June 28, 2009


After a few hours on a peaceful European countryside drive we reached the city of Bruges. For those that have never visited, Bruges is a tiny little Netherlands city often referred to as “the Venice of the Netherlands”. The city itself is comprised of old Flemish style buildings and little canals much like many of the cities in this part of the Netherlands. Being a Sunday most shops were closed and yet the streets were full of people, some tourist, some locals. The crisp morning air was only broken by the reverberation of the church bells hanging in several old cathedral style churches located throughout the city. With no itinerary we joined the others and began walking deeper into the city, stopping occasionally to window shop, look at the merchandise of a street vendor, or to gaze across one of the many canals.

After a quick lunch of chicken, pommes frites and a local beer we piled back into the car and started towards the Keukenhof. The plan was to drive near, but not into the park, in hopes of finding a cheaper, quieter place to stay. Staying away from the old fashioned map this trip we relied on our GPS to make navigating much easier.

Reaching the city we switched the GPS orientation from locating the city center to nearby hotels. Approaching the nearest one it was far from the local bed and breakfast we were hoping for. With fine dining and its own exotic animal farm, this hotel was closer to a 4 star hotel than someone’s couch. Back in the car we plugged in hotel number two in hopes of finding something closer to what we were looking for. Leaving the city the GPS took us back into the Dutch countryside. Turing down a one lane road the drive was beautiful. Trees arching high above the stream lined road, passing by lush green fields filled with giant rabbits and finely manicured horses. Taking the last turn we approached a 10 foot non-scalable fence equipped with an amazing gate and a armed guard. Probably not the small quaint hotel we were looking for but my mother got out to inquire anyways. It turns out this was not your ordinary hotel and rather we stumbled upon Willem-Alexander’s summer home. For those of you that do not know Willem-Alexander personally he happens to be the Prince of the Netherlands and the heir to the Dutch throne. Needless to say the guard did not invite us in for tea or offer us a room in the Princes absence. I am not sure how priceless is defined in the dictionary but someone should ask Webster if this counts.

"Europe" Pictures


Horses….in Brussels?

Having already visited France, Germany, and Luxembourg our whirlwind European vacation was well underway. Though fun and exciting we consumed a few too many Leffe’s the night before so the crew was off to a slow start this morning. Just outside Bastogne, Belgium we left the hotel to find a quick breakfast before starting our journey to Brussels. Locating a quaint little bakery we grabbed a few pastries and headed to a nearby coffee shop. Sitting on the front patio we watched as several locals began setting up booths for what appeared to be some sort of weekend market. Who would have ever imagined that you can’t get a waffle for breakfast in Belgium, apparently people here believe waffles to be snack food and not a breakfast item. Today’s plan was to find a small city on the outskirts of Brussels and locate a hotel. Having traveled in Europe several other times my family enjoyed finding 2-6 room hotels with an attached restaurant. This allows you to have a few drinks and share a conversation with the others travelers passing through. It is amazing the good times and people you can meet over a few beers in a foreign country.

Reaching a small town we stopped and ask a local shop owner for a suggestion on a nearby hotel. With not many options available, one, we headed in the direction he pointed us. Locating the sign with the name he told us we turned in for a look. Though the sign stated it was a hotel the u-shaped drive was lined with horse stables. Getting late, warn out and tired, we stopped to check it out anyways. The lady behind the counter grabbed a room key and offered to show us a room before checking in. We learned that this was a riding stable/hotel, with all of the rooms located directly above the horses. Unlike the US you don’t have to offer your passport, credit card, and sign away your first born child to rent a room. No questions asked, no names provided, and no money changing hands, she handed us the keys and simply walked away. Too tired to care that our hotel was a mix between India and the birthplace and Jesus we unloaded the luggage and turned in for the night.

Man after this night Brussels had better be as excellent as the tour books claimed!

"Europe" Pictures


June 21, 2009

Goodbye Asia, Europe here I come

Landing in Paris and hour before my parents the plan was for me to get my luggage and meet them at their gate; it seemed like a pretty simple plan. Due to miscalculated winds, having to change flights paths due to a migrating flock of birds, or some other unforeseen reason I only landed 30 min before they were supposed to. Grabbing my luggage I checked the arrival board for their flight and that is when it dawned on me, though we both flew Air France what are the odds a flight from the US is in the same terminal I am…of course not. Not as prepared as I thought I was I began rummaging through my backpack for the piece of paper I had written down their flight information on. Umm, another interesting turn of events, the paper is nowhere to be found. No problem, I will just ask the information desk which terminal the Air France plane from Houston is going to land in…or was it Minneapolis? You hear all of the rumors about how the French hate Americans and how American are so stupid, I am pretty sure that stereotype is created by people going to the Information desk and saying “can you please tell me which terminal the Air France flight from Minneapolis or Houston is going to land in? It should land in about 15 minutes”. If only I knew how to describe the look she gave me. Determining they were coming from Minneapolis she told me to cross that open area, take a left, followed by a right, keep straight in the hallway (which unknown to me happens to be symbolized by a down arrow), enter terminal 2E, go downstairs, and you will be right there. Simple right? With 7 min until my parents scheduled arrival I started running across the airport. I looked like that guy who thinks he showed up with enough time to catch his flight but later realizes there is a huge backup at security and now he is forced to haul ass through the busy airport, luggage slapping into walls and other people. Reaching the escalator I could see another baggage claim area, and low and behold right on the other sides of the glass wall were my parents. Quickly wiping my brow I tried my best to make it look like I had not just done a half mile sprint through the Paris airport. If you were timing me though I am pretty sure I ran 1:02 splits in my over the toe Indian sandals, airport sprints has always been my event.

With all family members accounted for we headed for the bus, which is the recommended method for reaching our hotel based off the travel books my mother checked out from the library (this is where she yells at me for poking fun at her research methods and then informs me that I could have done the research myself and for the next trip I will). After a quick 20 minute ride the bus stopped at the Arc de Triomphe and we collected our things and exited. Opening the map and orienting ourselves we eventually realized we needed to be on the other side of the arch. With luggage in tow we crossed Champs-Elysees and headed for the hotel. I felt like I should be riding my bike around the circle in my Lance style yellow shirt after winning the Tour De France, and let me tell you it is no small circle. Finally reaching our destination we checked in and headed for the room.. My father laid down, my mother began looking around and I headed for a nice room temperature glass of tap water. It is absolutely amazing how quickly you miss things that you never realized matter to you in the past.

"Paris" Pictures


May 24, 2009


Having just finished packing I could not wait for the next 2 weeks in Europe. France, Germany, Luxembourg, Belgium, Holland, it was going to be much needed time outside India. With nothing left to do I sat down to see what was on TV. Finding myself channel flipping and continually checking the clock I decided a pizza would help slice the time. Standing up I heard a weird clicking noise coming from the front foyer. Like taking a car to the mechanic the sound stopped as soon as I left the TV room. Apparently when the sound stopped so did my TV as when I returned the entire room was dark. Looks like I will be dining at the restaurant as opposed to take away tonight.

Upon returning home I heard the refrigerator running which means power had been restored, yet when I flipped the light switch the room remained dark. Thinking the fuse had blown I checked the fuse box but everything appeared to be in order. Curious, I pressed the test button and like it should the fuse popped. Flipping the switches back on the clicking noise started again. It was at that moment that I realized it was wires shorting together from within the fuse block and the clicking noises were actually sparks. Maybe that’s why all of the buildings are poured concrete instead of wood. Shutting down the entire block I hoped my flat would not burn down while in was absent. Calling up a co-worker I asked him to call Stella on Monday hoping it would be fixed before I returned.

No TV, no internet, how am I supposed to remain occupied until my plane takes off in 8 hours? I guess I could find entertainment like they used to back before there were cable modems and satellite TV. With a book in hand I stretched out on my bed. Using the book to prop up my laptop I began watching a movie that I had stored on my computer. You didn’t actually think I was going to read did you?

And you wondered why I needed a break from India.


May 17, 2009


Similar to our world headquarters office in KC there is a small eating area known as the “Canteen” located within our building. The Canteen consists of two sections, an eating/break area, and a kitchen. The eating area is nothing more than several tables and chairs lined up in rows where a majority of the office spends their lunch hours and as a place to get away from their desks to drink their coffee or tea. The kitchen area consists of a kitchen, a serving area, a coffee/tea area, and a small store. The store stocks snack items such as chips, soda, candy, fresh fruit, and chocolates. During breakfast time you can buy bread omelets (omelet between two pieces of bread), dosa (similar to a crepe), and noodle dishes. Around 3pm they have samosa’s (potato filled fried dumpling) or spring rolls. However, unlike the lunch area we have in KC this Canteen is not out to make a profit, it is here primarily as a connivance to our associates. This means all of the items they sell are the same price that you would purchase them at the local food mart. Chips 10RS, soda 20RS, Bread omelets 15RS, and the list goes on.

One afternoon I was slightly parched and needing something with a little flavor and a slight pick me up to carry me through the rest of the afternoon. Heading into the break room the attendant instantly headed for the refrigerator, does that mean Matt and I visit too often? Grabbing a Pepsi he handed it to me not even bothering to mention the price. With my only source for cash being the ATM I find that I am consistently only in possession of large bills. Pulling out a 100RS bill I attempted to pay.

“No change, no change….smaller”, the phrase that constantly plagues me. Being that I am located in the office this is not a huge deal as the following phrase is “pay me next time”. How many stores do you know in the United States that, A - cannot break a 2$ bill, and B – would give you product on the understanding that you will pay them the next time you shop there? If this transaction had taken place in the local market I may have had to wait for up to 10 minutes while they asked everyone in line and/or anyone outside for change to break a 100RS bill. I won’t tell you what they have to do to find a pen when you pay by credit card.
I made 3 other purchases on loan until he was able to provide change for the notes I possessed.