Tuesday, June 15, 2010


It takes 2 hours to get from London to Brussels.  One to Paris.  If you can get over the fact that you are travelling at high speed beneath the English Channel, the Eurostar train is a great, easy and fast way to access Continental Europe.

It was actually a surprise holiday that Neil took me on, and I didn't find out where we were going until the day before.  This prevented any planning, which was actually a great way to go for the weekend.  We spent it walking around (although not necessarily knowing what we were looking at), enjoying the sun, enjoying each other, beer, food and football (ahem, soccer).  (GO USA!)

Here are some photos of a wonderful weekend in the Belgian sun.  I'll spare you the history lesson.

Manneken Pis: Has been a fixture in Brussels since 1618 or 1619.  They like to dress him in costumes.  Last time I was there I believe it was a devil of sorts.  Now a waiter.

This bar serves over 2,000 types of beer.  A few of the samplings: strawberry, cherry, banana, apple

Enjoying some apple juice, I mean beer.

I've heard of a handle bar mustache, but perhaps not a beer stein handle bar mustache.

The main square.

Sustenance for the football (ahem, soccer) game.

Belgian booty.  Beer and chocolate, chocolate and beer.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Day Tripping

England is a pretty small country.  About the size of Michigan, in fact.  And so while it doesn't make it so great being crammed in here with 60 million other people, it does make taking day trips to some beautiful and historic places very possible.

So possible, in fact, that a friend and I headed to Cambridge for the day.

A few fun facts:

-Last year in 2009 Cambridge celebrated it's 800th year as a University.  One of the oldest olleges is Clare College, named after a woman who had been disallowed from attending the university as she was a "lady of disrepute".  A few rich (and dead) husbands later, she made a large donation.  I guess money has been speaking for a very long time.

-The following is the site of the first bridge over the River Cam.  Hence: CamBridge

-It is illegal for anyone except for the Queen (and a few select members of King's College at Cambridge) to eat swan meat, for the commoners the offence is tantamount to treason.  They are all by default property of the Queen.  How often she eats them I'm not sure (and what if she wanted to share a meal?  They are pretty big...)  

- Prince Charles attended Cambridge.  King's College to be specific (fitting, no?).  One of the national newspapers reported on his bodyguard, who, having sat through all of the lectures, also sat the final exam.  He scored better than the future King.  It's not what you know, people, it's who you know.

-Punting.  A fancy word whose etymology I don't know (and am too lazy to look up) but assume is just "boating" because Cambridge likes to think they're smarter than everyone else.  So yes, punting is a fancy word for boating on the River Cam.  The boats are all 23' long with 4 rows of seats, made of wood and have a flat bottom.  They were designed specifically for the river as it is very shallow and traditional boats wouldn't pass through it.  They are maneuvered down the river gondola-style, but instead of paddling they push the long stick along the stony bottom.  Most rivers had muddy bottoms.  The Cam, however, was filled with stones by enterprising merchants who refused to pay travel taxes to the University for travelling on their land.  As the river is shallow and public domain, that is where they chose to travel.

-Here are just a few more photos of the various bridges, colleges and greenery.

                                           The Bridge of Sighs. 

                                                     Henry VIII. 

Really beautiful until you realise those gray things in the back are graves.

   My friend Sarah and I as we enjoyed a cloudy day on the river Cam.

-How quintessentially English is this guy?!  He looks like he is straight out of a movie.  I know no real English people that dress like this.  But I do give him a lot of style points!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Little Things

It's the little things in life.

 Like screens on windows.  Or knowing which way to look when crossing the street.  (And the existence of stop signs.  And the innate knowledge that the oncoming car WILL stop for you).  Not to mention easy access to macaroni and cheese.

The little things.  That really do make life easy.  That make it routine.  Comfortable.

That resolutely do not exist in the UK.

Okay, I get that mac and cheese isn't a gourmet delicacy spread to new worlds with great pomp and circumstance.  I understand that Britain had roads, and things driving on them, whether motorised or not, long before the US was even a country.  I give in and I give up on those.  (And with spelling.  See above "motorised".  And with word choice.  I can only take asking for a "roundtrip" bus ticket so many times only to be reprimanded with "it's return ticket here miss")

But seriously.  No window screens?  It begs a simple question -- WHY?  Do you like flies and spiders and centipedes and all likes of creepy crawlies having unabated access to your homes?  Do you prefer that it makes it that much easier for someone to rob you blind should you forget to close a window?  And people, the windows are open.  It's summer.  Air conditioning is about as prevalent as window screens and I have one word for you - humidity.

But cheers to a sunny day in the UK.  But I do ask, politely, but yet again, for the men to put their shirts back on.  And for the women to do the same.