Monday, September 29, 2008

Oslo Misc 08-30-08

As some of you know, Andy and I visited Oslo at the end of last month. While we had a good time, it wasn't due to Oslo, so I haven't really been geared up about posting photos from the trip. Now that it's been a month, I'm feeling better about the trip, and the photos make it look like a great place! Why Oslo isn't great: there's nothing of real interest besides the sculpture park (which is very cool), everything costs at least twice as much as it does in the US, not everything is worth half it's price and finally, Bilbao was cheaper, more interesting and just as beautiful. That being said, I wouldn't mind going back to Norway for hiking - it's a beautiful country, and I understand that the coastal areas are absolutely breathtaking. It might look like Oslo is on the coast from our photos, but if you check out a map, it's on a bay pretty far inside the country. If you look at the photos of the water, you'll notice that they look more like a lake on a calm day than the ocean - that's because the only waves were wakes, and it's not the ocean. =)

Now to business. The photos here are just a bunch that didn't quite fit into other categories, but they're all from our first full day in Oslo. I don't remember exactly what building the photos below were in front of, but the building will be included in the architecture post. 0=) I recommend that you click on the third one, simply because it's kind of neat, and it gets lost in a small photo.

I made poor Andy take a picture of this silly wall of stuff, so I felt like I had to include it. It's not very exciting is it? The other two are from the downtown shopping area where we ate TGIF and enjoyed some pretty decent hamburgers and free refills (the cokes are more expensive, but you only get one 8oz glass all over Europe! insanity!).

I've been known to get a bit seasick from time to time, so I convinced Andy and Peter to let me sit on the side of the boat for the bay tour. This is me pretending to puke (in my own lap, no less!). I didn't get sick and quickly felt a little bad about insisting on the outer seat since the water was so smooth. There are more photos from the tour, but they're elsewhere.

One interesting thing we learned is that on two of the islands there are these little houses, and they can only be painted yellow, red or blue on one island and green, or ummm, two of the other colors, which I have now forgotten on the other. Their sizes are also regulated - originally houses were not allowed on either island, so people would bring out their camping stuff, marking off their territory. Then in order to protect their stuff, they built shelters without walls, and eventually added walls, so they weren't TECHNICALLY building houses, but that's what they become, and now their sizes are regulated.

Our last stop before dinner was the opera house - a great, white, pointy edged edifice that's supposed to look like a glacier. I'll give it a giant iceberg. There are photos from a distance in the architecture page. It turned out that the surface was slightly sparkly (don't ask me why), so it was VERY bright on top, but we hiked up it, took some pictures, and walked back down. That's Peter, Andy's friend who was doing research in Oslo for the summer. He's smart, though - he's going home at the end of the summer. ;)

After the opera house, as I've said, we went to dinner and had one of the best meals since Spain. There are a number of restaurants lining a section of the bay near the municipal (?) building, but most look somewhat touristy or kitschy, so we kept walking, and finally turned a corner to find a little, out of the way place (but not a hole in the wall, which rarely ever serve good food). Andy's mussels (oysters, clams? I have no idea) were excellent, as were my skewered shrimp, though plain white rice is generally not my thing... That meal was almost worth the price we paid. ;D

Friday, September 26, 2008

Cambridge 07-12-08

Well, Andy has decided that Cambridge* was too long ago to do a post, and I don't have any brilliant story ideas for Betwixt Mine Ears, so I'm posting photos without comments. Have fun. ;)

*I think these are all from Cambridge anyways!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Amsterdam I 09-22-08

We met up with my aunt, her husband and their two friends on Monday to tour Amsterdam. We had a pretty good time, starting off with the Anne Frank Museum and finishing up with one of the better meals we've had in the Netherlands.

The Anne Frank Museum is kind of neat, but pretty small. It's all inside the house and warehouse where they were hiding in Amsterdam. The first two pictures are actually ones I took while waiting in line. They're actually the only ones taken by either Andy or I in this bunch. My aunt's camera broke midway through the day, so we loaned her ours for the rest of the day. Hopefully hers will magically fix itself like ours did in London.

After that, we had breakfast at a little pannenkoekenhuis (pancake house) and had crepes. These were done slightly differently from the ones we've had in the south, with the filling sitting on top like a pizza rather than magically inside the batter. Some day I'll figure out how they do that... The crepes were pretty good, though Andy's omelet was apparently tasteless. I knew he shouldn't, but I didn't say anything. Some wife I am. ;)

Our next stop was the Van Gogh Museum where I discovered I don't really like Van Gogh all that much. I don't think I was alone in that discovery. Andy and I are beginning to pick up on a dark, self-centered, egotistical streak in Dutch artists. Of course, this is based on two, but that's beside the point. If you make your test group too large, it's harder to make generalizations. =D

Following that we stopped for a bit in a little park somewhere in Amsterdam, then found our way to the canal tour, where we listed to a Dutchman tell us about the horrible Dutch language, the canals, the history and the bad food. He was pretty funny, though I'm not sure how much of what he had to say was true. =) As a Texan, I recognize the value of exaggeration for telling a good story, but that doesn't mean I've got to buy it every time I hear it. ;)

Before dinner, we decided to go check out St. Nicholas' church which stands near/on the border for the red light district and was not far from the boat. I'm not sure how long that area has been a red light district, but, as the tour guide pointed out, it's appropriate since St. Nicholas is the patron of prostitutes. I'll spare you my tirade on prostitution and just say that the church looked nice on the outside, but we didn't get to see the inside.

The next step was dinner, and after a good bit of roaming and a bit of grumbling, we found a suitable location. As are all meals that don't involve fried snacks in the Netherlands, it was overpriced for its quality, but it was pretty good anyways.

A lot of the buildings in Amsterdam (and throughout the Netherlands) will lean one way or another, like the building in the first photo. According to the canal guide, when the foundation was laid, they dug a big hole and put the houses on wooden pillers, some of which are now rotting, causing the structures to lean. I'm not sure if it's occurred to anyone to fix the problem...

The other photos in this group are a memorial to something, police officers waggling their fingers at somebody while on horses and a building. All taken while we tried to figure out something to eat.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Spanish Food

To hear about the wonderful culinary experience we had in Spain, be sure to check out Andy's food blog, Eat'n & Drink'n. Yum!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Bilbao 08-12-08

Our last day in Bilbao was really only a half day, so we took the Transborder across the river, walked around a bit, and then took it back across and walked down the beach a ways. After that, Borja's dad treated us to the lovely Basque pre-lunch ritual of bar fingerfoods. After selecting whatever looked good, keeping a tally in our head and munching until we'd had enough, we paid the bartender and went off in search of ice cream. Oh ice cream. You are so good. We won't mention the terrible ice cream policies maintained by the Dutch. They make me too sad. ;)

Here are a few photos also in video form. Enjoy!

And, for close ups, here are the photos. ;)