Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Rainy Day and Closed Museums

We woke up very early on Monday March 23 for the first day of Roxi's conference. We went to the spa for some time in the sauna, whirlpool and pool. It was a very refreshing way to start the day! Later we ate a few snacks that we had purchased the day before to save a little money on breakfast. And then we were on our way to Trinity College. It was a cold and dreary day in Dublin. I walked Roxi to her building and then made my way to the Dublin Tourism Office to pick up my Dublin Pass, a pre-paid card that would allow me into many tourist attractions in the city. When I picked up my pass, I was told that some of the museums are closed on Mondays so it might be a good idea to use it another day.

I decided I'd spring for the 15 Euro hop-on hop-off bus tour of the city. That way I could see where things were located and plan out my Dublin Pass day. The pass included a little book that listed all of the attractions with included admission as well as other discounts I could get with the pass. While I rode the bus around it's hour and a half loop, I dogeared pages with attractions of interest. In the end, it turned out a fair number of attractions I wanted to see, although not museums, fell under the "closed on Mondays" umbrella. But at least I still got to map out locations of places I would hit on Tuesday!

I rode the double-decked tour bus around for one complete loop, sitting on the mostly open top level in what started as a misty drizzle. By the end of the ride it was a hard drizzle but I was mostly protected by the partial covering I was sitting under. By the time I finished my trip and was making my way back to Trinity College to meet Roxi for lunch, I was walking in a very windy downpour. It was not exactly pleasant but I made it to Roxi's building without getting too wet thanks to a travel umbrella I had packed for our trip.

When Roxi got out of the morning lecture session, the rain had thankfully stopped and we decided to make the walk to O'Neill's Pub for lunch. It was a regular pub with a sort of short cafeteria style line where you choose your main course and sides. I ordered the corned beef with lots of sides while Roxi chose the Guinness stew also with lots of sides thrown in. The portions were gigantic and they made for quite a lunch!

Corned Beef with Parsnips, Carrots and Peas

Guinness Stew with Cabbage, Mashed and Roasted Potatoes

After the filling lunch, I walked Roxi back to her building on campus and decided to visit some attractions that were not covered by the Dublin Pass. I started with the Trinity College Library exhibition of the Book of Kells, a ninth century illuminated Latin manuscript of the four Gospels of the Bible. The exhibit also included a few other illuminated manuscripts of various ages, but the oldest and most ornate by far was the Book of Kells. After that exhibit, I was allowed to continue into the Long Room of the library itself. It was a visually amazing collection of thousands of books that looked like something you would see in a movie. In the corridor of the Long Room, there was an exhibit chronicling the history of the modern detective story which was also quite interesting but a little exhausting in it's scope.

With a few hours left before Roxi finished her afternoon lectures, I decided to visit the Dublinia & Viking World, a museum that explores the viking heritage of Dublin as well as the medieval history of the city. It was interesting but a bit cheesy at times. But it was relatively inexpensive to visit and it killed some time on the cold and dreary Dublin day. The museum was closing down before I had time to look at all the exhibits, but I had already had enough anyway. I left and made my way back to hotel for the remaining time until Roxi's lectures concluded for the afternoon.

When I met Roxi back on campus a couple of hours later, she and some of here colleagues from Enschede had decided to go to O'Neill's for some drinks. So we went and spent a few hours drinking Guinness and visiting.

Truer words could not be written!

The times have certainly changed!

Finally, Roxi and I rounded out our evening with a late take out dinner from a Thai restaurant on the way back to our hotel and then it was off to bed to get rested for another long day.

Our Day In Dublin

We awoke refreshed on the morning of Sunday March 22 ready to see Dublin together. The whole purpose of our trip to Ireland was business for Roxi: she was invited by her adviser in Enschede to attend a week-long school/conference hosted at Trinity College. It was like a very intense and small international conference where people presented their research to the attendees. We saw the schedule before the trip and they planned four full ten-hour days and one half-day over the course of the week. In order to get reimbursed for the registration fee, attendance was mandatory, so that boiled down to Roxi and the other participants not getting very much time to actually see Dublin during the week. So Roxi and I made a point of doing as much as we could on that Sunday together before she would be sequestered in a lecture hall for most of the rest of her visit.

We started by taking what would become our usual walk down Pearse Street to arrive at Trinity College. It is a very old and very beautiful campus set in the middle of Dublin. Even before seeing it, I was proud that Roxi would have the distinction of attending a week-long conference at such a prestigious university.

Parliament Square

The Campanile

Library Square

Sphere Within Sphere

The happy travelers

College Park

After walking around the compact campus, we made our way into the heart of the city center and found Grafton Street, a pedestrian shopping area full of life. We did some souvenir shopping in between watching street performers play music or manipulate marionette puppets. After walking for a while, we decided to look for a place to eat. We stumbled onto a fantastic Indian restaurant called Maloti with a great Sunday lunch menu. Little did we know, this was the same restaurant that the organizers of the conference had arranged for a group dinner on Wednesday evening.

After lunch we left Grafton Street and walked to St. Stephen's Green, a beautiful park similar to New York City's Central Park. It was a nice day so the park was full of people. Watching all the people feeding the birds in the lake made for a great time. The birds were pretty entertaining in their own right, especially the little tufted ducks who would dive and swim around underwater for several seconds before surfacing in a different location. And of course, like most European parks, there were several very elegant swans preening in the water.

From St. Stephen's Green, we decided to take a break at a cafe and have an Irish coffee. We found a very busy cafe on a barricaded Dawson Street that was rapidly filling with people. On Saturday night, the Irish national rugby team defeated Wales to be crowned the 2009 Six Nations Champion and claimed their first Grand Slam in forty-nine years. The crowd was forming for the victory celebration set to take place an hour later. We decided to move on to other parts of the city center rather than get caught up in the increasingly large crowd.

The crowd gathers to celebrate Ireland's victory.

Hooray for Ireland!

On our way out of the chaos, we bought some Irish rugby hats from a street vendor and stopped by the statue of Molly Malone.

In Dublin's fair city,
where the girls are so pretty,
I first set my eyes on sweet Molly Malone,
As she wheeled her wheel-barrow,
Through streets broad and narrow,
Crying, "Cockles and mussels, alive, alive, oh!"

Next we headed for Dublin Castle and took a walk around the Dubh Linn Gardens.

The Record Tower of Dublin Castle.

Dublin Castle

Dubh Linn Gardens

Marker commemorating the birthplace of Jonathan Swift.

We ended our self guided tour by walking a little further from the city center and arriving at Christ Church Cathedral. Unfortunately it was closed for the afternoon and they had already held their last services of the day, but we spoke to one of the priests who told us when all the services for the week would be held so that we could attend at least one before we left Dublin.

On the way back to our hotel, we stopped at the Trinity Capital Hotel, the suggested hotel for the conference and site of registration. Check in was quick and they gave us each a ticket for a free drink at the bar during the mixer they had scheduled for a few hours later. We used the time to take a break back at our hotel before returning for the mixer. When we arrived back at the bar at the Trinity Capital Hotel, there weren't many people there, so we took our free drinks onto the patio to enjoy the mild Dublin night.

Irish Coffee & Irish Stout

Neither of us were very hungry for dinner, so on our way back to the hotel we picked up a very small pizza to split. After eating, we called it a night so that we could get up early the next morning to go swimming before Roxi had to be at the opening lecture of the conference.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Enschede to Dublin via Amseterdam

On the evening of Friday March 21, Roxi and I left Enschede by train bound for Amsterdam where we spent the night before flying to Dublin the next morning. We stayed at an interesting experiment of a place in Amsterdam called the Qbic Hotel. It is supposedly a hotel where the staff is invisible, i.e. you check yourself in and out at a machine and if you want food, you buy it from the vending machines in the dining area. It is only an experiment though because when we arrived we were greeted, albeit by a lone staff person, who proceeded to check us in and direct us to our room. As the hotel's name implies, our room was a cube with very limited amenities. It was a clean but sparse room, so much so, that there wasn't even a window to the outside world, only a mirror claiming that "You are the view!" It was all a little too trendy for Roxi and a little too spartan for me. But it was cheap and couldn't have had more convenient access to the train to the airport that we would take early the next morning.

We arrived rather late in the evening, but it being Amsterdam, we figured things would surely be hopping in the city center. Indeed they were. After a short tram ride to Dam Square, we set out to our new favorite restaurant, The Golden Chopsticks, which we learned about during Leah and O'Neil's visit a few weeks ago. After a very filling dinner of steamed oysters, spicy chicken and crunchy pork, we raced to catch the last tram of the evening back to the south side of the city. Unfortunately we missed it by few minutes and found ourselves with about forty minutes to kill before the night bus started at 1:00 AM. From our bus stop, we found the nearest bar and had a couple of Jupiler beers while waiting. They were very refreshing, but being as full as we were from dinner, we both felt very stuffed as we made our way back to the bus stop thirty minutes later.

Neither of us slept great that night. I never sleep well the night before an early morning flight, especially when I'm in a hotel. To make matters worse, there was no clock, let alone one with an alarm, in our room. There wasn't even a phone where I could set up a wake up call! I talked to the lady at "reception" and she said we could request a wake up knock on our door. So with that I went to a restless sleep. I woke up several times and checked my iPod clock only to find that it had been an hour or so. Finally, 6:00 AM rolled around and I got up and showered to make myself more alert. I got Roxi up about thirty minutes later and by 7:00 we were checking out and on our way to Schiphol Airport.

The train ride was only a few minutes and then it was just a matter of finding the Aer Lingus check-in kiosks. I've always heard how busy Schiphol is so I was expecting a DFW or Bush Intercontinental sea of humanity, but it was really not that bad. Check in was very painless and there was no metal detector security line to get into the terminal area, only passport control. It really speeds things up when there is no TSA style bottleneck right from the get go! We did a little walk around the gate area to keep ourselves busy before boarding the flight. Once they opened our flight for boarding, we got in line and at that point went through a more traditional security screening. It worked so well it really makes me wonder why US airports don't adopt a system like this. You still need ID to get into the terminal but you don't have to take your shoes off until you are about to board the plane. It seems like there would be a lot less people missing flights because of security screenings if this were the case in the States. Maybe it wouldn't work in the US but it sure wouldn't hurt to try it seeing as how miserable travel has gotten from just about every airport in the States!

The flight from Amsterdam to Dublin was one hour and ten minutes of ease. It's great to fly internationally in such a short time, but I guess it's no different from flying between neighboring states in the US. We arrived in Dublin, claimed our checked bag and looked for ground transportation to our hotel. After a thirty minute bus ride we arrived at the nearest stop to our hotel and were told by the driver that we had about a ten minute walk. At least twenty minutes later (!) we were sure we were lost. Aparently in Dublin, there are very few numbers on any of the buildings and we hadn't seen a street sign yet. Suddenly, we noticed a sign for Cardiff Lane, our final destination, and sure enough, the Maldron Hotel was just a few yards down the street.

Since our arrival to Dublin was so early, we couldn't check in yet, so we stored our bags at the desk and inquired about some traditional Irish pub food. We got a few suggestions and started walking down Pearse Street looking for a nice lunch. Several blocks down the road we found a pub offering a daily special of fish and chips among other things and decided to give it a go. Roxi decided to go with the special while I went with a beef burger, hoping that it would be better than the burgers I've been having in the Netherlands. Although Roxi's fish wasn't great, my burger was fantastic and much better than the beef that's available in Holland. I also took the opportunity to order my first of many Guinness beers of the trip. After finishing our food, it was still too early to check into the hotel so we had another round of drinks to kill the remaining time. Finally it was nearly 2:00 PM and check-in time.

We made our way back to the hotel, checked in, got settled into our room for the next week and then went swimming! The hotel had a great complimentary health club and spa in the basement. We knew it going in, so we planned ahead and found some swim suits before we left Enschede. It was so relaxing after the late Friday night and the travel on Saturday morning. We spent some time in the steam room, the sauna and the whirlpool. It was really nice except for the steam room which was so musty I felt like I was going to leave with Legionaire's disease. The sauna and whirlpool where very nice and we frequented them on several occasions during our time in Dublin.

After our trip to the spa, we were both pretty relaxed and tired so we decided to take a nap. Several hours later, it was late and we were both pretty content with staying in for the night so we decided to have dinner at the hotel restaurant. I had a fancy version of bangers and mash while Roxi opted for vegetarian curry. They were both great and very filling. After dinner, we decided to officially call it a night so that we would be well rested for some sightseeing the next day. We didn't do a lot on our first night in Dublin but with seven more to follow, we certainly needed to get rested!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

"He's Our You"

Roxi and I are back from Dublin and of course the first thing we had to do was watch this week's episode of LOST. Sadly, Roxi got spoiled on Thursday while she was checking her Facebook page (you really have to warn people before you post spoilers people!) so the shocking ending wasn't so shocking to her. I on the other hand had no prior knowledge, but it honestly wasn't very shocking to me either...


I like to go into my blog post without reading anyone else's reactions to an episode if I can help it. I will be curious to see if people were really that surprised by the "shocking" ending. I put it in quotes because honestly, did anyone really think that Sayid was interested in doing anything other than trying to kill young Ben? Honestly? And did you think that he wouldn't be able to bring himself to do it? Sure it was dramatic, but it really didn't surprise me too much. If anything, I'm surprised it happened so quickly, but the end of the series is rapidly approaching so time is of the essence. So is Ben really dead? Very doubtful. Sayid didn't even bother to check so I say no. Plus we've been hammered over the head for months now that you can't change the past. You can't go back in time and kill Hitler or Ben even if they were both genocidal maniacs. I think next week's episode will sum it all up nicely: "Whatever Happened, Happened." As Roxi pointed out after finishing the episode, Ben was always shot by Sayid and that's why he hates him so much in the future.

It was interesting to get a traditional flashback this week especially since it went back so far in Sayid's past. It was nice to fill in the blanks about what had been happening in Sayid's life since he started killing for Ben and how he ended up on Ajira 316. Does anyone else think that Ilana is more than just a bounty hunter?

Sawyer is such a good guy now. He is trying so hard to make things work, but damn if Jack and company haven't screwed it all up for him! I liked his exchanges with Sayid and Kate about why they had come back. I think that there is little doubt as to Kate's reason for returning to the Island. But what about Juliet?

A bunch of hippies have a torturer? It was interesting to hear someone finally mention Ann Arbor again. Here's to hoping that we see the DeGroots before the end of the season. Speaking of people I'd like to see before the end of the season, what's going on with Locke over on the other island? I like this Dharma story and all, but what's going on with resurrected Locke?!?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


I haven't been blogging for a few days, but that's because Roxi and I are in Dublin, Ireland! Roxi is attending a week-long school/conference that she was invited to take part in by her adviser in Enschede, and I came along to see Dublin because this might be my one and only trip here. We arrived Saturday morning and I've been doing a lot of sightseeing since then while Roxi has been giving and attending presentations. I don't have my trusty computer with me otherwise I'd post some photos now, but they will be coming sometime after we return to Enschede on Saturday. Check back this weekend for stories and photos as well as my weekly thoughts on LOST.

Thursday, March 19, 2009


After a week off, and boy did I miss it (!), LOST returned with a pretty cool episode. But we are now officially more than halfway through this short penultimate season. I love where things are going, but it's going to be over all too soon! We must all enjoy this ride while it lasts!


I liked how the episode started, taking us back and showing us the crash of Ajira 316. It was especially interesting to see that after the flash that took Jack, Kate, Hurley and Sayid from the plane, it changed from night to day as Frank Lapidus piloted the plane to near safety. I was very excited when he spotted the runway that he would use for the crash landing! It confirmed they crashed the plane in the present or possibly even future since this is the runway that Sawyer and Kate were helping to build during their captivity in Season 3. Pity about the co-pilot though. And why didn't Sun, Frank and Ben vanish with the rest of the Oceanic 4 (?). I think that Ben didn't because he wasn't supposed to return to the Island, Frank didn't because he was supposed to land the plane and Sun...I don't know for sure but I think it might have something to do with the fact that she didn't bring Ji Yeon with her. I know, Kate didn't bring Aaron, but maybe Aaron is where he is supposed to be. After all, Claire told Kate not to bring him back. Ji Yeon was concieved on the Island and I think that is important.

The reunion of Sawyer with Hurley, Jack and Kate was nice. It was about what you'd expect from each character after three years, even his reunion with Kate. I'm sure most fans of the Kate/Sawyer coupling would have preferred to see a kiss or something, but it's been three years and they have both gone through some pretty big character changes in that time. It was sad for Sawyer to hear that Locke had died. He seemed very struck by it. Little do they all know, that somewhere in the future, Locke is living again on the small Island.

It was no surprise that Jin was very determined to find Sun after he learned that she and Sayid were also on the plane. And so we got to meet Radzinsky, the man who used to monitor communications at the Flame and will someday kill himself in the Swan, or so we were told by Kelvin Inman. It was interesting to see that he was building a model of the Swan when Jin arrived to find out if anyone had seen a plane land on the Island. Of course, while Radzinsky was checking, in comes a report of a Hostile inside the perimeter fence and I knew it could be none other than Sayid. Jin did a great job of playing the part of Dharma security for Radzinsky and boy was Sayid confused.

Sawyer was also very good at playing the part as is evidenced by how well he and Juliet worked together to get Jack, Kate and Hurley integrated into the new Dharma recruits who had just arrived on the Island. And he made a nice jab at Jack by getting him assigned as a Workman. Snap! It was also interesting to learn that Horace and Amy's baby born in the last episode is Ethan. When Juliet found out, she seemed to mentally shudder while holding him.

I like the determined Sun. I loved how she followed Ben into the woods and then clobbered him with the paddle when she had all the info she and Frank needed to get back to the main Island. Ben is such a bastard. I would really hate to find out that he is a good guy in the end because I just love to hate him so much!

I loved Miles' reaction to seeing Jack, Kate and Hurley. And then there was the conversation between Hurley and Sawyer about the future of the Dharma Initiative. Hurley spoke for all of us in asking if they should warn the DI about the Purge. Saywer said that they weren't supposed to "play Nostradamus" to them and that Faraday has some intersting theories about what they can and can't do. And then he gave an intriguing answer to Jack's question of Faraday's presence when he says that Faraday is not around anymore. So where is he? Did he die, was he taken by the Others or did he time travel in some way? I lean to him time traveling as a result of his meddling with the Frozen Donkey Wheel during construction of the Orchid that was shown in "Because You Left."

I loved the way that Sayid played along so well when he was being questioned by Sawyer. I especially liked the way he said, "We don't refer to ourselves as Hostile." Knowing what they know about the future of the Island didn't hurt their little game, but it does seem more and more like the Losties are becoming the Others in a way. To other people, it would seem that they all know so much about the future and are manipulting it. I have a feeling that if the Losties are still stuck in the past by the time the Purge happens, they will be part of the Others' camp and be responsible. The ony thing that I wonder about though is Sayid. When he met young Ben at the end of the episode, I felt like he wanted nothing more than to kill the boy that would make his life so terrible in the future. I don't know how he could get over that unless Sawyer and company could somehow convice him that they can't change the past like that.

Everything about Sun and Frank's arrival at the barracks was very creepy. The shaking trees could have only been the Smoke Monster. I'm pretty sure I heard it's tell-tale sounds beneath the sounds of rustling leaves. As I said earlier, I have a suspicion that Ajira 316 crashed in the present (2007?) or possibly even further in the future as is evidenced by how run down the barracks appeared. Of course the last time we say anyone there, the Smoke Monster was attacking Keamy and his commandos. And then a light came on in a building! I was wondering if was Jacob, Claire or Christian. It turned out to be Christian, but he gave me a bad feeling, like maybe he isn't as benevolent as I have been thinking all this time. When Sun asked where Jin was, he showed he a picture of the 1977 Dharma recruits and said that she had a bit of a journey ahead of her. One thing I noticed that was extra creepy was when the door creaked and slowly opened it as if a ghost was coming through while they were talking to Christian. I thought it was nothing more than a bit of ambiance for the scene until I saw this on the web this morning. I went back and checked and sure enough you can see this woman moving around in the background. So who is it? I'm guessing it's Claire. After all, we know she has been hanging around with Christian since the end of Season 4.

But the absolute best part about this episode was Sawyer's verbal smackdown of Jack about good leadership. It was beautiful and it couldn't have been more true! Sawyer appears to be a great leader and seems to have the respect of everyone in the Dharma Initiative. He was so eloquent and succicinct in his dismissal of Jack's past leadership and its shortcomings. In the end, I think that Jack might be questioning if his decision to return to the Island was such a good idea. He has been ousted when I'm sure he thought that he was the one who would lead when he returned. The scene was magnificent!

This was a pretty great episode and it seems that the pace will continue to be amped up. I hope we see Locke next week. I am intrigued by so much of his last appearance and am looking forward to seeing if he will be having any meetings with Christian and/or Jacob soon.

Aggies Move on to Round Two

No one could ever accuse me of being much of a basketball fan, but it is nice to get news that the Aggie men's team has advanced to the round of 32 teams in the NCAA tournament after defeating BYU by a score of 79-66. Gig 'Em Ags!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

St. Patrick's Day in Enschede

We had our first St. Patrick's Day abroad and it was pretty fun! We went to a local Irish Pub with a couple of couples of our neighbors and had a really fun time. We drank some Guinness and met a random Dutch gentleman buy the name of Rob. All in all it was a great warm up for Roxi and my trip to Dublin on Saturday!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Enschede & Amsterdam with Leah & O'Neil

Roxi's best friend Leah and her husband (and former co-worker of mine) O'Neil came for a short visit to the Netherlands this week. They flew into Amsterdam last Saturday around noon and made the two and a half hour train ride to meet us in Enschede. After getting them checked into their hotel, we rode the bus to the city center to show them the weekly market. It was the warmest and most beautiful day we've had since arriving in the Netherlands so we founded a rather crowded cafe scene by the church. After refreshing ourselves with a round of beers at our favorite bar, we went to the market for a little sightseeing and shopping.

Leah and O'Neil bought a few souvenirs and we purchased a few grocery items. Knowing we were heading to Amsterdam in the morning, we didn't buy much food, but we did have to get a couple of cheeses, a salami and a loaf of fresh bread to sample with Leah and O'Neil. The food ended up coming in very handy the next day on the train. After the market, we made our way to Roxi's favorite restaurant in town, Mangu, and enjoyed a delicious three course meal. Finally we rounded out the evening with a trip back to campus to show Leah and O'Neal our humble little apartment. Very tired from long travels and a full day in Enschede, Leah and O'Neil retired to their hotel leaving Roxi and I to pack for the trip to Amsterdam.

On Sunday morning we finished our packing and met Leah and O'Neil at their hotel. The weather on Sunday was a cold and rainy but we pressed on with a short walk to show our guests the campus before taking the train to Amsterdam. We checked Leah and O'Neil out of their hotel around noon and made the trek to the nearby train station. Once we were on the train, we got comfortable and broke out the cheese, salami and bread that we had purchased at the market on Saturday. We ended up having quite a nice little picnic as we rode the rails through the Dutch countryside.

Upon our arrival in Amsterdam, we found our way to the apartment that Roxi arranged for our accommodations. Roxi had tried to get another houseboat but wasn't able to find anything that suited our needs. Instead she found a fantastic apartment only a few blocks from the central train station with a great view of the Oosterdok harbor and the NEMO museum. The apartment we stayed in was the top two floors of a four-story apartment that has been converted into three apartments. We later learned that the apartment was once inhabited by Michiel de Ruyter.

After getting settled in at the apartment, we headed into the city. Almost immediately, we started a bar hopping adventure that would stretch into the night. I lost track of all the bars we visited, but we made sure to have at least one beer at each. Our pace was perfect though drinking just enough to enhance our evening without overdoing it. And we covered some territory in the city! We crisscrossed through the streets and across the canals twice as we made our way from bar to bar. We finished off the evening with a trip to the best Chinese restaurant in Amsterdam, The Golden Chopsticks, and we were not disappointed. After a full evening, we retired to the apartment and got some much needed rest.

Round 1

Time for another!

Another round!

On Monday morning, O'Neil and I made a trip to find a grocery store while the wives got ready. We bought breakfast items and snacks then made our way back to the apartment to cook up some eggs and bacon. After breakfast, we headed into the city center to take a sightseeing cruise of canals. It was a nice cruise and different from the trip that Roxi and I took when Garrett and Nicole visited. After the hour long cruise, we decided to head to the Heineken brewery for the tour. As usual, it took us a while to figure out the tram system, but once we got our tickets and directions, we were on our way to the Heineken Experience.

The tour was fun and informative. It was especially nice to smell the familiar odors of cooking barley and hops that I have come to love from my home brewing experiments. The tour normally includes two free samples, but for some reason it was a "special day" and we each got a third sample. We all had the obligatory regular Heineken for our first round, but switched to the "Extra Cold" Heineken for our second and third. The Extra Cold Heineken is the same as regular except that it is served at zero degrees Celsius. Like I said before, it may be a gimmick, but the beer really is refreshing!

Ready for sampling!

We spent a lot more time at the Heineken Experience than we had intended so when we finished, we quickly made the walk to the Van Gogh Museum only to find that it had just closed. In a way it was okay though...it is one of the most expensive museums that I've ever heard of (18 Euros!) and it is small. I visited it a few years ago and it is interesting to see so many paintings by one artist, but it is very hard to justify the expense for the small gallery. Since it was closed, we made our way back towards the city center stopping for a snack and a drink on the way.

Roxi and Leah put the "dam(n)!" in Amsterdam!

We decided to spend some time walking through the Red Light District to see the sights before dinner. Besides the obvious things you would expect to see, we also saw the narrowest street in Amsterdam and lots of outdoor urinals.

After the walk through the district, I found a listing in a travel book for an ice bar which we all thought was a must see. It was a bit of a walk from where we were, but we thought it was worth it. We were told that for our admission fee, we would get one free drink each and thirty minutes in the bar. They also told us that pictures were forbidden. Strange as that was, we went in with a small group of people and the bartender. Before entering the frozen room, we were given fancy Heineken coats and gloves to keep us warm in the negative seven degree Celsius environment. The bar was essentially a giant walk-in freezer in which just about everything was made of ice. We were given our round of free drinks in glasses made of ice as well and offered to have a picture taken of us by the bartender. We took one knowing that the cost to purchase it would be outrageous. After everyone was served, the bartender left for a minute in which I took the opportunity to take a couple of contraband pictures of ourselves.

After our thirty minutes in the bar, we took a walk to a nearby Argentinian restaurant that my friend Edward had recommended when we saw him and his girlfriend on our previous trip to Amsterdam. It did not disappoint. Each couple ordered the mixed grilled plate for two and we dug into the veritable feast!

After another long day, we decided to call it a night, this time using our remaining pre-paid passage on the tram to get us as far as the train station to save us a few steps on our long walk back to the apartment.

Tuesday we got going again after another great breakfast that O'Neil and I made. We headed across the Oosterdok harbor to the NEMO. After a little souvenir shopping at the museum gift shop, we took the short self guided tour of the replica of the Dutch East India Company trading ship, the Amsterdam, anchored in the harbor.

Leah and Roxi take a break in the Hold of the Amsterdam.

Insignia of the Amsterdam Dutch East India Company (Amsterdam Verenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie).

Replica of the 18th century trading ship the Amsterdam.

Our apartment was the top two floors of the left corner of building above the blue boat.

From the NEMO, we took a leisurely walk to the Anne Frank House to get pictures of the building. On the way there, we stopped to enjoy a taste of traditional Dutch herring from a street vendor. Originally, Roxi said she'd try it if O'Neil tried it. When it came down to it, I didn't want to get left out and we all talked Leah into trying it too. It was much better than I expected. Then again, it was served with pickles and onions so I'm not sure how much I'd like plain herring. Surprisingly, it didn't have too much of a fishy flavor and it was really a lot like eating sashimi.

About a block away from the Anne Frank House, we saw a heron sitting on a car.

Anne Frank House

Later in the afternoon, we made the walk to the Amsterdam Dungeon. We were expecting something educational but ended up getting more of a haunted house type of experience with a bit of educational information peppered throughout. It was okay, but it could have been better. After a stop in at one of the many casinos in the city, we went back to the apartment to relax and have a few drinks. We played some cards, had a couple of beverages and just rested for a while. Finally, we headed back out for our last evening in Amsterdam with Leah & O'Neil. We were still pretty tired so after a few more bars we bought some dinner at a take-out Greek restaurant. Back at the apartment we ate and went to bed.

On Wednesday morning, we packed our things and cleaned up a bit before heading out for breakfast and last-minute souvenir shopping before Leah & O'Neil had to head to the airport. We looked for a place to get some traditional Dutch pancakes, but we found a lot of closed restaurants. In the end, we settled for a pretty good English continental breakfast. On the walk back to the apartment we stopped at a souvenir shop so that Leah and O'Neil could get the last of their gifts for people back home.

Finally, we headed back to the apartment for the last time, gathered up our luggage and started the walk to the train station. Roxi and I accompanied Leah & O'Neil to their train to see them off to the airport before we found our train and made the relatively short trip back to Enschede. We had another wonderful visit with friends from home and wish it could have lasted longer. However, I got sick towards the end of the trip and ended up spending the rest of this week recuperating. European travel is fun but it is hard on the body!