Photo Dump: End of the Road Festival 2009

September 22nd, 2009 by matt

Festivals are a part of British summer culture. There large numbers of them every weekend. They run the range of the arts, but the best known ones are music festivals (Glastonbury, with 200,000 people, being the biggest and best known). Carolyn and I decided that we needed to experience one, so we went to the End of the Road Festival, a smaller “boutique” festival of about 5,000 people. It was a wonderful 3 days in the country, camping and listening to music. Here’s a lot of photos we took while we were there:

End of the Road Festival Photo Dump


Photo Dump: Bruges, De Haan and Brussels

September 22nd, 2009 by matt

The last Bank holiday of the year Carolyn and I went to Belgium (See writeups about the sites and the food and drink). Now that we’ve written about them, here are a lot of pictures of our trip for you to enjoy

Belgium Photo Dump

Photo Dump: A Trip along the Llangollen Canal

September 22nd, 2009 by matt

It’s been a busy month. We’ve just finished up another long weekend of travel, this time along the Welsh border. We rented a canal boat with our friends Ben, Gerry and Dan and travelled at a leisurely pace along the one of the many canals of England. These used to be the power house that allowed the Industrial Revolution to get their goods smoothly from the North down to London and then onto the rest of the world. They were made obselete by the railroads, trucking and cheap Asian labor, but now they exist as a way to enjoy the English countryside. Here are the photos I took from that trip (our friends took many more, but I think this covers it pretty well):

Canal boat trip photos

Food and Drink in Belgium

September 17th, 2009 by matt

Since Carolyn did such an admirable job summing up our visual fun in Belgium, it’s my turn to sum up what we consumed whilst we were there. Belgium is known for good eats and an amazing array of beers. For a country of its size, they have hundreds of beers made there. Ignoring the swill that comes out of Inbev (yes, a Belgian company that managed to buy Anheuser-Busch), they have some very good beers and all of them have their own special glass to drink out of. I’ll just sum up a few of the more interesting ones we had (we managed to sample over 20 different beers in our weekend there, so I won’t bore you with the details).


Der Garre is a small, old bar in the center of Bruges. They have contracted out with a brewer to make their house beer. Bruges is touristy, and this place had plenty of them, but they claim the locals come just for this beer. I can understand why. It is high in alcohol (12%), but the alcohol doesn’t overwhelm it. So it has a refreshing taste as well. And it’s nice to have a little cheese with it as well. The bar was friendly and bustling both times we went.


This is Carolyn in the bar of the De Halve Maan Brewery, the last remaining brewery in Bruges. Right after WWII, there were over 30 of them. We’ve been on a few brewery tours and each one tries to make it a little interesting. As this place had been brewing beer for 150 years, the process has been modernized and requires less space. So, while they have a big building for brewing, they only really need part of it to brew the beer. As a result, they’ve kept the old bits around as a view into the past of brewing and show you around it. It was very interesting to see the way things have changed. People need not crawl around closed fermenters cleaning beer out of it while getting drunk on beer fumes. De Halve Maan make three beers, Brugse Zot blond and brown and Straffe Hendrick. We had all three at one point and they were all lovely. We liked the glasses so much, we bought two to bring home.


In Belgium, there’s a beer store called brewmania where you can buy a beer and drink it on site. The owner was a friendly, knowlegable and chatty guy who was happy to help find recommendations for us. This happens to be his house beer. The glass is an interesting combo of a typical Belgian beer glass but the stem is a handle, to keep the beer from getting warm by you touching it with your hand.


There are 7 monasteries in Belgium that still make beer. They’re trappist ales. Among them, Westvleren is the hardest to find. They only make exactly the amount they need support themselves for the year and avoid labels and other marketing. As a result, their beer is a bit rare and not cheap. It doesn’t help that they make very good beer that has won awards. Beermania had some, so I had to splurge and have a bottle. It lived up to expectations.


Now onto food. Belgium is a lovely place to eat. It’s even better if you like meat and fries. There are fries everywhere. We ate more than our share of them. The dish above is a local dish called Waterzooi which is a stew of chicken, veg and a cream-based sauce. It was delicious. I also ate way too much steak while I was here. Carolyn avoided that for more fish based dishes. We definitely ate well overall, although there was the occasional meal that wasn’t perfect. The lunch in the picture above was excellent.

Bank Holiday in Belgium

September 16th, 2009 by carolyn

The last weekend in August is August Bank Holiday in England (and much of Europe, I think).  It marks the end of the 6 week school summer vacation and is the last public holiday until Christmas.  We decided to take advantage of the three day weekend to hop the Eurostar under the Channel and head to Belgium.  The Eurostar terminal is at St. Pancreas station – just a 15 minute bus ride from our flat.


We took the 7 am train from London and arrived in Brussels at 10 am (even with a one hour time change).  Our plan for the weekend was to head to Brugge, the capital of West Flanders and a canal based UNESCO World Heritage site, and enjoy some Belgium chocolate, frites and beer.  We stayed at the Bauhaus Hostel just outside the main city centre and after dropping off our bags headed out to explore.

Here is the belfry in the city centre, we climbed all 366 steps to the top:


Here is a view from the top:

We explored through lots of cobblestone streets, toured a brewery and an old beguinage and enjoyed some good fish stew, steak, frites and belgium waffles.  We even rented bikes and journeyed a few kilometers out of town to Damme.


On Monday we got up early to catch the bus to DeHaan, a town on the coast of the North Sea.  We got to town about 9 am so the beach was pretty quiet.  We had it to ourselves for a little bit and then the crowds started to come out.  So we headed back to Brussels where we would spend our last night before catching the 7 am train back to London – just in time to get to work for 9 on Tuesday.

Here is a picture from the beach:


We only had one evening to explore Brussels but it seems like an exciting city with tons of amazing architecture – old and new.  Like this Art Nouveau building:


I’ll leave it to Matt to fill you in a bit more on the food and beer we enjoyed in Belgium.

Flashback: Carolyn’s US Trip in June

September 7th, 2009 by carolyn

Back in June, I made a trip to the east coast for my cousin’s graduation from high school.  It was a great week where I got a chance to catch up with family in Connecticut and New Hampshire and spend the weekend in Boston with friends.  I was even able to make it to my friend Naomi’s wedding (she was nice enough to schedule it for the weekend after the graduation).  All in all it was a great trip home.  Matt was even able to join us for the weekend in Connecticut to see all the family and celebrate the graduation.

Here is Tony getting ready for the big event.  Note the coordination of family clothing.


I had the chance to see my little cousin Carmen starting to crawl as well.  No photos to share but here she is celebrating with me and Tony.


Naomi’s wedding was at the Elm Bank Horticultural Center in Wellesley, MA.  It was a beautiful setting and ceremony and a great party.  Here is Haley and I with the bride:


And the balloon bride and groom:


Arizona Casita

September 5th, 2009 by carolyn

While visiting Matt’s family in Tuscon, we had a chance to venture over to Bowie, Arizona to visit the straw bale house my friend is building in the desert.  Unfortunately, she was out of town (in Michigan) for a few weeks so we didn’t get a chance to see her.  Ground breaking on the house was back in April and at this stage the foundation has been poured, the walls are up and the roof is on.  We had a chance to poke around the site and check out the views.  I was really happy to get to see the house in progress and can’t wait to come back to see it all finished.  I am so impressed with what Nicole has accomplished – she created the drawings, has learned tons about construction and with the help of family and friends, has been building her home herself.

Here’s Matt outside the house.

While in the area we had the chance to explore some other beautiful places as well.  First we visited Katchner Caverns, an amazing limestone cave, which was only “discovered” in 1974 and open to the public only after efforts were made to ensure its preservation in the 1990s.  No photos allowed inside.

Afterwards, we went for a lovely walk in Chiricahua National Monument, a maze of rock spires.  Although we left Matt’s parents at 5:30 am, by the time we went to the airport, had breakfast, went to the caves and drove the couple hours over to the Bowie area, we didn’t arrive at the monument until about noon.  So we set off for our 2 hour walk in the heat of the day, not great timing for us wimps used to England temperatures.  It was well worth it though to see such amazing scenery.  It must be wonderful to see this place in all seasons.  An example of the views:


After this action packed day, we headed back to Tucson and finally got to experience a southwestern rainstorm complete with thunder and lightning.

Photos from our August 2009 trip to the US

September 5th, 2009 by matt

By popular demand, I would like present a photo dump of our trip to Denver and Arizona. ‘Twas a lovely time and a good start to what looking like a busy couple of months of travel and visitors (hurray!).