Roma Day one

With only a few weeks left before the triumphant return to the United States, Beth insisted that we take at least one proper vacation. She suggested a week-long tour of italy, but I pointed out that either driving or taking the train between far-flung Italian cities would likely be extremely stressful for me, so we settled for five days in Rome.

Flying indepented AirOne airways out of London City was a dream. about 30 seconds to clear security, 30 minute checkin limit, all good.

In Rome, we breezed through passport control, got our bags and too the Leonardo Da Vinci Express into Termini station, at which point we found ourselves overrun by nuns and priests (and leading to the first gaffe of the trip, when Beth said, “oh, that priest is cute”, only to discover a few seconds later that he was, in fact, American). NB: if you want to see a huge congregation of catholic clergy, roll up on Rome on Corpus Christi.

After a few seconds of panic, we righted ourselves and walked down to the Hotel Saturnia, just down the street from Santa Maria Maggori. The hotel is…quaint. At least it (unexpectedly) has air conditioning. Can’t beat the location, either.


So, I had one quick trip March 7-8. I flew into Amsterdam, hopped a train down to ‘S-Hertgenbosch, and took an exorbitant cab ride to Efteling.

That’s right. I had a meeting in an amusement park. An amusement park whose symbol is a fairy tale gnome with chubby cheeks. I got to give a talk in full view of the steam carousel that dominated the building we were in….

Need to find a picture I can use.

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The downside

Pyramids–day view

So, Salutations. I thought I ought to keep some sort of record of the Year Abroad (which, you know, means airports across Europe).

May as well start with the dramatic. I can now say that I’ve been to see the pyramids in Egypt.

Or at least to a hotel room with a great view of the pyramids, even if I couldn’t actually, you know, VISIT them. Ah, the glories of tantalizing work-related travel. After 8 straight weeks on the road, I just couldn’t stomach staying over the weekend, especially as I had to be in Brussels by 10am the following Monday. It’s somewhat painful to have to say, “No. I’d rather be at home doing the laundry than visiting the pyramids,” but it was sadly true. I think I’m up to 13 countries since September. I have three different kind of Kroner (and also Koruna) on my dresser, as well as zlotys and hrivnas and Egyptian pounds and Euros. Sometimes, you just need a little break.

So naturally I took a weekend in Helsinki in February.
The lovely bear picture to the left is at the National Museum of Finland . That was the “indoor” day. We spent Saturday at Suomenlinna, a fortress built on a number of Islands in Helsinki harbor. This meant tramping around 18th-century fortress ruins on a windy winter’s day in Finland. MAN, am I glad to have picked up a nice lands end winter coat when I was in Boston.

We didn’t do a great job at lunches (I was working for one of them, and we managed to sort of slide by on saturday and sunday), but we had some great dinners and a couple of nice drinks.

Thursday: Dinner at Sundmans, one of the oldest restaurants in Helsinki. Wow, was it good. I had the Sundmans menu, while Beth went for the Scandinavian menu. We let them pair the wines, which I’ll dig up later on (I made them write down all the wines we got, since my memory for such things is rubbish). Highly recommended, though it’s easy to spend obscene amounts of money if you don’t watch yourself.

Friday, we started with drinks at the Hotel Kamp, whose Kamp Club isn’t nearly as gaudy as the description makes it sound. Leather wingback chairs and lots of books on the walls. Quite a pleasant place to start out, really.

We moved on to Kappeli, which is situated across the street from the Kamp and right in the middle of the Esplanade. It’s a beautiful restaurant, cafe and bar with walls full of windows. It may as well have been a manse’s brunch nook, with doors opening onto a terrace as a restaurant in the middle of Helsinki. It made for a lovely atmosphere, and I had great Blinis with roe and reindeer. Beth likewise had some blini and reindeer with mashed potatoes and lingonberries.

But it was here that we discovered the wonder that is a cloudberry. I had a panacotta with them. I cannot even describe the flavor, but they fill your mouth with pure deliciousness.

We stopped back in the sunlight for a snack on Saturday.

Saturday dinner is lost to the mists of time. We went looking for a particular finnish restaurant, but managed to miss it and took advantage of a blini festival of opportunity. Mmm….blinis and roe.

Our hotel was only eh.  Extremely convenient to everything; sauna and breakfast were fine, but there was no way to turn off the heat, so we had to leave the windows open all the time. It never got cold in the room, even with that. It was Helsinki. In February. So that was a little annoying. But I couldn’t have asked for a nicer location.

Other things of note: the main terminal at the Helsinki train station  was designed by Eliel Saarinen, Eero’s father.