On Nov. 23, 2005 I moved to The Hague from Washington, DC. This is my new Dutch life.

3.07.2006

Big Ben, kids. Parliament.



Merry ole London. Such a great town. So damn expensive.

After my first real trip to the UK, I have this to say about Europe's largest city: It's really hard to appreciate such a dynamic place while penny-pinching at every turn. Accounting for the exchange rate, we spent around $3.00 on each one-way bus ticket, and double that on the tube. In no time, you're spending $20 for a couple of take out sandwiches and fruit juice. At 30 bucks a pop it's difficult to feel impressed by the Tower of London.

And then there are the shops and department stores. Such beautiful, beautiful department stores. Harrods is definitely worth a browse, especially the Egyptian room and food halls. I also thoroughly enjoyed our Saturday afternoon tea at Liberty. In spite of the high prices, we loaded up on fine chocolates, nice French cheese at the Portobello Road market, and splurged on a few books. No matter the modicum of .com riches I've amassed over my short career life, London has a way of reminding you what real, old money smells like. You can look, but you can't touch.

All in all, I liked London a lot. Here are a few more shots.


Protest signs across the street from parliament.


London bridge.


Oh England and its funny bushes.


We left early enough on Sunday to take the long way home through Belgium. B- had his heart set on visiting a trappist monastery to sample tasty Belgian brews, but we were thwarted by Sunday blue laws. We settled for shops instead.


Approaching the chunnel train.


Our little Ka snug as a bug.


Just outside Lille, France is the small town of Tournai, Belgium. We're thinking of starting a tradition of visiting Europe's least-known sites. The Grande Place (above) sits next to the city's gothic cathedral (not above), a World Heritage site. For B-, the main attraction was a specialty beer shop that stocks over 300 varieties. Alas they were already closed for the day.

Onward, to Brussels, Brussel (in Dutch), Bruxelles (in French).

We spent only about 4 hours in this intriguing city, but so far we like we we've seen. With it's mix of really old and really new, the city is much more classically European than our excursions in the Netherlands have turned up so far. The tight, little streets culminating at the city's Grande Place or Grote Markt (below) were quaint and also impressive.



Brussels is definitely more elegant than Amsterdam, perhaps owing to the lack of drug tourists that inevitably kill the mood along A'dam's canals. Below is a shot of one of the little restaurant streets tucked just behind the Grande Place.



We stopped in for the requisite dish of Belgian mussels before heading home to The Hague. Yummmmmm...

Good Dutch Things: Dierdorado pet hotel. Nigel spent five days on vacation too, and apparently played really hard. The little guy's zonked!

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12 Comments:

Blogger Reid said...

I can't believe that you passed up the opportunity to say that you "got mussels in Brussels."

Also, I love how that protest sign is directed at "Bliar".

2:22 PM GMT+1

 
Blogger PeeKay said...

jen, you are living the life! thanks for sharing your adventure in europe. so cool!!! did you see beckham and posh spice?
pk

2:28 PM GMT+1

 
Blogger akaijen said...

Not only did I see Beckham and Posh, I had tea and crumpets with them! Nah, I'm just kidding. That'd be cool though.

2:45 PM GMT+1

 
Anonymous redsnapper said...

You should post that protest sign with the gas pump to the "Stick Figures In Peril" pool on Flickr. They love that stuff.

2:58 PM GMT+1

 
Blogger homer said...

what the hell is a crumpet?

1:05 AM GMT+1

 
Blogger akaijen said...

I'm not 100% sure, but I think crumpets are what the British call "English muffins." It's the nooks! No, the crannies!

8:18 AM GMT+1

 
Blogger soo doh nim said...

Here in NYC we get our Belgium any way we can. Near my work is the BXL cafe, specializing in Hoegaarden, Leffe and especially DuVel's.

Most people know it for the beers. I get gin and tonics.

I'm more into the fact that they play Jacques Brel on the stereo, though they had some Flemish singer the other evening who was coughing and hacking his way through his tune.

2:29 PM GMT+1

 
Blogger akaijen said...

Why am I not surprised that you've already found a new Euro-bar to hang out in? :)

2:34 PM GMT+1

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok, this is B- setting the record straight on crumpets. Crumpets are definatly NOT English muffins.

Crumpets are tasty bready things about 1.5 inches thick (for all those old world americans who don't know metric) with lots of little bubble holes on one side and flat on the other. You pop them in the toaster for quite a while and they get all warm and crispy on the outside and moist and steamy on the inside and you smother them with butter and honey. You can't cut them open so you put it on top.

Here is a link to a nice photo of a buttered crumpet:
http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Image:Buttered_crumpet2.jpg

And as Aussies love their slang, "crumpet" is also used to refer to a particularly nice woman :-)

8:48 PM GMT+1

 
Blogger Doc Paradox said...

Maybe we saw different things but I found Brussels sterile and wonkish, while Antwerp was definitely more funky and interesting.

As for the price of London, it makes NYC sound cheap.

4:50 PM GMT+1

 
Anonymous redsnapper said...

/followup:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/fourstar/108564112/in/pool-stickfiguresinperil/

Yep, somebody else posted the exact same protest sign! Different pic tho.

I'm afraid to know, then, what a "buttered crumpet" refers to in Aussie slang.

8:57 AM GMT+1

 
Blogger akaijen said...

Funny that it's like they took the shot around the same time I did. They obviously went earlier in the day b/c I had almost no light.

B- said you can also say "tasty crumpet." *groan*

9:36 AM GMT+1

 

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