Sunday, June 10, 2007

Friends!

Time is running short, and it's getting harder to find the time to write decent entries... I'm going to let the photos do the talking for these... suffice to say, we've been very fortunate to have the company of several friends from Canada in the past few weeks!


Fisher, Me, Chrystal and Rostocki, at the Supperclub


Rostocki, Me, Chrystal and Fisher at Club 11


Fisher and Rostocki on the Nightbus


Dean Tweed (aka Diggles) and Rostocki eating Indonesian food


Karam and Maurice


... and currently Dan Hodgson!

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Reflections on Rome (Part 2 - Vatican City)



St. Peter's Square (photo taken from the top of the Cupola)

On Friday (May 18th) we made our way to Vatican City. After waiting several hours to get in, we started our tour in the Vatican Museum, home of the Sistine Chapel. This, for me, was the primary reason I wanted to come to Rome – to see the ceiling painted by Michaelangelo. After winding our way through many exhibits, we arrived in the Chapel. It was a marvelous sight… we stood for a long time examining and admiring the intricate details and compelling figures. Like the Mona Lisa, it is a work of art you must experience… reproductions do not lend it justice. I would have loved to take a few photos, but it wasn't allowed, and photographs would have been pitiful anyways. Countless times on this trip the scope of my camera lens has proved immensely inadequate.

Winding our way through the Vatican Museum

From there we took the long journey (500+ steps) up to the top of the Cupola within St. Peter’s Basilica to see the view of Rome, and also to gaze down into the Basilica. Afterwards, we walked all around the interior of the Basilica, and saw many amazing things, such as the tomb of St. Peter, and La Pieta, the sculpture Michaelangelo carved of Mary with the crucified Christ on her lap – a sculpture he made when he was 25. This was a thrill for me, since I've admired this piece since high school art class.

The Basilica is cavernous and enormous in it’s scale, with statues everywhere. Everything is ornate and much is gilded with gold.

Tomb of the apostle, St. Peter (the First Pope)

View inside St. Peter's from the top of the Cupola

Cupola from outside



Inside St. Peter's, above the altar

The intrepid couple, in St. Peter's Square

Chrystal, mailing a postcard home to Cambridge! from Vatican's own post office

In general, we expected more from the food in Rome, although the pasta was usually fresh… I believe our expectations might have been too high. None of the criteria by which we select a restaurant back home applied: The busy, classy looking restaurants inevitably were overpriced and the food average. Thankfully, on our second last day we took the recommendation from the hostel owner, and ate a local basement-located restaurant – the food was excellent and authentic, and better yet – the least expensive.

Rome wore us out. We feel fortunate to have seen so many wondrous and historical sites, but are happy to be returning home to Amsterdam. Rome seethed with many persistent and irritating peddlers. Occasionally, it was difficult to enjoy the atmosphere while someone thrust junky trinkets at us. Not to be dissuaded, overall, it is a journey I wholeheartedly recommend.

Reflections on Rome (Part 1)


Whew! I am falling so far behind with the blog... we are racking up so many experiences, but it's hard to find time to get writing, resizing photos and uploading them. We are currently in Frankfurt, and enjoying all the city has to offer. We went to the zoo yesterday after a fun night spent at a street festival... Chrystal will be writing more about that later. Today we were at a Botanical garden... I'm just grabbing a moment to post part 1 of Rome while Chrystal gets ready for dinner...

Here it is:

I am typing this on the picturesque, lush train ride from Zurich to Cologne. Chrystal and I just spent a restless night on the overnight trainride from Rome to Zurich, although we met some friendly Swiss folks on the way. We just stocked up on chocolate (!) but were disappointed to discover that all the shops are closed today (Sunday). We had planned to revisit a shop called Olivier’s which has wonderful, original products derived from olives.

We arrived in Rome on Wednesday, quite worn out from running around Paris. I had work to do, so once settled into our hostel, we relaxed and got caught up on sleep and work. Thursday we walked to the Colosseum – what a vast, dramatic structure. We got audio guides, and took a self-guided tour through the interior. We learned that the Colosseum had been mined for rock and gold during the construction of St. Peter’s Basilica. Rome is just PACKED with all sorts of ancient ruins. There seems to be another fountain, statue or ancient building around every corner. We wandered for hours, amazed and overwhelmed by the sights.


The Colosseum and Chrystal, bottom right... not too far right...

Caesar, making a decision with fatal consequences...

A gryphon at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Ruins (Colosseum in background)

Chrystal discovered Rome is purse heaven! Ironically, she couldn't find one she liked...

Our Romantic couple, doing as the Romans do, since all roads lead there... at Trevi fountain.
Tradition requires that you toss a coin back over your shoulder into the fountain to guarantee your return to Rome. Chrystal did the honours.

Part 2 will have photos/reflections on Vatican City!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Reflections on Paris

Here's the entry I wrote for Paris (May 14 and 15th) on the train heading to Rome:


Chrystal standing in the centre courtyard of the Louvre.



The Louvre was a museum on a scale which I have never experienced before. Viewing it was exhausting. We felt as though we had completed a marathon by the time we left. There was SO MUCH to see... every room breathtaking, that it numbed our senses. I can't overstate this.


Inside the Louvre's main hall - multiple wings branch out from here.

We went from seeing the Mona Lisa to collections of the world's largest crown jewels to ancient Eygptian mummies...



Every room ornate in every detail... paintings, statues... it just staggers the mind. If you only had time to see one thing in Paris, I would say go to the Louvre.




Venus de Milo

The following day (Tuesday) we set off for the Arc de Triumph. It is the world's largest round-about, with 12 major roads feeding to it. This was another amazing spectacle.
We climbed the 250+ steps to the top...



And took in the amazing view of Paris.



Afterwards we had lunch at an outdoor patio cafe, and strolled over to the Eiffel Tower. As we turned the corner, we were struck by it. It is just an amazing sight... the presence of it simply commands your attention. Along the way we stopped to have a crepe filled with Nutella... mmmmmmm



Overall, I enjoyed Paris very much - although I did find it quite dirty (public transitways stink like urine) and you are left feeling pretty yucky at the end of the day. There was also some famous French arrogance/rudeness, but this was offset by others who were quite friendly. I managed to get by in French in most situations - although apparently my Canadian accent is a dead giveaway.

The train ride to Rome (as I type this) has been an eventful, often dreadful experience. We found our couchettes, and it seemed at first that there would be 5 of us in a 6-bed cabin. Great, no problem. Then our 6th companion arrived. Undoubtedly, she was a bag lady. Suitcase after suitcase, then bag after bag arrived with her. The worst of it was, she (and all her belongings) stank of urine. And I don't just mean a little. She literally cleared all 5 of us out of the cabin. It was unbearable, and it made Chrystal sick. We complained to the conductor, who at first didn't appear to care or be willing to help us, but changed his mind after sticking his head in our cabin. Along with another couple, we were moved to a new car. After that ordeal, we were happy to make our way to the bar car for some much-needed beers and glasses of red wine.


Then around 10 or 11 last night, the train stopped. We waited for about 2 hours until help arrived and they were able to fix whatever the problem was... as a result, our arrival into Rome has been delayed a few hours. But no matter... this has been quite the adventure - and there's more to come! :-)

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

So much to blog, so little time!

Hey all! Sorry we've been neglecting the blog... we've had some really packed days... since I last blogged we've been to Paris and Rome - which made for a very full week! When we returned, Andrew Fisher was awaiting us in our apartment. The 3 of us headed to Den Haag (the Hague) for a day, and toured Amsterdam the rest of the week - at the end of which, Pete Rostocki joined us for the weekend! Then Dean Tweed joined us from Toronto... all in all, it's been a very fun, very exciting, very busy time - and now my attention is turned to work. I'll be uploading reflections and pictures when I can... which hopefully is soon, because we leave for Frankfurt on Friday!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Heineken Experience

We took the Heineken Experience on Friday, and what a ball we had! See?!


Anyways, we're off to Paris by train tomorrow morning. We will spend 2 days and 1 night, before climbing aboard a night train to Rome. We'll spend 4 days in Rome, and return home Sunday night after a quick stopover in Z├╝rich to stock up on chocolate! Our good chum Andrew Fisher will be awaiting us...

Tot ziens! Au revoir! Arrivederci! Bye!

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Koninginnedag (aka Queen's Day) Weekend


Okay! Finally getting around to this...
Chrystal and I had a VERY full weekend... there really is just too much to write, so I'll stick to the highlights. We got bikes on Friday:


Friday night we were supposed to hook up with Dan Powell, but it fell through. We went on a "scary" rollercoaster ride at the Carnival, then wandered the centrum, and stumbled upon an art show in an abandoned building:
Saturday morning we went to an open-air, organics-only market with our landlord, Anadamayii, and her family:See all that cheese? Yeah. Chrystal was in heaven.

Saturday afternoon we spent the day suntanning in the park, and sipping on beer and wine that we brought with us (perfectly legal). I bbq'd chicken afterwards.

Sunday night was Queen's Night... which is kinda like New Year's Eve. They party hard the night before the holiday, so that they can sleep in the next day... that would kinda make sense for Canada Day, too - no? Anyways, back to the centrum. We went to an all-night street party with free djs. Everyone was dancing! We had a blast, and caught the last tram home.

Monday was Queen's Day. We went to Vondelpark, which was loaded with people selling their stuff, like a giant garage sale (think Great Glebe garage sale). Along with this, children were busking (performing) on every conceivable instrument! LOTS of talent to be found. All kinds of international foods... kids had make-shift carnival-type prize games set up... it was a lot of fun!





Then we headed over to Museumplein where the park had been transformed into a massive concert arena... the only thing I've experienced that would compared was the Sars concert in Toronto... just a sea of people!




We were sitting up on this building (it has grass).

Needless to say we were worn out when all was said and done. Tuesday morning Chrystal and I biked to the tax office, and she got her number. She's been working at an Italian restaurant, and I'll have to leave it to her to write about that. ;-)

For more on Queen's Day, this is an interesting read.