Day 9: Cologne, Rhine River, Heidelberg

This morning, we woke up at 5:30. Another good Dutch breakfast was served at 6, and everyone was on the bus to Germany by 6:30.

I slept most of the bus ride until we arrived at a rest-stop in Germany about an hour outside Cologne. Again, we encountered pay toilets that gave a coupon in the store (€0.70 to use the toilet and get a €0.50 coupon). One short hour later and we were in Cologne.

The cathedral was pretty impressive; its two towers loomed over the city. Inside, mass was going on and we heard some beautiful organ music. After, we grabbed some McDonald’s, got cash at an ATM, and visited a souvenir shop.


We then took the bus to a small town on the Rhine called Boppard. We boarded a boat to see the various castles on the Rhine. There was a bar/restaurant on the boat, so I had some hefeweizen and tried a new food: goulash.


Following our boat adventure, we journeyed toward the Castle of Heidelberg. With its half-restored, half-ruined state, the castle was oddly peaceful. We only spent half an hour there, but it was enough time to get some good pictures.


Arriving at our hotel, the Holiday Inn, we were happy to discover that the rooms were more of the American style, albeit with twin beds rather than full/queen. However, I still haven’t found a shower in Europe that I like: London and Heidelberg were just too small, Paris was too weird, and Amsterdam was just oddly placed. Regardless, they all (eventually) worked for getting me clean.

Nine of us piled into a taxi and headed down to the main street of Heidelberg. Since Heidelberg is a University town with an additional population of an American military base, there are over 200 bars and restaurants. We ended up in an Irish Pub to watch the final of the EuroCup.


After our first round of drinks, we were surprised to see more people from our trip arrive. Alex (the tour liason from the Alumni Association) bought the second round of drinks and we continued to watch. When I had finished, I decided that I would try a scotch I’ve been wanting to try: Talisker 10. I liked it quite a bit and intend to buy a bottle soon.

Before getting ready to leave, everyone visited the restroom. While I was in there, I was approached by a man asking in broken English which team I supported. I tried to explain that I supported neither, but he didn’t understand. He guessed that I was an American soldier, but was surprised to discover that I was merely a tourist. He then decided that I should visit his home city in Poland.

I was able to escape and we grabbed a taxi back to the hotel.

Tomorrow: Spend some time in Germany’s Black Forrest, leave for the neutral planet country of Switzerland, and enjoy a traditional Swiss Folklore Dinner Party.

Day 4: London, English Channel, Paris

This morning started out with three wake-up calls at 5:00 AM. After the abrupt wakeup, we went downstairs to the lobby and grabbed our boxed breakfasts. A relatively short bus-ride (on which everyone slept) and we were at the Port of Dover. There was a slight mix-up with departure times, but we ended up on a ferry only half an hour late and said goodbye to the white cliffs of Dover.

The white cliffs of Dover
The white cliffs of Dover

The ferry ride was uneventful, but the actual ship was fairly large (9 decks, carrying people, cars, and even 18-wheelers). In an hour and a half we arrived at Calais.

Calais, France
Calais, France

We met our bus-driver and were aboard the most comfortable tour bus I’ve seen (comfy padded seats that recline almost flat).

Along the way, we stopped for some food while the driver rested (European commercial driving codes are more strictly enforced than in the US). The ATM at the rest stop was out of cash, so I was not able to obtain any Euros. However, we were able to use credit cards at the restaurants there, so I had a chicken sandwich which was pretty good. The bread it was on, though, was amazing.

We finally arrived at the hotel in Paris after some truly impressive maneuvering by our bus driver, Carmena. After checking in, we discovered that it is one of the strangest hotel rooms I’ve ever stayed in: bunk beds (full on the bottom, twin on top), separate toilet and shower (neither of which have locks or even actual door-closing mechanisms), and a shower-head that points straight down (rain shower-head?). The lack of basic amenities (clock/alarm and phone) and the general poor quality of the finishings make me a little dissatisfied with the accommodations. However, it is only for three nights and then we’ll be gone.

Shower head in Etap Hotel, Paris
Shower head in Etap Hotel, Paris

Everyone was able to get dressed up and we went out for dinner at a French bistro. The meal was a bit unsatisfying (seemed burnt) and the wine wasn’t anything special, but it was fun nonetheless to go to a restaurant with everyone. I ended up drinking most of the wine at the table, which put me in a pretty good mood.


Following the dinner, we left for the bank of the Seine river for a tour/cruise. The actual tour was pretty bad; since they were providing pre-recorded segments in six languages and the boat was moving at a good clip, there wasn’t much depth to anything they were saying. However, we did turn around and see the Eiffel tower lit nicely. Everyone took ridiculous numbers of pictures to try and capture what it looked like.

Eiffel Tower with Richard and Harris
Eiffel Tower with Richard and Harris

Returning back to the hotel, I was finally able to obtain some internet access and start posting the first pictures.