Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Thanks to Facebook

Thanks to Facebook, I connected with my German high school friend, Anke and we spent four awesome days with her in Hamburg.

Thanks to Facebook, I discovered that my Swiss college friend Markus had moved from Zurich to Geneva and we got to spend three awesome days with him and his wife.

And now, Thanks to Facebook, I discovered that Susan, a college and rowing friend is going to be in Paris when we are and we are going to meet up on Saturday! And have an awesome day!

I don't care what anyone says, Facebook is amazing!

Photo credit

Sunday, August 22, 2010

A Day in Barcelona

Today we encountered the biggest disappointment of the trip thus far1. Bar Michigan was closed.


I know, right?! And they didn't even post their hours anywhere outside the building. Not even a sign that said "We are on vacation until August 29." (except translate that to Catalonian.)  Anyone know the Spanish equivalent of Yelp that I can check for rumors on their fate? Perhaps only the locals will know.

To compensate, I instead procured a bottle of the cheapest finest Cava from the local supermercado and immediately returned to our hotel to blog about this tragedy. Sweet, sweet, bubbles of life......




In other news, we enjoyed another free tour earlier today. This time, from RunnerBean Tours. We seriously love these free city tours. They usually last 2 to 3.5 hours and they really open your eyes to the historical, artistic and cultural highlights of a city.

Example #1. After Christopher Columbus returned from the new west he was welcomed back by the king and queen on these steps right here!


The good people of Barcelona also decided to build a big monument for the guy. (Trust me, his back side is his better side.)


Although not all was well and good in their history. The Romans founded Barcelona and originally called it Colonia Faventia Julia Augusta Pia Barcino. (Say that two times fast.) At that time, the Romans believed in many gods. And, therefore, if you were Catholic and believed in only one God, you were stuffed inside a barrel full of knives and broken glass and then rolled down the street. Even if you were a little girl that was only 13 years old. Ouch.




At the very least she later had a whole big cathedral built in her honor.



video

Unexpectedly2, we also walked past the Headquarters of the Spanish Inquisition.



If you also include the largest rose window in the city...



... and the highest point in the original city of Barcelona,



...it almost makes up for the fact that Bar Michigan was closed.

---
1. Ellen may not agree with this assessment.

2. NOBODY expects to see the Spanish Inquisition HQ.


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Coming to America

Hey guess what?

We just bought plane tickets back to the USA! The Boekes will triumphantly return on 13 September. And the best part? Our tickets from Denmark to NYC were only $529 for two people (reserved exit row seating) on Iceland Express!!

Here is the new working plan...


Yes, we were originally planning on returning home for the holidays in December, but we couldn't decide where we wanted to go next (Asia or South America). So, we'll live in the US for a while (location to be determined) and then go back out again once we figure out the best place to go based on weather, cost, fun-to-be-had and other random factors.

In the meantime, we are in Barcelona enjoying the Battlestar Galactica-esque subways...






...and, if we have some extra time on our hands, we'll try to solve the salt deficiency problem that, according to their ads, seems to be a huge problem among Catalan women.



Perhaps it's the crazy air here...





Monday, August 16, 2010

Photo Quiz!


Can you guess where we went today? 
(Hint: we are still in Switzerland)





Sunday, August 15, 2010

We Are Alive...

...and in Switzerland...

Swiss Countryside

...eating delicious cheese...



MOVIE

...and playing with cows!

Cow Kiss

Saturday, August 7, 2010

NPG in DC

A while back, we promised that we would recap the rest of our trip in the US. One of the more memorable moments (which already seems so, so long ago) on the East Coast was a tour of The National Portrait Gallery by the Director of the NPG!  Thanks, sis, for having connections with interesting people!



Marty started off with a history of the building itself. It turns out that the NPG building was, after The White House and The Capitol Building, the third Federal building built in D.C. It originally housed the U.S. Patent Office and, briefly became army barracks during the Civil War. The NPG found its home there in 1968.



Also, the third floor hall was used for President Abraham Lincoln's Second Inaugural Ball in 1865.



Video

Marty brought us around to some of the more interesting pieces currently showing at the museum, but unfortunately we couldn't take pictures of all of them. Some highlights included a portrait commisioned of Eunice Schriver, some Presidential portraits and portraits of famous American inventors alongside actual prototypes of their inventions (a tribute to the building's history as USPTO).

I really liked the idea of including "something else" alongside the portraits. For example, there was a hall with portraits of Katherine Hepburn that also included the Oscars that she had won.



There were also some works of art that included portraiture along with other media like David Beck's Mvsvem.


Jolie and Kaia's pal, Tofu Boy, also came along for the tour. His favorite part was a stop in the Director's private lounge inside the museum for a snack and a soda.


Although we would have loved to have spent all day with Marty wandering through the NPG and hearing fascinating stories about the art, duty called and Marty needed to get back to work.

We wandered the gallery a bit more and then decided to take a peek at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, housed in the same building.

Favorites there included An American Puzzle by Lloyd Schermer


and the overwhelming Electronic Superhighway by Nam June Paik.


After the museum, Tofu Boy thought that it would be nice of him to feed the pigeons. He made sure to feed the humans first.


and then he offered the leftovers to the birds.


It was super-hot in D.C. that day. Even the squirrels were trying to keep cool.


We also wanted to check out the Sculpture Park, but it seemed that everyone else in D.C. had the same idea. The fact that it was Jazz in the Park night didn't help. But the girls still managed to get their feet wet and we heard a little music.



Video

Despite the snacks from Tofu Boy, we were getting a bit hungry, so we stopped for some yummy Tapas at Jaleo.


Yum! A perfect way to wrap up a fun day in D.C.!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

July Financial Recap: Oh Holy Crap, We Are Bleeding Money

We are spending so much money in Europe that I have had about seventeen heart attacks this month over money.

Here are the dirty details:


Thanks, crappy exchange rate!

As if that amount is not already obscenely large, I need to add that we also purchased our Eurail tickets which were an additional $1,427.55. In case you don't feel like doing the math, that is $7,192.58.

Oh. Holy. Crap.

There is really no way to rationalize around spending that much in one month but just for fun, I compared our spending this month vs. our spending during the US travel months.  In the comparison, I included what we are spending in Euros (when applicable) because that is what we "feel" like we are spending. I did not include the Eurail tickets because they were a one-time only purchase that will span two months of travel and because I didn't previously include the cost of our flights over here.


Here is how we are traveling now vs. how we traveled in the U.S. (I didn't include June because that was a weird travel month in which we were mostly with Jon's family):


So this actually made me feel the tiniest bit better although there were some surprises.

#1: We are spending the same amount on food in terms of how we budget units of money. In fact, we're pretty consistent on that over the months. Go us!

#2: Transportation is where I thought we would make up some ground in our budget but thanks to some unfortunate decisions, poor planning and one disastrous day involving a train re-route and lost tickets, this category did not decrease enough to make up for the huge increase in lodging.

#3: Lodging: I freely admit that our lodging expenditure could be lower if we were not so picky about wanting a private room and ensuite bathroom. But really, I'm ok with paying a little extra so we can lie around naked covered in wet towels when we're hot.

#4: Anyone notice Jonathan's allowance spending this month? He spent it all!

Looking Forward

We may just have to amend our plan after our Eurail passes run out (we booked for 10 days of travel within a two month period). As much as I joke about sliding into my parents place on our last dollar, I don't actually mean it! We'll keep you posted...