Author Archives: Miguel

One Last Thing

In an effort to squeeze out as much adventure as we could, there was only time for a brief overnight layover back in London.  For what I think was the 8th time I’d dined or drank at Electric Cafe in less than a month, we had one last opportunity to have dinner with friends and soak up the Notting Hill-ness (which is basically Cow Hollow meets Lower Haight, and with an accent).  After that, early to bed, early to rise, and GTFO.

GTFO

You don’t have to go home…

I’ll miss you, London.

We Dig Those Chicks in Amsterdam

I am Amsterdam

I am Amsterdam

Time to leave “home” again.  Next up is Amsterdam.  Liz was here 2 years ago for her company’s global summit.  The tales of conducting business under the influence of Amsterdam’s finest are legendary.  I have to say that I wasn’t as excited about this leg of the trip as I was Ireland.  And I couldn’t have been more wrong.  As somber as Dublin is, Amsterdam is equally ebullient.  This city is old, beautiful, sophisticated, egalitarian, well managed, fun and on and on.

Garden Suite

View of the koi pond from the Garden Suite

The first stop was to check in at the truly magnificent apartment we’d rented for the trip.  The place is owned and run by local architect Charles Boonzaayer, and the picture doesn’t do it justice.  The highlight, as you can see, is the picture window in the living room that opens onto a lush garden complete with a koi pond.  When we were at the apartment, even when were weren’t outside it felt like we were.  And the location is pretty amazing as well: 2 blocks from the Museumplein.

Next we hit a cafe for some local goodies, and then to dinner on a canal.  The rest of the night is a bit of blur, but we hit a variety of cafes, bars and clubs until well after midnight.  And because of the latitude, the sun was still up.  I’m not sure if they have hot springs here, but I caught myself humming “Immigrant Song” a few times.

Jeffery

…stroke the furry wall.

The next day we started early to hit the museums a few blocks from home.  The Museumplein is a park/square bounded by the Rijksmuseum, Stedelijk Museum and the Van Gogh Museum.  We started up at the first, then after lunch we hit a cafe and prepared for the afternoon to come.  Next came the Stedelijk.  The architecture was amazing, and while we visited they happened to have an interactive, light-based exhibit.  Hmm…it’s like they knew we were coming.  When things really started humming we hit the Van Gogh.  We could’ve spent a week there, and it was clear the docents had seen this level of fascination before.  More than once I was advised that if we spent so much time on this painting, we were going to miss the good stuff.  But thanks to them, we didn’t.

I can’t think of a better way to spend a day.

 

Take Me Back to Dear Old Blighty

After being in London for a few weeks, Dublin came as a bit of letdown.  It took me awhile to figure out why, as I should have felt a connection because of my Irish heritage.  Once I left, I felt like I understood why my ancestors did too: The place just seemed depressing.  But it isn’t really.  What it is is the capital of a nation that has no imperial history, and therefore no evidence of grandeur due to unexpected (or ill-gotten, as your opinion may be)  wealth.  Of all the other places we’ve been in Europe this is the first one that can make that claim.  Spain took gold and silver from the new world.  France had it’s forays in North America, Africa and South Pacific.  Britain had it’s sunny Empire.  Germany…well, yeah, you get the picture.  Ireland?  They’re just going about their business at (their exquisitely beautiful) home.

Once back in London, we did a few things that were at the bottom of the list.  We trekked into places that weren’t as easy to get to.  We saw the sorts of things that were afterthoughts.  This included a trip to Lewis Leathers for the red lined motorcycle jacket, a walk across the Abbey Road Studios’ famous zebra, the Sherlock Holmes statue and taking in the local flavor in Notting Hill with some friends I’d made in my short time there.

Abbey Road

Liz y Mig on the Zebra

All of these experiences were great, but the best part was coming “home.”  London in general, and Notting HIll specifically, felt like home from the day I arrived.  And returning from my first trip away really reinforced that feeling.

There’s a pub…

When the plan for Liz to fly over came together, one date stood out: June 16. That’s Liz’s birthday, and the date of the events described in James Joyce’s “Ulysses.” It’s hard to ignore when the Universe shouts out you, so we added 2 days in Dublin to the itinerary.

Mig and the Prick

Miguel and Joyce

The James Joyce Centre in Dublin hosts a variety of Bloomsday events, the highlight of which are a series of walking tours to trace the routes Leopold Bloom took in the book.  This was absolutely fascinating, as the city hasn’t changed much in the 100+ years that have passed since the book was written.  And odd thing that didn’t emerge until the completion of the tour at the Joyce statue (seen at left) is that Dubliners don’t really care for him.  He didn’t live in Dublin for most of his life, and the bulk of his literature is his ode to his homeland.  In “Ulysses” in particular, he paints Dubliners is a less-then-flattering light.  And while locals are aware of the book (even if they haven’t read it), their relationship with him is complicated.  As a result, the colloquial name for the statue is “The Prick with the Stick.”

Jameson Distillery

Reflection of Liz y Mig at the Jameson Distillery

Aside from this highlight, there was plenty of drink.  I know it comes as no surprise to anyone reading this, but the Irish LOVE to drink.  We hit the Jameson distillery, the Guinness brewery and all manner of pubs.  Of course we hit Trinity College and the Book of Kells, and a few U2 locales, but in all honesty we saw everything we wanted to in a few hours.  When asking locals what else we should see and do, the universal response was, “There’s a pub…”  Followed by some mix of the following: around the corner, down the road, you have to see, that’s really cool, etc.  The message was received: Welcome to Dublin, let’s get drunk!  So while looking for the (non-existent) typical meal of Dublin coddle or traditional music, we proceeded to drink.  And drink.  And drink.

 

 

London Calling

With the work portion of my trip almost wrapped up, we had a rare opportunity of one of us being abroad already and the other having the time to join them.  Since I’d already been in London for 2 weeks, and Liz had been here a few years ago, we didn’t have to rush through the normal speed-touring agenda that one typically endures during a short visit to a place you’ve never been.

I’d done all of the civic and religious buildings, perused the museums I wanted to see and even insinuated myself into the London arts community by securing invitations to a few gallery openings.  Liz on the other hand just wanted to eat and drink like a Briton.  So that’s basically what we did once she arrived.

My hosts at the BBC provided a thorough list of places that would serve in this capacity.  All of these places were in Central London, near our flat in Notting Hill or close to the office in White City.  However, the best experiences we had came on our second day together.  We hit Borough Market for some food and drink (see picture below), and then walked along the Thames towards Covent Garden for more drink at the Punch & Judy.

Mig in Borough

Mig showing his colors in London and sparking conversation.

The point of hitting the Punch & Judy was to see the street performers in the square below, and, in British tradition, mocking them from the safety of the balcony.  There was plenty of that, but the highlight of this spot for us was the random bloke we spoke with about his love of Bon Jovi.  He had to be 25, but had seen them play 12 times.  And he was jealous that I’d seen them open for Ratt in 1985.  It was one of those great moments you only experience when traveling – when you let your guard down and just embrace the moment because you know you’ll likely never be in that place or see that person again.

An’ after all this, won’t you give me a smile?

And we’re back!

Big Ben

Look kids, Big Ben…Parliament!

Michael’s back in Europe for 2 weeks, and Liz will join for the week after. FB has supplanted the purpose for this site for the most part, but I’ll post the more interesting bits here as we go.