Vermeer You Old Goat!

Walking through New Church in Delft, Netherlands, we were on the lookout for Vermeer’s grave. Our casual haphazard wandering soon turned into a desperate search. We would consult the indecipherable map, interpret what we saw, head there only to be disappointed. What was going on?! The map seemed to have been printed as a reverse mirror image- it also did not quite line up with the layout of the church. It also lacked a marker for William of Orange’s tomb, which is the big draw and main attraction (if you can call it that) of the church. Sure, Vermeer was not very well known, but if his grave was mentioned on the map why was it so damn hard to find?! After two more rounds of the church, reading all the tombstones as we stepped over them, we gave up. Too proud to ask someone, we left and went off to Old Church. At least we had gotten to see William of Orange’s tomb.

Old Church was not nearly as interesting, it lacked décor and fancifulness. Brent pointed out a tombstone with a picture of a goat on it, laughing at the idea of someone being represented by a goat. I took one look at it and swore under my breath: VERMEER! What a sight it must have been: two obvious tourists standing by Vermeer’s grave, one points, the other curses and they both start laughing, one throws her arms up in the air, the other opens up the map. After a careful study of the map we realized it was double-sided. No wonder we had not been given anything when we entered Old Church-we already had the info and map!

Cruis'n Route 66

Driving along the I-40 expressway all you see are long stretches of the Arizona desert. They appear to go on forever with the rocky formations of mountains far off in the distance. If you keep a close look out there is an exit on the right, an exit to none other than Historic Route 66. The original highway lifeline of the United States, built to connect Chicago, Illinois and Los Angeles, California, it is now mostly forgotten.

The stretch of Route 66 in Arizona is not for the faint of heart, because this is no ordinary route. If you enjoy driving in a straight line in a wide lane, where you can see the road in front of you, then this is not the trip for you – stick to the I-40. If, however, you are adventurous and want to see what driving was like in days gone by, including some beautiful vistas of mountains and valleys as far as the eye can see, then go for it! The first part of the route features a sign informing you that you are indeed on Historic Route 66, lest you be sceptical (or lost). The road is straight and narrow, passing by homesteads surrounded by barbed wire and “No Trespassing” signs.

The road slowly starts to curve, long gentle curves. As the far-off mountains come closer, you see a small sketchy looking gas station with aluminum side paneling to the right, selling various Route 66 paraphernalia. Keep driving.

Slowly but surely, the curves in the road become more frequent, the road seems to have narrowed as you climb in elevation. Your heart starts to race; the surprisingly nicely paved road has much sharper curves than expected. The long gentle curves give way to sharp switchbacks wherein all you can see is the valley below, the tires hugging the precipice of each curve. If a car were to come from the other direction, it would surely slam into yours, as you are in the wrong lane for fear of falling over the edge into the chasm. You inch along, having slowed down to a snail’s pace, and whoosh, a UPS truck flies by. Once your heart finally stops racing you look over and see the remains of a car on the side of the cliff.

Just when you think you have had enough, that you cannot take anymore of this… a sign appears: Oatman, Arizona, from behind which emerges a donkey. As you look down the street, you see… another donkey? Oatman was once a thriving mining town but when the ore dried up, the miners left, leaving their donkeys behind. Not exactly an abandoned town, Oatman features shops selling everything from Route 66 wares to donkey food for the tourists. Out in the middle of the Black Mountains of Mohave, Oatman remains one of my favourite destinations. After all, where else can you feed donkeys and climb head first into an old mining shaft? Plus – getting there is half the fun.

Baltimore- There Are No Words

Why will I never ever go back to Baltimore you ask? Here are some Baltimore Anecdotes:

  • The baseball game took a sour turn when the alcohol started flowing. Unbeknownst to us there was a lightweight sitting behind us. After two beers it was over. Obnoxious yelling ensued, “this is the worst game of ever” and “I never wear sunscreen, I want to tan, I am going to get sun cancer” are just some of the wonderful (awful) phrases we heard. Also “Hey! Hey Toronto Guy (Brent) turn your hat inside out!” because the home team was losing, and somehow turning it inside out would help.

  • On the way to Obyricki’s we walked through the not-so-nice residential area, where there are security cameras on posts and signs about drug-free-zones and seeing a kid run by with a toy gun did not help (one of the guns was painting bright orange so that just made it seem comical almost). His mother chasing after him yelling also did not help .

  • As we were walking back from a delicious crab dinner at Obyricki’s , we turned to go up a street. I saw two guys crouched down, stuffing what appeared to be a suitcase. Only then two feet appeared from between them, toes pointed to the sky, implying the owner of those feet was on his back- where the suitcase should have been. It did not look good. So we turned up the next street and looked down the alley, but they had all taken off.

  • Our purchases from 7-Eleven were handed to us in a paper bag, the same kind that people loitering outside of the shop were drinking alcohol out of.

  •  I almost stepped on a bloody mess of a giant dead rat.

It was worth it to go to Baltimore once for Obyrickis and Boog’s BBQ, but never ever again. I have seen more than enough, enough to last me two lifetimes.

Crab Some Lunch

One of the only two reasons I went to Baltimore was to eat crab at Obyricki’s. It was a fancy restaurant for which we actually had to make reservations. When we arrived we felt mildly under-dressed for the dimly lit fancy restaurant. As soon as we were seated all of our worries faded away. All around us there were people wearing bibs, it was quite amusing. We ordered 10 medium sized crabs. When the food arrived it was not what you would expect. Basically the waiter dumped an entire tray of crabs onto our craft-paper covered table. He then walked away. We looked at the pile, looked at each other and the unease returned. We did a quick glance around the restaurant and saw that people were just smashing them with hammers.

It was a lot of fun to just sit there smashing one crab after another. We very quickly gave up on the use of forks and we resorted to using the knives to just pry as much meat out of the mess as possible. There were bits of crab meat and shell flying every which way. It was hilarious and delicious.

The next day we had lunch at a seafood restaurant in St. Michael’s, Maryland. Brent ordered the soft shell crab sandwich, which consisted of a crab between two slices of Dempster’s white bread. There was even a claw sticking out. I ordered the crab cakes. We were too tired from the night before to smash any more crabs. Too bad, because the restaurant featured some very informative place mats. The place mats had step by step illustrated instructions on how to eat baked crabs. We looked it over, glanced at each other and just burst out laughing. We had gone about it the wrong way. You are supposed to smash the underside and then you can easily pry it right off, giving you ready access to the succulent meat. We had been smashing their hard shells and eating bits that according to the place mat, we were not supposed to have eaten. Only in Baltimore.

Needless to say, neither of us will ever forget how it is done.

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The Dam

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In Amsterdam there is a spot called The Dam. It is not a dam, it is a statue in a square behind the Palace. The square is teeming with pigeons and tourists feeding the pigeons. It is a competition of sorts across the square: attract as many pigeons as possible and then run through them all the while your friend records it. Needless to say, it is quite unnerving to stand in the middle of it all, pigeons swooping by, threatening to hit you in the head with their wings.

It is a The Birds-esque nightmare. I highly recommend it, it is quite a sight to see.

Twain Tailgate

At Mark Twain’s house/museum in Connecticut we learned a valuable lesson in vacation planning: when going on a tour buy tickets in advance, or at the very least look up the tour times. We arrived at the ticketing kiosk, just as a tour was heading out. We had to wait half an hour. You can only spend so much time in the gift shop, and a LEGO Mark Twain is only so much fun (because you are not allowed to take him apart and build other cool stuff).

We resorted to an impromptu quick lunch in the parking lot. We had wings left over from the night before. You might think cold wings sound gross. But these were no ordinary chicken wings. They were buffalo wings. From Buffalo, NY. From the Anchor Bar & Grill- those kind of buffalo wings. It was good eating in the open hatchback of the Jeep. Some people drove by and started to laugh at us- only then did it dawn on me that we were tailgating.

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What happens when Ben & Jerry’s releases an ice cream flavour that for one reason or another (atrocious taste or lackluster name) flops? It goes to the graveyard out back behind the factory where it is marked with an adorable grave (I never thought I would say such a thing). One year while in Vermont we finished our factory tour with a somber walk through the graveyard, mourning the flavours passed.

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Apparently death in the ice cream world is not quite the same. While walking along the Broadwalk at Hollywood Beach in Florida- yes, Broadwalk, that is not a typo- we passed by a Ben & Jerry’s that featured a sign saying a flavour had been reinconeated and raised from it’s grave! I was eating a chocolate soft serve ice cream cone at the time thus we kept walking. Still, in the back of my mind I could not let it go, I was so curious: what flavour had been brought back? I had to know!

As we walked back to the car, a good half hour after my first ice cream I caved. I found myself at the counter ordering a White Russian… ice cream that is. Thank God it was a delicious flavour and not some monstrosity. My curiosity can only handle so much. Why a coffee & liqueur flavour got killed off in the first place, I will never know, it was simply divine. Even if it got me a step closer to diabetes.

I Can Explain....

There is a reason why I don’t drive on our vacations. In the past it was that I did not have my full license. When we went to New Mexico in Oct. 2013, however, I had no excuse. I had my full license. Heck, I wanted to drive, I offered to drive. And then we learned why I do not drive…

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I am way too easily distracted. Nowhere was this more clear than when I asked (begged) to drive along the easier* stretch of Route 66. I drove for about a total of maybe 30 seconds before I saw a giant boulder with a Route 66 logo on it. And right past that on the road there was a Route 66 sign stenciled. I pulled over on the shoulder and ran back. It’s ok, there were no cars, it was fine for me to crouch down in the middle of the road.

And there you have it, the mystery of why I do not drive, solved.


* as in one lane, no cars!

So... Is That Ketchup Real?


One of the downsides to travel is that there are some places with restricted access, you are only allowed in with a tour group. Such was the case at Hearst Castle in California. Tours don't necessarily suck, it is the people on the tour. Every once in a while we get stuck with what seems like the worst group in the world. Case in point, our fellow tourists at Hearst Castle.

Some of the true gems that they, in all seriousness, asked our poor (and unbelievably patient) tour guide:

Has anyone ever tried to steal the rugs?

(Looking at a typical dinner table setting, fine china, crystal stemware, silverware): is that ketchup real?