Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Paris apartment buildings - they are all the same

After dinner on a pretty lazy first day in Paris we went for a stroll around the neighbourhood. While we were walking Marianne mentioned that our exchange host Krisztina had remarked that all the apartment buildings look the same. That got my attention.

As we walked along Rue de Vaugirard, I took a photo of each apartment building across the road.

A bit of construction for light relief. We then turned into a back street.

The variation is amazing. Once I started taking photos I included virtually all the buildings that I could reasonably include. Most of the modern buildings are pretty ugly even though they look ok with a zoom lense, but the older buildings are a treat for the eyes.

And as a reward for getting all the way to the end of the blog, you get a 2CV. They used to be common but now they are rare.

Gouda - hoof in mouth

The Dutch don't appear to have a very distinctive evening dinner cuisine so Gouda was full of restaurants featuring food from other countries. We passed by a Greek restaurant and while we were looking at the menu, the owner who was sitting out side enjoying the cool air invited us inside.

The restaurant was pushing a three course dinner for about 15 euro and here is the menu.

Now take a look at it and decide what you would order before going on with the rest of the blog.

 We worked out there were mushrooms and dolmades, souvlaki and medallions of something in a white wine sauce. We were puzzled by the first entry in the list of second course and I suggested it was a pigs trotter. We therefore asked the waitress (who spoke a little English) what animal this hoof thing came from. She immediately burst into laughter since the word Hoofdgerechten means 'Main Course'.

Now you understand the title of the blog.

So here are the mushrooms in a cream sauce. Not very Greek but very tasty I can assure you.

The dolmades.

The photos for the souvlaki and the pork medallions didn't turn out but the food was good. However it was nothing like going to a traditional Greek restaurant such as South Street Souvlaki in Philly.

The baked desert turned out to be a form of baklava.

The Dame Blanche was ice-cream and cream drizzled with chocolate and cinnamon.

It wasn't very good, was it. I didn't lick the plate.

Gouda - second day

After staying up late to watch the Opening Ceremony at the Olympics we were a bit late getting to the breakfast table. The girl who had set it up the day before was back and she a found a lot of the ceremony to be mystifying. She was puzzled about the inclusion of the National Health Service segment since all European countries have National Health. She did enjoy Mr Bean.

After the prior day's warmth and sunshine, it was back to the overcast cooler weather. We decided to take a look at the local church, the Janskerk.

To enter the church you have to walk around to a small side entrance beside yet another small canal.

And this is not the entrance to the church but to an old Hospital.

I think it is now a museum.

We could see the white blob at the end of the lawn and wondered if it was what we thought it was.

And yes, it is the back end of a dog statue. Well I presume it is a statue since it didn't move.

After paying a 4.5 euro entrance fee we got into the church. The organ was being played so we walked round to the strains of Bach.

It's a relatively plain church compared to some of the other churches and cathedrals we have been in. I am always amazed at how different they all are. It's why we like to go inside them.

The really unusual aspect about this church was the arrangement of the pews. They had been set up in a tiered arrangement in a semi-circle around the pulpit. It was a church within a church that appeared to completely ignore the architecture of the building. Whoever dreamed this up needs to be sent away to some modern church where a focused arrangement is more usual. The traditional large church layout encourages contemplation.

From the outside of the enclave it was impossible to look in because of the high wall. Even though I am six feet tall, I had no chance of peering over the wall. Not exactly a welcoming and open attitude.

Since I love classical music, I was more interested in listening to the organist than looking at the church. I do have my priorities. At first I thought the organist was very good but after a while my opinion changed for the worse. The left hand was not decisive enough and when an aria was played, it did not sing.

Anyhow, you can listen too.

If you ignored the preaching blot, the rest of the church was a pleasure.

Some of the stones were approximately 500 years old.

The church is famous for its stained glass including a set depicting the life of Saint John the Baptist. The church's web site has a virtual tour of the glass. However, the one I found most interesting depicts the end of WWII.

At the start of the war, the glass was removed from the windows and stored in boxes that were then taken to a below ground shelter.

The chapter room.

Gouda's most famous son, Erasmus. He was born in nearby Rotterdam but his father became a priest in Gouda when he was four.

I liked this seat.

Marianne loves blue.

We went back to the main square and went into the ornate Town Hall.

Detail of tapestry on a side wall.

The room is used for weddings. I sat in the seat behind the table for a minute or so waiting for a couple to come in so that I could pronounce them man and wife but nobody came in.

Delft tiles.

The building is still used as a Town Hall and on the top floor is this modern meeting room.

The meeting room fittings may be modern, but the roof is definitely of another era.

It was market day and the square was lined with stalls.

If I remember one feature I really enjoyed in Gouda it was the steps to houses crossing the canals. They were all shapes and sizes but quite effective. Getting a refrigerator up some of them would be a challenge.

By the way, our B and B was a house with a very steep set of stairs between floors. The steps are about the same angle as a ladder so if you come to Holland take only luggage that you are prepared to haul up a ladder.

We had seen this spire from many angles as we walked around Gouda but we never seemed to find the church that was attached.

It finally turned up across the canal from where we were staying. Unfortunately it was closed.

We have just arranged a house exchange for June next year in Amsterdam so I asked Marianne if she would like to come back to Gouda for a second look. She said definitely yes. It's a very beautiful and interesting place and we were glad we decided to come here.