Archive for November, 2011

the holiday season begins

Thursday, November 24th, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving to all our family and friends in the US. We wish you all excellent food in the best of company.

We jumped the gun and had our dinner last night; one of the other local American expats organized the Second Annual Eindhoven dinner at a local restaurant.He’s one of those guys who likes to bring people together; periodically he organizes “rib night” at the same place for any American from our company wo happens to be in town, so he’s got a wide network and a good relationship with the restaurant. Last night’s dinner featured 4 turkeys and and two hams, plus 36 guests (37 if you count the fetus who came along in-womb). Surprisingly, we were two of only four people who had attended last year.

Tonight we won’t have time for a big meal, because it’s the beginning of the Holiday Challenge that Concept II runs every year; the challenge is to complete 200,000 meters on the rowing machine from Thanksgiving to Christmas. Ted has completed every challenge snce they started about a decade ago; I’ve done all but a couple that I missed due to travel or injury. The tricky part is that we will be leaving for our Christmas road trip on December 10, so there’s only a little two weeks to fit it all in. Because I am not completely certifiably insane, I plan to only complete the 100,000 meter distance this year. Ted will be in Taiwan next week, leaving him only ten days to do it; at the moment he is still panning to try for the whole 200 km distance. I leave the logical conclusion up to you 🙂

Meanwhile while he’s gone, I need to prepare for my knitting group’s Sinterklaas gift exchange. I have the present ready; now I just need to create the packaging and a poem. (Those are a big deal for Sinterklaas surprises.)

The road trip I mentioned will be through France and Spain; we plan to stop in Bayeaux, Mon St Michel, Madrid, Barcelona, Gilbraltar, and a number of other places. It is definitely off-season, which helps with hotel reservations; now we’re just hoping the weather will be reasonably cooperative. We won’t be going to the beach (well, except in Normandy to see the D-Day landing sites) but we’re hoping for clear enough weather to make sightseeing worthwhile. Of course, in the big cities we can mostly spend our time inside museums. though we’d still like to get a good view of Gaudi’s buildings. (It would also be nice not to be doing some of those 7-hour driving days through the rain!)

meeting Hunter

Saturday, November 5th, 2011

Photos from the family part of the visit. For those who know me on Facebook, I’m posting more photos there including the rest of the family.

New York photos

Saturday, November 5th, 2011

Click for bigger versions of the photos (not to mention, the original aspect ratios without heads and edges cut off).
In order:
Atlas on Fifth Avenue; the bull charging down Wall St; view from the Empire State building at twilight:
flight deck on the Intrepid; Statue of Liberty; Martin guitar factory (actually, this is in Pennsylvania, not NY, and we toured it with my family);
Occupy Wall Street policy; the protestors; the Rockefeller Center motto;
a Tiffany vignette at the Metropolitan Museum; Times Square.

changing leaves and snows

Thursday, November 3rd, 2011

Apparently it pays to travel with someone who travels a lot, if you’re traveling on a very busy day. This trip marked the first time we’ve ever gotten upgraded to business class both ways. I attribute our luck to a combination of Ted’s recently getting to Diamond on his frequent flyer status, and to very full planes to and from Amsterdam because it was fall vacation week in Dutch schools.

So we were in fairly good shape when we arrived in Newark. We took a cab from the airport into Manhattan, where old Billy Joel songs (Movin’ Out, Scenes from an Italian Restaurant) promptly began playing in my head as soon as the skyline hove into view. We spent the afternoon realizing that the Hell’s Kitchen area, where the Belvedere Hotel is, was not only hellish, but was extremely conveniently located. We spent the first afternoon walking around Times Square, only a few blocks away, then had good Cajun food right near our hotel. The next morning we went back there to pick up the City Passes we’d reserved at the hotel, then walked to the Hudson River, where took took a boat cruise on the Circle Line and took lots of pictures to take advantage of the amazing light that morning, so now we have our own iconic photo of the Statue of Liberty. After docking, we went next door to the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, which is based on a WWII aircraft carrier. Because we had a lot to do that day, we skipped going inside their Concorde, but we did go in the Growler-class submarine (which was claustrophobic, like most subs). Unfortunately the Space Shuttle that’s been promised to them isn’t there yet, so we’ll need to go back someday. From Intrepid we took a cab to the Metropolitan Museum, where we walked our feet off seeing everything from Greek to Polynesian artifacts to art glass. At least it’s easier to navigate than the Louvre. We finished the day at the the Empire State building, which he got to a little before sunset. (On the way up, our City Passes got us in to the Skyride, one of those movies where the seat moves in time with a dizzying “ride” onscreen. A free tip: It wouldn’t have been worth it if we’d had to pay.) Then we walked back and stopped for tapas on Restaurant Row, two streets from our hotel (Told you it was a good location!)

On Sunday morning we went for a tour of the NBC studios. Between buying tickets and tour time, we stopped for breakfast at the bakery you can see in the background during the Today show, right behind the crowd. The tour was interesting, mostly in finding out that studios are much smaller than they look. After that, having just been up the Empire State Building, we walked east to have a look in FAO Schwarz toy store and Hammacher Schlemmer’s gadget store, then took the subway down to the Wall Street area. You really can’t see any of the monument without a ticket (which you need to get online ahead of time,a dn we hadn’t wanted to commit to a specific time) but the new World Trade tower is already higher than anything else around – we’d gotten a good look at it from our boat tour, earlier. We just took a walk around Wall Street, photographed the bull statue there, and had a peek at the Occupy protest, which seemed to be a mix of sincere civic protest and people taking advantage of the crowd to panhandle.

After checking out the next day, we cabbed back to the airport, picked up our rental car, and drove to Allentown which turns out to be surprisingly close to NYC. (I always think of it as almost a suburb of Philly, since my brother and sister-in-law live in the one and commute to the other.) Fortunately the Billy Joel track in my head had worn off by then so I didn’t have to spend the next few days being earwormed by “Allentown”. The drive there was scenic, with lots of leaves starting to change and plenty of rolling hill country. We spent a few days there, just hanging out with my brother, his wife, her family, and the main object of our visit, baby Hunter. They all live with her aunt and uncle, so we spent a lot of time just sitting around the house with lots of relatives walking in and out and Avon collectibles on every surface possible, except the ones that had Hallowe’en decorations. It gets a bit tiring being around so many people all the time with so much going on, but I got to spend lots of time with the baby sleeping on me. He’s two and a half months old, but he was born two months early, so for practical purposes he’s still a newborn despite having been in the world for a while. So far, he has perfected his sleeping, eating and snuggling skills. Oh, and being cute – he’s got that one down. The next stage should be learning to keep his eyes open for more than a few minutes. By the time we see him next, he will be a whole new person.

Then we went to my parents for a few days, just in time to get SNOWED on. Who ordered that?!?!?!?! Unfortunately it did mean we missed a Halloween party I was looking forward to; we just didn’t want to drive home on icy roads. Sunday we drove back to Allentown for the baby’s christening. Along the way we saw lots of downed trees, and though the power was still on in their house and church, a lot of the other family had lost power. Hopefully it’s back on by now. It was a bit harder than I expected to watch my nephew being sealed to Christ, but oh, well, he’ll make his own decisions later on no matter what is done now – I’m sure his parents will support his choices whether he decides to be Christian, Jewish or something else. It turned out to be Reformation Sunday, which meant a longer service than usual with a play in the middle of it, about Martin Luther’s life. It was interesting but would have been more so at half the length (the play, not Luther’s life). Then there was a piece with a dancer up on the altar, which seemed odd – is this common in churches these days? But it was nice to see a middle-aged dancer, not the best I’d ever seen but graceful and clearly serious about her art. After that, down in the church basement, we had a quasi-Thanksgiving dinner that couldn’t be beat, then headed home before any slush still left on the roads could re-freeze. Our flight out on Monday wasn’t until 6:45, so we even got to sleep late before leaving. That upgrade made the whole trip
much nicer, and wow, 7 hours seems like a short flight to us these days! (It does help a lot having decent food and not feeling squished.)

I’m tagging this post “New Experiences” – I’ve never held a nephew before! I’ll get some photos posted this weekend.