pain au chocolat and other reasons i liked paris

we arrived in paris via a night bus from utrecht, netherlands. the savings of taking a bus vs. a train plus the advantage of not paying for accommodations seemed too great to pass up. i have to wonder if monetary savings ever actually benefit travelers' sanity, comfort or general well-being. six hours on a bus, in the middle of the night may have been the cheapest option but it cost me 3 days of a cold & flu, a day of sightseeing spent exhausted & catching up on sleep and the pain & suffering we had to endure while other sleeping passengers let 'er rip.

onto the good stuff...

we met some really fantastic people while we were in paris. most of them were spanish friends of our couchsurfing host veronica but that doesn't mean there aren't friendly parisians, we just didn't meet many. our first night veronica took us to a party at jose's flat. on the weekend we went to fontainebleau with some of the same people...sonja, teresa, andrew (he's a cdn from toronto not spanish), jose, and miguel.

a quick lesson in boating with our new friend jose acting as translator.

the highlight of our trip to fontainebleau was the opportunity to try boating on the canal. some of us were more eager to try than others but we all took our turn eventually. jay and i were in the last group to go. jay kept saying, "i'm gonna fall in" and we all assured him that he wouldn't. well, you can guess what happened. shirt, pants, hat and wallet...ass over tea kettle...

after the fall

on our last night in town we got to meet our san francisco blog buddies, alison & ron of 'leap...and the net' fame. we met on couchsurfing and had hoped to meet in san fran when we were there in march for evan & mary's wedding and never did. so it'd been a long courtship of reading each others blog posts and exchanging emails before the inevitable first date. we over paid for our french onion soup and got dirty looks in the bar-where-you-must-wear-black but i feel confident that we'll get a second date...

alison & ron from san francisco

of course we did some obligatory touristy things like visit the eiffel tower, arc de triomphe, and the louvre. but we also did some bonified parisian things like carry a baguette home from the bakery, avoid dog poo on the sidewalk and sat in the park on sunday afternoon eating the aforementioned baguette.

arc de triomphe

eiffel tower right up the guts

notre dame front facade

notre dame gargoyles

the famous louvre pyramid

jason trying to get kicked out of the louvre but they make it pretty hard to do...flash photos, people hugging statues and lax ticket checking. how very french.

next post: how we missed our train to bordeaux and other french delights ;p


we´ve added pictures

we´ve added an amsterdam picture album to our picasaweb account. if you click on the thumbnail photo at the bottom of this blog under photos from the road you should be taken to our web albums. for some reason we cannot load to this blog from the internet cafe we are at. there may be a good reason but its in spanish so we're not sure what it is.

it's costing us jay's beer money to hang out in this unairconditioned hole in the wall and post pictures so we'll stop for now and maybe write an update without pictures from our free wifi apartment later today.



rewind to berlin

as we flew over germany and specifically the area surrounding berlin, both jason and i felt a familiarity with the landscape. square plots of farmland, trees skirting the dividing lines...a patchwork of fields and colours. i became oddly homesick while in berlin. i'm not sure if it was this familiarity, the time frame that we had been away...i was starting to miss people from home and the comfort of my own space/bed...or if it was that berlin was the first city we'd been to where english wasn't spoken everywhere. all of the above i suppose. it was an overwhelming time for me. looking back at how much we'd already seen and looking ahead to the remaining unknown.

we were fortunate to find couchsurfing hosts again in berlin. we were first hosted by florian and rhea in their gorgeous apartment in a neighbourhood that reminded me of osborne village only older buildings with bigger floor boards, bigger windows and higher ceilings. i just wanted to stay in the apartment all day because the space was so soothing. flo and rhea were amazingly warm and generous people and it would have been nice to hang out with them more than we did.

our living space for 3 days in berlin with flo and rhea - "i could live here" said corina to jay

our second hosts were mark and andrea. mark actually contacted a radio station from winnipeg to request a song for our arrival. the dj´s talked about the email they received, jay and corina from manitoba, and couchsurfing. it was definitely a unique way to be welcomed to berlin :D

on our last night in berlin we tried to get into a club with mark and andrea...why not...we hadn´t really experienced any real night life on our trip yet so here was our chance. we waited in line for about 20 minutes, were let through by the first bouncer and waited in the 'you are almost in...wait patiently' line. when we reached the front of the line the second bouncer told us we were too dressed up and could not enter as it was casual tshirt and jeans night. 2 of us were wearing jeans, i was wearing a tank top under a cardigan, the boys were wearing button down tops (not high fashion by any means!). we had seen girls entering wearing skirts and teeny tiny tops before us. andrea tried to call his bluff but he held firm. i still shake my head in bewilderment whenever i think of this evening. i'm pretty sure it had nothing to do with what we were wearing and everything to do with our age. sigh. my first experience with ageism...

reichstag dome redone in the 1990s - cool views of berlin from here for free!

we saw some cool stuff while in berlin. it wasn't my favourite place so far but we probably missed quite a bit in our rush to get to amsterdam. we saw bits and pieces of the berlin wall, checkpoint charlie, brandenburger tor (which was completely surrounded by a construction fence as they were preparing for the 12th IAAF world championships in athletics), and the reichstag dome at night.

flat penners hanging onto the berlin wall...they just want peace, man!

flat petroffs join flat penners in the 'hang in' for peace

corina's feet crossing the berlin wall marker, 20 years ago she would have been shot

flat petroffs hanging out with the irish bear (of buddy bear fame) in berlin

flat penners in potsdam, germany...oh no is flat ellie going to be squashed even more while flat hannah and flat sasha just smile for the camera?

we are definitely finding that in larger cities 5 days is not enough to see and do everything. one day is spent traveling to get there or catching up on sleep from traveling all night, and at least one day is spent planning the next phase of the trip and doing laundry, etc. we've been in paris for the last 5 days and tomorrow we move on to bordeaux. we could definitely spend at least another week in paris alone but we booked our train tickets to bordeaux before getting to paris and now have to stick to the plan...lessons learned...we hope to slow it down in spain and i am insisting on 10 days in barcelona :D

guten tag,

p.s. if you are a penner like i am you may find this a bit funny...

when our host andrea found out my last name was penner she kind of giggled. apparently penner means begger in german. when we went out to dinner with them jason gave my last name to the server so that he could call us when the food was ready. needless to say he called out 'PENNER' with extra enthusiasm. snickers could be heard throughout the restaurant and patio.


we got lucky in amsterdam

*updated with a few details & photos on sept. 1st

when we first stepped of the train in amsterdam i saw red faces and sunburnt shoulders everywhere. i thought...these fair skinned people should know better and put on sun screen! but apparently it's not always so nice and sunny in amsterdam and many of the locals were caught without protection.

we are loving it here! the perfect weather, the canals, house boats, the mix of the old city center and the modern architecture, white haired children and bicycles. bicycles everywhere! we extended our stay an extra day just to see more.
whacky crooked buildings in amsterdam
we picked up a walking tour guide at the tourist information office. the area of zeeburg was highlighted by 3 tours of various lengths. we looked at the photos in the guide and decided to combine the 3 tours into our own custom made zeeburg tour. the focus of the area is modern architecture which is quite different from the old city center but some of the ideas are the same. there are streets that have townhouses where the facades are created by a different architect every 27m. twin facades are repeated in a different order on other nearby streets just like in the old city.
jason standing on one of nine bridges designed by local artists
the whale
flat hannah, flat ellie & flat sasha begging auntie corina
to stop walking & go for a bike ride!
flat jane & flat owen picked the classic black for their amsterdam bike tour.

we stayed with a lovely family of couchsurfing hosts for 3 days and now we are in a hotel right in the center near the train station. tomorrow we leave for utrecht to see a house designed by gerrit rietveld. i studied this architect in school and actually wrote a couple of papers on him and this house. i'm quite excited to see it for real!



flat people travel well

just thought i'd give you a quick update on how our flat nieces and nephew are getting along on this adventure. our four nieces and one nephew drew pictures of themselves, laminated them and gave them to us to photograph in various places and positions along our travels. the concept is from a children's book about a boy that flattened himself...flat stanley

flat penner nieces, hannah, ellie & sasha, at the silver dragon marking the entrance into the city of london.

flat petroff niece & nephew, jane & owen, on a fancy london lamp post.

flat penners enjoying a pint of local ale at the oldest pub in england, the fighting cocks.

flat petroffs chillin' with uncle jason while he drinks a pint of local ale at the fighting cocks pub.

flat penners hangin' out with auntie corina in the shambles, york, england.

flat petroffs wondering why uncle jason has a big spire sticking out of his head in dublin, ireland.

i wonder what they'll get up to in berlin this week...stay tuned ;p

Ireland home of the weeee people and giants, both

Top o' the morn' to ya all! (for those of you who don't know I am Irish on my mother's side) It is my distinguished duty to write the blog about Ireland. After taking the train from Edinburgh to the Scottish coastal village of Stranraer we made our way via ferry to Belfast. Belfast is the best jumping on point in Ireland to the Giant's Causeway. For those of you who don't know, the Giant's Causeway is a naturally occurring formation of polygons of volcanic basalt. In other words, the rock has naturally cooled from its volcanic state to form these; hexagons, pentagons, and octogons etc.. It is of such interest that UNESCO has made it a world heritage site. I must admit it is quite awe insiring...The causeway is about 60 km up the coast from Belfast. We decided to do the day tour thing as we got to see some other stuff along the way and a little of the history of the area as we were driving through.

First stop castle Carrickfergus (I desperately wanted to call it Castle Grey Skull and herein after all the castles names I can't remember 'Grey Skull' but I'm almost certain A:Corina would not let me get away with it and B:It would get old.) It was here William of Orange won somthing. I'm sure as there is a statue of him outside it. Second stop was Bushmills distillery, the worlds oldest whiskey distillery. I had a sample of a nice 10 year old. Third stop Dunluce castle, a castle ruines just up the coast from the causway. Fourth stop and star attraction, the causway...like I said, outstanding...and finally the last stop was the Carrick-a-rede Ropebridge, an 80-foot drop across a 2 1/2 foot wide rope bridge, which I don't know if it was worth the £4 to cross. (Corina chickened out) All in all a nice little trip well worth the stay in Belfast... (Belfast BTW was a little anti-climatic after Edinburgh.)

Next we traveled south to a smalltown, about an hour outside of Dublin, called Drogheda. We wanted to go and take a gander at yet another UNESCO site called Bru Na Boinne. This is an area with a number of 5000 year old tombs, some of which are passage tombs. We even got to go into two of them at Knowth and Newgrange. We saw some ornately carved stones that surrounded the passage tombs and a recreation of the Winter Solstice at Newgrange.

Newgrange Entrance Stone

Knowth Passage Tomb with Satellite Tombs

Finally, we had a whirlwind tour of Dublin. We went to the newly developed Docklands, Temple Bar area, Trinity College, drank a pint of guiness and saw the spire. Unfortunately, that is all that time allowed us to see.

Dublin Spire

We're back in England until we fly to Berlin tomorrow afternoon. We're looking forward to experiencing Berlin.


our time in glasgow...i mean edinburgh

for some reason jay had a hard time remembering that we were going to edinburgh not glasgow. he knew it in his head but his mouth would not speak the word 'edinburgh'. everytime we talked about it while we were in york he would say glasgow. it got to the point where i would have to look at him to see if he was seriously saying glasgow AGAIN or if he was saying it because he was teasing me. then on the way to catch the train to stranraer (via glasgow) he mentioned we had a one hour stop over in edinburgh...sly look in his eye...got a punch on the arm for that one!

so okay. i realize that i've now described london & york as gorgeous...but for really...edinburgh is gorgeous! i think my favourite city so far...possibly the most expensive...but that is par for the course when you are me. expensive taste is another fault (fault?) that has followed me on our travels.

our visit to edinburgh would not have been complete if we hadn't visited the castle. positioned high on a cliff...bluff...hill, whatever you want to call it...spectacular was what it was. up top there was a tiny chapel. the day we were there a wedding was about to begin. the bride arrived in a classic rolls royce and as she walked up the winding path to the chapel the bagpipes began to wail. the audio guide we were listening to really emphasized how pretty it was on the inside so we decided to come back after the wedding to have a look. it was tiny. i'm not sure how the priest, bride & groom fit in not to mention the 25 guests that a tour guide said were inside.

we spent a few hours going to and through the rosslyn chapel. made famous by dan brown's "the da vinci code", it now gets 10 times the amount of visitors than prior to the movie/book's release. the tour of the chapel consisted of people seated in the nave while the guide pointed with a red laser beam as the crowd was too large to lead around. she pointed out a few hollywood-isms that were not fact...such as there is no star above the stairs to the crypt and the crypt is just a plain room - nothing like in the movie. the ornate sandstone carvings inside are quite amazing but some idiots thought that by spraying them with cement they would preserve them. in fact the opposite has happened. the concrete does not allow the sandstone to breathe so when the roof began to leak the water went down into the pillars and had no where to go. they've put a metal shed roof over the whole chapel...not so pretty in pictures but they've effectively stopped the water problem. there is also a conservation project happening right now...i think the guide said £30 million was to be spent before it was complete. there is scaffolding all over the chapel which again doesn't make for stunning photos but it did allow us a close up view of the roof line.

other notes of interest in edinburgh are: the royal mile - from the holyrood palace to the edinburgh castle this is a mile long stretch of historical sites, shops and restaurants, calton hill - which we climbed to see beautiful vistas of edinburgh and the scottish parliament - which is a bit controversial because it went £300 million+ over budget.

view from calton hill - holyrood palace

scottish parliament

during our stay in edinburgh we experienced hostel life. a first for me...not for jay. we could only find a place with a 4 bed dorm. without going into the gory details we made a friend named kathy from australia. hi kathy :D

we're now in ireland...on to dublin tomorrow morning. if time allows jay may have a word or two about ireland...or we may just spend all our money posting pics to this one.

cheerio, corina