Sunday, June 10, 2007
Sunday, June 3, 2007
On Friday (May 18th) we made our way to
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
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
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.
Here it is:
I am typing this on the picturesque, lush train ride from
We arrived in
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
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.
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.
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
Sunday, May 13, 2007
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 Zürich to stock up on chocolate! Our good chum Andrew Fisher will be awaiting us...
Tot ziens! Au revoir! Arrivederci! Bye!
Thursday, May 3, 2007
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:
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!
For more on Queen's Day, this is an interesting read.
Wednesday, May 2, 2007
Chrystal and I saw Spiderman 3 last night, and sadly, I was disappointed. It was easily the worst of the 3 movies. Thankfully, the movie experience itself was great! We decided to splurge a little to celebrate Chrystal's first day on the job (yesterday). We opted for the loveseat package at the theatre which is located in a balcony, complete with bottle of wine and snacks! I tell you, the Dutch know how to do it. If North American theatres took a lesson, they might not find their numbers lagging.
And a word about the food. The thing I love about it is how fresh and real everything is - from the bread to the coffee to the meats. Example: In Canada, I'm used to "Cool Whip" on my desserts... and what's that made of? Vegetable oil or something? Here, when your pie comes with whipped cream, it is actually whipped cream!
Also, there are "fairly-traded" and organic alternatives to just about anything you can buy... there's even an all-organic outdoor market.
I also love picking up a 12 of Heineken at the grocery store for 5 bucks!
Thursday, April 26, 2007
We got itchy feet yesterday and decided to take a tour out of the city. We caught a train to Zaanse Schans, a nearby village. On the way to catch the local tram, I discovered that my camera had died (RIP Canon PowerShot A70). After several years of service, and many, many trips - a chip processor died. According to the local camera guy, at least. Regretfully, and in a haste, I bought a new camera: Nikon CoolPix L6... so far so good! The photos here are from the new camera.
We watched a cobbler make a pair of wooden shoes! It was pretty fascinating. They start with a wet, soft piece of poplar. The block is put into a machine that grinds out a duplicate of a perfect model - the exact way a copy of a key is made. The inside of the shoe is then ground out with a carving spoon - again, like a key with parallel blades following the "pattern" shoe.
Once done, the cobbler carves off the last bits. He put his mouth to the shoe and blew out about a cup of water that was in the wood(!), to demonstrate how wet it was. He demonstrated how tough they were by slamming the shoes he was wearing, saying the could withstand 75kg of weight - ideal for construction and other tasks where feet need protection. He also said they keep field workers' feet very dry, and that the arch (I tried on a pair, and felt this benefit) was pronounced and was ideal for people standing on their feet all day because it promoted good posture. I can tell you after trying them on, and seeing how comfortable they actually were, I was tempted to buy a pair!
Afterwards we spent a night on the town and had a blast! It was great to catch up with her.
Their visit was too short, but they did manage to see quite a bit of Amsterdam before they ventured off to Rotterdam.
*Squat restaurants are run by hippies, like a commune. The chefs are volunteers, and the food is all organic and vegetarian. Very cheap and healthy. We really enjoyed it the first time... unfortunately it all depends on the chef in the kitchen!