Friday, November 03, 2017

Hank and I observed our 20 year anniversary last year. We had grand visions of celebrating the occasion with a fancy trip to Europe, smoking croissants, and visiting whatever Europe's version of Mt. Rushmore is. However, as you might expect from a couple that eloped to Vegas and still hasn't planned their long-promised wedding reception, we never got around to actually booking that trip. We justified it by saying, "well, if we postpone the celebration another year, we'll have shipped our kid off to college and we can travel teenager-free!"

(Oh, by the way, we shipped Daisy off to college. More on that another day, but she's doing great.)

So, last month, we actually flew to Europe to celebrate our 20th anniversary a mere 13 months late. We visited Amsterdam, Paris, and Barcelona and had an amazing time. Part of what made our trip great was all the recommendations we got from friends. So, I'm going to pay it forward and pass on my personal recommendations to you all.  yw.


Amsterdam is a beautiful and clean city with gorgeous canals and a rich history. It's also famous for great museums and a "coffee-shop" culture that features weed. If you love the Dutch Masters like I love the Dutch masters (oh my god, I hate the Dutch Masters) I recommend combining Amsterdam's world-class "coffee-shops" with their world-class museums. Together you'll find the Dutch Masters to be hilarious. I'm sure some sober people can appreciate ancient paintings of nearly bald women accompanied by dead birds and bowls of fruit, but I am a lesser being.

Of course I'd be remiss if I didn't also mention Amsterdam's famous cuisine. Think back to your favorite Dutch restaurant...

Yeah, me either.

I guess I'd recommend one of the following approaches if eating non-bland food is a priority for you:

1) Throw money at the problem! Good food is all over the world, but sometimes you have to pay more for it.

2) Burgers! The Dutch don't mess those up at all.

3) Hit an Indonesian restaurant. Colonialism has ensured that there are many of them in the Netherlands so if you make sure to ask for some spicy sauce on the side, you can actually get a flavorful meal.

All this being said, we really did have an excellent time in Amsterdam. The city is charming and walkable and I could happily live there provided I had steady access to hot sauce.


You know it's a great trip when Paris is the crappiest city on your itinerary. I don't feel like we really figured out how to best spend time in the city, so instead of making recommendations for tourists, I'm going to tell Paris how to fix itself.

1) The city is filled with gorgeous old buildings that are both charm-filled and soot-covered. How about an annual powerwash day?

2) Visiting The Eiffel tower is a worthy tourist experience, and as you might expect, it's crowded. I knew that it would take a while to get in/up the Eiffel tower. What I didn't realize is how long it takes to get down off the tower. How about a slide?

3) As near as I can tell by walking past the Louvre and gazing into the windows, there are spaces in the main building which appear to be underutilized. Monetize with condos!

4) Eating in a Parisian restaurant is an experience that is not to be rushed. This is an ideal approach for those people who have infinite time, For the fraction of us that expect to die some day, how about bringing the check?

5) I know wine is a thing in France, but they need to up their cocktail game. If I ask for a martini and the response from the waiter is "Red or white?" you know you are far from home.

Note that we also very much enjoyed our time in Paris. Hank hated the Moulin Rouge, but I'm able to find joy in the campiest of shows, so I managed to even enjoy that evening. Also, boobs.


This was our favorite city. It's architecturally interesting. The food is fresh, varied, and bursting with flavor. It sits on the Mediterranean so the temperature is pleasant and there are lovely beaches. And everything designed by Gaudi is striking, clever, and weird.

See a lot of Gaudi. Make some good dinner reservations. Explore the city on foot, bike, and train. It's all amazing.

My favorite moment of the trip, however, might have been on the flight home. We were on an older model airplane that didn't have any entertainment screens, and my "window" seat was in the one row of the plane that did not actually have a window. The meal was classic airplane food featuring a potato salad that wildly veered bite-to-bite from blandly unpleasant to unpleasantly bland.

At one point Hank entertained herself by grabbing the paper lines from my meal tray, and using it as a drawing pad. I couldn't see what she was drawing but my interest wasn't really piqued until she flipped it over and carefully applied four dabs of potato salad to the backside of the paper. She then leaned over me and slapped the paper against my wall. That potato salad might have been blandly unpleasantly bland, but damned if it didn't make a good adhesive.

She followed up by drawing me an entertainment screen.

Thanks, Hank! Happy 14-month belated 20th anniversary!


Lexi said...

Cool virtual window :o)

tinyhands said...

FYI, I have a fantastic restaurant recommendation in Amsterdam if you ever become a time traveler and decide to do the trip over again. But remind me if you have any food allergies I should know about. I want to say shellfish? Nevermind.

Mike said...

Thanks, Lexi!

Tinyhands, what is the recommendation? I'm food allergy free, but prefer my vegetables unboiled and my meals generally flavorful.

tinyhands said...

"The Seafood Bar" ( - Van Baerlestraat 5, just off the Vondelpark and a short walk from the Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh. Not a hoity-toity place (I was there in May '16, so they let ME in) and not touristy, but make a reservation. Split a 'Fruits de Mer' tower of various crustaceans and, if you're still hungry, either a side of fries or the apple tart dessert. Or start with an oyster flight to compare the different tastes from their origins. As you know, nothing's cheap in Amsterdam and this is no exception, but it's a great value for what you get.

More important for next time though is to make sure you get out of Amsterdam. My sister lives near The Hague, so I was able to see that, Leiden, and several other small towns. MUCH more enjoyable than the city. She lent me a car and I had no trouble driving all over North Holland.

Mike said...

Those are great recommendations, Tinyhands! Next time I'll reach out to you BEFORE traveling.

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