Thursday, December 03, 2009

Shanghai: Part 1

Shortly before we left the Netherlands during the summer, Roxi submitted papers to several conferences in China figuring she had nothing to lose. Over the next couple of months, she received word that two were accepted as papers and the third was accepted as a poster. In the midst of our move to Memphis in September, we suddenly had the added task of planning a trip to China!

The conferences were each about a month apart and each in different cities in China: Shanghai, Beijing and Chengdu. Roxi made the decision to attend the conference in Shanghai as it was a high honor for her non-engineering paper to be accepted at an IEEE conference. In the beginning, it seemed to it might be too expensive for both of us to go, so Roxi's mother volunteered to accompany Roxi so she would not have to make such a long trip alone. During the planning, her mother backed out due to Roxi's grandmother's condition and we realized that we could both afford to make the trip. So we set about to apply for Chinese visas and made our travel arrangements.

Eleven days before Thanksgiving, Roxi and I left our apartment at 4:30 AM to begin our long trip to Shanghai. After a short flight from Memphis to Chicago, we set about on the long portion of travel: the fifteen hour flight to China. The flight was not nearly as bad as we expected it to be especially thanks to the last minute upgrade to Economy Plus seating. The extra few inches of leg room really makes for a much more enjoyable travel experience.

We arrived in Shanghai right on schedule and proceeded to clear customs and change some money for cab fair to our hotel. Immediately we could tell that China would be very different than the months that we spent in Europe. The most striking difference was the language barrier. Neither of us could speak much Dutch during our time in the Netherlands, but at least they use the same alphabet and we slowly picked up meanings of words over time. Chinese is completely and utterly foreign and unlike Europe, there are not a lot of English speakers. Thankfully we were able to find a free map in the airport that listed our hotel in English and Chinese that we showed the taxi driver. Over the course of our time in Shanghai, we found that pointing at pictures or bilingual maps was the best method for communication.

During the forty minute cab ride to our hotel, we were amazed at two things: the unbelievable amount of smog and the aggressiveness of Chinese drivers. At several points of our ride, I was astonished at how close our taxi got to other cars without hitting them! When we arrived at our hotel, I did the quick conversion in my head and realized how cheap cab fare was for such a long trip. Again over the course of our time in Shanghai, we really got a sense for the difference in the cost of living, even in such a large metropolitan city.

We settled into our spacious room and decided to each get cleaned up for the first time since we left Memphis early Monday morning. Although it was early in the evening, we were both very exhausted from our travels. We decided to order some room service and go to sleep. The only problem with the plan was that after several hours sleep, we were both up and fully awake by 2:00 AM on Wednesday morning. In the course of our week in China, our sleep schedule rarely deviated from what we did the first day there, but it was probably for the best for our reacclimation when we returned to the States.

The very smoggy view of Shanghai from our hotel room.

We spent a lot of time during our first few days in Shanghai simply relaxing from our hectic schedule leading up to the trip and our long travel to get to China. Our hotel offered three restaurants which we sampled during our first few days. Of course we had to try some uniquely Shanghainese dishes including black fungus and donkey!

Tofu and black fungus in sauce.

Sliced donkey...surprisingly delicious!

Coming soon in Part 2: Roxi and I leave the hotel to see the Old City and many of Shanghai's museums!

What a Month!

It's been thirty days since my last post and forty since I vowed to blog more often. Unfortunately life got in the way since the beginning of November. In the middle of October, Roxi's grandmother Nina was diagnosed with terminal bone cancer which prompted us to take a spur-of-the-moment flight to Lafayette to visit her over Halloween weekend. It was a good trip and although she was tired and in some pain, she seemed to be in good spirits.

Upon returning to Memphis, I continued doing odd jobs while looking for a full-time position and Roxi stayed very busy with her work at the university. By the end of the week, we received the sad news that Nina had passed away. We spent the next week mourning and preparing for another trip to Lafayette for Nina's memorial service. To complicate things, two days after the memorial, we had plans for a trip to Shanghai where Roxi was scheduled to present a paper at an academic conference. Needless to say we had an emotionally and physically exhausting weekend in Lafayette and a mere twelve hours back in Memphis before a twenty-hour trip to Asia.

After spending a week in Shanghai (more on that later), we took the grueling time-zone discombobulating trip home to Memphis in time for Thanksgiving. We spent a day trying to get re-acclimated to Central Time but that didn't work out so well. We managed to wake up early enough to go to a Thanksgiving buffet with our friends Amelia and Susana, international students in Roxi's lab who have been visiting from Spain and Chile respectively. That night I watched the Aggies play a very inspired game against arch-rival Texas only to fall short in the end. Roxi and I spent the rest of the week trying to get back to normal, but we're honestly still a little out of whack from all of the traveling.

Now I'm simply amazed that it is already December and 2010 is just around the corner! Where, oh where does the time go?!?

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Pandora, Youth and Music Enjoyment

Roxi downloaded Pandora on her iPhone a while back but I had never heard her use it until the other night. For those that are unfamiliar, Pandora is an amazing internet radio website. There aren't really stations per se but as you listen, it creates customized playlists on the fly based on your feedback (thumbs-up or thumbs-down) on the song currently playing. Anyway, Roxi has been using it quite a bit on her phone and this afternoon I started feeling very nostalgic and melancholy while it played in the background. My life has always been defined by music. Good and bad memories and feelings are unconsciously triggered by single familiar notes. In an instant, I'm somewhere in my life re-experiencing the sights, sounds, smells and emotions of those times that shaped who I am for whatever reason. Today was different though. Instead of a particular song, I realized that these feelings were due to the sound quality of the music coming from the iPhone's mono speaker. It took me back to my childhood listing to a very cheap radio waiting for a great song to play so that I could tape it for repeated listenings. That little me would be amazed with the almost 700 hours of digital audio on my computer yet I'm amazed that I find myself appreciating the poor quality sound coming from that mono iPhone speaker more than I've enjoyed music in quite a while.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The more I Twitter...

...the less I blog. Does that make me lazy? It used to be that I was very gung ho about writing up various experiences in my life on this blog; posting pictures of activities and feeling like I was really keeping a journal of my life. Now, I try to write a pithy statement of 140 characters or less several times a day...but even that has been lacking lately. I think I am going to make a resolution to get back to writing more on this blog. That's not to say I will be quitting Twitter, only that I will probably write less about daily occurrences and observations here and really just write to stay sharp. I think I'll take the advice of Roxi's freewriting project and just run with it. After all, the more you write, the better you become at writing.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Cookie-Cutter Romantic Comedies

I was just rating a recently rented movie on Netflix and after I was finished, it gave me visual list for DVD covers of movies that I supposedly might like based on that rating (it was rating "The Hammer" starring Adam Carolla by the way...I gave it three stars). Two DVD covers positioned right next to each other instantly encapsulated just how cookie-cutter romantic comedies have become, specifically those starring Matthew McConaughey. Behold the creativity of Hollywood marketing:

I can just imagine the design meeting now. "Make sure that Matthew McConaughey is leaning with his back to [insert "comic" actress here] and his hands are in his pockets." I suppose that this really is the ultimate truth in advertising since they are trying to get you to see the exact same movie again. I have a feeling that if someone showed me the first half of "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days" and then switched the DVD without me knowing and showed me the second half of "Failure to Launch" I wouldn't even notice.

Monday, September 28, 2009

A Day in the Park

I've been a little delinquent in posting lately, but it's mostly been due to Roxi and I being very busy getting settled into our new place in Memphis. Our POD arrived a little over a week ago and although we were able to unload almost everything in about four hours, unpacking the boxes and finding places for everything took (and is still taking!) a lot longer.

Our first look in the POD after eight months in storage.

What is all this crap and why did we put it in storage?!?

Half of the POD was unloaded in about 45 minutes!

Only a few hours after the POD arrived, it was almost completely empty...then the unpacking fun started!

We've spent most our evenings over the past week unpacking box after box of stuff. I was happy to let go of a lot of useless things that I have been moving around with for the past few years. We have a nice apartment in a great location, but it's a little smaller than we were planning on so it is really forcing us to be selective in what we keep...and I love it! I've been looking for an excuse to jettison some of my things for many years, I just needed a push to get me started.

After spending most of this past Saturday unpacking the last of our boxes, we spent much of Sunday relaxing. It was a beautiful day in Memphis yesterday so we took the short walk to Overton Park to explore.

The Levitt Shell where Elvis Presley played his first paying gig.

The Brooks Museum

It seems to be a nice park and I plan to walk some of the nature trails as the weather continues to cool this fall. All in all, things are working out nicely for us so far in Memphis. We couldn't be happier about the part of town we're in and Roxi can't stop telling me how much she loves her job. We love Memphis!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


Roxi and I made our trip up from Lafayette last Thursday and now we are settling into life in Memphis. We live in a really cool part of Midtown within walking distance of several bars and restaurants. We grew so accustomed to walking everywhere in the Enschede, it's nice be be able to carry on in that tradition and never have to worry about parking or drinking too much to drive! Our storage POD is moving a little slower and is scheduled to arrive on Friday. Thankfully, Roxi's parents loaned us their air mattress and between the two of us, we have enough clothes to get by until everything else arrives later this week. All-in-all, it's been a pretty smooth transition. Roxi has started work this week leaving me to concentrate on errands around the new place and getting a job of my own. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Memphis Bound

A few weeks ago, Roxi received word that she was being offered a post-doctoral research position at the University of Memphis. At the time, we really weren't sure what we were going to do with ourselves as we were essentially homeless after our return from the Netherlands. We had been staying with Roxi's parents for a couple of weeks and we were thinking that we might try to find a place to live in Lafayette and sort of return to our pre-Holland lives.

Since receiving the invitation, life has moved very quickly. We originally thought that if Roxi was offered the position, she would not be starting until sometime in late October/early November. We soon learned that she would actually be starting in mid-September. Our transition time was suddenly shortened by months and we began to move quickly. So quickly, that I don't have time to keep up with my blog! It's been a couple weekends now, so I feel like I should write about our trip to Memphis before we actually move there tomorrow!

Roxi's employer invited us to travel to Memphis a couple weekends ago so that she could meet her new colleagues and so that we could scout out the city for a place to live. We started our journey early on a Saturday morning making the seven hour drive from Lafayette to Memphis. After making a few stops, we arrived at around five o'clock in the afternoon and headed to historic Beale Street. Although Roxi had never visited before, I had a fuzzy memory of the city from a trip I made about fifteen years ago. It was mostly as I remembered it, but much better now that I am of age to partake in the nightlife.

After seven hours in the car, Tennessee welcomed us.

You know you're in Memphis when...

After surveying the length of Beale street, we chose to have some beers and a burger at Alfred's. We couldn't have chosen a better place to experience Elvis nostalgia! We saw a great Elvis impersonator, complete with sequined jumpsuit, put on a wonderful show of the King's hits. After that we walked the street for a little while and witnessed what might be the best one-man band that I've ever seen. We ended the night with a few drinks at the Flying Saucer, one of my favorite bars from my time in Nashville that I was glad to see in Memphis.

Beale Street: A shorter, wider and cleaner version of Bourbon Street.

The King.

Richard Johnston: The best one man band I've ever heard.

Richard Johnston operates the bass drum with his right foot and a snare, tom and hi-hat with his left foot.

Richard Johnston's homemade guitar/bass with a low E bass string and B and high E guitar strings so that he can play them simultaneously.

We started Sunday with a visit to a local church before spending the afternoon with a realtor teaching us about the different neighborhoods of Memphis. We didn't get to see inside many properties on Sunday, but we certainly learned the layout of the city. Roxi went to some work meetings on Monday before we picked up where we had left off with the realtor on Sunday. We got to see inside a number of rental properties and settled on two: one was a little far from campus but in the midst of downtown life while the other was a great house not too far from campus but very far from any downtown activity.

After Roxi had another work meeting on Tuesday, we continued our housing search on our own with a tour of a very nice apartment complex and then a drive around neighborhoods close to campus looking for rental properties. While we were waiting to hear back from the realtor handling our two favorite properties from Monday, we stumbled upon a decent place very near campus. When we met with the realtor handling that property, she took us to another that turned out to be the place we chose. It is centrally located to both campus and downtown plus it's in a cool neighborhood!

Roxi's really excited about her new job and we're both looking forward to life in Memphis. Now we just need to make the drive back up there tomorrow and unload our POD when it arrives late next week. After we do that and I find myself a job, we'll be all set!

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Impressions of the Netherlands

Roxi and I have been back from Europe for a month now and as our time in the Netherlands fades into memory, and we embark on our next adventure, I wanted to finish the blog post that I started in my mind shortly after our arrival overseas. In all honesty, I've been physically writing this post for more than two weeks and I really probably should have broken it up into multiple entries, but this felt like the best way to wrap-up our Dutch experience (except for the videos I'm still in the process of editing). We've been working very hard on our move to Memphis, TN and as a result, my blogging has really suffered. I really urge all readers to follow me on Twitter as I'm finding it much easier to micro-blog than sit down and write a full post at this particular time in my life. Anyway, without further ado, my impressions of Holland are:

1. The cost of living is really high in Europe even in a small city like Enschede. Say what you will about the value of the US dollar, but you can buy a whole lot more with it in the States than you can buy with a euro in the Netherlands. It doesn't completely translate to all EU countries because things in Paris seemed to be cheaper than things in Holland, but then again things in Dublin were even more expensive!

2. It took us a while to find affordable bikes (see #1) but once we did, I loved having them. Bicycles are the principle form of transportation for a lot of people in the Netherlands so the roads and trains have been designed to accommodate them. The bike lanes are extremely well designed, maintained and span most city streets. The only problem is that motorcycles are also allowed to use the lanes which to me defeats the entire purpose of having a separate path. It was very stressful to be riding along on your bike, minding your own business, when a motorcycle or scooter would roll up behind you and expect you to immediately get out of the way. Any form of transportation that requires a license plate should not be allowed to use paths specifically made for un-licensed bicycles!

3. The best place to visit in Europe for an American who only speaks one language has got to be the Netherlands. Everyone there speaks English so well that we abandoned our plans to learn Dutch due to a loss of motivation. I have to hand it to the Dutch, and a lot of Europeans for that matter. Despite what they might think of their English language skills, most speak our language more fluently than I will ever be able to speak any of theirs.

4. Dutch food is bland. Being from Cajun country probably stacks a lot of things against Holland right away, but in all honesty, I don't like really particularly spicy food. However, Dutch food is so bland, I used more Tony Chachere's and Slap Ya Mama in the seven months we were there than I've used over all the other years of my life combined.

5. For the most part, I liked not having a car. I was actually surprised by how many cars there were in Holland. Rail and bus travel is pretty convenient but not as efficient as having a car, especially in such a small country. I would like to think that rail travel would be possible in the US some day but only if they managed to run trains on schedule like the they do in the Netherlands.

6. I've always loved French Fries very much, especially with an enormous amount of Heinz ketchup. The fries in the Netherlands and around Europe are fantastic! However, in Holland, they eat them with mayonnaise. I don't even like putting mayo on my sandwiches let alone dipping fries in them. Ketchup was available but you usually have to pay for it and you hardly get any for the price. Then again, there's also curry sauce which is surprisingly good on a fresh batch of French fries.

7. The Dutch are very helpful people, but most of the ones that we met didn't seem as interested in become friends with foreigners. We were at an international school and we found that most of our friends were people from other countries. It seemed that the Dutch preferred to mostly be friends with other Dutch people. There are of course exceptions, but we really only had a few Dutch friends.

8. The Dutch have a much different idea of personal space than Americans. I didn't become fluent in Dutch but I was familiar with enough to know that when people ran into me at the market, they never said anything to apologize or excuse themselves. Not only that but I found that people waited too close to me in line and I was usually being stared at on the bus or train. I know there are cultural differences, but it's really hard to handle when someone tries to walk through you in a crowd.

9. Behold the power of cheese! I never knew that Dutch cheese would be so good when I found out that we would be traveling there. Not only do they have great cheese, but I learned that Gouda comes from the city of the same name! And it doesn't stop there. Some of our favorites from the cheese shops at the market were the pesto, walnut and tomato-basil cheeses. Worse yet, despite the higher cost of living (see #1) fine cheese was much cheaper in Holland than you can find it here in the States. I will miss the abundant cheese very much.

I'm sure I'm forgetting something, but those are the main things that come to mind as I've brainstormed this post. If I think of anything else, I'll certainly amend this blog, but honestly, I will probably be too busy with our impending move to Memphis to add anything anytime soon. All in all, I had a good time in Holland, although I am very happy to be back in the United States. I wouldn't trade the experience for anything, but I think the most important thing I learned is that I am an American boy through and through!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Grand Isle

Roxi and I spent the weekend in Grand Isle, LA for a large birthday party for a good friend of ours. We were only planning to stay through Sunday night but were having so much fun, we had to stay an extra night. We spent Friday night hanging out with our friend Ryan at his parents' camp (what we Louisianians call a weekend getaway such as a beach house or hunting lodge). It was a really nice place that they just finished building in January.

"The Mellu 2": Ryan's parents' camp on Grand Isle.

View from camp

Hanging at the camp with Captain Ryan.

On Saturday, after a little rain in the afternoon, we hit the beach with some new arrivals to go crabing. We had a lot of fun out in the surf but it must have been mating season because at least half the crabs were pregnant females which have to be released. In the end, we collectively caught a couple of dozen crabs. That alone would not have been enough to feed all the party guests, thankfully food was in no short supply for the whole weekend as we had some amazing cooks who seemed to revel in making massive quantities of delicious stuff!

Preparing the crab traps and drop lines.

Emily and Roxi taking the drop lines into the surf.

Not a bad catch!

Crab boil!

We stayed up pretty late Saturday drinking beer, hanging out and even playing a little guitar, something I haven't done since we went to the Netherlands. It was nice to place again especially with some old friends. We got up Sunday thinking that we would be heading home later that afternoon so we took a drive around the island just to show our friend Charles around. Back at the camp, our new friend John was planning on moving his boat from one side of the island to the other and offered to give us a ride. So we took a really pleasant boat trip from the east side of the island over to Caminada Pass on the west side where we hung out on a beach for a little while before getting dropped off at the marina.

Taking the boat out of the marina on the east side of Grand Isle.

Fifi Island on the north side of Grand Isle.

Love forever!

Hanging out on a beach in Caminada Pass.

Sunset at Bridge Side Marina on the west side of Grand Isle.

While we were on the boat, Roxi and I decided that we should probably stay one more night because we were having such a great time and we didn't have any jobs to get back to...

Back at the camp and Roxi decided to check her email. To her surprise, she received a message informing her that she had been chosen for a post-doc at the University of Memphis! We were so excited it was as if we were meant to stay to celebrate the news! After a few drinks and another fantastic dinner, John took Roxi, Charles and I to a dock on the east side of the island for some night fishing. We had a lot of fun and caught several catfish but threw them back as none of us really wanted to clean them.

A good catch!

Another good one!

Charles caught some fish too, but we didn't get chance to get a photo.

Back at the camp, we cleaned up and had a few more drinks before calling it a night. Monday we got up really early and made the drive back to Lafayette.

We had a great time and really got a nice big dose of Louisiana this weekend. It really served as a good welcome home from Europe and in a way it will become the beginning of our goodbye to Louisiana. Roxi talked to her post-doc adviser today and it looks like we will be moving to Memphis in September. We're planning a trip there late next week to scout out the city and see if we can find me a job and a place for us to live. I'm so proud of Roxi's accomplishments up to this point and am so glad she has gotten this opportunity to do something she is really interested in. More exciting times are in our future!

Saturday, August 08, 2009

A Non-Musical Hek-Atomic Cherries Reunion

Last night I had the opportunity to reconnect with both Steve and Charles, my best friends from high school and band mates in the Hek-Atomic Cherries. We weren't playing one of our sporadic reunion shows last night, but we did get have dinner together for the first time in more than a year. It was a great time of silliness, watermelon smashing and Facebook fan page updating. Here's to hoping we can do it again before another year goes by.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Back in the USA

Roxi, her cat Jupiter and I spent the past two days traveling back to the United States and as of last night we are back! We ended a hectic two weeks of hosting visitors and traveling back and forth across the Netherlands with one final train trip from Enschede to Dusseldorf on Sunday and two flights on Monday. Our trip to Dusseldorf was no problem and Jupiter was extremely well behaved although not exactly excited to spend four hours in her cat carrier. Little did she know that it was only the beginning! Roxi and I enjoyed a leisurely dinner at our hotel in Dusseldorf on Sunday night while Jupiter recovered from her trip by hiding under the bed. After that we were all pretty tired so we went to bed to prepare ourselves for the coming long day.

On Sunday we arrived very early at the airport knowing that it would take a little extra time to buy Jupiter's plane ticket. Thankfully we had allowed for a lot of extra time because we learned upon check-in that not one, but two of our four bags to be checked were over the weight limit. (I'm not sure how we ended up with so much stuff in only seven months in Europe!) Rather than pay an exorbitant 400 euros in over-sized luggage fees, Roxi and the check-in agent convinced me to let Roxi go to a luggage store in the airport and buy an extra bag to spread out our luggage weight. She found a large, cheap and sturdy duffel bag that we were able to use to get all of our checked luggage under the individual weight limits and save hundreds of euros. We still had to pay for the extra checked bag, but it could have been so much more expensive.

After that, we really didn't have too much time to go through passport control and security, which always takes a little longer with a cat. Before we knew it, we were boarding our flight bound for Chicago. For most of our time in the airport, Roxi had kept one of the pet carrier's windows open so that Jupiter could stick her head out to look around and survey the overwhelming situation. There were no problems until Jupiter got on the plane when she decided to make a break for it! Catching her was not as easy as her last escape on our trip over to Europe, but after chasing her up and down aisles and under rows of seats, we cornered her at one of the bulkheads and got her back into her carrier. My brother Garrett will have to make us a new movie poster as a sequel to the "Cats on a Plane" parody he made in January.

Jupiter was very well behaved for the remainder of our trip, but Roxi and I both felt so terrible for her since she was obviously not happy. But Jupiter is a trooper and she sat quietly during the nine hours of our flight to Chicago. Upon arrival in Chicago, we had to go through the usual immigration and customs. At the immigration desk, the border agent was even nice enough to stamp Jupiter's pet passport! Next we picked up our bags to take through customs but found out that we had to make a visit to the CDC desk so that they could clear Jupiter through customs. This was the part that I had been dreading. I had of course done my homework and had taken care of getting all of her immigration paperwork filled out by the vet in Hengelo, but I was worried that there might be something that I had missed that would result in Jupiter being quarantined or worse. Of course, things were much easier than that. I was prepared to give the documentation to the CDC officer but she told me she didn't needed it and simply entered a brief note in a logbook and stamped our customs form. I only hope that they would have used more scrutiny if we were not American citizens, otherwise what's the point of even having importation restrictions?

We rechecked our bags after customs and set out to find our gate for the final flight to Houston. We had just enough time during our layover to clear immigration and customs and make it to our next gate with about twenty minutes to spare. It really couldn't have worked out better after our long flight to Chicago. We boarded the flight and Jupiter continued to behave well but she was starting to get restless. I couldn't blame her after the more than fifteen hours she had already spent in the cat carrier. I can only imagine that she was probably thinking that she would spend the rest of her life in that carrier!

We arrived right on time in Houston where my parents were waiting for us. Of course not everything can go just right; two of our five bags didn't make it back from Chicago, but we were promised that we should have them some time this morning. No problem though. We were just glad to be done with the day of traveling and ready to let Jupiter out of the carrier back at my parents' apartment. We thought she might spend several hours hiding under the bed, but she happily got out and explored the apartment. Unfortunately for her, she has another four hour stay in the carrier scheduled for today when we drive back to Lafayette, but after everything she's already been through, it should be nothing for her!

After relaxing for a little while and getting cleaned up, my parents took Roxi and I out for some margaritas and Tex-Mex food. Although they do have it in the Netherlands, it doesn't really compare to the way they do it here. The first thing that Roxi and I noticed was that we were all given large unsolicited glasses of ice water...two things that you don't get in Europe. In fact, getting tap water almost always takes persistence and "ice water" usually only consists of two or three cubes. Next came the complimentary bountiful baskets of chips and cups of salsa, something else that would come in a smaller quantity and larger cost overseas. Dinner was great and helped me take care of the Tex-Mex craving I've been having. I've realized that the biggest pitfall I will have to try to avoid here in the States is to not let myself overindulge in my various American cravings!

I enjoyed our time in the Netherlands and Europe and it taught me quite about myself. I will miss our home for the past seven months, but right now, I am glad to be back in the USA. In the coming days, I will reflect on our time there but I will always have very fond memories of Enschede and the Netherlands.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Scheveningen & Rotterdam

For the final day of Roxi's conference in Rotterdam, she was scheduled to present her research before the conference adjourned shortly after noon. Since it has warmed up in the Netherlands, I've been wanting to make a trip to one of the many beaches on the North Sea. Roxi wasn't as interested so I decided to use our last morning in Rotterdam to make the short train ride to The Hague and visit the most famous beach in Holland.

We awoke to what looked like a pretty nice day in Rotterdam, but we have learned from our time here that the weather really can change quickly. During the forty or so minutes of our breakfast, clouds rolled in and it started to rain. The heavy rains started falling just as we began our walk to the city. We parted ways after crossing the Maas River, Roxi continuing on to the conference while I hurried to catch a train to The Hague. I arrived in time for a train but the ticket machines were not it the usual place at the Rotterdan Blaak station, so in the time it took me to locate them, my train left. Fortunately, the next train was only about thirty minutes later, so my wait wasn't long.

As another illustration of the quickly changing weather in Holland, by the time my train left the underground station, the sun was shining brightly. In fact, in the entire thirty minute train ride to The Hague, there was barely a cloud in the sky. I arrived at Den Haag Centraal at about 11:30 AM and immediately caught a tram heading for Scheveningen, the famous seaside district of the city. I was determined to get back to Rotterdam shortly after the conference ended so, I set a time limit for myself to admire the beach. I took a short walk along the shore before retracing my steps back to Rotterdam. I'm very glad that I made the quick trip so that I could have the experience of seeing a Dutch beach.

Scheveningen Beach and the North Sea

Scheveningen Beach

Scheveningen Pier


My trip back to Rotterdam was uneventful and I was able to rendezvous with Roxi at the restaurant in the Golden Tulip Hotel. We decided to have lunch before starting our return journey to Enschede. Always one to try local cuisine, I ordered the kapsalon which was listed as a traditional Rotterdam dish. The description made it sound like a big sandwich so I was very surprised to see a large scoop filled with fries, chicken, lettuce and cucumbers covered with melted cheese!

Kapsalon: Rotterdam's version of the KFC Famous Bowl.

After lunch, we walked back to Cherrycake & Chocolate for the last time and had a wonderful afternoon tea with the owner. After being suitable stuffed with kapsalon and cake, we gathered up our things and made the short walk back to the train station. On our way we had time get some pictures of one more architectural marvel before leaving Rotterdam: Kubuswonig (Cubic Houses).

Kubuswonig (Cubic Houses)

Kubuswonig (Cubic Houses)

Kubuswonig (Cubic Houses)

Kubuswonig (Cubic Houses)

Good News For Futurama

Only a few hours after my last post comes news that the entire original cast has signed to star in all 26 of the new episodes of Futurama. One of these stories is not accurate so for the sake of Futurama fans, let's hope it is the previous one and not this one.


We've been very busy over the past two weeks! Between Roxi's colleague Sergio visiting from Italy last week and us spending several days in Rotterdam and Amsterdam so that Roxi can make some presentations of her research, there has been very little free time. During our non-travel days in between all of these things, we've been packing up our apartment for our move back to the United States. Things have been going very well, but needless to say, it hasn't left a lot of spare time for blogging. Right now we are in Amsterdam for the Cognitive Science Conference but Roxi's not feeling well and I could honestly use a night off of doing much else. I thought that now might be the perfect time to catch up on blogging about our travels.

Last Sunday afternoon, we took the train from Enschede to Rotterdam which was just about a three trip. Roxi had done the hotel research several weeks prior to our trip and picked out a bed and breakfast a little south of the city center on the Noordereiland (North Island) in the Maas River. Our walk from the train station was pretty easy and Cherrycake & Chocolate turned out be a beautiful bed and breakfast with a wonderful river view.

The view from one of our windows in the English Room at Cherrycake & Chocolate.

After getting some suggestions from the owners, Roxi and I walked to the south bank of the Maas and then followed the signs to the Hotel New York, the one-time headquarters of the Holland-America shipping line that took Dutch emigrants to New York City. Along the way, we admired the modern architecture of the city including the famous Erasmusbrug (Erasmus Bridge). After dinner at the hotel restaurant, we took a leisurely stroll back to the bed and breakfast where we could get some rest before a long day on Monday.

KPN Telecom Building

Erasmbrug (Erasmus Bridge) from the south.

Erasmbrug (Erasmus Bridge) from the west.

Hotel New York (Holland-Amerika Lijn Building)

Hotel New York (Holland-Amerika Lijn Building)

Erasmbrug (Erasmus Bridge) from the west.

Monday was a full day of conference proceedings for Roxi so after a light breakfast, we made the walk to the Golden Tulip Hotel for the Society for Text & Discourse conference. While Roxi attended early morning talks, I walked to the park a few blocks away and slowly made my way back to the hotel to meet Roxi for lunch.

Golden Tulip Hotel

Montevideo Building dwarfing the Hotel New York.

Erasmusbrug (Erasmus Bridge) from the west on the north side of the Maas River.

Roxi and I met for a nice lunch at an outdoor cafe on the banks of the river. The skies were clear and the day was warm so it was a very pleasant time to be outside. After lunch, Roxi returned to the afternoon portion of the conference while I walked to the Euromast to get a birds-eye view of the city.



Later that afternoon, Roxi and I met back at the conference for the final talk of the day followed by an evening dinner cruise on the China Boat. The Netherlands has quite a bit of Chinese and Indonesian food in its cuisine because of their colonial history in southeast Asia. The China Boat took us all around the harbors of Rotterdam for three hours while we enjoyed a Chinese buffet. We ended our night after the dinner cruise as Roxi was scheduled to present her research early the next morning.