Monday, November 26, 2007

Misc. Things to Keep in Mind

I keep forgetting to post about this...chalk it up to my preoccupation with our move.

I'm sure most of you here in Germany know about the Happy Weekend tickets offered on the Deutsche Bahn. If you don't, I'll just briefly summarize: a Happy Weekend ticket allows 5 people to travel for one low price (I think about 32 euros) all over one German state between Friday and Sunday. So since we live in North Rhine-Westphalia, you can get a ticket at the GK train station that is good anywhere in North Rhine-Westphalia for the weekend. If you're vacationing at Garmisch, you can get a Happy Weekend ticket for Bavaria, so you can take the train to some of the other wonderful places there. (I can't say for sure, however, if it works for unlimited travel throughout the weekend, so you better ask a DB agent when you purchase your ticket.)

The Netherlands rail also has a similar plan. Three people can travel FIRST CLASS on the weekend to anywhere in the Netherlands for 35 euros. Lance and I didn't know about this until we took the train from Sittard to Amsterdam Schiphol on a Saturday. Normally, tickets between Sittard and Amsterdam Schiphol are about 25 euros each way on a weekday.

So...there's some information, if you didn't already know this.

Also, if you are flying into the United Kingdom, you should be aware that you are now only allowed ONE cannot take a purse and a carry-on. You cannot take a briefcase and a laptop bag. EVERY ITEM YOU HAVE ON YOUR PERSON NEEDS TO FIT IN ONE BAG ONLY. I don't recall ever coming across this policy on all my previous and many trips to England, but we were made aware of it when we had a layover at Gatwick on the way back from Seattle. Luckily, I could squeeze my purse into my carry-on bag. So please be aware of that, and plan accordingly when you travel through the UK.

Now, if you'll excuse me, Tiffany, of Living in GK fame, is coming to pick me up shortly so we can try out a new coffee shop in Gangelt. I'm sure she'll be posting about this shortly afterwards.

ETA: Well, the new coffee shop in Gangelt is apparently closed on Mondays (although it's open every other day of the week until 10 pm). So we went with the old standby in GK - Cafe Schluypen. Good macchiatos and tasty cheese brotchen (as well as beautiful handmade chocolates, pastries and marzipan). What more could you want?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A Brussels Photo Post

These are three photos that Andrea sent me from our Brussels trip, which I described in my last post. I'm just posting them here for posterity, more than anything.

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Andrea (who was supposed to be napping), snaps me looking at home decor magazines. This was shortly after we left Schinnen in the morning.

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Exploring all the various and colorful choices at La Cure Gourmande. Eventually, both of us settled on buying decorative tins and boxes, and no sweets. (My vintage-looking French biscuit tin will look very cool in our new kitchen.)

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Bar none, my favorite photo (I'm getting this one framed). Andrea and I in the Grand Place.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Da Vinci and Brussels

Today, Andrea and I took an MWR (Morale, Welfare and Recreation) trip to Brussels for Expo Leonardo Da Vinci: The European Genius at the Basilica Koekelberg, which is supposedly the 5th largest church in the world (none of the research I've done supports this claim). However, the Basilica's website says this, so who am I to argue?

Anyway, if you have the chance, I would highly recommend a visit to this exhibition, which ends in March. It doesn't just explore Da Vinci as an artist, but it also goes in depth regarding other facets of Da Vinci's genius, which include his manuscripts and inventions. Despite the poor layout of the exhibit (the rooms were narrow and small, and it was difficult to get through the crowds), it was well worth the time we spent there. As much as I love Da Vinci's art, his manuscripts blew me away. He had such tidy handwriting. ;) Oh, and the sketches were cool too.

By the way, if you go, pay the 2,50 euros for an audio guide. The descriptions in the exhibit are only in French and Flemish, and you'll appreciate it more if you have the audio guide.

We had about 3.5 hours to get through the exhibit, but it didn't take that long. Everyone on the MWR trip was all done and back on the bus by 12:45, about 45 minutes earlier than our scheduled return time. The plan was to go into the center of Brussels to spend the day shopping and sightseeing, so we got almost an extra hour to do that.

Andrea and I have already been to Brussels, so neither of us wanted to do any touristy things (although now that I think about it, the current Rubens exhibit would've been nice to see). Mostly we just wanted to wander around and poke into shops. First, we stopped for lunch. Andrea remembered this restaurant on the Grand Place where she had eaten once before. Generally, the restaurants on the Grand Place are more expensive, but I trusted her judgment, and I'm glad I did. I didn't write down the name of this place, unfortunately…I thought I would be able to Google it, but I haven't turned up anything.

ETA: The name of the restaurant is L'Estaminet du Kelderke. Thanks, Andrea!

Anyway, I ordered stoemp, which is a traditional Belgian dish...potatoes and other root vegetables mashed together, which you could order with various toppings. I ordered fried eggs on mine. So I got a great pile of mashed potatoes mixed with spinach and other things (and I believe there was some bacon or sausage in there as well) and 3 fried eggs on top…it was altogether lovely and hearty, perfect for the November chill, and it kept me full all day. Andrea had a scrumptious looking french onion soup.

After that, we wandered around, looked in some shops, stopped by Manneken Pis to see if he was dressed in one of his many costumes (he wasn't, as usual). On the way back, we stopped for a protest that came down the street. I think it had something to do with all the recent discussions of dividing Brussels. At some point, I had a fresh, hot Belgian waffle with chocolate sauce, and we stopped at a café for tea.

And that was pretty much our day. Most of the pictures are of random things we saw walking around, and not the typical touristy stuff you see in Brussels, since I've already posted such photos twice before. There are very few pictures from the Da Vinci Expo, because pictures are not allowed in the exhibition itself…you can take photos inside other areas of the basilica, though.

Andrea promised me some of her photos, and there's a particularly cute one of the two of us that she took that I want to post on here and get a copy to frame.

This is it for my travels in Europe, folks!

Click for pics!

Friday, November 2, 2007

Picture Post

Here are a few misc. pics from my sister-in-law's visit back in September. She sent us a photo CD, which we got just before we left for Washington, so I didn't have time to really look at it until now. Many of her photos were similar to mine, but here are a few that I especially liked. The first two are right by our house. The last two are during our travels.

I've posted photos of the Selfkantbahn before, but those were in black and white. Here is a color photo for comparison.

This is my first (and only) attempt at feeding a carrot to the baby horse behind our house (and that's his Mama, eyeing me nervously). Lance and I have watched him grow up since early spring. Anyway, he took a couple bites of carrot, and then spit it out. Not a fan, I guess.

Here I am in Innsbruck, in front of the shop that is famous for Sacher Torte. If the man and his torte had actually been real, I would've considered running off with him. A girl's gotta have her chocolate, you know. ;)

Here's a nice photo of Lance and I in Piazza San Marco, Venice. This was taken from the loggia of St. Mark's.