The United Kingdom
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Thursday, July 19th, day 381 of Lisa and Joel’s Excellent Adventure, we took a bus from Amsterdam, The Netherlands to London, The United Kingdom.  Along the way we drove through Belgium and part of France to the French port city of Calais.  From there the bus drove right onto a car-ferry that took us across The English Channel to Dover, The United Kingdom.  From Dover, we drove north to London.  The bus left Amsterdam at 10:00 PM (local time in Amsterdam) and arrived in London at 6:00 AM (local time in London).  Since London is one hour behind Amsterdam, the bus ride took 9 hours.

For your information – The United Kingdom is a country which includes the areas of England, Scotland, Wales (which are on the Island of Britain) and Northern Ireland.

Once we arrived in London, we checked into a B&B right next to the train station (Victoria Station).  We paid a special day rate of “only” 40 United Kingdom pounds.  Although this may sound expensive, it’s not for London.  London is the second most expensive city to visit in all of Western Europe, with the most expensive being Oslo, Norway. 

The current exchange rate is 0.71 United Kingdom pounds to 1.00 US dollar.  This is only the second country we have visited on our adventure where we have received an exchange rate less than par. The only other country was Jordan.

Friday afternoon we walked to The New Zealand House, which in addition to housing the New Zealand Embassy, contains Air New Zealand’s main office in London.  We wanted to change the departure city, for our flight from Europe to the USA, from Amsterdam to London.  Our current flight out of Amsterdam is booked on KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, but they don’t fly out of London.  Since the carrier on our around the world ticket is Air New Zealand, we thought we might be able to change the flight through them to avoid having to travel back to Amstedam. 

It turned out we could have changed the flight, for a small fee, but unfortunately all the flights were booked.  Air travel in Western Europe really fills up in the summer.  We have been able to change the flights on our around the world ticket, up until the last two flights, without any problem.  However, since we cannot change this last flight of ours we will have to return to Amsterdam for our flight back to the States on July 28th.

The walk to The New Zealand House was not a total loss.  Along the way we saw Buckingham Palace, St. James Park and Green Garden.

We only used our room at the B&B until 4:00 PM.  At that time, we set out to meet the couple we travelled with for a while back in India -- Simon and Emily.

Simon and Emily are from New Zealand, but have been living and working in The United Kingdom for about two years.  We hooked up with them about mid way through our travels through India, travelled with them for a few great weeks, and then they went on to Nepal while we went to The United Arab Emirates. 

Back in India, we made plans to visit them towards the end of our trip – and here we are!  We have been really excited about seeing them and visiting them was the main reason for us coming to The United Kingdom.

Simon and Emily live about one hour north of London, in Huntingdon.  After a subway ride (the Brits call it The Underground) and a commuter train ride we arrived to a hearty welcome from our friends.

They treated us like a king and queen.  We got a great home cooked meal and champagne.  These guys are great!  We ended up staying the next four nights in their housing complex.

Saturday, July 21st, day 383, Simon and Emily escorted us to
Cambridge.  It was fun to walk around this very picturesque university town.  We even got to take a boat ride through the canals that wind through the different colleges.  The boats -- called punts -- are powered by one person who stands at the back and basically pushes the boat along the bottom of the stream with a long stick – an act called punting.  After a great day in Cambridge, we returned to Huntingdon for another great home cooked meal complements of Simon and Emily.

Sunday, July 22nd, day 384 of our travels, Simon and Emily joined us for a trip back into
London.  We did one of those double deck, open air bus tours of the city.  It was great! We saw Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, London Bridge, Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace and so much more.  Our bus ticket even included a boat ride on The Thames.

After
a pint and some fish and chips at a traditional English pub, we returned to Huntingdon.

Monday, July 23rd, day 385, Simon and Emily had to work, so we spent the day on our own.  We walked through Huntingdon, had a picnic lunch in the park and saw a movie.  Monday night, all four of us had a great dinner at an old mill which has been converted into a restaurant/bar near Huntingdon.

Tuesday, July 24th, day 386, we did laundry, got some groceries and rented a car for the next two days.

Wednesday, July 25th, day 387, all four of us jumped in a rent-a-car and drove to
York.  York is a beautiful old city, circled by a wall which once protected its inhabitants from raiders.  You can walk along the top of the wall, all the way around the city.  The center of attention in York is the York Minster, a building billed as being one of the most beautiful structures anywhere in the world.  It didn’t disappoint.  It was amazing.

The thing about
York, and all of the UK for that matter, is the history.  Here things are so old, there is history about its history.  The experience here is quite different than viewing historical ruins in other places, as here the structures and sites are still intact and functional in nature.  People still live in homes that are 500-600 years old, and they are still in immaculate condition. 

After watching
some motorcycle dare devils do their thing, we had some fish and chips, and more than a few pints of ale, and then it was time to crash at a local B&B.  (It cost us 15 pounds each for a room for four.) 

Thursday, July 26th, day 388, we had a traditional English breakfast, spent the morning in York and then drove through The Yorkshire Dales.  Surrounded by rolling plains of green, bowled hills disappeared into the clouds.  Tranquil and beautiful, this place can give you a sense of an older time.  Stone fences weave a web atop a canvas of a green sward.  As Simon would say, “It was brilliant!”

We had a pleasant lunch in the placid village of
Grassington before returning to Huntingdon.  After some Indian take out (we thought it was appropriate to eat Indian food for our last meal with Simon and Emily since we met them in India) it was time for bed.

Friday, July 27th, day 389 of our journey, we parted ways with Simon and Emily and took a train from Huntingdon to London.  A potential sad goodbye was quenched somewhat by the possibility of Simon and Emily coming to visit us on a trip to the States they are taking in about 6 weeks.  We look forward to seeing them again soon.

The train to London dropped us off at Kings Cross Station.  From there The Underground took us to Victoria Station.  The first available bus to Amsterdam was at 2:30 PM, so we spent a couple of hours updating the website.  (You don’t think this journal appears by magic, do you?).

Goodbye, The United Kingdom!  Hello, The Netherlands!