My European Experience
By: Mary Simmons
Lives in the TCI & travels extensively with family and close friends, every chance she can get! The joy of meeting people is her incentive.
This was an experience that most people only dream about, it had become my reality. On May 14th, 2018, the morning that twenty-five enthusiastic ladies had been anticipating for months, had arrived. It was an entourage that comprised of cousins and close friends. This was our first trip together as a group and we were excited to explore several countries on European continent.
We had only heard of these parts, now the adventure was beginning. Six persons travelled from Turks and Caicos to New York, while others embarked on the journey from Nassau. The duration of the flight was seven and a half hours, from JFK international airport in New York, across the Atlantic Ocean to our destination. Although we were restless, and hardly moved from our seats during the journey, the anticipation of what was ahead outweighed even our swollen feet.
Alas , we finally arrived in Europe, a little stiff and tired from not being used to flying for long periods of time; but it didn’t bother me. I had made it. I felt like Christopher Columbus when he made landfall and kissed the ground! We now got the chance to stretch our cramped legs giving relief to our feet. Cameras and cell phones instantly resurfaced, everyone was hyped, anticipation thickened the air, we were ready to explore and be adventurous.
Our first touring experience began, when we were bussed to the glass top boat cruise port where we experienced Amsterdam’s winding canals. The main source of transportation in Amsterdam are bicycles. Dutch public transport is the most expensive in Europe. The cost of gas in Amsterdam then, was approximately 8.50 Euros per liter ( USD$15.00). The plus side to this was that, most of the residents are tall and slim, my thoughts were that the bicycles must attribute to their lean, slender bodies.
In this jurisdiction, it seemed like anything goes, marijuana is not actually legal, but tolerated here. Can you Imagine! The coffee shops wreaked with the marijuana aroma, I was told you can get high with a cup of coffee because it contains marijuana; I took their word for it.
‘The Red Light District’: We visited this tourist attraction where prostitution is legal. The ladies were in the windows, they looked like live mannequins, scantily dressed beckoning to the passerby’s to come over. For decades it has been a main tourist attraction here. What we noticed while there was that a large number of the tourists that crowded the streets, were the younger generation.
When we arrived in Brussels, the first sight we saw was the landmark and the silver atrium. The museums were imposing and loaded with impressive artwork, statues, monuments, magnificent cathedrals with stained glass windows; what a beauty to behold! Among the places we visited while in Brussels were the beer factory and the chocolate factory. Belgium is also known for their famous Chocolates and Brussels airport is said to retail the most chocolate of any airport in the world. During a tour we witnessed chocolates being made, afterward we got to sample them.
Next on our journey was Volendam a quaint fishing village , not far from Amsterdam, on the old Zuiderzee. Holland, the place where ladies are clothed in long garments and wooden shoes. They were the most hospitable persons on this sightseeing venture; ready to answer any and all questions with a smile. I called it the ‘country’ of personality. We experienced the making and sampling of cheeses and the famous hand crafted wooden shoes. I have warm memories; beautiful place, beautiful people.
Paris was definitely the cream of the crop. The services rendered by the natives was second to none. The streets had perfectly groomed hedges on sidewalks, with tidy streets, the residents of Paris were dressed top class; gentlemen and ladies wore business suits.
Paris is known for residents taking long lunch breaks, you can see them alongside the sidewalks having coffee and lunch facing the streets, acting as spectators to the roadside activities. Parisians feasts on desserts and spectacular culinary dishes, the food is perfection! From the breakfast cupcakes, filled with real chocolate chips to the magnificently roasted lamb and beef dishes superbly seasoned. I was absolutely impressed.
The people take so much pride in what they do, down to the caretakers in the restrooms, the atmosphere was simply unimaginable. This place was categorically the highlight of my trip, but it’s costly to travel here. My thoughts are :why would anyone pay so much for a mediocre experience? The experience was worth it! In my opinion, the bar is far beyond average.
Our final stop was London where we visited Buckingham palace and the changing of the guards. We visited The ‘Bahamas House’ which houses the Bahamian Ambassador in London, Mr. Ellison Greenslade. Here, he accompanied us for an hour, reminiscing about our Caribbean Islands. London is huge, with so many things to see and do, including visiting a live comedy show and St. Paul’s Cathedral, the church where Prince Charles and Lady Diana got married July 29th ,1981.
The English culture boasts of a hearty breakfast. And oh the aroma! Mushrooms, sausages links, pork and beans, tomatoes, nice thick sliced bacon and toast and of course tea.
The end of our European Tour
Finally, I must say that the wonderful feeling of meeting people from different cultures was the highlight of my trip. Being the social butterfly that I am, it was a great joy to share conversations and experiences with other people.
It is my opinion, that we are only on this earth for a limited time, and while this breath is loaned to us, we should make the most of it and not be selfish. I am thankful to God for every opportunity He has given me, where I can interact with persons locally and internationally! I see it as a blessing to explore this beautiful place we call earth.