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Lightning trip to Paris (Or: Day 2 of 2)

Continuing my previous past about our first day in Paris, here is what Marco and I saw on day 2 of our lightning trip to Paris:

Fountain of Innocents, Paris

The Fountain of Innocents

Near the beginning of our walk we unexpectedly came across the Fountain of Innocents (or, at least, it was unexpected for me – perhaps it was part of Marco’s master plan all along!).

Statue in Tuileries garden, in Paris, with ferris wheel in background

My favourite picture – taken from the Tuileries Garden

And then my favourite picture, as we walked through the Tuileries Garden.

Place de la Concorde from a distance, Egyptian obelisk

And here is a view of the Place de la Concorde. I had to get a photo of the duck! (the piece of wood is to help birds get back out of the water)

In the distance you can see the Luxor Obelisk.

Fontain de la Concorde, Paris

One of the fountains at Place de la Concorde

Place de la Concorde has two fountains dedicated to the maritime industry in France.

Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel

Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel

We also walked past Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel (not the Arc de Triomphe everyone thinks of, though).

And my last photo is from the shopping mall near the Louvre, as we were walking back to the train station:

The Inverted Pyramid in Paris

The Inverted Pyramid

The Inverted Pyramid. Made even more famous by the Da Vinci Code… 😉 Although it was already famous!

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Lightning trip to Paris (Or: Day 1 of 2)

Marco and I visited Paris last week for about 36 hours — 11:00 Wednesday until 19:30 Thursday. A lightning trip! The reason was to meet up with my brother and sister-in-law who were vacationing in the city. Since they live on the west coast of America, it seemed to be an opportunity one does not pass up. The trip was under three hours by high-speed train (Thalys)…

Marco and I splurged a bit for this trip and traveled first class. One unexpected benefit was the use of the first class lounge at Rotterdam Centraal:

NS International lounge at Rotterdam Centraal

Perks of the lounge: fairly quiet, a free drink, and climate controlled.

Our hotel wasn’t far from the train station in Paris (Gare du Nord) – only about a 15 minute walk. After meeting up with my brother and sister-in-law, we retreated to our hotel room to apply vigorous amounts of sunscreen. And why might we do that, you ask?

Because the temperature for both days while we were there was around 36C (97F). Ughhhh! And in those two days Marco and I managed to walk 38km, or about 23 and a half miles. Don’t worry, the next three days we were extremely lazy and rested our poor aching feet.

First we visited the Louvre museum:

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Indianapolis 500 practice (Or: In the pits)

Another fun story from my Indianapolis trip last month: my dad was able to get tickets from his work to go to a practice session at the Indianapolis 500, an Indy car race (highest level of open wheel racing in North America). The race is a two week spectacle with practices and mini events occurring in the days before the actual race day.

Indy 500 2017 - The bricks

The brickyard finish line. Which I hadn’t realised stretches all the way outside to the parking lot. Pretty cool!

The tickets are usually given to clients at his company but there were a few no-shows at the last minute due to it being a Thursday, so we were able to go!

First we had a look at the garage where they were working on the cars:

Indy 500 2017 - Fernando Alonso in the number 29 car

The garage of Fernando Alonso. He created quite a sensation when he chose to do the Indy 500 instead of Europe’s Monaco race (Formula 1 series).

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Vacation photos (Or: The beauty in Central Park)

Here are some of my favourite photos from Central Park…

Central Park in New York City

My favourite photo – the calmness of the park, with the city just behind

View from Central Park - skyline construction

Marco and I slowly crossed this field. At this point we saw a sign, which we read and then turned around. We had no idea this view was behind us!

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“Europe’s favourite cookie with coffee!” (Or: Biscoff/Lotus cookies)

Continuing the trend of “things that remind me of home while visiting America”, Marco and I were in a drug/convenience store by the name of Duane Reade when we spotted some Lotus cookies. Except in America it looks like they are known as “Biscoff” cookies.

Lotus cookies renamed as Biscoff cookies in America

They are pretty good with coffee – fairly light, fairly small, so one is just right.

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Wafels & Dinges (Or: Goodness in Bryant Park)

Hi all! I’ve been gone for a while, as Marco and I were in America (three days in New York City as tourists and a week in Indianapolis with my parents). And now we’re back! And to begin with I have a few posts of things that remind me of home, to some degree.

The first is a Belgian waffle stand in Bryant Park, Wafels & Dinges (translates to Waffles and Things). Actually, they have a lot of locations throughout New York City. Here’s a look at the side of the stand:

Wafels and Dinges in Bryant Park

My favourite part is “Speku-what? Spekuloos!

It’s our favourite dinges made from traditional Belgian gingerbread cookies. In places like Dadizele, Zwevezele, and Erps-Kwerps, Belgians spread this dinges on waffles, pancakes or as the sandwich spread (“to spekulate”).

Some people we know also eat it by the spoon (“to overspekulate”).” Heh.

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The Netherlands welcomes Donald Trump! (Or: Video from Zondag met Lubach)

It’s official – The Netherlands has pitched itself to the US president, Donald Trump. This satirical video first appeared on the Dutch comedy show Zondag met Lubach. The voiceover is done by Greg Shapiro, a Dutch American comedian.

“Dear Mister President. Welcome to this introduction video about the Netherlands. It’s going to be a great video. It’s gonna be absolutely fantastic. … We speak Dutch. It’s the best language of Europe. We’ve got the best words. All the other languages failed. Danish is a disaster. German is not even a real language. It’s fake. It’s a fake language.” and “This is the Afsluitdijk. It’s a great, great wall we built to protect us from all the water from Mexico.” And more!

video-from-zondag-met-lubach-madurodam-mention

Stillshot from the video. 

Madurodam – the miniature city theme park in The Hague – even got a mention. And that alone is enough of a reason to watch the video.

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Marching for America (Or: Demonstrations in Amsterdam this weekend)

I occasionally receive emails from the US consulate in Amsterdam for things happening in The Hague and in Amsterdam. I’ve blogged about it before, most famously for the email I received regarding the New Years Eve celebrations a few years back. That one definitely made the Netherlands seem like a war zone…

This morning I received an email regarding two demonstrations taking place this weekend around the US Consulate:

Dutch authorities have informed the U.S. Consulate General in Amsterdam that demonstrations to protest U.S. politics are scheduled to occur near the U.S. Consulate General on Friday, January 20, and Saturday, January 21, 2017.

On Friday, January 20, two groups will demonstrate:  one group of demonstrators will gather in front of the U.S. Consulate General Amsterdam on Museumplein and the second group of demonstrators will form at Dam Square in Amsterdam before joining the other demonstrators already gathered at Museumplein.  Both demonstrations are scheduled to begin at 1900 and continue until 2100.  Police estimate approximately 2,000 demonstrators and over ten official sponsors of the demonstration.  There will be a large police presence, including riot police.

The Saturday, January 21, demonstration will begin at 1200 and end at 1500.  Approximately 3,000 participants are expected to assemble in front of the U.S. Consulate General on the Museumplein as part of “Women’s March Amsterdam.”  Police will be present in large numbers.

Read more here.

The Women’s March is definitely worldwide – at last count it was in 57 countries. The sheer logistics is staggering – for example, the march route in Chicago had to be shortened after the number of marchers jumped from 22,000 to 50,000 in 2 days. 

The original march (Women’s March on Washington) has a list of buses going to DC, by state. Also a list of “Sister Marches” if DC is too far away. At I am writing this there are 616 marches worldwide with an estimated 1,364,000 registered. It is a staggering amount.

Should be an interesting weekend. Don’t get me wrong though – I hope for the best for this administration! Even if it feels like an ocean away. Because the laws they make over there still affect me over here.

womens-march-on-washington-2017-map-of-sister-marches

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Time to vote (Or: American presidential election)

Next month (8 November) is the American presidential election. But early voting has already started – early voting in person is allowed in 33 states and early voting by mail is allowed in 27 states (English Wikipedia). And that isn’t even counting absentee ballots for citizens living overseas or in the military.

I am a bit late to the game but this year I decided to register to vote for the first time :). This entails filling out an absentee ballot and sending it back to the county of one’s last official U.S. address. For me, this means sending it to Rockland County, New York as my last American address was in Pearl River, NY. A county is made up of a group of cities that work together under the same administration, and an American state is generally made up of these counties. So state -> counties -> cities.

For voting information, you can visit fvap.gov, or the Federal Voter Assistance Program. They have articles there like 5 things you need to know to vote absentee.

Step 1 is to download the FPCA (Federal Post Card Application) and mail it in to get into their system. You have to do this at least every few years – mine says it expires at the end of 2018. Also in New York you have to declare your party about 5 or 6 months in advance (Democratic or Republication) if you want to vote in the primaries. The primaries were earlier in the year, and are used to determine who will lead the Republication and Democratic tickets. You can read more about it here.

The only drawback at the moment is that New York state hasn’t fully embraced the digital age. So I can download the FPCA from the website, but I need to send it a hard copy (even if I also email it).

Step 2 is waiting for the actual ballot to arrive. Mine arrived last week, and I filled it out and put it in the mail yesterday. Like the FPCA, you need to mail it a hard copy, not just vote online.

Here is a look at what arrived:

ny-federal-election-ballot

The actual ballot is open in the middle. Above that, you have a smaller envelope which you date and sign. You then place the ballot inside. It’s a security envelope, so you can’t look through it. Below, you have a slightly larger envelope which you put the smaller envelope inside. You put your return address in the upper left and (since I am not in the US) appropriate postage to get it back to the US. Postage is only paid for if mailed from within the US.

And a close-up of the actual ballot:

ny-federal-election-ballot-closeup

On this ballot, you had three choices: President and Vice President (column 1), US State Senator (column 2), and not pictured, the House representative. The last race featured Nita Lowey, who was running unopposed.

A bit interesting – you can see that the race for President/Vice President had some duplication, as both the Republications and the Green party supported Trump/Pence. Similarly, there was some duplication for Clinton/Kaine (Democrats, Working families, and Women I believe).

This ballot is from Rockland County, NY. The format probably varies with each county, so this isn’t indicative of all ballots. And in a week or two I can check back online to see if my ballot was received and counted.

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Waiting, waiting, waiting… (Or: Joining the MacBook Pro world)

I was going to write about the lovely cocktails that I enjoyed at Milu last Wednesday, but I think that will have to wait until the next blog post! Instead I am going to talk about my PC. I received this computer as a birthday gift from Marco and Roger back in April 2010 or 2011. It is a cute little Asus netbook. Either way it is at least 5 years old. It does okay, all things considered. Except when Windows 10 needs to reboot to install updates. Ugh!


Since I’ve taken that picture it has mercifully come back, but it did spoil my plans to write a blog post there. So instead I am writing this blog via the WordPress app on my iPad while using a Bluetooth keyboard. It’s not the fastest typing in the world, but it is still much faster and accurate than what I can do on the iPad directly. Except for the last sentence. Ironically I made a lot of typos and had to slow down my typing there…

In the meantime I’ve been waiting on the new MacBook Pro. Unfortunately, I expected it to come out in March or June of this year. It’s now September with no end in sight. Well, except an email reply from Tim Cook that they didn’t forget about Macs. Hopefully that means October, but we’ll see! Part of the reason I’ve been patiently waiting was because there is a good chance I will go for the 15 inch rather than the 13 inch, and the processor in the 15 inch is already two years old (it did not get upgraded last year). Not a problem at all, except that I’ve proven I like to keep hardware for a long time, so I want a computer that lasts at a minimum five years. I love my iPhone 5 and secretly dream that I can hold on to it until early 2018. Another reason is that I secretly love to read the “Waiting for Skylake” thread over on Mac Rumors. Skylake being the new processor. The thread is around 24,000 replies and almost 1,000 pages. Crazy! 

Part of the reason that I am looking to get into a Mac is to finally have all Mac devices — I find it really frustrating that I can’t easily copy text from my PC to my iPad or vice versa. That is actually possible with the upcoming systems. But the main reason for writing this blog post was to explain why I haven’t been writing as many blog posts lately — I usually average once a week, usually in the weekend. It takes forever to load websites and copy images over from my phone (I either use Dropbox or a special flash drive with a lightning/USB connector).

Anyway, another month or so, and then hopefully the blog posts will become more frequent! Hopefully. 🙂

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