Wednesday, April 28, 2010

In Bruges

#1 Why have I still not seen this movie? I am going to waste so much time on Netflix when I get back to the States.

#2 Watch from :33 to :46 of the trailer. I climbed that tower, Belfry Tower. As I was climbing round and round and round I started realizing how narrow the stairwells were. I've done a lot of tower and cathedral climbing in the past month and these stairs were much more narrow than all of the rest. What do the workers at Belfry Tower do when people who actually can't fit in the stairwells want to climb the tower? Do they have to tell them that they're too fat to climb? That seems like it wouldn't go over well.  Probably most people know their limits so this isn't a problem, but what about guys like the one in the trailer who just don't know how narrow the stairs are? It's bound to happen!

The view from the Belfry

I only spent the day in Bruges, but it's a fairly small city and student museum cards for any museum in the city were only five euros. So I think I actually ended up seeing quite a bit. At any rate, I ate a Belgian waffle, bought some Belgian chocolate and had a Belgian beer I can't remember the name of. Those were my only real priorities.

 My camera died after I climbed Belfry Tower (it just couldn't take it!). I only made the effort to pull out my iPhone for photos that amused me, rather than taking artistic photos of the architecture or flowers. So, these are all I have to mark my day spent in Bruges.


Belgians have creepy advertising

Is there anyone who still watches Flashforward? Because this unexplained "No Crows" warning is hilarious if you do.

Grafitti at the top of Belfry Tower. Apostrophes are so difficult! In Bruges, there's a basilica that claims to have a vial of Jesus' blood that was brought to Bruges during the Second Crusade. It has some critics.

There are four windmills on the boundaries of Bruges, which used to be a part of the boundary fortification. 

Beside the windmill is this hill, on which we took a nap.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Shakespeare's Birthday and *+Lovers on Twitter

Today is Shakespeare's 446th Birthday and, in honor of that, I'm including as many Shakespeare images as I can in this entry being as much of an Anglophile as possible. It also happens to be St. George's Day, the long since abandoned national holiday of England. So, the whole Anglophile thing fits. (sidebar: my roommate is actually in England right now and I am beyond jealous of her)

I failed at eating fish and chips because the only fish and chips place in Amsterdam shut down. I bought falafel and chips instead. That counts, right? Now if only I could find some malt vinegar....

Failing the fish and chips, I'm drinking tea and about to settle down to watch Shakespeare In Love.

I know I know. I can hear you groaning. However! It's the only Shakespeare-related film I brought with me abroad and, without access to Netflix, I can't watch any of his plays online.

Actually, that's not entirely true. I'm watching Romeo and Juliet live on twitter right now. The Royal Shakespeare Company has started a new project called Such Tweet Sorrow. They've taken some of their actors, cast them in modern renditions of the Romeo and Juliet characters and let them loose on the internet (namely twitter, but several characters also have YouTubes, tumblrs and accounts).

The current buzz right now is that @JulietCap16 is about to have her sweet sixteen masked ball party (which just happens to be occurring on the Bard's b-day. Nice touch, RSC) and I'm betting @mercuteio and @romeo_mo are going to crash it. Just a guess.

I meant to plug this when it first started so that anyone interested wouldn't have to play catch up. Fortunately, the official site has a great running synopsis of the online action that, frankly, is a lot like No Fear Shakespeare. No, the actors don't tweet in iambic pentameter, but they do tweet A LOT. Sometimes I'll read the synopsis and have that familiar feeling I have when I read the actual No Fear Shakespeare of, "wait, really? How did you get that from that?"

Even if you didn't know it was Shakespeare's birthday (because I mean, really, who else is as big of a geek as I am?), I would recommend checking out Such Tweet Sorrow tonight because SHIT IS ABOUT TO GO DOWN Act I Scene V style.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

20 New Things: Eat a True Croissant in France


Ok, I gotta cop. I actually did not take photos of any of the croissants I ate while in Paris. But I did eat them! I picked up a croissant with coffee every morning and they were all delicious. The outsides were a bit tougher than the ones I've been (over)indulging in here in Amsterdam, but it didn't make a difference taste wise.

The thing I've learned about living in Europe is that all food is good food. Back in the States, you have to pay a bit more money for food to not taste like a shoe. In Europe, you could go to a run-down looking cafe or a university cafeteria and all of the food will be high quality. This is especially true for Paris.

Save a few meals at cafes, I mostly lived off street crèpes during my weekend in Paris. Believe it or not, I had completely forgotten that crèpes were a part of the French cuisine until I passed a street vendor a few minutes after arriving.

I would estimate that there are two crèpe vendors per block in Paris. Seriously. It was crèpe mania. And I fully took advantage of it. I was on a lemon and sugar (ou citronne et sucre) kick for most of the trip, but splurged on nutella once.

A crèpe in the process of being made. I would kill for some equipment like this. So hard to make them in a pan.

Besides eating my weight in crèpes and croissants, Lorax and I hit up all the typical tourist spots.

Eiffel Tower


Arc de Triomphe


Notre Dame

There were a few slightly more off the radar places I had hoped to check out, but I ended up not having access to internet at the hotel and had saved all the info about said places on Google Docs. #FAIL

Still, it's nice to be able to say I've been to all of the usual spots and to have experienced them. I definitely need to go back to Paris to get to know it on a more local level.

One thing I repeated every time I passed a statue or obelisk or engraving on a building was that I wished I had studied it prior to seeing it or that I had the time to in that moment. I feel like there is classical intellect seeped into every structure and decoration of Paris and I am yearning to discover it.

Perhaps next time I visit Paris I will be better prepared. This go around, I was happy enough just getting to see lots of gargoyles.

Notre Dame gargoyle. Didn't Disney name them after Victor Hugo?

Thursday, April 8, 2010

20 New Things: Attend a Film Festival

When I was perusing travel guide books before coming to Amsterdam, I found a lot of sweet annual film festivals that would be happening in the spring. Somehow, they all kind of flew over my head. Seriously, how is it April already? My calendar still says March.

Anyways, I figured my goal to attend a film festival was going to go they way of several other 20 New Things things that are unfeasible at this point.

Fortunately, today a friend invited me to go see a showing of Casablanca at the Filmmuseum. After arriving and buying our tickets, we realized it was actually being shown as apart of the Film Biënnale film festival! I still haven't completely figured out the theme or purpose of the festival (I think they're just showing classic films?), but their flyers are designed to fold up into cootie catcher. Bonus!

It's only running through this weekend (during which time I'll be in Paris), but I really want to try to catch a showing of Andy Warhol's archives and properly attend the festival (aka be cognizant of the fact I am at a festival).

I've never actually been to a film festival before (hence why this was included as a new thing) and, since I didn't even know this was a festival, it clearly wasn't overly exciting. However, getting to see the Filmmuseum (where I assume a lot of the festivals take place) and how spectacular it is (huge old building with a red curtain and proscenium arch around the silver screen) motivated me to actually pay attention to any more festivals that might be happening while I'm here. There was some talk of a horror film fest...

And now the Lorax. With a classic red phone booth:

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Cool Britannia

Before I say anything else, let me first address the title of this entry. The term "cool Britannia," a play on the traditional song "Rule, Britannia!" was thrown around a lot when Tony Blair first came into power. Right now, Blair's successor, Gordon Brown, has called for parliament to be dissolved and the future of the Labour Party is totally up in the air. Despite my Liberal Democrat leanings, I have a soft spot for Gordon Brown. Dunno why, really. I do, however, know perfectly why I do NOT want David Cameron and the Conservatives to be put into power. Even a coalition party would be better than that.

Is any other American as excited about this as I am? Seriously. Let me know if you are so we can be best friends.

So, while the announcement about elections and everything was happening in London, I was actually there to see it all first hand.

Ok, not really. I walked by the Houses of Parliament once to gawk at the hundreds of media camps set up to report on the unfolding events...but other than that, I was just bumming around London while it was all going around.

I took side trips to a few other towns in England and will probably be devoting a blog entry to each of them in the near future (though possibly not so near because I'm off to Paris in two days). As yet, I'm not sure how I want to chronicle my time in London on this blog. I mean, pretty much, I stalked ministers of parliament, ate a ton of fish and chips, hung out with some girls from Turkey and accidentally washed my hair with hand lotion.

If I think of some interesting way to present my wayward adventures in London, I'll let you know.

Until then, enjoy the first of many photos of the Lorax in the UK.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

20 New Things: Try Indonesian Cuisine

FINALLY an official 20 New Things post. I've half done a few other things on the list or am about to do them so more of these entries are forthcoming.

The Dutch colonized most (all of?) Indonesia back in the Imperial age and, because they captured a bunch of them and brought them back here, Holland is known for its Indonesian food.

Originally, I was going to get another "new thing" out of the way today by eating at the Sea Palace Floating Restaurant, but it turns out they have exorbitant prices. So, that's probably not going to happen, but Indonesian did!

My roommate and I pretty much just picked the cheapest Indonesian sit-down restaurant on google and hoped it would be alright. Turns out it's a local favorite.

As I'm headed to England in the morning (slash a few hours), I had my camera at home charging for the trip and completely forgot I would want to take photos at the restaurant. So, I had to use my iPhone in a place with really bad lighting.

I got a simple vegetarian rice dish. It said it came with soy sauce, but the sauce was actually much sweeter and thicker than soy sauce. No complaints though, it was delicious. The menu also said it would come with eggs. Fried eggs are my favorite part of any stir-fry so I was a bit disappointed when my meal didn't seem to have any eggs. After a few bites, however, I discovered that instead of fried egg yolks, there were slices of hardboiled egg whites.

Another thing that stuck out, what made it Indonesian I guess, was the addition of airy cracker sort of things.

The cracker things are at the back of the plate. The way they were served on my plate, I wasn't sure if I was supposed to mix them in with the rest of the food or eat them as a side. I ended up ignoring most of them because they didn't taste too great on their own. I think they would've been really good in soup. I mostly say this because after a few had soaked in some stray sauce for a while, they were much more tasty.

Obligatory photo proving I ate Indonesian food.

All in all, I didn't find Indonesian much different than generic Asian food. I was expecting it to be really spicy (like Thai) or have some other distinguishing characteristic. Perhaps after eating more of it and exploring more dishes, I'll be able to find what makes it stand out from other cuisines. However, if the Dutch's treatment of Chinese and Indonesian as synynoms in terms of food is any indication, Indonesian food might not be unique after all.