No curve was too sharp for them and their bicycle. No puddle was deep enough to stop them. -- Friends by Helme Hein

28 April, 2012

A Spring Tulip Frolic

 We've been to The Netherlands many times.  Most people who know us know that we love it there: aged gouda, miles upon miles of bicycle paths through the countryside, quaint towns, pancakes and fields of tulips.  But the tulip season had remained that one quintessential, yet elusive, trademark of Holland that we had never done in all our trips.
 We remedied this with perfect timing two weeks ago.  With just a cheap Lufthansa flight to Amsterdam and a short train trip to The Hague to visit friends Pia and Guy, we found ourselves right in full tulip bloom.

Guy worked with us at Seisen in Tokyo and we were honored to attend his wedding to Pia in Chiang Mai last summer.   He's now teaching at a school in The Hague.  They were kind enough to welcome us and our toddler into their home, something not for the faint of heart, given Woody's penchant for rearranging furniture and knickknacks.  Pia was the most gracious host, whipping up mouthwatering vegetarian Thai food for us to take on our bike ride that day.  We hadn't had flavors so good since last summer (the Danes don't do spice) and we couldn't stop eating.  Woody even enjoyed a little green curry without so much as a face pucker!

 We rented a few bikes and set off from The Hague through the sand dunes along the coast. 

It was windy and slow riding, but little Felix was a trooper.  When not happily riding in his little bucket seat, he slept soundly in the Ergo on James's back.  He is a true traveler, that kid.  

I had to stop for Vlaamse friites with a generous dollop of mayonnaise.     

Just outside our favorite town of Leiden, we found our first field bursting with color.

red tulips

purple iris

 By this point, Woody had been out with us all day and had had enough of the photo ops.

We biked on from the fields into Leiden to the Pannenkoekenhuis for delicious coffee and individual pancakes the size of a family pizza.

We can no longer "share" food with Woody.  He grabs ahold and doesn't give it back.  I think James got 2 licks of his ice cream cone.

The trip was so quick that we were back in our apartment by 9:45 on Sunday morning. It couldn't have been more perfect of a trip.  Woody slept the whole flight home, prompting us to think that morning flights and short power weekends are definitely the way to travel with a toddler. Thanks Pia & Guy for showing us the tulips!

26 April, 2012

Salvador Dali & Port Lligat

Just over the hill from Cadaques lies the sleepy little town, if you can even call it that, of Port Lligat. This little corner of beauty on the Mediterranean would probably be overlooked by most visitors if it weren't for it's most famous former resident, artist Salvador Dali.  The Dali collection (along with his remains) is housed in the museum he designed in neighboring Figueres, but the house he painted and lived in for over 50 years is open for tours. 
This is Dali's compound from the top of the hill as you walk into Port Lligat.  It started as a one room abode for him and his wife, Gala, but grew into a sprawling estate over the years.

I have appreciated Dali's work for it's thought provoking use of symbols and imagery (see how I sounded like I know something about art?), but I can't say I find it aesthetically pleasing. Expecting his somewhat scary art to translate into a somewhat kooky art labyrinth, I was surprised to find a relatively subdued home that incorporated the beauty of the Spanish coast.  

His art studio was flooded with natural light.  These are copies of the two final works done in the house.  

 Dali and Gala's bedroom, the only bedroom in the house, looked toward a mirror that reflected the rising sun from the window in his bedroom.  Genius idea. I did take a few more pictures inside his house, but none came out very clear.  The house rambled from one sitting room to the next, each filled with small trinkets, photos and unique pieces of art, but nothing so strange that would hint at the types of images in his art. Well, there was a taxidermy polar bear wearing sunglasses and loads of gold necklaces. But it seemed to fit right in. 

Eggs are a common theme in Dali's work and they were found all over the compound.  If I remember correctly, the whole egg symbolizes life, and a cracked or fried egg symbolizes intra-uterine, or as close as you can get to the beginning of life. 

Christ of Rubbish
in the backyard

No, it's not just you.  The pool really is in the shape of a giant phallus. 

Where Dali did give us a little peak into his psyche (or sense of humor?) was in the pool area: a pink lips lounger, a penis shaped pool and a Michelin man spouting fountain.  There was also a phone booth and a wall shaped like his mustache.  

Dali lived here until his wife's death in 1982, at which point it was said he could not return because it was too painful to be there without her.  A very touching tribute.  The house wasn't decked out in Dali's works, so I can't say I enjoy his work any more after visiting, but it was nice to step back in time for a moment and catch a little glimpse of what might inspire a great artist. 

20 April, 2012

Catalonia, Spain

We spent the week before Easter in Spain's Catalonia region, home to Barcelona.  Even though there were spots we wanted to see in Barcelona, we decided we needed more beach and less city on this trip.  So we headed along the coast, in both directions from Barcelona, in search of sun and sangria.  
We rented a car, but quickly learned that a car seat is Woody's worst nightmare.  Which also made being in the car our worst nightmare given his unbelievable screaming.  I guess all of our bicycle riding has taught him the car isn't the answer. 

 We spent a few nights south of Barcelona in the town of Castelldefels.  It wasn't much to write home about, but the drive along the coast line was dramatic and beautiful.  Woody enjoyed playing the sand, and even let us nap in the sun on the beach. 

On a day of nothing but torrential downpours, we took the recommendation of a guide book and headed north to the small isolated town of Cadaques on the French border.  We drove over a steep mountain pass lined with terraced hillside olive groves to find this little gem on the Mediterranean.   

After lots of screaming and rain, and getting frustrated on small Spanish streets, arriving in Cadaques was as if the skies had parted to reveal a little slice of heaven. The gorgeous green sea was peaceful and the white washed buildings with blue doors and windows beckoned us to stay.  The sunshine helped, too.

Little Felix loved the pebbles on the beach.

The town is a little artist enclave. Picasso and Dali and numerous other artists and poets called this home at some point in their careers.  I can see why.  Who couldn't find inspiration in this setting?


We loved the architecture and blue details.  

We kept extending our stay, day by day, so that we ended up with no time to see Barcelona.  But that didn't matter.  We had hit Cadaques in it's quiet season, just before the tourists arrive for Easter.  Our sweet little "hostels" were only 65 euros per night and the food in town was delicious.  House paella, sangria and wood fired pizzas.  And compared to Copenhagen prices, it was completely affordable.

Cobblestones were a bit tricky for the littlest walker.  But he was willing to traipse down every morning in hopes of mom and dad buying him a croissant.  The coffee was amazing, too.

Eating in Spain with a toddler was a bit tricky, as toddlers aren't usually on the "Spanish schedule."  Woody's dinner time is more like their lunch time, so we usually had a big late lunch and tried to find some things at a grocery store for Woody before he went to bed in his stroller.  That freed us up to eat tapas and drink sangria while he slept! 

We headed back to Barcelona on our final full day.  We didn't have enough time to see the two main sights we wanted to visit, but we did a quick drive by on our way to our bed and breakfast. 
This is what the Sagrada Familia looks like from the backseat of a car. 

And Parc Guell.  Oh well, another time. 

Our final night was spent in a beautiful little B&B with this expansive view of Barcelona.  It left us wanting to see what was down there. To be honest, I'd never had much of an inkling to visit Spain before this trip, but it far exceeded what I had imagined and I can't wait to go back someday. I just think it will have to be sans bébé in tow.  Woody is a great traveler, but it's too harrowing to trek around with a little guy who finds danger at every corner.