Back to Normal

This isn’t going to be a great post, and I apologize in advance. It has been a super crazy 10 days or so, and my blogging (as well as my piano playing) has suffered. Such is the nature of the holidays. Especially with Phil and Helen in town. It is great having them, but it disrupts my normal schedule enough that things like doing this fall to the side.

And while I’m really sad that the holidays are over, it is also nice to get back to normal, and back to a routine. I have really missed playing the piano for two hours a night. I have really missed playing Starcraft. It has been weeks since I’ve played, and that makes me really sad. I miss cooking dinner, and I miss watching Downton Abbey. So I need to remember those things when I think about how sad I am that the festivities of the holidays are over.

It also happens that the fun will be continuing for the Halley minor clan for another month or so. Next week Kelly and I go to Chicago to meet the new baby of my friend from Wash U, Matt. And of course get to see Emily and her family. The following weekend we are going to Frohna, MO, to spend some time with Kelly’s bio-mom and sister. That should be an… interesting experience. And then on January 30th, we leave for California to spend a week romping around out there.

As I’m typing this, I realize that by saying that things are getting “back to normal” for us, that really just means “continuing the craziness.” And I suppose I wouldn’t really want it any other way.

Cyprus

Even though Abby got married on Sunday, she is going to be having another wedding in Cyprus in September. That is where Neo’s family is from, and it would mean a lot to them to get a ceremony over there. I have always been opposed to the idea of going over there for a wedding, because it is kind of expensive, and honestly, Cyprus isn’t on the top of my list of places that I want to go. So I figured that we’d just miss out on that one, and it would be fine.

But then last night we were sitting around, and it smacked me right in the face. Of course we need to go to Cyprus. Why would I turn down a chance to go to Europe? That doesn’t make any sense! And so Kelly and I started planning and scheming. We really only need to be in Cyprus for a few days. Two or three. Which leaves us a good six or seven that we could spend somewhere else in Europe beforehand, and then fly to Cyprus for the wedding before returning home. Sounds like a great plan!

Right now the idea is that we’d fly into Paris or Rome, spend a few days there, before heading to Cyprus, or if we go to Paris, Cyprus via a detour to Brussels. I think that right now we are leaning towards Paris, not only because it is an amazing city, but Kelly hasn’t been there and she speaks French, so it would be a much better fit.

But we are also open to other ideas. I was thinking maybe we could be totally crazy and go to Prague. I mean, why not, right?

Anyway, this is short because there is a game night downstairs, but let me know your thoughts!

Europe

As long time readers of this blog will know (and I suspect that assuming there are “readers” is a stretch), a couple of years ago I took a trip to Europe, and had a really lovely time. But it wasn’t completely awesome, because I was there without Kelly, and so another trip was planned, and in May of this year, as a celebration of my 30th birthday, we went to Belgium, the Netherlands, and England.

This trip was even better than the first, not only because of the addition of Kelly, but also because of some of the really awesome things that we did. In Amsterdam we got to experience “Queen’s Day”, which is like Mardi Gras on steroids, except doesn’t feel nearly as sketchy, which is pretty amazing considering it was in Amsterdam. It might be the most fun day that I have ever had.

That is, unless you take another day from later in the trip when we got to see the final game of the season for Sheffield Wednesday, my favorite English soccer team. And it was an incredibly important game in that if they won, they got promoted to the next higher division. And they did win, and it was amazing, and afterwards we celebrated with steak and ale pie, which turned out to be also amazing.

Oh, and we ate a ton of waffles in Belgium, and those were pretty awesome also. Ohhh… and poffertjes. Ohh the poffertjes.

So anyway, Kelly and I really loved it there, and got us thinking and talking. We are pretty settled that we are going to stay in St. Louis for the rest of our lives. It is a good place to live, and we love it here, and it is where large parts of our families are. We are St. Louisans. But wouldn’t it be fun to spend longer than a week or two out of the country? We thought so.

So our crazy “plan” that we are pretty sure is never going to happen, but we can dream, is to try to take a much longer “vacation” to Europe. More like 4 months or so, choosing a home base of sorts and exploring out from there.

The plan relies on two things, though. One is if my our work situations can be molded such that we can either keep working remotely, or take a sabbatical of some sorts. One option will maybe work for me, another for Kelly. The other is our ability to motivate and make sure that everything is in place to make it happen.

I’d put our chances at around 3%. But hey, 3% is enough to dream about.

Not Dead

Rest assured, I have survived the kitchen fiasco. While it isn’t completely done, it is mostly done, and we are cooking in there again, and it is amazing.

In other news:

– I have started playing classical guitar, and I love it.

– At the end of April I am going to California for four and a half days.

– July 1st – July 10th Kelly and I will be going to California for a costal adventure. We are going to be starting in San Diego and end up in San Francisco.

– I’m still roller skating. A lot of the thrill is gone, but I still do it.

So that is about it for now. I have more to say, but I don’t want to do it right now. But I also wanted everyone to know that I am still alive, and Smackie isn’t doomed to death.

Happy End Of Year

As promised, a year end letter. But as I have mentioned in the past, it is getting harder and harder to write these things. I did the “completely absurd” a couple of times, but you can really only go so far with those. And then I tried sort of a mix, and that kind of worked out well. But I really don’t like doing the same thing over and over each year, just for the sake of having an end of the year letter. So I don’t know what this will be. Probably crap.

So like I said earlier, this was actually a really good year. This is a year where I saw Paris. PARIS! I went to Bruges, which is the single most amazing place I’ve ever been. With the possible exception of Paris. What is there to complain about in a year when things like that happen? I should reiterate how good my trip to Europe was. Despite the fact that I missed out on Amsterdam, I saw a lot, and had a really good time. I was thinking about the soccer game that I went to the other day. That was a trip that I will probably think about for the rest of my life.

And right after I got back from Europe, I got engaged. How can I complain about a year where I got engaged? And then just a few months later, I got married. MARRIED! I still can’t believe that I got married. And got married to someone who is really damn awesome. Someone so awesome that it almost makes me feel bad when I read or hear about stereotypical bad marriages and bad wives. Because I don’t have that at all. I’ve got it really, really good. And I’m pretty sure that we had the best wedding in the history of weddings. Rollerskating, cake, and deer. I don’t know what else you need.

Speaking of roller skating, I got first place in my event at Regionals. Again, it would feel wrong to write a bitchy letter when I had a year where something like that happened. And even though I totally tanked and sucked at Nationals, I still went and competed, and made a comeback at my next event by taking two second places.

Oh, and somewhere in all of that, we remodeled our bathroom and have the most kickass bathroom in the world. If you had ever been to my house and seen the old bathroom, you knew how bad it was. Well the new one is probably a million times better than that one.

But since people like the bad stuff, I guess I can throw some of that in as well. Mom and Dad still haven’t sold their house. So that means we won’t be going to Disney World anytime soon, which is a pretty selfish way of looking at it, but I know that I’m not the only one with that view of the situation. And Kelly and I found out that her house is worth significantly less than she owes on it. So we’ve had to rent it out, which has been good for money reasons, but not so good for stress reasons.

And I guess in the process of ripping out the bathroom, we destroyed the kitchen, so we’ve basically been living without a functioning kitchen for close to a year now. But you know what? That is about to get remodeled too, so it is hard to complain too long for that.

So yeah. This has been a really damn good year. I know that things are hard out there for a lot of people. I know that the world isn’t a terribly happy place. And if you follow the links I post on Facebook, you’ll see that I’m getting more and more frustrated with our government, and even our system of governing. But still, I think all of that is pretty inconsequential in light of all of the good things that I’ve had happen to me this year, and so at least for the last little bit of 2010 I’m going to choose to focus on those things, and not so much on the bad things.

My TSA Experience

I posted this on a big aviation website that I read. I figured I’d repost it here.

Some background – I am a type 1 diabetic, and to treat that condition, I wear an insulin pump, which is a little machine that is plugged into the side of me and literally keeps me alive. I wear this 24/7. In the past when I have flown it has usually not been an issue. The agents sometimes notice it, sometimes don’t, but almost never make an issue about it, and have always known what it is when mentioned, so I’m assumed that they are trained about this.

Anyway, I was flying home from San Francisco a couple of weeks ago, a few days after the new procedures went into place, and I was slightly nervous because I wasn’t sure how they would affect me and my situation. When I got to the security area I was very up front with them, showed them my insulin pump, and they seemed confused. I was put through the backscatter machine, while holding my insulin pump in my hand, and was then held while the TSA agents went off and discussed my situation. After a few minutes they came over, and I overheard them saying that everything checked out fine on me, but then they took me aside where I got the “enhanced pat down.” Then they also did the swab test on my insulin pump, and everything checked out and I was sent on my way.

This got me to thinking, though. Am I going to always be subjected to the “enhanced pat down” because of my medical device? I don’t even so much object to the backscatter x-ray machines, and I don’t have any problem with them doing the swab on the device. So I did some research and talked to other people with the insulin pumps who have also flown, and they have had to deal with the same thing I did. One lady was even told by a TSA supervisor that if you have a medical device like an insulin pump, you have to go through the “enhanced pat down”. No choice.

I’m really bothered by this, for multiple reasons. One, they clearly said that they saw nothing was wrong, and still submitted me to the “enhanced pat down”, even though it seems to me like at that point checking my insulin pump to make sure it was real would have been fine. I also think it is pretty wrong to single out a group of people, specifically those with a form of disability, and make them go through something that is pretty unpleasant and demeaning. I’m not someone opting out of the scanner for some reason. I’m being told that the scanner is not an option for me no matter what. I have no choice.

And finally, I can’t take off the pump and run it through the flatbed xray because it is not certified for that. If something were to get messed up in it from some errant x-rays, I could die. And I would still have part of the apparatus connected to me that would show up in the backscatter scanner.

Anyway, I don’t know if this is going to do any good, but I feel like it is a part of the conversation that has been largely missed.

Nationals

Remember all that talk that I had going on about Regionals? Well the whole point of Regionals, really, was to qualify for Nationals, which I did halfway. So in a couple of weeks I will be heading out to the untamed wilds of Lincoln, Nebraska to be competing against that best beginners that are over 18 that the US has to offer.

And truth be told, I’m not really nervous. This year Regionals was my thing. I was aiming to do well there, and anything above that is just a bonus. So I’m going to go, have fun, watch some other people skate, and go out and do my best without stressing out too much about how well I do. If I make finals, great, and if I don’t but I skate my best, then that is great too.

I do have a few things to do to prepare for the competition, though. Well really only one thing. Putting rhinestones on my outfit so that I’ll be even prettier. I started last night, and it was really tedious, and frustrating, and I got glue all over my fingers. But I have to say, it does make the outfit sparkle. So that’s a bonus.

Finally, Nationals are going to be streamed live over the Internets. I’m not sure if my event will be one of the ones streamed, but if it is, I will post a link so that you can all watch me precisely go around in a circle. Which I know is what you all want.

Regionals

So this weekend is it. The event of the Century. Actually, no. It is the event of the weekend. Regionals! All the way up in glorious Minneapolis. There will be fun! Festivities! Frivolities. Actually, likely not much of that. Probably a lot of roller skating. And some sitting around.

Anyway, I guess I’m prepared. I have more practice tonight and tomorrow, but let’s be honest. At this point I’m not going to make any great strides or anything. At best I can hope to fix a few small issues, and get my various steps a little more ingrained.

What I am not prepared for, and I don’t think I can be prepared for, is the mental aspect. The things I’m doing aren’t that physically complicated. It is difficult to do them well, but they aren’t insanely tricky. But mentally, they can actually get you. There are a ton of things that you have to remember, and in the end, it is a mental game. This has been reinforced to me the last several days by my coach and several of my fellow skaters who keep telling me that you have to be mentally tough.

Well here is the thing. I am not mentally tough. I am the absolute king of psyching myself out. I can psych myself out of anything. And it has already begun for skating. I’m already convinced myself that I’m going to screw up a takeoff or something, and that will surely make it a reality, which only convinces me more, which only assures it even more. It is a vicious, vicious cycle.

So I’m going to do my best, but I really don’t have any clue what my best is. But hopefully I’ll have some fun, and it’ll be an adventure regardless. And honestly, I don’t really care what position I come in. I mean, after all, it is just roller skating.

Vacation

I am on vacation right now in Lake Tahoe. Right now I have a couple of thoughts about it. One, the area is really pretty. Two, it is high up and it makes it really hard for me to breathe. I’ve been having a hard time for the last couple of days, which isn’t a lot of fun. Three, I do not want to go back to work. I really like this extended vacation that I have been on. And it has been quite a joy to get to ride on so many different airplanes and go through different airports. And luckily I still have a bit more of that to do before the end of the month.

Anyway, like always, I have been neglecting this. And as cliche as it is, life has been really busy lately. It should calm down pretty soon, though. Regionals are coming up in 2 weeks, and after that I should have more free time to devote to other things. Then again, there are so many other things, that perhaps it is wishful thinking to think that after Regionals things will calm down.

Europe – A Summary

Well how do you summarize a trip to Europe? I guess with words. And to start, I’m sure everyone is wondering what my favorite part was. And luckily, that is an easy question to answer. My absolute favorite thing that I did, and it really isn’t even close, was going to the Anderlecht soccer match. I know that this is probably a disappointment to many of you who were hoping that it would be some museum, or some meal, or some old church in some old city. But no. It was a sporting event. But a sporting event unlike any that I had ever been to. So I want to sincerely thank Frans from the bottom of my heart for taking me, and apologize deeply for giving Jeannot a taste of blood.

Which brings me neatly to the second part of my summary. I can’t thank Frans, Maria, Jeannot, and Figaro enough for what they did for me. They opened their house up to some strange American from the other side of the Atlantic, and couldn’t have been nicer to me. They went out of their way to make sure I was enjoying myself, to make sure I had delicious things to eat, and overall to make sure that I had a great trip. And especially Frans, who took 8 days and basically gave me a personalized tour of Belgium and Paris. So thank you.

Now what did I think about Europe? That’s really hard to summarize. It is like asking what someone thinks of America. Unless you are just going to take a stereotyped view of the world, it is impossible to answer. So maybe it is best to say that Europe met all of the expectations that I had for it, while at the same time being completely different than anything I could have imagined.

I think that Americans can have a tendency to romanticize “The Old Country”, and think of it as castles and old buildings and cobblestone streets. Basically we think of it just as how we left it. And that is certainly there. In Paris it is there, in Brussels it is there, and certainly in Bruges it is there. There are churches that have been around for almost 1000 years. There are curvy streets that were clearly laid out before anyone had ever thought about something like a car. There are castles where you can imagine being a Duke in the middle ages, lording over a field of serfs. That is all there for your consumption.

But just focusing on that misses a lot of other things. The high rises, and the restaurants with food from all over the world. There are modern transportation systems, and lots and lots of funny looking French cars. LOTS of funny looking French cars.

So really, it defies all expectations. You don’t know what to think. You don’t know what to look at. And when you are trying to capture it on film, or in blog posts, you find yourself completely at a loss. How do you capture Paris? I’m certainly not Hemingway, and so I don’t even know where to start. And I was only there for 3 days. You could spend 3 months there and still not know what as going on.

How do you capture a place like Belgium, with language and political issues that still don’t make a lot of sense to me?

I guess all you can do is focus in on the little snapshots, and that is what I tried to do. And it is also what I liked most about the cities and the people. Because in the little snapshots that you see, you realize that we really aren’t all that different. The people listening to their iPhones on the Metro in Paris aren’t that different from the people listening to their iPhones on the subway in New York. The people cheering for Anderlecht aren’t really that different from the people cheering for the Cardinals. The drivers stuck in traffic after a long day in the office are the same on both sides of the Atlantic.

So in the end I came away overwhelmed, and confused, and in awe. But I also came away with a feeling that the world is a much smaller place than I thought it was, and I kind of like that.

Except for all of the funny little French cars.

Day 8 – Gent

For the last full day in Europe, the plan was Gent. I was quite excited to visit another old European city, after Bruges had been such a success. Well let me tell you. I was SORELY disappointed. Why?

Well the people of Gent have turned their city center into one giant construction mud pit. They are in the middle of rebuilding parts of it, and then also building an underground bicycle parking garage. So for those of us who had decided to visit, we got to walk around in the mud. Fun.

Now, there were some interesting things there. We went in a very lovely church that is apparently very Spanish influenced. I have to say that the churches over there make our churches look kind of silly. Some quick Googling has led me to learn that this was the St. Bavo cathedral, and inside is a very famous piece of art – Lamb! And I saw it.

Then we toured a very old castle, which made me very glad that I don’t live in a period where people have to live in very old castles. And we also saw some construction equipment.

In fact, construction equipment was pretty much the main thing that I remember about Gent. That and the mud. But we did have a nice lunch, and I accomplished some shopping, so all in all, not a bad day.

The rest of the day was mostly just packing, and then watching some Fawlty Towers. It was a pretty relaxing end to a very nice trip.

I know that this is short, but I’m very tired right now. Tomorrow, however, I shall write a sort of epilogue, summarizing my thoughts on the trip, if that is really possible.

Day 7 – Bruges

As the trip winds down, I find myself very tired, and not very inspired to write detailed posts about what happened on such and such day. So I apologize for that. But it is hard to keep up the same level of excitement and enthusiasm for 8 days. At this point I’m kind of just tired and overwhelmed. I can’t really take in any more stimulation right now, and even though I have had a really amazing time, it will also be nice to get back home. So, for Bruges, which was actually the second best part of the trip, right behind the soccer game, a bullet point list will have to do.

– Driving in Europe looks like it is a pain in the ass. It took about an hour and fifteen minutes to get to Bruges, and probably close to half of that time was spent just trying to get across Brussels. Once we were on the motorway, it was fine. But when you are actually in the cities, you are screwed.

– Bruges (Brugge) is maybe the most beautiful place that I have ever been. Frans said, and he is correct, that it isn’t Disneyland, it is real. But you can see that this is definitely what Disney is going for in places. Except there is something way more amazing about being someplace that is actually 600 years old, as opposed to someplace that was built 40 years ago to look 600 years old.

– The Church of Our Lady in Bruges is the most beautiful church I have ever been in. And without realizing it, I saw a statue by Michelangelo that is in the church, but I was so overwhelmed by everything else in the church, it was hard to focus on any one thing.

– I had an amazing lunch of garlic mussels and fries. You have to love a country where you get a big pile of fresh fries with every meal.

– Some chocolates were purchased. And I think some of them will even make it back home without me eating them.

– The art museum in Bruges that we went to was much more civilized than the Louvre. Smaller and much less crowded. You didn’t constantly feel like you were about to get run over by a large group of tourists.

So yeah, overall I really enjoyed Bruges. And it definitely made up for me missing Amsterdam. In fact, I think that I would have been very sad had I not gotten to see Bruges, or only gotten to spend an hour there or so. For a plan B, it was not a bad one at all.

Then today was Gent. More on that later.

Day 6 – Soccer

So I wasn’t feeling very good, and spent a large amount of the day resting up for the big event of the trip. The Anderlecht – Bilboa soccer match. Front row seats! European cup competition! I was excited. And the game did not let down. In fact, I’m sorry to say this Paris and Brussels and Brugge, because you are great cities, but the sports fan in me will think that the soccer game was the highlight of the trip. And why was it so great?

Well, when was the last time you were at a sporting event where –

– The supporters for the home team stood the whole match, singing different songs, yelling different chants, booing when announcements were made in the opposing team’s language, and giving the finger whenever the opposing players were announced?

– The supporters for the opposing team had to be kept in a different section, entirely inaccessible to the rest of the stadium?

– The whole crowd lives and dies with every touch of the ball?

– The crowd, after a goal, all chants in unison the players last name after the first name has been announced?

– At the end of the game, when their team is about to win, holds up their scarves and starts singing a hymn?

It really was an incredible experience. And I don’t think you even have to like soccer to get wrapped up in the emotion. Especially when the home team wins 4-0.

Oh, and did I mention that we had front row seats, and a perfect view for the first goal of the game, which happened literally right in front of us?

Yeah, it was amazing. Thanks, Frans!

Travel Update

Due to disruptions in train services, I will not be travelling to Amsterdam this trip. I was really, really bummed out at first, but now I get to spend more time in Ghent and Bruges, and after doing some reading about those places, I think that they will make a most adequate backup plan.

I guess I’ll just have to come back some time to visit Amsterdam.

Day 5 – Paris

The last day in Paris. Oh, by the way, sorry for the delay in getting this up, because technically now it is day 6. But when we got back last night I was feeling really sick. I think it was all of the different forms of transportation we took, each adding a little bit to my motion sickness. So by the time we got back to Brussels, I was feeling pretty terrible, and just wanted to get in bed.

Anyway, the day started out with breakfast again, and then Frans and I headed off to Sacré Coeur, which is a basilica and also the highest point in Paris. I was told not to walk to the top, but to walk down. Well somehow we messed up, and we ended up walking up like a thousand steps to get to the top. And from there we had some amazing views of Paris, even though it was raining on us the whole time. I would say overall the weather has not been great while I’ve been here. I have seen the sun maybe twice, and it has rained quite a bit. Oh well. I knew that that would most likely be the case this time of year.

After going inside Sacré Coeur, we then headed to the Louvre. The highlight of the day happened on that little journey. The Paris Metro can get pretty crowded, and while a group of people was trying to get on, I guess some guy cut in front of a couple of women, because they started yelling at him. And then as the doors started to close on the Metro, one of the women spit right in the guy’s face. It was hilarious.

But back to the Louvre. I have to be honest – I thought the Louvre was terribly disappointing. It was WAY too crowded, and there was WAY too much art. It was impossible to know what to look at, and if you really stopped to look at anything, you ran the risk of being run over by a hundred people. But I did get to see the Mona Lisa, kind of. There were probably 200 people standing in front of it, so I couldn’t get very close. But hey, at least I can say that I have seen it.

At this point our feet had pretty much given up on us, so we just went back to the hotel and picked up our luggage and relaxed in the lobby for a couple of hours. I was only in Paris for 2 and a half days, but it is amazing how worn out you can get in that amount of time. Well then it was time to go to the train, and this time, luckily, our train left on time. It was slightly delayed getting back to Brussels because of an accident that happened on the tracks last week, but we made it back, and I made it back alive, so that is something.

Today, I believe, is a little bit more exploring of Belgium, then a soccer match tonight, and then tomorrow I am off to Amsterdam for two days, and then home. Time really flies.

Day 4 – Paris

Today was the second day in Paris. And oh what a day it was. The good news is that Frans was rehabilitated and back in the game. The bad news is that my feet are suffering pretty badly, but I told them that they had to suck it up and do their job anyway, because who knows who many times you are going to be in Paris. So in spite of the pain and blisters, my feet performed admirably, and it wasn’t until the very end of the day where they really started hurting. Thank you, feet.

Anyway, we started off with breakfast at the hotel, and it was pretty good. I had some pound cake and a croissant. And from there we headed off. Our plan was to first go to the Arc d’Triomphe, which we did. And it was a pretty impressive site. Then we walked down the Champs Elysees, which was very nice also. Then we were going to go to the Louvre. And we did. And we got there and the sign said that they are closed on Tuesdays. So we had to activate Plan B. This meant going to see some churches. The first was the Sainte-Chapelle, which was actually built as a private chapel for the King of France, and housed relics from the passion of the christ. The second was Notre Dame, which was spectacular and amazing. Finally we saw Saint Severain, which is a very old church, but inside they were filming a movie or a commercial or something. It was most bizarre.

Then we had lunch at Brasserie Balzar, hat tip to Laura for the recommendation, which had very, very good French food. And we were served by a waiter in training, who was apparently doing everything wrong. He had my chicken pointed the wrong direction on the plate, he didn’t wipe the edge of the plate properly, he didn’t approach the diners from the correct side of the table. Poor guy.

So at this point my feet were hurting pretty bad, and we came back to the hotel for a midday rest, which was perfect. My feet had a small chance to recover.

A few hours later we met back up and headed to China Town, which is a lot like a China Town in any big city. But we did get some Chinese food for dinner which was very good. I had sweet and sour chicken, but so what?! It was damn fine sweet and sour chicken.

Then we hopped back on the Metro and headed back to the Eiffel tower to take a river tour of Paris. And somehow we timed it perfectly such that right when we got to the boat place it was time for the next tour. And the tour was wonderful. Paris is a very beautiful city by night. And it was even nice enough to sit outside and enjoy the weather some. And then there was the tour guide who gave all of the announcements in French, English, Spanish, Italian, and Russian.

So at this point is when my feet decided to completely give up. Somehow we made it back to the hotel, though, and that is where I am now, writing this update.

Day 2 in Paris was definitely a good one. There is so much to this city, and I have only barely, barely scratched the surface. Tomorrow is Sacre Coeur, The Louvre, and hopefully a crepe from a street vendor.

Ciao!

Day 3 – Paris

Today has been an up and down sort of day. So expect an up and down sort of update, mostly because I’m kinda tired and mentally fried. I apologize in advance, but hey, at least you are getting something.

So it started off very early. So early that I was able to call Kelly and she hadn’t fallen asleep yet. Crazy time differences. But after that I gathered my stuff and Frans and I headed off through the rain to the train station to catch a VERY crowded train to the Brussels South station. There we waited a long time for a train that was very late, boarded, and then I proceeded to get very motion sick on the way to Paris.

Also, not to offend any French people out there, but Northern France is HORRIBLY boring. It looks JUST LIKE Southern Illinois.

Anyway, we did make it to Paris, alive, and I healed up quickly, which is more than can be said for poor Frans, who has been very under the weather today. So after a ride in the Metro, we made it to the hotel, where Frans turned in for that night, and I set out to explore Paris on my own. And I was terrified.

I had planned on going up in the Eiffel Tower. But when I got there, and saw the lines, I decided to look at it from afar and spend my time just wandering around, which is one of my favorite things to do in big cities. So I just randomly wandered around and looked at things and reminded myself that I was in Paris. It was surreal.

Then I came back to the hotel because my feet hurt so bad they had started bleeding. So I rested them for a couple of hours and then just went down to the little bistro at the hotel. It was really pretty, inside a glass dome, and the food was decent. But most importantly, it was close, and they had delicious creme brulee.

So now I am back in the room, planning out tomorrow. Hopefully Frans will be up and about again, but I am taking extra precautions and setting up a plan of things to do in case he is not.

So for now, adieu from Paris!

Day 2 – Brussels

Today was quite the day. It started when I woke up at 7:30 in the morning and thought that it was still 4 in the morning. My sense of time is still a little thrown off, but it should be coming around to normal pretty shortly. It is 8:37 here right now, and that actually feels about right.

Anyway, after waking up and having a breakfast of pastries, scrambled eggs, and bacon, Frans and I went to the Museé Hergé. This is a museum about 30 minutes outside of Belgium dedicated to the comic strip artist Hergé, who, among other things wrote the Tintin comics. He is one of my favorite comic artists. So much so that I named my dog, Snowy, after the dog in the strip. (Who I learned today is named Milou in French, which does not translate to Snowy.) The museum was wonderful, and was definitely set up to cater to English speakers like myself. The audio tour could be done in English, and all of the signs were done in English, French, and Dutch. Quite thoughtful!

So after the museum we drove back into Brussels to go to the Atomium. For those of you that don’t know (like I didn’t), the Atomium is a large structure built for the Brussels’ World’s Fair. It is shaped like an Iron Molecule. You know what. Go here. So we saw and went up inside that and it was pretty cool. Inside they had some of the most dizzy inducing escalators that I had ever seen. Luckily I didn’t throw up or pass out.

Next was the Museum of Musical Instruments. It was very interesting, and I got to see some interesting old instruments, including something called a rotophone which was like a saxophone with an oboe read. Very weird. This museum wasn’t as catering to English speakers, but you don’t really need to understand the language to appreciate the beauty of 400 year old instruments.

I was kind of carsick at this point, so we walked around the city center of Brussels some more, and ended up getting the most decadent waffle that I’ve ever had. It was a waffle, covered in strawberries, covered in whipped cream, covered in chocolate. It was delicious, and the waffle was unlike anything I’ve had in the States. It was much more delicate and like a pastry than the typical pancakey waffles we are used to back home.

So then we came back home, and I uploaded some pictures and talked to some family members. And for dinner we had some amazing chicken flavored with Roman herbs, goat sausages, which were not my thing, Belgian sausages, which were my thing, and two salads which were both good. The one with the pears and walnuts was definitely my favorite, but I ate the garden salad as well. Oh, and chocolate pudding for dessert. Like the Jello pudding cups, except different. Pretty good.

That is basically the story of Day 2 of this adventure. Tomorrow is set up to be even crazier, because we are leaving in the morning to board a train and head to Paris. So when you hear from me again I will be able to report to you on that. Like usual, I’m nervous and excited.

Bonne nuit!

btw, go USA hockey!

Europe – Day 1

And so I made it. Here I am, sitting in Brussels, writing on my blog. It still doesn’t really seem real, and yet if I look out the window, or turn on the TV, it goes to show that sure enough, this is very much real.

So I’m very tired, but I do want to give an overview of that I did today. It may be brief, and for that I apologize.

My day started off very early when I was awoken for breakfast on the plane. I did end up getting maybe 4 hours of sleep, but it was airplane sleep, which isn’t nearly as good as real sleep. I was awake for the last hour of the flight and got to see us coming in over Ireland, Great Britain, and then finally into Belgium. After landing it was a quite run through immigration, picked up my luggage, met up with Frans, and then came to his house.

There I was served a lovely breakfast of something like French pizza, and some delicious apple cake. And then we hit the town. Basically we took a bus into the city center and walked around there for a while, seeing some famous stuff and some not so famous stuff. But I was literally in awe of some of the amazing buildings that I saw. Stuff right out of a fairy tale. And then other parts of Brussels could be dropped into the middle of Manhattan and no one would know the difference. Strange city, this.

So then we took a streetcar back to Frans’ house where I proceeded to fall asleep for three hours, because I’m a little thrown off by the time difference. But then I woke up refreshed, and we had dinner. And that is when I discovered something really interesting about myself. I like muscles. They are delicious. I don’t know if you have had them, and maybe it was just that these were exceptionally fresh or well prepared, but they were delicious. I ate about 20. And if you know me, you know how insane it is that I ate something like that.

Then after dinner we watched TV for a while, and now I’m writing this. It was a pretty relaxing first day, but I had a very good time, and I’m very excited to see what tomorrow holds. More museums, more food, and more crazy languages.

Day 0 – St. Louis, Chicago, and Beyond

Well it is just about the time. In about 45 minutes I’m going to hop on the Metrolink and head to the airport to begin this journey. And I am nervous, and scared, and excited all at the same time.

Today so far has been pretty good. The lovely Ms. Kelly took me out to breakfast. Then I rode with her to work and took the Metrolink to work. That is where I am now. And as you might imagine, I’m getting a TON of work done. And I’ll be leaving here in about 30 minutes to head to the airport.

From there I’m flying to Chicago, where I’ll sit around for a couple of hours, and then hop on the plane to Brussels. That is about an 8 hour flight, so I’m going to get into Belgium around 8 Belgium time, or 1 in the morning St. Louis time. Which is going to make sleeping on the plane interesting. Tonight I’ll be going to bed around 7:00.

There isn’t too much more to say right now. All of the packing is finished. I think that I’ve remembered to bring everything. So au revoir, and I’ll talk to you from the other side of the pond.