Category Archives: Pictures

Amsterdam is Amstermazing!

A few weeks ago, my friend “A” asked me on Thursday if I’d like to meet her in Amsterdam for the weekend.  I thought a bit, asked my boss about taking Monday off, and then let her know a few hours later that I was up for the trip.  Amsterdam had been on my list of places to go and I didn’t have any other plans, so why the heck not?

So, I set off for Amsterdam by train Saturday morning, arrived early Saturday afternoon, met up with A, we checked into our hotel, dropped off our bags, and set out on our adventures!

A had spoken with a colleague who’d recently been in Amsterdam and gave her a few tips.  One of which was that you need to arrange tickets to the Anne Frank house in advance.  Often the tickets sell out well in advance, but A lucked out and caught the website when they’d just released a few tickets, so we had tickets and were ready to go.  We arrived a bit before our scheduled time, and got in line.  The museum was really well done and it’s really moving to see how they lived and to learn more about the challenges they faced.  As time marches on and we’re more and more disconnected from what happened during the Holocaust, museums like the Anne Frank House serve as important reminders of the enormous tragedy and as a warning to us to remain vigilant against such things happening again.

After that, we started wandering toward Winkel 43, a cafe a good friend had recommended as having the best apple pie in the Netherlands!  Natuurlijk, we had to check it out.  But, on our way, we got sidetracked by the Tulip Museum.  I mean, who can resist popping in to the Tulip Museum when in Amsterdam?  So, we did and learned that tulips came to the Netherlands from what is now Turkey and that tulips are beheaded annually to help the bulb grow bigger.  We naturally decided that, if we ever started a band, we would name our band “The Tulip Massacre”.  After seeing videos of the tulip slaughter, we made our way on to Winkel 43, where the apple pie was, indeed, amazing.

 

After indulging in the amazing apple pie and catching up on what’s been going on in one another’s lives for a bit, we meandered back to our hotel and just enjoyed taking in the sights.  After relaxing at the hotel for a bit, we decided to venture back out for dinner.  Of course, we had to check out the three-story, floating Chinese restaurant we’d seen earlier.  The food turned out to be pretty good and we had a good time.

On Sunday, we got up early to head to the van Gogh museum.  We stopped by a Starbucks for breakfast and were greeted with a warm “Merry Christmas!” from the barista, who was rocking out to some most excellent tunes.  We had a nice breakfast and then headed on to the van Gogh museum.  A had once again planned ahead and organized tickets for us at 9am, right when the museum opened.   We got there a bit before it opened and wandered around a bit, finding the nearby U.S. Consulate General, the Rijksmuseum, and the iAmsterdam sign.  We then got to the museum and entered as soon as it opened.  A is a big van Gogh fan and had a plan on what to see in which order, and it worked out really well.  We went straight for some of the more popular paintings, and reached them before a lot of the other visitors did.  I’m no art expert, but I do like a lot of van Gogh’s work and I really enjoyed the museum.

After that, we were hungry and found a wonderful cafe, called Blushing Amsterdam, near the van Gogh museum.  I had a super-yummy omelette and A had amazing pancakes.

We then proceeded to the Rijksmuseum and spent several hours exploring.  It was truly overwhelming to see so many of the pieces on display.  Amazing artwork, Delft pottery, doll houses, Yves St. Laurent dresses, and more!  By the end of our time there, our feet were sore, but it was an amazing museum.  We then headed back to our hotel to relax for a bit before it was time for dinner.

A colleague who’d recently visited Amsterdam insisted that we try a restaurant called “Blauw” (blue).  The restaurant served Indonesian street food and it was really yummy.  The entrees came with a lot of different sides to try and it was almost all delicious.  Definitely worth the trek out to the restaurant, which was a ways away from the city center where we were staying and had spent most of our time.

On Monday, we visited the Amsterdam Flower Market and marveled at the vast array of tulips (and other flowers) available.  I couldn’t help but think about how much my dad would have enjoyed it.  Gardening was one of his main hobbies and he would have just loved all of the variety of tulips, bulbs, etc. available.  I could practically hear him exclaiming about he’d never seen this variety or how interesting that variety was.

After we checked out the flower market, we wandered around a bit, took a one-hour canal boat tour, found another neat cafe called De Drie Graefjes for lunch.  The food was delicious and we had a great time people watching.

After lunch, we parted ways and I headed back to the hotel to pick up my luggage and head on back to Frankfurt.  All in all the weekend was amazing and Amsterdam was a super fun city.  We definitely lucked out on the weather and had a couple of lucky breaks with getting tickets and reservations.  But, nonetheless, the city was amazing and I would gladly go back again, even if I was repeatedly reminded how bad my Dutch has gotten. 😉

Leave a comment

Filed under Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Friends, Germany, Pictures, The Netherlands, Travel

Yeah, so about those updates…

I’ve been lousy about updating.  And, I can’t promise that I’ll be much better in the future.  But, a lot has happened over the last year and a bit, so I’ll at least do a quick run-down of some of the highlights.

  • Spent seven weeks in Berlin as part of a really cool program organized by the German Foreign Office for “young” diplomats.
  • Traveled to Istanbul, Bucharest, Amsterdam, Luxembourg City, Madrid, and Split for fun.
  • Traveled to Berlin, Hamburg, Stuttgart, and Munich for work.
  • Covered for my boss for three months while she was out on maternity leave.
    • Also covered for two of our locally engaged staff who were out for significant parts of that time.
  • Got promoted (finally).
  • Visited my host families in Belgium.
  • Worked my first Secretary of State visit.
  • Worked the Vice President’s first trip overseas as VP.
  • Worked a ridiculous number of other visits.
  • Wrote some cables.
  • Went home to Texas twice.

Looking forward, I have a couple of trips planned in the next couple of months and some thoughts about some other travel goals for my last year or so here.  My boss will rotate back to DC and her successor will arrive this summer.  I’ll bid on my next assignment this fall.  And, I’m sure plenty of other stuff will pop up.

If the motivation strikes, I may write up some of what’s happened over the last year in more detail, but sadly can’t guarantee I’ll get around to it.  But I’ll at least try not to wait another year to update this thing. 😛

2 Comments

Filed under Amsterdam, Belgium, Berlin, Bidding, Bucharest, Croatia, Family, Frankfurt, Germany, Hamburg, Holidays, Home, Istanbul, Luxembourg, Luxembourg City, Madrid, Munich, Pictures, Romania, Spain, Split, Stuttgart, Texas, Texpat, The Netherlands, Travel, Turkey, Vacation

Here and there

Well, true to form, I’ve been bad about updating my blog.  The last three months have been pretty busy and I’ve had a chance to do some traveling, too.  And, I had my first visitors!

October continued to be quite busy with official U.S. government visitors, primarily from DC, but also from Berlin.  In November, the consulate’s Marine Security Guards held their annual ball and I went to Brussels, Belgium for training.   December was a bit slower, as both U.S. and German contacts were on vacation for much of the time.

Christmas was really, really nice.  My mom came to visit for about 10 days and we made it to three different Christmas markets, did some sightseeing in and around Frankfurt, and also visited Munich for a couple of days.  My aunt also came for a couple of days.

And, on New Years’ weekend, a friend of mine from Ciudad Juarez, who is now posted in Berlin, came to visit and we did some sightseeing in and around Frankfurt.

So, it’s been a busy few months and I’m still very much enjoying my tour here in Frankfurt.

Without further ado, here are some pictures from the last couple of months.

Munich's Christmas Market

Munich’s Christmas Market

 

Frankfurt's Christmas Market

Frankfurt’s Christmas Market

 

Brussels City Hall

Brussels City Hall

 

USMC Birthday Ball

USMC Birthday Ball

 

Downtown Frankfurt at Night

Downtown Frankfurt at Night

Leave a comment

Filed under Belgium, Berlin, Brussels, Christmas, Ciudad Juarez, Family, Frankfurt, Friends, Germany, Holidays, Mexico, Moving, Munich, Pictures, Thanksgiving, Winter

Busy, busy bee

Since I last posted about a month ago, things here have been busy, busy.  We’ve had a ton of official visitors, which requires a lot of work to set up and execute those visits.  So, it’s kept me on my toes.  But, I’m still enjoying the work, my coworkers are still great, and there have been some fun things mixed in, like going to Berlin and Stuttgart for work and catching up with a good friend in Berlin.  I’ve got a couple more work and fun trips planned in the next month or so, and I’m looking forward to that.

Without further ado, here are some pictures from the last couple of months (including a couple from the Paris trip I mentioned in my last post).

The Bull and Bear outside of Frankfurt's stock market

The Bull and Bear outside of Frankfurt’s stock market

The Eiffel Tower in Paris

The Eiffel Tower in Paris

The Arc de Triomphe in Paris

The Arc de Triomphe in Paris

The Brandenburg Gate in Berlin

The Brandenburg Gate in Berlin

Leave a comment

Filed under Berlin, France, Frankfurt, Friends, Germany, Paris, Pictures, Stuttgart, Travel

The Great Cherry Blossom Hunt of 2015

My mom was here in DC visiting me for about 10 days and it was great to have her here!

She got some genealogy work done at the National Archives and the DAR headquarters, and we went to Mount Vernon, had dinner with a cousin of hers, test drove a car I’m considering for Germany, and went on a hunt for the elusive DC cherry blossom.  Neither of us had been to Mount Vernon, so it was really interesting to check it out, despite it being fairly cold and windy when we visited.

Mom had planned the timing of her visit to coincide with the Cherry Blossom Festival but this year, Mother Nature just wasn’t cooperating.  It’s been colder here than usual this year, so the cherry blossom trees weren’t blooming quite yet.  We did go down to the Tidal Basin area to see what we could see, and one of the volunteers there told us that she’d heard that there were some blooming by the WWI Memorial.  We had a map that showed where the trees were supposed to be located, so we set off to find them.  We wandered for awhile and eventually found about five blooming trees near the DC War Memorial.  Not exactly the same as the whole tidal basin full of them, but still something. 🙂

In other news, German’s continuing to go well and I’ve also continued to whittle away at the things I have to do before I go to Frankfurt.  I applied for my new diplomatic passport, which turned out to be more complicated than I expected, since they’d changed the procedures.  But, after a few e-mails and phone calls, I found the right person who could get me the right form that I needed to submit with my passport application.  I should get it back in another week or two and can then apply for my German visa when I get a little closer to my departure date.

I also put my proposed itinerary in to the system, so eventually I will get my orders back from those.  I couldn’t do that until I was transferred from the Econ Course to the German Department in the system.  Then, of course, I forgot that I needed to update my medical clearance before they could issue my orders, so I had get that updated.  Fortunately, you can renew your medical clearance with a form if you haven’t had any major health issues, and MED updated within a few days.  So, I then re-submitted my proposed itinerary and hopefully my orders will come back in a few weeks.

That’s most of the news here.  Here are a few pictures of the stuff that Mom and I got up to while she was here.

IMG_4338

IMG_4371

IMG_4351

IMG_4386

IMG_4383

Leave a comment

Filed under Easter, Family, Frankfurt, FSI, Germany, Paperwork, Pictures, Spring, Texas, Vacation, Washington DC

Sightseeing in DC is out of this world

What!?! TWO updates in one month?  What kind of craziness is this?  Well, don’t get too excited, this update will be a short one.  After months of living in the Washington, DC area, I finally got out and did some sightseeing.  I’ve been in a rut of going to FSI for class, doing homework, doing errands, etc., and haven’t really taken advantage of many of the very cool things to see and do in the DC area.

So, yesterday, I made the trek to the Smithsonian Udvar-Hazy Air and Space Museum out by Dulles airport.  Most visitors to the DC area are much more familiar with the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum on the National Mall, but the Udvar-Hazy Air and Space Museum is quite impressive, too.  It’s a huge hangar and has hundreds of full-sized airplanes, from historical pieces like the Enola Gay, which dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, to more recent ones like the Red Bull Stratos that Felix Baumgartner jumped out of in 2012.

And, it’s home to Space Shuttle Discovery!  I will admit that Discovery is the primary reason that I went.  I’m a sucker for space shuttles.  And, this one even had its Canadarm displayed next to it, which ties things back to my assignment in Ottawa where I covered space issues and visited the Canadian Space Agency HQ and saw where they train astronauts on how to use the Canadarm.

IMG_4206

IMG_4235

IMG_4299

2 Comments

Filed under Canada, FSI, Houston, Montreal, NASA, Ottawa, Pictures, Smithsonian, Texas, Tourist, Washington DC

Quebec City!

Last weekend was Victoria Day weekend in Canada, which meant that we had Monday off.  I went crazy and took Friday off, too, and decided to check out Quebec City.  I hadn’t been, and it seemed like a neat place to check out.  It was indeed neat and I’m glad I went.  It’s apparently the only walled city in North America north of Mexico City, and has a super-cute old town with cobblestone streets and cute little shops.  I highly recommend it!

Without further ado, here are some pics!

 

Quebec's Parliament

Quebec’s Parliament

Chateau Frontenac as seen from the Citadelle

Chateau Frontenac as seen from the Citadelle

Governor General's Residence w/ period actors posing in front

Governor General’s Residence w/ period actors posing in front

This being Canada, there's STILL snow that hasn't melted.

This being Canada, there’s STILL snow that hasn’t melted.

The 22nd Regiment, based at the Quebec Citadelle, has a goat as its mascot.  The goat's ancestors were given to Queen Elizabeth II by the Shah of Persia. Fancy goats.

The 22nd Regiment, based at the Quebec Citadelle, has a goat as its mascot. The goat’s ancestors were given to Queen Elizabeth II by the Shah of Persia. Fancy goats.

The largest cannon at the Citadelle.  It's pointed south down the St. Lawrence river because that's where they thought the Americans would attack from. ;)

The largest cannon at the Citadelle. It’s pointed south down the St. Lawrence river because that’s where they thought the Americans would attack from. 😉

Buildings at the Citadelle of Quebec

Buildings at the Citadelle of Quebec

Buildings at the Quebec Citadelle

Buildings at the Quebec Citadelle

The seal of the 22nd Regiment, the only French-language only regiment in the Canadian Army

The seal of the 22nd Regiment, the only French-language only regiment in the Canadian Army

Gate to Quebec City's Old Town

Gate to Quebec City’s Old Town

Dog parking, 10 minutes max.  Not sure if they ticket dogs that are parked there longer.

Dog parking, 10 minutes max. Not sure if they ticket dogs that are parked there longer.

The Chateau Frontenac and old town as seen from the Citadelle

The Chateau Frontenac and old town as seen from the Citadelle

The mighty St. Lawrence

The mighty St. Lawrence

1 Comment

Filed under Canada, Ottawa, Pictures, Quebec, Quebec City, Snow, Travel, Vacation

Toronto!

Good Friday and Easter Monday are federal holidays in Canada, so I had a four day weekend and decided to go crazy and head to Toronto to do some sightseeing.  I’ve been a couple of times for work, but those were really short trips with limited time to do any sightseeing.  It’s finally really started to act like spring and it was a beautiful weekend.  I had a great time wandering around. 🙂

I went to the CN Tower, which is a giant radio/TV tower that you can tour, the Royal Ontario Museum, the Steam Whistle Brewery, Kensington Market, Chinatown, and some general wandering around and shopping.  I’d intended to meet a friend at the new aquarium near the CN Tower, but when we went, the line was awful and it was packed so we made a change of plans and checked out the Steam Whistle Brewery instead.  I think we made the right choice. 🙂

So, without further ado, here are some pictures from my wanderings.

Toronto's CN Tower

Toronto’s CN Tower

CBC's English Language Programming Headquarters

CBC’s English Language Programming Headquarters

Friendly Mountie Moose at the CN Tower

Friendly Mountie Moose at the CN Tower

Lake Ontario from the CN Tower

Lake Ontario from the CN Tower

Downtown Toronto from the CN Tower

Downtown Toronto from the CN Tower

Hudson's Bay Company

Hudson’s Bay Company

Hudson's Bay Company is known for their point blankets with blue, yellow, red, and green stripes.

Hudson’s Bay Company is known for their point blankets with blue, yellow, red, and green stripes.

Ontario Provincial Parliament

Ontario Provincial Parliament

Totem Pole at the Royal Ontario Museum

Totem Pole at the Royal Ontario Museum

Dinosaur at the Royal Ontario Museum

Dinosaur at the Royal Ontario Museum

Steamwhistle Brewery

Steamwhistle Brewery

Street signs in Toronto's Chinatown

Street signs in Toronto’s Chinatown

Canada and China meet in the Lucky Moose Food Mart in Toronto's Chinatown

Canada and China meet in the Lucky Moose Food Mart in Toronto’s Chinatown

1 Comment

Filed under Canada, Ottawa, Pictures, Shopping, Spring, Toronto, Travel, Vacation

Still snowing!

I should really update this more often.  Since I last posted, several things have happened.  My friend, J, came to visit from Montreal, I was in charge of a VIP visit, and of course, it’s still snowing.

Over President’s Day weekend, J came down from Montreal to visit.  We were both posted in Juarez together, and it was good to catch up and to show her around town a bit.  We did some sightseeing and saw the Rideau Canal, Parliament House, and the Diefenbunker (the Cold War-era bunker built for Canada’s Prime Minister and emergency staff), saw a movie, went out to eat, etc.  It was a lot of fun! 🙂  Here are some pictures of what we did

The Rideau Canal

The Rideau Canal

Entering the Diefenbunker

Entering the Diefenbunker

Diefenbunker OR

Diefenbunker OR

Bank of Canada Vault - Where they kept the loonies?

Bank of Canada Vault – Where they kept the loonies?

Diefenbunker Cabinet Room

Diefenbunker Cabinet Room

When in doubt, beat the heck out of your electronics.

When in doubt, beat the heck out of your electronics.

High tech computers...for the time.

High tech computers…for the time.

PM's bedroom

PM’s bedroom

Last week, we had a VIP visitor and I was control officer for the visit, since it touched on one of the issues in my portfolio.  I’ve served as control officer for working-level visits, but this was my first time to serve as control officer for a VIP visitor.  I did a lot of planning, a lot of work to set things up, and then stayed with the visitors for most of their visit here.  Fortunately, the visitors were very nice (which is not always the case 😉 ) and they were here for a meeting that took up a lot of their time here.  We also lucked out that their flights were on time and everything went smoothly with their transportation.  So, no last minute extra overnights due to cancelled flights or anything. 🙂

Aaand, as I mentioned, it’s still snowing here in Ottawa.  We did have a few days above freezing the week before last, but it’s now back in the below freezing range.  That’s not all bad, because it did let me go skating on the canal a bit, but I’m definitely ready for it to warm up a bit.  Here are a few pics from my canal escapades:

Entering the Rideau Canal

Entering the Rideau Canal

IMG_2731

No trolls under this bridge!

No trolls under this bridge!

Just a dad pulling his kid on a sled

Just a dad pulling his kid on a sled

Handy markers showing how far you've gone.

Handy markers showing how far you’ve gone.

More canal!

More canal!

Rest stop with bathrooms, a warming hut, and food vendors

Rest stop with bathrooms, a warming hut, and food vendors

Finally, I got paneled in to the FSI Econ Course, which means that I could then put in my travel plans for departing Ottawa, home leave, and arriving in DC.  I’ve put my request in, and it’s currently moving its way through the process and eventually I should get travel orders out of the system.  I haven’t been paneled for the Frankfurt job yet, but there’s no hurry on that.  As long as I’m paneled for FSI, I can leave Ottawa and worry about getting paneled for Frankfurt and doing my travel plans for that separately.  Now, I just have to figure out where I’m going to live while I’m at FSI.  Since I’m assigned to DC, housing is all on me, as opposed to being funded by State if I were in TDY status between two overseas posts.  I’ve got some ideas and am looking in to it, but it’s still a bit daunting to consider all of the logistics and to keep in mind that I’ll then need to go through it all again in for transferring to Frankfurt later on.

So, that’s what’s new here.  Hope all’s well in the blogosphere.

Leave a comment

Filed under Canada, Frankfurt, Friends, FSI, Germany, Moving, Ottawa, Pictures, Snow, Transfer, Washington DC, Winter

Escaping the Ottawinter

I went home to Texas again to see family and to escape the cold, snow, and ice here in Ottawa.  I had a great time seeing my parents, spending some time in Austin, shopping, enjoying the awesome weather (I wore flip flops!), aaaaand going to see the Alamo!!  I went to the Alamo when I was about 10 but didn’t really remember much about the visit.  And, what kind of Texpat can I be if I can’t remember the Alamo?

My flights home went smoothly, but my flights back to Ottawa were a different story.  I was originally scheduled to fly back to Ottawa through Dulles airport in the Washington, DC area on the 21st, but got a notification on the evening of the 20th that my flight from Dulles to Ottawa had been cancelled.  I called the airline’s customer service line and the agent rebooked me on an earlier flight through Dulles that had not been cancelled.  However, that meant that my flight from Austin would leave at 7:20am.  Add in the extra time to drive down to Austin from my parents’ house, get through security, etc. and we had to leave at about 4:30am.  I made it down to Austin, through security, and was waiting for the flight when I got a notification that the new Dulles to Ottawa flight had been cancelled.  The agent rebooked me for a second time on a flight to Ottawa through Chicago…the next day.

So, we went back home to my parents’ and I crashed for a couple of hours.  The flight to Chicago left Austin even earlier, so we had to leave home around 3:30am.  Fortunately, all went well with that flight, and I got to Chicago on time.  However, the flight to Ottawa ended up delayed close to 3.5 hours.  It did, however, eventually get off the ground and I ended up in Ottawa about 30 hours later than intended.  I was exhausted and relieved to get home.  And the diplokitty was very glad to see me. 🙂

So, without further ado, here are a few pictures from the trip.

WiFi and Inspiration.  What more could you want?

WiFi and Inspiration. What more could you want?

The Alamo

The Alamo

Alamo Grounds

Alamo Grounds

Alamo Grounds

Alamo Grounds

Alamo Grounds

Alamo Grounds

Lovely Austin Weather

Lovely Austin Weather

Neat tunnel at the Chicago airport

Neat tunnel at the Chicago airport

Back in Ottawa!

Back in Ottawa!

Leave a comment

Filed under Alamo, Austin, Canada, Chicago, Diplocat, Home, Ottawa, Pictures, San Antonio, Texas, Texpat, Travel, Vacation, Washington DC