Monday, June 11, 2012

Birthday Party

One of my good friends that I met at the English church in Bordeaux celebrated her birthday a few weeks ago. So we had a meal together:

The cooks. 

South African dish from the South African Birthday Girl. 
It's a sweet chicken dish. 

Crazy Italian cutting pizza with scissors!

Make a wish!

And yes, that cake is homemade! By the wonderful gal on the right. It was fabulous!! The flavor lived up to its looks, for sure!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Chateau D'Issan

This place had a moat!

I've seen these watchtower type things in many vineyards, but I really don't know why they're there. And no one else seems to know either. 

Finally, some green on the vines. 

This was one of the most ridiculous looking farming machines I've ever seen. 

Entering over the moat. 

Once through the archway, there was this whole building behind it. 


That's a bit of a lie, because I didn't like the wine, too red.

The tour guide was speaking in French, but I noticed that she said something about Americans. On the ride back to the university, I asked the driver what she had said. She said that Americans tend to buy their wine and drink it right away, but the French will hold onto a bottle for years before drinking it. Wow. Way to generalize a whole nation. Yes, I buy wine and drink it right away, but there are so many people out there in the US that will hold onto unopened bottles... ever hear of a wine cellar? Grrrr! Made me so mad.

I know stereotypes are normal, and a natural part of the way we remember things and categorize, but, seriously, a nation almost as diverse as the whole of Europe cannot be generalized into one type.

Two Cities, Day 7: Amsterdam

This was the last day that my I amsterdam card was valid (and only until 10am), so I had to make sure to see the NEMO Science Center. I arrived at the same time as a bunch of kids on a field trip, which was... loud.

The NEMO building.

On top of the building, they have tiered seating with a view of some of the city. 

There were some fabulous boats in the harbor. 

One of the signs in the electric power area of the museum. 

I was honestly hoping for a museum like the Seattle Science Center, but it was nowhere near as good, sadly. But the kids had lots of fun screaming!

My next stop was to see the mills! Something that I have always wanted to do because we live so close to Lynden. This was the first one I saw in Amsterdam:

Called Meelmolen, Flour Mill 'De Bleeke Dood' at Lagedijk, Zaandijk. 

There were five mills off in the distance. 

Me and the mills (molen in Dutch)

It took me at least ten tries to get a good picture and there were locals down the street watching. Tourist alert!

It looked so much like Lynden! Felt like home. 

Straat & Dijk... come on, really?

This is the street I had to walk up at 4am to catch my train back to Brussels. 

Got me my Starbucks Caramel Macchiato, bread, cheese and Bible. Couldn't be a better situation. Especially sitting in Business Class, where I had a whole room to myself. 

Of course, the controller came by and told me to change to second class like my ticket said or pay to stay there. I chose to move. Getting back to Bordeaux was an intense journey. I left the hostel in the Red Light District around 4am (this is technically Day 8), and the receptionist said that even the thieves were at home asleep. There was a taxi driving by every minute, it seemed like, so I wasn't worried too much about being mugged without witnesses.

I caught my train at 5am and headed to Brussels. I had five minutes to catch a shuttle bus that would take me to the Brussels Charleroi airport. The ride would take one hour, so if I missed it, I missed my plane, which was set for take off twenty minutes after the shuttle arrived at the airport. Thankfully, I found some security guys to point me in the right direction, and I got on the bus just in time. Got to the airport and the man who checked me in told me there was no need to run to the gate. I was finally able to relax.

The plane got to Rodez, France with no problems, then it was taxi to the train station (my taxi driver was really nice and fun), train to Toulouse, then on to Bordeaux. Finally home around 8pm that night.

Whew! What an adventure!

Two Cities, Day 6: Amsterdam

Next stop was the Dutch Resistance Museum. It's a very nondescript building, I almost didn't notice the sign. It was amazing.

Verzetsmuseum: Dutch Resistance Museum

This camera's owner was incredible. His story is below. 

This is what I remember from the plaques on the walls (and some Googling). 

From the Verzetsmuseum online: 
Taking photographs was restricted during German occupation. Many subjects were considered undesirable by the Nazis. From the autumn of 1944, taking photographs in the street was completely prohibited. Thankfully, all these restrictions didn't stop a number of photographers recording wartime conditions....
Karel Bonnekamp (1914-2008) lived in Amsterdam during the war... From 1941 onwards, he was involved in adminstrative work for the Ordedienst (O.D.), a resistance organisation with many members from a military background....
Some photographers took their pictures through a hole in a bag, but Bonnekamp preferred to find a hidden spot and quickly take his pictures. In order to have something in his pocket that resembled a permit, he went to the German Security Service (SD) headquarters in Euterpestraat. On a visitors form he filled in the purpose of his visit: permission to take photographs in the streets. He carried this with him. When he was arrested while taking a photograph in 1943, he was released after simply producing this form. 
This was my favorite part about Karel. He just took a visitors form and bluffed his way out of an arrest! One day, he wanted to take pictures in a graveyard and a German soldier came up to him to confiscate the camera. The photographer immediately said, "Oh, I was just looking for someone to ask! Is it alright if I take photos here?" Although he'd already taken several. The soldier said it was prohibited and let him go on his way. 

This guy was amazing! Here are four of his photographs: 

Top Right: Valuation and confiscation of dogs, Olympic Stadium, July 1942. The Germans used dogs to walk in front of their troops through areas with landmines. They confiscated big dogs because it takes a certain amount of weight to set off the landmines. 
Bottom right: Confiscation of bicycles, Olympic Stadium, July 1942

Each of the following people were featured in the museum, along with many more. They had each done something amazing for the Dutch resistance.

At this point, the museum was closing so I had to race through the rest of it.

This is an old printer where they printed off pamphlets with information to resist the Nazis. 

Afterward, it was off to get a croquette with my I amsterdam card. Excellent food from a greasy spoon in a hidden side street.

Off to another museum! The Amsterdam Museum.


The garden inside the Amsterdam Museum. 

Promotional plate:
Blue-and-white porcelain was popular in the 17th century. The Dutch East India Company (VOC) imported and traded huge quantities of pottery from China and Japan. This plate was made in Japan, commissioned by the directors of the company in Batavia (today's Jakarta). In the centre of the plate is the VOC monogram, a contemporary form of marketing. 
c. 1850-74

Little dolls for grown-up ladies:
It looks like it was made for children, this dolls' house. Yet in the 18th century, dolls' houses were a hobby for adult women. Wealthy ladies assembled collections to show off how rich they were. There was plenty of ostentation in those days, but the dynamic Golden Age had passed. 
c. 1736-70

And on to the Bijbels Museum: the Cromhouthouses. It's a museum about the Bible! This is about the museum, from the pamphlet:
The Museum dates back to 1851, when rev. Leendert Schouten put his now world famous model of the Tabernacle - the ancient Israelite's portable sanctuary - on public display. This was the start of a rich and varied collection that still forms the heart of the Bijbels Musseum. 
This is a portrait of Jesus, attributed to Rembrandt and School, c. 1655. 

I didn't get a count, but there were well over a hundred different Bibles in the basement of this building. In all different languages. My guess was off, the pamphlet says there are about a thousand bibles on display. 

Free tea! But I bought the cheese cake, which was amazing and a sugar overdose. 

Then I went on to find Holland's pride and joy, Heineken Beer!

The Heineken Browery!

I got to try some of the ingredients of beer before they mixed it up into beer. 

The brewing vats (not sure what the real name is). 

Tried some beer before it was fully finished. Nast-a-last!

I love it, Heineken Horse Power above their horse barn. 

If you go to Amsterdam, you can't miss the Heineken Experience! So much fun! It's like a carnival for a few minutes. And you get about four free beers (after paying an entrance fee). The bartender taught that the reason the Dutch serve beer with a head of foam is not because they're "cheap Dutch bastards" (her words, not mine!), but because the beer keeps its fizz longer with the foam. The bubbles rise to the surface, but with the foam in the way, you don't end up with a flat beer as quickly as when the bubbles are released. Unfortunately, the foam is bitter because it's a concentration of the hops. So, instead of sipping beer like a girl, we were taught to gulp the beer, so you drink under the foam and don't get all the bitter foam. Didn't expect to learn how to 'taste' beer while in Europe, but it was pretty fun!

The I amsterdam sign was outside at the Museumplein.

Dinner at the Van Gogh museum. 
That's a donut, not a bagel, with my quiche. 

Van Gogh's self portrait.

I wanted a picture of me in the mirror, unfortunately this woman was not moving along!
The mirror frame is by Emile Bernard 1868-1941. 

Eugene Jansson (1862-1915)
Riddarfjarden, Stockholm, 1989

I have to admit that the other collections in the Van Gogh museum were more interesting than his works alone. Although, reading about his life was fascinating!

The monument at Dam Square. 

Such a wonderful day sightseeing!