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Monthly Archives: August 2014

Milkshakes and Chicken

We booked a reservation at Rose & Sons, even though it is a small diner, mostly because they had the option to on the website and if we showed up and they had no tables, we’d be left kicking ourselves. It was a good thing we did, when we got there the place was packed. We were seated a long table with a group of annoying guys. Thankfully they left soon after we arrived and we did not have to listen to their incessant banter anymore. We were at Rose & Sons because they were voted best milkshake, but you need more than that for dinner. Especially if you are not very fond of milkshakes. There is just something about them, something I dislike.

What Rose & Sons actually deserves get voted as best is the fried chicken. The chicken was amazing, just the right amount of spicy. It was sticky and saucy but it still had the crunch of fried chicken under all that sauce. It was easily one of the best chicken dinners I have ever had, far better than the one from Momofuku and at 1/10th the cost too. I had a bite of Brent’s patty melt, and it was OK, but we quickly traded back. The mac and cheese that came with the chicken quickly became too much. It was way too cheesey and the bacon bits were not helping.

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Brent ordered the creamsicle milkshake, a combination of two things I hate. I did have a sip, and it tasted exactly like a creamsicle. The other merit to the milkshake is the size. Rose & Sons got that one right: it is a reasonable sized milkshake, not the behemoths you usually think of when you think milkshake.

 

 

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Decadent Brownies

Our friends recently announced that they were engaged, we were going to celebrate for the weekend in Kitchener. Aha, the perfect excuse to whip out a recipe I had been wanting to try for a while now: Oreo brownies! Except, I was inspired at the last minute to make it a half batch. The other half would be Reese’s mini peanut butter cups brownies! It was a lot of fun crushing the Oreos, a great stress relief that I highly recommend. I did end up eating more than a few.

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The peanut butter cup ones won out over the Oreos. The peanut butter cups added a little bit of saltiness to the brownies that was so good. The brownies were decadent, delicious and a fun mess to make. I used the Nestle Tollhouse recipe, as it is not fun to make stuff from a box.

 
 

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The Frozen Dessert That Almost Killed My Blender

I had it in my head that because it was summer, I should make  a delicious summer treat. And what better treat than frozen yogurt? I found a simple recipe for strawberry frozen yogurt. Toss some fruit and yogurt with a touch of honey in a food processor and freeze it. Simple! Except, I do not have a food processor. I figured a blender was close enough, right?

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Wrong. The damn thing nearly died. The motor sounded like it would stop at an moment, and it stunk!!! I have learned my lesson, there is a difference between the two and they cannot be swapped out. It did finally blend smoothly. After freezing it however, it came out a solid block. I left it out to thaw as suggested in the comments… but then it sort of curdled! It was an epic fail.

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Posted by on August 27, 2014 in I Will One Day Attempt To Make This

 

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Chicken and Wine

It took us a while after getting back from vacation to get back into the swing of things with fooding. Best Portuguese chicken* was re-voted… the new place, Sardinha Rei Dos Frangos was literally across the street from our old apartment. One Friday night we found ourselves back in the old neighbourhood, reminiscing and noticing all the little changes, including the chicken place itself, the sign was new. The place was really busy. It was also a little awkward, the woman serving us seemed confused that Brent wanted potatoes and fries, as if it is impossible for someone to not want rice. The chicken was amazing, and the sides were really good too (I had the rice and potatoes), much better than the previous place. We sat outside on the patio enjoying the warm summer weather. It was all well and good until a stupid wasp started buzzing around.

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Camilla and Cathy had joined us for dinner, together we went off to Midfield, best wine bar and best wine bar patio. The weather was finally nice enough for an evening on the patio. And we finally had enough people to be able to split a bottle of wine on said patio.Good times all around.

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* it has since been re-voted AGAIN, I just can’t keep up!

 

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Pinka’s World Cup World Tour: Day 18

Tues. July 22, 2014:
Brussels, Belgium to Toronto, Canada:

Somehow the early wake-up was less tragic than usual. Maybe because unlike usual, we would have time for breakfast? The Speculoos butter sandwich I had for breakfast got to be too much towards the end, the sugar was making my teeth hurt. Even on our last day, heading to the airport, it was raining.

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I was sad that the trip was over, but I also needed a return to normalcy, no more McDonalds or walking for hours on end. It was a pain in the butt to get the free wi-fi at the airport, I had to register but I guess it was worth it to get more podcasts. In the airport I saw a Coca Cola machine that had Mannekin Pis on it; I will never understand the Belgians love of that statue. I was inexplicably already hungry before we had even boarded the plane. On the plane we were seated near the front, which was great because we were the first ones off it. While leaving the plane I noticed a lady had a duty-free bag that had a fancy tin of Speculoos cookies in it: CRAP, I could have been eating more Speculoos cookies!!! In Dublin, Ireland we had to go through security again and Brent had to toss out the Jupiler beers he had bought for Josh and Ryan. We joked that the security guard would probably fish them out later.

We were in the same terminal as last time, the crappier of the two. We did not have a lot of lunch options. We had to settle for Burger King, we had 3 hours time to kill and did not know if there would be food served on the flight home. The Double XL Bacon Cheeseburger almost killed me, I could barely finish the last bite it was so bad. I only ordered the damn thing because it had no vegetables in it. I stopped for coffee at Butler’s Chocolate Shop, it was so nice that they gave you a complimentary piece of chocolate with your order.

We sat around in the main lounge for a while. Being antsy, I kept getting up and walking around, looking in all the shops. We got to our gate just as boarding had started, we had timed it perfectly. We started watching The LEGO Movie before take-off, it was so good! but then the TVs got turned off for take-off and when they came back on our spot had not been saved. Brent’s TV was not working, so while it rebooted we had to share headphones and watch on mine. Then it took us a while to manage to sync up our screens so we were watching at the same time. After that we watched the first five episodes of House of Cards, it was addictively good. The dinner on the flight was not that good: spicy curry chicken and for dessert a spicy ginger cookie. On the flight I had my last Fanta of the trip. Later in the flight we were also given granola bars that were advertised as “better than kissing the blarney stone”, not much of a selling point that it tastes better than a rock.

July 22, 2014 (5)

Our flight landed half an hour early. After 18 days in Europe I was in desperate need of a few lazy days, sitting around doing nothing, a “vacation” as they call it.

 

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Pinka’s World Cup World Tour: Day 17

Mon. July 21, 2014:
Cologne, Germany to Brussels, Belgium:

It turned out that breakfast was not included with our hotel room, and it cost a whopping €20/person! We went with option B, breakfast from the gas station. I had a pretty decent croissant with a Nutella filling and an iced coffee (the can had coffee beans on it, so I assumed it was coffee). Thankfully we also still had snacks left over from the day before. The Haribo sour gummy fries were delicious; the white chocolate Lion bar was not as good as the original.

The rain had let up while we ate breakfast. Rather than try to figure out the lockers at the trains station we left our bags at the hotel front desk. After buying our train tickets to Brussels for the afternoon we set off in search of the Locks of Love Bridge. We knew it would be near the train line, we had seen it when we first got in. we could not find a path to it from the side by the Dom Cathedral, so we cut through the train station to the other side of the train tracks, logically we should be able to get to it from there. After wandering past the bus terminal and through a parking lot, all the while able to see the bridge we finally found stairs leading up it, rejoice!

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The locks were very dense in the middle of the bridge. Some people had put bike locks; there were even a few broken hearts. The locks were all different sizes, colours and quality. Some had been etched others drawn on with marker. Some even had photographs stuck on them. We crossed under the bridge and to the other side. Walking back we had a great view of the entire Hohenzollern Bridge and the Dom Cathedral in the background. This was clearly the more popular side of the bridge, given how many more locks there were. Some people even added chains to make more room, others were double-locked. I sort of regret not having planned ahead and brought a lock.

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The Dom Cathedral was packed, partly because there was a mass going on. I quickly figured out that there was a separate entrance to the belfry for the stair climb. We managed to get ahead of a giant group of tourists. The sign by the ticket booth said that there were 509 steps to the top: oh my god, I thought, this sounds terrible!! There were a lot less look-out stops on the way to the top. The only stop was the room with the bells. Just as we were leaving it, the bells started to ring. We ran back but it was too late, we had missed it. We had to circle around the room again (it was a one direction hallway, circling the bells).

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There were little open slits of windows throughout the tower, letting in a breath of fresh air that was desperately needed. I was sweating so badly. I really needed that cool air. The view from the top was obstructed by metal grating that had been put up to prevent people from further graffiting the church. All available surface in the cathedral had been scribbled on, not just the walls of the belfry but also the gargoyles at the top, the buttresses, everything! It was appalling.

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On the way back down there was a stupid lady who was counting all the steps. We stopped at the bell level again. We waited 13 minutes for the bells to ring and one bell only rung twice. It did not even move, just a little unseen hammer dinged the bell. It was rather unsatisfying. I wondered if the upper windows had once had stained glass in them, now they were just frames like stained glass windows without the stained glass. Back on ground level mass was over and we were free to wander the cathedral without being a nuisance. The cathedral was gorgeous with lots of beautiful stained glass windows and high vaulted ceilings.

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For lunch we tried the nearby McDonalds again, but it was crammed. I remembered seeing a McDonalds in the train station so we went there instead. My salsa beef burger had much more salsa this time, it was a lot spicier. I regretted not getting a drink. The Bounty McFlurry was not as good as the Daim one. My back-up dessert plan had set sail: the yogurt boat was gone.

At the archaeological dig site there were only three people and they were on lunch. We got to the train station with 45 minutes before the train. I wandered around the giant concourse below. The Dunkin’ Donuts had a huge line-up, so much for my coffee fix. I ended up buying an iced coffee, but decided to save it, unsure of what the breakfast situation would be the next day.

This was by far one of the worse train rides of the trip. We did not have reserved seats, every other time we had managed to find seats. Not so this time. Even more infuriating was the fact that there were unclaimed reserved seats that were empty. The train was very crowded; there was luggage and people standing around everywhere. The ride was bumpy and twisty. Making things worse, I ran out of podcasts to listen to. Thankfully I had downloaded another book on the iPad, Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises. It is not comfortable to read a book while standing on a moving train. I eventually resorted to just staring out the window. This was all well and good until I saw a terrifying sight: a row of military tanks on the highway taking the offramp. WHAT THE HELL WAS GOING ON?! I thought to myself in a mild panic.

At the hotel shuttle at the airport we met another couple from Toronto. They were old and they were talkative. I was too tired for their banter. The upside to staying at a hotel near the airport is that you are close and there is a shuttle. The downside is that your dining options are limited to what is available at the hotel (unless you drive/take a cab somewhere). We were staying at the same brand of hotel as the previous day, but thankfully today the restaurant was open.

Dinner at the hotel restaurant was the same stuff that was on the room service menu, sans the room service charge of course. The Belle-Vue Framboise beer was nice and refreshing. The curry chicken with rice hit the spot, it was a nice change. I was still kind of sick of Belgian frites. The tiramisiu we had for dessert was ok, but I would have rather eaten candy and Ben & Jerry’s. The TV was finally really good. I watched a few episodes of The Simpsons but then Bones came on and I did not like that it was filmed like a reality TV show (visually clearer, no filter?). We realized we would have to do breakfast at the hotel. There was nothing good at the airport.

 

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Pinka’s World Cup World Tour: Day 16

Sun. July 20, 2014:
Essen to Cologne, Germany:

The next morning Essen was empty. We did pass by a nightclub that was still playing music and there were two people outside, but that was it. The next person I saw was the lady behind the counter at Dunkin’ Donuts (which thankfully was open early). They had the biggest selection of donuts I have ever seen. They had some wacky ones like kiwi icing on a chocolate donut or a vanilla donut with melon icing. To go with my vanilla coffee (which she understood to mean vanilla latte) I had a chocolate nougat donut (basically a Nutella donut) and an unpronounceable one with blue icing that turned out to be blackberry jam filled. The donuts were very fresh and totally made my morning, even though I had ordered three and she had misunderstood.

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The train arriving before ours was straight out of the board game Thurn & Taxis: Wurzburg to Nurnberg to Passau. We settled in for an hour long train ride to Cologne. As soon as we were off the train and out of the station we found ourselves in the midst of a crowd of people. The lockers in the train station were too confusing. We opted for leaving our bags at the Roman-German museum. We were a little lost at first. Leaving the train station we had to go around the cathedral to get to the museum. Not easy when all you want to do is gawk at the cathedral in all its architectural glory.

They did not have English guides to give us at the museum, we had to make do with the selective English information that was given only on some displays. It was hard to appreciate some of the things as they were out of context and we knew nothing about them. After a while it started to get a little bit repetitive, tombstone, coin, lamp, repeat. Clearly this museum does not share their collection, or there are just a ton of artifacts from this area and time period. The coolest thing by far was the preserved mosaic tile floor. The tour guides were keen on this; you could look into the museum through the window and see it, not having paid the admission fee.

Up next we went to the Museum Ludwig next door. The museum was focused on more modern art, but thankfully they had the good sense to exhibit mostly good stuff like Lichenstein, Warhol, Rauschenberg, Magritte, Picasso and even a piece by Duchamp). They even had works by Jeff Wall and Andreas Gursky. There was one piece in the middle of a room that looked like metal scaffolding. Part of the museum was under renovation, I assumed this was part of it. Turns out I was wrong; this metal scrap was “art” according to the informative sign.

We tried to go to McDonalds for lunch, but it was crammed with tourists. No surprise, given it was across the street from the cathedral and the train station. We bailed and went to the hotel instead. We passed by a cruise ship, on the side it said Captain M. Van Houten (Milhouse from The Simpsons). We passed by a guy standing in a wading pool drinking a beer. While checking in, Brent made the front desk lady laugh by pretending to not know when my birthday was.

On the way to the hotel I had spotted a gas station, complete with convenience store, across the street from us. No sooner had we left our bags, we went on a supply run. We had a Ritter Sport marzipan chocolate for lunch and I grabbed some fizzy peach iced tea for later. I also noted that they had a decent Ben & Jerry’s selection, for later. We left our snacks at the hotel and set back out again to explore Cologne. On our way we saw a party boat cruise advertising free yogurt. It was the weirdest thing; you could go aboard, eat some yogurt and drink beer while a German band played.

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We were on our way to the last museum of the day (last museum of the trip?): the Wallraf Richartz museum. Thankfully for my poor aching legs, the museum was only three floors. The museum’s art collection ranged from medieval 13th century to impressionist 19th century art, so we would not have to endure any more modern art. I was not looking forward to the medieval paintings, but they had some paintings by Albrecht Durer, so that was a nice surprise (he is a staple in art history). Towards the end we got stuck near a really irritating group of people. They would photograph the art and the info panel and then move on to the next one, barely glancing at the painting itself. It was driving me nuts.

Afterwards we went across the street to look at an archaeological dig site. There was a tour group there though. It was decided we would come back the next day, I really wanted to see people hard at work at the dig site (it was Sunday, so there was no one there). Up next we went to look at a church that had been bombed during WWII and never rebuilt. It was preserved in its wrecked state and somehow hauntingly beautiful.

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We stopped at kiosk to look at the beer selection. While in there I discovered that kiosk is German for “cramped and not air-conditioned shop that should not be selling chocolate bars.” My chocolate was a melted mess and impossible to eat. As we walked back to the hotel Brent pointed out a girl walking ahead of us who looked exactly like me. My doppelganger was really freaking me out; I could not make heads or tails of the situation and was very confused by it all. We stopped at a food stand for a quick bite. I had ordered a bratwurst but the woman had misheard me and we ended up getting currywurst instead. It was still good, but a little odd. The sausage was chopped up and served in curry sauce with a bun on the side. It was terribly messy to eat and my fingers ended up smelling like curry.

It turned out that our hotel restaurant was closed on Sundays and dinner was served at the hotel bar. For dinner we had to eat somewhere that accepted credit card, it was the end of the trip and we were running low on Euros. I did not like the looks of the hotel bar. I searched for nearby places while enjoying my (heavenly!) fizzy peach iced tea and watching The Simpsons dubbed over in German. After translating the website of a promising pub I found out it was under renovations. I had written down a few places on our city map and we headed out. The first place we went to did not have a food menu and the beer menu was subpar, especially for a place that was voted second best bar in the city. After some wandering we found a place in the square. I was getting frustrated, and I was really hungry. I was about ready to give up on this place too, but thankfully the guy brought us English menus.

I had the “Munich style” white sausage, it came with a pretzel and honey mustard on the side. It was amazing; this was easily one of the best meals of the trip. Brent had ordered the black forest ham sandwich; it was hilarious how it was presented: he had to assemble the sandwich himself. That meant I could steal a piece of the ham though. Turns out what I had thought was black forest ham was just regular ham, this was nothing like what I had eaten before: it was so much better!!! It was nice to sit back and relax; looking at the cathedral we could hear the bells ringing. I could not help but laugh at the coasters on the table, they had pictures of naked girls riding bikes (apparently as far as I can tell, the beer is as refreshing as biking naked through a field).

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Walking back we saw that the yogurt boat party was still going, but the girls in Bavarian costume were gone, so much for free yogurt for dessert. We stopped at the gas station for Ben & Jerry’s peanut butter cup ice cream and some more Haribo gummies (sour mix this time). This time I got mango iced tea, so good! i had gotten a Kinder Surprise egg, and what a surprise indeed: it opened into two halves, one had the toy and the other had two Ferrreo Rocher-type chocolates in a white Nutella spread, there was even a spoon stuck to the divider. It was very bizarre. While we ate ice cream we watched Spongebob Square Pants, even dubbed in German it was still understandable. The only English options for TV were news channels like CNN. The ice cream proved to be too much, the peanut butter cups were too big and we stuck in the fridge for later.

July 20. 2014- Cologne (21)

 

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Pinka’s World Cup World Tour: Day 15

Sat. July 19, 2014:
Amsterdam to Otterlo, Netherlands to Essen, Germany:

Iced coffee is a godsend for early mornings. Even more so when there is a mini-bar fridge to keep it in so it doesn’t curdle. Apparently the best time to walk around Amsterdam is early in the morning, before everyone wakes up. We had a very cushy and comfy 1 hour train tide to Arnhem. From there the plan was to catch a bus to Otterlo, after an hour on which we would reach the Kroller-Muller museum (hence the early wake-up).

It was all well and good until we got in to Arnhem. We had no idea where to catch this bus; it was not even listed on the schedule at the adjoining bus terminal. Exasperated, I got on a random bus and asked the driver. Turns out we were so close, it was the next platform over… and we waited about a minute and the bus arrived. Thankfully we were able to buy our bus tickets from the driver and we did not need to have the exact amount saving us from scrambling for change. This was the most inefficient “express” bus I have ever been on in my life. There were a lot of stops, including stopping at a zoo. The bus had to backtrack a lot, even using a roundabout to make a u-turn. It was an hour long ride not because of distance but due to the meandering route. At some point we were on a really narrow road, winding our way through the forest. This made sense, the Kroller-Muller museum was situated inside a national forest park.

The bus dropped us off down the road from the museum. We thought we would be getting dropped off at the entrance to the park. From there you take one of the publicly available bikes and ride to the museum through the park. It would have been a hilarious sight to see as we struggled to bike uphill with our giant backpacks weighing us down. Not helping matters was that it was 11am and already it was boiling hot. What the museum (and all museums in Europe it seemed) was a water fountain. I ended up trying to drink from the tap, which is no easy task when it is an automated tap.

We started outside in the sculpture garden; the day was only going to get hotter and the sun more intense. It was already over 30 Celsius. Brent mistook one art piece for a snack bar stand. I blame the glaring sun, but I still had a good laugh. There was a really fun giant statue that you could climb up a secret hidden stairwell and climb on top of the statue.

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The Kroller-Muller had a really nice collection of Van Gogh paintings, the second largest but it was much less crowded. They also had some nice paintings on display by Seurat. The last two exhibits were modern and “conceptual” i.e.: impossible to understand. Especially the one that was a giant curtain, behind which you saw the stuff used to make it. The curtain was not even an original design!!

The museum café did not look very appealing, thankfully we still had some mini stroopwafels left. We hid in the shade behind the bus shelter; thankfully there was a cool breeze. As it turned out we had plenty of extra time before the train we had planned on taking. The bus ride seemed really slow, but that quickly faded when I saw that there was free wi-fi.

We got to the train station at 1:30, way too early for our scheduled 5:30 train. We stood in line at the ticket counter, hoping we could change our ticket times, for the 3:30 train. The guy in line in front of us said he had been waiting 45 minutes already. After another 15 minutes he gave up and left. We looked at each other bewildered. Turns out he was right. At the counter was the world’s most insufferable woman buying every possible train ticket imaginable. She would ask questions about each ticket after it was printed. Finally after about 15 minutes she brought out her credit card… and proceeded to ask more questions. This lasted another 10 minutes. I was floored, what could she possibly be talking about?! At this rate we would be racing to catch the 3:30 train. Finally, after what seemed like forever, she was done. All that waiting and we were told that we could take the 3:30 train no problem, but if we wanted reserved seats it would be €23.

We had lunch at the train station, not wanting to risk getting lost in Arnhem. We found a small café that served fresh food, which was better than the alternative: refrigerated sandwiches and vending machine burgers. I had bought a cookie from Starbucks from dessert, but it was so damn hot on the train platform that I ran back downstaiars to buy a Magnum ice cream bar, leaving the cookie for inevitable cookie cravings later on.

We had a half hour wait for our train. There were some annoying kids nearby, so we had to retreat further down the platform away from them. We managed to get seats on the train, but the AC was barely on and my Coke Zero was warming up. We switched trains in Duisburg, Germany. After a 20 minute delay, waiting in the heat on the platform, the train to Essen finally arrived. And immediately I longed for the outdoors. The train did not have AC; it was unbelievably hot in there. We were only on the train for 15 minutes, but when we got off we were soaked with sweat. It had literally been like a sauna. I felt bad for anyone staying on the train. We had taken it two stops and that was bad enough.

I was in love with Essen; there was a Dunkin’ Donuts in the train station and no cyclists! I chugged a few glasses of water at the hotel and then we set off for Zollverein, an abandoned repurposed coal mine. The city map we had did not show far north enough for it to be of any use to us. All we had to go on was the Google Maps print out Brent had. Even still we managed to miss a turn but Brent managed to find an alternate route using the Google Map, we followed the streetcar tracks. We passed by a convenience store and I bought what I could only hope was peach iced tea (there were a lot of words on the label). Success! It was peach iced tea, so refreshing in the heat. On the way we passed by a random goat farm. The goats were so cute, they made excellent lawnmowers.

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I noted a McDonalds on the way for future dinner plans. We started out in the third section of the Zollverein and worked our way backwards to the first one, which was the one with the iconic building that was representative of the place. The building is used as a symbol advertising Zollverein. It was really cool to see all the old buildings from the coal mine. The site had been left unkempt and was overgrown with plants. I wanted so badly to look down a mine shaft into the earth, alas it was blocked off with fences and I could barely see the edge of the hole. The architecture overall was really interesting and it was great to be able to walk around and explore the place, it was pretty much empty save for a few people.

July 19, 2014- Essen, Germany (20)

On the way back we passed through a sculpture garden but I am not sure it can really be called that. It was total crap. One “sculpture” was two cement blocks with scalloped edges stacked on top of each other. Walking back, I was so tired and so dehydrated. It was still really hot outside, even though it was 8:30pm and the sun was starting to set. I rejoiced at the sight of the goat farm, it meant that McDonalds was just down the street! All I could think of was a giant iced cold cup of soda. I tried the salsa beef burger which was actually pretty good, it had jalapenos in it. Plus it had the menu option of burger and soda, no fries. Also new was the chili sauce with my chicken nuggets. Self-serve kiosks are a godsend. Before we left I ordered a berry smoothie. Good thing I did, the grocery store next door was closed, so much for sodas and snacks.

We went to the “town square” but there was nothing to see, except maybe the convenience store? Before that all we had seen were convenience windows that you walk up to and order from, much too awkward for foreigners like us who want to browse. We got some more Haribo gummies and a Nuts bar (it was like a lighter version of Snickers and with hazelnuts in place of peanuts). The lemon Fanta I got was actually sour, which took me a little by surprise. Brent had MezzoMix, a weird drink that was half cola, half orange soda. It tasted like really fake knock-off Coca Cola. On the way back to the hotel we noticed a festival, but as we got closer we noticed it was a punk rock festival full of drunken teenagers. One guy literally could not stand up even with his two friends holding him up.

Back in the hotel it felt so good to just sit down put my feet up. I was exhausted, my legs hurt and I was still dehydrated. I also realized that all this time in Essen we had not seen a single board game shop.

 

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WVRST

We tried to go to Gabardine for dinner, but it turns out the place is super popular. There was a line-up of people waiting for tables. Pass! We would make a reservation for the week after, there was no sense waiting around for god knows how long just to eat mac and cheese. We had a list of back-ups. Next was the best patio to pretend to be a tourist… except we were one block away and it started raining. I kept making hokes the whole way that “vurst case” our next option was Wvrst.

I had been antsy to go Wvrst for a while now, I had heard good things about it. I pictured myself sitting down to a giant schnitzel or some good bratwurst by candlelight. I can honestly say I was not expecting cafeteria style seating at long tables. The place was crammed full of people. Thankfully a spot opened up at a smaller table right as we got there. The menu was all sorts of sausages. It reminded me of Hot Doug’s in Chicago without the giant line out the door. I settled on a pheasant sausage. Brent went to place our order while I held our table. Turns out they were sold out of it, so he got me the closest thing which was some other type of game bird, guinea fowl. The fries, voted best in the city, we supposedly Dutch frites. We were psyched, it had been a while and I was looking forward to it. What was brought to us was about as far from Dutch frites as it can get. The fries were shoestring, dark brown and laden with grease (we did get the duck fat option, but still). Dutch frites are supposed to be light and airy! The fries were still good, albeit a bit too salty sometimes. The only “Dutch” thing about it was that they came with mayonnaise-based dipping sauces on the side (they were better than the fries). The sausage was pretty good. But where I was expecting a sausage on a plate with a piece of rye bread on the side, I instead got a sausage in a bun that was too big for it. The sausage also came with the choice of two toppings (out of four). I could have done without them. One bite of it was just bun and sauerkraut and red pepper, then the next bite was sausage and bun. Not the best set-up.

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The sausage was good, the fries were decent but it is overrated and I doubt I will go back there. Unless I have a giant group of people with me and we can secure a private table. The trouble with shared tables is you wind up near insufferable unreal people. The girl beside us was drunk and as a skunk and super high-pitched. She shouted everything and would laugh obnoxiously.

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The best fries are still at Beer Bistro. Also Wvrst made a huge mistake on their menu by naming their tofu and paprika sausage a “kielbasa”, that is just plain wrong. Kielbasa= meat!

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After we left Wvrst, Brent noticed that the shop below (Wvrst is on second floor) was a bakery, Forno Cultura. It was voted best new bakery of 2013, and most importantly: it was still open. Any bakery that is open that late, deserves the win best bakery. Even more-so when the owner gives you a free sample… an entire cookie! Win. The cookies were amazing, the chocolate hazelnut one was chewy and dense and it hit the spot.

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Pinka’s World Cup World Tour: Day 14

Fri. July 18, 2014:
Amsterdam, Netherlands:

At breakfast I tried again to fix the coffee, make it better somehow. The coffee was from an automated machine, so I tried the mocha this time. No good, I added some sugar and even more milk. Still no good, I gave up and downed it in one gulp. My day was not off to a good start, my cinnamon raisin bread had gotten stuck at the back of the toaster (one of those conveyor belt dealies) and I had to fish out it from the back with a fork.

We packed up our bags and headed out. For our last night in Amsterdam we were going to be staying in fancier digs, at the Hotel Pulitzer. Brent had chosen it because it had a wacky design. They had bought a row of house along the canal and gutted the inside to make a fancy hotel that from the outside looked tiny. On our walk over we saw a baby bird, it made me sad, but Brent pointed out it’s all a part of nature and that there would too many birds otherwise, I imagined a nightmare scenario involving a lot of bird poop and we left it at that.

We got to the Van Gogh Museum about half an hour after open. It was unbelievable how many people were already in there. There were hoards of people, all moving at a zombie-pace. I blame the self-guided audio tour for that. At the more important works there would be a pile-up of people and we would have to wait for the crowd to clear before going back. The museum was well curated. They had on display paintings that had inspired Van Gogh as well as paintings by his friends and contemporaries (most notably Gaugin). It was sad to see how Van Gogh deteriorated over the years. The exhibit was in chronological order; you could watch him fall apart.

We finished the museum in about two hours, just in time for us to enjoy high noon. Outside the museum the line to get in was huge. In the park between the Rijks Museum and Van Gogh Museum there was a tourist kiosk where they sold tickets to various attractions, including the Van Gogh Museum, yet only three people in line there. In the park there was also a giant IAMSTERDAM sign that people were climbing all over.

We walked through the garden at the Rijksmusem, trying desperately to walk in the shade. I was really tempted to jump into the fountain; it was a really hot day. I don’t think my camera would have forgiven me though. A few blocks away from the museum, safe in the shade, we pulled out the map. We still had 2-3 hours before we could check in at the hotel. Turns out we had cleared out all the landmarks on the map. The only thing left was a giant park. At the risk of getting sunburnt we backtracked past the IAMSTERDAM sign again.

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The park was beautiful, dotted with lakes and flower gardens and a few gazebos. We weaved our way around, patches of shade dictating which direction we would walk. We stopped a patio for lunch. The only things on the menu that caught my eye were the croissants (not available after 12) and snacks (not available before 4): so much for that. I was more dehydrated than hungry anyways. While ordering I noticed that they had Cassis Fanta, but when I tried to order it the woman had no idea what I was saying, so I just said Fanta. Turns out the default Fanta is orange. While we were eating on the patio, in the shade of trees, a bird pooped on Brent’s leg. It was quite ironic given the conversation we had in the morning about birds pooping on people, in which he had said it was really unlikely to happen.

On the way back to the hotel we stopped at an “American” candy store. I remembered seeing a sign in the window for Birthday Cake M&Ms which meant they might have other wacky flavours. They didn’t. I settled for a Wonka Crème Brule bar and a Fanta Cassis. Both were British, not American as the Fanta had the price on the can as 59p. I was still hungry for lunch; I took the opportunity to stop at a vending machine store. The cheeseburger was more like seasoned meatballs and the bun was soggy. It was really not good, but worth it for the novelty. For dessert we stopped at Ben & Jerry’s again. I had been torn the day before between two flavours, now I got to try the other one: chocolate and vanilla swirl with crushed Oreos and chocolate chip cookies. I got it in a cone this time and immediately regretted it. The ice cream made a giant, melty, sticky mess. It was all over my hands and face.

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The hotel consisted of winding, curing hallways. It had been broken up into lettered sections and it was like a maze trying to find stuff. Thankfully there were a lot of signs all over the place. The so-called “slow” internet that was free of charge was pretty much normal, what was the high-speed one you could pay for like, I wondered?! We had a lot of catching up to do, two days without internet equals a lot of unanswered questions such as: what is the difference between “super ice cold” and just regular cold? (We had seen this on offer at a bar the other day).

While Brent looked up canal tours, I relaxed; sipping my Fanta… except it was not cassis. It was mango & passion fruit. I had been fooled by the purple can! Brent narrowed it down to the Blue Boat Co. for our canal cruise. And so we had to walk all the way back to the Rijksmuseum (the kiosk was across the street). As we waited in line I worried, the sign said that reservations are recommended for the evening cruises. Thankfully that was just a recommendation; we got our tickets no problem.

On the way back to the hotel (again), we stopped at Starbucks so I could buy an iced coffee. We had an early morning the next day and so there would be no time to stop for coffee. I was shocked; they did not have any iced coffees in the fridge!! Marks and Spencer also did not have any iced coffee. I was starting to get worried. I stopped in at LUSH because my free sample of R&B hair conditioner leave-in was running low and there was no way I would spend the last days of our vacation with crazy hair. We had googled “edibles”, because when in Amerstam… The internet suggested a café that was tourist-friendly, for the life of me I have no idea what it is called, the scribble in my book looks like Abaraxas. This place was not easy to find. We were walking down a busy shopping arcade and suddenly we had to duck down a really narrow alleyway to find it. Brent walked ahead, wanting nothing to do with the awkwardness that would ensue. I was really nervous about going in, scared I would be making a fool of myself. Earlier in the day I had gone into a shop that claimed to sell weed ice cream. There was a group of barely-18 year old girls, they were flirting with the shop keeper when finally one of them cracked and straight up asked if the ice cream really had weed in it and whether the guy sold “edibles.” He laughed and said no. I was afraid of that happening to me. The café was dark and a thick air of smoke hung around. The woman had blonde dread locks. She did not ID me, she did not give me instructions or warnings, she did not seem to care, she just handed me the muffin. Still, I was glad to get out of there.

We stopped at another grocery store. Honestly, we were anticipating the munchies in the evening after the muffin. We stocked up on soda, iced coffee, chips and mini stroopwafels. I finally found my Fanta cassis. Walking back we noticed that our hotel spans an entire city block: it totally made sense now. We had taken to wandering the hotel earlier and we easily walked for at least 20 minutes without backtracking. We had dinner at the Pullitzer bar. It was fun to sit in big fancy leather chairs; it was a very comfy set-up for writing: I managed to catch up while we waited for our food. I had ordered the Dutch plate: sausages, matured cheese, cheese fingers and bitterballen. I am not a huge fan of Dutch food (except stroopwafels), especially bitterballen. At least I tried it.

It was a little weird that during our evening canal cruise it was still bright out and boiling hot: even though it was 8pm, thankfully the cruise had drink service, and my discomfort with the heat was alleviated with an ice cold Coke Zero. The cruise offered us views of the canal houses in their entirety. What I didn’t realize, because you cannot tell from the street, is that some of the houses were crooked, leaning forward or to the side. Apparently the thing to do on a Friday night in Amsterdam is to pack into a boat and cruise the canals while drinking. One boat passed us that was crammed with guys; they were all standing because there was no room to sit. A little dinghy meant for two people passed by, it had four and the back was sinking. One boat had a dog in a life vest. One guy had brought his BBQ grill on the boat with him!

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We passed some pigeons roosting under a bridge. We did not realize that one of the churches we had passed the day before actually sat atop a really wide bridge. We had no way of knowing that before. Because we were on the evening cruise we passed by the Red Light District. Again, we mostly saw people just sitting on the edge of canal drinking beer.

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After the cruise it was still really hot outside. It hurt to get up off the seat because my thighs were stuck to the faux leather seat. We stopped at a hotdog vendor and I bought a peach iced tea. It tasted like Nerds and was just what I needed. I even managed to trick Brent, hater of iced tea, into trying it.

On the way to the hotel we each ate a quarter of the lemon-cranberry weed. It tasted pretty good, save for the skunky after taste. The label on the muffin had a warning about not eating the whole thing at once; it suggested having a tiny bite and waiting 60-90 minutes. While we waited for it to kick in, Brent googled “edibles”, turns out we had taken the recommended dosage. Good, good, except I really wanted to eat my second quarter. I had wolfed down the first one, while Brent slowly ate his. After 60 minutes I was feeling zilch. I wolfed down my other piece and waited… nothing. Thankfully we had the Roasted Red Pepper Doritos to keep us distracted, they made a good snack. I gave up around midnight and went to sleep. The most I could say I felt was a nice calm, but that is about it. At least the muffin was tasty.

 

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