Written by Larry, August 20, 2000.
We're back from vacation...got back late Friday afternoon. I've written up this review of our trip for family and friends, so I'm passing it on for your reading enjoyment.
We really had a great time, once it got underway, but it all started out on a very sad note. I got a call from my brother in law on Friday evening, July 28th, to tell me that my Mom had passed away. We had already received an earlier call telling us that she had fallen and broken her hip. She was taken to the hospital by ambulance, given medication for the pain and was scheduled for an operation on Saturday. She fell asleep and never woke up.
We got a one way flight to Boston for Sunday morning, July 30th, and Bill made arrangements with Virgin Atlantic for us to fly to London from Boston, instead of from here in SF.
On Monday afternoon after the funeral Bill and I drove from Jaffrey back to Boston to start our vacation. We made it to Boston, got the car turned in and made it to the airport with plenty of time to spare. The international terminal at Logan looked like "refugee city" with hundreds of people wandering around aimlessly looking completely lost. Where'd they all come from?
We got checked in, had a bite to eat and caught our flight to London at 8 pm. We had a good flight on a giant 747 with 371 passengers on board. Flying from Boston we got to London four hours earlier than we were originally scheduled to be there if flying from SF. We arrived at Gatwick Airport at 8 am on Tuesday, August 1, rather than at 12 noon.
We were very pleased with the service on Virgin Atlantic. The food was excellent...and there was lots of it...we got free wine and after dinner drinks, and each seat has its own video monitor with a selection of 8 movies, 5 TV channels, several games and lots of audio channels. They sure beat the U.S. airlines for customer satisfaction!
We stayed with Bob and Seb in London, Jonathan in Poole, Hans in Amsterdam, Guido and Jana in Berlin and Stefan in Hannover, so the only place we stayed in a hotel was in Hamburg, and there we had plenty of company...it was full of leathermen there for the big Leather Party.
The weather cooperated and we had lots of sunshine and very little rain while were were there, which is unusual for Europe. The temperatures were in the 70's and low 80's, so it was quite comfortable, too.
On Tuesday afternoon in London we got a tour of the downtown area with Seb (Sebastain), one of the couple were were staying with, as he did some shopping. We went to Piccadilly Circus, Soho, Carnaby Street (where I bought a new shirt), Oxford Street, and Covent Garden. Later, back at their home, we had a barbecue with Bob and Seb, Bob's mother and Bob's nephew, Stosh.
On Wednesday we rode the 68 double-decker bus into the city and rode the new London Eye Millennium Wheel. It's a good thing we had reservations, because they were selling tickets for August 7! After the ride we had lunch with Adam and Martin, two friends of ours, and then we met Jeremy, another friend, who went with us and Adam to the new Tate Museum. Martin had to go back to work.
That evening we took the train out to Reading for dinner with Terry, Mike, Pete and Piet, our ham radio friends. We had such a good time talking we almost didn't make it to the train in time to get back to London before the London subway shut down.
Thursday we took the train out to visit Jonathan in the Bouremouth- Poole area on the southwest coast of England. He took us on a drive to see Salisbury and Stonehenge. Stonehenge was really fascinating. They still don't know why it was built. We had dinner and spent the night there at Jonathan's.
We went back to London on Friday and then to Luton Airport where we caught our Easy Jet flight to Amsterdam. Hans and Jim, his neighbor who I met two years ago, met us at the airport. Hans made dinner for us after we got to his home and then Hans and I went out to the Leather Festival on the Warmoesstraat while Bill caught up on some zzzzz's.
It was Canal Pride weekend in Amsterdam, and on Saturday afternoon we watched the parade of floats. They actually floated, too - they were boats in the canals. Later on we met David of the Brothers In Boots web site and Michael (Bootchap) from Utrecht. Michael joined Hans, Bill and me for dinner. Later we stopped by the continuing leather festival, but both Bill and I were tired and headed back to Hans's to sleep.
Bill met his friend Darius for lunch on Sunday and then later Hans and I went to meet them. We then went shopping for some Sendra boots for me. I found a pair I liked but they weren't available in my size so I didn't buy any. We then met Richard, a local bootmen from Amsterdam who's on my site, and then we all went to Waterlooplein for the music festival. Darius, Bill and I had dinner together before we headed back to Hans' home, It was a fun and busy weekend.
On Monday, August 7th, we took the train to Berlin. We enjoyed all of the train rides between the cities in Europe and got to see lots of the countryside. We were met at the station in Berlin by Frank and Guido. We then went to Guido and Jana's, where we stayed, and they fixed dinner for the five of us. Later on we went on a long walk through the surrounding neighborhood.
Early Tuesday morning Jana left for a trip to France and Guido went to work. Bill did his laundry and then we headed out for a day of viewing the sights. We walked about a mile to Alexanderplatz where we had lunch, and then we headed down Unter de Linden toward the Brandenberg Gate. We stopped to visit the Karl Marx and Fredrick Engels statue along the River Spree, walked passed Humboldt University, several museums, embassies and hotels and the opera house. At Friedrichstrasse we turned south through the new shopping district and then headed for Potsdamerplatz. There were new buildings everywhere, surrounded by cranes building more of them. Berlin is one large construction zone! We spent a good hour at the "Info Box", a large red box at Potsdamerplatz showing the history of Berlin and what's planned for the future.
From Potsdamerplatz we headed north along Ebertstrasse through the area that used to be "no man's land" between the two walls. It was now being rebuilt with new businesses and there was space set aside for a future Holocaust Memorial to be built next year. We stopped and took some photos at the Brandenberg Gate and then headed for the Reichstag, the German Parliament building, where we met Frank and Guido.
The four of us toured the new dome atop the Reichstag and walked up the circular ramp to the top. It offered some beautiful views of the city. After the tour, Frank departed for home and Guido, Bill and I went to dinner.
Bill was sick on Wednesday and spent the day in bed. I did my laundry and then went to meet Frank. He showed me around the Spandau area of Berlin where he lives and then we went to his home for a barbecue and a look at all of his leather and boots.
Bill was okay again by Thursday and after lunch at a deli near Guido and Jana's we headed out to meet Frank. He took us to Sans Souci Park in Potsdam, Frederick the Great's playground. It's famous for its buildings and beautiful setting. Guido met us there after he got off work. The four of us then had dinner together in Potsdam and then went to Frank's home followed by a beer at the local Spandau brewery.
On Friday we caught the train to Hamburg for the Leather Party weekend where we were joined by several friends - Norman Cuccio from here in San Francisco, John Hitchner from Columbus, Ohio, Stefan from Hannover, Steffan from Aachen, and Stiebaer from Hildesheim, all in Germany. Friday afternoon Bill and I went for a walk around downtown Hamburg and out along Aussenalster Lake. Later several of us went out to dinner together and then on Friday night there was a big party at The Fabrik that most of us attended.
On Saturday several of us went to lunch together, followed a boat ride in the harbor. There was a bootmen's dinner Saturday night before the big party on the ship Cap San Diego located in the harbor. Over 3,000 attended the party on the ship.
Sunday morning, while Larry slept, Bill took a five mile walk around Aussenalster Lake, and then we met Stiebaer and his new partner Jorgen for a trip to the Botanical Gardens. We spent a pleasant day in the park, followed by dinner in the St. Pauli district and a visit to a carnival. It was another fun weekend!
On Monday, the 14th, Norman, Bill and I took the train to Hannover, Stefan met us at the station and we rode the tram out to his home. After visiting for a while we took a walking tour of downtown Hannover, had dinner and bought our tickets for Expo 2000, the World's Fair.
On Tuesday Norman, Bill and I attended Expo. It was packed with people and a few of the pavilions required up to a 2 hour wait to get in. Those we skipped, but we did get to see quite a few good ones - Germany, The European Union, The Netherlands, France, Great Britain and Finland. We also visited the Switzerland pavilion, which was simply a huge maze made of lumber. There were no exhibits except for projected quotes on the sides of the wood. It was very weird. We also went to the German Postbox pavilion, which was just an 8 story high observation deck. We had dinner at a nice restaurant there on the grounds and stayed for the fireworks. We didn't get back to Stefan's until close to midnight.
On Wednesday Norman headed for his sister's home in Switzerland and Bill and I returned to Expo where we spent the day with Uwe, a friend from near Frankfurt, Germany, who came up for the day. We visited the pavilions for Sri Lanka, Iceland, Japan, Singapore, the Czech Republic, Andorra, Ireland, Italy, Estonia, Mongolia, the United Arab Emirates, and China. During our two days we got to see quite a bit of the fair, but it would have taken a week to see it all. Some of the pavilions were quite impressive and we enjoyed all of the festivities. I got lots of photos.
On Thursday we took a series of trains back to Amsterdam. It was supposed to be just two trains, but the first, an ICE train (Inter-city Express) had mechanical problems and we ended up taking three different local trains instead before we got to our intermediate stop in Dusseldorf. We had planned to look around downtown Dusseldorf, but we arrived there an hour and a half later than planned. There we got our train to Amsterdam. Hans met us at the station in Amsterdam and we had a short visit with him over a beer before we took the train out to the airport to catch our flight back to London on Easy Jet.
We had dinner at a local pub with Bob, Seb and Kruger, a friend of Bob and Seb's visiting from Vienna. We spent one more night in London there at Bob and Seb's and on Friday morning, August 18, we headed out to Gatwick Airport for our 12:30 pm Virgin Atlantic flight back home to San Francisco. We landed here at 3:25 pm... almost 11 hours later. We then had to wait out on the tarmac for 45 minutes before we got to the gate, followed by a long wait for our bags. However, we zipped right through Customs and finally got a cab for home at 5:25 pm.
That's the summary of our trip. As you can tell, we had a great time, really had a lot of fun, and got to see a lot of friends. We took lots of photos, so you'll have lots of pictures to look at. Go to: http://www.choisser.com/gallery/europe2000/
I hope you enjoy your visit to the U.K. and Europe via our photos.