24 August 2019

Year In Review - 2019

Last year was...

  • Another move
  • A bunch of Broadway shows (but I didn't see them on Broadway)
  • A few new countries.

I didn't travel a lot compared to most of my years abroad (reasons being job related), I crammed almost all of my travel into the last 3 months of the year, and I definitely didn't post a lot.  I have this habit of composing posts in my head as I'm walking around places and thinking of things I want to write and facts I want to remember or look up and then once I get home I have so much in my head that it's daunting and I feel like just posting some pictures isn't good enough so then I end up not posting at all :/

Here's a semi-brief synopsis of 2019.

I went to see La Befana.  Italy's traditional holiday celebration includes the tale of a witch known as La Befana who arrives on her broomstick during the night of January 5th with toys and sweets for the good children and lumps of coal for the bad ones.

Broomstick...motorcycle side car....

Once again...I packed up everything (Okay, let's be real, I packed nothing but my suitcase. A team of movers packed up everything!) and moved...back to the Netherlands.  It's no secret that I love the Netherlands and when a position opened up there I pretty much forced my organization to move me there!

A two-day drive and I was right back where I started in 2010.  In a lot of ways, nothing had changed.  And in a lot of ways, A LOT had changed.  Although mostly that was road construction and there had been a lot of road construction since I left in 2013.  New motorways had been built where none had previously existed and the old routes I used to know had been closed off or rerouted and my brain melted a few times when a road that I'd driven hundreds of times was now a dead end.

This makes it look like such a serene, picturesque drive. I don't know what happened to the picture of the long queues of traffic we sat in.  There were a lot of those!

A shaky picture of the sign crossing into the Netherlands from Germany (I was not driving!)

After 3.5 weeks in temporary quarters I moved into a house.  The box spring for the guest bed wouldn't make the turn up the steps and so it now resides in the garage.  My wardrobe went in through the bathroom window.

With my house a sea of boxes, I went to London very next day (this trip was planned before I even found out I was leaving Italy) to meet up with a couple friends from Italy. This began the year of me seeing more Broadway shows than any other year ever (or maybe all previous years combined?).

I saw Hamilton (for the 3rd time) with my friends. My flight out of Amsterdam was so late due to high winds that I had to go straight from the airport to the show and barely made it.

There's nothing that hasn't already been said about this show. I'll keep seeing it if I can. It's that good!

This show is everything!!  See it if you can.  I can't wait to see it again!

This show has a teenage Kinky Boots vibe.  The best parts were the old lady sitting next to me who was seeing it for the 2nd time and the guy in the heavy metal t-shirt who was the first to stand and cheer at the end!

Another friend from Italy came to visit.  We met up in Amsterdam, saw Michelle Obama, then she came all the way down to where I live and spent a few days.  While I was in Amsterdam I saw the World Press Photo exhibit for the 9th time.

I woke up super early (for no good reason) and rather than fight it I went out and took pictures. The streets were empty and it was perfect for getting reflection shots in the canals.

She's a powerful speaker and a force for good in this world!

I traveled to Bratislava, Slovakia, where I ate my weight in potato dumplings.  I previously posted about my buddy Čumil.

I couldn't eat it all and still felt like there was a 50lb brick in my belly. It was a slow, painful walk back to my room. I regret nothing1

The Women's World Cup took place in June - during a heat wave - and for the first time ever the Dutch women made it to the finals...against the US.  I was torn in two!  I would be both thrilled and devastated by the result.

The US women won but the Dutch played so well!  

Despite having lived in the Netherlands for several years, I'd somehow never taken a bike trip. I decided to do one over the 4th of July weekend.  It didn't go as well as I expected.  Maybe I'll talk about it another time.

My bike wanted its picture taken with a windmill.

Then we had another heat wave. We set and then broke records for temperatures this country should never see.  There's no AC here. It was brutal!

I picked blueberries in close to 100F temps!!  I've posted about this (blueberry picking...we didn't have these terrible temperatures then) years ago. I love having this so close by!

Another repeat but Amsterdam's Pride is really something to experience!  It lasts about 1.5 weeks and this year the musical Fun Home was showing so I got to add that to my list!  It was in Dutch so I also got to add seeing a musical in Dutch to my list.

Gender bending barbies strapped to the front of a bike. I love Amsterdam!

September - October
My parents had a trip to Ireland planned. This was an organized (not by me) group tour. So of course, I had to fly to Ireland to surprise them (I spent 1.5 weeks there and saw them when they arrived, just as I was leaving).  But by now our family had done this enough that they fully expected me to surprise them.  A hurricane hit the west coast of Ireland while I was on the west coast of Ireland. That was...fun? It wasn't. By far the part of the trip I enjoyed the most was Belfast and that deserves its own post and I will, I swear. 

I went to the city of Limerick because I read that a certain bar held limerick readings on Wednesday nights so I planned my whole trip around being there on a Wednesday and then the limerick readings weren't happening :(

Gaelic is a beautiful language to listen to but it's a good thing signs were also in English!

The Cliffs of Moher the day after a hurricane (furthest north in the Atlantic ever) came through. It was still insanely windy and dangerous so I didn't go very far.
They closed the visitor center the day before because of the winds...trying to discourage people from venturing out along the cliffs.  Several people warned me (before I got to the cliffs...one before I even got to the coast) about people getting sucked off the edge by the winds (not blown off, but sucked off by winds blowing in from the water and up the side of the cliffs) so I made sure to stay far from the edge (which wasn't really hard because I don't like being anywhere near the edge of things I can fall from anyway!).

On the island of Inis Mor two days after the hurricane.

The Peace Wall separating Belfast.  The City still closes the gates at night.  It's so fascinating to me that this is not something from history but present day.

The murals were so amazing to me that I traveled back to Belfast a 2nd time just to see more of them. This one is particularly relevant right now!

Mom and Dad...somewhere in Ireland

Book of Mormon came to Amsterdam which upped my total to 5 Broadway musicals but I wasn't done yet!

My dear friends Nancy and Lisa came to visit.  I did my best to give them the grand European tour in their 11 days and managed to get them to Germany, Paris, a river boat cruise from Maastricht to Liege (Belgium), and of course Amsterdam.

Nancy and Lisa in Maastricht

Half-timbered houses in Monschau, Germany.

Visitors make you a tourist in your own back yard.  I'd been to Valkenburg before but never to the train station. The Oldest Station in the Netherlands.

So much has changed since the last time I was here.  There are fences around the Eiffel Tower, unfriendly security and metal detectors and you can't walk up to it unless you have a ticket. Which is very sad for someone like me who loves to stare at the intricate metal work.  I'm very glad I saw it years ago.

I don't think of myself as a "cat person" but I went to a cat cafe in Paris and this cat decided I was his person for a couple hours.  Most of the cats just ignored the people and everyone was jealous because they wanted attention from the cats and here I was with a cat in my lap as if it was my cat (sorry for the boob shot).

Another place I've somhow never been to before is Zaanse Schaans.  It's so quintessential yet I think I was just saving it as a place to take visitors. 

I spent Thanksgiving in London seeing a whopping 5 shows in 4 days for a grand total of 10 for the year.  It was fantastic and exhausting!

Okay, not a musical. But it's still theater and all theater is a healing medicine to me and seeing this man live felt like a gift.

The show was moving theaters because their old theater was in terrible condition. In the interim they were doing a staged concert. I'd seen the show once years ago and I've seen the 10th Anniversary concert video countless times so I expected this to be amazing and was not disappointed.

If you love the music of Tina Turner (and who doesn't?!?!) then this is the show for you.  There was a VERY tall man in front of me so I had a really hard time seeing but I could hear it all and it was phenomenal!

THIS!  You need to experience this! The messages in this show...everyone needs to see and hear the messages in this show. I've been waiting years for this to finally come to London and I bought tickets the day they went on sale back in Feb. but then I still had to wait 9 months for the show to open.  I saw it with a friend I made in Dubrovnik in 2018 who happens to live in London (for anyone who thinks I don't make friends....you're mostly right but it does happen occasionally ;-)).

The dessert course of my Thanksgiving theater week was pie baked with love and it was delicious!  

For my birthday I took a long weekend hop to Sicily for a little sunshine. It was chilly and a little rainy but that's okay. I got to practice my Italian...sort of...Sicilian dialect is very different from the Northern Italian I learned.

Then to close out the year I went to Riga, Latvia to celebrate the Winter Solstice.

Stay tuned next time for a run down of all the places I WON'T be going in 2020 *SIGH*

28 July 2019

Man at Work - Sundays in My City

His name is Čumil (which means "watcher") and he watches from a street corner in Bratislava, Slovakia.  I fell in love with him.

He's one of several statues in the city.  Due to his being so low to the ground, he's lost his head twice thanks to negligent drivers :o. Legend has it that if you rub his head and make a wish it will come true. That's why it's so shiny.

This little guy didn't have a camera but mimicked taking pictures of his own :)

This little guy didn't seem very amused by being made to pose with Čumil
Bratislava was a cute little city...perfect for a quick weekend get-away (but you can even do it as a day-trip from Vienna).  It's still not super popular so it's not very crowded (except that I was there on the final weekend of the International Ice Hockey championships which were taking place in the city so it was relatively crowded...which was still not crowded compared to any popular European city) and it's really inexpensive.

The history of Slovakia (only an independent country (former one half of Czechoslovakia) since 1993) is super fascinating and surprising given the terrible history of the breakup of of its neighbor, Yugoslavia. Do the Free Walking Tour. Thoroughly enjoyable.

Sundays In My City