Saturday, October 8, 2011

Dublin to Glasgow

Went to sleep rather late after the Dublin concert; Bob Dylan’s ended at 10:30pm, then a long walk back to the guesthouse (the trams were packed with people, and traffic was horrendous; walking seemed to be the best option) and finishing up the previous blog entry before going to bed.

I acknowledge the fact that the previous post wasn’t too elaborate with respect to the actual concert. Frankly, I spent most of my time being somewhat excited for actually being there and being overwhelmed with the new songs; plus, I wasn’t going to provide any ammunition to those, who might be reading this blog and then going complaining—about a show they hadn’t seen yet, might I add—to our honourable Guy Fletcher in his forum. This has happened before, during the Get Lucky tour, when things I wrote were taken out of proportion and out of context and then used as basis to all sorts of senseless complaints to the band. Pissed me off to no tangible end.

So… I hope you understand. More details about the shows will be provided as we go along. For example, tonight.

Charles Stewart’s Guesthouse’s walls were too thin to bear the noise and yells carried out by my merciless neighbours. In other circumstances I might have done something proactive about it, but being front row in Bob Dylan’s show meant a tremendous headache afterwards and all I really wanted was to shut my eyes and go to sleep. Popped a couple of earplugs and went to sleep in that cold, cold room (heat only works for one hour every evening).

Woke up early, filled with joy knowing that that was the last night ever that I stay in that God awful guesthouse. At least now I know what “3 stars” means in Dublin; further research shown that the Charles Stewart’s is actually of the better ones amongst them. For the North Americans who read this, I’d suggest staying in at least a 4-star hotel while visiting the city as “star ratings” vary from country to country, and 3-star hotels here certainly don’t measure up to 3-star hotels across the Atlantic.

Got some time to kill, efficiently used to roam around Dublin’s more popular areas. A walk down to Grafton Street and then off to Temple Bar, took me to this magnificent tea place called “The Joy of Chá” which is a heaven for tea lovers (which I am not; but it seemed like the right time to sip some tea). Their “Bad Weather” blend is very good.


The Dublin I was visiting this year is different than the Dublin I remember. I had first visited Dublin in 2007 when I was being interviewed for a high-profile role within IBM (which I didn’t get), and I remember it being vivid and colourful. The next time was last year during the Get Lucky tour, when it was slightly less joyful. This year, however, Dublin looks a bit cold and gloomy.

Dublin has been experiencing a tremendous growth during most of the 2000’s: businesses thrived, real-estate prices jumped through many roofs. However, the worldwide financial crisis of 2008 seems to have greatly affected this cosmopolitan city. You can sense that there’s quite a bit of stress in the air; less people roaming the streets and even Temple Bar seems to be less thriving than it used to. Businesses cut their prices, trying to lure people to spend money which, for the most part, they don’t have.

In fact, these are hard times in Western Europe in general, as the Euro zone is on the verge of collapse following potential defaults of Greece, Portugal and Spain (the latter experiencing some 20% unemployment rate amongst young people). There’s a great deal of uncertainty here and it is well felt.

Still, though, this city is pretty and is well worth walking around.


Birds are aplenty along the river…


This picture is a good representative of Dublin’s atmosphere:


And then off to Henry Street for a stroll.


Time passed quickly, then we took the Airlink to the airport (possibly the best deal for an independent traveller to get from Dublin’s airport to the city centre).

Flight to Glasgow departed shortly after 4:00pm carrying, amongst others, a few of the band’s technical crew. Remembering some of these fellows from the last tour, I was happy to say hello. Short flight to Glasgow, shuttle to the city centre and before I knew it I was already at the Holiday Inn Express up West Nile Street at the city centre. I remembered this hotel from my previous visit here last week—comfortable, clean, affordable and in great location (Pret-A-Manger, upon whom my UK diet is happy to rely, is a stone throw away).

Glasgow is a beautiful city and the difference in atmosphere between this place and Dublin is extremely hard to avoid. As soon as I departed the shuttle right at the city centre, and while walking up West Nile Street towards the hotel, I was able to feel it. Things move slower here and appear to be calmer and more soothing. This is exactly the same Glasgow I had visited last year, only colder (well, it was late May when I last visited here). Something in the city’s air made me feel much better; I was very happy to be here.

Quick set-up at the hotel and we went on our ways to hunt for food, walking around this city which is gorgeous at night. Friday night, lots of people in the streets walking out and about. Walked south on West Nile Street, then east to Exchange Place which is a beautiful walkway filled with shops, restaurants and whatnot.

Gazing at the menus posted outside, we came across a place called Rogano. The place features a cafe as well as a restaurant, but we didn’t know that, much to Jeroen’s dismay (as will soon be illustrated). Upon entrance, we were asked whether we’re headed to the cafe or the restaurant. I said “restaurant” because I was sure I knew what I was talking about—and that prompted the usher to make a phone call announcing our arrival. That was when I first came to think of the idea that maybe we’re missing something.

Well, what do you know. Turns out that this place is a well known dining experience in Glasgow, boasting an excellent menu. Clearly not the type of place when someone would dare stepping into wearing something like this, unless someone happens to have just escaped prison:


An respectable-looking couple was celebrating her 70th birthday in a table nearby; by the type of people around, I was able to recognize that this is not your everyday dining place. Next to us, a couple from England—Hillary and Iain—were seated, which provided the opportunity for a long, interesting cross-table conversation about everything and anything. Amazingly educated people with deep knowledge and understanding in arts. Was a pleasure to meet with these folks.

Oh, and there was food, too.


(Legend, top to bottom, left to right: Spicy potatoes & cauliflower pastries; Grilled fillet of sea bass, smoked haddock fishcake, mussel and saffron cream; Red berry mille-feuille with caramel cream, mascarpone ice cream; Crème brûlée, highlander shortbread)

Mediocre sleep in Dublin for the two preceding nights meant that I was dead tired after this long day. Back to the hotel and I was happy to finally rest my head on a comfortable pillow, without having drunken neighbours challenge my eardrums all the way through the night.

Signing off this post at 4:45pm; short snack now and then off to the Braehead Arena, for the second concert in the tour.


Walking Aimlessly in Amsterdam & Other Thoughts

(This post was written a few days ago while in The Netherlands; I didn’t get to finish it until now, as I’m sitting in a cafe in Glasgow. It’s raining outside, and what’s better than enjoying a good cup of coffee while polluting the blogosphere with my senseless drivel?)

Yesterday (Tuesday) wasn’t an overly interesting day, but still had me thinking. One of those “days of reckoning”.

Took the train from Delft to Amsterdam shortly before noon; Jeroen was going to take the train to a meeting in a nearby city, so we shared the ride to Amsterdam where I departed and let the Dutchman go about his own business.

Half past noon time, and I arrived once again at Amsterdam Centraal—that is, Amsterdam’s central train station. I have been there many times before and had good feelings towards that city. Got of course a bit excited as I left the station; first large-scale European city for me in this trip.

Perhaps I picked the wrong time to travel this year (well, I didn’t really pick it; Mark Knopfler did); perhaps I got way too used to living in paradise; but anyhow, I found myself getting a really strange, disappointing vibe from Amsterdam yesterday. Walking and walking through the city centre’s narrow, shop- and restaurant-filled streets, I simply failed to find anything overly pleasant to occupy my senses with.

In the last few times I strolled around this city, I found it to be pleasant, colourful, unique and exciting; this time around, though, it looked grey, unattractive, dirty and a bit depressed. Absolutely drenched in various tourist traps—mostly “coffee shops” and millions of take-away hole-in-the-wall “restaurants” catering for the post-smoke munchies; scores of tourists, some of which seemed to be as much disinterested as I was.

I ended up spending quite a bit of time in a place called “Grand Cafe Mynt”, which is a surprisingly spacious, pleasant cafe amidst the rush of Nieuwendijk, which is the main shopping and activity strip.

Time passed very slowly until I met Jeroen again at around 6:00pm. Hungry, we went for dinner at a place called “La Paella”, a Spanish restaurant in quite the shady area of the city center. Food was very good.

As we left the restaurant heading towards a bakery to get some desserts, we were approached by an immensely stoned idiot in a leather coat, asking to speak to us. He was telling us a heart-breaking story about losing his friends and asked who do we think he should be calling in such a case. We advised him to call the police and went on our way.

Not ten seconds passed and I heard quick footsteps from behind us. I turned around, and noticed that idiot walking fast towards us. As he was approaching Jeroen, I asked him “What do you want?”, which prompted him to gaze at me in an empty, vacant, pointless look. He then mumbled trying to develop a conversation about calling the police for helping him find his friends; I simply proceeded along my way as Jeroen was trying to get rid of him by means of pleasant conversation. Seconds later, another suspiciously-looking junkie was approaching, advising his stoned friend to “leave us alone” because we obviously “don’t know who to call”.

(Amsterdam, much like many other big cities, is filled with morons trying to scam innocent tourists. A commonly used trick is to make someone give you their phone—for example, so you can call the police to report your missing friends—and then run away with the phone. In Amsterdam where “Coffee Shops” abound, stealing has another incentive—how else are you going to pay for the drugs you need to buy just in order to survive an extra couple of hours in your desolate world?)

As we were standing at the bakery, a friend of the junkie kicked an empty bottle of water towards me, and hinted as if he was going to approach me. His friend advised him not to. I sort-of lost appetite for sweets, so we just abandoned our plans and went straight to the train station, to catch the ride back to Delft.

That was just about the experience I needed in order to decide that this drug-laden pity of an area—that is, touristic Amsterdam—is unlikely to experience my footsteps on it for the foreseeable future. There are many other parts of this city which are worth visiting, but I suppose I’m going to be entirely skipping the main area surrounding the central station for a while.

Much has been said about The Netherlands’ policy of permitting the sales of marijuana, mushrooms and other sorts of substances to help one “get in the mood” (for good starting-point information about the subject, refer to; people come here from all over Europe in order to settle in some joint-smoking cave and smoke their trouble (or, more often, their boredom) away.

Is it good or bad? well, that depends. I for once am not fond of preaching to people what they should be doing with their own body. If you wants to smoke something—by all means, go ahead and do it. Smoke, inject, do whatever the hell it is you want to do—I couldn’t care less what it is that you choose to do with your life and what substances you wish to let into your body.

This is much like my approach towards religion. I don’t at all care who or what you believe in—be it Moses, God, Jesus, Allah, Buddha… I don’t even care if you think that the entire universe has been farted out of a goat’s ass. Really, believe in whatever suits you, I frankly and genuinely don’t care (well, unless you indeed believe that the universe has been farted out of a goat’s ass, in which case, please contact me).

But the shit starts hitting the fan when people, as a result of following certain practices—

  • Attempt enforcing their views on others, delegitimizing others’ freedom of choice; and/or
  • Use their freedoms as an excuse to avoid paying the price, or taking accountability, for their actions.

In my standards (and sorry to be blunt; I sometimes tend to have very strong opinions), you lose your legitimacy to practice your freedoms as soon as your practice has adversely affected others’ rights to practice their own freedoms.

In “Man’s Search for Meaning”, author Viktor Frankl argued that freedom & liberty are only one half of the truth—responsibility being the other (hence his suggestion to construct the Statue of Responsibility in the USA’s west coast, to complement the east coast’s Statue of Liberty. Frankl was referring to “responsibility” in a very broad form, broader than what I am interested to cover here).

It sometimes seems to me as if our world is too obsessed with the “freedom & liberty” part of the equation, too often neglecting the other, least sexy part of responsibility. People are so vocal and aggressive when it comes to protecting their own rights (or what they deem to be “their rights”), often failing to think through the consequences of such demands. Søren Kierkegaard captured it well in his saying:

“People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use.”

A consequence (at least in my mind) of this is that, increasingly, individual rights & freedoms are being preferred and favoured over public rights & freedoms. There have been so many manifestations of this ill trend (one of which hit me very close to home: the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup riot), The Netherlands’ approach towards drug sale & usage included.

OK. So you decided that allowing (through regulation) the sale & use of drugs (of certain kinds) because you believe that, over the long run, this approach is better than abolishing drugs altogether. Fine. You know what? I tend to agree.

But did you think for a minute what happens afterwards? each individual’s reaction (physical & mental) to certain drugs is different. While some may simply get into a good mood and relax, some will then roam the streets, approach innocent people and rob them in order to be able to pay for their next fix.

So what could the Government of The Netherlands do? The best it could do would be to place police officers around popular drug-use areas in order to ensure that shit doesn’t get out of hand. But no, they won’t do that:

  • It costs a lot of money to continuously monitor such a large area.
  • Unless someone robs you, they didn’t commit any illegal activity. A police officer cannot touch a stoned individual just on the grounds of harassing you.

So if you can’t contain the negative effects of drug legalization (both due to it being a waste of public money, and a violation of “human rights”), then in the bottom line, what you had done is sacrificed public safety & welfare in order to allow just a bit more of individual legal rights.

Is that something to be proud of? in one word—“no”; in four words—“my ass it is”. Increasing individual “human rights” without increasing individual responsibility and accountability is not something to be proud of—it’s senseless, irresponsible, and perhaps most importantly in the long run—unsustainable. Can a society exist when individual rights surpass and supersede public rights?

I don’t know about you, but I don’t see it happening.

Finished writing & editing this post at 12:15pm, October 8, in Caffe Nero in Glasgow. Now off for the next post…


Thursday, October 6, 2011

Concert Day: The O₂, Dublin, Ireland (October 6, 2011)

Most of yesterday (October 5) was spent unwinding in Jeroen’s apartment in Delft; I needed that, to get my senses together after a terribly disappointing visit to Amsterdam the day before (I wrote about it but haven’t posted yet). I don’t know if it’s me getting old or what, but I find myself nowadays needing a tad bit more than my own internal drive in order to get up and travel.

Or maybe it’s the jet lag speaking, I don’t know.

Left Delft at peak hour, around 5:00pm. Carrying a heavy backpack in a train full of people (having to stand most of the time) was no picnic at all and by the time we arrived at Schiphol Airport, I was already sweating like an Oklahoma pig farmer.

Quick check-in, baggage drop-off, and even a quicker dinner and I really needed some coffee. It’s always a good thing to have a few coffee bars in Schiphol Airport, open 24 hours. Except, of course, when they’re closed:


Two ladies were passing by, noticing my amazement at this ingeniously-stupid sign, and started laughing.

—“I really need my coffee”, I said.

—“Well, sorry… that’s a really funny sign”, said one of them.

My big mouth came into action.

—“Is there good coffee where you’re going to? I’ll go anywhere”, I begged.

—“Well, I’m going to the toilet so this might not work out” came the answer, leaving me in the ruins. Life 1, Isaac 0.

Found a coffee place at some point, disgusting as only the feet of twelve mighty ogres can be. Quick walk to the gate, boarding and the flight left on time. Slightly over two hours later, clock was set one hour earlier and we arrived in Dublin.

Dublin has always been one of the cities I look forward to visiting. Following the repulsive Amsterdam experience from the night before, I was looking forward for some fresh air, fresh colours, fresh faces…

Quick cab ride took us to Charles Stewart Guesthouse, a hotel (well, more like a glorified B&B) very close to the famous Spire of Dublin. Small room, unappealing to most senses but I suppose €50 a night can’t buy happiness in this city. Bloody freezing outside, the heat didn’t work (according to the owner, the heating in this hotel works exactly one hour every day—between 7pm and 8pm. Stupid? yeah, tell me about it), noise from outside… not the greatest housing experience of my life. Still, I was tired as a dog so I didn’t care much.

I sometimes wake up a few times at night—usually when I’m stressed—and last night was one of them. Feeling a bit bored, I reached to my BlackBerry and went on some Israeli news site to see what’s new with the world and verify that my home country isn’t involved in yet another war. Then I see a large picture of one Mr. Steve Jobs holding an iPhone. Before reading the headline, I thought to myself “oh. So he did present some iPhone 5 after all”, only to scroll down and read that the man split the earth and is no longer with us.

I’m not an Apple fan at all—for many reasons—yet I felt sorry for Steve Jobs’ death. A truly admirable individual with tons of charisma and talent; if you haven’t listed to his 2005 Stanford address, perhaps it’s time that you do: May he rest in peace.

A significantly unappealing breakfast in the hotel went by quickly as we went on our quest to explore Temple Bar for a bit, passing, on our way, near the Spire.


Nada. It was early Thursday morning, almost no living soul on the streets. Tourism season is over already and man, is Dublin boring when it’s empty.

A huge teapot, in a nice place called “Brick Alley Café”, wreaked havoc in my bladder for the entire bloody day (up to and including the show; mental note to self—avoid over-consuming tea in convert days).


Bored, we decided to leverage the good weather and travel to Howth, a beautiful fishing village some 30 minutes away from Dublin.

I had first visited Howth during the Get Lucky tour (see post here) and it was good to get back and reminisce. Wind was cruel, making walking on the pier tricky and painful, but what wouldn’t I do to catch a good glimpse at the water? nothing.


That coat saved me. Very cold outside with murderous winds.


Another short visit to Howth’s town centre, lunch and back to Dublin. Excitement grew as show time neared.

The tickets said 8:00pm was the show’s starting time; the venue’s website suggested 7:30pm so we decided to take no risks and leave early. Delicious meal at Flanagan’s and we went walking towards the venue, The O₂. It’s a long, 2.5km walk in bad winds and cold, drizzly weather. At times it felt like the walk isn’t going to end. Eventually it did though, and at 6:45pm we arrived at the venue as people were only starting to arrive.

Shortly before the concert, an email from suggested that this specific tour carries a strict “no photography” rule. Bizarre as Mark has traditionally never minded still cameras in his shows (as long as they’re used in moderation). Anyway, we decided to not risk it and kept the camera at home. If anybody has pictures of the venue’s surroundings or interior, from before or after the show, please email them to me and I will embed them here (of course, along with credits). Photos from the actual concert will not be displayed here, respecting the band’s wishes.

Seats: front row, a few seats to the right of the absolute center. Traditionally my preferred spot, facing Richard Bennett, so my complaint list was rather empty. It felt weird being in a concert venue again, even though I spent four months in my life last year jumping from one concert to another.

It was, really, a weird feeling. But at 7:45pm, as the lights went out and the band took the stage, it wasn’t weird anymore.

It was natural.

They are here again.

So, what did we have here… lets see.

First, we had a standing Knopfler; during last year’s tour (the day before the Ann Arbor show), Mark pulled a nerve in his back forcing him to be playing seated for the remainder of the tour; good to see that everything’s back to normal.

Two new (well, one new and one old-new) band members, Jim Cox on keyboard and Ian Thomas on drums. Stage set-up wasn’t too much different than the ordinary, nothing appeared amiss.

What was, however, strange and new was the guitar Mark was holding. It’s the first time ever that I see a cyan (was it cyan? pretty sure, yes) coloured Gibson Les-Paul. Capo on the fifth fret and off we went to a rocking start. Some references to Ireland during the song made some audience members laugh as if they were happy that Mark speaks “their language”.

Second song also a rocking one (I should tell you that there was not even a short pause during the entire set; the band members were not introduced) and then came song number three.

Song number three got me a bit confused as I have never seen this instrument setup before. Mark held the same guitar he uses to play Donegan’s Gone (is it the Danelectro?) along with a slider and boom we went for a third rocking song in a row, a song I had never heard before.

So then I started contemplating whether this is a tribute to Bob Dylan (i.e. the band playing a Bob Dylan cover) or are we actually witnessing a song from the new upcoming album? A minute or so into the song I figured that this isn’t likely to be a cover of anything, but a Mark Knopfler original. So yes, folks: the upcoming album has some good rock n’ roll news. I seem to recall the words “Ain’t it pretty?” peppered along the chorus; I may be mistaken.

A couple of more songs I have heard before and then… interesting. Another previously-unseen instruments’ layout. Everybody’s gone acoustic and Mike McGoldrick sitting with the uilleann pipes; and that, for me, was the pinnacle of the evening.

—“We’re very happy to be here… this is also a chance to play some of the new stuff. This one is called ‘Privateering’” and the band went ahead to play this amazing dramatic piece (in C minor). I was literally set hypnotized in my seat, gazing at Richard’s and Mark’s guitar work through the entire performance of this song. If the upcoming album has more songs like this one, then we’re definitely talking about a winner.

Remember that name. “Privateering” (no, it’s not “Private Hearing” and not “Privateers” as some people asked me over email). It’s wonderful.

A few more songs were played and I noticed something interesting. Time was running out for the band’s part and still no Dire Straits songs being played. Indeed, the show ended (after about one hour and ten minutes) with no Dire Straits tracks on the set, which for me is great news. Not that I don’t like Dire Straits’ material (Brothers in Arms is my all-time favourite and I’ll definitely miss Telegraph Road) but the post-Straits material, in my mind, is worthier of live performances.

After an hour and ten minutes, Mark bid the audience goodbye and the band left the stage. Nobody got up as I’m sure everybody was expecting an encore; imagine our surprise, then, when the lights turned on and Bob Dylan’s crew started rearranging the stage for Bob’s performance.

That was it, then. 70 minutes show, followed by about half an hour break, followed by a Bob Dylan concert (which I will not cover here). A joint encore didn’t happen and by 10:30pm or so, it was all over.

Millions of people on their way to the tram going back; huge traffic jams so we decided to walk back. Cold, drizzly night and it was good to be back in this extremely cold room (there’s a draft from the window). Sitting on my bed signing off this post at 1:50am.

Tomorrow will be a short day in Dublin; flight to Glasgow departs at 4:00pm.

Stay tuned for more updates,

Monday, October 3, 2011

Leaving Vancouver; Arriving at The Netherlands

Vancouver—up to Expo 1986, a quite modest and relatively underrated spot—has seen incomprehensible growth ever since the late 80’s, often to be considered the #1 city in the world to live in. The 2010 Winter Olympics which took place there had a lot to do with the immense infrastructure upgrades the city has been experiencing ever since the mid-2000’s. Three of the noteworthy changes are the Sea-to-Sky Highway Upgrade project (converting this fabulous ocean- and mountain-side drive from a 1-lane to 2-lanes highway, each direction); the building of the Canada Line—essentially, a brand-new subway line taking you from downtown all the way to the airport; and the superb renovations made to YVR—Vancouver’s international airport.

Bidding my father goodbye, I departed the 1:30pm train from Yaletown (the Vancouver neighbourhood I live in); 20 something minutes later I was already in the terminal.


Even the terminal’s interior is amazing. The airport won the Skytrax Best North American Airport award for 2010—for the second time (first time in 2007), and the terminal building is very well themed after British Columbia’s most respectable trait—its immense, indescribable natural beauty:


Therefore I wasn’t surprised to find this in the terminal:


As well as this aquarium:


Sat down for a pre-boarding meal at Milestone’s:


Slight flight delay and we went on our way.

$187 spent in an attempt to have a comfortable 9 hours flight from Vancouver to Amsterdam turned out to be somewhat of a waste. KLM flies a McDonnell-Douglas 11 (MD-11) on their direct route from Vancouver to Amsterdam, which isn’t the most convenient aircraft in the world to begin with. Their “Economy Comfort” class, for which you have to pay to upgrade from “Regular Economy”, does buy you some extra leg room but still, flying with Air Canada you can get a better-quality “Premium Economy” seat for about one third of the price.

So keep that in mind if you happen to take such a flight.

Anyway, my immense height (astounding 1.83m) meant I just couldn’t get into a position suitable for any level of sleep, which resulted in a rather unpleasant, sleepless flight. Failing to fall asleep during the flight, I watched that Hollywood movie, “The Adjustments Bureau”. Nice idea for a movie, extraordinarily dumb script and execution. My advice: avoid.

Tired, but happy nonetheless, I finally arrived at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport. As soon as I picked up my backpack and arrived at the arrivals hall, flashbacks from last year’s tour kicked in: I am, once again, on the move; and when I’m on the move, I’m alive.

Took me a couple of more minutes to get into “train riding” mode. One way ticket from the airport to Delft, through The Hague—done. To the platform, where a lovely young lady asked me if I could share with her some of my experience in Schiphol airport. Rarely happy to answer questionnaires but always happy to say “yes” to beautiful women (that’s what my mother taught me), I obliged only to start thinking “WTF” when she asked me if I had the chance to use Schiphol’s restrooms. I said “yes”, genuinely intrigued as to what question was coming next.

As the train was approaching, she thanked me and asked me if I have any comments or remarks.

—“Yes, I have one”, I said.

—“What is it?”

—“I think you’re gorgeous”.

A semi-puzzled, semi-embarrassed look wasn’t too far off what I had expected; hopped on the train and off I went on my ride to Delft.

My good friend Jeroen Gerrits, with whom I had the pleasure of sharing a few dozens concerts in the past, lives in Delft. I have been here before—if my memory serves me right, this is my fourth time here. It’s a beautiful quiet little Dutch city about an hour away by train from Amsterdam, and about ten minutes away by train from The Hague and Rotterdam.

When I first packed for this trip, I relied mainly on my common sense claiming that this is autumn in Europe so I should better bring some warm clothing. Luckily, I double-checked with Jeroen the day before; turned out that October 1st, the day before I arrived here, was the hottest October 1st in Delft since measurements had begun: 26℃. Therefore I wasn’t that surprised to step out of the train into the platform and be welcome with a punch of warm wind and humidity that I’m sure even hell would object.

Nevertheless, it’s always good to see this good Dutchman. Quick setup in the apartment, then off for some afternoon coffee in “Coffee Company” at the Market Square, which is where things are happening in Delft: nothing much happens anywhere else around this beautiful little city.

Dinner time didn’t take much to arrive but did end up being quite the peculiar experience.

Before that, a word about the dining experience in The Netherlands (in general; even though the same holds for a few other western European countries). Tipping isn’t a common practice in The Netherlands as the waiting staff in restaurants get paid reasonable salaries (unlike North America where a part of the waiting staff’s salary is skilfully delegated by the restaurant’s owner to the diners).

Therefore, if you come from North America and you get to the typical Dutch restaurant, under no circumstances should you feel insulted or mistreated should you fail to see the waiting staff doing everything within their powers to impress you. Nobody here is going to kiss your arse for extra tips, which, in my mind, is a blessed norm (I can’t stress enough how annoying it is for me to step into Canadian restaurants and encounter fake smiles and artificially-enthusiastic manners).

So anyway, we were sitting down right in one of the squares, an outdoors patio-like arrangement when we were greeted by a young waiter. Now I can’t exactly recall how everything started—hell, I don’t even remember what I had asked—but within a couple of minutes, we were all having a rather enthusiastic conversation.

Which wasn’t that bad if there were no other customers waiting for service right by us, often looking at him and failing to understand why it takes 20 minutes to take an order.

About 5 minutes into the conversation, I was already familiar with much of this guy’s life. Barely 18 years old, dating a blonde model (he agreed to show a picture. Yes, she has been granted Isaac’s Seal of Approval, despite her being blonde which I usually take points off for). They are moving in together (she is 17), into a house that they bought (again, they’re 18 and 17 years old), much thanks to the guy’s father who happened to win €100,000 in the lottery last year (€40,000 went towards buying the house, another €30,000 towards buying a new car and I could quite get where the rest of the money went).

He was taking on a waiting job as part of his studies, as he wants to be in the hotel business (customer service is indeed a skill worth developing for that purpose). His girlfriend’s sister is 19 years old (blonde, too) and he happens to have a girl friend who is 29 years old, brunette and carrying a D cup-size bra—allegedly, a perfect match for yours truly. She lives in a suburb of The Hague.

This entire thing was pretty strange. I didn’t know whether to become annoyed or to laugh when I realized that the reason for our drinks to be 25 minutes late was merely that this guy found another patron to sit next to and talk to.

20 minutes after asking for the bill, it failed to arrive which prompted us to take pro-active measures and go ask for it ourselves.

Strange… very strange. But funny, nonetheless. Yet another interesting turn of events to add to my never-ending array of social puzzlements.

Didn’t catch much sleep last night. Vancouver is 9 hours behind Vancouver which makes trans-Atlantic visits a living hell for west coasters. It’s Monday, everybody’s back to work so I went on my way to enjoy the city. Perfect weather for walking out and about.

“Hond In De Goot”, according to Google Translate, means “Dog in the Gutter”. There are bylaws in The Netherlands practically begging people to clean up after their dogs (in Canada, this is very strictly followed) but apparently people aren’t listening, so “Hond In De Goot” asks people to at least have their dogs respond to their nature calls over the gutters.

Quite the picturesque place, Delft is:


Now I don’t know about you, but I’d feel quite uncomfortable having to be parking so close to the water. This, however, is very common in The Netherlands.


How about this, a floating patio:


Another huge patio, shared between a few restaurants:


A swan…


And what’s better than this amazing store selling cheese and wines by the truckloads?


Sitting down for lunch, I encountered this interesting item in the menu. According to the menu, that sandwich was a finalist in the “Most Delicious Sandwich of Holland 2010”.


I’m not exactly the type of person to easily dismiss such a bold invitation for a duel. Not cheap for a sandwich but delicious nonetheless.


Around 3:40pm Monday afternoon; time for a nap. Tomorrow—Amsterdam for the entire day, before departing to Dublin on Wednesday. Stay tuned.