Camino del Norte Day 1: Here we go!

First day on the Camino del Norte in Spain

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October 1, 2015
Day 1: San Sebastián to Orio: 11 miles

Today we started hiking the Camino del Norte, the northern route of the Camino de Santiago, in Spain.  This journey will take us anywhere from 4-5 weeks to complete.

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The Hague, Netherlands

Me admiring the North Sea along with this stout Dutch woman (unfortunately I have no recollection of who she is, but we both know how to appreciate the beach!)
Me admiring the North Sea alongside this sturdy Dutch woman

 

While based in Rotterdam in August, we spent a day sightseeing at The Hague. Neither of us was exactly sure what The Hague actually was.  We both thought it was some sort of nebulous international entity, but as it turns out it is actually a pretty large city in northern Holland.

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Rotterdam’s funky Cube Houses

At the end of World War II, Rotterdam, like many European cities, was in ruins.  But the city rebuilt itself admirably and now prides itself on its cutting-edge architecture.

One example of unique Rotterdam architecture is the Kubuswoningen, or Cube Houses (also called Tree Houses).  Built by Dutch architect Piet Blom in the 1980s, they’re meant to represent a village of trees.  There are 38 of these “tree” houses, each in the shape of a cube.  Three sides of the cube are facing up, and three are facing down.  Each house contains three floors (not including the ground-floor entrance).  The first floor has a kitchen and living room; the second floor has two bedrooms and a bathroom; and there’s an open space on the third floor that can be used for an office or another bedroom.  The walls and windows are at a 54.7 degree angle.  Each structure has around 1000 square feet of space, but about 25% of that can’t be used because of the angled walls and ceilings.

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Rotterdam’s old town: Delfshaven

Windmill De Destilleerketel (Credit: By Michielverbeek, Wikimedia Commons)

Unlike most of Rotterdam, the borough of Delfshaven survived the Rotterdam Blitz in 1940, leaving its centuries-old buildings intact.

This charming neighborhood was once an independent town before being annexed by Rotterdam in the 19th century.  Historically, it was a busy port (Delfshaven means “Port of Delf”). Its main industries were herring fishing, shipbuilding, and the distilling of gin, and it was also an important location for the East India Company, both as a port and for warehousing goods.

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Rotterdam artwork: From memorials and masterpieces to random WTH

Rotterdam is known for its modern art, and you’ll find examples throughout the city.

Some of the works, such as the sculpture Sylvette, by Pablo Picasso, are considered masterpieces.  This piece is one of many portraits that Picasso made in 1954 of Sylvette David, a 19-year-old French woman who caught Picasso’s eye in part because she wore her hair in a ponytail (which can be seen in this sculpture).

 

Rotterdam Picasso sculpture

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Rotterdam: Random thoughts

“Most Americans go to Amsterdam.  Why are you visiting Rotterdam?”

This question was posed to us by a nice young man, a native Rotterdammer sitting next to us on the train from London, and he had a valid point. If you’d asked us a few weeks ago what we knew about Rotterdam, we would have said, “Not much.”

I couldn’t have told you what country it was in or where it was located on a map. Based on the sound of its name, I guessed that it might be in Germany, or maybe in one of the Nordic countries. I never would’ve gotten the correct answer because, sadly, I didn’t know much about the Netherlands either.

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London: The British Museum

Our afternoon spent in this exciting museum

A relic from the Elgin marbles

Dale and I were kids when Raiders of the Lost Ark came out, and it captivated us both. Exotic locales, tomb raiding, lost treasure, mummies—who wouldn’t want to be Indiana Jones? Archeology became a childhood dream for both of us.

So when we visited the British Museum, with its eight million relics, we were like kids in a candy store. The museum’s collection is the most comprehensive of its kind anywhere in the world, with endless artifacts related to world history, culture, and art. It possesses some of the most historically and culturally significant artifacts ever, including the Rosetta Stone and a large portion of surviving artwork from the Parthenon.  For these reasons, it is one of the most popular museums in the world.

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London: Random thoughts about our first visit

A summary of our trip to Great Britain’s amazing capital city

London is fantastic.

It’s also over-stimulating, overwhelming, and exciting.  But most of all, it’s fantastic.

Here are the things we loved most about it:

London is one of the most culturally diverse cities on the planet. It’s home to over nine million people and numerous nationalities and ethnicities. Over 300 languages are spoken here.   We found it fascinating to listen to the dizzying array of languages being spoken around us on the trains and streets and in the cafes and museums.

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