Thursday, September 16, 2010

Europe - Point and Shoot - Travel Fundas

Now I have already told you that this is a travellogue....Like any true heroine of their own drama, I too want a shot at 'something different' like Maggi tomato ketchup....The more I thought of a syntax..the more it appeared like a souffle gone wrong after the promise of a Michellin effort...

So then, I decided to just let be...and here's what has been decided...Till the day that I run out of anything more to say ( and that's saying something) or I'm really bored trying to eke out that last little nugget out of this fun holiday - I shall try to post a bit of something or the other about different things...

Today is Travel Fundas...

The Schengen guys at the VFS didn't like the way my teeth were set or the totally black ensemble that I had on when I went for my scheduled appointment to apply for a visa...I can't think of another reason why they privately laughed at my application for multiple entry with atleast a week's duration for each visit and sent me home a visa stamped for one entry for the duration of 4 days...Yes you heard me right, 4 MEASLY DAYS..

The truth is I have never been treated so shabbily before by any country where I applied for a visa. So since I hadn't anticipated that the EU really didn't care whether I shelled out more Euros to keep their economy afloat, I had gone the whole hog and booked my tickets and accommodation. The initial plan was a girlie trip Amsterdam-Paris and Madrid for 6.5 days. Easyjet made offers that lured, so we succumbed. Little were we to know that only the American in our gang of three ( henceforth she is Ms.GPS - had it not been for her GPS on the iPhone, we would have had some episodes of LOST to tape) made it to all three places on the itinerary. The other Indian was sent back to UK after the 3rd day, while I got 4 days!!!

In hindsight however, the holiday was a great success...How many of you can claim to have gone on a holiday where you travelled in a plane, a train, routine interactions with a cycle and a boat and then followed it up with a bus and a ship?? Well, I had all that and more in just 4 days...

We got to Amsterdam by Easyjet..and not KLM. Book in advance and you can get tickets for 20 pounds also..Ours was one of those cheap tickets that would not have been sufficient for the air hostess of our flight get home after it in a cab!  Do we care as long as we had a deal? Hell, no!! 

From the Schipol Airport to the Amsterdam Centraal Train Station is about a 20 minute train ride. That is if you can figure out whether you are on the right platform!! We nearly began our journey to Eindhoven before we had the sense to get the headphones of a young guy to confirm whether we were going to Amsterdam. He looked at us with a weird expression and went Duhhhhh, No!! 

So Travel Funda 1(TF 1): Asking for confirmations isn't bad in Dutch land, but asking for directions might land you in the hands of some over zealous samaritan who might just set you off on a merry trip to nowhere.( I say out of experience of finding my way from Harlemmerstraat to the Anne Frank museum - which happened to be just about 2 and a half streets away, but we took 3 hours to figure that) Btw, the Dutch wait for a hapless tourist to stand by a traffic light with a spread map to come forward and try to help them. A definite change from those London lads, I tell you!

Once in Amsterdam city, forget any form of transportation. That's my TF 2 - Walking is not just a way to discover this city, but great to burn off all those yummy Dutch treats like pommefritjes (tiny pancakes smothered in chocolate or cream or any other sin you can think of!!) or stropwaffels!!! If you'd rather rent a cycle, there are many. Walking only becomes a pain when you suddenly see a kamikaze biker heading straight for you as you try to cross the road...

However, my eye was set on this beauty!! There wasn't the owner around or I'd have charmed them into giving me a spin on this for sure!

TF 3 : Don't miss out on the canal cruises along the different canal routes of Amsterdam. And its just between 8-10 euros. The city seems like an architectural wonder precariously balanced along the waterside, there are also these houses to ogle at...And no, before you think its because they are too poor to afford homes on firm ground, here's the reality check - these houseboats can cost you anywhere from 300,000 Euros upwards..And I got my zeros right in that figure! 

TF 4: There are also trams for those lazy to walk, but I'd just say Shame on you..You miss so much!!!Ditto for Paris. Except for taking the Metro to traverse the larger distances, the thought of not walking up and down wherever reduces the charm of a holiday. Also refer to TF2 about burning the lard!

TF 5: Travelling from Amsterdam to Paris by train - Highly recommended - this way you cross through many places like Antwerp, Rotterdam and Brussels. All you see of these cities might be what you see from the train window, but then there's some fun in saying, 'Oh, I'd travelled to Paris from Amsterdam via blah blah blah cities.' Pompousness sometimes is deliciously enjoyable! If you book early by Eurostar, you can get some really cheap deals in the vicinity of 30 pounds.

TF 6: Never bother to cancel an Easyjet ticket when you find that you can't make it. For one, you will waste most of the balance on your phone trying to get through an elusive executive. And if you do, then there could be the chance that they charge you 25 pounds to cancel a ticket that cost you 20 pounds. Avoid insult on financial injury. Just zip it and bear the loss!

TF 7: Disappointment and Desperation are great travel companions if Luck is added into the mix..So when the Spain leg fell flat, I began cheaper 'Return Home' searches. One such one led me to a bus option. If you don't mind an 8 hour bus journey, then travelling by bus from Paris to London - highly recommended. For Indians, used to khataras and buses with asbestos sheets for seats, these are high luxury Volvo buses. Moreover, you get to travel by the ferry across from Calais to Dover. I don't know about you, but after reading about the Dover to Calais ferry ride in a short story back in school, this idea of travelling from one country to another by ferry was appealing. The Ferry is good fun, serves Food (English not French, so don't be too hopeful) and gets you from Calais to Dover in an hour and a bit. 

TF 8: However, ensure you have enough time to find the bus stop, because like in my case, the address was bang in the middle of Rue de Maubeuge that curved and dipped like it felt like. And even people at the Paris Gare Du Nord Railway station don't usually know that the Rue de Maubeuge is in reality the little side street that runs by the left side of the station premises!! Can you beat that? When I couldn't locate door No. 83, I remembered asking two policemen in a car in the street nearby. For one, they were stumped by my non-French question and more importantly, they had no clue where the address was..imagine seeking their help if a murder were to happen at 83??

 If travelling cheap and safe is what you are looking to do, remember to come back here for my cheap tricks to make your Euros stretch...There are many more fundas coming up - from accommodation to food to living it up! 

Merci Beaucoup!! :)


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  2. that was a fun and informative post!!
    loved it!

  3. "Pompousness sometimes is deliciously enjoyable!"
    -How could an Englishman compete with such an excellent observation?

    Glad you enjoyed, sorry you didn't make it to Madrid but hey, there's the rest of your life!

    ..and a final (semi-professional) observation, glad to hear that the British High commissions in India now have a scale against which to be measured. We do get it wrong sometimes but there is far, far worse

  4. Paris and Amsterdam are my favourite cities in the world, so boho and chic.

    Stayed at the gorgeous Victoria hotel in Amsterdam and discovered the city entirely on foot. The city threw a nasty surprise and decided to be rainy & cold in June. Spent most of my stay shivering :)

    Paris is something else...spent a measly 3 days there. Walking by the Seine, soaking in the old world charm of the city and the women smell so nice!!! Missed Musee d;Orsay, intend to visit again.

    Your travelogue sounds breathless, exciting but I wish you had broken it into different posts.

    And the special treatment reserved for Asians leaves you seething.

  5. Europe is amazing destination to travel and the France and Germany is my favourite for tour in europe.Here some nice picture share and I am enjoying for this blog.

  6. Thank you, magic eye and vicious..:) There are more photographs coming

    John: you bet, i have no complaints about British High Commission in India but do have loads about the Indian High Commission must read the diatribe written earlier this year..:)

    Purba: this is a series..I began with and other stuff just coming up..there are tons of pictures too..:)

  7. "The truth is I have never been treated so shabbily before by any country where I applied for a visa."

    I'm guessing that there is an arrangemnet between the UK visa authorities and the Indian ones. That agreement states, "we'll treat your people like sh*t if you undertake to do the same to ours." Having said that however, VFS in Bangalore have always been extremely helpful regarding our various foreign forays, whereas I have nothing but contempt and disdain for the FRO in that city. As for obtaining Indian visas in this country, I just use an agency. It's more expensive but far less painful.

    Nice to see you back blogging in any event.

  8. informative post. Good one .......

  9. Paul: Nice to see you back..:)

    Mayank: thank you..

  10. Traveling is fun where ever you go...each place has a feel to it that really makes it, people and history...really enjoyed your journey....welcome back!