Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Lucky timing.

When my sister and I went to Madeira Island three short weeks ago we were greeted by lush green mountains, wonderful weather, brightly colored flowers and beautiful blue waters.

Of course it wasn't completely perfect.  It did rain, especially hard on the day we were scheduled to leave, but that's a story for another day.  Needless to say, no one would have predicted a months worth of rain would ever fall in 8 hours like it did on Saturday. The island and many lives have changed in 3 short weeks after we came and left. 

An island that once looked like this:

currently looks like this, with many months of repair ahead:

Friday, February 19, 2010

Neverending winter

You'll be hard pressed to find anyone here who doesn't complain about the rain, me included - normally. But I have nothing but praise for the rains that have begun falling recently, because it means one thing: it's too warm to snow!

Ask any Dutch person and they'll tell you that winter is generally mild, with 2-3 weeks of bitter cold weather.  Not this year though. This year we've broken a record. A record which I truly wish would have waited a few more years down the road.  I've never liked the extreme cold.  I've never liked the snow.  Stick me in a place where cold and snow are combined for an extended period of time, I'll start wondering what I did wrong - because there would have to be some reason why I was placed in my own version of hell.  That, dear friends, is what this winter has been.

Gratefully, months before, I had planned for a 5 day winter escape.  Was it inspiration?  Luck?  Sheer brilliance on my part?   I don't know.  All that matters is that the last weekend of January I left the dead of winter to enjoy it's antithesis:  Paradise.

Monday, February 15, 2010

"Before we get too old"

As Tim and I were on the Waterloo Bridge waiting for the New Years countdown, we met an older British couple.  We started chatting with them, enjoying their deeply British accent and company - as it distracted us from the bitter cold. At one point I mentioned that I live in Amsterdam.  They both chimed in, "Oh, we've been there recently.  Loved it."  I couldn't help but agree.  The wife stated, "We had thought about doing a canabis tour before we get too old."  Our eyes widened at that moment while looking at the retired couple.  She continued, "but then we thought, 'what will our children think of us?' and decided against it."  The husband then added, "Yes, then some of our friends had a lollipop and ended up quite loopy.  Sure did make us glad we decided against it." 

We were left with a loss of words, because all we wanted to do was laugh.

editors note: Writing about these experiences probably doesn't help negate the preconceived notions about Amsterdam. Honestly, though, it's so much more than drugs and prostitution.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Ramblings from a bonafide 'foodie'

Would it surprise you if I said I have a favorite food website?   It was on that site I found out about "Books for Cooks", a bookstore dedicated to cookbooks. And if that wasn't wonderful enough, they have a test kitchen in the back where they sell a 2-3 course lunch based on recipes from the books that adorn their walls.  I yearned to go there ever since. The only problem was that it is located in Notting Hill, which meant my yearning desire had to wait until I made my way to London.  

Needless to say, that left me with months worth of anticipation... anticipation which turned to giddiness as the day to visit the cookbook store of all cookbook stores approached.

On a beautiful, yet crisp, winter morning in London, as the sun hung brightly in the sky, we entered the cab which (nearly) took us to the doorstep of the red trimmed building.  Outside was a whirlwind of movement as people walked up and down the Portobello Road street market.  The air was full of energy, the colors were vibrant, the sounds of gaiety filled our ears - and we hadn't even stepped inside the store yet.

Upon entering we were filled with old world charm. The walls were lined with books from floor to ceiling.  The size of the store was small, yet cozy, and only allowed enough room for a plush sofa to be placed in the center of the floor. We perused the store while the clock ticked towards lunchtime in order to eat a soup that sounded better than it actually tasted.  But we did leave happy, each with one extra book to grace our own shelves at home. It truly was an idyllic late Saturday morning activity. 

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Where's Waldo?

The roll of tourist is one I play quite well, I'm not afraid to admit.  Quite honestly, I wouldn't be surprised if there was a giant neon arrow blinking above my head.  Although, it's not needed since I do a good enough job on my own with my large SLR camera out at all times - clicking with one hand and holding a map in the other. However, I do pride myself in the fact that I never have a guide book with me.  That has to count for something, right?  That and the fact that I don't own a single flowery Hawaiian shirt or bermuda shorts.  But now I digress. 

My point is, I'm fully aware that I stand out like a sore thumb when on vacation. I am that tacky tourist who makes cars wait for her as she takes her picture crossing Abbey Lane.  In my mind I try minimizing my blatancy by thinking "at least I'm not like that guy who's walking across barefoot in order to authenticate the photo!"  When in reality the only thing holding me back from doing the same thing is the near-freezing winter weather.

So here I write, to tell the world - or whoever is reading, that I'm not ashamed.  And since you weren't in London to see me for yourself, I'll show you: I was in every tourist hot-spot I could find. 

LOOK AT ME!  I'm on the top of a double decker bus!

LOOK AT ME!  I'm in a British phone booth!

LOOK AT ME!  I'm Harry Potter!

Yes, I am the quintessential tourist... and quite the happy one!  (Thanks in part to my friend Tim who was gracious enough to tag along and take pictures as my rampant touristic desires led us from one location to the next).

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Abbey Road

Famous for the street crossing of George, John, Paul, Ringo... and Claire.