Moving to Holland is not easy, but it's worth the effort. This blog tells the story of shifting from American life in Pittsburgh to Expat life in the Netherlands,
and all of our European adventures that follow.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Dublin, March 2011

My Irish eyes were definitely smiling in Dublin! I think Ireland has to be at the top of my list of favorite places that we have visited. We spent a long weekend in Dublin, with our good friends Chris and Brandi, and their son Austin.

Dublin is a wonderful city, and what I imagined an Irish city to be like. The side streets are cobble stone, lined with pubs that have cool names and well-kept colorful storefronts. The food and beer were great, and the churches were beautiful. The people were very friendly, too. Even the customs guy at the airport smiled and told us to enjoy our visit. We were pleasantly surprised, because we Never get this in Holland.

Chad and I arrived the night before the Taylors, so we spent the first night, and next morning strolling around town checking out the local pubs in the Temple Bar area, and the campus of Trinity College. The first pub we went into Wednesday night had a band playing, and shortly after we sat down they began playing Country Roads. :)

After the Taylors had arrived, we went to dinner at The Brazen Head, which is the oldest pub in Ireland. I ordered Bangers and Mash, which was served inside a Yorkshire Pudding bowl. Chad had Irish Stew.

On Friday, we went to St. Patrick's Cathedral. It was pretty large, with beautiful stained glass windows and a more impressive colorful tile floor. I also liked the small wooden chairs that each had a handmade kneeling pillow hanging from the back.

Then finally the long awaited moment had come: the tour of the Guinness Storehouse.
I've never seen them this happy.

The huge facilities of Guinness span a couple of city blocks. Inside the Storehouse, they have a well organized tour that takes you through the brewing process & the history of Guinness. But, the best part by far was that we got to learn how to Pour the Perfect Pint by pouring our own Guinness Draft, instructed by a proper Irish bartender!


We walked across town to Trinity College, we went inside the Long Room of the old library. I absolutely loved this room. It has so much history, with the huge wooden bookshelves, and old leather books with cracking spines. The Book of Kells is also on display in an exhibition area below the Long Room.

(Snagged this photo from the internet, since they didn't allow cameras)

Near the campus is my new favorite cafe on Earth: Cafe en Seine, with it's beautiful Victorian decor.
For dinner, we stopped by Burdock's, the best Fish and Chips in Dublin according to Anthony Bourdain, No Reservations.
Saturday, we rented a car and drove north of the city to see some of the country side and to visit Trim Castle. Chris took on the brave task of driving on the opposite side of the road, and the right side of the car. Our first stop was at the Hill of Tara, which is an area where they used to crown the Irish Kings. You could see wonderful views of miles and miles of Irish country side in all directions. There was also a tiny, old chapel on top of the hill, too, that had a cemetery around it.
I would Love to come here and tell ghost stories on Halloween.

This amazing ruins of Trim Castle are large and much of the original tower and walls still exist. You can tour the inside of the main structure, where they explain where rooms used to be located, and what they were used for. In recent times, Trim Castle is most known for being a location where they filmed some scenes from Braveheart. Brandi was prepared for this, and brought Mel with her for some photo ops that were well worth the strange stares we received from other people.

We also drove over to Newgrange, which is a huge Neolithic tomb. Tours of the inside had already closed for the day (sooner than advertised... grrr), so here's a nice shot of the outside.

To top off our road trip, we got to see a bit of the Irish coastline as we drove back down to Dublin.

We really enjoyed Ireland. It's green, it's quaint, and everything I imagined it would be. And, this is officially the first place I have been where my ancestors came from. I could feel the ol' Carnahan spirit still alive here, haha! I hope that we will have the opportunity to visit again sometime in the future.



Full set of pics on Flickr:

The Taylors also have the pics from their camera on Flickr, so check them out, too:

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Biking to the gym

One of our favorite parts of day to day life in Rotterdam is our gym. It's our saving grace. It is somewhere we can go to get in a good workout, relieve stress, and even relax and rejuvinate. It is a great facility located right on the Maas river between the Erasmusbrug and Willemsbrug (ironically just across the street from my Maersk office). My favorite part is the Les Mills classes (Body Pump, Body Combat, Body Step, etc).

An interesting added element of our trips involve biking to and from the gym. Of course we don't have cars, nor do we need one to get to the gym, as it's only a few minutes bike ride away. The plus side is that it adds a good 10 minute cardio to the beginning and end of your workout. The downside comes in when the weather does not cooperate.

Always with the wind...

The worst has to be the wind; and, this is Holland, so there is a lot of it. To get to the gym, we bike down a road along the riverfront that has a "flag museum" with a flag from each country in the world. In my 2+ years here, I have almost never seen these flags laying still, as there is always a wind coming from some direction. I didn't realize how much harder biking can be with the wind in your face. Sometimes it feels like it's blowing in our face in both directions (and it probably is... constantly swirling about us).

This is especially hard after a really tough workout. When you are already fatigued and you then have to fight the wind on the way home... let's just say it is not fun.

Rain Rain Go Away...

Biking in the rain is an event. We were not prepared the first couple times, so we would have to take an entire extra set of clothes and shoes, as we'd get soaked on our way to the gym. Now, we are fully equiped. We have water proof rain pants, & a hooded rain jacket. For the heaviest downpours, I also have a pair of waterproof boots. That way, I am covered from head to toe, with only my face that gets soaking wet.

In the winter, though, the rain turns cold. It is typically not cold enough to snow, but it is close, so that freezing rain can really cut to your core. In this case, we'd also have to add layers underneath our water proof gear, plus gloves.

The Perfect Storm

Of course, nothing is more fun than when we are blessed with both a combination of the two: a heavy downpour, and a strong wind. This is truly the ultimate kick in the face from Mother Nature. I think I've even shouted "WHY" into the air before. haha. But ultimately, after we've pushed through and made it home, we feel a great sense of acheivement. Then we dump all of our wet gear in the bathtub, & hang things up to dry, so we can do it all again the next day.

Unusual Snow

A couple times last winter, Holland got an unusually large amount of snow (meaning a couple inches). They are not very good at clearing the roads, because they normally don't need to do it. The major bike baths were initially scraped and salted, but after a couple days of light sprinkling of snow, the couldn't keep up. I tried to bike to work a couple times with this bit of snow on the path, and let me tell you it's not easy. The tire tracks that form in the snow really grab your tire and jerk your handle bars. It's not much easier to walk, though, as they don't touch the sidewalks, and they become icy. Let's just hope that this winter is a mild one!

Yep, really looking forward to that car again...