Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Sunday, July 19, 2009
So it begins...a long due vacation after 6 months. Starts with me flying to Delhi, then Istanbul and finally Amsterdam. Though I have touched Amsterdam a few times in the past, this was the first time I actually got to spend 2 complete days here. After a long 5 hours halt at Istanbul. My Priority Pass came in handy for the lounge where there was a shower, food and free WiFi, though I kind of regret opening my email at this point in time as it just got me all tensed up on my holiday but the good news being that it got sorted out over the next couple of days due to some great advice from a swell person (who seems to always put me back in the right frame of mind whenever I am uneasy) back home.
Amsterdam started off by getting to the Move 'n' Pick Hotel (which co-incidentally is next to a Philips office). After checking in, went for a city tour followed by a cruise in the canals which was great...the weather is lovely so everybody were by their house boats...oh, in Amsterdam, people actually live in houses that are boats parked in the canal (Amsterdam is said to have the finest and costliest examples of house boats in Europe) and it is amazing to see each one of them. The cruise was lovely which essentially gave a great view of Amsterdam and there was some Dutch belly dancing on the cruise in the evening which was extremely graceful. A new unknown fact that I recently learned was that Amsterdam's airport 'Schipol' means 'ship hole.'. The airport stands where there was sea once upon a time and then a lake and when the water was pumped out to make land, a ton of ship wrecks were found and so the name. Also had a view of the Heineken brewery. And Amsterdam is so cool...it was 10:00pm and the sun was still up and it seemed like afternoon. At this time of the year, the sun only sets at 10:30-11:00pm. It's great if you are atourist cause it just enables you to see so much more.
We were extremely tired so after the cruise hit the sack.
It was raining outside and the weather was delightful. Headed out to a place called Breda where we had to visit the Dremel headquarters. This is the first time I had heard of this company and was amazed at the tools manufacturered by them. It's an extremely niche category with tools focused on users with hobbies such as plane and car modelling enthusiasts. A great tool I saw was a tool for cleaning out the dust from yourLego collection and as a huge Lego fan when I was a kid...I remembered how tedious it was washing them. A nice point to note here is that they have a manufacturing unit in Breda where they have employed around 400 specially challenged people in order to give them dignified living.
The evening was spent at a city tour again followed by spending the remaining evening near the Central Station which is Amsterdam's main area for socializing in the evening.
Left for Barcelona in Spain. Wasted a good one cause our chauffeur took us to the wrong Hilton. We are staying at the Hilton Barcelona (on Avenida Diagonal) and he took us to the Hilton on Diagonal Mar.Anyways, this gave us a good tour of the city. To start with Barcelona is nothing like any other European city. It looks like an extremely new city and a metro with high rise structures and bustling with people unlike other laid back European cities. Oh and Barcelona has just way too many traffic signals. I am not kidding...there is literally a signal every 500 metres. What ertr they thinking? Barcelona is known for some of the best preserved Gothic architecture and the day was spent on a city tour seeing such Gothic structures such as the old shipyard buildings which date back to the 13th century. The preservation and maintenance is simply brilliant. Also saw the Olympic stadiums.
Now the main attraction...I had always wanted to see the The Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família (simply put and more well known as the Unfinished Temple of Sagrada Familia) and today that desire was fulfilled. It is by far on of the most impressive structures I have seen till dateand it's so sad to see that the original architect couldn't complete it. The structure has been under construction since 1882 and till date has not been completed! It's current completion date is set at 2035. Had the original architect Gaudi completed it, it would have given today's wonders arun for their money.
Spent the evening at the La Rambla street which is the most famous street in Barcelona. Visiting this street...I would say that Barcelona seems to be one the most active party cities of Europe. The street is full of tourists (especially teenagers) from all over Europe celebrating life like never before. Terrific nightlife. It's one crazy party street. Also saw the Spanish Flamenco dance which is an experience and must watch.
Heading to Madrid tomorrow...