FINALLY, AN UPDATE!
At least I think that's what you're going to say when you see this, dear Reader.
I'm sorry about the weekly but unpredictable updates. I've been knitting and making designs for work, church, and school. Then there's homework and spending time with friends and family so that I won't end up a hermit chained to my laptop. And I got sick last week. A strong typhoon also happened to shake up my neck of the woods at about the same time. There was also a small but sharp earthquake a few days before that.
And yes, all of this happened last week.
There were lots of beautiful things to see, and lots of cobbled streets to get lost on. (We did get lost, by the way.) Again, I was reminded about how Europe was a mix of both the old and the new just by looking down at my feet on said cobbled street.
the old and the polka-dotted
I don't know if the average person gets tickled by how his average footwear looks so new against the old stones. Or maybe that's just me.
Anyway, we joined a tour on occasion. I say on occasion because when we got bored, we just went somewhere else and left the other tourists gawking at everything ancient. Only to arrive at another old spot where even more tourists were gawking at something even more ancient.
My cousin Ken's jaw dropped when he saw that last picture. And he yelled "You went to the Pantheon?!?!"
I would like to take this opportunity to say yes, Ken, we did.
We saw some famous (dead) people in their graves there. The architecture was also really cool with massive pillars and everything.
And who can forget the hole in the Pantheon's roof?
We traipsed onward to a certain square with a name I've forgotten. But I remember it's built on top of some really old Roman ruins. A pope used to live there and commissioned the church and fountains on it from rival artists. I can recall some of the statues in that square being subtle ways the artists used to insult each other's work.
I can recall all that but I can't even give you the square's name. It's pathetic, really.
the church on the memorable square whose name I forgot
Most people passing by Rome drop by the Vatican. Our family did so as well.
St. Peter's Square
It was pretty majestic. Everything was so detailed and really worth looking at.
Even the statues surrounding the square.
I don't know if those were supposed to be saints or something. We weren't really on a pilgrimage --- We're not Catholic. --- so not knowing who they were didn't seem to matter. I did see the window the Pope appears in weekly though.
We continued on to a place so famous that every person I've showed the next picture to immediately knew what it was.
This was also where I got my first scoops of...
REAL ITALIAN GELATO!
I've always wanted to try out different foods in their native lands. So I enjoyed pistachio and lemon gelato in Italy.
It was just beautiful. The pistachio was appropriately nutty, and the lemon was the right blend of sour creaminess.
I'm almost drooling just remembering it.
Anyway, the Coliseum didn't disappoint. Neither did the Forum a few blocks away.
my sister at said Forum getting jostled by eager tourists
Did I mention how many people were milling about? Well, there were droves. Herds. Whole villages of them. And they were all tourists.
We were blessed enough to head to the tourist spots earlier than the rest of the crowd. Like the Trevi Fountain we passed by that morning. This was the same fountain we passed by later that day only to find tourists crowding into our personal space.
And we wondered why no one was around that fountain that morning. They must have been sleeping. Or they knew the fountain would be lighted in an unflattering way at 8 in the morning.
The Trevi with some glaring sunlight and contrasting shadows
This was also where I got my second helping of gelato. Because, you know, I wasn't full yet.
...and the rest of that tiny gelateria's selection
All mouthwatering. All creamy. All yummy.
Did I mention I normally don't like ice cream?
Those who often visit this blog know I cannot --- yes, cannot --- end this post without chronicling what I had for lunch in a tiny hidden Roman cafe that day.
I'd been craving this pasta dish since The Gustavian post a month back. But I'd just been looking for said dish in my area. Who would have thought I'd get the chance to fulfill my tortellini dreams in its cultural home?
Looking back at the trip, I can say God's been so wonderful to me and my family.
And now, it's homework time. I bid you all adieu. Or ciao if we want to say goodbye in Italian just to keep the context.
Daisy on 11/27/2007 08:19:00 PM
Disclaimer: This post is overflowing with photos. And also quite long.
With that said...
Hello from Amsterdam!
We stayed in this part of the Netherlands for about two days. It was colder than I was used to --- most of Europe is colder than I'm used to, in fact, since the temperatures back home are between 75-90°F --- but the views and everything else made up for it.
Pretty occasionally leaning houses line the canals.
I'm on a beautiful bridge.
How about looking under those bridges?
Some extremely observant readers may have noticed the abundance of bikes in most of these photos. If you haven't, you can scroll back up and look. See the bikes? Good. Well, the Netherlands is Bike Country --- I have a sinking feeling I should not have capitalized that term. --- which means there were more bikes than people once upon a time. I think the ratio of bikes to people is about one to one now, though.
The guide on our Amsterdam tour waxed poetic about these two-wheeled contraptions: exercise, frugality, decreasing the amount of poisonous car fumes in our atmosphere and saving the world. Among other things.
This is all pretty good but very demeaning for people who are as imbalanced as I am.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I do not know how to ride a bike. I can drive cars with automatic (and even manual) transmission, but I can't pedal a bike without falling for more than five seconds. Some people say this impaired my childhood antics but I think I found other crazy things to do back then.
This doesn't mean everyone pedaled around the city though. There were also buses and other modes of transportation.
other modes of transportation
So what else is synonymous with Dutch culture? Aside from those wooden clogs, of course.
My sister felt we just couldn't leave the Netherlands without seeing an antique windmill. And though we missed the tour we actually wanted, we did get to see one.
This puts the phrase tilting at windmills in a new perspective. The phrase is derived from Don Quixote's fictional attempt to fight a windmill with large sails that was so much bigger than him. What was he thinking?
Meanwhile, the Engineering part of me --- you know, the part that goes to school and studies equations and stuff --- was fascinated by this early attempt at harnessing wind for power.
We also headed for Amsterdam's Flower Market.
More bikes line said market.
The place was filled with everything you'd need to grow a garden: tools, plant seeds, and even garden decor.
And of course, a flower market has flowers in it.
And carnivorous plants.
My Dad got hungry so we headed for Chinatown. This involved cutting through the famous Red Light District.
The red stop sign seems to add a nice touch.
Passing all those drug shops, garish bar signs, and glass windows with scantily clad women staring back at me was sad. I mean, is this what brings people happiness these days? Real happiness? From people I know and stories I've heard, it just seems to cause a lot of trouble, and doesn't make anyone completely happy. Yet people keep coming back, and that's the saddest thing of all.
That place reminded me of how we often look for lasting joy in the wrong places, and fail to see the all-encompassing and completely accepting arms God has opened wide for us. Either way, I'm still praying people will find how wonderful God's love really is.
Dad, Mom, & Chinatown
I've always found it unusual how every country has a Chinatown. I mean, I know it's because the Chinese seem to be scattered all over the world, but it's funny how the Chinese seem to bring a part of China with them. Many of them never live that far apart; they make a whole town. Being a Chinese myself, parts of that place reminded me of home.
We started looking for restaurants and found the one above strange. They charge you on how fast you eat and not how much. This puts really quick eaters like me at an advantage; but have they heard the word indigestion before?
Daphy, Mom, and our Aunt Ping
We ended up with steaming plates of roast duck and pillowy beds of rice. It was just like the food I often had back home. And it was cheap.
That's the tip I can give frugal people heading for Europe: eating in Chinese restaurants is so much cheaper. Even if they charge you a few euros for cleaning the tablecloth.
This is getting pretty long and I have to go somewhere, so I'll be quick.
Here pigeon pigeon pigeon.
With full stomachs, we later communed with the pigeons. They were pretty cute with their glassy-eyed stares and lack of fear toward human beings. I imagine they have never been shot at in their lives.
I also saw one of the scariest rides ever.
It was disconcerting to watch people being rolled about in that manner. And so high up too. It looked so unstable.
In short, I watched them but didn't even try to get a ride.
So that's it for Amsterdam. The post was long so I thank anyone who happened to read this far. 'Til later, everyone!
Daisy on 11/18/2007 03:44:00 PM
We emerged from the depths of the train station in Belgium, specifically Brussels. The plan was to look around a bit and join a city tour before popping back into a train and heading somewhere else.
The weather was perfect: blue skies dotted with unusual cloud formations. I say unusual because I've noticed the types of clouds floating above Europe are totally different from the clouds I see back home.
No, it didn't rain.
With map in hand, we got lost on the way to our tour's meeting spot: the Grand Place. And boy, was it grand!
I couldn't believe I was surrounded by so much history. (OK, I know most people probably don't get excited about stuff like that, but I'm a history nerd. I read history books for fun as a kid, so sue me.) There seemed to be something worth seeing in every direction I happened to go.
And when in Belgium, who could forget the chocolate?
Practically every street had a chocolate shop. My family eventually succumbed to temptation and bought a few pieces to munch on. Considering I'm not a big chocolate fan, I found it pretty good.
We passed by a pretty cool Greek restaurant, and decided to fill our tummies with whatever they could cook up. They cooked up lots of meat.
The pasta, rice, and potatoes were especially good.
Beautiful chunks of animal flesh...
My sister's looking over my shoulder right now and yelling "It was so good! I can't believe how good it was!" repeatedly. And it was. I remember happily gorging myself on the meaty juices and whatnot that accompanied my medium-rare medallions.
Maybe I take such delight in this because good beef is hard to find back home.
I guess it is time to introduce you to my father's camera, dear Reader. And its tripod.
Let's take photos of a camera taking photos!
That tripod allowed us to have family photos without asking the strangers around us to take our shots. It was kind-of queer smiling at a camera wrapped around posts at first, but you get used to it.
After that meal, we went on the slightly disappointing city tour. I just didn't hear as many fun facts as I wanted though it wasn't the guide's fault. He was leading a multilingual tour and had to say everything in three different languages. This obviously takes quite a while.
Brussels had one tourist spot that bears mentioning. It was pretty amusing and almost bordered on strange.
Yes, droves of people come to watch this guy pee.
That's the Mannekin Pis, ladies and gentlemen. They say his urine killed the fuse on a bunch of enemy explosives during a war. Some also say he was an infant lord who peed on the enemy troops and increased the army's morale. Either way, this must be the reason car stickers featuring characters in similar poses have flourished.
And so our trip to Belgium came to an end.
It was beautiful, wasn't it?
We said our goodbyes as we headed for the Netherlands.
Daisy on 11/13/2007 05:53:00 PM
Sorry for the technical difficulties, guys. I actually intended the posts on Europe to come out daily. That is, until the wiring connecting my laptop to the internet and beyond went belly up last Sunday. I don't know exactly what happened; it's enough to say I got cut off from the internet world.
It's like what people say about the best laid plans. They often go awry.
At least my internet connection's back now. So, going on to Köln...
Here's one view.
And another view.
Köln was, like much of Europe, a bit of the old and new. The place was teeming with galleries and old architecture. There were a lot of people out and about; everyone looked pretty busy.
We couldn't check out everything since we didn't have the time. We did go to the Cathedral --- or the Dom to the Germans --- though.
HUGEEEEEEEEEEE. And yes, it was big enough to warrant all the Es in that last sentence.
The Dom was so dark and dramatic. Gargoyles and other strange stone creatures littered the cathedral's eaves. The cloudy day we chose to go see it also added to the effect. For the rest of my life, I'll picture the Dom when I hear the word Gothic.
My camera couldn't quite capture how intimidating it was. The stained glass windows were also pretty grand.
I think it's great how Europeans seem to appreciate art a lot. There are accordionists, violinists, mimes, and even artists on a lot of street corners. I even saw someone playing a special Chinese instrument once.
That quality is practically non-existent where I come from. I even heard of some company trying to bulldoze one of my country's big tourist sites for profit. That's just sad.
a guy drawing cool pictures in chalk outside the Dom
We eventually got hungry and stopped at a bakery.
Wonder what Merzenich is supposed to mean?
Those bread people looked like soldiers lined up for battle. I can just hear their war cry: "Death to those who would devour usssssss!" Not that I ate any of them; I needed something more filling than that.
Isn't the sandwich gorgeous?
It was a delicious sandwich. My sister's apple pie wasn't half-bad either, though we fed a lot of its fat crumbs to the fatter pigeons at our feet.
Someone else feeds the pigeons.
Tourists like us are probably one of the biggest reasons these pigeons can survive in large numbers.
We also did some shopping. I enjoyed going in the bookstores and attempting to decipher the German titles.
My sister and I also found some cute furry slippers.
More like feathery slippers, actually.
We didn't buy them though. Because if we did, our dog (Reese) would attack them. Then he'd munch on them and get all those threads stuck in his throat. Then he'd choke. To death.
In short, we didn't buy those slippers so our dog wouldn't die horribly.
And that's about it on Köln. I'll post on the other places soon!
Daisy on 11/07/2007 09:18:00 PM