Time to play catch-up!

Where did December go? I am a terrible blogger. I feel like time is going by way too fast and that I never have time to write anything down. Maybe that should be my New Year’s resolution? Except that I never make New Year’s resolutions, so why should I start now? Let’s play catch-up.

This Christmas both Jordan and I were sick. He came down with the flu on Christmas Eve, so I went over to my mom’s on my own. My aunt and two cousins came over; Keesje, Luc, and Ashe were there; my brother Mark came from Kitchener-Waterloo area; and Crystal was home from Thunder Bay, with Lukas. A nice little gathering for celebrating the holidays. I left a little early due to headache. Christmas morning I woke up at 5 am with an upset stomach, and twenty minutes later the nasty flu started! I haven’t been that sick in ages and I never want to be again! It was horrible! I missed my nephew’s first Christmas and missed a turkey dinner that I know was delicious. And I missed my Boxing Day shift which would have brought in a lot of money. But by December 27th I was perfectly fine and hubby and I went over to Keesje’s to give Ashe his gifts. I also tested out my brand-new Canon 60D on that cute little guy!


Ashe @ 5.5 months old

Happy Christmas smiles!


Stacey from work had her baby girl, Hannah, on December 12th, which happened to be her due date. I’ve been to see her a couple times but I feel like I’m always at work or my shifts just don’t align with a good time to visit. We had to cancel on each other twice last week due to various things. Baby Hannah Marie is now 3 weeks old and I definitely need to make more of an effort to get over for a visit. I need more photos of the cuteness!

New Year’s weekend Jordan and I spent in Ottawa at his sister’s and brother-in-law’s house. Serena is due the first week of March and I’m getting pretty excited! They came back from spending Christmas in New Brunswick with garbage bags full of baby clothes and items; it was so much fun to go through them. They’re fairly certain they are having a girl; let’s hope that’s true because there was an awful lot of pink girly outfits in the bags.

Other friends of ours also had their baby girl, Sofia Elizabeth. She was born on December 27th. After returning from Ottawa, we went over to Ryan and Stacey’s and met 5-day-old Sofia. She’s a quiet little thing with chubby cheeks – so cute!

And I believe everything is now up-to-date!

Europe – Part VI

***Continued from previous post.

{October 20 – 9:11 pm – Amsterdam, The Netherlands}
Still not feeling well, big surprize. Couldn’t get up for the alarm and ended up sleeping til 10 am. Before heading out for lunch we went down to the lobby and I asked if there was any store nearby that I could buy cold medication from. The lady said to try “D.A.” since I would need a prescription to visit a pharmacy. So we went there and got some Kleenex packs and some cold medication. The store didn’t have anything like Advil or Tylenol and the lady there gave me some medication with Dutch all over the label and she explained to take a couple pills every hour.

Found lunch at “Small Talk”. I had a cheese omelet with toast and black tea while Jordan had fried eggs with toast and a cappuccino. Can’t remember how much it cost. While we were waiting for the food it started to rain and a bunch of people surged into the restaurant. After eating we hopped on a tram to Centraal Station (to get out of the rain) and bought two train tickets to Sittard, for tomorrow. Tickets cost 44€ total and would get us to Sittard before 4:30 pm, just in time to be picked up by Tyler & Tammy. Then we boarded the #9 tram, got off at Plantage Middenlaan, and walked to Hortus Botanicus. Entrance fee of 7.50€ per person. It was a little disappointing because I expected to see more flowers, but there was a butterfly conservatory and a cactus greenhouse, etc.



After spending some time there, we walked from the Plantage district to the Heineken Experience building. Even if you don’t like Heineken, or beer for that matter, it was still cool to go through the tour for 15€ per person (on VISA again). Kind of neat to see the process of how it’s all made. Myself, definitely not a Heineken fan, but we’re in The Netherlands! We had a sample partway through and then at the end of the tour we could use the buttons on our wristbands to trade for two more drinks. I kind of hurried us out of there since I was feeling pretty awful and was getting a pounding headache. Too cold out to do anything else, and getting late, so we returned to the hotel and sent Tammy a message to let her know what time we’d be arriving tomorrow. There’s still so much that I wish we could have seen, and I regret not getting to Leiden, but with our limited time and illness it is just not possible.



For our final dinner in Holland we ended up at “Mezzaluna” for pizza and pasta. Unfortunately I couldn’t taste my food, nor smell it, but it looked tasty. Add in green tea and a hot chocolate and the meal came to 23€. Now back to our room to rest and take some more drugs, which aren’t working very well. Why is there no Advil Cold & Sinus here?!

{October 21 – 11:50 pm – Tüddern, Germany}
Woke up to the alarm at 8 am to start packing. Now I have one small suitcase, my purse, the Salzburg bag, and the Amsterdam bag, plus Jordan’s suitcase, all crammed with stuff. Yikes! At 10:45 am we went over to the bakery for a sandwich, cookie, and apple turnover (7.10€). I ate half the sandwich, Jordan had the cookie, and we packed away the food. Checked out a little before noon. Hopped on the #2 tram to Centraal Station and boarded the 12:38 pm Eindhoven train rather than the 1:38 pm due to a very tight transfer schedule between trains. We figured that, if we did happen to miss our connecting train, we wouldn’t be late for Tyler & Tammy. At Eindhoven we got on the bus to Weert, and then took the final train from Weert to Sittard (still in The Netherlands), arriving at 3:18 pm. Waited inside in the warmth til 4:45 pm for our ride. Long day, but it felt great to be back at our friends’ home. Later that evening we ordered food to be delivered: pizza, fries, and schnitzel. Didn’t eat much as I still was not feeling well. We watched “The Hangover” and then I took some Nyquil (yes, REAL drugs!) and fell asleep.

{October 22 – 11:12 pm – Tüddern, Germany}
This morning I was still sick so I decided to not accompany Tyler and Jordan to the Düsseldorf Airport. I had a granola bar and apple turnover for breakfast, and some water. My nose is sore. Jordan and I have our suitcases packed, finally. Tyler picked him up before lunch and left for the airport. Even though Jordan and I are parting today, with him heading back to work in the Middle East, I’m glad to be going home tomorrow. I had a nap from 1:30 to 3:30 pm and ate leftover pizza for dinner. Tammy and I watched the new “Robin Hood” movie and then I went to bed. Coughed all night.



{October 23 – 10:30 am – Tüddern, Germany}
We leave in an hour for the airport. I made myself some tea with sugar and peanut butter on toast for breakfast. Trying to stay away from milk, as that makes my cough worse. I have no idea how I am going to handle the two plane rides home in my state. My ears are plugged and I can hardly breathe. I should be in Toronto by 8:15 pm tonight, then a looooong drive home!

{October 23 – 3 pm EST – Somewhere Over Atlantic Ocean}
Tyler & Tammy drove me to Düsseldorf Airport. Before checking in I thanked them profusely for allowing us to stay with them. Got my boarding passes. The first flight to Amsterdam was only 30 minutes on a little plane. Once in Amsterdam, I found my gate after passport control. I’m on my way home! What an amazing trip!

***End of journal.

Made it home in one piece. The last flight home was great, no turbulence, however my plugged ears caused a lot of pain on the descent to Toronto Pearson Airport. Such excruciating pain, I don’t know how I stood it. During the flight I kept myself pumped with cold medication, otherwise I got coughing and couldn’t stop. Home sweet home.

Europe – Part V

***Continued from previous post.

{October 17 – 11:45 am – Bruges, Belgium}
We got up around 8 o’ clock to pack up our things. My bags are getting pretty heavy. Ate breakfast in the hotel at 10 am, then checked out for eleven. Caught the #12 bus at Markt Square heading to the train station. Stood in line for 15 minutes to buy two tickets to Amsterdam (94€ total, put on VISA). Looks like an hour ride to Brussels Midi station and then another 3 hours from there to Amsterdam Centraal.

{October 17 – 3:15 pm – Rotterdam Train Station}
Train just pulled away from Rotterdam station. We should arrive in Amsterdam sometime after 4:15 pm. The ride to Brussels Midi station was fine. We got off the train and went looking for a restroom and something to eat for lunch – only twenty minutes until our next train. Cashiers at the fast-food restaurants there were really slow; finally just bought two slices of pepperoni pizza (8€) and ran for platform 7, only to realize we were at the wrong platform! The train tickets are confusing. Ran back downstairs, pulling our luggage, and realized we needed to be at platform 19 in the next couple minutes. Train already there but we managed to get on and find a seat before it left. So far the weather looks good.



{October 17 – 11:50 pm – Amsterdam, The Netherlands}
At the train station we caught a tram heading toward Museumplein and got off there. Took awhile to find our way to Koninginneweg with my map printed from Google (didn’t have all the streets labeled). When we finally found our hotel we checked into the Park Plaza Vondelpark close to 5:30 pm. Unpacked. Around 7:30 pm we went down to the lobby to use the free wireless. Then headed out looking for dinner. We ended up walking all the way to Leidesplein where a whole bunch of restaurants are situated. Pretty crowded for a Sunday night. Decided on a Mexican restaurant, “Mathias”. I ordered an iced tea (carbonated, of course) and chicken enchiladas while Jordan had a Hoegaarden and a huge plate of nachos (27€, on VISA). Food was very good. We paid the bill at 9:18 pm and then proceeded to get lost on our way back to the hotel. We finally made it back, in the freezing cold, at almost midnight. My body feels terrible.



{October 18 – 11:30 am – Amsterdam, The Netherlands}
Woke up late so we’re just heading out to breakfast now. This hotel doesn’t include breakfast with the room rate and wireless internet is only available for free in the lobby. My throat is sore and nose is running. Pretty certain I’m catching a cold, after last night’s two hour adventure trying to find our hotel.

{October 18 – 6:45 pm – Amsterdam, The Netherlands}
Found a bakery just down the street and bought a sandwich to split and a blueberry muffin (5€). Good price to fill our tummies before lunch. We ate in the lobby while checking emails, etc. Then we walked up the road to Museumplein to the Van Gogh Museum. I purchased tickets before we’d left Canada so we didn’t have to wait in the long line, just walked right in. Looked at the paintings and checked out the exhibition downstairs. Nothing in the gift shop caught my eye. After we left the museum we started walking toward the Jordaan neighbourhood where Anne Frank House is located. Found a free city map at a tourist kiosk. It was quite a walk, a little chilly, but we were determined to use our feet rather than pay for trams. Lined up at Anne Frank House and waited about half an hour to get in (around 3:30 pm). I hadn’t purchased advance tickets because we didn’t know what day we’d do the house. The cost is 8.50€ per person. Very moving experience and incredible to see. The walls inside are covered in excerpts from “Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl” and there are short videos to watch as you walk through. Hard to believe the Frank family, and the other people, lived in these little rooms. In the bookshop at the end of the tour I picked up some postcards, two of the softcover diaries (one for Stacey), another book about the Frank family, and “The Last 7 Months of Anne Frank” (51€, on VISA).



When we came outside it had started to rain lightly so we ran up the street and I found a shop called “Boathouse”. Spent 30€ on three pairs of wooden clogs, a picture frame, and keychain. By then the rain had stopped and we walked back down Prinsengracht. Stopped for dinner at “De Oude Wester”. Delicious hamburger, fries, and hot chocolate for myself, and beer, a Dutch dish of meat, potatoes, and cabbage for Jordan (27€). Raining yet again so we caught the #2 tram to the Emmastraat stop, then walked the last few minutes to the hotel. Asked at reception if the hotel can book a tour for us, but the man handed me a pamphlet and said I could call myself to book. I asked how much the phone call would cost and he said “not a lot”, whatever that means. Not very helpful.

{October 18 – 9:00 pm – Amsterdam, The Netherlands}
Very chilled after our excursions so after washing up some underwear with liquid Tide, I felt like getting a hot tea or chocolate. We bundled up again and walked for 15 minutes trying to find a place that sold hot beverages to go. That was a bust, nothing really available in this end of the city. Ended up buying bottled water, juice, and a Snickers bar. Now that I really want a take-away hot tea, I have noticed that no one seems to be out carrying coffee cups. Maybe people just don’t do that here? I feel like crap. Why must I be sick in Holland? I have wanted to come here all my life and I am miserable.



{October 19 – 10:20 am – Amsterdam, The Netherlands}
Woke up with my throat still dry and sore, nose running, sneezing, etc. Lymph node to the left of my throat feels tender. Don’t have any cold pills left, as I gave them to Jordan when he was sick in Belgium. Already showered and waiting for Jordan so we can grab some breakfast somewhere.

{October 19 – 10:30 pm – Amsterdam, The Netherlands}
Walked down the main drag from our hotel toward the Rijksmuseum. There’s a park and a strip of souvenir shops, and a huge “I AMSTERDAM” display that people are climbing on. Stopped for a hot sugar waffle, an apple turnover, and a cappuccino. Then we made our way to the “Tickets & Tours” information booth near the Marriott Hotel. We booked a countryside tour of Volendam and Marken for 74€ (on VISA). From there we hopped on the #1 tram to Centraal Station and then went to the “Tickets & Tours” building to exchange our tickets for passes. At 12:45 pm we boarded a big bus and left the city through the tunnel under the harbour. Passed the “sleeping village” of Monnickandam, called this because there is a housing shortage in Amsterdam; people will work in Amsterdam and commute to the village to eat and sleep.



Our first stop was in the former fishing village of Marken, where the bus dropped us off. It’s started to pour and my umbrella is sorta broken, but Jordan’s managed to fix it for now. The guild led us on a walk through the village, pointing out all the green houses, and she explained that the water used to be salty but after the dike was created it gradually turned to fresh water. We walked to the ferry that would take us over to Volendam. While we waited for the ferry, we were allowed to go into the souvenir shop (I bought a magnet). At 2 pm we hopped on the boat for the half hour ride across the water. At Volendam we were given until 4:20 pm to do whatever we wanted to. Jordan and I strolled through the village, enjoying the beautiful day now that the rain had stopped. We ate fried cod pieces with lemon and tartar sauce and fries for lunch. I tried some Dutch pancakes called poffertjes while Jordan had an ice cream cone. At another store I purchased a pink bag with “Amsterdam” all over it, a couple magnets, and a postcard for 19€ (on VISA, as I’m short on cash now). At 4:30 our group walked over to the Volendam Museum (boring), then we boarded our bus and drove to the cheese factory! We were introduced to Iwan, who showed us how Dutch cheese is made. He wore wooden clogs with Nike symbols painted on them which Jordan thought were cool. Joking around, Iwan gave me a piece of cheese as he was demonstrating the slicer, and asked me if I was married. I laughed, said “yes”, and Iwan pretended to look embarrassed and replied, “Oh is that your husband behind you? So sorry!” We tasted a whole bunch of flavoured cheeses and they all tasted amazing. After that we walked over to the clog shop across the parking lot for a short demonstration. At 5:45 pm we drove to the windmill village of Zaanse Schans. The windmills there aren’t active anymore but the people who live in them must maintain them. Our group was given time to walk around for a half hour, taking photos. We were back in Amsterdam by 7 pm.



The bus dropped us off at Centraal Station. Walked to Leidesplein and ate dinner at “Mai Thai”. I love Thai food! Spent 34€ on iced tea, Sprite, Heineken, spring rolls, a huge bowl of rice, sweet n’ sour chicken, and a spicy coconut dish. After eating all that delicious food, we walked back to our hotel (about 15-20 minute walk). I think I need to find some cold medication tomorrow. I’m exhausted!

***Continued in next post.

Europe – Part IV

***Continued from previous post.

{October 14 – 12:00 pm – Munich Airport}
Got up extra early this morning to shower and we were down in the lobby to check out by 7 am. Jordan grabbed a croissant to go and we walked to the bus stop for the #2 heading toward the train station. Once there we boarded the train to Munich OST at 7:51 am. At Munich OST station (which we almost missed), we transferred to the S-Bahn #8 that goes directly to the airport. Checked in with Lufthansa and passed through security. At 11 am we sat down for lunch in the airport. For 21€ we had water, mango juice, cheese and ham on toast (for me), and eggs with ham and croissant (for Jordan). We have a half hour before we need to be at our gate to board the plane to Brussels, Belgium!



{October 14 – 3:25 pm – Brussels, Belgium}
Short flight from Munich to Brussels on a little plane. We were confused where to go for baggage claim; once we finally made it, our bags were just coming out so it was perfect timing. Bought our train tickets for 16.20€ each – this is a train to Brussels North station and then a transfer to another train heading to Bruges (Brugge). Once at the North station, we realized our ticket doesn’t state what platform the next train will be at so that was also confusing. I found a map that listed all the train destinations and the times and we finally figured out that we needed to be on the train with end destination of Knokke / Blankenburge. Now we’re on that train, on our way to Bruges.

{October 14 – 9:15 pm – Bruges, Belgium}
Jordan and I arrived to a drizzly, grey Bruges. It wasn’t cold, exactly, but the rain chilled our hands. We boarded a bus at the train station (a difficult feat with our small suitcases and other bags) and ended up getting off at the wrong stop. We really had no idea where we were going so we got off the bus and started back-tracking to Markt Square. Finally, after wandering around in circles, miserable, tired, and cold, an older gentleman told us how to get to our hotel. We are staying at the Hans Memling Hotel on Kuiperstraat and we kept coming really close to the street and then somehow getting off-track. What a nice man to help us tourists! During check-in we were told that our room was near the street on which some construction is taking place and that it would be noisy; however, the lady offered us the studio “triple” room for the same price since it would be much quieter. That made is quite happy! We dropped off our luggage and explored the little studio: on the bottom floor is a tiny room with toilet and sink, another room with tub/shower, a wardrobe, and a desk; and up the steep, winding staircase is the bedroom with one queen bed and one twin (like a loft).



Went out looking for dinner, armed with a map from the hotel. Once again, we walked quite a distance, sometimes seemingly in circles, before deciding on a restaurant. Ended up at “De Gouden Kroes”, which was not crowded at all and very warm inside. I ordered iced tea with a ham and cheese omelet; Jordan ordered the Flemish stew and a couple beers. The food was perfect and just what we needed after a long day of traveling. The iced tea I ordered ended up being carbonated, which surprized me at first, but then I decided that I really like it! For dessert we had a Belgian waffle with ice cream and chocolate sauce. Our bill came to 40€, our most expensive meal so far in Europe. After eating, we roamed the streets and found ‘t Zand Square (maybe a ten minute walk from our hotel). Right in the middle of the square is a giant floating inflatable naked man! Weird. Admired the fountains and took a few pictures with Jordan and the naked lady sculptures in the fountain. Getting very dark by now. More walking and we popped into a chocolate shop for some chocolates (what else?) and stroopwafels. We ended the evening with a scoop of ice cream before heading back to our studio room. There will be lots more to see tomorrow! I hope the weather improves because I’m already sick of rain.

{October 15 – 8:10 am – Bruges, Belgium}
Quick entry before we head out: A few weeks before leaving for this trip, I booked us on the full-day “Triple Treat” tour with Quasimodo Tours. Totally recommend this company, they are great! The tour cost 120€ for both of us. Unfortunately, Jordan has the beginnings of a cold but he says he’ll be fine for the day.



{October 15 – 6:05 pm – Bruges, Belgium}
What we learned today: It’s Brugge, not Bruges! The guide was very adamant about that, but I’m sticking with “Bruges” for this journal. Jordan and I walked to Park Hotel at ‘t Zand Square to meet the van for 9:15 am. Very small group, only 6 of us! Philippe, our guide, was very amiable and knew all sorts of historical facts. First we drove out to the moated Castle Tillegem. There are two black swans living in the moat. The castle is now used as offices. (So far it hasn’t started raining, but the sky is grey and it definitely feels like it will later.) We walked around to the back of the castle and took some photos. Next we clambered back into the warm van and headed out into the Flemish countryside to Chateau Loppem. After hearing some history about the building, our group explored inside the chateau. Around 12:45 pm we came to the town of Lissewege where we saw some Belgian Blue cows. Learned that these cows usually give birth through Caesarian section because the calves are too large. In Lissewege we had lunch at a restaurant (after viewing the tithe-barn in the backyard) at a farm. Inside, we were served ham, lettuce, and cheese sandwiches (yum!) and one free beverage; everyone had beer except me. I drank the most delicious hot chocolate I have ever had the privilege to sample! It was so creamy and tasted just like a chocolate bar, but not too sweet, either. The Belgians know their chocolate! For dessert we each had a crispy waffle with icing sugar and whipped cream – what a treat! I’m in love with waffles!



After lunch, Philippe drove us back to Bruges to “Roose’s Chocolate World” on Havenstraat. He gave us a demonstration on how the praline chocolates are made. Then we tasted some samples and were given some time to look around the shop. I bought a bar of milk chocolate, one of dark, and a package of thin wafer chocolates for 8.50€ to bring home. The next part of the tour brought us to the town of Damme (north-east of Bruges) around 3:15 pm. We parked by a canal with a beautiful old windmill in the background and walked to the town’s city hall. Philippe told us about the history of Damme and then we walked some more, admiring the houses and scenery, and finally stopping at the Church of Damme to inspect the cemetery. (At some point during the tour we also saw bunkers from WWII but I can’t remember where.) And to end the day, we went to a pub for beer-tasting and sampled four different kinds of beer. I tried them all but of course didn’t like any of them, not being a fan. The Kriek Max tasted like alcoholic cherry blasters.



{October 15 – 11:30 pm – Bruges, Belgium}
Walked around looking for a place to eat dinner around 8:30 pm after watching a movie back at the hotel. I ended up falling asleep and woke up starving. Of course, when we went outside it was pouring rain! Found a restaurant called “Brasserie Strijdershuis” and decided to give it a try. Food was expensive but tasty and the meal cost 40€. I had chicken breast with mushroom sauce, fries, salad, and iced tea (carbonated!); Jordan ordered rabbit in cranberry sauce, beer. Waiter was not helpful when we asked for explanations of some of the meals, nor was he friendly, and he seemed to avoid our table. I had to actually go up to the bar and ask for the bill after we finished our meal; we sat there for a good twenty minutes trying to catch his attention, but no luck. Good thing the food was delicious! Still pouring when we left…



{October 16 – 10:30 am – Bruges, Belgium}
Slept in this morning; we really were exhausted. Jordan’s still not feeling well. Don’t have any crazy plans for the day. Another rainy day; the weather really sucks right now, it’s hard to enjoy ourselves when we’re constantly wet and cold every time we leave the hotel.

{October 16 – 3:30 pm – Bruges, Belgium}
The streets were packed today, probably because it’s Saturday. Rained off and on throughout the day, good thing I have my purple umbrella. Ended up at ‘t Zand Square this morning and bought some danishes for later. Vendors are set up in the Square today. Jordan found a really warm, nice hoodie for 25€ (made in France, not China). I found some stroopwafels for 1€ a pack. Also bought ten Christmas cards for 3€. Did lots of browsing, but it was too cold to stay out for long. Walked some more and found HEMA department store – 2 sets of earbuds (8.50€ each), salty licorice (1.60€), spekulaas cookies (1.95€), warm gloves for Jordan (7.75€). On our way out the door I spotted a “Best of Krezip” CD, how could I resist for 8.95€? Popped into a couple souvenir shops and bought some postcards, magnets, and a little ceramic figurine of a boy and girl kissing (typical Belgian touristy stuff). Had lunch at a panini restaurant: two cheese, tomato, chicken, pesto, pineapple paninis, an iced tea, and Sprite for 15€. Oh my goodness, it was tasty! Took lots of photos during our trek around town. On our way back to the hotel we stopped at “Dumon” to get some chocolate wafers (7€) and truffles (2€ for four). Ahhh, I only have 15€ cash left, need to find an ATM!



{October 16 – 9:30 pm – Bruges, Belgium}
I fell asleep once we got back to our studio and Jordan ended up watching a movie while I napped. When I woke up at 5:30 (after sleeping two hours), we watched “The Score” on the Netbook. Then went on a search for dinner. Found an ATM on the way and took out 350€, the last of my travel money which needs to get us through Amsterdam as well. Food here has been ridiculously expensive. Finally we found a fast-food place serving double cheeseburgers with medium fries for 9.50€ (per meal). Going to bed soon. I’ll pack in the morning, I don’t have the energy to do it now. Check out is at 11 am tomorrow.

***Continued in next post.

First cold of 2010

Happy New Year! First post of 2010, and hopefully I won’t be as lazy as last year and barely write anything. Well, yesterday after work I began my holidays. I go back on the 10th. Unfortunately, I’ve come down with my first cold of the new year. Nice luck, eh? Felt like absolute crap yesterday and so Jordan went out to celebrate without me while I crawled into bed with a bottle of Nyquil and The Sleeping Buddha (Hamida Ghafour). Fell asleep around 11 pm. I feel slightly better today, meaning my nose isn’t running like a faucet but I’m still sneezing and feel a little woozy.