Cancun Resort Sunday: Snorkeling

We had rescheduled our snorkeling trip, and there were only four of us on the boat…a nice woman and her son, so we kind of lucked out. It was a gorgeous day out on the water. It was such a beautiful pale turquoise. First, we were going to see turtles. There were no turtles. We swam and swam and finally I gave up and went back to the boat. I had thought we were going to Akumel Bay, which is world-famous for turtles. I questioned the tour guy, and he threw his hands in the air, exasperated and said, “Akumel, Akumel, Akumel!” Exactly like the Brady Bunch “Marcia! Marcia! Marcia!” Maybe you need a special license or something to go there that he didn’t have and he was frustrated at his terrible dive area.

She looks angry, but she was just having trouble with her full-face snorkel. They aren’t the best, and have turned out to actually be dangerous.

Next we were going to the reef, but there was just a depressing black-bottom. At one point I saw a giant barracuda and started chasing it, I looked back for the photographer and he was shooting B-roll of ugly dead coral. Later he asked me if I was crazy following the barracuda, I was thinking, “Well, I expected you to take a picture of me with it!” I was also thinking barracuda aren’t really dangerous. We had them in the water at the beach where I grew up. Although one time one did bite my friend on the tit, but it was funnier than it was scary. Anyways, in spite of the photographer’s barracuda fail, he did get this absolutely awesome picture of me.

The final dive was an old shipwreck, but it was a very small boat that sunk in the 80s and you just swim around it. It’s not some big galleon you can swim through. I decided to save my already wobbly legs for the next day’s whale shark excursion. We enjoyed just hanging out in the boat a lot.

This guy kayaked up to the boat to sell lobsters.

Cheesy tourist pic

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Cancun Resort Saturday: The Universe had other Plans

I booked two excursions for Saturday–snorkeling the reef during the day and a food crawl in the evening. We had to wake up super early and take two trams to get to the pickup spot for tour buses. The bus was late, and when it finally came there was only room for one of us. They hadn’t counted Bob. So, we decided to reschedule for the next day and went back to hang out at the pool until our evening tour. There were pools all over the place, but we went to the smaller one nearest to our room with less kids than some of the others. There were cement chaise lounges built into the pool, but it was hard to relax in one without sliding down into the water. They needed handles or foot pegs or something. There was a swim-up bar but I wasn’t really in the mood.

We ordered shrimp tacos poolside and I found a little cove with those white canopied beds you see in all the Instagrams. No one was around, so I had some time to just relax by myself and enjoy the mild breeze.

We got ready and made our way back to the bus pickup. We waited for the bus. And waited. And waited. I had texted with the people earlier in the day, but now my texts went unanswered. We finally returned to the room and ordered room service. This is the only trip in my entire life where I stayed ensconced in a resort and never made it into the actual city. I always believed that line about being a “traveler, not a tourist,” and seeing the REAL country and the REAL culture. But I guess when Covid is still raging and you are exhausted and stressed out, there are worse things than eating ceviche and lounging by the pool at a resort all day. The resort had a “Mexican Village” down by the water. It turned out to be like Knott’s Berry Farm’s “Old West” town. There was something so sad and ironic about little pretend shops and restaurants in the safety of an enclosed resort, that was honestly pretty hard to leave even when you are really trying. At least they had ice cream. And Churros.

They even had Gouda cheese ice cream.

It was too surreal for us though, so we didn’t eat dinner there. We probably should have. We went to the Italian restaurant, which was terrible. I started out with burrata, which I guess was OK, but there was a burned kind of balsamic. They had a nice harpist. But the risotto was like glue. I can see why so many contestants go home on Top Chef or get yelled at by Gordon Ramsay due to risotto. It can go really bad. They had the same crazy ass bread basket as the Cirque du Soleil.

We went and checked out the alligators before turning in early.

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Cancun Resort Friday: Ceviche and Surrealism

We had been ordering room service breakfast, because honestly, it took at least a half-hour to get to anywhere that had food. This was the mediocre to bad cafeteria-conference meeting fare I had been expecting. I guess the breakfast comes from a different restaurant than the dinners. but then we hit the pool and the nearby restaurant, Limon y Sal, which specializes in Ceviche. It was awesome. probably the best meal of the entire trip.

We had the Mixed Yellow Ceviche with scallops, octopus, grouper, salmon, yellow Peruvian chili pepper in a citrus sauce and fish tacos.

We wandered along the beach, then took a tram to the resort’s Cirque du Soleil show, JOYA. There were a few bars to hang out in while we waited we ordered a couple of very strong drinks and enjoyed the moonlight.

A 3-course meal of trippy food was included and served before the show while we listened to an awesome jazz band. Everything was really creative, with a lot of molecular gastronomy and food that was disguised as other things. But the flavor wasn’t there. You could eat the menu, and we were given huge appetizer plates with crazy concoctions.

Our main dishes arrived in big gold nuggets.

My braised short ribs in Mayan spices were pretty standard, but Bob was not into his salmon dish. Although he had a cool molecular gastronomy “pearl”

Our desserts arrived in a giant book.

After dinner, things got really weird.

“Prepare for a fantastic adventure that will take you through the jungle, under the sea, and across the pages of history. Each night, acrobats perform dizzying flips and leaps, contortionists bend impossibly, puppeteers make dinosaurs dash and cockroaches dance, musicians fill the world with song, and the very stage comes alive to lead you on a journey that dazzles the senses.”


The design and effects that made it seem like we were all under the sea were awesome, with the acrobats moving as if they were swimming.

At one point skeleton pirates came out on a giant ship. Then they suddenly slid down from the ceiling into the audience on ropes. One was right behind me and freaked me out.

I have a roach phobia, so the singing cockroach puppets also freaked me out. Luckily they were far away.

I don’t know if our tram driver was in a rush to get back and pick up more people, or he was just having fun, but he drove back like a bat out of hell. I didn;t know those things could go that fast, and I was certain we were going to flip over as we took some of the corners. The wind was in my hair and it was awesome.

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Cancun Resort Thursday: Dinner at GONG

Vidante Resort had an assortment of international restaurants that I viewed with a jaundiced eye, but you can’t eat tacos 24/7 (or CAN you?). We called for reservations, since some restaurants were only open on certain nights, and some had closed due to Covid. We ended up with GONG, an Asian-themed spot. A large part of this vacation is tram-riding and walking and trying to figure out where you are.

Walking, walking, walking…

Where are we???

We were told the restaurant was above the boutique, so we got in the elevator and pushed the button for the second floor. It was just a bunch of offices and their call center, with operators busily working in windowed rooms. There was no third floor. So we took the stairs down, and there it was! It was on the 1 1/2th floor maybe?

GONG is superfancy and decorated with a lot of Buddhas. We had a lovely table in the corner watching the kitchen, and I got to sit on the banquette. I was excited about the dim sum, so we decided to order a bunch of appetizers and see if we were still hungry. Then this guy appeared in his leather apron and leather gloves.

I said, “Bob, this man has come to kill us.”

Bob assured me, “I think he is here to make cocktails.” not wanting to cross this man, I ordered a lychee margarita.

It packed a wallop, and even only drinking about a third of it between the two of us, I had a pretty good buzz going. The food arrived and it was awesome. These dumplings were filled with short ribs and a little hoisin sauce. The combo of richness and sweetness was inspired and made one dumpling perfectly delicious and gorgeous, but you couldn’t eat too many of them.

This was not true of the shrimp and pork pot stickers, with a kiss of ginger and garlic in a paper thin wrapper that was almost like a crepe. I could have eaten them all night, and in fact, I ordered some to go for the perfect midnight snack.

Bob loved his hand roll, and we rounded out the menu with tempura shrimp and Vietnamese Spring Rolls. We definitely didn’t need to order main dishes.

We did decide to continue with our prudent consumption of alcohol and sugar by splitting an irresistible-sounding cacao and ginger mousse/creameux with macadamia nuts. It was served with vanilla and ginger ice cream. A lovely finish.

The pools looked dreamy and inviting with the soft lighting and without the crowd.

Too inviting for me to resist. I had foolishly ignored someone’s advice to always wear a bathing suit, but that never stopped me before. Especially after a lychee margarita.

At this point, I was about ready to sign up for a time share.

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Cancun Resort Thursday: The Vidanta Riviera Maya

I had booked a couples massage for us, and we woke up less than an hour before the appointment. We had to rush and then take two trams and walk a ways, so we were a little late. They nevertheless accommodated us and gave us the full treatment. Starting off, they blessed us with elements of Earth, Fire, Air and Water. For fire, they used flameless candles, which I found hilarious, but it’s the thought that counts, right? It was a long and thorough massage, and then they gave us macarons. When I was booking the treatment in my terrible Spanish, I couldn’t understand what “macaron” was. Some exotic body treatment? Then I realized, “You mean cookies???”

I had wanted to lunch at Havana Moon, the resort’s Cuban restaurant on the beach, but they were closing up as we arrived. The beach was beautiful, but due to a buttload of a seaweed-like algae called Sargassum, it wasn’t really swimmable.

De rigeur feet on the beach shot

There had been a lot of pictures online of a hut at the end of a dock, taken from the other end of the dock. I went looking for the dock, for the ‘Gram, but it wasn’t going to happen.

We ended up at Balche, the poolside cafe. Even though it was open-air, they run a lot of fans and keep it cool and comfortable. They also have a very convenient box of outlets to charge your phone, and cute little birds flying through. Although when one flew right at my face full speed it was a little startling. I avoided a Fabio incident though, just by a beak. I ordered the ribeye tacos, and Bob had a shrimp burrito. Once again, every single thing, down to the french fries, was delicious. If this place were near my home I would definitely eat there again.

Then we walked, we walked and we walked. We passed a big swimming pool full of revelers. Not as many kids as drunks, especially some howler monkey guys near the swim-up bar. I told Bob, “That’s somebody’s vacation, but it’s not mine.”

We took two trams back. You always have to go to a central station and then you can take a tram to wherever you’re going. Riding through the jungle, it’s kind of like being at Disneyland. In fact, if the tram is your favorite thing at Disneyland, and you think, “Like Disneyland, but every. single. ride. is a tram,” this is YOUR place. Numerous iguana sightings made it more fun.

In fact, they also had coatls, a relative of the racoon that look like monkey cats, that everyone kept insisting I would see, a crocodile pit, a “flamingorium,” Cirque du Soleil, a water park, and trees randomly dropping coconuts. I even saw an employee board a tram with a falcon on his arm.

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Cancun Resort: Wednesday

During the height of Covid, a lot of places were offering ridiculous deals, with the promise of traveling any time within the next two years. One place advertised on Facebook. A week in Cancun for $250 bucks. I decided I would take that bet. Well, here we are almost a year later, and I am comfortably ensconced in a big comfy bed, full of margaritas and ready to go out looking for little local racoonish cat things. We ended up paying $250 more for an upgrade to a much nicer hotel at the resort. Well spent. I never used to like the idea of resorts because of this philosophy, nicely summed up by Camper Van Beethoven:

We had a long and annoying flight, with the people in front of us slamming backwards in their seats at random, and a coke spilling all over me. Changing clothes on a plane is not fun. My friend asked me to have a mango margarita for her, so I had that handled before we even left the airport.

The check in process was extensive, with us being dropped off by the van, doing paperwork with a bellboy, then taking a tram to our hotel’s check in. The bellboy told me to take a picture so I did.

Then I realized that he meant I should take a picture of the number on our luggage cart so we didn’t forget it. So yeah, I was tired. By the time we got to the check-in around 10:30 pm we were so done. It turns out the resort requires a $1,000 deposit on your card. I only had $500 on my card, and I swear he was just going to kick me off the resort and let me sleep on the beach. No one warned me of the deposit, and he insisted they did. Luckily Bob had his work card, and I hope he doesn’t get in trouble for using it for the hold. But when we finally made it to our room it was really nice. Everything was marble, which is so refreshing in hot weather.

I immediately called room service, then took a soak in this giant tub

Room service blew my mind. It was awesome. The steak was accompanied by a mole enchilada and a little hard taco. The guacamole was fresh and flavorful.

This did much to improve my mood and my estimation of touristy resorts. The bed was firm but gentle and I slept until noon the next day. The view from our window:

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Ich bin ein Berliner: Monsterkabinet is Awesome!

If you ever find yourself in Berlin, you absolutely must go to Monsterkabinet. It was the most creative and fun attraction I have ever seen. It is something of a cross between a haunted house and an art exhibit. It is quite literally underground, which makes it a little spookier. All i knew about it was that an artist’s collective had made giant machine monsters that move. I arrived early and had a moment to chat with the tour guide and she promised that nothing would touch me.

There are about a dozen people on the tour. We are all gathered near the entrance, and the next thing you know, a giant spider the size of a VW comes crawling menacingly towards you. And it doesn’t stop. A lot of people screamed and tried to back away as far as possible. I broke into hysterical laughter. It was shocked laughter, my mind was more blown than frightened, but there is a little edge to it. It was just so outrageous. I haven’t had a full body laugh like that in i can’t remember how long.

I don’t want to ruin all of the surprises, but after the spider they have lost your trust and there is an overlay of uneasiness and excitement throughout the rest of the show. At one point a mechanical monster was grabbing at us, and another person in the crowd tried pushing me in front of them. Every man for themselves!

Each of the mechanical monsters has a spiel and hidden talents. There is a lot of cool music and some compulsory dancing involved. One of the last monsters reminded me of being in the tiki room. A scary tiki roof with gnashing jaws and unpredictable movements, but it had that same sense of fun, plus good harmonies.

There are no pictures allowed during the show, but I was allowed to take a few on my way out.

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Ich Bin Ein Berliner: Lutter & Wagner at Gendarmenmarkt


“In 1811, the wine merchants Christoph Lutter and August F. Wegner opened a wine shop on Gendarmenmarkt, which in no time at all enjoyed an excellent reputation. They became purveyors to the court of the Prussian crown prince, Frederick William IV of Prussia.”

Just before golden hour, I arrived at the Gendarmenmarkt, a huge square in Berlin that is home to three enormous and gorgeous buildings, the German and the French Cathedral, and Schinkel’s Konzerthaus.

There is even a painting in the restaurant depicting a waiter admiring the view.

The dining room is relaxed and upscale. But that’s not the story.

There was a special white asparagus menu. An entire menu. When white asparagus, or spargel, is in season, the whole city goes nuts. It’s like being in D.C. for cherry blossom season, but much tastier. Spargel is the word for asparagus in German, but it is mostly used to describe the tender, delicate stalks that are grown underground to avoid photosynthesis. It is estimated that 82,000 tons of Spargel are actually produced in Germany each year — which only meets a little more than half of consumption needs. On this evening I enjoyed a rich cream of asparagus soup. It was unbelievable.

For my main dish, I ordered asparagus with a small wiener schnitzel. Again, tender, succulent spargel with a tender schnitzel that was not greasy at all.

One of the restaurant workers wanted to make sure I understood, as a matter of national pride, that the wiener schnitzel is not German food, but Austrian. He complained about his employers, saying, “You know how it is when Austrians come to Berlin. They lose their minds. Especially short Austrians.

“Did you just make a Hitler joke?” I asked.

“Well, umm, yes.”

He kind of walked straight into an old joke, which I won’t mention here for obvious reasons. But I did give him a slight scare.

For dessert I tried the ugly but exciting Karamellisier Kaiserschmarrn. It was delicious. There was a waitress there with a bob cut and heavy, black round rimmed glasses. She looked SO German I asked if I could take her picture, but she declined.

You really can’t help but laugh. If you have the mind of a 5 year-old.

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Ich bin ein Berliner: Welcome and The Zoo

More than any other place I have traveled so far, I had a difficult time in Germany. There were a lot of complex procedures and rules of conduct that I was unaware of, and when you break them, Germans get very angry. I really felt like I needed to have a friend living there to show me the ropes. I was also kind of obsessed with WWII, and obsessed with avoiding the subject of WWII. Nonetheless, there were a lot of fantastic things to see and do and eat.

When I first arrived in Berlin, I took a cab to the hotel. There are no Ubers in Berlin because they violate transport laws. As we neared The Brandenburg Gate, a march/ride to encourage bicycle riding was taking place. The taxi driver rolled down his window to shake his fist and scream at them. I’m sure the last thing he needed was for people to give up on cars. The hotel, Titanic Comfort Mitte, was no frills but the people were friendly and willing to assist me with my almost non-existent German.

Once I settled in, I walked down the street to have lunch at the non-touristy and unappetizing-sounding Spitteleck. I ordered a nice, cold hefeweizen and settled in. The menu was kindly translated–into French. But sometimes, English and German coming from the same language family really helps. I ordered Schweinefleisch. It was delicious.

I hopped on the U-Bahn, which was only a block away. Well, I didn’t exactly “hop.” First you have to buy the ticket from a machine that is in German. Finally, I realized the British flag on the screen would translate the screen to English. For almost my entire trip, every time I went to the station, I helpfully pointed out the flag to befuddled Americans. Then you have to get your ticket validated by sticking it in some kind of a slot that I could not find. I did manage to accidentally summon an elevator before someone showed me where to stick it. See, I told you I needed a German friend. Hans? Greta? Where are you?

I took the train to check out the zoo. It sounds stupid now, but in the Netherlands they had a Galapagos turtle, and I didn’t find out in time to go see it. I wanted to see if the German zoo had any animals we don’t have in American zoos. So here is what a German panda looks like

This is what a German koi and bonus German child look like

They did have this crazy snake-necked turtle, which for some reason reminded me of the punchline of a joke my brother often repeated, “Dig that crazy necktie!”

Across from the zoo is the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. Kaiser Wilhelm II built it to honor his grandfather, Kaiser Wilhelm II. It was bombed in WWII, losing the top of its turret. When helping rebuild Berlin, the allies didn’t want to restore a symbol of nationalism, and the missing spire has remained as a reminder of the horrors of war.

The steps of the church were covered with flowers, candles, and photographs, so I knew it was the site of something terrible. Another person standing next to me staring at the photos saw my inquisitive expression and said something like “Christmas. Terrible…” then walked away crying. I realized then this was the site of the 2016 terrorist attack on Berlin’s famous Christmas market. Two years before my visit,
Twelve people were killed when 24-year-old Tunisian Anis Amri drove a truck into the market on December 19, 2016, the deadliest attack in Germany.

There was a heartbreaking and beautiful tribute…a gold-filled crack tracing the truck’s route to the steps. It felt disrespectful to photograph any of this.

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Rotterdam: A Perfect Day


My favorite things about traveling are art and food. On this particular day I stuffed myself with both.

The Mariners Museum was right behind the hotel, so I stopped in. It turned out it wasn’t the right museum. It was the Museum for their Navy. But there were several old retired seamen playing cards and I would have felt like a jerk walking out. There was a lot of dull ephemera, like the plates they used on Naval ships. Not nearly enough weapons. Inexplicably, they had a makeshift alley skate park diorama in one corner.

Willem Joseph Baron van Ghent, the subject of a painting and sculpture, bore an uncanny resemblance to our friend, Heath, and also to Ludacris.

I made my way to the Museum Boijmans van Beuningen to see “Vorm – Fellows – Attitude,” an exhibit of four enormous scultures of excrement. It took four years for the Vienna-based art collective Gelatin to finish the sculptures after being commissioned by the museum.

Next to the poop exhibit was a collection of anatomically correct “naked” suits. The gallery was empty and I wasn’t sure if we were allowed to wear them, but apparently that is what they were there for. According to one of the artists, the naked suits are “a gift to visitors” that enhance the exhibition and their own experience of it. I didn’t know we were allowed to–much less encouraged to–wear the suits. I apologize that my pictures from this day are missing except for a few I took on my phone, so you will just have to imagine the suits. here is a Yayoi Kusuma infinity room to make it up to you.

I then  wandered through a kind of arty neighborhood to Warung Mini, a highly recommended Surinamese hole-in-the-wall.

As had become my habit, I ordered a variation of Nasi Goreng, which is Indonesian fried rice piled high with a variety of meats, stews, noodles, a fried egg, or krupuk cracker…whatever is handy. The food, the ambiance and the general groove of Warung Mini was awesome. Everything I look for.

I finally made it to the Maritime Museum, which was my goal all along. There were dozens of old boats docked outside, and I got a little emotional thinking how much my dad would love to be there. Then in an unusual moment of faith, I thought, “He is here – with me.”

In the evening I went to an Indonesian place called Sari Koering for dinner. It was literally a mom and pop place. The pop’s accent was exactly that of our old family friend Corrie. His Indonesian wife cooking in the kitchen even reminded me of his wife, Mis, so I felt very at home. Their Nasi Goreng was more homemade, and made with love.

 

 

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I amsterdam: Dutch Culture

DSC02275 (3)

I have 2 questions whenever I arrive at a new place.

Question 1. Can you jaywalk?

Yes. But cars and bikes will run you over–even if you are in a crosswalk! Between the street and the bike lane, it is a bit like playing Frogger. I finally figured it out over time. there two kinds of crosswalks. the ones with broken lines. will not protect you. They appear to be for bicycles. Cars will stop for you in crosswalks with solid lines.

People always complain about getting run over by bikes. The bike lanes are clay-colored, so just stay off of anything clay-colored. I forgot this rule ones and cried, “Shit!” as I jumped out of the way of a passing group of bicyclists who had a good laugh at my panic.

Do not walk on this clay path:

Question 2. Do you greet strangers on the street?

No. You do not nod or smile or even look them in the eye unless you are taking part in some transaction, then eye contact is pretty much the same as in American culture. I had a hard time not looking people right in the eye and smiling, which I gather is being overly familiar. People do respond nicely to questions like, “Is this the right bus stop?” Or “Which way to the museum?” But if you are just passing on the street, don’t look at them. Stop it! They have nothing to do with you.

We take our sunshine for granted. My first day in the Netherlands was a sunny one, and I took a long nap. The next two days were overcast and rainy. So even though I didn’t want to go on a boat ride, as soon as the sun came out I took a boat ride.

I noticed most people in the cities and who work in hotels and shops speak English. Those who don’t are game to speak a patois with you and use a lot of pointing and gestures. Some people act offended if you ask if they can speak English. They respond with “Of course!” in a tone that sounds like, “Do you think I’m stupid?”

People say, “Good morning,” and “Hello,” but they don’t ask, “How are you?” If they do ask, they genuinely mean it and expect a real answer.

They are also very conscious of class issues. If you order an Uber, you sit in the front seat with the driver. To sit in the back like you are something special is very classist.

One difference between Southern California and Europe in general is that people do not walk around staring at their phones there. High School kids do it on the U Bahn in Germany, but that’s about it.

Another thing–we are really serious about hydrating in L.A. No one else I saw on my entire trip walked around with a drink. Even serious bike riders in spandex bodysuits didn’t have plastic bottles of water.

The cokes were small, so I would order them two at a time, which freaked people out. They would bring me a separate glass for each coke I ordered, which I didn’t really need. I tried to ask the front desk to stock my mini fridge with Coke Zero, a service the card says they offer. They just kept telling me to order room service. So I ordered 3 diet cokes and 3 sparkling waters, planning to keep them in the fridge. Communication breakdown.

DSC02261

Other things to love about Dutch people:

They always have Drost chocolate sprinkles on the breakfast buffet.

They charmingly call the train drop off point “the Kiss and Ride.”

They are extremely apologetic.

They have done away with so many of those pesky vowels.

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Rotterdam: Foodhallen

There was a much more extensive Foodhall in Rotterdam than in Amsterdam.

Besides the prepared food, there were counters of spices and cheeses and sit-down restaurants. It was right next to the train station and just across the street from my ideally located hotel. I had a nice breakfast of an egg, bacon and cheese broodjie on fantastic French bread from a little French bakery.


Marketplaces around the world are so similar in many ways you can almost forget where you are. Almost.


Another great thing about Europe is its proximity to all of the other countries, so you can get some amazingly fresh delicacies at reasonable prices. I was really into the Iberico ham.


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Rotterdam: Mooii

Citizen M did not have a restaurant, but it faced a large square with at least 5 restaurants, and if you wanted to walk around the small harbor, there was a whole restaurant row with some really jumping bars. It was cold and cloudy and I was exhausted so I stumbled over to the back patio of the modern French/Dutch Mooii, which thankfully was open until 10 PM. The waiters seemed to sense my fragility and were very kind and overly accommodating, or maybe that place just has incredible service all of the time.

I ordered the “Ossenhaas van Clare Valley, Gold Rund, Polenta en Truffeljus” or Tenderloin of Clare Valley Gold Beef, and Polenta in Truffle Gravy. One reason that I ordered it was that you could add seared foie gras, but the foie gras was all out since I was eating so close to closing time.

I knew with a main course that good I would have to order dessert. I had the “Chocolate Ganache-cake bosvruchen marshmallow en yoghurtijs” Chocolate ganache cake with forestfruit marshmellow and yogurt ice cream.

It started to rain and I didn’t really care. Sometimes when you are traveling you just take things in stride. But the waiters rushed out and put me under a big umbrella. I felt very taken care of, which means so much when you are a lone traveler.

 

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Rotterdam: Thoroughly Modern Citizen M

I had heard a lot about the architecture in Rotterdam, with one striking example being the yellow cube houses (Kubuswoningen). As soon as you exit the train station they are right there, and continue across the street right to my Hotel. The smaller houses, designed by architect Piet Blom, are single family units, with one being used as a showcase house for tours. There are two large ones that have been converted into hostels. I was unaware of that when I was booking this trip, but maybe next time. StayOK Hostel.

The location of Citizen M couldn’t be better. Although it is across the street from the station and Foodhallen, the hotel is through a breezeway and faces a courtyard with a small harbor, so it is sheltered from the hustle and bustle.

I asked for a room with a view and they looked a little pained and said they wished I had checked in earlier. I made mention of my long day and she kindly dug up a fantastic room for me. The room was rather small. If you are traveling with someone else, you had better like them enough to be right on top of them. The view from the bed that was nestled in front of the giant picture window made me feel like I was in a nest, so I was very comfortable.

The only weird thing is the bathroom, which is a kind of giant plastic insert with the toilet and shower enclosed. I would not want to be sharing that bathroom with another person.

There are a lot of shared public spaces for hanging out in the hotel, and Europeans seem to make use of them more than we do in America. The hallway was a little spooky.

The room was super high tech with an Ipod that controlled the drapes, the tv and the lights. My mother would have hated it. But I was into it, and I enjoyed curling up watching the almost first-run movies.

It was getting late, but again, I love Europe’s late night dinners.

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Off to Rotterdam, Dammit!

The train station in Haarlem was beautiful, with mosaics that looked almost socialist.

There was some confusion in the Haarlem ticket office about how my Eurail pass worked. I had to run back and forth between the office and the ticket taker. When it was finally handled, I rushed off to my train. When i arrived in Rotterdam an hour later, I realized I did not have my backpack with me, only my rolly bag and a shopping bag with snacks and magazines. I called the train people from the Rotterdam station. You can imagine how time-consuming and useless that was. So I got on the train heading back to Haarlem.

It was not in the lost and found in Haarlem even though I was certain I left it in the office. No one had seen it. They called the train people too, and after 20 minutes of the woman on the phone questioning me and writing down all of my info she said, “We will not be calling you.”

Why not?

“That train has arrived at its final destination and the bag is not on it.”

It’s not on the train. It’s in the station. There is no way to let me know if my bag is found at the station?”

“I’m sorry. No.”

After 2 hours of frustration I did the logical thing and went outside to cry. Then, just like in a movie where the hero/lost puppy/girlfriend reappears just as all hope is lost, one of the people from the office came out to get me. And there it was, on the counter.

I had left it on the floor while I went back and forth dealing with my ticket and a guard had assumed it belonged to an employee…because its not like anyone else would have luggage at a train station…and he put it in the room with the employees stuff.

I arrived back in Rotterdam too late to do anything that day, but I did handle a lot of frustration on my own without calling Bob and leaning on him for support. So I feel good that I am becoming more independent, which is one of the things traveling is supposed to teach you. Also, never set your stuff down, and count all of your bags repeatedly. Lesson learned.

Well, since I did have to take 3 train rides, here are some pretty pictures from the train.

Posted in Amsterdam, Holland, Netherlands | Leave a comment