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.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Life... and Spiderman 3

I just wanted to get down some quick thoughts... I've taken a bunch more pictures and videos from this past weekend... just haven't had the time to put them up and write a proper blog... suffice to say that Queen's Day celebrations were an incredible, unforgettable experience!

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!