Sorry for my prolonged absence but i have been very busy. FYT, the wedding was just great! For photos please mail me and i will send you a link!
Sorry for my prolonged absence but i have been very busy. FYT, the wedding was just great! For photos please mail me and i will send you a link!
It’s been a very difficult time the past few days in the Netherlands. Just last week there was immense celebration and euphoria coming off the success of the Dutch National team’s performance in the World Cup. Now, we are experiencing a complete pivot of emotion due to the cowardly attack on flight MH17. This despicable and shameful act of shooting down a passenger plane filled with innocent people. Three of which were infants.
To say we are outraged does not begin to reflect how we feel. But we, and I mean “we” as a collective world community need to go beyond our feelings of mutual outrage. We must to pull together in a concerted effort and act. We need to collectively galvanize our outrage into action against Putin and his criminal regime. Let them know that no matter how cowardly, heinous, and vile their terrorist acts are the peaceful communities of the world will never succumb to their will. And this act only solidifies the resolve of peaceful people of all nations.
When it comes to air travel, the peaceful nations of the world share a bond. A common thread of decency. A reciprocal agreement, a sacred trust that we signed onto to secure safe passage for one another and our families. It is this sacred trust that allows us to travel safely and freely from country to country without the fear of cowardly acts such as this incident.
The international community should bring charges against those responsible with this crime and if found guilty, isolate these criminals within the self imposed prisons of their own making. We must let them know that there are a thousand lights in the forest, burning brightly and together they, we create a firestorm with such an intense flame it will burn the paws off any bear in it’s path. You will never break us.
Our hearts are with the families at this difficult time.~ZT
Ahhh…Saturday morning, the sun is shinning, not a cloud in the sky and nary a football hooligan in sight. What a great day to be in London! As the occasion calls for I suppose I should make like a proper English chap, put on my Windsor cap and skip over to Kensington. I’m catching the tube to Notting Hill for a bit of slacking off, British style! You are welcome to join me if you like. If you fancy walking that is!
Just outside of London proper, fifteen minutes by the underground, the world’s oldest underground rail system, is the quaint area in west London know as Notting Hill. I boarded the tube at King’s Cross station and exited at Notting Hill gate. The early morning rain had given way to golden strands of sunlight, a slight breeze but weak by London standards. A perfect day to muck around in Knotting Hill. I began my requiescence with a quiet stroll down Pembridge road. The houses were awash in the brightest pastel colors. As if Van Gogh used his color palate to splash each house with elaborate hues of brilliance. Then though better of himself and applied a different palate on the next street. Completely out of character for a borough of London. But that is the curious charm of Notting Hill. Diffused of the grit and bite of the central area, it is flirtatiously unapologetic for it’s unabashed liberalism. Yet still retaining that essential Anglo ambiance.
Walking down Pembridge, around the next corner I came to Ladbroke Square. Bright colors give way to dusky browns and variant shades of umber colored houses, uniquely stylized from the Victorian era. Adjacent are the gardens of Ladbroke which is used as an ideal picnic spot by locals. Sandwiched in between two rustic looking antique shops was a quaint little book store. I half-heartedly expected Hugh Grant to emerge at any moment! Just ahead of me the crowds thickened as a flurry of activity began to create quite a stir.
At the intersection I saw what all the hubbub was about as I approached the infamous Portobello Road Market. There were so many people moving every which way in what can only be described as orderly pandemonium. The ruckus ensued throughout the market as each shopper searched for that special item to fill their sack. The Notting Hill market is one of west London’s great attractions. Vendors line the street selling wares ranging from antiques, trendy souvenirs, vintage clothing, dusty old books and a few relics from England’s illustrious past. You may even find an ancient English artifact tucked away in a dusky corner ala Indiana Jones. I spied a vintage rugby ball that was quite worn and looked as though it had seem it’s share of games. After a trite bit of haggling I quickly snapped it up from the vendor and stowed it in my bag.
Just beyond the market the area presents a more affable surrounding. The combination of posh restaurants, ultra chic shops and earthy local pubs give the streets sort of a cool vitality. There is usually a street band or two playing for coins adding a festive feel to the atmosphere. All this and more for the price of a tube fare!
After a day of haggling with street vendors and some fiesty street dancing I felt like getting lost in one of those old book shops!
Still no sign of Hugh Grant!-ZT
After a couple of hours of trekking the Thames it was now time to replenish my energies. If bangers and mash, or fish and chips is not your cup of tea there are plenty of restaurants around central London to quell those annoying hunger pangs. Today I was in the mood for pizza and I heard that Franco Manca had a new restaurant on Lordship lane. Franco Manca is renown for it’s gourmet pizza using slow rising pizza dough featuring wild boar and other exotic beasts! Ahhh..I mean meats! Londoners in the know site it as the best pizza in London. I can personally attest to this after a superb course of the wild boar pizza washed down by a local craft brew. Feeling replenished I was off to explore what else is new and old in London!
A lot of people don’t like London. For the life of me I cant figure out what their reasoning is. It is a city I have visited many times and will always be a special place that I will return to over and over again. Aside from the fact that it is the most visited city in the world, the truth is, it’s extremely hard to have a bad time in London because it never seems to disappoint. Unequivocally, London is one of the top three cities on the planet and one of the few that is not overrated.
Despite some of the more prurient references afloat regarding England’s capitol, London beams with character and radiates with other worldly charm exclusive only to this legendary city. It has a splash of naughtiness and is forever finding ways to shake things up and make itself more interesting. There are two characteristics that set London apart form other large metroplexes. First, no matter how many times you visit you will always discover something new. Second, you can count on finding something old. Very old.
A blend of what’s new mixed with what’s old.
The first thing new thing you will notice when arriving at Heathrow Airport is the newly renovated Terminal 2. T2 is completely redone to the tune of 2.6 billion pounds! Ouch! The terminal houses 63 shops and restaurants sweeping panoramic views overtly —glass windows. Describes as the worlds first green airport because it operates on solar panels, LED and natural lighting. It is also the home of a new sculpture entitled “Slipstream” by artist Richard Wilson. An homage to aviation and the worlds longest continuous artist sculpture. It is a rare thing indeed that an airport is a tourist attraction in itself. Brilliant!
My first order of business when I come to London is to stroll the embankment along the Thames. It’s one on the things I enjoy most about the city. Whether you have done it once or a thousand times it’s always a thrill. Walking east you receive specular views of the House of Parliament and London’s iconic time clock referred to affectionately as Big Ben. Just across the river I came upon the fantastic sight of the London eye. For a mere 18 pounds you can indulge yourself with views from atop Europe’s largest Ferris wheel which features as the Brits would say “eye popping” views of London.
The old man frequently had too much to drink. But I was happy to indulge him for he was the most absolute gentleman. His eyes widened as he recounted to me fantastic stories of World War II when he was a child. Stories of strife, courage, raw with the full range of human insouciance and indifference. Accounts told to me first hand from someone who actually was there and lived to tell about it. I eagerly listened, giving my full attention. Salivating at every morsel he uttered. His stories seemed more like fables or fairy tales rather than historical events and personal accounts of someone’s life.
I ordered another round of beers.
It occurred to me that those of his generation who lived through that turbulent time would not be around too much longer to retell these experiences. Most people outside of the Netherlands are familiar with the story of gentle Anne Frank and the horrendous conditions under which she lived. And ultimately died. But living in Amsterdam you come to understand that there were so many Anne Franks. Millions of them with their own stories of human tragedy and cruelty. Not only in the Netherlands but all across Europe. I was privy to receive these stories and deeply honored the old man entrusted me with them. This was the gift he gave to me for the price of a beer. And for that I am eternally grateful. It is a debt I can never repay.~ZT, From My Amsterdam
I jumped up and quickly rushed over to the scene of the accident. The driver on the scooter began to get up as well and she seemed to be alright. However, the older gent was laid out like a rag doll in the rain. He laid there motionless on the bridge, blood gushing from his forehead.
I had not seen her since right after I left college. It was not by chance that I was in Copenhagen at springtime. I was here to see someone special and it was in the spring several years ago that I had seen her last. Over the years I thought of her often. Many times while traveling to Copenhagen but managing my schedule to visit her was a regretable mea culpa at best. And for this I felt tremendously guilty. I remember how beautiful she was the first time I laid eyes on her. And the way she looked at me with that wide-eyed far away stare. How could I ever forget our time together. This occasion however would be different. My mind was set in stone. I had to see her again.
It was a bit of a hike from Tivoli where I was staying in the city center. Tivoli Gardens is a grand amusement park of epic proportions just south of Central Station. While the main attractions are the thrilling amusement rides there is a diverse smattering of theaters, concerts, festivals, exhibitions, restaurants and healthy amount of green areas where you can stroll until your heart is content. It is the second oldest amusement park in the world and a magnet for locals and visitors alike.
I walked up the broader boulevards to Nyhavn center. Then a set of narrower streets that wound around and jigsawed every which way towards the direction of the harbor. But I was not in the mood to be caught like a rat in a maze. My gait was purposeful. Resolute, as if driven by an expectancy of some unfulfilled premonition. Each stride bringing me closer to my goal.
Eventually my efforts were rewarded when I came upon the Gefion Fountain, the largest monument in Copenhagen. Lady Gefion in all her glory was as defiant and graceful as I remember. Legend has it that Swedish king, Gylfi offered Gefion all the land she could plow in a single night. Knowing full well she had no means to achieve this task.
But cunning Gefion outsmarted the king and turned her four sons into oxen and and thus achieved her reward. This fountain celebrates her victory. However lady Gefion was not the reason I came this way. I tossed a coin into the fountain in hopes that I would return someday soon and pushed onward.
After a short jaunt through the gardens on Langelinie promenade the path brought me to the inviting shores of the Oresund straight which lead to the Baltic sea and my journey come to an end.
There she was. She had not aged at all. So poised and as beautiful as ever. Stoic and forever vigilant in her task watching over the harbor just as Hans Christian Andersen intended. The Little Mermaid.
Copenhagen is actually quite small compared to most capital cities in Europe. It is the prized gem in the crown of the Danes dating back to the Viking era. The hearty Danes do not hibernate during the cold winter months so there is plenty of activity and much to do to keep everyone busy. However the radiant Baltic sun combined with the crisp Nordic air makes springtime the ideal season to experience the buoyant energy and effervescent spirit of Copenhagen.
The Nyhavn area, packed with waterfront cafes is the perfect place for the discriminating sport of people watching. And the Danes do put on quite a show.
Neatly situated between two seas, the North and the Baltic , Copenhagen shares much of its communal activities with its sister city, Malmo in Sweden. It is one of the greenest cities in the world brimming with culture, fine universities, parks, architecture and excellent museums. There is also a respectable presence of nightlife, cafes and restaurants that goes beyond the cliche’ but it is not over done. Once you are here you will understand why Copenhagen is consistantly voted the happiest city in the world.
The Danes by nature are not garish or effusive, nor mischievous or circumspect. Alternatively, there is a homogeneous acquiescence of civic conformity. Here, there is a more subtle and refined approach to leisure. It is a welcoming city and accommodating to all. Weather you are a local, a foreigner or just visiting to see a fin tailed friend.~ZT
There is a new, hipper vibe running through the city streets, cafes and nightlife of Antwerp. Inviting cool spots with white hot energy heralding boundless possibilities of eventful times to come. It is a small city that is easily accessible by foot. Just point yourself in any direction starting from Grote Markt, the scenic old town square and allow your feet to wander.
While carousing the exquisite chocolate shops is the local past time, there is plenty of strong beer in ample supply that will swell your head to perfection. After all the Belgians practically invented beer. If you cant find a suitable malt to seduce your palate here then you should probably switch to drinking smoothies.
I arrived in Prague under cover of darkness. My flight was late and the midnight sky only added to the allure and mystique of a place rumored to be untouched by time and of an era long past. By the time I cleared customs it was early morning and I was quite content to begin my exploration of the city in the afternoon. In fact I would have but something called to me. An unsolicited summons compelling me to venture onward. Perhaps it was something in the air. Maybe it was the ancient souls of those beckoning from a distant time. Or perhaps the song of some wayward siren prompting me to delve further into the night. Whatever the reason I was drawn to the city like lemmings to the cliffs edge. And there was no way I could retire to my hotel for the night, with the mystique of Prague laying at my feet.The temptation was too great. So I ventured into the dimly lit night, feet ablaze onto the streets.
I walked up Norodni Trida but decided to bypass the main artery in lieu of the side streets decernibly littered with quiet cafes, kiosks and bodegas. Very characteristic of old town eastern European villages. Near the corner of Naprstkova I came upon a narrow corridor which led down to a candle lit stairway to a cafe at basement level. This is quite typical for an authentic Czech style cafe.
Budvar! Budvar! Budvar! was the chant I was greeted with upon entering the underground bar. The crowd was cheering for more beer as the server happily slammed down stein after stein of the foamy local brew. This was definitely my kind of place.
Cozy, cheerful, honest and filled with some of the best tasting beer in the world. The locals are welcoming and gracious. Before long I was engaged in a host of conversations always ending with a click of our glasses. As delightful as this was I could not stay. The wanderlust had taken hold of me now. The lure of exploration set in and I had to move. After a healthy round of beers and home made sausages I hastily retreated heading toward the Vltava river and the Charles Bridge.
Something magical happens when your feet meet the grey stone streets of Prague’s old town. You are replenished with frenetic energy. Your senses are in overdrive absorbing the sights of architectural marvels, castles and cathedrals, unrivaled throughout the world. The cityscape teeming with ornate statues on every structure, street, and alley from Wenceslas square to Mala Strana.
Buildings like polished gold shimmering in the midnight moonlight. The windows on the boulevard reflecting images of the proud Czech people treading on cold stone. It is European opulence at its most grand. Still with so much to consume there was one structure that stood out among all others.
And there it was. Garishly stunning..
…The Charles Bridge.
It is not often that I am at a loss for words. Seeing The Charles Bridge for the first time rendered me speechless. It stands steadfast along the Vltava connecting the Old Town and the ornate style bridge tower on the Mala Strana side and Prague Castle high on a hill.
Imagine walking on an ancient piece of art sanctioned by UNESCO as a world heritage site. Conspicuously adorned with its overpowering statues of brooding saints standing like some ancient sentinels guarding the bridge and its patrons. Simply awe inspiring. But what was even more exhilarating was at this moment. In this late hour I was the only one there. For a brief moment in time I was the only human on one of the most beautiful and historically significant artifact in the world. I shared it with no one. Magic. The best I could do was draw a breath.
It is said that one day in Prague is worth 10 days anywhere else. It is one of the most enchanting and amazing cities in the world and probably the most beautiful in Eastern Europe. Since the Velvet revolution began in Wenceslas Square the Czechs have made swift moves to relieve itself from the politics of the past.
It is modern, colorful and most of all exhilarating to explore. A historical and architectural paradise infused with Gothic and Baroque structures from Stare Mesto to the Old town square.
Understanding the city’s past helps to close the gap between cultures old and new. Blending the past and present in our hearts creating the illusion of tranquility in our minds, binding us together in spirit. It is in this moment that we transcend the
boundaries of time itself. With all of its complexity and historical disposition Prague still embodies a temperate honor. A genuineness that has weathered the test of the ages and imbues a pertinence of quality to stand uniquely on its own.
It is in this moment that we peacefully surrender to the mystique of Prague.~ZT