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DAY FIVE: Rome

Posted on March 25th, 2014

Dave!I've already been to the Hard Rock Cafe in Rome several times. The only Italian property I haven't been to is the new cafe in Florence. But if I flew directly to Florence, I wouldn't have the opportunity to eat at my favorite restaurant on earth.

So I got up at 3:30am. So I could get to Glasgow Airport by 4:30am. So I could fly to Rome at 6:40am.

This meant skipping breakfast, but that's okay. By the time I got to The Eternal City I was starving, which meant I had room for the city's signature dish for lunch: Cacio e Pepe ("Cheese and Pepper" on spaghetti pasta)...

Cacio e Pepe in Rome

It's a classic dish that's deceptively simple. The trick is getting the pasta cooked to a perfect al dente texture, which is tough in the USA because everybody overcooks their noodles. So you either have to go to RW's house or fly to Italy to get it done right.

Now, the prudent thing to do when you are in Rome is to run around and see all the sights. But I've already done that. And I've been up since 3:30am, so I took a nap instead.

But no worries, I was sure to wake up in time for a late dinner at my most favorite restaurant in all the world: Alfredo alla Scrofa, where Le Fettuccine Alfredo was invented...

Alfredo Alla Scrofa Fettuccine Alfredo

Alfredo Alla Scrofa Fettuccine Alfredo

A heart attack on a plate, gloriously mixed to order right at your table...

Alfredo Alla Scrofa Fettuccine Alfredo

Alfredo Alla Scrofa Fettuccine Alfredo

After dinner I decided to wander over to the Spanish Steps so I could climb to the top and visit the cafe where I first tasted Stracciatella Gelato, my all-time favorite...

Spanish Steps Rome

Gelato in Rome

Gelato in Rome

And, because this is Rome, the walk back to your hotel is filled with incredible sights...

Barberini Fountain

Roman Building

Buona Notte!

   

DAY FOUR: Edinburgh

Posted on March 24th, 2014

Dave!When I learned that there was a new Hard Rock in Glasgow, my idea was to fly into Edinburgh (my favorite city on earth) and hop over and back for a quick visit. But when it came time to book my tickets, I realized that this was a risky prospect. Odds are I'd arrive in Edinburgh and never leave. So I decided to fly into Glasgow after all.

But there was no way I was going to pass on the opportunity to spend my birthday in the one place I love more than any other. No way at all. And so I took a 50-minute train ride across Scotland just because I can. But, before I go... an egg and fire-roasted tomato sandwich from Pret-A-Manger (my favorite breakfast on earth)...

Breakfast at Pret

Because the weather was so amazing,* I decided to do something I've always wanted to do when visiting Edinburgh: climb the extinct volcano there (named "Arthur's Seat") so I could look out over the city...

The Climb Up Arthur's Seat

Edinburgh from Arthur's Seat

The panorama view is pretty incredible (click to embiggen)...

Edinburgh from Arthur's Seat

I had photographed the city to death on my last trip here back in 2009, but I just can't help myself when it comes to the majestic old buildings, so I ended up taking a boat-load of new photos...

Edinburgh, Scotland

Edinburgh, Scotland

Edinburgh, Scotland

Since I've been to Edinburgh many times, I'm always looking for something new to see and do. This trip, that ended up being a visit to Camera Obscura. It's a kind of museum filled with optical oddities and illusions...

Camera Obscura in Edinburgh

Camera Obscura in Edinburgh

Camera Obscura in Edinburgh

Camera Obscura in Edinburgh

Which is all well and good, but the main attraction for me was the rooftop view...

Camera Obscura in Edinburgh

Camera Obscura in Edinburgh

And, yes, as the name implies, there is indeed a camera obscura at Camera Obscura. It's an old-school attraction that was probably a lot more impressive back in the day... but it was still interesting since I had never seen one before (you can read all about the device at Wikipedia). Basically, a lens on the roof of the building captures light and beams it down onto a big white table in a darkened room. Everybody stands around this circular "screen" as the operator pans around the city while pointing out things of interest.

Not wanting to ride the train back to Glasgow during rush hour, I said goodbye to my beloved Edinburgh after all too short a visit...

Edinburgh Castle from the Train

Once back in Glasgow, I rushed out to the famous Kelvingrove Museum so I could take a look before it closed. Part art gallery and part natural history exhibit, it was well worth the effort...

Kelvingrove Museum Glasgow, Scotland

Kelvingrove Museum Glasgow, Scotland

Kelvingrove Museum Glasgow, Scotland

Kelvingrove Museum Glasgow, Scotland

Across the parking lot (and a creek) is the University of Glasgow. I wandered up to take a look before heading back downtown for dinner...

University of Glasgow, Scotland

University of Glasgow, Scotland

After a quick dinner (and a nap) I headed to George Square to try and get some photos without tons of people around. The beautiful Apple Store was on the way...

George Square in Glasgow, Scotland

Apple Store in Glasgow, Scotland

And that was that for my short visit to Scotland. I leave tomorrow morning on a very early flight, so off to bed I go.

   

*Dear Apple... while I love Siri, and use this miraculous feature often on my iPhone, there are times I have to wonder just how idiotic technology can be. I am in SCOTLAND. My iPhone is LOCATION AWARE. I am asking what the weather is like IN EDINBURGH. But I am given locations in the USA? Oh well... I'll just clarify that I mean the Edinburgh IN SCOTLAND then...

Stupid Siri

Nope. No matter how I pronounce it, Edinburgh is not in Scotland. Holy crap does this make Siri look like a fucking moron.

   

DAY THREE: Glasgow – Bullet Sunday 373

Posted on March 23rd, 2014

Dave!Unleash the haggis... because Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• Prayers. Truly horrible news from back home... a massive mudslide has devastated a residential area east of Arlington in my home state of Washington. All my hopes go out to friends who have family amongst the 18 people still missing... along with everybody else affected by this tragic event.

   
• Air Yet another excellent flight on KLM Royal Dutch Airlines... this time from Amsterdam to Glasgow. My only disappointment was that they didn't hand out landing cards for non-EU citizens during the quick 1-1/2 hour trip, which meant I had to fill one out at the airport. But that's hardly worth complaining about. Oh, a bit of advice... when offered a choice between "sweet snack and savory snack," go for the savory snack, it's a packet of incredible Gouda cheese biscuits.

   
• Immigration. When you arrive at passport control there's a big sign telling you that tougher border control laws in the UK will cause a longer wait. Since I was at the front of the plane I didn't have many people ahead of me... but the sign wasn't lying. I've been to the UK many times, but on this trip I really got the third degree. They wanted to know absolutely everything about me, my job, my past travels, and the purpose of my visit. Usually I just say "tourist" but, given the level of detail they were drilling for, I literally said "I am a Hard Rock Cafe collector and I am here to visit the new Hard Rock Cafe Glasgow." Then I had to explain what I collected and what else I would be doing while in the UK. And then... then... because I am such a shifty-looking character, I had to go through it all over again with a police inspector. Despite the hassle, everybody was friendly and welcoming, so I guess there's that.

   
• Cash. I never bother getting local currency for my destination ahead of time, because I usually get a better exchange rate by using a cash machine when I land. The only problem being that Glasgow's airport only has a pitiful four ATMs, all of which have insanely long lines. Since I had to have cash for bus fare into town, I was forced to wait. So lesson learned. I'll be going home with a few quid in my pocket for my next trip to the UK, as it would seem cash machines are a rare and elusive creature in these lands.

   
• No. 153. And, now, the reason for my visit... The Hard Rock Glasgow. Like many of the UK properties (both current and past), the cafe is located in a beautiful old building. This particular cafe is in a great location, directly across from the Queen's Street train station on Buchanan Street, a popular shopping district in the city. It's not at all flashy, and would be easy to miss if you weren't looking for it...

Hard Rock Cafe Glasgow

Hard Rock Cafe Glasgow on Buchanan Street

The interior is truly bizarre... in the best possible way. It's equal parts classical architecture and starship Enterprise...

Hard Rock Cafe Glasgow Interior

Hard Rock Cafe Glasgow Interior

Hard Rock Cafe Glasgow Interior

The bathrooms are located off a spiral staircase that's filled with silver guitar sculptures...

Hard Rock Cafe Glasgow Interior

The surprisingly-spacious Rock Shop is at the front of the building, and you pass right by it coming and going...

Hard Rock Cafe Glasgow Interior

All in all, a terrific property. Alas, sadly, the rock memorabilia adheres to the new "hipster lounge" aesthetic so it's badly displayed and there's not much of it, but at least the building is interesting. Oh... and if you're not a vegetarian like myself, you'll be happy to know that the specialty burger for this Hard Rock is a hamburger smothered in haggis with cheese on top!

   
• In A World... I was saddened to learn that one of the most famous voices on the planet, Hal Douglas, passed away. If you've ever seen a US movie trailer, odds are you know who he is... even if you didn't know his name...

One of kind. You will be missed, sir.

   
And now I must say cheerio, as I am falling asleep as I type this.

   

DAY TWO: Rotterdam

Posted on March 22nd, 2014

Dave!I've been meaning to get to Rotterdam for years now, and today it finally happened.

The reason I most wanted to visit was so I could see the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. It's one of those places that comes up in conversation from time to time when discussing art. It totally lives up to the hype...

Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen

From the minute you enter and see how the coat-check room is a series of cages for your belongings and a rope-and-pulley system for your coat, you know you're in for something good...

Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen

The collection is varied and excellent...

Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen

Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen

Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen

Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen

Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen

Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen

Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen

Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen

Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen

Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen

Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen

After I managed to pul myself away from the exhibits, I saw that I had plenty of time to walk to the waterfront and see Erasmusbrug (the Erasmus Bridge... also known as the "Swan Bridge" or the "Harp Bridge), then take the metro back to the train station...

Erasmus Bridge

As most of Rotterdam was destroyed in World War II, the city has a modern aesthetic, with a lot of new architectural and artistic structures...

Rotterdam

Rotterdam

Rotterdam

ANYWAY...

I had about 25 minutes to get back to Rotterdam Centraal, which was no problem since the metro only takes 10 minutes.

EXCEPT...

When I went to purchase a ticket, I found out I couldn't buy one. The machine only refilled chip-cards. No problem, I'll just buy a chip-card. Except they don't fucking sell chip-cards. No ticket window. No attendant. No Assistance. Nothing.

So I had to run as fast as I could to get back to the train station.

I hauled ass.

Which was not easy because I don't run very often. At least once along the way I thought I was going to have a heart attack.

But I made it to the station with two minutes to spare, so it's all good, right?

No. My train was running 14 minutes late and so I ran all that way for nothing...

Rotterdam Schedule

Note how my transfer time is 0 minutes. But not really... if you do the math, it's actually -7 minutes. Yay.

After all that bullshit, I decided I deserved PATATJES MET...

Patatjes Met

Well, I always feel that way, but still...

   

DAY ONE: Leiden

Posted on March 21st, 2014

Dave!The flight over The Atlantic was a non-event. Which is the best kind of flight to have, really.

The plane was one of Delta's latest Airbus A330-300's which feels like the seats are even narrower than usual. It was uncomfortable for me... so I'm only guessing it must be downright miserable for at least half the passengers on the plane. I suppose it's only a matter of time before airlines do away with seats altogether. They'll just stack everybody in the plane like firewood.

On the bright side, the new entertainment system features Picture-In-Picture...

Plane PIP

After landing, I took the train to Leiden so I could kill some time until The Dutch Bitch got off work. Back in 2012 I walked around the city to see the sights, but this time it was pouring rain...

Leiden

To escape the weather, I went to Leiden's National Ethnology Museum, (Museum Volkenkunde)...

Volkenkunde Leiden Ethnology Museum

It features artifacts from peoples around the world (outside of Europe), with sections devoted to North America, South & Central America, Africa, Asia, and Oceania...

Volkenkunde Buddha Room

Volkenkunde Museum Leiden

Volkenkunde Day of the Dead

Volkenkunde Clay Figure

Volkenkunde China

The museum is incredibly well-done and has a surprisingly deep collection. The only problem is that everything is suspended in glass cases with no background, so it can be tough to focus on the artifacts. A few times I experimented with angle-shifting to see if I could add some separation, but it wasn't terribly effective...

Volkenkunde Artificat Angle-Shifting

The display spaces are pretty amazing, and full-wall projections are used to put you into the place where the artifacts are from...

Volkenkunde Oceania

Volkenkunde Oceania

And then? It was time for PATATJES MET!!!

Patatjes Met!

And now I could really use a nap...

   

Penultimate

Posted on March 19th, 2014

Dave!I had planned to catch up on work over the weekend so I'd have an easy three days leading up to vacation. Instead I worked 16 hours every day and will be up working until at least midnight tonight.

I had planned on having my suitcase packed and everything ready to go yesterday so that I could spend a night relaxing before driving over to Seattle to catch my flight. I think we all know that didn't happen. I'll be lucky if I manage to grab a handful of clean underwear as I'm running out the door tomorrow morning.

I honestly don't know who I manage to get myself into this same situation every single time I go on vacation...

Vacation Countdown ONE DAY LEFT!

Oh well. After tomorrow I suppose it won't matter.

Until I end up in Europe with no pants.

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Tomorrow

Posted on March 18th, 2014

Dave!Most of my day was spent thinking "One more day. Just one more day. One. More. Day."

One more day until Winter is over. One more day until Spring is here.

One more day until I leave. One more day until I'm on vacation.

I can't fathom what tomorrow is going to be like. I can only guess I'll be skipping down the street while singing "Tomorrow! Tomorrow! I love yA, tomorrow. You're only a day awaaaayyyyyy!"

Dave Annie

Which would be pretty odd considering how much I hate that song.

Well, unless it's being sung by little Quvenzhane Wallis. How adorable is she?

And now... packing.

   

Futurism

Posted on March 13th, 2014

Dave!The cornerstone of my life-philosophy is to "Live In The Now."

But that's proving extremely difficult given that the long-awaited Veronica Mars movie is finally being released tomorrow. As if that weren't enough distraction, in a mere seven days I'm off to Europe. So I don't want to live in the now. I want to live in the future...

Vacation Countdown: 14 Days!

...but after I finish my chocolate pudding.

   

Weeks

Posted on March 6th, 2014

Dave!Two weeks.

Two weeks until I blow this popsicle stand for twelve whole days...

Vacation Countdown: 14 Days!

   
Guess I should really start making plans and stuff.

   

Adjustment

Posted on October 24th, 2013

Dave!After three days of unsuccessfully trying to adjust back to "real life," I finally managed to get there today... thanks to a trip to the dentist's office. When it comes to snapping you back from those heady vacation days, I guess having metal tools shoved in your mouth is just the thing.

Ah well. It was good why it lasted.

And now my mind can focus on what's truly important... where am I going for my next vacation? This will largely depend on whether or not my car can hold on for another year. Right now, that doesn't seem likely, in which case my vacation savings will have to be reallocated to buying a new one. Which is the last thing I want to spend money on, but you do what you gotta do.

But thinking positively here, where would I want to go? The list is pretty huge, but I can narrow it down to a top-ten pretty easily...

  • Antarctica. The reason I haven't been to Antarctica yet is solely a matter of money. I don't just want to float by on a cruise ship... I want an actual expedition, and that costs an absurd amount of bank. I'm hopeful I can get it figured out one day soon, because I don't know how much longer I'll remain healthy enough for such an adventure.
  • India. It seems insane that one of the destinations I most want to visit on earth is still on my to-do list. I think the problem is one of time and logistics. There are simply so many places in the country I want to visit that I can't decide on an itinerary that would fit in a two-week period. I'll get it sorted eventually, I suppose, but every time I've tried in the past I get mired down with the fact that I need five weeks to do what I want to do, and no way to take that much time off.
  • Peru. Machu Picchu is a bucket-list item that I've been dreaming of for decades. Now that I've (finally) been to Cambodia and Angkor Wat, this will probably be next. Unless...
  • Jordan & Israel. There are many reasons I want to visit Jordan but, naturally, seeing Petra before I die is probably the biggest. And since it would be insane to go all that way and not visit Israel, another place I've longed to see, this is a dream trip.
  • Brazil. Visiting Rio de Janeiro, Fernando de Noronha, The Amazon Rainforest, Ouro Preto, and dozens of other places in Brazil is kind of a no-brainer. But I want to see Iguazu Falls. Badly. It's just such an amazing spectacle on movies and television that I cannot fathom how amazing it would be to see in person.
  • New Zealand When I visited Australia two years ago, I drew a line through Sydney and created a trip north (including Fiji), and a trip south (including New Zealand). I ended up going north because the southern trip would take a week longer and an additional $1600... both of which I didn't have. But that southern itinerary is still there. I still want to do it. I just need the money and the time. Again.
  • Africa. Who doesn't want to experience an African safari? Who doesn't want to see elephants, gorillas, lions, rhinos, giraffes, and the dozens of other amazing creatures that can be found there? This is another one of those trips that requires a massive stack of cash to do right.
  • Moscow & St. Petersburg. This is a pretty simple trip to plan... just call up a company who does river cruises (like Viking) and sail from Moscow to St. Petersburg while enjoying all the amazing stuff in-between. Easy! At least it's easy if you've got lots and lots of money.
  • Nepal. Always wanted to go. Still want to go. Need to find a way to go. Have never put enough time into figuring out how to go. Really must go.
  • Norwegian Fjords. A cruise along the coast of Norway through all the beautiful little fishing towns and jaw-dropping scenery seems like one of the most relaxing vacations ever. And I blame my obsession with experiencing it on Disney's Epcot. They show a movie after you go on the "Maelstrom" ride in "Norway" that shows just how amazing such a trip would be, and I've been dreaming of it ever since.

Holy crap that's a huge-looking list... and it only includes places I've never been before! There are dozens of places I've been already that I would love to revisit and see more of (Thailand, China, and Iceland come immediately to mind).

If anybody has a million dollars they want to get rid of so I can start checking things off my list, just let me know how I can take that off your hands for you.

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