Het Scheepvaartmuseum (Museum of Maritime History) and NEMO Science Centre

Well, I’m all museumed out. 😀 I have two days left here and two more museums on my list, but I’m ready to let them go. I have work to do tomorrow and Wednesday, I want to give the house a good polish as I’ll be leaving early on Thursday.

I definitely won’t be getting to Haarlem to visit the Ten Boom house because… I had a bad fall today and I’m not as ambulatory as I’d like. 🙁 I slipped on a slick surface while trying to avoid some of the billion out of control brats at the Museum of Maritime History and went down really hard. If it had been my bad knee, I know it would have dislocated. I just know that if I had let my health insurance lapse, it would have been worse, because that’s how things tend to go. As it is, I don’t think I need X-rays or medical treatment, but I may reassess in the morning. I’m RICEing (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) tonight. It was only about 4KM to get home from the museums and I ended up getting on a tram, which was a good move. I really banged it hard. 🙁

At any rate, off to the Het Scheepvaartmuseum! I can’t believe I almost skipped this one!

To get there, I decided to cut through the park near my flat, but did so on a different path and found an information placard about it. As it turns out, it is Vondelpark and basically Amsterdam’s answer to Central Park! It was created in 1834 as a place for riding and strolling. It is in an English landscape garden style meant to mimic natural landscape. The Vondelpark was designated a national monument in 1996.

I went down the street with the posh shops and noticed this shop name Stone Island that sells cold weather gear. LOL

I found myself at the front of the Rijksmuseum.

There was a magnificent house across the canal. I want to live in a house with a tower! 🙂

Here’s another interesting house I passed on my walk. I was going to do the museum of architecture, but, really, I’m museumed out. 🙂

So Anne Frank does have her own street!

I got to the Maritime History Museum with only a few wrong turns and barely any extra mileage, much better than when I was using Google Maps to navigate. It helps that Amsterdam does technically have a grid pattern and that street names are continuous rather than changing every few blocks.

I liked the tile and brick on this one.

I really looked forward to visiting the replica of an old ship!

The Maritime History Museum appears to be floating. The main entrance is around the side to the right, facing the picture. It is built over hundreds of Norwegian piles.

There’s the NEMO Science Centre nearby. I knew its shape was impressive, but not that impressive! More on NEMO later.

You enter the Maritime History Museum into a magnificent courtyard that is covered with a glass roof. There’s a desk for folks with a Museumkaart to sign in and get an admission bracelet, map, and instructions. Bit of a queue today, but better than at the ticket desk!

I went into the basement to stow my things in a locker. Loved the contrast of the teal with the red brick.

The basement was a bit of a maze.

The barcode on the bracelet is scanned at the entrance of the locker room and you are assigned a locker, which is locked and unlocked electronically.

To my surprise, I was really hungry by this point, so I checked out the café prices. They were better than at most museums I’d been to, so I scrapped my plans to have a late lunch after my tour and ordered food. My coffee came with a meringue that I will confess I ate. My problem is really more with the yolk of the egg than the white. To the left of the coffee is “coffee milk,” which is beige. I’ve since learned that it is evaporated milk, which is not sweet the way condensed milk is. I was grateful to see it as all the coffee drinks with milk were significantly marked up, but I got charged for a black coffee, and the portion was about four times as generous as expected. I went with the cheapest thing on the menu, a grilled cheese with ham, that had this really good melty white cheese and a side of ketchup. It was a lovely lunch in a beautiful café on a gorgeous day.:D

This museum has an audio tour, which I didn’t find as polished as at other museums. For one thing, the player never stopped nattering and would just repeat itself ad nauseum. The stops were also not well marked and it was rather a treasure hunt to find them. But I would never have gotten as much out of the museum as I did without it.

From the courtyard, you can go to the east, north, or west, with south being the exit. I started in the east, which has the actual exhibits.

I was inordinately amused that emergency in Dutch looks like calamity.

There was a big window on the first floor landing with a great view.

I started with the yacht models as I was still looking for stop number one of the audio tours.

Still looking for stop one, I moved to the next room, in which I spent the most time of my entire visit: the atlas room. It was pretty much my idea of heaven. Here is one of the nine volumes of the Atlas Mayor, which started in 1662, and was available in Dutch, French, German, Spanish, and Latin. Here, it is open to a city map of Amsterdam, dated 1649.

Someone told me the first stop for the audio tour was all the way back downstairs at the entrance to the East Wing, so down I went and then I had be directed to a rather well hidden audio point….

As it turned out, the atlases were the first room I was meant to visit. I learned that the Atlas Mayor is the pinnacle of Dutch cartography of the Golden Age and the result of two centuries of map-making and compiling atlases.

Some of the atlases on display are ancient. This map dates back to 1482. What was most fascinating was seeing the maps become more and more accurate, and especially seeing North America take shape.

The atlas above was scanned and I could flip through it. Entirely coincidental that I photographed a scan of the map above!

Just like with the iBooks app, you can literally flip pages. I spent a lot of time on this display. You could even email yourself your favourite maps.

England and Scotland, as understood in the late 1400s.

All the exhibits are dim and you have to press this little lightbulb to get enough light to read the text.

More volumes of the Atlas Mayor.

I then went back to the exhibit of yacht models. Notice that this one is on skates, for sailing on ice.

This is considered one of the finest in the collection for its craftsmanship and mahogany. I find it rather looks like a violin.

There is a third room that is not part of the official tour. It has a table set with china and the walls are lined with rows of cupboards. Curious, I opened one of the cupboards.

Ooh! Each cubby had a silver item.

I headed up to the second floor, admiring the construction of the building.

Next up was a maritime art gallery. To be honest, it started off as a lot of the same to me and I wasn’t really that keen to learn about the various battles, like the Battle of Gibraltar depicted in the scene below. I really was museumed out. 🙂

This one was stylistically interesting to me. Notice the sea monster?

Now, this was interesting because I’d never seen a pen painting before. It’s all done in pen and ink with perhaps a few brush strokes for sky and shadows.

Here’s another one, with a closeup on a whale:

Seascapes like these were in demand around 1650, when the Netherlands became a maritime superpower.

Notice how shiny this one is. That’s achieved with linseed oil. 🙂

I loved the design of the gallery. The paintings appeared to be floating over empty space, but it was just black mirrored flooring.

This was the first exhibit I’ve been to that explicitly talked about how the grey climate here contributed to the dark and subdued colours of classical Dutch painting. Let me tell you, two weeks in Amsterdam in winter and Rembrandt makes a lot more sense to me!

This one rather reminded me of my favourite Monet, with that little burst of light in the centre.

A very calm day with no wind. Can you find at least two clues that tell us that?

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We then got to more modern paintings and my interest was piqued as there was more colour.

Next stop, navigational instruments, another spectacular room.

I learned all about astrolabes. I had no idea that they are so rare, that most were melted down, and that the ones still in existence were usually found in shipwrecks.

I learned that depth finders had a bit of wax at the end of them to collect sediment from the ocean floor to give further navigational information.

Next up, the naval decorations.

All the figureheads pointed towards this display, which was of rushing water, complete with sound. Standing in front of the display case, I really felt like I was on the prow of a ship cutting through the ocean.

I loved the variety of figureheads and their expressions.

Gritted teeth and scared eyes.

And just… LOL!

Like downstairs, there was a room off the official tour, this one with squashy armchairs and photo albums. I picked a chair at random and found that my photo album was about the Arctic in Norway.

The third floor is not on the floor plan, but there was nothing telling me not to go up, so I did. 🙂

I got a good view of the roof from above.

Now, it was time to head out to the ship!

This ship was overrun by disorderly brats who were shrieking. Mexican, Balkan, and Spanish children are so well behaved and orderly that this was a shock. I explored as best I could, but it really wasn’t as much fun as it should have been.

This is the orlop deck, which accommodated 200 sailors and soldiers crammed in around personal effects.

I headed up to the first level of the exterior deck and the captain’s quarters.

Guest quarters were a tad cramped.

Compared to the captain’s quarters. I could not stand up in this part of the ship, however.

I went down into the hold, where the shrieking of the demon spawn was echoing, so I hurried back up.

This ship dates back to 1900 and was an icebreaker.

I was able to view the Royal Barge in its own boathouse. It was built for King William I of the Netherlands between 1816 and 1818. He didn’t use it, but his successors did. It was last used at the silver wedding anniversary of Queen Juliana and Prince Bernhard in 1962.

Coming out of this exhibit is when I fell. 🙁

I went back in to visit the West Wing.

Even if I hadn’t been sore, my brain was about to explode, so I went very quickly through an exhibit about the Golden Age of the Netherlands and one about whaling.

We were able to go into this giant whale.

The final exhibit was a game that looked like a lot of fun and had a grown-up version, but it was overrun with kiddos, so I didn’t even try. I went all the way back to the basement to fetch my coat. Green dots are free lockers, red dots are occupied, flashing green dots have been opened by the scanner at the entrance. Neat system.

I was really sore, but still wanted to go check out NEMO.

I made it most of the way up this staircase, but took the elevator back down.

Amsterdam looked like a painting…

The lineup into the science centre was absurd. I’d done my research and knew that I would not spend much time there, so I decided to see if I could jump the queue with my Museumkaart. Yes!

The NEMO Science Centre is a giant interactive playground meant to teach kids about science. If you plan to visit Amsterdam with children, put this one on your list!

I didn’t bother going near any of the interactive stuff since it was all too busy, but I did catch a few interesting static exhibits. These wooden figures were meant to illustrate the structure of different crystals.

These are primitive batteries, but work more like capacitors.

There was a neat display of old technology, like this 1980s model of CD player.

There was a very graphic multi part sex exhibit. I love how Europeans are not prudes.

I liked the models demonstrating creative sexual positions.

And this exhibit where young and old could practice French kissing.

In an exhibit on more futuristic tech, I found this hat with solar panels woven into it. Can you imagine something like this in Mexico? I’d never have to worry about charging my phone!

There was an exhibit about how solar cars are becoming the norm in the Netherlands and there is an increasing number of charging stations.

I only stayed about 40minutes, longer than I expected I would! I was ready to get off my leg by this point, but I still took the time to capture a few more images of the building’s incredible exterior.

I walked along the water a bit towards Centraal Station, where I could get a tram straight home. I knew I wasn’t up to walking 4KM on that knee. 🙁

This friendly guy (gal?) came to say hello.

How did it get up there?! And why is it not strapped down better?!

I found a whole neighourhood of folks living on the water. By the way, I learned that some canal dwellings are houses on piles while others are boats. The boats are more expensive to live in because they have to be periodically hauled out of the water and their hauls scraped and repainted.

People have real addresses with post boxes.

I bet this person doesn’t come home drunk…

Interesting floating pagoda.

This is a hotel right near Centraal Station.

Back at Amsterdam Centraal.

I got in and got my knee on ice. I researched places nearby to go have dinner, but ultimately decided to just pick up a frozen pizza at the supermarket as well as a few other sundries. I’m glad I didn’t try to go any further than that. I was annoyed that they don’t accept credit cards and I had to give all my remaining cash, which was supposed to get me through to Thursday. So now, I have to make another withdrawal, which will cost me 5CAD. Should have gone out for dinner after all. *wry grin*

Accident notwithstanding, this was another great day of Amsterdam museums! I ended up viewing 257.04CAD worth of museums for just 87CAD. So I think I got my money’s worth out of the Museumkaart! 🙂 I do wish I had gone out of Amsterdam one day, but it just didn’t make sense to do so when I had so much here to keep me occupied. The Museumkaart really was a smart purchase as I’m not sure what I would have done with myself otherwise since work was so slow and I’m on a tight budget. I’m also glad I didn’t get a transportation card and so was motivated to walk as much as I did. I got to know my part of Amsterdam very well and saw things I wouldn’t have noticed from a tram. I have two days left and if my knee cooperates, I want to go explore a bit more of West Amsterdam, where I’m living, since it shouldn’t be too cold…

An Amazing Last Evening in Spain and Off to Amsterdam!

My host in Málaga asked for permission to have a friend over last night! In her own home! She really wanted me to meet him, she said, and she also wanted to put together a special dinner for my final night in Spain. Um, WOW. Her friend, D, is Chilean, but has lived all over the world, including in Bulgaria! They insisted on making food while I drank beer and then we sat and noshed “family style.” There was guacamole made from avocados from my host’s family’s farm (with lemon juice and balsamic vinegar!), cheeses, sesame crackers, store-bought fries with a yummy yoghurt sauce, and homemade falafel (so good!). And did I mention beer?

We gabbed and laughed in a way that made me realise how much I need to make friends who only speak Spanish to force me to converse more. I had a blast trying to explain the finer points of taxation as a sole proprietor in Canada with my limited vocabulary. It’s not like I had to learn that in school! D and I also had a “Bulgarian vocabulary-off,” trying to see who remembered the most of that language. Interestingly enough, he’s the first person I’ve met who raved about Varna, a city I was well convinced not to visit (I went to Veliko Tarnovo instead).

Our meal didn’t end that late, but by the time I’d wound down enough to sleep it was almost midnight, quite a bit later than I wanted to go to bed since I wanted to be gone by about eight. I woke up at 7:45 and packed as my host got ready for work, then headed out around 8:15. She’d advised me to take a train rather than the bus to the airport, which was almost half the cost! I stopped at the Deutsche Bank on the way since there are no Global ATM Alliance banks in the Netherlands.

I got to the train station around 8:30 and a train came at 8:50. It was then a very quick (about 15-minute) ride to the airport. My flight was at 11:25. The plan was to get through security and then have breakfast. Sounds so simple, doesn’t it?

Security was backed up and slow. I listened to all the instructions (given in both English and Spanish) and followed them to the letter, including removing my boots. An agent approved my trays to be sent through the scanner and told me to go through the metal detector. I didn’t beep. So all clear, right?

No. That I don’t know what to call her agent who had approved my trays sneered at me and said I had to go back and put my electronic devices into separate trays and go through the process again. I went to grab my purse and she snapped that those things had been cleared and to leave them. I went back around the scanner and had to get back in line to send my electronics through. I was there a solid ten minutes with poor visibility on my belongings on the other side, which included my purse that had my passport, cash, and cards. Well, it happened — someone got interested in my bag. I yelled to the person to leave it alone and the same *** agent told me to stop making a scene!

I finally was able to push my trays through the scanner and was sent back through the metal detector. Just as I came out the other side, I saw my trays move back out in the wrong direction. And, sure enough, someone was eyeing them. I was just about to call out when the trays were pushed through the scanner at last… and then I couldn’t get to them for another minute because the line was so backed up. Talk about stressful! This was my worst airport security experience so far, but the nightmare my neighbour went through at the airport in Regina last week definitely put things into perspective. I was just glad to get through without losing anything!

I found a café after and got a very good Americano and a pain aux raisins, something I haven’t had since London. It was really good and reasonably priced by airport standards. At another café, I picked up a very expensive bottle of water and a decently priced ham and cheese sandwich for the plane (which ended up being a good call since EasyJet’s offerings were uninspiring). I then had about 45 minutes left to wait to board and I was able to get jump the queue for that since I’d paid for priority boarding in order to get both my bags on board as carry-on.  I was pleased that there was no one in the middle seat for my row, but less pleased that an American business man decided that meant he had two seats and started crowding me with his stuff. I let him know that wasn’t okay, then promptly went to sleep!

So the flight passed very quickly. There was nothing to see since we were flying over dense clouds. We landed at Schiphol Airport 10 minutes early, but the captain made a sarcastic comment about how far the landing strips are from the terminal and that having to drive all that distance would eat up our advance. We finally made it and deplaned. I got my first taste of the cooler Amsterdam weather and it wasn’t as bracing as I expected.

I didn’t have to go through customs  and had nothing to declare, so I was able to go straight to the train station. I like traveling within the the EU! 🙂

My host had given me very clear instructions on how to get to her home and I’d done my homework as far as paying for public transportation. I doubted I’d be able to recoup the non-refundable 7.50 euro cost for the OV-chipkaart (similar to the Oyster in London), so I bought a single to Amsterdam Centraal, which had a surcharge of 1 euro, and I was amused that the only way to pay was with a card and there was an additional surcharge to pay with a card.

Like with Oyster, I had to tap in before going to the platform and then would have to tap out, even with a paper ticket. I did that and then found the platform I needed. I barely had any wait before an Amsterdam Centraal bound direct train pulled up. It was then a very quick ride to the station. The scenery was nothing special, just rather bleak. Things got more interesting as we pulled into Amsterdam and I saw an iconic canal with houses lining it.

At the train station, I had to go to street level and catch a tram. I wasn’t sure where to get a ticket, so I went to an information desk. The agent there was odd, but spoke English and answered my questions. He sent me in the right direction knowing that I could pay the driver 2.90 euros cash.

The tram I needed was waiting out front! I still took the time to snap a few pictures of my first real glimpse of Amsterdam.

The tram driver was very pleasant about my not having change and got me sorted. I found a seat and was relieved to see that not only are all the stops announced, you can see the next several ones coming up. So I knew when it was time to make my way to a door and to request my stop. Slight hiccup at the stop, the doors didn’t open. A nice guy called to the driver to wait and showed me that I was supposed to press a button. Live and learn! 🙂

My host’s directions from the tram stop were fantastic. and I got to the house without any trouble (it was just a couple of blocks). She’d warned me she probably wouldn’t be home and would leave me a key, which was exactly where it was supposed to be. It was a bit odd to let myself in and make myself at home, but I did since I’d been sent the wifi password ahead of time. 🙂 I also introduced myself to my new charges. One is very friendly, the other will need some time to get used to me.

It was perhaps an hour before my host showed up. She is an American from New Orleans and “totally chill,” as she puts it. I felt very comfortable with her. She explained a few things to me and then introduced me to her fiancé when he came home. He’s Dutch, but speaks good English.

They suggested we go out for dinner to a nearby Greek café and that sounded good to me! It was a short, but cold and drizzly, walk there.

The place was tiny and felt more like being in someone’s dining room. The owner is Greek (of course), speaks perfect English, and is very friendly. She made me feel right at home. My hosts are vegans and the café has vegan options, but there’s also meat. The meatball special sounded good to me and I made sure that wouldn’t cause offence before ordering it. It wound up being a wonderful choice, coming with a tzatziki sauce, a salad with a balsamic vinaigrette, and roasted seasoned potatoes, just the way I like them, plus a very dense whole grain bread. It was just like eating home cooking. For dessert, we tried these crumbly honey-soaked cookies coated in crushed walnuts. I also ordered a saffron/lemon grass/mint tea that came with a sliver of walnut cake that I actually preferred to the cookie as it was moister. Prices felt very reasonable (my main was 8.50 euros), but I found out as I was about to pay that I was being treated!

We took a slight detour on the way back so I could get breakfast stuff for tomorrow, just bananas, raisin bread, and a hunk of cheese. All I can say about the price of cheese here is that I’m now convinced that Canadians are the only cheese-eating people of the Earth who get ripped off… The price of my purchases wouldn’t have even covered the cheese in Canada. So I’m encouraged that I won’t go broke eating here as long as I cook for myself as much as possible.

So I’m in Amsterdam! The next two weeks are going to absolutely fly by. There are only two things on my list, but I’m sure there’s more to do. I’m investigating a museum pass since I think that work will be light and I might have enough free time to visit enough museums for the pass to pay for itself. The house I’m in is very comfortable and my location is just off of downtown and walking distance to just about anything I’d want to see, hence why I decided to skip the public transportation pass. Can’t wait to start exploring!

Barcelona to Alicante

My train was at eleven this morning, so I wanted to leave my flat around 9:30. Thankfully, I managed to get to bed almost early yesterday and was awake without an alarm around eight. Packing is still a lot of work because I don’t have any spare room and everything has to be packed perfectly and just so, so I like to give myself lots of time.

I really enjoyed my stay in my host’s flat. Another girl joined us the night before last and I saw that if I had to, I could live with the right roommates, a huge revelation. I felt comfortable setting up my office and working even when they were there and I never felt like I was taking up space or annoying my host by staying in the public spaces when she was home. My stay cost me 175CAD for four nights and the cheapest alternative I found, a bed in a dorm, was over 200CAD. So I was really motivated to make this place work and it absolutely did. The only thing that rather sucked was the loooooong climb up to her flat. Here I am on the landing. That is a scary way down!

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There are so many stairs to climb. I told her she needs to be clearer in her ad about how bad the stairs are and that her listing isn’t suitable for someone with huge luggage.

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One of her neighbours has this great mat that I want for Haven: Welcome to the independent republic of my house.

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I had about a half hour walk to Sants train station. As I ambled along, I checked out menus and prices, looking for a decent deal on a croissant and coffee. I almost stopped at a place that advertised a ham and cheese croissant with a coffee for 2.50 euros, but something told me to wait.

I got to Arenas de Barcelona, a shopping mall.

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Just after it, I found a café that offered a ham and cheese croissant with a coffee for 2.40 euros. Every little bit helps! It was just shy of ten so I felt that I had time to sit and enjoy my breakfast.

A few doors down, I passed a bakery with nice sandwiches, so I thought I’d found my lunch for the train. But all their sandwiches had mayo. 🙁 The clerk suggested I try their “pizza” and pointed me to large squares of dough with different toppings that she began to describe. I stopped her at “barbacoa,” which is BBQ, as it obviously had a BBQ sauce base, with chicken, ham, and olives. 3.50 euros wasn’t cheap, but the portion was generous and I knew the sauce would be a welcome change to my diet.

The train station was just a short distance later.

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I had an electronic boarding pass, so I quickly located which direction I had to go for my platform and then found the bathroom. There was just one entrance for men and women and I overheard an American woman and her husband having an argument over her having to use a unisex bathroom (she preferred to hold it, he said she was being ridiculous). I went through the turnstile and found separate entrances for the men and woman so I called to her that there was a woman’s only bathroom. I’d hate to see her in front of a squat toilet… Personally, when I have to go, I have to go!

I then got in line to go through the check-in desk, and what a long line it was! It was about 10:30 by this point. I don’t suggest getting to Barcelona Sants at the last minute!

Last night, I did some research on Spanish trains and my host confirmed that the fleets have been updated and are super comfy with power outlets and tables for working. So I was very disappointed to find waiting for me a smelly old train with no modern amenities. Moreover, I had to go to car eight and none of the cars were labeled, with just one attendant directing traffic. I was not impressed and will not be eager to take a train again in Spain. Last time I took a train was 16 years ago between Ottawa and Toronto and it was one of those “never again” experiences, with me favouring the bus after. I’m taking the bus to Almería on Monday, so I may feel the same way…

But, thankfully, the train wasn’t full and my seatmate moved to an empty row and I was able to spread out. I was very annoyed that I’d asked for a window seat and that I actually got a wall with a sliver of window behind me. I barely saw anything on the entire six-hour journey. 🙁 But what I did see reminded me so much of Mexico…

Most of the compartment disembarked in Valencia and then we started moving backwards, which felt very strange.

I did some non-transcription work on my computer for most of the trip until I started to get sleepy, then I just played Scrabble on my iPad. It was a pleasant enough journey, but would have been better if there had been a USB charging port and I hadn’t had to conserve battery power as that would have meant I’d have internet the whole way.

By the time we arrived in Alicante, I had 20% battery power, which on my phone means anywhere from all the time I need to no time at all of map usage, so I quickly plugged in my destination, got oriented, and set off, glad that I didn’t have many turns. My hostel was a bit hard to find (no signage), but once I was there, it was obvious. The host is lovely, and greeted me with a cold beer!

My room is huge and has a proper desk, so it will be a good place to work this weekend. My host says that almost all the museums are free, so I may do more exploration than I expected, although I had planned for this to be a work stop. She got me orientated and told me it’s safe here after dark, so as soon as I finish my current job, I’ll head out and look for food. My pizza (which was fantastic!) is starting to feel very distant. 🙂

Getting Across London

From Gatwick Airport, I had to not only get to London, but also cross it to reach my Airbnb in the northwest part of the city. I got a lot of mixed information online about the best way to achieve it because being able to use the Oyster card (prepaid public transportation card) at Gatwick is fairly new. I couldn’t muddle through the steps through my research, so I decided to wait until I was on site to figure it out.

I did know that I had to use a train to get to London and those leave from the south terminal while I landed at the north. So I had to take a free tram (trolley? forget what they call it) there (two minutes). I wandered there for a bit looking at signage and finally figured out where I could get an Oyster card (next to the Costa Coffee). There, I learned that the card is £5, which I can get refunded when I leave by turning in my card. I was advised to start with putting £30 on it and see where that got me. If you use an Oyster card, you get a daily cap that’s based on which zones you’re traveling through and the time of day. In theory, sticking to zones 1 (Central London) and 2 (where I’m staying) and only traveling during non-peak hours, my daily cap would be just under £7, but I think I paid way more than that today (Sunday). I will do a separate Oyster post once I understand the caps better.

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But from Gatwick, using the Oyster card to ride the train is the best value. Off peak on most trains is just £8 to Central London, while taking the “Gatwick Express” train is nearly £20! My total cost to get to my Airbnb was £10.20.

My first step was to take a “Southern” train to the London Victoria train station.

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First glimpse of London.

At London Victoria, I had to transfer to the Tube. I quickly ascertained that the London Underground is just like the Montreal Metro, only much larger. Use colours to identify your line and the station at the end of the line to know which direction to go. I wanted to end up at Kensal Green, on the Bakerloo line. From Victoria London, I had to take the Victoria Line to Oxford Circle, where I transferred to the Bakerloo Line to Queen’s Park. At Victoria London, I was a little overwhelmed by the number of people and the speed at which they were moving, but once I knew where to go, I just went with the flow and it was fine, no worse than a busy day at the Mercado in Maz!

At Queen’s Park, I switched to the London Overground for one more station to Kensal Green.

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I couldn’t check in until 1PM and arrived at Kensal Green around 11:30. I spent the time walking up and down the High Street until I found a bench where I could doze in the sun. It might seem like a waste of time, but my luggage was heavy and so I really wasn’t up to sightseeing. I was just glad to be there and certain that I would make the 1PM to 2PM very short window of time to check in. I hadn’t found a Barclay’s ATM in all my travels, so I decided to just pay the fees to use a different ATM so I could get some cash.

At 1PM, I finished the walk to my Airbnb. It’s a quintessential Victorian row house and absolutely no frills (you don’t even get a towel!). But the bed is comfy, the bathroom is clean, and for 50CAD a  night and so conveniently located to Central London, it’s a steal. I did really well finding this one!

I had a wash and changed, which renewed me. I was 24 hours without sleep by this point and knew that I had to last until at least 7PM if I wanted to walk up on local time Sunday. So I packed my day bag and set off to find the nearest chippy. There, I ordered a chicken shawarma sandwich, which came with chips and a drink, and set off to find a place to eat my meal. I found a low wall by the Kensal Rise station that was perfect for people watching. The food was good. I like British chips a lot, especially since you get malt vinegar on them! The food really hit the spot and I felt much better after eating. I should have had lunch while waiting to check in, but with the luggage, there was too much to manage.

Then, I walked around the borough of Brent for a bit, eventually, to my immense surprise, circling right back to my Airbnb!

It's called Holanda in Mexico, but it's the exact same ice cream!

It’s called Holanda in Mexico, but it’s the exact same ice cream!

Just in case there's any doubt I'm in London.

Just in case there’s any doubt I’m in London.

Still don't believe me?

Still don’t believe me?

Is that a palm tree?!

Is that a palm tree?!

Am I seeing things?

Am I seeing things?

Approaching this roundabout, I decided that I was done and wanted to go home, but was hopelessly lost. So I was about to ask for help when I realised that it's the roundabout just before my street!

Approaching this roundabout, I decided that I was done and wanted to go home, but was hopelessly lost. So I was about to ask for help when I realised that it’s the roundabout just before my street!

It was not even 4:00 by this point and I was fading really fast. I decided that I wouldn’t risk going anywhere near my bed, so I decided to go back to Central London!