Category Archives: International

Photo Friday: Amsterdam

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After a sad goodbye to Paris, we left for Amsterdam. What a lovely surprise!

I had never put much thought into Amsterdam and knew nothing about the city, but was wooed by its charms right away.

I got a chuckle after reading the warning in the guide book to look out for the “silent transport.” In Paris we were told again and again to look out for pick-pockets. In Amsterdam, the concern is the silent transport.

But soon after arriving, we completely understood what this means. Amsterdam is the wild west of bicycles.

We saw people pedaling as fast as they could through intersections full of other bikers, some texting, some with children hanging off of them and not one bike stopped to make sure an intersection was safe before going straight through. The motorized scooters even use the bike lanes – it is absolute chaos for a first-timer!

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I love this one because of the reflection of the bikes in the window. This was Amsterdam to me!

We were amazed that we didn’t witness an accident. When we asked the hosts at our Bed and Breakfast how people know who has the right of way, the response was “The person who looks the fiercest.”

Amsterdam is really a study in contradictions. On one street, you have peaceful, picturesque canals with rows of historic buildings. On the next street, you have the red light district, where scantily-clad women pose in windows, calling out for business.

The city is surprisingly urban, but geographically tiny. The smell of marijuana pervades the city and shops selling mushrooms and bongs are simply another form of commerce.

We loved Amsterdam. It is a high energy city with a little something for everyone.

Highlights of our trip included the Anne Frank House, the Van Gogh Museum and a bike ride through the countryside.

Since this is Photo Friday, I thought I would share some of my favorite photos.

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Parking lot at the train station. This was at least 4 stories high of bicycles!

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These were the houses lining the canals. They all lean forward and have hooks at the top so they can use a pulley system to pull furniture up and through the windows!

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This is a brewery that is under one of the last windmills in the city. The windmills helped regulate the water flow to Amsterdam, which is below sea level.

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Amsterdam canals at night

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We went on a beautiful bike tour to the countryside and visited a farm where they made cheese and clogs.

What do you think? When you think of Amsterdam, what comes to mind? Have you ever been to Amsterdam? If you were to go, what would you look forward to seeing most?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading!

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Filed under Art, Culture, International, Photography, Photos, Stereotypes, travel

Hunger Knows No Borders: Poverty at Home and Abroad

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There is an article in the New York Times this week about the increasing number of people living in poverty in Spain.

The article references the fact that the unemployment rate in Spain is over 50% for young people and that over 20% of families in Spain live in poverty. It tells the stories of people who find themselves forced to search for food in trash bins in order to feed themselves and their families.

It is striking to read about how dire the situation is in Spain right now, especially after having just visited the country. We were blown away by the food and the beauty, but this article makes it clear that there is another, much more tragic, story to be told.

As I read this article, I felt like I was reading about the United States. The article spoke of people who had never been on government assistance who are now accessing food pantries or searching through dumpsters for food.

So frequently, we read an article like this and look at it as an interesting, but sad anecdote from a foreign land. But the truth is, we can see the same thing here in our own back yards every day.

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The recession has had far-reaching implications across the globe. The number of people in the United States who are accessing public benefits has sky-rocketed.

Some people complain about the number of people who are accessing government assistance, including food assistance. I don’t understand this.

If jobs are not available and people are hungry, why would we not be grateful to live in a society where people who have hit rock bottom have a place to go to feed themselves and their children? How can we be so sure that we will not be the next family to come upon hard times, through a loss of a job or through a medical emergency that leaves us financially devastated?

I am honestly baffled and saddened by the lack of compassion in much of the United States during these difficult economic times.

What do you think? Why do you think people are so critical of government efforts to support low-income families? Why do you think people are so quick to judge families who have come upon hard times? How can people be so sure that they will not be the next person to need a little help? And how can we reduce the stigma associated with accepting government assistance so that more people can have a bridge to survive their current hardship in the hopes of eventually getting a job and escaping poverty?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading!

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Filed under Culture, Economy, Ethics, Health, Income inequality, International, Photography, Photos, Policy, Politcs, Poverty, Relationships, Role of Government, Stereotypes, travel

Photo Friday: Paris

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View from the Pompidou Museum

Paris – doesn’t just the word itself transport you to another world? As I mentioned in an earlier post, I fell in love with Paris at first glance. Yes, figuring out the metro system and where we needed to go was a challenge at first, but when we came out of the subway the first time, my jaw dropped.

We have all seen places that are described as “French-style”, so I was expecting beautiful architecture. But to see every single building with wrought-iron balconies as far as the eye could see – it is hard to describe. It is clear that beauty is simply the top priority in Paris, held in the very highest esteem.

I loved the cafes and the restaurants, the business-people and beautiful women on bikes, the churches, the plazas, the museums, the pastries, the music which seemed to be ever-present, the small boutiques, the bread shops, the cheese shops, the wine shops – I even loved the metro, which turned out to be easy to use and convenient to get us everywhere we wanted to go.

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View from our sidewalk restaurant in Montmartre

Montmartre had to be my favorite place. Even though it has become more commercialized, you could feel the bohemian energy all around. And while it was filled with tourists, I felt a kindred spirit with many of the tourists there who made the trip to seek out this bohemian enclave.

What I found so amazing about Paris was how charming and intimate it feels, despite its size. We did all the requisite tourist activities, but I would give anything to go back and skip all tourist areas and just get to know some of the neighborhoods. I will do that one day.

For this Photo Friday, I wanted to share some of my favorite Paris photos with you. I hope you enjoy the photos and are able to feel a little bit of the romance around every corner.

What do you think? Have you been to Paris? What was your favorite part? If you haven’t been, but would like to go, what would you look forward to most? Where is the most romantic place you have ever visited?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading!

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Plaza in Montmartre, Paris

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Stained Glass Window in Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris

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The Eiffel Tower, Paris

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Birds in flight outside the Pomipdou Museum, Paris

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Paris, France

For those wanting more:

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Filed under Culture, International, Love, Music, Photography, Photos, Stereotypes, travel

Travel Challenge: Texture as displayed by Antonin Gaudi

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Wall in the Courtyard of Casa Battlo, Barcelone, Spain

Ailsa at Where’s My Backpack has issued a Texture travel challenge this week. I thought this would be the perfect time to share more photos of Gaudi’s work.

If anyone knows texture, it is Antonin Gaudi.  If you are not familiar with this famous Spanish architect, I encourage you do a little research. His style is described as Modernism and I think people either love it or hate it. I don’t think many are ambivalent to his work.

I found that I really disliked the exterior of La Sagrada Familia, but that his work with mosaics and in houses was very interesting. All of it is over the top, but you really can’t take your eyes off of it.

So, with no further ado, I bring you Gaudi and my interpretation of the Texture theme.

What do you think? Do you like the Gaudi style? What do you like about it? What don’t you like about it? Do you have a favorite architect or style of architecture?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading!

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La Sagrada Familia

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Inside of La Sagrada Familia

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Stairway inside La Sagrada Familia

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Outside of Casa Battlo, Barcelona, Spain

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Outside of Casa Battlo, Barcelona, Spain

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Roof of Casa Battlo, Barcelona, Spain

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A ceiling in the Casa Battlo, Barcelona, Spain

 

Other Interpretations of the Texture Challenge:
http://thirdeyemom.com/2012/09/15/the-texture-of-guatemala/
http://eastofmalaga.net/2012/09/14/travel-theme-texture/
http://campanulladellaanna.wordpress.com/2012/09/14/travel-theme-texture/
http://scrapydo.wordpress.com/2012/09/16/travel-theme-texture/
http://laavventura.wordpress.com/2012/09/14/travel-theme-texture/
http://s1ngal.wordpress.com/2012/09/14/travel-theme-texture/
http://max510.com/2012/09/14/weekly-travel-theme-texture/
http://theurgetowander.com/2012/09/14/travel-theme-texture/
http://imissmetoo.me/2012/09/14/travel-theme-texture-land-meets-sea/
http://windagainstcurrent.com/2012/09/14/travel-theme-texture/
http://cinova.wordpress.com/2012/09/15/travel-theme-texture/
http://lucidgypsy.wordpress.com/2012/09/14/travel-theme-texture/
http://windagainstcurrent.com/2012/09/14/travel-theme-texture-take-two/
http://canoecommunications.wordpress.com/2012/09/14/travel-theme-textures-of-art/
http://therewildwest.wordpress.com/2012/09/14/travel-theme-texture/
http://lucidgypsy.wordpress.com/2012/09/14/travel-theme-texture/
http://ohmsweetohmdotme.wordpress.com/2012/09/14/travel-theme-texture/
http://lucidgypsy.wordpress.com/2012/09/14/travel-theme-texture/
http://gatheringbooks.wordpress.com/2012/09/15/photo-journaltravel-theme-texture/
http://shaanthz.wordpress.com/2012/09/14/travel-theme-texture/
http://memoriesaremadeofthisblog.wordpress.com/2012/09/15/travel-theme-textures/
http://rfljenksy.wordpress.com/2012/09/15/travel-theme-texture/
http://chasingbutterfliessunshineandfreedom.wordpress.com/2012/09/15/travel-theme-texture/
http://annarashbrook.wordpress.com/2012/09/15/travel-theme-texture/
http://ayearinmyshoes.wordpress.com/2012/09/15/weekly-travel-theme-texture/
http://50yearproject.wordpress.com/2012/09/15/travel-theme-texture/
http://joycannis.wordpress.com/2012/09/15/travel-theme-texture/
http://picturesinlivingcolor.wordpress.com/2012/09/15/texturefeeling-natural/
http://adinparadise.wordpress.com/2012/09/15/ailsas-travel-theme-texture/
http://ididitforjohnny.wordpress.com/2012/09/15/travel-theme-texture/
http://frontrangescribbles.com/2012/09/15/travel-theme-texture-2/
http://stephenkellycreative.wordpress.com/2012/09/15/ailsas-travel-theme-texture/
http://jobryantnz.wordpress.com/2012/09/16/travel-theme-texture/
http://jessworrall.wordpress.com/2012/09/16/travel-theme-texture/
http://lovinthetrip.wordpress.com/2012/09/15/texture-its-everywhere-can-you-feel-it/
http://francineinretirement.wordpress.com/2012/09/15/travel-theme-texture/
http://canadiantravelbugs.wordpress.com/2012/09/16/travel-theme-texture/
http://fourdeeroak.wordpress.com/2012/09/15/travel-theme-texture/
http://lynneayersbeyondthebrush.wordpress.com/2012/09/15/2944/
http://catbirdinoman.wordpress.com/2012/09/16/travel-theme-texture/
http://thewanderlustgene.wordpress.com/2012/09/16/touch-it-feel-it/
http://seraphim6.me/2012/09/15/travel-theme-texture-man-imitates-nature/
http://mothergrogan.wordpress.com/2012/09/16/travel-theme-texture/
http://quotidianhudsonriver.com/2012/09/16/travel-themetexture-9-15-12/

51 Comments

Filed under Architecture, Art, Culture, International, Photography, Photos, travel, Travel Challenge

Tunes Tuesday: Elton John

Elton John has so many wonderfully written songs, I am sure he will appear in this Tuesday Tunes series again, but this week, I am going to feature “Your Song.”

My husband and I celebrated our five year wedding anniversary this week and this was the song that was played at both of our weddings. In Baltimore, we used the traditional version of the song. In Argentina, we used the Moulin Rouge version of the song and came out from behind long red curtains to friends and family and bubbles as the opera starts – these are precious memories I will treasure always.

This song is simple, but delivers such a sweet message. “How wonderful life is, while you’re in the world…” I hope you agree.

Your Song
Elton John

It’s a little bit funny, this feeling inside
I’m not one of those who can easily hide
I don’t have much money, but boy if I did
I’d buy a big house where we both could live

If I was a sculptor, but then again, no
Or a man who makes potions in a traveling show
I know it’s not much, but it’s the best I can do
My gift is my song, and this one’s for you

And you can tell everybody this is your song
It may be quite simple, but now that it’s done
I hope you don’t mind, I hope you don’t mind that I put down in words
How wonderful life is while you’re in the world

I sat on the roof and kicked off the moss
Well, a few of the verses, well, they’ve got me quite cross
But the sun’s been quite kind while I wrote this song
It’s for people like you that keep it turned on

So excuse me forgetting, but these things I do
You see I’ve forgotten if they’re green or they’re blue
Anyway the thing is what I really mean
Yours are the sweetest eyes I’ve ever seen

And you can tell everybody this is your song
It may be quite simple, but now that it’s done
I hope you don’t mind, I hope you don’t mind that I put down in words
How wonderful life is while you’re in the world

I hope you don’t mind, I hope you don’t mind that I put down in words
How wonderful life is while you’re in the world

What do you think? What was your wedding song? Does it still hold a special place in your heart or has its power worn off? If you are not married, what would you like to dance to at your wedding if you got married?

I’d love you hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading!

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Filed under International, Love, Music

Make new friends, but keep the old: The Champs-Elysees

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Arc de Triumphe – Paris, France

There is an article in the New York Times this week about the Champs-Elysees and since, as you will read on Friday, Paris was my very favorite city on our European tour, I felt that I had to write a little bit about this article here.

The article discusses concerns that the Champs-Elysees is becoming too commercialized and mainstream and losing the Parisian joie-de-vivre that defines French culture.

We visited Paris last week and it was love at first sight. Our first tourist destination was the Arc de Triumphe and the Champs Elysees. We walked the entire length of the boulevard and were mesmerized by the luxurious shops and cafes.

We ate the most delicious pastry I have ever tasted – or seen. I wish I had a photo to share with all of you, but this gallery of sweets, which has been in operation since the 1800’s was off-limits to photographers. The word pastry simply does not do justice to this decadent delight.

The New York Times article examines the influence of new chain stores like H&M and Banana Republic opening on the boulevard.

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Champs-Elysees: Paris, France

We did a Rick Steve’s walking tour down the Champs-Elysees and learned that there was a lot of concern when McDonalds opened.

Steves notes that McDonalds was only allowed to open as long as they agreed to paint their arches white and maintain a café feel, including sidewalk tables.

I understand the concern over losing the artistic and luxurious energy of this iconic avenue. And I certainly saw some signs of this deterioration firsthand. But I also saw the future compromising with the past in a way that held some beauty.

It is hard to explain, but as an example, I was absolutely blown away by the Abercrombie and Fitch store. The outside of the store – we did not go inside – was as beautiful as any museum. We did not learn the history of that building, but I have no doubt that it is a place with great historic significance.

Frankfurt was another incredible example of the old meeting the new, where sky-scrapers share a block with castles, which I will share on my Photo-Friday about Germany.

I find myself wondering how I feel about this. It was wonderful to see historic buildings being preserved and put to use rather than destroyed like we are so quick to do here in the United States.

But is it OK to have a McDonalds in a place with such a rich history? Something doesn’t sit well with me about that. Perhaps it is the desire to slow down the rapid pace of change. But can we do that?

What do you think? Do you have issues with historic buildings being put to use for modern-day services? Would you have a problem if a castle turned into a Walmart, even if it maintained the architectural integrity of the original structure? Have you seen any positive examples of old things being repurposed for new uses that could serve as a model for others?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading!

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Filed under Business, Culture, Economy, Ethics, History, International, Photography, Photos, Politcs, Privatization, Role of Government, social pressures, Stereotypes, Technology, travel

Friday Photos: Spain

We just got back from the most amazing trip last evening. We visited Madrid, Barcelona, Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin and Frankfurt. I am going to dedicate my Friday photos posts to a different country each week for the next four weeks.

Today, we visit Spain. Our first stop was Madrid and we only had one short day there. But the city enchanted us from the start. So much beauty everywhere we looked. And it may have been the time of year, but there really weren’t many crowds.

We loved visiting the royal palace and the Reina Sofia Museum, but our favorite part had to be the food.

The yummy Spanish ham – we couldn’t get enough of it and wanted to take some home to our pup!
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More yummy ham in Plaza Mayor in Madrid.
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Our next stop was Barcelona. We loved the food and the markets in Barcelona as well, but Barcelona was really about Gaudi and Catalunya.

We happened to catch this Catalunyan tradition, which is meant to show strength and unity.
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La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain is a site not to be missed!
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La Sagrada Familia Almudena Cathedral, Madrid
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On the roof of one of the Gaudi houses in Barcelona – I wonder if the word gaudy came from this man’s work.
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We had a wonderful time in Spain and would love to go back. Next week, Photo Friday will feature Paris!!

What do you think? Have you been to Spain? What was your favorite part? What is your favorite Spanish food?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading!!

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Filed under International, Photography, Photos, travel