Practical considerations

We are going to pack light for this trip. Our cameras and what will fit in a backpack.
Pretty bold for a couple of old fogies like ourselves. I know we will need to restock on the essentials while we are there…that is why I am researching phrases in Dutch, French and Italian

Ik wens om onder broek te kopen

Je souhaite acheter sous le pantalon

Desidero comprare sotto i pantaloni

Probably one of the more “adventurous” aspects of our trip will be attempting to carry everything we need in a backpack style bag.

No bigger than a carry on sized piece of luggage, it measures 9″ x 21″ x 14″ and is ultra light weight.

So yea, basically we are backpacking across Europe for 3 weeks. Of course we are riding the rail and staying in 4 star hotels and B&B’s the whole way….but still. Looks like we will buy clothing over there and/or do some laundry.

It’s going to be interesting but, as we learned on our trip to the UK, much more efficient. On our last vacation we had 3 bags each and it was a nightmare to move them from place to place. This method is much, MUCH more mobile and I think it will pay off in convenience.

Shove, stuff, squeeeeeeze

I did a dry run on packing “The Bag” for the trip.
Not a lot of room in a bag this size.
Sacrifices must be made, compromises must be discovered.

Goodbye form, hello functionality.

  • No laptop. I wanted it to store images on and access the Internet when available. Shlepping those extra 6 pounds is not worth it. Instead I am borrowing a pocket sized 20 gig card reader to offload my images.
  • 1/3 the stash of socks and underwear. Laundry on the road or buying new. Those are the choices.
  • Khaki pants instead of jeans. They are lighter in the pack and I can carry more.
  • So I got it all packed. 20 lbs. Not bad.

    All I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by…

    I was rummaging through some stuff and found my grandfather’s photo albums.

    My grandfather, J. Lee Sr., (aka “Jack”) was a Lt. (JG) on board the USS Fanning (DD-37) during the World War I.

    The USS Fanning

    Based at Queenstown, Ireland, Fanning and her sister destroyers patrolled the eastern Atlantic, escorting convoys and rescuing survivors of sunken merchantmen.

    In the afternoon of 17 November 1917 an alert lookout on board Fanning sighted the periscope of U-58, and the destroyer quickly moved in on the attack. Fanning’s first depth charge pattern scored and as Nicholson (DD-52) joined the action, the submarine broke the surface, her crew pouring out on deck, hands raised in surrender.

    U-58

    Fanning maneuvered to pick up the prisoners as the damaged submarine plunged to the bottom, the first of two U-boats to fall victim to United States Navy destroyers in World War I.

    Grandpa in VeniceI am rather proud of my grandfather. I never really knew him. He died when I was 6 years old. Needless to say, the military history is precious to me. It is a way of knowing him even though I did not have the chance to do so real life.

    There are other tales of “Jack” and I hope to document them later. Interestingly enough, in the photo album were some pictures of my grandfather in Europe. Most interesting to me was this one of him in Venice taken in December of 1919.

    My intention is to take a copy of this picture with me when we go to Europe next month.

    I want to find that spot and have my own picture taken right there where he is standing (maybe even with a pidgeon on my hand like he has).

    I am sure one of the locals will know what and where it is.
    It’s my own quest of sorts.

    I guess I am bridging the span of time to reach back to the grandfather I never knew.

    You can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares and go…

    It was an awesome day today. The weather is really fantastic. Temps are in the 70’s with lot’s of sunshine and low, low humidity. Cynthia and I decided to go downtown and shoot some pics. She is testing some different film in her camera and we wanted to see how it would do before we leave for Europe.

    We headed to The Flying Saucer for some beers and then headed off down Main Street.
    Tested the tripod and the timer. Worked well.

    Oh, we'll drink and drink and drink and drink and...

    Mostly she was just burning film and I was just snapping this and that. Still ended up with a nice one of Cynthia at the corner of Main and Texas.

    Got the time?

    Baa!

    One of the common threads of our trip to the UK two years ago was the sheep. Cynthia thought they were sooooooooooooo cute and commented (with a smile) each time she saw them. When we were crossing the field to go to Hadrian’s Wall we had to walk through a field of sheep to get there. We got more pictures of the sheep than we did of the wall. There is even a tuft of wool in our photo album from the trip.

    Being the considerate mate that I am, I made it my mission to find the definitive sheep souvenir to give to Cynthia so she would have it as a keepsake of our time there.

    Cynthia hates tchotchkes so a plastic sheep figurine would not do it.
    She is not a big fan of the t-shirt so that was out.

    My best bet would be a stuffed animal or plushy.
    Of course it couldn’t be just any stuffed sheep.
    It would have to have “cute-appeal.”
    Over the years I have proven myself capable of picking out a good stuffed animal.

    It was at the very top of The Royal Mile right as you start the downhill trek from Edinburgh Castle that I hit pay-dirt. We had just browsed around The Edinburgh Woolen Mill and we coming out on the street to go to the next shop when I spotted a wicker basket containing some very cute (and very small) stuffed sheep.

    One was quickly purchased and presented to Cynthia and she treasures it to this day.
    I was tasked with naming it. We were in Scotland and before I could catch myself I blurted out William Woolace”┬Žan unfortunate pun. It stuck.

    William will be joining us on our trip to Europe.
    He will have his own Journal and I offered to capture him in still life at various locations as we travel.

    Something like this:

    Still life with William Woolace

    Yes, I am a sentimental and sappy dorkus malorkus.

    mmmmmmm…..beer

    So, my friend Bill Shirley has announced his “plan” to go to Belgium, Holland and France in June.

    I have not even left for my trip (which includes those very same destinations) and I am envious!
    Good lord, what is wrong with me?

    To say I am amped up about my own trip would be an understatement.
    I fear now I may be jinxing myself just talking about it. These next few weeks are going to be tense with stress.

    I am knocking on wood and request Dekan and Andrea please do the same (on my behalf).

    The End of the WorldDistraction is the name of the game. The last two Saturdays have included a trip to The Flying Saucer to be introduced to Belgian and Belgian style beers. Kind of a warm up, if you will. The staff there are quite knowledgeable and during the day very patient while educating the beer simpletons about the various brews.

    Cynthia has become a fan of lambic style beers. I have discovered Fin Du Monde.

    Our excursions have really only served to heighten our sense of anticipation. Still, it’s been fun. And I have a new appreciation of beer that will, with any luck at all, serve me well in Belgium. I suppose this is why I am envious of Bill’s trip. I am certain once I go I will develop a taste for well made beer and want to return to the land of beer often.

    iPod is go for launch

    All the bugs seem to be worked out.
    The iPod now successfully interfaces with my laptop and with my camera.

    Yesterday I took my Sony DSC f828 camera and shot 228 5 megapixel images on my 512 MB memory stick.
    When I arrived home I dined on delicious home made sloppy joes that Cynthia had made for dinner.

    I was upbeat and optimistic and ready to take on the iPod for the final round.

    My first order of business was to connect the iPod to the laptop and download the 300+ songs Cynthia had ripped (so far) from our CD collection.

    *side note; The iTunes software is pretty damn amazing. Cynthia is not all that technically savvy and does not warm up to new software applications very readily. That being said, she has pretty much mastered the ripping process and has even begun to create some nice custom play. This is a HUGE bonus as it has sped up the process of digitizing the music collection.

    I connected the iPod and, as it should, the iTunes software fired up. iTunes allowed me to name my iPod and initialized it correctly for Windows use. All 300+ songs were uploaded to the iPod in less than 10 minutes.

    The next step was to connect my camera to the iPod and pull off the 228 images. All went as planned and the iPod brought up the proper menus and allowed me to offload the entire memory stick. It took approximately 30 minutes to transfer the whole load and used about 1/3 of the battery charge to do so. I deleted the memory stick using the iPod and disconnected.

    Now for the real test. Could I recover the images from the iPod?

    I connected to the laptop and looked under the “My Computer” icon. The iPod showed up as an external drive and I was able to browse the contents. There were my images in a folder. I copied the folder to my laptop in under 5 minutes. I then deleted the files from the iPod which took another few minutes.

    All in all, a huge success and a much less painful day than the one before.

    At this point I feel confident that I made the right choice. I have a solution for handling my pictures while traveling overseas.

    And the bonus (as previously mentioned) is that I have an iPod.
    I’m sitting at my desk listening to Cat Stevens as I type this.
    On top of that Cynthia can use it and she is even excited about it. The idea of having access to some of her favorite music on the flight or when riding on the train has great appeal to her.

    So, in the end, I not only have a practical solution for a problem that was presented in the planning for our trip, but I also have a gadget that will enhance the travelling part of the vacation for Cynthia.

    Stephen Hawking, Ray Romano, The Simpsons and analogies

    Commencing countdown, engines on.

    If my impending trip to Europe were to be compared to a black hole you might say I have reached the event horizon. Time is slowing down as I am pulled into a singularity that is my vacation

    The next few days stretch out before me in what seems to be an eternity.

    It’s an odd feeling. Matter is energy and I am vibrating at a whole new frequency. Soon I will be invisible to the naked eye of employment (if only for a short time). Who knows what wonders await on the other side?

    I guess I do since I have been planning for so long now.

    Waxing sentimental…

    Cynthia and Jay 1999It all comes down to this.

    12+ years sharing a life with one of the most extraordinary human beings I have ever met.

    Shortly we leave on the journey of a lifetime. We take with us the foundation we have created and we build upon it with memories and experiences that will only serve to strengthen our bond.

    Words cannot describe what I feel right now.

    It’s all “Dutch” to me…

    I’m using the B&B landlord’s PC. I managed to hook up the iPod successfully (even with Dutch instructions).
    The plane ride was uneventful. When we arrived in Amsterdam we found out George Bush would be visiting. There were some protests. Getting “Stop Bush” fliers handed to us by the local dissidents was a hoot.

    Cynthia and I hooked up with my friend Carl and his lovely lady Suzanne. We did some sight-seeing by foot on day 1 and managed to stay awake the whole day before crashing around 7:00 pm. That meant we were awake better than 24 hours and allowed us to (mostly) overcome jet lag.

    The next day we went to the Van Gogh museum. Very nice. That evening was spent with Carl and Suzanne at their place. We had a lovely dinner and if I hadn’t been overcome by a hefty sinus headache we would have been up all night engaged in wonderful discussion. As it was, the evening was still mighty fine.

    Today was spent taking the train to Liden and on to the Keukenhoff to check out the Tulip festival. It was spectacular!

    Tomorrow is on the Bruges Belgium for chocolate and beer. I’ll update as I can.

    Disaster

    Upon arrival in Bruges we had a bit of a scare. As Cynthia was entering the cab for the ride to the hotel she slipped and smashed her nose on the door frame. Blood began to run down her lip and there were numerous abrasions to the forehead and the bridge of her nose.

    Our desitnation quickly changed from the hotel to the nearest hospital. The nurse admitted us quickly and within 20 minutes Cynthia was being x-rayed and treated. Fortunately the nose is unbroken and in tact. No concussion. All in all it took 1 hour in the emergency room and we were on our way with a prescription for extra strength ibuprofen.

    The doctor spoke Dutch and a little English. When he looked at the paperwork and read where we were from he quipped “Houston, we have a problem.” The levity went a long, long way.

    The hospital did not charge us. They will mail us a bill back in Houston. Can you imagine? We walked in, got treated and were sent on our way. Imagine some poor sap from the EU who spoke no English getting such good treatment in an emergency room in Houston…

    All is well now and Bruges is fantastic. The Internet cafe I am in rests in the shadow of The Curch of Our Lady and is quite cool.

    More when possible. Two days here and it’s off to Paris.

    A quick update

    Back at the Internet cafe for a quick update. Cynthia is fine. We got around today with no problems. Even with a bandage on her nose she is still the prettiest woman in Europe. She climed the 375 steps to the top of the clock tower in the central square and that perked her up.

    We found the world famous Devon Chocolate Shop and stocked up. Wait till you see those pics! William the sheep has made some new friends. You could say he is a “good wool ambassador” (groan).

    I purchased two Cohiba Cuban cigars at the local tobaccoist and have smoked one in a nice pub as I drank a brandy. Ahh, decadence!

    This is the coolest little town. We saw a lovely statue of Madonna and child. It is said to be the only Michaelangelo statue outside of Italy. It is carved from a single block of Marble as is his style. It’s awe-inspiring.

    Gotta run! Tomorrow is Paris!

    Paris!

    Bruges to Brussels no problem. Then the high speed train to Paris.

    This will be short as the French excuse for a computer keyboard is an abomination. Who ever heard of using an ALT key to type a period…? And the Q and the A keys are transposed as well as a few other quirks.

    It kills me I cannot show you the night shots of the Eiffel Tower!
    There are some cool pics I will share when I can.

    Thanks to every one for the well wishes and good thoughts!
    Cynthia is doing well and so am I.