Netherlands 2015: Amsterdam flowers and art

We spent most of Saturday with our friends, so our touring of Amsterdam was primarily on Sunday. In the morning we went to the Bloemenmarkt, something we had inexplicably missed on our first trip. While touristy, it was still quite beautiful, with lots of cool bulbs, resurrection plants, succulents, and other plant-related things. Some of the stalls felt like a living bulb catalog.


Continuing with our botanical theme we took the tram a few stops to Hortus Botanicus, one of the oldest botanical gardens in the world. The nearly 400-year old garden is small and a bit pricey at 8 Euros, but features an extensive collection including a tropical house, cacti and pond plants, plus the weather was perfect for strolling.

botanical nijntje  Hortus Botanicus Amsterdam

Hortus Botanicus Amsterdam  Hortus Botanicus AmsterdamHortus Botanicus Amsterdam

As a bonus there was live jazz in the outdoor cafe that could be heard throughout most of the garden.

Following a beer break we next headed toward Spuistraat and Wijdesteeg, a street art section on the east side of the main canal ring.

einstein  street artkennedy & rabbit  street art

We managed to find a few things to photograph but it was generally underwhelming compared to so many other cities we’ve visited.

UK 2015: London – Day 2

Friday morning we awoke to a beautiful morning of blue skies, so we decided to explore Notting Hill. We started along the famous Portobello Road, and quickly found several interesting shops and road stalls, bringing home several origami butterflies from one store, and a sketch of St. Pauls Directly from an artist with a stall on the street. Part way up the road we took a detour to explore some of the beautiful homes nearby (!) then met up with our crew by the Tube station.

Notting Hill  Notting Hill

St John's Church  flowery stairs in Notting Hill

Everyone was hungry so we decided to go to First Floor Restaurant for lunch. I ordered the chicken caesar salad (Leandra had my anchovies – she said yum) and a half-pint of cider, while Leandra had the mussels (yet again) and a glass of rose. The food was tasty, but service was a little slow and we may have been better off with street food or one of the other cafes.

Down the street there were some great dessert stalls, so we got a florentine (almonds, cherries and chocolate cookie) and a chocolate pecan tart. Leandra searched for the blue door of the eponymous ‘Notting Hill’ movie and eventually found it.

Notting Hill Market  the blue door in Notting Hill
Notting Hill market on a Friday; the blue door from the movie ‘Notting Hill’

From here we decided to give our friends a taste of east London, so we took the tube to Shoreditch and walked over to the Old Spitalfields market. It was a little after 4p when we arrived, so parts of the market were packing up, but we managed to find some fun t-shirts and a good deal on four decorative dessert plates. As we learned on our last trip, this area has some great street art, so we spent about an hour exploring the side streets off Brick Lane; finding some old faves and quite a few new ones too.

Otto Schade  rude kids

street art  hug


pumpkin face  secret society

After a quick change of clothes at the we headed back out for dinner. We were a little early for our reservation so we stopped off for a quick cider (me) and Cottage Brewing street porter (Leandra) at the Fitzrovia pub.

Dinner was at Da Paolo with our group and Leandra’s Aunt Kim and Jules, then drinks afterwards in the bustling and expensive Charlotte Street Hotel’s Oscar Bar. The big hit of the night was discovering a new (to us) drink called “Scottish Lover” that we need to recreate at home!

photo courtesy of our waiter via Jules’ phone

posing @ the Charlotte Hotel
We didn’t leave till they were shutting the bar down at 1am!

By the time we left the tube was closed, so we had ~1 mile walk back to hotel – as usual, we had a memorably fun evening in London!

One day in Sydney!

Since we had never visited Sydney on our previous Australia trip, we took this opportunity to see as much as we could in our two nights and one very full day.

We arrived late Sunday evening, taking a taxi from the airport to our apartment. This evening was the Cricket World Cup Final between Australia and New Zealand, and we had hoped to watch some of the game in a local pub… unfortunately (for us), Australia had already won the match just as we got into our room. Undeterred we went out for a beer at Royal Albert Hotel which did have a few people celebrating the win. They had an interesting range of beer, and Eric went for the Black Dog Brewery Farm Dog saison while Leandra choose the ‘The Dopey One’ from Modus Operandi Brewing.

coaster drawings @ Royal Albert Hotel  coaster drawings @ Royal Albert Hotel
fantastic illustrations on coasters covered one of the walls @ Royal Albert Hotel

The Monday forecast called for midday rain, so we were up early for breakfast pastries at De La France with a ham and cheese croissant for Eric, and a bacon and cheese for Leandra. Good way to start the day! From there we walked to Hyde Park, then on to views of St. Marys and St. James churches.

St. Marys Church
St. Mary’s Church

stained glass at St. Peters
stained glass room in St. Peter’s Church

Next we went down Macquarie St. past the library, then to the botanical garden, enjoying the various plantings. The ibis and cockatoos were also fun to watch, with a large gathering inexplicably under one tree.

cockatoos and ibis

From the northern tip of the botanical gardens we had our first view of the famous opera house.

Sydney Opera House

Note the looming clouds? Yeah, we did too. So under threatening skies we hustled around the quay for more views, took one last panorama, then ducked under an awning just as the rain came down. Looking at the radar we saw that it wasn’t going to stop quickly, so we changed our plans to head indoors. 

Sydney Harbour
just before the downpour!

The Museum of Contemporary Art was closest, so we went there first, ducking under as many awnings and bridges as possible. As a bonus, entry and wifi were both free! We especially enjoyed several of the light installations.

naa (to see or look ) by Jonathan Jones

Automated Color Field by Rebcca Baumann  colored room

Earlier we had noticed signs for an exhibition on Australian pulp fiction at the NSW Library so we headed there next. While interesting, even more entertaining was a set of portraits of shopkeepers in the Newtown suburb and the impressive reading room.

NSW Library
And now it’s sunny! Welcome to weather in Sydney.

The rain had tapered off a bit, but it was still drizzling, so we ducked into the Rabbit Hole for a quick snack of chips and a cider for Eric, with the house white rabbit ale for Leandra. Inspired by the photos in the library we took the opportunity to research Newtown as our next destination. By the time we left the sun was back out so we headed north through a different part of the botanical gardens, then to Cahill walk across bridge for more photos.

view of the CBD from the Royal Botanic Gardens

the famous opera house!

Sydney Opera House from the Harbor Bridge

At Circular Quay we purchased train tickets to Newtown, which was a bit confusing, including a transfer at Central station for $8 roundtrip. The video screen didn’t list the train we needed, so we had to deduce the track from the regular static listing next to the maps. The train in Sydney reminded us of Barcelona, where they seem to be more efficient for suburb connections then for getting around the CBD.

Once in Newtown it was a short walk to Young Henrys brewery, where Eric ordered the Newtowner (ale) which had a nice fruitiness to it, and is only distributed in the neighborhood area. Leandra got the darker specialty beer, a chocolate raspberry stout (Edna ale) – brewed by one of their female bartenders. The bartender was helpful with suggestions on what to try, and the overall space was fun with many interesting art pieces on the wall.

beers @ Young Henry's

Next up was exploring some of the local street art in the area around the brewery.

street art in Newtown

street art in Newtown

street art in Newtown (and Eric)

street art in Newtown

As you know we LOVE street art and this area did not disappoint. There was a good variety of styles, paste-ups and sculptures.

dessert-1Working up an appetite, we made it in the door just as Gigi’s Pizzeria opened for the evening. Drinks were served with a pile of roasted in-shell peanuts to munch on. We were surprised at how good our orders were – a really good thin crust pizza, along with a reasonably priced carafe of rose. Since we split the pizza we had room for dessert and went with the special, a mille feuille with figs. Everything was quite tasty.

Fairly tired we decided to head back our apartment to rest our feet and charge our phones. As one last hurrah, and since it was only two blocks away, we went out for pork dumplings from Din Tai Fung later that night. As usual, they were awesome!

New Zealand – Christchurch

Christchurch was our entry and departure point for the South Island, so we spent one night on each end in the city.

First night: Sudima Hotel Christchurch Airport

We arrived near midnight and after two nights on planes were quite glad we had booked the airport hotel as all we wanted was a real bed. The Sudima Hotel was clearly used to late arrivals as we simply walked up and they already had our keys waiting for a quick check in. All told we were in our room 35 minutes after landing, including picking up our checked bag, and were asleep before 1am. The beds were quite springy but we didn’t care after two nights on plane, though we might have on a second evening. Also, the motel is rather noisy, so earplugs are recommended. They also had good local honey amenities. Check out was very efficient, which was appreciated.

Last night: Lorenzo Motor Lodge

The hotel was a small, two-level motel-style building. Our room had an inexplicable amount of windows facing the parking lot including a sliding glass door. Fine for one night, but it would have been a bit too open for a longer stay. Thankfully we have eye masks and earplugs. The room itself was rather large with a small kitchenette and seating area on one side, a comfortable bed and separate bathroom. We were provided a small milk for coffee in the morning, a nice touch.


On our last night we had ~18 hours to explore the city. Christchurch was not as pretty as expected, more industrial, which may be partially due to the rebuilding following the earthquakes several years ago. The botanical gardens were near our hotel so it was nice to take a quick walk through and generally not be in the car!

Eric with a giant ficus tree  balancing act!

dahlia  pink rose

Roses were especially beautiful in the gardens, and they also had some amazing specimen trees. Surrounding the gardens was a larger park filled with people jogging, walking dogs, and playing rugby, and given the wonderful weather that evening it was no surprise at the amount of people out and about.

We looked at dinner places within walking distance, but decided to try Burgers and Beer – an eight minute drive away. Eric ordered the pulp fiction with fries and an amber beer from Stoke, while Leandra tried the portobello and blue cheese with the dark beer. Quite good, but way too many chips! We also enjoyed their overall design.

burgersnbeer  beers

After dinner we drove to the edge of downtown to Pomeroy’s, which was noted for their selection of craft beers. Eric tried the pump cask spiced ale, hyperlocal since it was brewed out back! It was quite autumnal, perfect for the cooler weather we’d been experiencing. Leandra ordered the Yeastie Boys Pot Kettle Black, a dark IPA that she definitely enjoyed. As with most people there, we were sucked into the cricket semifinal between NZ and South Africa.


Since we were close to the CBD we wandered toward Cathedral Square, which was eerily quiet on Tues night. It was quite sobering to still see the ruins of the Cathedral several years after the earthquake.

Cardboard Cathedral  street art mural
Cardboard Cathedral and a beautiful mural

Then it was back to our room to pack and watch the end of the cricket match, which had a thrilling finale when NZ won on the second-to-last ball of the final over!

The next morning we crossed the street (eventually, traffic is pretty thick) for breakfast at Cafe Sismo. Eric ordered the ubiquitous eggs on toast, while Leandra ordered a beef and cheese pie with salad. Convenient and decent, but not memorable.


Overall, our impressions of Christchurch were pretty neutral. We would strongly consider flying in and out of Queenstown on a future visit as that would put us much closer to the main sites we wanted to see.

France Nov 2014: Bordeaux sights

While we only had one night in Bordeaux, we found it to be a beautiful city with cozy side lanes, large boulevards, parks, and lots of shopping. As in Toulouse, there are a number of beautiful churches – Eglise Notre Dame, Cathédrale Saint-André de Bordeaux, Sainte Croix St Michel St Pierre, and Basilica of St. Michael. Each had free entry and there was quite a variety of styles and suburb stained glass.

Cathédrale Saint-André de Bordeaux  Paroisse Sainte Croix St Michel St Pierre interior

Paroisse Sainte Croix St Michel St Pierre

Paroisse Sainte Croix St Michel St Pierre  Eglise Notre Dame

Cathédrale Saint-André de Bordeaux

Cathédrale Saint-André de Bordeaux

Eglise St Louis des Chartrons teased us for some time, as we could see it from the river and the park, but couldn’t pinpoint it’s location north of town. We did eventually track it down too.

Eglise St Louis des Chartrons

Eglise St Louis des Chartrons  Eglise St Louis des Chartrons

In between Bordeaux’s cathedrals are many other interesting sights, including the Bourse, the old city walls, clock towers, etc.

Place de la Bourse panorama
Place de la Bourse with a shallow reflecting pond in the foreground

blue door   street scene

Porte Cailhau   street scene

Saint-Eloi gate and the Grosse Cloche   Saint-Eloi gate at night

And perhaps the oldest of all, the ruins of a Roman amphitheater…

Palais Gallien

Saturday shopping was very crowded. We hit several our favorite European stores including Zara, Pull&Bear, C&A, etc but by 2pm we couldn’t take the crowds anymore.

Rue Sainte-Catherine

In the alleys around the pedestrian zone we found a few cool pieces of street art too.

street art mural

Bla Bla Bla   street art

We really enjoyed our time in Bordeaux and hope to make a future return visit.

London Nov 2014: street art in Shoreditch

During each trip to London we try to explore a new part of the city. Previous trips had us exploring Camden, and earlier this year, Boroughs Market. On this trip I wanted to go further east, so we headed to Shoreditch on our own street art walking tour. We started from the Liverpool Street tube station and wandered the streets between there and the Spitalfields Market searching out street art – we were not disappointed.

Edward Scissorhands by Squiddy Johnson Fashion Street

mural by Ronzo

by ALO  stork by ROA

street art on Brick Lane   street art on Brick Laneby Bicicleta Sem Freio (fish on the left by PEZ)by ROA

by Phlegmby Stik

see our Flickr page for more.

Altogether we spent about two hours enjoying art in the area –  our feet were tired but our eyes were happy.

Scandinavian summer weekend: a day in Malmö

welcome to Sweden!On Saturday, we took advantage of the hotel’s free shuttle to the airport, where we could catch the train to Malmö, Sweden. I was struggling with the ticket machine so Eric suggested the ticket window since there was no line. The agent told us that if we were traveling together then we could get a discount family ticket fare. Normally the trip would be 88kr each way per person but a return ticket for both was 288kr. So that saved us about $12!

The ride across the Øresund (Sound) was uneventful and short but the train schedule was a bit confusing. Many trains were delayed and the signage wasn’t great so plenty of people were asking each conductor where their train was heading. The trains are supposed to run every 20 minutes but we waited over half an hour for our twenty minute journey.

We got a bit turned around coming out of the train station but eventually headed toward the Turning Torso building along the water. However, we were rerouted by construction twice and decided to scrap that plan. It was a warm day – we needed to get away from the concrete and sun combination.

Instead we re-routed toward the Slottsträdgården (botanical gardens) that features an old windmill and lots of flowers. It was bright and warm for the first hour or so but some clouds rolled in and gave us a break in the early afternoon.

Slottsträdgården  flowers



wall muralEric had marked a few murals on our map to check out so we ended up downtown at the end of a anti-racism / immigration protest and watched the cops breaking down barricades and news cameras packing up.

I had scoped out the menus at the gardens to see what the pricing was like in case we needed to get cash from an ATM (verdict: also pricy), but thankfully the grocery store and restaurants all accepted credit cards so we never had to take out any Swedish cash. This is always a good thing as we weren’t sure when we’d be back and I certainly didn’t want to go home with $20-30 in a currency I won’t be using for a while.

We wandered around the large and small squares and I did some window shopping. Nearby was St Peter’s Church, the oldest building in Malmö. The interior is very welcoming, and they even had a little cart with complimentary coffee and water for visitors in the entrance. That was a first for us!

Saint Peter's Cathedral  candles

There were some good street art stickers and public sculptures arranged throughout the city.

Malmo  a heart ninja!

Malmo  street art

After all this exploring, we were feeling thirsty so we headed to the Bishops Arms for a beer. The bartender was very kind to explain their variety of beers and let me sample a couple. We both chose a Dannish beer, Svaneke Le Zèbre Saison, that was brewed on an island nearby. The outdoor seating was full so we grabbed a spot just inside the doorway which was good because it did rain for a brief spell. The whisky list here is extensive… its too bad it was so early in the day or we may have stayed for a dram.

Bishop's Arms  saison @ Bishop's Arms

Feeling rested, we got back on our feet and explored the pedestrian shopping street, Södra Förstadsgatans, where I picked up a cute top on sale at Monki.

At this point, we wanted to check out the Möllevångstorget area, so we planned to walk there, explore, then catch the train back to Copenhagen from the Triangeln station. We had wanted to check out a nearby brewery, Malmö Brygghus, but Google said it was closed on Saturdays. We thought that sounded odd so we decided to walk by and lo and behold – it was open! I opted for the imperial porter which was lovely, sweet and dark. Unfortunately, they had run out of the hefeweizen that Eric wanted, but he did like the brown, even if it was a bit on the hoppy side. We sat outside and enjoyed the air temperature and people-watching while sipping our brews.

Around 6pm, we caught the train back to Denmark (this one was on time) and rather then getting off at the airport we continued on to the main station to continue our night in Denmark.

Malmö was generally quieter then Copenhagen and many streets had a deserted feel on a Saturday afternoon, perhaps due to weather and season?