varieties of pizza, very European, not like Pizza Hut! Ground Lamb patties with onions and mushrooms, roasted bell peppers, garlic peas, vege platter and even rice pilaf.  

Of course, they had assorted desserts and all the beer and wine you can drink in an hour!  This saved us from looking for a Pub to have our first dinner in London.  That saved us some pounds...

At this time of the morning there's only the night manager - and he was mopping the floor.

His name is Aiill. Yes, that is how he spells it!  

Just went to use the toilet in the hotel lobby and it is set up for all us old folks!

See the long fat chrome pole right of the toilet, pull it down and you know when you sit too long your butt skin sticks to the seat. You can push yourself off with the bars right and left of you.  

See the red ring between the sink and toilet? Pull it and you get hotel assistance to help you get off the seat.  

Notice a second red ring on the floor? Maybe that's for when you laying on the floor and you need someone to come stand you up. Or maybe not.

Above the toilet, there's a small round button for a #1 and the big round button if you do a #2.

The best part is the padded back rest. This almost made me want to sit down and give it a try.

Getting old is not all that bad.

Getting ready for the complimentary breakfast.

We had left Honolulu on Wednesday at 6:30 AM and got into London via San Francisco at 4:56 pm Thursday.  Checked into the Staybridge Suites in Vauxhall. It is about 2 miles South of the London Eye on the same side of the River Thames.  Big Ben is on the other side of the river, right between the Eye and us.  

Yesterday our private guide Lawrence, took us on a walking, metro and tube tour of London. We first got on the tube (subway), which is only half a block from our hotel, headed for the Tower of London.  On our way we saw where the Old London Bridge use to be and now they have a modern plain bridge.  But we saw the Queen Victoria Bridge which blended in with the building of old.

I am traveling with friends Ron and Susie Shima (Shimaís Market in Waimanalo), Yvonne Nakata (old neighbor) Cheryl (owner of Round Table Pizza) and of course Wendy. The Tower of London was built in the 1100s and expanded several times. It still houses the Royal Crown Jewels.

I took this one picture before I was told I cannot take photos.  One item everyone wanted to see was the 3í wide punch bowl and ladle - all in gold.  Oh yeah, and all the crowns the past and present Kings and Queens wore.  

We saw the Changing of The Guards or should I say Harassing of The Guards. We then got on the Metro to go to St Paul but found out that the Queen Mother beat us there and could only get so close.

This whole week all of London is celebrating the Queenís 90th Birthday. The Queen and invited guests were at St Paulís to have a special service for her.

The Bobbies (police) military had the streets closed and heavily guarded. We got there just as they were finishing and saw everyone coming out. We did not see the Queen, must of went out the back way!

After failing to get an autograph from the Queen Mother, we went to have fish and chips at a one hundred fifty year old London Pub and, of course, warm dark beer they call Spout

After lunch we walked to Westminster Abbey to see all the greats buried there, over 3,000. The likes of Sir Isaac Newton, Charles Dickens, past Prime Ministers.

But no Winston Churchill. He once said he didn't want to be buried next to all the politicians - he would not have rest in peace.

After the Abbey we walked over to Parliament Square to see what time Big Ben was showing.

Toward the end of the day we headed back to the tube and our hotel. Look what we saw!

Our buses can be found all over the world!

After an early dinner our cruise ship (Azamara) offered us a free organ concert. Free is a wonderful word.

It was held in the 14th century Monnickendam Church.

Fifteen bus loads of us tourists showed up for the 90-minute opportunity to sing with a 2,000 pipe organ. At the end, 30-people were dressed up in medieval costumes, marched on stage and did a "staging" of a Rembrandt painting. Here it is - the real painting is called "The Night Watch".

Here we are after docking in Amsterdam - the city of many, many bicycles.

One has to be careful because bicycles rule! You walk in the bike lane you'll get run over.

Then we did a one-hour tour on the canal cruise boat. Seeing Amsterdam from two different prospectives is a wonderful way to visit that city.

Just before we boarded the cruise ship - right across the street - is the Heineken brewing plant. What a great landmark!

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London, England - June 9th

Copenhagen, Denmark - June 15th

After docking this morning we got on a bus to tour the city of Copenhagen.  

First stop we saw the famed Little Mermaid on the rock by the sea.  The ship in the background is our cruise ship, Azamara Quest.

The next stop to Amalienborg square, where the royal family resides.

Today Denmark celebrates flag day. Nice city and super clean canals and harbor.

Amsterdam, Netherlands - June 11th

Helsinki, Finland - June 16th

Five million people live in Finland.

One million of them in Helsinki.

It's a country with over 100,000 lakes. A real artsy town, big on ballet, opera and art.

We docked in the rain - now you know why all the lakes.

That didn't stop us from touring the city. We passed on the 1970 olympic Stadium...too wet.

So we stopped by the famous Sibelius Monument.

We went to see the ultra-modern Rock Church.  Built right in the middle of the city and in solid rock. The rain let up to a light drizzle.

The highlight of the day was to visit Senate Square and St Nicholas Cathedral, built in 1852.

After lunch we shopped at their Farmers Market looking at what’s new!  Reindeer  soup anyone?  

Time to get back on board, our ship leaves at 5:30, heading for St Petersburg.

St. Petersburg, Russia - June 18th

Our cruise ship arrived in Russia at 6:00 am. St. Petersburg is not a small tourist town! It is the second biggest industrial harbor I have ever seen.

The first scene that greeted me were two submarines in renovation. I wonder if I should have closed my eyes. A reminder, we are entering Communist Russia.

No doubt it is the major port for shipping in and out of all Russia.

Before we could set foot on Russian soil we had to stand in line to pass their Custom Check Point. We were greeted by the no smile, you-are-American-and-I-am-Russian look.  

Once we got thru I raised my two arms and (quietly yelled) "Yeah, let’s go see St Petersburg!"

What a city!  You do not have enough GBs in your camera to try and capture what this city has to offer. Rich in history there are mansions and museums all over the city.

The Number 1 place to see is The Church of the Saviour on the Spilt Blood. The blood of the mortally wounded Tsar Alexander II had remained visible for decades.

Surrounding the church is this beautiful fence. I even got our Tour Guide to get in on the act!

I got word that Putin had to change his schedule and could not be in St Petersburg the same time as us. I even dressed appropriately. Sorry no Putin autograph.

On our second day we went out of the city and toured Peter the Great Grand Palace.

It is known as the Versaille of northern Europe. Huge estate with rows of manicured trees fronting the entrance.

The palace decor are over the top to impress all the VIP guests, but Peter was considered very conservative and his bedroom reflected it. He slept in a simple double bed with just some other simple furniture.

The wow is the back yard. There's a couple hundred fountains and a manicured lawn walking path thru the forest. The Tsar's favorite retreat.

Every day at 11:00 they turn on the water for the Grand fountain. There must have been 10,000 people to watch it go on, spectacular!

Typical grand entrance of epic proportions.

Peter the 1st built St Petersburg from a swamp marsh area and no one wanted to move there until Peter start moving his government and summer palace there.

Instead of busing, we took a super ferry back to the city.  We pass under a huge bridge...not yet completed or for American tourist bus to try and cross.

Tallin, Estonia - June 21

One of the oldest cities in all Europe, founded in 1154. They were under Russian rule from 1944 to 1991. Their language is similar to the Fins.

By the way, their language is used in the Game of Thrones and all this time I thought they were talking Pidgin English.

Our highlight for the day, touring Tallinn, was our tour guide. He was a young college student very informative, funny and witty. He was the best guide of all.

You can tell the city really carters to tourism, there are souvenirs shops all over the place.

Even the Seagulls are very friendly.

The Town Hall square is considered the heart of the city.

In the middle of the square is a round stone marking the spot for public executions.

Take your pick, hanging, stabbing or beheading.

Good way to keep crime down to a minimum!

Went to a beer Garden to have lunch...can’t remember what happened.

I did take a picture of what I ate. Sausage, mash, saute onions and lots of beer.

Stockholm, Sweden - June 22nd

9 million people lives in Sweden and 1.6 million live in Stockholm.  It is considered the Venice of northern Europe. One in 8 resident owns a water craft of some kind.

Beautiful country side, homes dot along the water front shore line. For a major city, it seem everyone are laid back. The taxes are very high, but medicine, and education are free.

Sweden has not been involved in a war for over two hundred years.  Most of their historical buildings are original and well kept.

One of the best attraction is the Vasa Battle ship. Built in 1628 for King Gustav II Adolf, to show off the power of his navy.

The ship had over 300 carvings, 64 cannons, 4 huge mast, 5 stories high. It had a crew of 145 and carried 300 soldiers.

On its maiden voyage just 1,300 meters from shore it tipped over and sank. Top heavy!  There it sat until 1984 they brought it to shore and built a museum around it. They were able to preserve 98% of the ship. The one and a half hour to tour it was not enough. There were 18 skeletons found on board the Vasa.

My mind says it is 4:00 PM but my body says no, not yet! Remember Alice going through the mirror and puff she is in a far, far, away land?

Well, that is not true, we survived 22 hours of flight time and 5 hours of layover. London is 12 hours difference and St. Petersburg is 14 hours. We all have gotten advice on how to minimize jetlag. You will know when you're back to normal...when you hit the toilet at your regular #2.

Here are some advices on how to travel:

1. Pack 40 lbs., cause you will come back with 50. Anything over will cost you. In First Class you get 70 lbs.

2. Wear everything twice or more, except for undies. Wash them midway.

3. Most of my daytime touring clothes has been "Cool Dry Fit" material. It does not hold your BO. Rinse in shower, hang and wear.

4. Do not pack your carry on bag full. You will always add more stuff before you reach your destination.

5. Make a photo copy of your passport and put in your luggage in case it gets lost in a foreign country. Your Hawaii driver's license will not help.

6. Never carry all your money in one purse or wallet. In case you lose it you have a backup reserve. I have three stashes.

7. Use your credit card for purchases. Using US currency will always cost you more.

8. Never make a purchase with a hundred dollar bill. You will not get change in US money. For street purchases, my bill fold carries 20, 10, 5, ones.

9. When touring, do not carry your bumbucha bag. You will put it down and forget it...bye, bye. Bring your disco purse, money, credit card and emergency info...that's it!

10. Bring two carabiner. Clip your purchases on to your purse or backpack. Now you are hands free!

11. Learn to use Apps for your Smart Phone: Auto time zone, alarm, compass, free Wi Fi phone like Vibe, etc.

12. In a high pick-pocket area have a designated watch dog to follow the group. The Pros will know and avoid your group.

One of the nicer parts about visiting a far, far, place is coming

home..and gain 8 pounds!

Hope you enjoyed following our trip and the pictures!