About Me

Living in the Caribbean is probably like living anywhere else, with the same ups and downs. But it does have its own vibe and flavour and gives me a unique perspective on most things. I'm often sarcastic, mostly funny, always looking for a new adventure. I have not boxed myself into any one category of life. I love a lot of things and dislike a lot more. I write about them all.

Take me back to Bruges

Last year I had planned to visit Bruges but with last minute change in plans, Bruges was scrapped. This year, being in Amsterdam, of course a trip to this small Belgian town was very much in order. I decided to do just a day trip as opposed to a short stay as I was not exactly sure what to expect.  

I booked a coach trip  which would see us commute 3 hrs one way to Bruges. Shockingly I was not the only brown tourist this time around. The drive to the town was uneventful. The guide gave us some background on both Amsterdam and Bruges both from a historical and contemporary socio-political context and prepared us really for the town itself.

What a beautiful little town it is. It was almost like going back in time, with horse drawn carriages, beautiful old churches and towers, cobblestoned streets and squares. Even with the throng of tourists, the town was still quaint and refreshingly authentic.  Of course one of the huge draws was chocolate. One does not go to Belgium and not try or buy chocolate. How can you? There is a chocolatier on almost every corner. Wonderful hand made chocolates, and like the cheese in Amsterdam, there was chocolate in every iteration. I had the good fortune of being able to sample quite a bit of chocolate. How lucky am I? When you walk into these shops, the smell is absolutely heavenly and if you are a chocolate lover, well...what can I say?

I also used my time to try some food in Belgium and chose one of the nicer restaurants bordering the main square. I decided to go with the Carbonnades Flamandes, the traditional Flemish beef stew, which was served with pommes frites and salad and which is like the national dish. The beef, which is cooked in dark beer, was so tender and succulent. It was not very different to West Indian stew to be honest, but it was very delicious. The beer! 

The canals of Bruges are surely for those in love. I am in love with canals. While I am sure those who live there are not that in love with the mosquitoes, they do make for beautiful views and heavenly experiences. I would love to go back to Bruges,  though certainly to enjoy the romance of the city.

Van Gogh and the essence of Amsterdam

The Van Gogh Museum certainly eclipsed anything I felt at the Rijksmuseum. I certainly do not pretend to be an art critic or a proper art connoisseur, but I love history and that includes coming face to face with the artists I would have studied along the way. I am always envious of the way Europe has memorialised its past through its museums and ongoing restoration and maintenance of its monuments. This is something sorely lacking in Trinidad and Tobago. I pass the Red House twice a day and always with a bit of annoyance and sadness, as this historical emblem lays prostrate in the middle of a city that has seemingly forgotten about it, in favour of its new, more modern little sister on the Waterfront. This simply cannot be the way we treat our history.

What is even worse in our case as Trinbagonians, do we care to teach this new generation about where we come from? Really? In an SEA/CXC/CAPE driven education system, are we truly taking the time to teach our children where they came from and who they really are? The museums over here are filled with children, who can tell you more about the history of the works of art than you dare to believe. There were school trips and parents bringing their sons and daughters to school them on Van Gogh and his legacy. Quite admirable. 

But this was an entry about my trip and not meant to be social commentary. For that, let's have drinks and discuss.  Getting to Van Gogh was not without incident as this was a super fantastic rainy day and unlike my good fortune at the Rijksmuseum, this time I met a queue as long as the road itself. I looked at the sky in a bit of a panic as I tried to wager with God to just let me get inside before he opened the skies and poured all over Amsterdam. It was not to be. Drop drop drop came the rain and hello...black hair in the rain, not to mention getting a cold I did not want - I was out of there. 

This was how I ended up buying the most expensive umbrella in the universe as the rain just refused to quit and my escape from the rain was soon stuffed with tourists in a similar predicament. With water now gushing through the roof of the tent of the roadside criminal, I mean, roadside vendor, I was left with little choice but to buy what I now refer to as my Collector's Van Gogh umbrella which cost more than the ticket to actually get into the museum to see the real works of Van Gogh. Priceless.

Spent an evening in the Vondelpark as well, beautiful green park in Amsterdam, where we came across a wedding and a free concert featuring a Ukrainian folk band. By this time, the weather had improved and it was crisp and warm, the beautiful flowers beckoned one to stay and one could sit with a danish hijacked from one's breakfast at the hotel and people watch as friends and families went by on foot or by bike.

Amsterdam is of course a city known for the plethora of bicycles. It took me almost the entire trip to get used to bicycle lanes, and I invoked the ire of many a pedal pusher as I was often caught unawares in the bicycle lane. As good as I am at blending in, this bicycle lane thing got me.

I still did catch that cold after the Van Gogh downpour, though but at least it was after my side trip to Belgium. No...this is not in chronological order at the moment.

Cheese, canals, Amsterdam.

My very first day in Amsterdam was picture perfect. It was a gorgeous day. Blue skies and big white clouds, with the sunlight bouncing off the waters of the famed canals. That being said, it was the perfect day for a cruise along the canals, which also came "free" as part of my I Amsterdam card.

The cruise itself was lovely - an hour along the canals, getting a bit of the history of the city. It was for me, nicer to walk along the canals and see their beauty from the many bridges which provide that postcard perfect view.

Next up, was a cheese lover's dream - cheese tasting. I am a lover of gouda cheese and here was my chance to sample gouda in every iteration known to man. Pesto gouda, truffle gouda (divine and in the suitcase), cumin gouda, smoked gouda with herbs and spices (already in the suitcase cause you know I love some smoked gouda), black pepper gouda, asparagus and bacon gouda...and the list goes on and on. My cheese ambassador was amazing. Sweet and very willing to let me try every single cheese in the place - and I mean I tried EVERY last one. Divine. Loved my day with the cheese!

Dutch cuisine, unfortunately is not characterised by anything unique. There were a lot of different types of cuisine being represent and what I had was always fantastic, but it was not Dutch and one cannot really point to anything that screamed Holland. Still, I ate!

And drank. Of course, the Dutch have great beer and while I am not a huge beer drinker, I was in the land of Heineken and Amstel so okay...bring it on. However, the non-Dutch rose beers stole the show for me. Pink beer with a waterfront view - what could have outclassed this?

Loving the city that is Amsterdam

I have been finding it hard to blog. I have been busy of course. I am on vacation after all. I have been tired. Tourist life is hard work. I have been lackadaisacal. I really hate blogging off this tablet. Like REALLY! But I will blog while I remember the good times.

So Amsterdam. Amsterdam is not like Rome or Paris. Amsterdam is not a city of monuments. But it is a beautiful city. It is a city infused with a different kind of magic - a magic inherent in its culture and the people who are the catalysts for this culture. There are dozens of museums here in the city. The section of the city where quite a few of the museums can be found is called Museumplein. It would be near impossible to even attempt to do all in the short time I have here so I have earmarked just three - the Van Gogh Museum, the Museum of Modern Art and the Rijksmuseum. Being the tired bunny that I am, I saved the best for first - and so my first day was spent wandering the rooms of the amazing Rijksmuseum. Here one can find Rembrandt's most famous painting - The Night Watch. Surprisingly, the museum was not packed. There was no mind numbing queue as there had been when I had visited the Louvre, Uffizzi and the Prado. I think it being a day of mourning in the Netherlands may have contributed to that, with the city being in a bit of shock during the day. The bodies of the Dutch victims of the tragic MH-17 flight were flown in that day.

I always seem to marry high art with the other end of the cultural spectrum and ended up in the Red Light District later in the evening. I must say, having visited Pigalle in Paris, I knew this was not going to be an eye opening experience. Instead it reminded me how gullible tourists can be. A bunch of "coffee shops" serving everything but good coffee - anything your heart desires when it comes to the herb. Sex shops with tired looking specimens. Yeah...the Red Light District. Next. I did not even waste valuable camera battery time there.

But the company during the day made it a great day. And also saved it from complete sourness after the public transportation system seemed to go beserk on account of the day of mourning. Thanks to a kind Dutch guy named Rick, who helped us foreigners navigate the Dutch transport links so I could get back to my hotel and to some cocktails.

I will probably do an entire blog entry on my hotel but just wanted to say, I love it. Such a great place to come home to in a city that so far has outdone itself in the kindness and warmth departments. A far cry from the experience last year. Thank you, Amsterdam! I knew I made a great choice!

I will check in next time to share my canal cruise , cheese tasting and Belgian adventures with you. Bruges - simply beautiful.

Hello Amsterdam!

Here I am again. This time I am coming to you from my hotel's bar in Amsterdam. Almost did not get here. Lol. Sooooo...had some time to kill before my flight and headed to the London Gatwick branch of Jamie's Italian. I love Jamie's Italian. Anyway, got to talking with an older gentleman next to me and next thing I know my half hour lunch became an hour plus. After waiting way too long for my bill, I checked the screen to see my departure gate and the horror...it was closing in 4 mins. Of course the gate was at the end of the freakin' earth, and my morning runs on that treadmill came in quite handy, lemme tell you. Run, Forrest, run. I kept seeing my Euros slipping away as the closed gate loomed. Got there, breathless, but got there! The most maddening part? The flight was delayed. Lol.

So here I am in Amsterdam. I made an Italian friend on the hotel shuttle.  Yeah...about that. So I am a bit of a high maintenance traveller.  The train was the cheapest option at 5 euros. I bought said ticket to be fair. But upon weighing my exhaustion, my 17kg bag (a feat of epic proportions from Ms 23kg plus hand luggage! ) and this heat in my all black get up, I decided I work too hard to be lugging this pink suitcase behind me from some train station when there are perfectly good hotel shuttles with a/c and wi-fi available for 17 euros. And with nice Italian travellers on board as well.

My hotel. So glad I chose it and stuck to my decision.  I did not make a whole lot of effort in choosing hotels etc this year as I was just way too busy. Though not in Central Amsterdam,  Citizen M is comfy, modern, CLEAN and friendly. The room is a bit extra terrestrial with the bathroom and toilet in the middle of the floor, and everything is controlled by a mood pad -the brightness and colour of the lights, the tv, the blinds, the room temperature.  massive and extremely comfortable bed, free movies on demand, including porn...lol. great lobby bar. Pretty cool. I have not had chance to make my way about town yet. That comes tomorrow. Between the running for planes, the heat and pre-vacay exhaustion, I am happy right here at the hotel bar for now. Tomorrow -me, my map and Amsterdam. Tonight - chatting and drinking at the bar.

Refresh moment in London

So after being absent for a while, here I am, in London. Vacation time took its time to get here but here it is. Much needed after a hellish period at work. I will admit I was not as excited about this vacation as I should have been. Even the planning was lackadaisical.  My days were just too crammed with work and annoying things. But these are sure symptoms of need-a-vacationitis.

Anyway, after a long flight where I slept the majority of the time, I am in London.  Actually, I am still in the airport as I wait for my next flight. Getting in at 8.30am and flying again at 4.30pm meant I would be stuck in the airport for longer than I would like. I hate layovers with a passion, and feeling sick was not helping. Anticipating this annoying feeling way in advance, I booked a cabin at Yotel in the South Terminal of Gatwick Airport.

Yotel is pretty much a layover hater's oasis. The cabin is as big as a closet and this is no lie. But I needed a bed, a shower and some privacy for 4 hours. Yotel offers short stay options, meaning you don't have to pay full price for a room for a few hours. I was so thankful for this as I need a shower and a pick me up nap before I hit the runway again. The free coffee is also a welcome bonus.

Well, this was a quick one. I threw some curlers in my hair to try to rescue myself from looking like road kill, and after a vanilla scented shower, which I hope the smelliest of my fellow passengers are also getting, I should be less likely to be eyeballed by immigration at my next stop.
The bed. Pod-like.

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