A Travellerspoint blog

February 2014

FINAL DAY, FINAL CIDER

ANNE FRANK HOUSE AND ROAMING AROUND AMSTERDAM.

semi-overcast 13 °C

It is only 7 pm on our last night in Amsterdam and we are home already. It is our earliest night but I know I am beat and we both having aching feet after 7 days of walking non stop. Besides we have an early rise in the morning to catch our flight back so we need to pack up. I am just taking a few minutes to relax and enjoy my giant meringue. I couldn’t find time to have it in Barcelona so imagine my delight to have one almost jump out at me on my way back to the hotel. Damn fate, gets ya every time. Paula felt it necessary to put her hand beside it to illustrate the size. But really, it is mostly egg whites so kinda like a healthy breakfast.

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We almost panicked this morning when we went online to get tickets to Anne Frank’s House only to see that they were sold out. Thankfully, the front desk staff told us that you may get in by lining up if you go early. We were lined up by 10 and waited no more than 20 minutes. This was a sombre experience and we had watery eyes the whole way through. I think what made it so difficult was not what was there but the blatant reminder of what hatred can do. I think is the real purpose of the museum. Otto Frank started the museum when he learned that the rest of his family had died. Anne, only 2 months before the liberation and sadly thinking all of her family was dead. Paula and I were both surprised at the size of the living space. I had expected it to be cramped but the two families, 8 people total, occupied a couple bedrooms, living room, kitchen and small bathroom. There was also the attic where Anne spent much of her time. I am not suggesting it was much room just that I didn’t recall that. Even with multiple rooms, they did not move about at all during the day for fear the factory workers below would discover them. The living conditions continued to deteriorate until they were eventually discovered.

We could not take pictures here.

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Why don’t the kids do this book in school any more? I loved it and it certainly delivers a message.

From there we decided to wander the streets and considered doing a canal ride. The chilly weather kinda kept us away plus we had a particular ride in mind but couldn’t find the owner’s place so that was out.We took a little rest for a final beer and cider. The last cider I had was a draft. This one came in a bottle. Also good. Here’s a picture for you Lorna.

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From there we revisited the Flower Market, wandered the canals and made our way back to the red light district which was close to our hotel. I had read last night why the canal houses have such interesting and varied gables. Before there were house numbers the houses were distinguished by the roofline. Later, chalkboards were added to the homes so people could write who lived there by their doors. This is such a friendly city and once again I have to say that the even the red light district is clean and welcoming. Honestly I smelled more weed in Barcelona than here. I am so surprised/amazed by all the cannabis products, like suckers, cookies, cake, candy that I would like to bring some home but Paula guarantees me this is illegal. The sex trade industry still amazes me. I can’t help but wonder how these girls ended up here. I felt like going up and knocking on the doors. That probably isn’t a good idea either. I did turn down an alley with red lights outside the red light district. I was curious but it looked a little shady so I turned around. Seemed like the B version of the red light district.

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Olympic pride in the red light district at a condom shop.

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A marking in the ground entering the red light district

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From there we went for Pizza and made our way back to our purple paradise.

It has been a great trip. Lots of laughs. A nice break from the weather and we are both dreading returning to the snow. Thankfully it will only be about 6 weeks before Isaac and I head off on my big African adventure. Talk to you then.

Posted by curlygirl 11:43 Archived in Netherlands Tagged flower market amsterdam district frank anne redlight Comments (1)

WHEN THE BOOTS FIND YOU.....

DESTINY STRIKES LADY ROSETTA IN BARCELONA AND A SECURITY BREACH IN AMSTERDAM

sunny 20 °C

Our disappointment at not being able to visit the town of Montserrat was short lived when we woke up to glorious sunshine, 20 degrees and no wind. After taking our time packing up the room, drinking much coffee and eating breakfast, we decide to explore the park across the street. Paula had actually popped over another morning while I was still sleeping (I have been up super late writing blogs and downloading pictures while she sleeps away) and she said it was beautiful. She wasn’t wrong. It was especially nice with the sun beating down and all the families out enjoying their Sunday. We spent at least an hour there before making our way to the Picasso museum.

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Besides the incredible artwork, the building was amazing and hidden in a maze of the most beautiful old alleyways. It was a real treat. We really were not committed to seeing this museum since neither of us were real Picasso lovers however seeing his early work made me a fan and convinced me that this guy had real talent that manifested itself completely differently that the more known cubism/odd work. I have to say I have a new appreciation for that too although his pigeon series looked like something that Isaac might have brought home in grade two.

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From there we decide to make our way to the waterfront. This is when fate took over. On this beautiful Sunday afternoon, on a day when everyone insisted all shops would be closed, except pharmacies, and Paula had just anointed me Lady Rosetta (for my excellent Spanish and Spanish pronunciation), we found ourselves in an alleyway of shops. Beautiful shops. All open. Just for us. In this alleyway a beautiful pottery woman with just the right amount of attitude called me into her shop and insisted that she too needed to explore the world and needed to come back to Canada with me. What was I to do? Alas, she is carefully wrapped and resting in my carry on (the blue one on the end). And what was I to do, when this alleyway lead into a square with a shoe store announcing RABIXE (or something like that), or SALE for you non-Spanish speaking types. And is it not fate, when every pair of Spanish made shoes that you love are there in your size? What do you do when the shoes find you? I had no time for advice but with such encouragement for all my friends back home, I bought not one, but two pairs of boots. I actually think the brown ones look a little like Dutch wooden shoes (plus they tie to the top) so they are kind of a souvenir from both places. For those that know me best, I did have my usual buyer’s remorse while in the taxi to the airport but with no way to turn back, I am making peace with all that.

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So it was a great final day in Barcelona and we are sitting here in the airport waiting for an 8 pm flight back to Amsterdam for one final day on this holiday. Time has sure gone quickly.

We have just arrived at our very eclectic Hotel Sebastian in Amsterdam. It is hilarious. Our room is purple velour with mauve accented wallpaper. The first person I thought of was Gail Huang who just loves velour especially when it is purple. She would just love the purple velour lampshades. It is a little cozy and Paula’s lesbian phobia is rattling a little. It is funny because the beds in Europe are mostly twin but pushed together and Paula keeps separating us.

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Our flight was a little delayed but uneventful. The flight crew and service on KLM was amazing. We did have a little mishap on arrival. As we were yaking and following the crowd we got distracted and went out of the baggage (aka secure area) without our bags. I figured I might just be able to sneak back in as someone came out although Paula was doubtful and stayed back. She later told me she thought I might get arrested or shot and didn’t want to be tangled up in that. As I tried to re-enter an alarm started going and a loud voice came barrelling over the PA. “Step away from this area (long pause), NOW!!!!!” So, I guess it wasn’t the best plan but we were not the first stupid tourist and we quickly received a contingency plan. So here we are, in our hotel, with our bags.

Until tomorrow.

Posted by curlygirl 15:10 Archived in Spain Tagged barcelona amsterdam museum shoes picasso Comments (3)

GAUDI, BUSKERS, MARKETS AND A LITTLE MORE TAPAS

WANDERING ABOUT WITH SOME SANGRIA ON THE SIDE.

sunny 13 °C

It was a beautiful sunny day in Barcelona. The wind was cold so it was still necessary to wear a coat and even with that we were a little chilly on the top of the double-decker bus. We had a leisurely morning before heading to do the second loop of our city tour. We had no great plans on where to get off but rather played it by ear with the exception of Gaudi’s Casa Batllo. Casa Batllo is a home designed by the architect and once again represented his Suesslike style. This was nice and relaxing and outside of getting off and caught in a real tourist trap (Spanish Village) it was a nice adventure. We did take some time to enjoy tapas and Sangria along the way.

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Our final stop was at the end of La Rambla, a pedestrian boulevard filled with shops, markets and buskers. We spent most of the afternoon and evening simply wandering and poking in and out of shops. The variety is amazing but I did not buy anything except a little something for Isaac.

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Since it was Saturday, there were lots of families around and as evening approached the streets were filled with people and entertainers. We finally stopped and had dinner outside serenaded by one of the street entertainers. He was great but his rendition of “Wild World” could use some work as he didn’t appear to know the words. I guess he didn’t expect an English audience. He sang mostly in Spanish. During dinner a band, of sorts, came drumming by with tons of energy it was crazy and wonderful. It was really nice just to people watch and it amazed me to see so many little kids out so late at night.

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So far my Rosetta Stone Spanish lessons don’t seem to be helping much outside of an occasional “si” and my excitement at knowing the word for apple, but I continue to try adding in a little French here and there. Most people speak English but nothing like the Dutch.

We had hoped to do a day tour to Montserrat tomorrow but unfortunately it is sold out. Disappointing because it is forecasted to be sunny and 18 and even worst all the shops are closed on Sundays! We are going to see how we feel in the morning before making a plan. We fly back to Amsterdam at 8pm tomorrow and have one last day there before returning home.

Here are a few shots from today’s outing.

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Posted by curlygirl 14:06 Archived in Spain Tagged barcelona spain shoes tapas Comments (0)

PERHAPS A LITTLE OVER THE TAPAS

FOOD FOR THOUGHT? DID WE EAT TOO MUCH. AH, WHO CARES, WALKED LOTS.

Well first of all, I would like to thank you all for your support on the shoe shopping. It is nice to have so many good friends encouraging in time of doubt. Sadly, I have not yet purchased any shoes YET but for good reason. We had an awesome day touring Barcelona.

We decided to start our day visiting the Sagrada Familia, a church by the famous architect Gaudi who has work all around the city in the Catalan Modernism style which means to me just plain funky or as Paula put it best “ a whole lot of whoville in the land of Dr. Suess”. You”ll see that better when we get to our second stop. The church is really spectacular. I reluctantly bought a ticket to go up in the tower which was described as not for the faint of heart. I have a fear of heights. This is high, with a small elevator, small staircase and no way to turn back without going to the top. I can’t say that I was devastated to learn that the tower was closed because it was drizzling a little and some of the stairs were outside (yikes). None the less we had a great time touring the basilica. The stain glass windows were amazing and looked more like Picasso pieces that the typical religious style. I was amazed at how the organ pipes caught the colour in the windows.

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From there we took a bus to the Guell Park. It was about 2 pm and we were hungry so we decided to grab a bite. By the way, this is the normal lunch time in Spain, followed with Tapas at 5ish and dinner at 10pm. We end up in this little family style restaurant with a set menu for 10 euros. It was fantastic. I had calamari and potato soup followed up with fried sardines. Paula had ravioli and chicken. Quite a hardy lunch, but one that kept up going all afternoon. It seemed like only locals were eating there which is usually a good sign.

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Next was the uphill trek to the park. We made a few stops along the way and a neat church and courtyard before hitting the park itself. Gaudi was commissioned by Guell to do quite a bit of work here and his Suesslike work is prominent. We really enjoyed this park but not just for the architecture. It was gorgeous with spring announcing itself everywhere. Flowers were in bloom all around us and best of all the sun broke out. It was quite cool this morning and we were wishing we had dressed warmer but upon reaching the park the temperature went up and so we spent hours poking around and taking lots of pictures. We were so in shock to see the flowers we couldn’t stop ourselves.

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As it was approaching 7pm, we decided to head back to the hotel and put on some warmer clothes before heading out for supper. We had planned to have a little shop but it started to pour so waited for it to stop and decided to skip the shopping and eat nearby.

So now it is time to talk about food. We ended up at another fabulous restaurant. Despite our decision to have tapas I deviated and decided to have Paella, another Spanish dish with rice and seafood. So I order an appetizer (aka tapas), fried artichokes and the seafood paella. Paula on the other hand decides to JUST have tapas. Unlike me, Paula is not a foodie, eats slowly and not a lot. So as she is asking the waiter what is good, and he begins suggesting, she says, “ok” and he nods and says “si” and then suggests something else, and she says, “ok”, and he says “si”, you get the idea. Well before all was done, Paula had ordered 3 tapas and a main. She had, although all was shared, a bruschetta like dish, Churizo, and calamari. Her main was a egg, potato and prosciutto thingie. Needless to say, we are back in the room like lumps on a log stuffed to the gunnels. Not to mention slightly buzzed from the wine. (Excuse all typos please). Really we did well because we skipped the intermediate tapas meal at 5!

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We don’t plan to set our alarm tomorrow but have lots to do including more sight seeing and perhaps a bit of shopping.

P.S. I don't need any help deciding if I should have one of those meringues. I just need to find the time and space to fit it in.

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Posted by curlygirl 14:17 Archived in Spain Tagged barcelona park spain shoes familia guell tapas segarda Comments (4)

WE ARE ON TAPPAS THE WORLD

Orienting our way through Barcelona, one shoe shop at a time.

sunny 16 °C

Ok, ok so I stole a line, unsuccessfully perhaps, from a movie (I hate Valentine’s Day) I watched last weekend where he had a restaurant called “I’m on Tapas”.

We are all settled in Barcelona. We took a 10 am flight from Amsterdam which required a 6:15 wake up in time to get to the bus and onward to the airport. Our KLM flight left on time and although a little cramped, was pleasant. We grabbed a 30 euro cab ride to our hotel, the K and K Picasso which seems to be in a perfect neighbourhood. It is also a very clean and friendly hotel.

Since the jet lag struck me last night and I was up until 2, we took some time to rest and get our bearings before making a plan. We have decided to purchase a 2 day hop on hop off pass for the city bus tour for the next two days and so elected to just wander around in quest of the footwear options while enjoying the sunshine and 16 degree temperatures. We got good directions to the footwear area form the front desk and headed off for a little shop. I found the brand of shoes that I loved in Norway (but were $400) that are made here in Spain. Everything is on sale but that doesn’t mean cheap. My ART shoes are half-price and run between $100 and $150 a pair. So far I have not purchased anything. Just being my plain old disciplined self. I haven’t found the ones I really love in my size (everyone is selling off) and I can’t be sure that these (see photo) are truly practical…I love them but what do I wear them with? Paula had more success and got a pair of boots and a funky hat and in true Shelley style just tried both on and danced around the room. She was a true shoe shopping friend today and since I was only wearing sandals, hauled off her shoes and socks and lent me the socks so I could truly assess the boots. The boots say Spain on the side….do I need them?

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By the 50th shoe store, exhaustion and hunger had set it so we successfully made our way back towards the hotel and found a cute Tapas restaurant. Tapas restaurants are a Spanish style of eating where you order multiple appetizer size portions and no mains. Our waiter suggested five which was probably one too many. We had fried calamari, ceviche, a Spanish potato, a cheese tray and guacamole. We had a delicious meal and with wine and beer was about $60.

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We decided to make our way home, well kinda, in a round about way. I got completely disoriented but thankfully we only wandered in a small radius around the hotel eventually getting directions leading us home.

Tomorrow will be our first real day sightseeing here but we already know that we have once again found ourselves in a beautiful city. We are feeling on tappas the world.

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Posted by curlygirl 14:03 Archived in Spain Tagged barcelona amsterdam spain shoes klm Comments (10)

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