Sun, 04/24/16. Sleepy Arles.
Arles is a really, really sleepy little town. We planned to walk through
it and go to some parks and stuff, and it only took us about 20 minutes to
see just about everything in town. We saw the old Roman style theater and
arena, and at night while Eva stayed home with Auri who was sick and a
little feverish, the rest of us went out to a delicious dinner at a place
called Le Criquet which was recommended in various websites, and it really
lived up to its reputation. For dessert they had an awesome ile flotante
which actually was not a hit with the kids, but the adults loved it. In
many ways Arles is totally different from Paris, with a slow, lethargic
feeling around the town and a totally different look and pace of life, but
one little annoying similarity is the apparent disdain for kids eating and
making any kind of noise in restaurants, trains and other places. Still,
we're having a really good time, and everyone is getting along great and
juggling the 3 different languages, English, French and Finnish, though
mostly English thanks to the generosity and expert English of our Finnish
friends. When speaking to everyone as a group we've been trying to use
French but it seems to evolve into English often.
Sat, 04/23/16. Aarles.
My computer crashed on Sat, 4/22, and was basically out of order for a
couple days til I completely reformatted it, so I'm actually writing this
on Mon. Sat we went to Arles with our friends the Aaltos, and checked into
a beautiful house they'd reserved in Arles, with like 9 rooms on 4 levels,
with 4 bathrooms, 2 kitchens, and just an incredible amount of decorations
and furniture. We met the owners on their way out to go sailing, and they
were really nice and had a bottle of wine with us. Unfortunately Auri was
getting sick and Gemma seemed to be maybe getting a urinary infection, and
my computer crashed at night, but
otherwise the trip was starting off great. We went to a park near our
place where there is a cool maze made out of bushes, and also a cave
carved out of a big bush, which the kids loved.
Fri, 04/22/16. Seminar and rock climbing.
Today I gave my talk at CWI and Jean and the kids watched. Max seemed to
have really listened and said his favorite parts were when I showed a
graphic about earthquake damage and when I joked I was trying to be as
boring as possible because I'd thought of the idea for this talk when I
was listening to a boring talk a year ago. Gemma said her favorite part
was when it ended so she could leave. Afterwards I stayed at the
conference for a few hours while Jean took the kids to a rock climbing
place where they had a great time and were tired out for the train ride
back to Paris.
Thu, 04/21/16. Tandem bikes.
It's sometimes a little tricky to tell whether Dutch people are speaking
English to us or Dutch, because the language is so close to English
anyway. They say something sounding like "Gud moernen kan e hilp ye?"
either way. Anyway this morning we went on a canal boat tour which was
very cool, and in the afternoon rented tandem bikes and rode all around
the big park in the middle of Amsterdam. It was a beautiful day again and
we all had a great time. Jean went with Maxie who kept yelling to go
faster and faster all the time, while I went with Gems who just calmly sat
in the bike enjoying herself, and proclaiming she might start
crying happy tears. When we tried out bikes, at one point we considered
letting the kids ride bikes themselves, and Gemma practiced on the kid
bike and went on 2 wheels for her first time ever, inside the store.
At night we ate in Jean's friend Anneike's recommendation, Food Halle,
which was again delicious, so we've really been eating well here.
Wed, 04/20/16. Hide and Gogh Seek.
This is proving to be a really fun trip to Amsterdam. The weather has been
beautiful, we're all in perfect health, and the city is so nice and lively
right now. Today we went to the Van Gogh museum, where they had these
great treasure hunts for the kids and Max and Gemma loved doing them with
us. Lots of museums have them and sometimes they're just distracting but
these were just the perfect difficulty level. Max and Gemma had some
hilarious answers. They told you to find a certain painting, and then
asked what you thought the woman was thinking, or things like that, and on
one called the Potato Eaters, Max said the woman was thinking "I want
butter," whereas Gemma thought she was thinking, "We're poor, but we love
our life, and maybe some day we'll be rich." They also had you imitate
Vincent's signature from one painting, and Max wrote something like
"Urmini!", with the exclamation point. After the museum, Jean checked out
the MoCo museum of modern and contemporary art while the kids and I played
hide and go seek in the park. Max at one point couldn't find either of us
and got sad, so after that we had Max and Gemma either hide or seek
together, so at least neither of them would be alone. We wandered home
having trouble finding a place to eat, as the place recommended to us by
our hotel was closed, but we stumbled on a great place with delicious
burgers and ribs. So far I've got to say Dutch food has been outstanding.
I thought maybe Paris had spoiled us but I guess not.
Tue, 04/19/16. Hamsterdam.
Today we took a train to Amsterdam, or Hamsterdam as the kids call it, and
it's beautiful here. I had been here 22 years ago for 2 days, got mugged
and didn't remember much else, but now I can see why people love it. The
canals and parks and everything were just beautiful, and it was nice and
sunny so we wandered through the huge park and everything was in bloom.
Max and Gemma were climbing on trees and playing with the huge branches
stacked up in the playground. It seems like a very easy and relaxing place
to visit, as everyone speaks perfect English and the restaurants and stuff
seem very kid friendly.
Mon, 04/18/16. Underwear.
Today while I relaxed with Max and Gems, Jean went out and did some
errands including returning some shoes at Decathlon and I asked her to buy
me some underwear there. She had a crazy time getting there because of a
closed metro station, and ended up taking a taxi, and then when leaving
the store, the detector beeped and the security guard came and gave her a
hard time and accused her of stealing men's underwear! He didn't speak any
English and Jean defended herself all in French and got it resolved, but
apparently it took like 30 min and involved them referring to their
security cameras. Tomorrow morning we are off to Amsterdam where I'm the
keynote speaker at a conference on Friday, and before then we plan to go
to parks and museums and see some canals, windmills, tulips, wooden shoes,
Edam, chocolate, and beer.