Sunday, July 29, 2007


Well I won’t bore you with the details of my time in Paris. Going to play tennis in the rain with my niece & nephew. Or going to an air show in the rain. Or walking around Paris in the rain. Basically I’m saying it rained. A lot. But I’m over that. I swear.

Anyways, the real adventure started when I left Paris to go to Amsterdam and then on to my Baltic cruise. I was really excited! Now I like to think of myself as a good traveler (though GreekBoi will disagree). And I am. Well sort of. I’m good with arranging flights, trains, getting from destination to destination. But there is a bit of me that isn’t good with the actually traveling part. The waiting for a connection part. Anyways I got to Gare du Nord rather early and then basically camped out waiting for my train. While this wasn’t my first train ride in Europe, it’s been awhile. And I was lugging two huge pieces of luggage. But the train ride was fine from Paris to Amsterdam. Still overcast and grey, but there was nothing I can do about that except complain. I did run into a group of American teenagers back packing through Europe. I find it hard to believe that I was ever that young, or that stupid. Playing drinking games at 11 in the morning? Bad. Bring drunk and loud on the train. Worse.

Arriving in Amsterdam Central Station, I took the tram towards my hotel which is on one of the main streets. Unfortunately the road was under construction so that was a bit of a haze. My room, a single, was about the size of my closet at home. And I think the bed in my room was smaller than the one I had on the ship. Just too funny. And no clock in the room? Anyways, after I had gotten settled in I walked around town to get a feel for my neighborhood, try to find out where I was going to go out that night. There are different gay sections or mini-gayborhoods in Amsterdam. So I wanted to check them out. But I’m not sure if it was just a Wednesday night thing, or if I was just tired and I can’t stay out too late, but I didn’t really hit any wild and crazy places. Which was fine. I had a full day of sightseeing planned for the next day.

So I got up on that cold and overcast day and ate the nice breakfast that came with the room and then headed out to explore the city. I first head to the famous flower market and I’m a bit disappointed. Well, it’s the wrong time of year for tulips. You need to be here in April-May. Not July. So there were all of these tulip BULBs if you wanted to buy them, but no tulips. (Well I found a few hot house tulips). Taking pictures of the bulbs didn’t really cut if for me, but I did get some pics of other flowers. Anyways, I continue my wandering as I head to the Rijksmuseum. Now I’m wearing the one sweatshirt that I brought, so I keep taking little detours into stores to see if I can find a long sleeve shirt because I’m now convinced that I’ve completely packed the wrong clothes for the cruise and I’m going to freeze to death. Oh, I’ll look good, but I’ll be blue from the cold. Anyways, I make it to the Rijksmuseum which I like. Mind you I’m not a big fan of Rembrandts. Too many portraits of pasty, fat people. I do like the landscapes. And I’m loving the audio guides and the little interesting facts. In one portrait there is a little girl who is restrained in straps so she won’t move for the painter. And oddly enough that reminded me of my niece! Anyways, the Rijksmuseum gets a thumbs up, and then it was on to the Van Gogh museum.

So interesting trivia fact, apparently Van Gogh shot himself and then it took TWO DAYS for him to die. Dude, try again. I can’t imagine suffering for 2 days like that. I’d be like, give me the gun again! Again, love the audio tour. It’s interesting that a lot of the paintings at the Van Gogh museum have glass on them compared to the Rijksmuseum. I’m not sure what that means. I’m listening to the audio tour and they reference Claude Monet’s trip to the Netherlands where he describes “a typical dutch sky, grey and lined with clouds.” Amen! And then all of the comments about the “amazing light” in the Italy makes sense. Summers in Italy just have the clearest skies and I can imagine that all of the northern European painters were just enthralled with the light and weather of Italy.

After the Van Gogh, I continued shopping and finally found a shirt. Now Amsterdam must be filled with anorexics because I’m a medium-large in the US, but in Amsterdam I’m an XL-XXL. Just not right. Of course, everyone here walks and bikes so no wonder, but still. Oh, and everything is so expensive! Thank you W for a weak dollar! After my museum, shopping, and various wanderings, I make it back to my hotel for a disco nap. The sun is up till 10PM, so it’s weird here. But I try to nap despite the jack-hammering in front of my hotel. I do make it out that evening and I go to a bar/lounge place called Arc. It’s one of these places that’s so hip it hurts. Twinks galore. All blond of course. But the problem is that if you’re not drinking (which I’m not) or not smoking (ugh!), then you kind of stand out. But it was good people watching. There was supposed to be a night club next door and I wanted to get my groove on, but it didn’t open till 11PM and people didn’t really start going to it until 1AM. Ugh. I’m still not ready for that.

The next day, I go to Mike’s Bikes and rent a bike for half a day. They give me a route that takes me south of town along one of the rivers that feed into Amsterdam. The weather is finally turning nice and the bike ride is just amazing. It was surprising how quickly the city ended and the countryside began. I rode down to a little town about 10 miles south of the city where I got to see my first honest to goodness windmill. Cute little town and then on the way back I stopped at a riverside café and had lunch. The only problem (I know, complain, complain, complain) is that my allergies have kicked into overdrive. I mean 6-7 sneezes in a row. Sneezing so much that I was getting light headed. And no, I didn’t have a beer with lunch. Anyways, my weird allergies would pop up periodically throughout my trip. Anyways, by the time I get back into town, it’s actually hot!

I then head over to the Anne Frank’s House. A long line, but so worth it. A lot of people use the word evil to describe various things. But it really needs to be used when describing the Nazis and what they did. There’s a great quote in the museum that’s I’ll try to paraphrase: “Anne Frank put a face on the victims of the Holocaust. But she was just one. If we learned all of their stories we might not be able to bare it.” Too true. After walking around some more, I find a Mexican restaurant and have a chimichanga for dinner. Or course some stoners have to be sitting by me on the deck over looking that canal and have to light up. Ugh!

So that’s my issue with Amsterdam. I’m not into the drug scene. And for those who aren’t, there’s still a pretty rowdy party scene. And the British come here to party hard and they are not pretty/friendly drunks. So not a lot of fun. And needless to say the red light district wasn’t a big draw for me either. I think once you get away from the main tourist areas it’s really pretty, but the downtown is really over-commercialized I think. Anyways, at this point, I’m ready to get on the ship and relax. But I've got to deal with the luggage weight limit on my SAS flight. Inside Europe, you can only have a max of 20KG for your luggage. every KG over is 10 Euro. Can you sa ouch!

I get up early, catch the train to Schipol, and then check in pretty early. I’m over the weight limit for my luggage, but the check-in lady lets me pass. Waiting in the terminal, I see some of the A-list gays waiting for my flight. I think they are American’s, but I’m not sure. Anyways, it’s on to Copenhagen and the cruise!!!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Why I Love Jon Stewart (Reason #45342)

So I'm catching up with the madness of Washington politics using the only sane method possible. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Here's his description of Albert Gonzales just pathetic appearance in front of Congress:

"So what Albert Gonzales is saying is
That there are problems,
of which he cannot speak,
for which he is responsible,
yet not to blame,
and that he is the only one who could clean up the mess
that he can neither confirm nor deny exists."

Funny, and yet sad.

On a more positive note, it looks like there are still some honorable men in the U.S. military that are fighting the Gitmo trials and have caused the Supreme Court to re-look at the legality of the trials down there.

After reading about the continuing lies and cover up regarding Pat Tillman's death and then the Austalian government's legal review of the mockery of a trial at Gitmo, I needed something a little positive to make it through the week.

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

They don't hate us . . . . . .

So I'm still working on my vacation trip report, but something got me thinking about a very strange common thread wherever I went. I would talk with people, at bars, or cafes, or on our tours, etc. And it used to be the most people in other countries didn't know or care about U.S. politics. And they wouldn't bring the subject up. Boy has that changed. I can't tell you how many conversations I had about US politics while I was on vacation in Europe.

The guy manning the desk at the hotel in Amsterdam at 10PM at night as I was leaving for a evening out wanted to know what the word "commute" means. As in Bush commuted Libby's sentence. He was a smart guy and spoke English very well, but it was such a random question.

As I was sitting in a cafe in Tallinn, the lady sitting next to me heard my English and asked if I was American. I said yes and she asked me why Congress couldn't stop the President from continuing the war in Iraq. I tried my best to explain.

And even on the cruise where there were guys from other countries, a question about US politics came up. It was all very odd.

But thankfully, while they really don't like the U.S., they don't hate us. I think they can separate the individual people from the policies of the U.S. government.

I've travelled a lot overseas and it's sad to see America's reputation as tarnished and sullied as it is now.

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Monday, July 23, 2007

Vacation - All I Ever Wanted!!

So I'm back! And jet lagged beyond belief. I woke up this AM at 0130. Rolled into the office around 530AM, and then hit the wall around 3PM. It wasn't pretty. But, the trip was a blast. After all of the crappy weather in Paris and Amsterdam, I finally got beautiful sunny weather in the Baltic!! We so lucked out.

A full trip report with lots of pics to follow.

Oh, and guess who was our special guest on the cruise??



Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Au Revior Paris!

So I leave tomorrow for Amsterdam. Today after the tennis excursion in the rain, I went on a walk about. Up to Victor Hugo, down to the Trocodero, down under the Eiffel Tower, and then I walked through the Invalides till I got the St. Germain and then I crossed over the Seine and walked throught the Twilleries and up the Champs and then down Foch till I got back sister's place.

It was a good walk. But I must have opened and closed my umbrella a dozen times, and put my sweatshirt on and off and dozen times. A little bit of rain, a little bit of sun, a little bit of clouds, a little bit of rain. It was all such a tease.

I did do some window shopping. It's Soldes time in France. So you're only allowed to have "sales" in France in July and January. But I was having a hard time finding my inner shopper. I don't care if they are Dolce and Gabbana underwear. Even at 30% off, 60 Euros is just insane for underwear. I'll tell you what. If you can guarantee that I'll look like the guy on the cover. Or,if you can guarantee I'll get laid every time I wear those underwear. Then yes, I will buy them. But get real!

The other problems is that while I did find a couple of good deals, I really don't need anything. Do I really need another pair of khaki cargo shorts? No. And I've got he weight issues for what I have right now. So it just wasn't happening. Oh well, I'll save it up to spend once I get on the ship.

I thought about going out tonight to a bar or something, but I'll have plenty of time to do that in Amsterdam, so it was a psuedo quiet night at home. We walked to get ice cream and then my sister, my niece and I went back to Trocadero to watcht the Eiffel tower sparkle which was nice.

Anyways, off to Amsterdam tomorrow AM!


Uncle Trey Brings the Rain!

So the first time I visited my sister and her family in Paris it was for Thanksgiving. The first day I arrived it was sunny, but a bit chilly. And I was jet-lagged so I didn't care. But then it rained and was overcast for the next 6 days. Ok, it was winter time and that's to be expected. The next time I visit it's March and again it was okay for the first day, and then rain, overcast and grey for the next few days. But it was spring time, so I'm like okay. Okay, it's FRAKKN JULY people! Where is the sun? I was really hoping to get some good photos but the weather has not cooperated at all. While the BnL takes the kids for their school physicals, I think I'm just going to brave the weather and do a walk about and take some photos. Of Paris on a cold grey summer afternoon.

So far we've gone out to a French air base to see an air show, in the rain. It was a haze getting there and the weather sucked. Then yesterday we went to the pool which was fun. The sun did peak out a couple of times, but mostly it was passing rain showers. And cold rain. Not pleasant at all. I did get to swim some laps and I ran yesterday, so I don't feel too guilty about the pan au chocolat that I had for breakfast. Today in the light misting rain, we went to some tennis courts so the kiddos could hit some balls. It was okay and I actually borrowed my niece's racket when she stopped for a juice box to get a couple of swings in myself. It's been years since I played tennis and I should probably take that up again. We'll see.

I'm off to Amsterdam tomorrow AM. Hauling my two huge suitcases through the Metro. So the deal with my luggage. I'm gone for two weeks and I over packed. Which is bad because I'm going to have to pay out the nose for the luggage since within Europe you only get 20kgs. About 44 pounds. Anything over that, you have to pay for. 10 Euro for for every extra KG. Since I had to pack for 2 weeks, and two different climates (or so I thought at the time) it was not good. Of course, it's on the flight over that I realize that I should have just packed for one week and then when I get on the ship pay to have my laundry done. It's not like the laundry is going to be more expensive that paying the extra weight for the luandry. Oh well, live and learn. It's just money (he says as he grinds his teeth). And seriously if this is the major drama I have on this trip, then in the grand scheme of things, it's no big deal.


Thursday, July 05, 2007

Bon Voyage!

Off on vacation tomorrow. Which is good because I'm about to collapse. Pretty much been working non-stop for the past 2-3 weeks. Just insane. And I'm leaving at a bad time for one of my projects but I can't help it. I so need a break.

National to Philly. Philly to Paris. Visit niece and nephew.
Paris to Amsterdam. A couple of days there.
Amsterdam to Copenhagen to catch the cruise.

Stockholm to Chicago.
Chicago to National.

I'll probably blog from Paris and Amsterdam. And I'll do a post cruise report with lots of pics using my new camera.



Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Game of Life in Bikini Bottom SpongeBob SquarePants Edition

So I did a quick search and destroy mission to Toys-R-Us today to find gifts for my niece and nephew. Uncle Trey can't show up empty handed. My job is to spoil them rotten.

But as I quickly strolled the aisles of Toys-R-Us, I firmly said no to any more Legos. I'm tired of putting those things together. Yes I'm 40, but some of those kits are insane and my nephew loses patience at piece 148 of a 200 piece Lego. So Uncle Trey has to finish them.

So I continued searching till I got the board game area and I say YES!!!! A new board game or two would be perfect. Especially because if I have to play one more game of Candy Land or Chutes & Ladders there won't be enough wine in France for Uncle Trey. Anyways, I picked up these new editions of games, the SpongeBob edition of "Life" and the Spiderman edition of "Sorry." Of course my sister, such the kill joy, told me they already have Sorry. So I'll have to return that once I get back from Europe. They will have to make do with the little stuff ponies, two DVDs, and the board game that I got them. ;-)

Oh, and to carry on a recent theme, do you realize the Paris Hilton did more time in jail than Scooter Libby? Let's see, she was arrested for for driving with a suspended license. And he was arrested for lying to a grand jury about outing a CIA agent who's husband exposed the lies and mis-information about the reasons why we went to war in Iraq. Yep, apparently Justice is blind. And she's crying right now.


Monday, July 02, 2007

Quote Of The Day

"This decision to commute the sentence of a man who compromised our national security cements the legacy of an Administration characterized by a politics of cynicism and division, one that has consistently placed itself and its ideology above the law. This is exactly the kind of politics we must change so we can begin restoring the American people’s faith in a government that puts the country’s progress ahead of the bitter partisanship of recent years." Barack Obama.

Yep, still outraged.


Sunday, July 01, 2007

America's Cancer

I still read the news and the blogs, and follow the insanity that is the W administration and the havoc they are wreaking on America. But I haven't blogged about it because I'm suffering from outrage fatigue. It all seems too much some time.

And I'm not the only one. DK's recent post pretty closely captures my feelings at this point. But I'm not quite ready to believe in the total conspiracy theory yet. For some reason I'm thinking that something's infected our country, our government, and it's cancerous and eating away at the very soul of our country and the principles it was founded on. Oh, I'm sure there was a conspiracy to fire the US Attorney Generals. And I'm sure there are others. But I think that when those in power will use that power solely for their own good, and to acquire more power, regardless of law, rule, or historical precedent and with no one to stop them (aka a Republican Congress) then the cancer spreads. Was there some neat detailed plan to alter any government document referring to global warming? Probably not. But somehow the government was infected and as the cancer spread through the various departments it evolved and changed on it's own. Let's block the Plan B drug because we can and it would empower women. Let's build huge detainment centers in Texas for immigration purposes. Let's spy on Americans. Let's torture people. And it seems like the cancer has spread to the Supreme Court whose recent decisions seem pretty bad.

The American body is fighting back. There are some glimmers of hope. Some court rulings regarding the tribunals. The continuing investigations into the US Attorney General firings, the recent revelations about Dick Cheney, the Abramoff scandal, the wire tapping, the secret prisons, all help the country get better. It's like light kills this particular form of cancer. And the more the people, and the media, ask the questions, the more we can help America get better, to fight the cancer.

Andrew Sullivan uses the term "Christianist" to describe a certain group to conservative christians who want to force their beliefs and opinions on the United States. I want to create a term for the people who are actively subverting our government (i.e. bogus voter fraud investigations, illegal wire tapping, authorizing torture), using it for personal gain (Ney, Cunningham, Stevens), or to advance their political agenda (global warming, Plan B) against the better good of all Americans. Right now the only word I can think of is Traitor.