Monday, December 31, 2012

Hi dear!!

yesterday we saw a lot of live deer, so cute!! very different from the day before, when we saw many alongside the road, hit by cars... i guess that explains why most people around here have a big car with a huge cattleguard in front (we dont know the actual term, but you get what i mean, i hope). we saw some elk too, yesterday!
and so many cows, literally in the middle of nowhere, im really curious how that all works, does the farmer visit them.. or? 
and another thought that cannot leave my mind; i once read that the entire world population (thats 6 billion people, right?)  fits in the state of texas... but... then the density would be like new york city.....  the remoteness we are driving through also made me realize something else, and although so very logic, it was a revelation to me.. ;) once the entire world was as remote as the places we drove through the past few days.... i am just not used to such emptiness and keep wondering how people can live there....
well, today is a beautifully sunny day! (the first, so far we started out grey every day), and we are up for another long drive, further west and north...

Rural America

this morning we woke up early in alpine, texas. had breakfast at the hotel (not too bad), and drove to fort davis, which was much less interesting than i thought (once there was a fort, but now only the foundations were still present). the road towards it however was beautiful. then we drove on the interstate for a bit (80 mph, even faster than yesterday!), then we got onto road 54 from Van Horn to the highest peak of texas in the guadelupe mountains. that road was deserted (we maybe met 4 cars in total?), and almost entirely straight. so... tim decided i should drive. now, mind you, i never drove in my entire life.... so it was a little scary. even with a road with just a few curves and no other cars.... but i drove, for 10 miles or so, hahhahaha.
eventually we entered new mexico; the first sights were not too pretty, and the desert was pretty flat. most roads were rather empty again, and distances between towns were huge! at some point we were high up in the mountains, full of snow, after which we entered the desert again. what an amazing change in landscapes in just several hours of driving!! during dinner we looked at the photos i took, and its crazy how fast you forget (even during a 1day drive), what you all saw.... its good to keep a blog for just that reason... :) we are now in socorro, judging from the hotel prices clearly less touristic than alpine, we got a room for just 42 dollars.
above one of the first pictures i took this morning. the landscape there was so yellow and deserted. the windmill is so very typical too. i knew it ofcourse from the movies, but during our time in texas i have seen many of them... wikipedia tells me they are part of a domestic water system....
today we gained another hour (2 now since we left boston), as we are in the mountain time zone.... but to me it feels like midnight, clearly time to sleep to get up early on the last day of 2012!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

God's country

this is how you are welcomed in the city of hondo (or rather, the street of hondo, as it was just one street we drove through, with some houses here and there..)... to me its just interesting that so far, texas has the highest speed limit i have seen in the us (75 miles per hour! while around boston its often 55...)

Texan desert

this morning we left san antonio and took highway 90. after i had done some reading online last night, i had high expectations. and... we were not disappointed; it was beautiful. so much desert!! and such an ever-changing landscape. here and there a teeny tiny town, with many abandoned buildings... the nature was a whole lot better, whenever there seemed to be some humans around, there was also a lot of old crap; from cars to barns to entire houses....  the roads were perfect and there were not too many cars. we stopped here and there to take some pictures, and i also took a lot while driving. i just had to think of those cowboys in the early days, going through this empty, so very empty country!! at least at this time of the year its not soaring hot, as im sure it will be during summer.... (we didnt wear our jackets, but it was a little chilly when outside). we passed creek after creek, but all the riverbeds were empty...
eventually we stopped in alpine, which is surrounded by several hotels (luckily for us, several were pretty full already!), and also by an interesting mountain landscape...
ah, along the way we also got checked by the border patrol (along the road we saw 2 inspection stations, i guess because we were close to mexico), but everything was fine after showing our passports...
now its time to sleep again, seeing so much beauty is tiring... ; ) we havent fully decided how to drive tomorrow, and we still havent left texas......

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Concrete jungle

we left mckinney this morning. it was chilly (but definitely less cold than yesterday), grey and a bit rainy. this is somewhere along the highway; arent the signs a bit abundant? motels, hotels, and food, food and more food (mostly mexican, pancakes or burgers). along the highway you certainly dont have to worry finding something to eat or a place to sleep, just the signs might be confusing.... the parts of texas we saw today were just flat. not always unpretty; stretches of empty (farm)land, mixed with (too many) outlet malls, superstores, apartment complexes, and stuff like above. i preferred the empty stretches of land...
eventually we ended up in austin, and the sun had come out!! we could even walk around without jacket, quite a change from this morning... we learned a bit about the history of texas, cowboys and austin, saw the capitol (the largest in the country), had lunch and drove on to san antonio. quite the tourist city! we walked along the river, together with many, many other people. it was fun, but in my opinion it actually was an ugly version of the dutch city utrecht, which also has many restaurants lined along its canals. now we are in a motel a little outside of the city, tired and curious about tomorrow, when we will continue on highway 90 towards el paso. from what ive read, this must be a very interesting route! lets see how far we will get... unlike yesterday we did not yet book a hotel and will just see where we will end up....

Friday, December 28, 2012

McKinney, Texas

yesterday we were in the tiny town of mckinney, an hour from dallas. still some snow residues here and there, as you can see. and, i guess no surprise, i was cold... :) but doesnt it look cute, and quite american?
mckinney only exists since 1848, and is named after collin mckinney, signer of the texas declaration of independence. this year, cnn has named the city the second best place to live in the entire us, and its the only place in texas to make the top ten... now i wonder what is supposed to be the best place to live, but its time for breakfast!!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Freeeeeeeezing Texas

last night i could not get blogger to work... but... we are in texas! we got up at 4 in the morning, had a cab waiting at 5, a delayed flight that eventually left at 8, and landed in dallas somewhere in the afternoon, where we were greeted by freaking cold weather, and snow. more snow than in boston, not a lot, as you can see above, but enough for lots of kids to have fun... :)
as you might remember, we were in texas last year may for a wedding, so now we had to witness the result of that; a cute little baby boy! i just wish it wasnt so cold here.... grrr...
we did some touristy stuff too, we saw the memorial for john f kennedy, who was shot in dallas. it is a really nice memorial. we walked around a bit more, but while last time it was too hot to walk around (nobody was walking except us), now it was too cold, haha. tomorrow we drive further; at the very moment we are still deciding where to.... lets see.... :)
ah, i learned something too; if you want tea around here, you have to specifiy you want hot tea, otherwise you will get iced tea (bleeeghhh!), and some places dont even have the hot version....

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas angel?

yesterday afternoon we went for a hike in the woods not too far from our place. the path we walked had several trees that were decorated with christmas stuff! in a way it was a bit weird, especially this angel, which looked kind of scary to me... especially from up close...
tomorrow we leave for a small trip! we booked it only yesterday, so we havent quite figured out yet how/where and what... our flight is at 7 in the morning, so we have to get up real early... somehow i have this obsession that the day before a trip (be it a week or more) i need to have the entire house clean. so thats what i mostly did today (and tim as well); cleaning... well, yes, i know it was christmas (we woke up to some snow! but it wasnt much and it didnt last...); i just cant help it. i like the thought of having a neat place to come home to, and i like to think while away that at home everything is in perfect order (i guess i have a little ocd.... ). ah well.. only didnt leave me much time for packing my suitcase.. hope i didnt forget anything....

Enjoy christmas!!

this is (again) at the boston common. the tree you see here comes from nova scotia, and is a present from their government to the people of boston. since 1971, this has been a tradition. it is in thanks and remembrance of the halifax explosion in 1917. on december 6 of that year, a french wartime ship fully loaded with explosives collided with a norwegian ship in the halifax harbour. the gigantic explosion that followed instantly killed 1900 people, and 9000 were wounded. anything, buildings, people, within 500 acres of the explosion vanished, and the explosion caused a tsunami in the harbour, causing even more damage. the city of boston quickly learned of the disaster and was the first to send help. the year after, in 1918, the people of halifax sent a tree to thank all those that helped. and as mentioned, since 1971 this has been a yearly tradition.
the tree lighting is a spectacle in itself, with a lot of performances and whatnot. we went there the first year we were in boston (together with 30,000 other people). it was so cold, we could hardly see anything and the (live) singing was not that good....needless to say, we did not go the past 2 years!  but... although sad, its good to know the story behind the tree....
and now you all should enjoy christmas!!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Holiday shopping

a shop window somehere in boston... i just dont know what the sentence on the window means "the woman prepares for the holidays". literally? the woman does all the work? (the cooking, etc), or does she prepare herself by buying this (boring) blue dress? or....? i also seem to see a moustache, at least on the doll to the left... 
anyways, we didnt do much holiday shopping. thats the advantage if you live on the other side of the ocean... ;) i did buy some shoes, yesterday. for myself. and tim bought 2 pairs. the guy at the counter asked us about our holiday shopping, and if we were almost done.... i just answered that it was, with the 3 pairs of shoes... :D

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Common birds

today we walked a bit around in boston. that was pretty cold. there was a strong wind, and it was kind of grey out... brrr!! i guess still better than yesterday, when it was raining like crazy...
here the boston common again, a little further is the frog pond (that i showed you yesterday). here someone just stirred up the pigeons and they happened to fly right over me, yuck... i did what everyone would do; i used my camera for protection... ;)

Friday, December 21, 2012

Getting better

after a week (a week!!) of being sick, i can finally say im feeling better again. not entirely, but better.. defenitely much better than i felt last week friday, or the entire weekend for that matter. beeehhh.... we must have picked up a virus here or there.
anyways. no pictures at all this week, so this is one from december last year. this is the frog pond in the boston common, which i have shown you several times before, mostly in summer when little kids play there to coll off. in winter it frozen, although both last winter and so far this winter it has been too warm to be frozen by itself.... :) (im waiting for the snow!!!). here you can see the huge amount of people, waiting to get onto the ice thats being polished. i really dont get why so many people are always skating here; its so tiny! 
ah well... time for bed now, still not feeling 100% healthy...

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Great weekend...

i wish i indeed was writing to tell you this has been a great, busy weekend and there was no time to update the blog; but... me and tim are both sick. buhuhuhuhuhuh. we didnt leave the apartment today and when we did yesterday for some groceries (but it turned out we both didnt want to eat for most of yesterday and today) we felt even more miserable. 
this is from last weekend when we had a nice hike somewhere not too far from our house. the skyline is the one of boston. 
now its time to go back to bed again... :(

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Self portrait

as you can see behind us (perhaps) this is at the niagara falls where we were last month. it was so very cold!  for us, it was the first meeting with real cold this season. luckily i was prepared and was wearing a real winterjacket.... unlike when we were in the netherlands last week; i assumed it would be as cold as in boston, but now i remember again that the last month of the year definitely is colder in holland than here (i now clearly remember being very surprised about that the first year we were in boston; everyone had scared me with the mountains of snow that could fall here, and how very, very cold it would be and then... i didnt need my winter coat until january!). the past weekend it was really quite warm here, and monday it was almost 15 degrees! but as the week progressed, it slowly got colder and colder, i read something about a possibility of snow next week.... lets see!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Now you...

...know! arent you happy?!
this is close to the tobin bridge, leading you into boston (its the green you see in the back, otherwise i would not have known anymore where this was...)

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Praying eternally....

...with a bunch of fake flowers between his arms.... i found this quite an odd stone. on the other side the names are engraved. unfortunately, i could find nothing interesting about them.
this is at a cemetery not too far from our house, with mostly italian graves (or so it seems, judging from the names, this one was no exception).
for more taphophiles, go here!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Back home!

while we already came back friday night, i was a little too lazy over the weekend to write a new blog post. while in the netherlands i did not get fully over the time difference (at midnight i felt very awake each day), back in the us im tired early in the evening! grrrrr....
on saturday we had to refill our empty fridge, and on sunday we went for a hike in the woods not too far from our apartment. i actually meant to spend some hours in the gym this weekend, but too lazy for that as well. at least we went this evening, and it was very necessary; while in the netherlands we didnt move too much and we ate a LOT! all those typical dutch things that we cannot get here in the usa..... hmmmm, it was so good. and ofcourse, the tasty typical dutch things are not the most healthy or low in calories..... 
starting november or so, until the end of the year, you will see pastry stands (i.e. "gebakkraam") like the one above. they sell "oliebollen" and thats the first thing we ate when we arrived. oliebollen literally translates into "oil balls", and thats what they are; dough, usually filled with raisins, currants and/or succade are scooped into balls, deep fried and then covered in powdered sugar. hmmmmm!!! traditionally, this is eaten at the last day of the year, and not one or 2, but many, right from the frying pan. the leftovers are eaten in the day(s) afterwards, either cold or rewarmed in the microwave. here you can find the recipe (on a lovely site featuring typically dutch recipes that i recently discovered). we ate a LOT of other stuff, for the dutch among you, these things will sound familiar and we ate them as if we hadnt eaten them for ages and wont for months to come (which is probably true); kaasbroodjes, saucijzenbroodjes, poffertjes (homemade; those you can often buy on the street as well), roze koeken, drop (ofcourse!!), fries, kroket, kaassouffle, banketstaaf, and certainly also lots of dutch bread and real dutch cheese (hmmmmm), many, many mandarins  (sooo good and they are soooo cheap, especially when compared to the us, and without the stones they almost always have here). and, and and.....! so yes, we stayed only a week and ate for 2 or 3.... whoops.... but it was just sooo very good! tomorrow i will goto the gym again, i promise....

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Yikes, snow!

ofcourse, on the day we left the netherlands the weathergods decided to tell us goodbye with some snow... a few days before reporters already went crazy and on the news they were warning everyone of the upcoming chaos on the roads and the airport; everyone should just stay at home on friday to be safe! (even a little bit of snow in the netherlands is completely different from loads of snow in boston; the dutch are not used to it and/or equipped to remove it quickly and usually the entire country comes to a standstill when its covered in a layer of the white stuff).
we got up real early and there was no snow at all. but.... when i looked outside a little later, the streets were suddenly covered in a white layer, it went so fast! off we went to the airport with too much luggage (mostly dutch candy and other things "you cannot get in the us and a" in my suitcase). luckily it went smoothly (except that it was sooo slippery and i could only walk very very slowly); we even arrived too early; check-in was still closed. other travelers were less lucky; many flights going to destinations in europe were cancelled, resulting in very long rows and some upset and/or crying people. the messaging system was constantly announcing gate changes, delays and cancellations, but our flight was only slightly delayed. me? i was mostly worried that i couldnt do my blog... i wasted our free 2x 30 minutes of internet trying to upload the above photo; it did not work... :( i was so focused on that, and didnt even notice the snow had stopped, hahahahaha! at least the waiting went by quickly and off we went, to iceland from where we had a connecting flight to boston. no problems at the border here, luckily, nor at customs. they didnt find the kilo of cheese and the many packages of dutch candy... (i think half of my suitcase was filled with dutch things.. :D).
now i have time (and especially internet) to visit my fellow bloggers again!! see you soon!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Perfect roads

the clouds (the clouds here really are different from the clouds in boston, and have been depicted by many famous painters..), the windmill, the green pastures; all so very dutch!! 
also the roads; so very smooth and perfect (although i have to admit this road between utrecht and amsterdam is brand new); such a huge difference with the roads in massachusetts that are scattered with potholes and bumps and what-not. other things i notice now that i dont live here anymore; many more people smoke here (yegh), shoes are different (the model), and women often wear high heels here for everyday use, not just for going out, but the heels are less high than the ones american women wear (those are ridiculous and can only be worn when taking a cab and sitting on a bar chair the entire night, no?). its so very cold here, and the cold different from the boston-cold, its so cloudy and already at 3.30 the sun seems to go down. the sun rises much later here (i have a hard time getting up, while in boston its light at 6!), and what i really, really dislike is the fact that you have to pay to use the bathroom here. often even when you have drunk or eaten something at the department store, you still have to pay 50 eurocents for the restroom! in the us you can walk into every hotel and they are happy to show you where the restrooms are, even though you are not a guest. 
i do like the dutch language. its so cute! ofcourse, me and tim speak it at home, but its really nice to hear the girls speak it at the register and so on. we have so many nice small words that are simply absent in english.... also, here they are much friendlier, and genuinely friendly in shops when compared to the us (at least in and around boston). 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

December 5

this is some very nice decoration in "de bijenkorf" in amsterdam, a department store. i guess you could compare it to nordstrom in the us. these are "zwarte pieten", or black petes, the helpers of "sinterklaas". here they climb up and down the ropes, its really nice to see. they are there every year, for as long as i can remember.  "sinterklaas" is comparable to santa claus; in fact, santa claus' origins are said to come from the dutch sinterklaas. he arrives from spain somewhere in november, and leaves on december 6th. its mainly a feast for children; you can place your shoe at the chimney, with something in it for sinterklaas' horse, and if you have been good, you get a little present or some candy. on december 5, you get some more (and bigger) presents. the zwarte pieten have black faces since they go through the chimney to get the presents into the houses (so i never understood how children living in a house without a chimney could get presents; luckily we did have one). as a child, i liked sinterklaas much more than santa claus, which we also celebrate, probably because sinterklaas takes several weeks and i got more presents... :)
every year, people are complaining about the zwarte pieten; as they are "helpers" of sinterklaas, and black on top of that, they see it as a racist feast. but, as said, their faces and hands are black because of the chimney, and i dont think that children see them as anything else than providers of candy and presents, and it really is a feast for children!! (occasionally they see them as scary as only children that behave well get presents, and parents sometimes threaten their children that if they misbehave they will be taken to spain together with sinterklaas and zwarte piet...). 

From Amsterdam

this is the dam square in amsterdam. next to me is the bike lane, next to you have the tram (you can see the wires), and then the cars. on cobblestones, not a problem if you dont wear high heels.... :D
its quite cold here, i guess a bit colder than in boston and my jacket is too thin. im surprised many dutch people still walk and bike around without hat and gloves; i think in boston everyone would be wrapped up entirely in many layers of clothes with these temperatures!
we're in the train now, and its equipped with free internet! (until next year, then you will have to pay). tomorrow is our last day, we are supposed to fly back on friday... but.... i just saw that lots of snow and wind is predicted for that day, hope it will wait until after we leave!!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Dutch splendor

we are in the netherlands for 1 week to arrange some stuff. no internet..... 
but we do take a lot of pictures! now we are sitting in a small mall in amsterdam, finally one with internet! (free wireless, as well as free public toilets, are hard to find in the netherlands... grrr!!). anyways, this is a pasture close to my parents place. we stopped and took quite some pictures.