As my last two blog posts have mentioned, Roger, Marco and I were in the States last month. It was over a month ago that we flew there, eek!
Imagine our surprise when we were going up and down the aisles at Target (a department store which also contains a pretty large food section). It is something we always do in the States – find a Target and/or a grocery store and just check out the offerings and decide what we want to bring back. I have a photo of Marco jokingly holding five large bags of Synder’s Hot Buffalo Wing pretzels, for instance. 🙂 I think he settled on opening one bag during the trip and bringing two unopened bags back in our luggage…
But that’s not surprising. What is surprising is seeing a Kinder egg for sale! In the States!
This was illegal due to a 1938 Food and Drug Administration regulation, because of what it is: candy with a toy (wrapped in plastic) inside the chocolate shell. After I got back from vacation I looked up how we could possibly come across this item. It turns out that Kinder Joy is a variant legally sold in America because it completely separates the candy from the toy with two sealed halves. The Italian company which makes them (Ferrero) first started delivering them exclusively to Wal-Mart in late November for 30 days and then any American store from January of this year.
According to this today.com article: “The Kinder Joy, the version that will soon be available in the U.S., comes in a plastic egg-shaped package comprised of two separately sealed halves. One half contains an edible treat made of two soft cream layers: one is sweet milk cream-flavored and one is cocoa-flavored. Nestled into the creamy layers are two round, chocolate-covered wafer bites that are filled with a sweet cocoa cream that’s soft enough to be eaten with the included spoon. The other half of the egg contains a surprise: a non-edible toy.”
You can see a picture of the Kinder Joy egg and what it looks like when opened (including the toy that still needs assembling) over on Wikipedia. And here is another fun link: “Why the FDA doesn’t like chocolate eggs with toys inside“.
And there you have it – the story of how American kids can experience the joy of a Kinder Egg. Pun possibly intended.
Here are some more photos from the trip Marco, Roger and I took last month! Two last photos from Philadelphia and the rest from New York City (I’ll skip the overly touristy photo of the Liberty Bell in Philly although that was also fun and suprisingly free).
Bronze sculpture of Washington crossing the Delaware
The above sculpture can be found at the intersection of Chestnut and 3rd in Philadelphia.
Artwork in the Lucha Cartel restaurant in Philadelphia
The above might take a bit of explaining! There’s a Mexican restaurant in Philadelphia by the name of Lucha Cartel. It’s actually in Old City on the east side of Philly. It is a reference to luchadors, who are masked Mexican wrestlers. It was very close to our hotel. And you guessed it – the artwork is actually many skate boards placed next to each other. It was a great restaurant (both food and theming) and I highly recommend it.
And now on to New York City…
Marco, Roger and I returned last week from a vacation to Philadelphia and New York City. It was cold! Though we noticed that it was just as cold in the Netherlands when we returned last Tuesday.
The first part of the trip was being tourists in Philadelphia. It was also interesting because it was the first time Marco and I stayed at an Airbnb (Roger had experience during a trip last year). It worked out well, but I am not sure how I would feel about sharing an apartment with a stranger. Since there were three of us and we needed two bedrooms this was not an issue during our trip.
We ended up staying in the area of Rittenhouse Square (above). This was taken the night we arrived, so we were basically walking around trying to stay awake.
“Spirit of transportation” mural at 30th street station in Philadelphia
Above is artwork in the 30th street station. We ended up here because we flew to Newark, NJ and then took a train to Philadelphia for the first part of our trip.
Here’s where I admit I have never seen the Rocky movies (and have no interest in doing so). But still, when you are in Philadelphia it is pretty much a requirement to take a picture of the steps made famous by the movie. The building itself is the Philadelphia Art museum. The city erected a statue in honor of Rocky off to the right, just out of view of this photo.
Philadelphia’s Eastern State Penitentiary
One of the highlights of the trip for me was Philadelphia’s Eastern State Penitentiary which was abandoned but offers tours these days. Best part? Realizing the design of the jail inspired the design of the jail in SimCity.
The Philadelphia Korean War Memorial at Penn’s Landing
Over on the east side of the city (with Camden, NJ just on the other side of the river!) we visited the Korean War Memorial (above).
Finally, some awesome graffiti at Penn’s Landing.
I have so many photos to show, and not enough blog posts…
First, a few photos of Marco, Roger and I’s trip to Disneyland Paris with Dutch influence:
A look at the Dutch section of the “It’s a small world” attraction – windmills, tulips and clogs of course!
Outside, the various translations of “It’s a small world!”. The Dutch translation is off to the right, in blue. “De wereld is maar klein, hoor!”
Restaurant menu from “Silver Spur” – a steakhouse we ate at on our last night at the park.
(above) They had asked what country we were from. When we got to the table we were handed Dutch menus. A thoughtful gesture, but we weren’t sure how the wait staff would understand what we wanted to order. Perhaps it would be done on the “point with your finger” system.
The only confusing thing was that the dessert section read “Coffee or tea, 11 euros” in Dutch. We were very confused. How could coffee or tea cost 11 euros? We later got our hands on an English menu which read “Coffee or tea, plus a selection of desserts, 11 euros”. Okay, that makes more sense!
Weekendje weg = a short weekend trip. A bit ironic here, since our trip was five days…
Last weekend (Thurs-Mon), Marco, Roger and I went to Disneyland Paris. This was my second time – the first was during our honeymoon in 2013. And this time we splurged a bit, booking a suite in Sequoia Lodge, a hotel themed after the American northwest. The excuse was that we were with three adults, so this way everyone has plenty of room! And little did we know that the complimentary VIP fast passes (unlimited use) would quickly come in handy when we realized we arrived in the middle of a French school holiday…
We went by train, taking the Thalys from Rotterdam. First class! So free breakfast when you board at 7am. That got us to Gare du Nord, the train station in Paris. Then we had to take the metro (45 minutes to an hour) to get to Disneyland itself. It’s east of the city. We booked “Disneyland express” which meant that when you arrive at the Disney train station you can drop off your luggage and collect your park entrance tickets and VIP fast passes right then and there. They deliver your luggage to the hotel while you go straight to the park. We ended up not getting to the hotel until around 8 or 9pm that night.
Another perk of the room type – separate registration area! It was like opening a new bank account – you went to a desk, with two chairs for the guests. You have a seat while they get the last formalities squared away. There was a bowl of 25th anniversary golden coins (dark chocolate), free for the taking. We took a few, not knowing just how many we’d get during this five day trip…
At this point the worker called someone to let them know what our room number was so they could deliver the luggage to the room and open the sofa bed for Roger. We didn’t go to the room right away, but instead headed over to the “Golden Forest” lounge (for anyone with a Golden Forest room or better). It was a strange experience – there was no one else there! Unfortunately that was the only time we would see the place empty again.
The advantage of the Golden Forest lounge – it is also a breakfast area, and you can get breakfast whenever you want between 7 and 11am. During breakfast they open both rooms. The first time Marco and I went to Disneyland together, we stayed at the New York hotel and had to pick half hour slots when we wanted to have breakfast (first come first serve at hotel checkin). This was much more relaxed.
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:
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!).
My favourite picture – taken from the Tuileries Garden
And then my favourite picture, as we walked through the Tuileries Garden.
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.
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
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
The Inverted Pyramid. Made even more famous by the Da Vinci Code… 😉 Although it was already famous!
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:
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:
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.
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:
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).
Here are some of my favourite photos from Central Park…
My favourite photo – the calmness of the park, with the city just behind
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!
Another post about “things that remind me of home in America” – this time Belgian stroopwafels (syrup waffles). This was spotted at a local Walmart I believe. Stroopwafels! Take your pick from original on the left or chocolate covered on the right.
As always, in their original form stroopwafels are great to place over your coffee cup to slowly heat them. Although these minis would probably only fit over an expresso cup… If you don’t drink coffee, try heating them in the microwave in 5 second bursts.
And the chocolate ones are just good all the time.
My last three posts including this one have definitely had a very Belgian theme (the Wafels & Dinges stand in Central Park, the Lotus cookies, which is headquartered in Belgium, and this post). Although at least these bags do label them as “Dutch caramel waffles”.
Check out the story of the founding of the Belgian boys company.
But as the title of this blog post suggests, at least my parents have a backup plan if their stroopwafel supply runs lower. (They were on the lowest shelf in the granola bars section, guys!)