Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Hilperton to Bath (England)

Some people go RV'ing, others go House Boating, but in England you combine the two and you have Narrow Boating. Yes, some people live on these boats and traverse the hundreds of miles of canals in England. We decided to try it for a weekend.

Unlucky for us, the weekend that we decided to do it was when the flooding happened in England. We had a bad start to the weekend when all trains out to Hilperton were cancelled. So, what did we decide to do? Rent a car and drive it. We figured, we've been through flooding in Cayman, we'll show these English how its done!

Hmmmnnnn....this could be a problem if we flood the car! Do we dare try?

Well, we did and we succeeded and made it to the Hilperton Marina. Yeehaw! Hope that car is still working at the end of the weekend!

Down to brass tacks, food & booze has to be unpacked. Not an easy feat in a narrow boat. Two people max in the kitchen!

And while some people were unpacking, the other two were supposed to be learning how to drive the boat. Slight incident with a tree....these boats are hard to steer!

Yikes and some traffic congestion! A little hairy since our Captains still weren't 100% comfortable with driving the boat. But they did it, with only a couple of frantic push-offs from the nearby boats.

And as we learned, the traffic congestion was due to our approach to the first lock. Okay not the Panama Canal, but still we were all a bit frantic since we had to work the locks ourselves and there were too many witnesses around if something went wrong!

But all the worrying was for naught, as it turned out Wade and Casey were old pros at the locks! Well sort of.

So this is what narrow boating is all about. Stopping in the little canal side taverns for some English brew & grub.

Aaaah....they say English food is bad, but out here it is fab! Homemade meat pies and fish and chips. Yummy! And the boys were pretty happy about the Ale as well.

And after all the commotion earlier...finally some tranquility...

in the beautiful English countryside. Too bad the weather was so cold that we could see our breath. Not exactly a hot sunny July...but we made the best of it. At least the pubs were warm.

And finally we made it to Bath. Hilperton is only about 22 kms away, but when you can only putt along the canals at about 2 to 3 km an hour and we were a day delayed getting to Hilperton, it meant no time in Bath. Basically we got there and had to turn around. Ah, I guess it will have to be a future adventure.

Here is a look at Bath, even though we never made it into the city. It is pretty.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Amsterdam, Holland

A long weekend in Amsterdam is a long weekend indeed as Karen, Tanis, Casey and I discovered ...

Friday night was a late night of drinking and touring the redlight district. Before we knew it, it was 4 am and the city was still hopping! We almost felt guilty calling it quits.

Oddly enough the Redlight district was tastefully done, or at least way less seedy than Pat Pong in Bangkok! We didn't even feel uncomfortable doing a little window shopping.

I don't think we were mobile before noon on Saturday, but once we got going we covered a lot of territory. Walked, walked and walked. Probably would've been smarter to rent a bike, but we were worried we might never find them again. Seriously I have never seen so many bikes as I did in Amsterdam. Here is a picture of a bicycle parkade. How would you ever find your bike if you didn't have a flag?

...and when we were too tired to walk anymore, we opted for getting onto one of the many boats and drinking some Dutch beer.

Other people who had more energy than we did decided that they would get on the peddle bar! Not a bad idea if you could burn off as many calories as you were consuming...not to mention you might even see a few of the sights on the way.

So after a few hours on the canal boats, we decided to start the walking tour again. Here are a few pics. Notice that the houses look crooked? It's actually done on purpose. All of the houses have hoists at the top so that a pulley system can be hooked up to hoist furniture up and through the windows because the houses & staircases are too narrow to get furniture up and down. Some of the houses are built leaning forwards so that the building isn't damaged when items are hoisted up and down. This creates the illusion that the houses are crooked as some lean forward and others do not.

And somehow after all that walking we managed to find a bar that has existed from the 1700's and hasn't been dusted since then. It was an interesting atmosphere, although we were a bit worried that one of the large clumps of dust was going to fall from the chandelier and into our drinks! The bartender was a very friendly guy and even taught us how to drink the locals favourite...a shot of Gin (or as it is called in Holland, Genever) with a Beer. Apparently the first sip has to be done with no hands.

And after sampling the local's favourite drink we decided some local fast food was a good idea too. Strange ordering system...but Casey was game.

Sunday was our last day in Amsterdam. We learned from the night before that not all coffee shops are the same. Some sell coffee and other sell coffee & pot. I wonder if that's why its called a coffee pot????

So we opted for sidewalk cafe instead.

And then off to check out the famous floating tulip market. Wow, have you ever seen so many tulip bulbs?

And of course being tourists, we were suckered (no pun intended) into trying some marajuana suckers. Now that was a waste of money!

Wow, what a great weekend...I could sleep for weeks now!!!!