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We all went down to Amsterdam.....

I think that was an old campfire song......

semi-overcast 17 °C

So coach travel is a concept that is new to some of our students. This morning we left early to ensure that we caught our ferry to the continent. The group is getting better at understanding that the bus leaves at a specific time and will leave without you if you are late.

The European coaches are very comfortable with 'National Geographic' type windows, charging stations for our electronics and room for everyone to spread out. Our tour manager, Bec has done a great job of giving us fun facts and information and pointing out important places, like the majestic White Cliffs of Dover and our departure point for our ferry crossing to the continent.

One of the activities at the beginning of a tour is to get to know your bus mates. In our case, students from the same program may know each other. Imagine you are a single on a bus tour for the first time. This can be daunting. Contiki has a solution - speed dating for the bus where each person gets a few minutes with each of their bus mates to get to know them better. The students can now claim to have dates in both France and Belgium and it is only 1:30 in the afternoon.

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Speaking of Belgium we just crossed the border from France. Here are your Belgium fun facts. It is a country of 6 million people who claim to have invented the "pommes frites" despite the French protests about their beloved French fry. They are famous for their chocolate and waffles but not the much malinged Brussel sprout (not named for the capital). Brussels is the home of the European Union, effectively making it the capital of the EU. And, lastly, Belgium is the origin of the comic Smurf characters.

We are now in the safe embrace of our driver Mickey who is described as our Hungarian Prince. He will be driving us around Europe for the next 11 days. Coach driving rules are strictly enforced to ensure everyone's safety. All coaches are equipped with a form of a black box that records driving hours, number of driver rest stops, etc. Fines are heavy for anyone not following the laws.

Another interesting fact is that France enforces that all automobiles must have breathalyzer in the vehicles. A package of two of these breathalyzer so costs $10.00. Drivers are expected to use them if they have been drinking and must produce them of stopped by the police. An interesting concept.

And just like that, in spite of major highway roadwork we are in the Netherlands. It was time for our history lesson and fun facts. The good news is that the Netherlands has a very healthy economy. Also they have a population of 16 million but even Amsterdam only has 850,000 inhabitants. They welcome over 10,000,000 visitors to the country each year. Their challenge is to keep their locals travelling locally, a Dutch staycation.

Stroopwaffles are the most addictive confections in Holland, so we are told. We will have to do some further research!

It was a very long drive but in true school fashion we weren't done. Our hotel is in a cute little town about 20 minutes from Amsterdam, a placed called Monnickendam where they cater only one market, bus tours. After a traditional but hastily eaten dinner we were off again for a night in Amsterdam. A quick walking tour through the sites (wink, wink, nudge, nudge, if you know what I mean) and we were off for a sunset canal cruise. Most were staying in the city longer than yours truly. This is why you are getting a post tonight.

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Off to the more Amsterdam, Rhine Valley and Munich tomorrow. Somewhat exhausted thinking about it but so very excited. Night, night!

P.S. Everyone is home safe and sound from their night in the city. We, who came back early, were there to greet them due to a small fire alarm emergency. Oh, the stories we can tell!

Posted by jonaway 16:00 Archived in Netherlands

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Jona - I am following along. I am Mary-Ann's mom in Winnipeg. With Mary-Ann's e-mails and your wonderful blog I feel like I'm on the bus as well. These blogs are very informative and the pictures are great. Keep having fun.

by Ann Schenkeveld

Thank-you for the blog-notes, they are greatly appreciated. Many of our European family members and friends,as well as those of us in Canada wish you all well as you venture around the homes of our "fore-Fathers" and "fore-Mothers". Soak in the history, the sea and river air all!! So pleased so many of you were able to join this great adventure enjoy each moment and don't forget to literally stop and smell the many, many flowers :) sent with hugs, safe travels, Anne and Michael S.

by Anne Scappaticci

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