Nothing on Wednesday

Today my mom Sarah and I wanted to get an ice cream. But, as soon as we were ready to go, it started to pour. As soon as the rain stopped, we went out for that ice cream. We then ran into a problem: nothing was open. Well, not nothing, almost nothing was open. We had to walk longer then we thought to get the ice cream. It was worth it. I got to choose two flavors for my cone. On the way we saw approximately ten open stores. That is not very many. Four of them were restaurants. My mom thought the store workers were having a siesta (nap). At least the ice cream shop was open.

The ice cream was good, but I think that it would be nice if more stores were open.

I’m walkin’ in the rain

I was feeling perky today and decided that the best way to express my perkiness was to go hunting for bookstores in London. What better way to spend one’s time in London when everything we purchase must be carried on our backs. Books weigh so much and yet I will shoulder the burden.

Charing Cross Road is known for bookstores so I figured I would take the subway to Charing Cross station and visit the bookstores. If you have travelled to London for the purpose of buying books at Charing Cross Road bookstores you will already know that Charing Cross Station is at one end of Charing Cross Road and the bookstores are at the other. I learned that today. It was also raining and dark. My desire to find bookstores quickly became a desire to get out of the rain and perhaps buy a warm cup of coffee.

I wandered.

Apparently, at my part of Charing Cross Road, people had similar desires because the three coffee shops I found were full–very full. In the end, I walked about a bit into some of the lesser travelled streets (maybe there were hidden coffee shops in the side streets that were not jammed with damp tourists). Although I did not find any coffee shops, I did find a lot of electric cars. Most were of the G-Wiz variety. These have faced their share of ridicule for their small size and limitations but I saw enough of them to know that at least some people are buying and using them.

The best part of the walk was seeing a Tesla Roadster. I love these cars. There is something engineering sexy about a fully electric car with a range of 211 miles and the ability to accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds (top speed of 125 mph). If I had the means, this car would be in my driveway. There is currently about £90,000 between me and a Tesla–probably more because £90,000 would be spent on other things before a car. It’s still a nice fantasy.

I spent an embarrassing amount of time walking around the parked Tesla in the rain. Even with the garish colour scheme it is beautiful. The black areas a carbon fibre and the interior is black leather. It is a beautiful vehicle.

Oh, I walked back to the subway station and came home. I will go back for the bookstores another day.

Adventures on the lefthand side

I can say, with absolute certainty, that yesterday’s drive from Dublin to Enniscrone was the most challenging of my life. I expected a bit of a challenge as I have never driven on the lefthand side of the road (well, legally) in a car with the steering on the righthand side. Similarly, I had not done so in Ireland. Neither had I done so in Dublin at rush hour.

That was the start of the drive and it was exciting. I repeated “stay to the left” to myself at every intersection. That worked wonderfully. I suggest this as a mantra to those new to driving on the “other” side of the road. The only real challenge in getting out of Dublin was a large roundabout that I circled twice (in finest Clark Griswold style).

After a couple of hours of driving I was sure that I had passed the “drive-on-the-other-side-of-the-road” challenge with honours. Then it started to rain … and get dark. The pièce de résistance came when we turned off of the (relatively) large highways and onto the (freakishly) narrow secondary roads. These roads were very narrow and edged with stone fences where there should have been a shoulder. The speed limit remained at 100km/h.

Holy whizzing side mirrors, Batman.

Between the speed, the unfamiliar roads, the rain, and the darkness I counted down every kilometre until we pulled into the parking area in front of our new home. It took two hours of sitting in the living room before I even considered lying down to get some sleep.

If you take a look at the directions we followed you can see why I was so confident after the first couple of hours. It was raining and dark around step 10 of the directions and the number small towns, roundabouts, and quick direction changes (even staying on the same road often entailed changing directions) made the last hour of the drive the longest of my life. Janet, acting as GPS and navigator, provided perfect directions. She did not fare much better in terms of tension. Apparently is was not only hard to drive, it was hard to watch.

That was yesterday. Today, we drove to the nearby town of Ballina to pick up an Internet stick from O2. It is barely working so we will likely go back and try Vodaphone tomorrow. The town we are in, Enniscrone, is beautiful. The girls have been out playing in a nearby playground (pictures to follow when our Internet connectivity is better) and are already planning on entering cakes and cards in the upcoming town fair this weekend.

I am still quite tired from yesterday so my school work will have to wait for another day or two before I get back in the swing of things. The same it true for the girls’ schooling. Everybody is excited about getting into a routine (a somewhat odd thing to be excited about). It is very comfortable here and quite similar to PEI. There are tractors on the road and the influence of agriculture is everywhere. The town reminds me of Water St. in Summerside from when I was growing up. There are many small stores along a single thoroughfare and few (if any) sport a chain-store logo. I am looking forward to the next days.

We don’t need no stinking papers

I am in the centre of the drudgery that is background research. I read and annotate. My day begins with waking up and reading. This is followed by coffee (decaffeinated–age is wearing me down) and some annotations on what I have read.

The good news is that I consider this progress and my understanding of the subject area is increasing. The bad news is that I am doing this in Amsterdam where I should be out enjoying the city. The good news for today is that it was raining with the sort of ferocity that causes animals to want to queue up in pairs and look for the biggest boat in the canal, so it was a good day to be inside and working. I even got ahead of my schedule by a little bit. This was a good day.

Tomorrow, I think we will goof off a bit and see some sights in the city. If the weather holds I would like to take a canal cruise. I have been told by both tourists and locals that these are a great idea and even had the suggestion to try a guy who owns a pub and gives cruises. I rather think I would like that. Apparently he can go through the red-light district as he is “private” and the big cruises cannot. Anyhow, a cruise is in the future, if not right away.

The girls are also starting to read through Anne Frank’s Story by Carol Ann Lee. I read it yesterday and it is a very good telling of Anne Frank’s life for younger readers. It will draw a tear or two from older readers as well. When we get through the book we will visit the Anne Frank House that is very close. We walked by it yesterday and the queue to enter was down the street and around a corner.

There is an interesting balance between wanting to get work done and wanting to enjoy the surroundings. I spent a bit too much of my time in Berlin enjoying the city and not enough on my work. Similarly, in Paris, I spent no time on my work at all. Now it is time to pay for my laziness and read and annotate and read. As the mornings are fuelled by coffee, the evenings are powered by beer. Amstel beer (even the 1870 variety) is tolerable when very cold. Grolsch is better. The morning paper annotations do seem to be of somewhat higher quality but the evening’s are funnier.

Sun is cold and rain is hot

The pounding rain saved us from our naiveté. The sky opened and the rain came down in volumes that kept all but the most hardy inside. The most hardy were, of course, watching the rest of the most hardy in the July 14 celebrations and parade in the centre of Paris.

We had made a few loose plans around the idea that it would be great to see the parade and take in the celebrations around the holiday. Our visions of parades and picnics were dashed by the weather (no, check that, they were pounded and swept away in the torrents of summer). The rain was loud. It would maintain its volume and intensity for about an hour and then give the illusion of being finished for the day. We prepared to head out three times and each time we were glad to have not made it out the door because the rain returned in all its fury.

According to the Washington Post, “a downpour drenched troops and the crowd during part of the parade.” From my viewpoint, “downpour” and “drenched” are well chosen words. The people watching and participating were fortunate not to have been rained on for the entire procession. It was raining. We stayed in and watched a movie, read a little, and planed our next day. I took some pictures of the neighbourhood in the rain. Rain photographs seldom turn out well but I am posting them anyway.

When the weather cleared later in the afternoon we considered working our way down to the Eiffel Tower area to watch the fireworks that were starting around 11:00pm. We eventually gave up on the idea because if the stories of difficult travel conditions and extreme crowding. And, we get a little sleepy around that time normally. We did venture out a little later in the afternoon and took a walk to Gare de l’Est to the Virgin store to buy 5 DVDs for €30–a stitch in time for the next big rainfall.

The evening was cool–wonderfully cool–and lying in bed under a blanket felt good. When we were listening and seeing the glow of the fireworks we had a few moments of reconsidering our decision not to try to watch the show. A lot of explosives were sent into the air last night. I was just as happy to have stayed put. The neighbourhood was surprisingly quiet after the celebrations and sleep came swiftly.

Lake let down

A few days ago we wanted to swim. But there are no swimming pools or beaches, so we had to go to a lake.

It was hot to start with but when we got there it was raining. So we had to take the long subway ride back to our stop which is 10 stops away. Then when we got to our stop, we had to walk to our apartment, and we had no rain coats so we got wet.

Today we plan to go to the lake again and this time we hope that we will have a better time at the lake.