Posts Tagged With: Vacation

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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Stroopwafels in Indy (Or: At least my parents have a backup plan!)

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.

Belgian boys mini Dutch stroopwafels

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!)

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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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Not so Christmasy Christmas (Or: San Francisco for the holidays)

Last week Marco and I were in San Francisco for the holidays with my parents, brother and sister-in-law. It was a short trip, but a lot of fun! I didn’t take too many pictures this time, but here is a small sampling:


One of the piers at San Francisco


San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge (not to be confused with the Golden Gate bridge which everyone photographs)


Powell and Market cable car

This cable car is positioned at the turnaround point – the cable car stops on a wooden platform before being rotated to head back in the same direction it came. See a demonstration at YouTube.


Sugar castle at Westin St. Hotel lobby, San Francisco (free to view, donations optional)

We also visited the Exploratorium, an interactive exhibit hall for both kids and adults. It was a lot of fun and I can highly recommend it. One of the exhibits was the Curious Contraptions exhibit. Clicking the link will show a short 47 second video of what made them so curious…


Turn a crank and watch the item move (or in this case, press a button on the outside of the glass since these items are too delicate to be touched directly).

Another example of automata are the Dutch Strandbeest creatures created by Theo Jansen, born in nearby Scheveningen. Those were also referenced in the Exploratorium.

Finally, here is a fun workout for you:


“Your turn counts” exhibit

Read more about it at the exhibit page – basically if you turn the lever at the right, the wooden wheel spins. Turn that ten times and the grey wheel (currently at 0, though the 9 can also be seen) turns once. Turn THAT once (so the wooden wheel 100 times) and the next wheel turns, the black one currently at 0, and so on. Patience…

All in all a fun trip. And you better believe we raided a few grocery stores for some American snacks!

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A time lapse of Grote Marktstraat (And: Some Boston photos)

Last year Gemeente Den Haag (e.g. city hall) created a video showing a time lapse of the construction around the Grote Marktstraat. It is just under 3 minutes long. Among other places, it can be found on YouTube. It’s kind of cool to look back and remember all the craziness the construction caused…

Grote Markstraat is the large shopping street in The Hague which has been under construction for the last few years. There is an event on Thursday night (Den Haag verlicht) to mark the completion. The final act will be turning on the lights (literally – the lights were just hung up last week). They will be turned on around 20.45. There will also be music, dancers, DJs, drum bands and food trucks. Oh, and the shops are open until 22.00 (although on Thursdays they are usually open until 21.00 anyway).

And here are some more photos from Boston. The first is a sculpture found in Boston Common, Make Way for Ducklings:

Make way for ducklings

And a photo of the Boston public library:

Boston public library entrance

We also went to the JFK Presidential Library (well, we just went to the museum). It was a lot of fun, and now I can say I’ve visited a presidential library!

JFK presidential library and museum

And a look at the JFK presidential library from inside:

Inside JFK presidential library and museum

After that we visited the Edward M. Kennedy Institute which is a building right next to the JFK library. The institute was opened to the public last year and is used to teach the public about the inner workings of the senate. It includes a to-scale replica of the Senate Chambers where mock votes are held every hour for visitors to participate in (our mock vote was regarding the minimum wage law currently in consideration). The replica chambers sit in the middle with displays around it. Since it was just completed, tablets are used to provide additional information and to interact with the displays.  It’s quite modern.

Until next time!

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Boston (Or: On the Freedom Trail, and other convenient sites)

One of the main tourist draws to Boston is the Freedom Trail, a 2.5 mile trail which goes from the north of the city to the Boston Common. A benefit of this trail is that it is entirely marked with a red stripe in the sidewalk, making it very easy to follow without a map. There are 15 official stops along the way (here is the official maps page), although the map I tended to use can be found here.

Because our hotel was in the North End, we ended up doing the trail over a few days (with the last sites visited being the Bunker Hill monument and USS Constitution to the north). The Bunker Hill monument looks similar to the Washington Monument, but the one in Boston was constructed first:

Bunker Hill monument

Bunker hill monument

Due to being in dry docks for renovation, the USS Constitution was only available a handful of days each week, so we didn’t go inside (we did visit the nearby museum, however). It was pretty impressive to see a video of the ship entering dry dock.

We actually started with the Old North Church and Paul Revere’s house. We did go inside his house – it’s a rather cheap admission ($6) but only two large rooms. It’s also a very old house (of course) so quite creaky. I can imagine it gets crowded during the peak tourist season.

Paul Revere House in Boston

Paul Revere’s house

Other points of interest included Faneuil Hall and Copp’s Hill Burying ground. It’s almost impossible for a tourist to miss the hall since the hall (with a free museum inside) is right next to a marketplace and shopping area. The marketplace has a ton of eating options with seating in the middle of the hall.

Inside Faneuil hall in Boston

Faneuil hall

And the cemetery:

Copp's Hill burying ground

Copp’s Hill burying ground

Not to be forgotten is the marker for the Boston massacre site as well as a statue of Benjamin Franklin commemorating the first public school in area. Interestingly, the statue is right next to the old city hall which now houses (among other things) a Ruth’s Chris steakhouse.

Boston massacre site marker

marker of the Boston massacre

The trail begins (or ends, depending on how you start it at) at Boston Common, a large public park. Just don’t expect the lakes to have any water in them in March, apparently! I will spare you a photo of that muddy mess.

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Vacation time! (Or: A week in Boston)

Roger, Marco and I just returned from a little over a week in Boston (March 15 – 23). We stayed at the Battery Wharf hotel in the North End, on the waterfront.

Google Map of Boston North End

And with the airport only across the river, this meant taking a water taxi to the hotel! That’s a new one for me – it was awesome. We pulled up to the hotel’s dock after a 10 minute ride or so. Since the photos from inside the taxi were rather abysmal (it was foggy and raining), here’s a looking at the taxi leaving after dropping us off and a US Coast Guard ship. Apparently their base was next to the hotel.

Boston water taxi and US Coast Guard boat

Here’s a look at the hotel, visible on the room key that they didn’t ask us for/we forgot to return. There’s at least three hotel buildings (we had upper right), with the fourth a spa/fitness center (lower left).

Hotel room key and Boston Charlie ticket

This was definitely a luxury hotel – around 7 or 8 at night housekeeping would stop by again to deliver fresh ice and full-sized water bottles as needed. The TV offerings were also superb, which meant that Roger got his fill of the Game Show Network and Family Feud (the channel not being available in the Netherlands). The only downside to the hotel was that the internet cost extra, to the tune of $10/day. Doable, except that it was password protected and only allowed one connection on at a time.

Also visible in the picture is a “Charlie ticket”, or the ticket used for the public transportation. It was remarkably cheap compared to the Netherlands, with a 7 day ticket costing only $19 (in The Hague a day ticket costs €6.50). The term “Charlie” was apparently named after a character in a 1948 protest song “Charlie on the MBTA” which protested a 5 cent exit surcharge on longer rides.

Here’s a few Dutch items we came across. The first was a Dutch football shirt, found at the Newbury Comics store:

Dutch football shirt at Newbury comics

But don’t let the name fool you. The store is 90% pop-culture items and 10% comics, with only the latest few weeks of comics available, and no back issues. We did visit a few other comic book stores though (New England Comics and Comicopia) so Marco was able to get his fill there.

We also visited the City Target (Target being a department store) near Fenway Park and came across some Dutch stroopwafels at the Starbucks:

Dutch stroopwafels at a US Target store

However we were told that the stroopwafels do not taste as good as those from the Netherlands, so it seems likely that they are made somewhere in the US (it also seems likely considering the “non-GMO” label on the packaging, something that is abundantly common in Boston packaging it seems. It means no genetically modified organisms). The stroopwafels come from Rip van Wafels, which is based in California.

There’s a lack of touristy stuff in this post, but I should be able to get to that over the next few days.

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