Monday, August 30, 2010

Mud bath

The Saturday before I left on my African adventure, as a part of my 30 ways in 30 days campaign, I decided it was high tide time I did something that had been on my wish-list for well over a year.  So, please indulge me for a moment while I take you through a little geography lesson.  The Netherlands, a large portion of which is located well below sea level, is located next to the North Sea.

Along the northern coast, a part of the country is made up of a series of islands, one located right behind the other as they work their way in a North/Northeasterly direction.  Between the chain of islands and the mainland is a belt of the North Sea called the Wadden Sea.  Throughout the months of March-November, the tide is low enough to allow one to walk on water (or on the lack thereof) to one of the previously explained islands.  It is how the Dutch came up with the term Wadlopen, (directly translated: walking the Wadden Sea).  

The urge to walk on water (or the lack thereof) tugged on me for months on end.  It seemed exotic, exciting, and unique.  I was constantly drawn to the idea of Wadlopen, a magnetic pull so strong even other people started sending me links to the website (which I frequented regularly) and asked if I had given it a try.  When I finally found someone as crazy as I was to be willing to walk knee deep in mud for hours on end, my dream of crossing a sea (other than by boat or swimming) became a reality.

Anouschka and I left Amsterdam earlier than should be allowed on a Saturday morning, and made our nearly 3 hour journey to Holwerd, located in the Provence of Friesland. An hour later we began our 10 mile (3.5 hour) hike through knee high mud and, at times, waist deep water to the neighboring island of Ameland.  The feel of fresh, stinky mud between our feet (that threatened to suck us in, or at least pull us down) is better than anything a girl could have asked for.  Especially when it included multiple viewings of people falling on their faces, while the both of us stood victorious... (mostly).

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Better than a "welcome home" banner

My trip to Africa was above and beyond all my wildest expectations.  I loved every moment and it was worth every penny (... which I spent a lot of on this trip).

My flight arrived in Amsterdam at 5am this morning.  Due to construction, trains in and out of the airport didn't start until 6am, which left me stranded in the airport an hour longer than expected.  When I did finally make it home I felt a warm welcome:  the weather was cold and rainy, and I was greeted by a dead baby mouse on my counter.  There really is no place like home.

Friday, August 13, 2010

30 ways in 30 days to celebrate turning 30

While stuck in London, I told Britt about my second planned trip to Africa this year for my 30th birthday. She then mentioned that one of her friends celebrated her 30th by holding an activity every day for the 30 days leading up to her birthday.  It was too brilliant of an idea not to emulate.  But instead of doing something the 30 days leading up to the big day, my version encompasses my birthday month: August (minus the last day, obviously, because there are 31 days this month - and I'm not that old yet).

The past 13 days have been event-filled: concerts, home decorating, cake eating, wadlopen (more on that later), being taken out to eat by an Aunt who was passing through, opening presents, receiving bags worth of American groceries, etc.  It's been a never ending extravaganza.  A major celebration.  And the next few days will be even better as I explore the wilds of Africa. 30 is going to be awesome!  (Unless I get eaten by a lion... that would probably ruin it).

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Audley End Concert Weekend

Not really having known the scheduled performers (Jools Holland, Leslie Garrett, Win Evans, and Only Men Allowed), I was pleasantly surprised with what I heard and really enjoyed it... and apparently so did the rest of those in attendance.

Friday, August 6, 2010

picnic in the park

I had more than one person ask me, "you're going to England again??"  Believe me, I felt the same way.  In my defense, I had only planned two trips to England this year (with a brief layover on another trip).  Instead, I feel like I've spent the majority of my year there.

This last weekend's trip was the second of the two scheduled trips and was planned well before the volcanic "disrupt my trip to Morocco, and keep me stuck in England" disaster.  But even though this go-round was more like my twenty-second trip (OK, over-exaggeration), it was well worth heading back for. 

In the small town of Saffron-Waldon, a few miles south of Cambridge, the English Heritage Society holds a yearly concert-in-the-park series every weekend in July.  It's held on the grounds of Audley End, a mansion which was, at one point, owned by King Charles.  The final concert is accompanied by a spitfire airshow. But the pièce de résistance was the pre-show picnic everyone gorged on. 

It was then that I came to learn that if anyone knows how to pull off a good picnic, it's the British.  They don't just throw down a red and white checkered cloth for everyone to sit on, next to their basket's worth of food to eat from.  They pull out the big guns.  Comfortable folding chairs, tables with tablecloths on them, real plates and silverware, enough food to feed an army, cut flowers in vases adorning the tables, lanterns, the works!  Then, after dinner, they set a kettle on the gas camp stove they've brought to boil water for their tea or coffee.

And if I haven't painted the picture well enough, people come in with wheel barrels to carry everything.

Picnics in England are no joke. The Brits are hard core.  And I salute them.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Suggestion Box

I really wish I knew where easyJet kept them, suggestion boxes that is.  Because I'd have quite a list to fill them up with.

I've managed to avoid flying with the discount airline since the Madeira mishap, which I'm still dealing with.  But, in regards to this past weekend, it was the cheapest and most convenient option.  I was like a naive fish who takes the bait, only to be reeled into an uncompromising situation. Except, for me, it wasn't the first time it happened, so I went knowing of the probable outcome and took it anyway. So, in essence, I was worse than the naive fish.  But even then, if you say I had it coming, we will no longer be friends.

In March (fresh after my prior easyJet fiasco), I booked my end of July weekend trip to London through them.  (Still, despite what you're thinking right now, I shouldn't have had it coming). 

Friday evening I arrived at the airport at 8pm for my 9:30pm flight.  I immediately looked at the departure info, only to discover there was a delay... of what I thought was 1.40 hrs.  So, I sent a text to my friend in London stating that I would come in a bit later.  I got a text in response saying "that's easyJet for you."

I went straight through to passport control, since I had checked-in online and was only taking carry-on luggage, and started to wait.  Thankfully I had just downloaded a new movie onto my iPod touch, which kept me occupied for a while.  By the time 9:45 rolled around, I went back to the flight information screen to see if there was an updated time of departure.  I hadn't seen one, but upon further observation, I discovered that the delay was not of 1.40 hrs.  The delay was UNTIL 1:40... AM.  Yes, the morning.  A 4+ hour, inconveniencing delay.

I tried finding a gate agent, unsuccessfully.  I walked back out to the departures hall to find a ticketing agent, but was unsuccessful in that as well.  (May I mention here that I got my passport stamped twice, without ever leaving the airport?)  When I walked over to the after-hours desk, I was informed that the easyJet representative wouldn't arrive for another 30 minutes (which would be 10:30pm).  So I called my friend while I waited, informing him of the situation, and told him that I'd hopefully arrive at a decent morning hour.

30 minutes later, I was given a new ticket for a 9:30 am flight.  I then went back home and went to bed, only to return to the airport 12 hours after initially arriving there.  Thankfully everything ran smoothly the second time around.

Suggestion to easyJetChange your name.  Possible alternatives can be:  you-get-what-you-pay-forJet, we-like-to-make-your-life-miserableJet, or (thought of by my father) pain-in-the-buttJet.