Tag Archives: Travel

combining lifestyle changes with the things I love to do most

September: That’s a Wrap!

79.2 KG

That’s what the scale told me this morning.

My first thought was to curse at it or throw it out the window but it only took a couple of seconds to come back to reality. You see, I did this, not the scale, and I wouldn’t throw myself out the window now would I?

We all know how mental September has been. I’ve made a point to tell everyone I know. It was an absolute blast – from my birthday to meeting new friends local and abroad, to a 10K in my home town to biking in England (and having a kind of scary accident ) to Fitbloggin.

Food has not been entirely off the rails but I reckon I’ve had more beer this past month than in several months prior. More beer = more wheat, right? And for someone who claims they are off wheat, well, it’s a little hypocritical.

So this little number on the scale, it’s 2.2 KG higher than the lowest number I saw in September and dangerously close to that 80KG mark that I really despise. This means it’s time to refocus and have some goals:

1) I will not only log into MyFitnessPal every day, I will actually log the food I eat as well.
2) if I am out, for whatever reason, and I am unable to log electronically, I will do it the old fashioned way and the enter when I have a chance (I am volunteering at the Amsterdam marathon this month and will be away from the computer at that time)
3) the whole month of October I will be beer-free
4) I will go to the gym twice a week. No excuses.
5) I will run minimum twice a week.
6) I will continue to not eat the chocolates from work, the entire month of October. (not cutting out chocolate in general, just not mindlessly stress-eating from the candy jar.

I would like to see that 77 again this month, though I’ve trained myself to not weigh very often, and I don’t want to start that jumping on the scale 12 times a day habit again. Goal would then be to weigh-in on November 1st with this result.

Did you have a crazy month? Are you ready to crack down again? What are your goals for October?

Cornwall – Women’s 40KM Cycletta

This weekend was amazing and dynamic on so many levels. It was physically and mentally challenging and there were highs and lows.

I had an incredibly busy week but did my best to think clearly about my trip ; what did I need to bring? Could I fit it all in one case? Was I going to be able to have time to check in or get my train ticket arranged ? Passport? Race pack? Food?

Each time I do something new I learn that I still need to have a little more patience with myself and to learn to be less controlling. Roll with life a bit , you know? So this trip was just another chance to not only enjoy life but learn something too.

My flight was at nearly 4 pm Friday, it was tricky checking in online and I took half a day off anyway so I left work and was headed to the airport already at 1pm. Checking in there was smooth and I just had carry on luggage for once in my life so I had plenty of time to kill before boarding.

Eventually we boarded and after a quick flight we landed in Exeter. I thought I would get the bus quickly “downtown” and then the train to Penzance and how hard could that be, right? Well…

I landed around 16:15 and I made a reservation for the train at 17:45. Plenty of time. I went inside the main hall at Exeter International Airport, and checked at information where to find the bus and when it would be departing. Seems I just missed a bus, and the next one was at 17:00 arriving at the train station at 17:35. Hmmmm. What to do? The kind woman at the desk told me it was probably around 20 quid to get a taxi. All right, I’ll be cheap and wait.

“international” being the key word here

As I was waiting I kept thinking about it. What if we run late? What if I can’t find out where to get my ticket? What if I miss my train? I’ll take take a taxi, it will be worth not having the stress. So I go outside and… No taxis.

I wait. And I wait. And there another couple there, and they are waiting. They ring for a taxi. Yet still no one arrives. Finally I can see my coach arriving. It’s 5 o’clock.

I walk back and get on the bus. We arrive just in time. I pick up my ticket at 17:42. I run up and over the footbridge to the platform. The train is absolutely packed. Here I thought it would just be little old ladies drinking tea in rural England on the train, going to some cottage in the south. I was so very wrong. It was FULL of people. I found a seat and asked if I could sit since a woman’s bag was on the empty chair. Others were trying to get past me. I sat down on the woman’s bag and she gave me a dirty look. “I thought since I asked you if I could sit there you’d have moved the bag.” Sheesh, woman. She proceeded to play Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” on full-tinny headphone volume. This wasn’t at all what I imagined. This was even worse than home!

At some point I just decided to have a giggle on the inside and get over it. We arrived on time at Plymouth and I texted my friend that I’d be in at 20:45. And then we sat there. And waited. And waited. After about 25 minutes they finally came on and said they were just “waiting for the police” to clear us to leave again. Uh, what? Apparently there had been some aggressive passengers in Coach B that were removed from the train. I texted her again that we were late, but she thought we were late but our arrival was at 20:45 and ordered up our curries for dinner. Nope. That food will have to go in the over my dear!

FINALLY I arrived in Penzance. There were just a few of us left on the train, it was the last stop. 3 (and a half) hours to get to the end of the world, but it was so great to see her! Big hugs and laughter about the whole situation. We drove back to her house, said hello to the husband and sat down to a proper English, uh I mean Indian Curry.

Her husband went off to the pub (as they do) and we started getting read for the race which was starting at 8 am the next morning. Did I mention I was tired? Didn’t matter it was exciting getting it all together!

of course you have to get ready with a beer

checking the tires

Up early Saturday, we got ready, had some breakfast and much to my controlling-ways dismay, left later than planned for the starting line. Oh, wait, she only lives 2 minutes from the starting line, no need to panic! There were around 175 ladies doing the Cycletta so it was not a huge group, but they split us into staggered groups of 10-12 so we wouldn’t all run over each other in town. Did I mention I’ve never driven a car or ridden a bicycle on the wrong side of the road? Oh dear, I was a little nervous. Especially for the roundabouts. We were off though and this was it time to make our way through Cornwall!

ready!

It was really beautiful once we made our way out of town, but it was hilly! In fact, I cycle hills here in Gelderland, but nothing compares to what I did this weekend. UP and down. UP and down. Lots of constant climbing and braking. I was getting used to the bike and the left side though and we were both feeling good. We hit the first feeding station at 11KM around 50 minutes into the ride. It was a gorgeous day with a bit of mist coming off the sea – like a fairy tale really when we came up to where we could see the coast and the cliffs. Heaven!

the view of the cliffs and sea around 15KM

Then it happened. About 4KM later we were cycling along. UP and down. I saw a woman in the distance jogging with her dog. A big dog. A very long lead. Didn’t think much of it, I know people do this often. He went a bit close to Elsje but the owner pulled him back. We were on a down so I had a bit of speed going. Suddenly he bolted for me! I had to stop, I couldn’t hit the dog! Unfortunately I pulled too hard on the brakes and I went flying over the front of the bike. It happened so fast yet so slow. I remember thinking “don’t hit your head” so I pulled my head up and my neck back and stopped myself with my hands and arms. I hit my chin. I thought “Oh my God did I knock out a tooth?” Because that’s what I needed, to lose a tooth, right? Elsje heard what happened, dropped her bike and came running up. The lady came running up. The dog was there licking my face. She asked me “are you ok?” Yes. I’m ok. Can you get this bike off me please?

They pulled the bike up. They pulled me up. I’m ok. I didn’t hit my head. Is anything broken? No. Is there any blood on my face? No. Everything is fine. I checked my knees. My right one was banged up. Oh. My left thigh was banged up. Everything else ok. The woman felt very bad. She blamed her dog. I didn’t blame her dog! It happened, he’s a DOG. She wanted to take me to her house but I was fine and I needed to finish. We checked my hands. Left one is fine. Right one? Oh, my glove is ripped. Crap, my hand is ripped. Several people stopped at that point “are you ok?” I’m fine. Elsje asked if one of the ladies had a bandaid – they didn’t but they had a compeed. That will work! All in all both knees, left thigh, both elbows, both wrists, chin, hand and nose were banged up. Sunglasses were scratched. Don’t ask me how I didn’t break anything or hurt my head. I’m just lucky. After everyone left I cried a bit on Elsje’s shoulder. A Bike guy came up and helped us when she was putting the chain back on. I had to go on. We had to finish this.

It was really ok starting up again, I was just a little bit nervous and my palms really hurt so braking wasn’t so much fun. The hills were incredibly steep but the scenery was amazing. We had to walk up a few hills as well, even towards the end; the elevation was relentless. We talked to many people later and they all said the same thing – there is NO FLAT in Cornwall – it’s either up or down.

thirsty!

still smiling at 27K!

Just over 3 hours we crossed the finish line. I really loved the ride and I’d do it again in a heartbeat but boy was I so glad to be back as well! I went off to the medics just so they could double check that everything was ok and they sent me home with an ice pack. We went back to the house and I took a lovely hot bubble bath. I was still processing what happened and thinking about how lucky I was that I didn’t hit my head or even break anything (not even a nail!). The first time in my life I wear a helmet and I have an accident like that. I shudder to think about if I hadn’t reacted the way I did.

Legs before

Legs After

We are already planning on participating next year. Maybe even with a 1.5KM swim. Maybe I’ll even do a little run on the beach. It was such an amazing setting for a sports festival – lots going on, great atmosphere, nice people. Later we (obviously) had to go back and have a few beers and listen to some music.

Sunday morning and already up and having to head back. It was sad to leave as it would have been great to watch the triathlon on the beach, though if I’m honest I was also glad to be heading back home to the Hubs. Elsje drove me back to the incredibly huge international airport of Exeter, we had some lunch and soon it was time for me to board my flight. I was back in the Netherlands at 5pm and back home at 7pm.

Incredible how exciting, dynamic and fast a weekend can go. A weekend I definitely will never forget for so many reasons!

Have you done a long(ish) distance organised bike ride? Would you like to if you haven’t?

Milano City Marathon Relay Recap

I know it’s a week later but it’s been crazy since I’ve returned from Italy! Where to start?

I actually took Thursday (the 12th) off of work because I hadn’t actually had much time to prep for the trip and the race. A few days before I received a phone call which inquired whether I would be able to leg 2 instead of leg 4 (10K vs. 7K) as the organisers had kind of messed up our order. Considering that I hadn’t really trained for 10K I stated my preference and hoped for the best. On Thursday, just in case, I went out around lunchtime and did 9K here in Westervoort (it’s a 1.5KM walk to the bridge and then a 7+K loop back up to the bridge again) as I didn’t want to do 10K cold after only doing little 5 and 6K training runs with the Hubs. Afterwards I was able to get my bag packed and prep up some food to take with me to be prepared for hunger and not give in to carbo-snacks.

On Friday I was up just a little earlier than usual and out the door a little earlier than usual and on the train at 6:45 to Schiphol. I’m one of those like to be early rather than late so to be sure I could check in my bag on time and get some coffee I arrived at the airport around 8 (my flight was at 10:20). Admittedly I did eat a muffin from Starbucks (and I did enjoy every bite without any stomach repercussions) but that was as exciting as my time at the airport got. The flight was uneventful (well besides the group of quacking ladies sitting all around me) and I arrived in Milan two hours later. I picked up my bag, and caught the €5 shuttle to Milano’s Centrale FS (Central Station) and then picked up some metro tickets to get to my hotel. Of course being the control freak I am, I had already studied the underground map to determine which metro lines I needed to get where I wanted to be :) Of course I figured out later that Centrale FS was totally walkable but better to have taken the underground instead of schlepping my wheelie bag down the street a kilometer.

My hotel was luckily recommended by a colleague who is originally from Sicily but lived up in Milan for probably the last 15 years. Originally we were told that we might have accommodation paid for by MCM who was sponsoring us in the race, but sadly this was not the case. I was happy anyway with my hotel and the location which was extremely central and I would most definitely go back there again.

I got settled in and was a little bit tired so I decided to take a quick cat nap before going out to have a look around. Once I was up and fresh again I decided to walk down the main road my hotel was just off of Corso Buenos Aires (a major shopping street), looked in a few shops and then decided to go to the Duomo, walk around, maybe get something to eat.

(the weather wasn’t so great and I only had my mobile phone camera with me)

I’ve been to Milan once before and I am still in awe of this building:

Of course this is the major tourist section of town and I just wanted to get a salad but at prices around €20 I really didn’t want to stick around there. I was looking at one place and the waiter was trying to get me to come in but I said no, it was too expensive and I just needed a salad nothing else, so he actually recommended me to go somewhere very close to there as it was cheaper. Unfortunately that salad was €12 and I could have made a better one myself but with fresher ingredients and less money. Ah well. They did have a good espresso :)

as much as I wanted to, I did NOT order my favourite Sicilian dessert that happened to be available at this restaurant…

At that stage I got a message from Monique that the VIP party was at 8pm that evening and could I come? So after I finished up my sub-par salad and coffee I headed out to the Expo where the MCM Village was located. Of course I didn’t fully get that right and ended up walking in the rain quite a bit but finally found it.

Amazingly enough as I was walking out I heard someone call my name! Hanna, who I’ve never met before, recognised me from my photos here and on Daily Mile :) How coincidental is that? I mean, sure, it was possible I suppose, but we didn’t plan on meeting there and I had no idea she would be with her boyfriend who was picking up his race packet for the marathon! We chatted for a few minutes and we went out separate ways. I headed back to the hotel, with a slight detour to the supermarket to pick up some snacks. Then I hung out for a while in my hotel room before going out again to the Expo to meet Monique and go to the VIP Party.

To be honest, we were a bit late in and maybe that’s why, but the VIP party wasn’t much. We did get a complimentary beverage and a water bottle, and there was food available but we did not partake.

Monique and Alessandro, one of the MCM organisers:

Monique had quite the adventure just even getting to Milan so we both were not 100% into the party. Ended up back at the hotel I’d say around 9:30 where I chilled out with a glass of wine and some nuts (pistachio – paleo style, yeah!!)

Saturday morning up early to meet the girls (Maya and her mom and sister and Monique; Hanna lives in Milan and skipped the tour) at the Duomo for a walking tour. As I said, I’ve been to Milan before but I don’t recall much from the trip and I certainly didn’t do anything touristy so the walking tour was a really nice experience. We spent about one hour alone in the Duomo, and then through the Galleria and up a shopping street until we reached the palace, which happened to be where the finish line of the race was :)

Fun Fact: I did not know that Leonardo da Vinci actually lived and worked in Milan for quite some time

When I saw this I really started feeling nervous and excited!

After the tour we went and had lunch, then went to the Expo to pick up our race packets and goody bags and got our T-shirts personalised (and I went and finally had a cappuccino even though it’s totally not done in the afternoon in Italy) and then at some point we all parted ways again at least for a few hours. Hanna was kind enough to not only invite us for dinner, but even made sure she had something for me to eat since she knew I was off grains (serious hospitality!!).

Quickly back at the hotel I prepped my luggage, my race gear bag and my clothes for the next day and then off to Hanna and Francesco’s for dinner!

Race Day

As it had been raining off and on I was still hopeful that we would have some sunshine on the day of the race itself but sadly it wasn’t meant to be. It was already raining when I woke up at 7:30 and it just continued. I had my breakfast and did my final checks before leaving the hotel (I had to check out but leave my luggage there) and I was off to my part of the Marathon (the red bit at the end)

I arrived quite early for my leg but wanted to be sure I could drop off my bag on time. I spent probably the first 1.5 hours in McDonald’s of all places (I know :( ) because I just wanted to sit next to the window, have a coffee and stay warm (did you know in Italy they actually steam the milk for cappuccinos unlike in most other countries??) while I watched the first Marathoners come in around the 33K mark. At around 12:30 I walked back up to my area, waited the obligatory ages to use the loo for the last time and then I waited in my section for Hanna. I thought she would be in anywhere from 1:15pm to 1:30pm but alas she was there much later and it was absolutely bucketing down (and of course I had to use the loo again by the time she arrived but because I didn’t know where she was, I didn’t) – I felt so bad for her, she really got the worst of it.

Then suddenly, she was there! She passed off our timing chip bracelet, I started my iPod and my Garmin and off I went! The first KM marker was 34… remember I was supposed to be doing 7K??? Yeah, it was definitely going to be more than that! It rained the WHOLE time and I was soaked to the bone. I actually ran all the way through except for maybe a minute and a half when i had a little stitch in my side around 6K. In the end I came through in 1:00:58 at a smidge under 9 kilometers.

I found my bag and my teammates eventually and we took some photos (that I’m still waiting for *wink* Maya), Maya headed off with her family and Monique, Hanna and I went over to a Gelato place for coffee and, well, gelato! Francesco was still moving and smiling after completely the Marathon so he joined us as well.

Hanna and Francesco were kind enough to let me shower at their place and afterwards I sadly had to go back to the hotel, pick up my luggage and go to the airport. My adventure was over.

Lots of things learned about this experience, mainly that I need to really do something about my need for everything to be organised and sorted out in advance. I do think I would have done a few things differently but I think all in all Monique had a pretty tough task in front of her to bring four busy people together for a Marathon relay. I’m really glad I was asked to do it, and I’m glad to have met 3 (plus one mom and one sister!) lovely ladies I wouldn’t have met otherwise. Would I run Milan again? I’m not so sure. Maybe. Maybe not. The race wasn’t bad, I found the organisation good, I thought they took quite good care of us but personally I don’t think the route is that beautiful. My leg was quite OK but only at the end did I get to see some amazing architecture and history in front of me. It’s not the Marathon Organisation’s fault of course if the route isn’t gorgeous, I just think I’d like to try a few more places like perhaps Barcelona or Paris in the future.

Well, Well, imagine that!

You know that saying that goes around all the billions of weight loss boards, communities, groups and what not?

Well, it’s pretty true. I’ve been doing different stuff over the past couple of years but still pretty much the same. You know, maybe less of this and more of that, or different combinations of foods, more protein, less carbs, no carbs before 11am, only carbs before running, etc. One thing I didn’t do very successfully was cut down on pasta and rice in particular.

Until a couple of months ago of course… now that I’m getting used to NOT eating grains, it’s actually OK. I even went to ITALY and DID NOT EAT THIS:

But instead I went to the supermarket and for example I ATE THIS:

I mean, seriously, I never would have imagined I would go to Italy and NOT have pizza (I was tempted whilst we were out, but I had a salad instead) or pasta (and thankfully my relay team-mate Hanna who lives in Milan invited us for dinner on Saturday and her boyfriend made me a special meal of steak and salad while the rest of the gang carb-loaded). Actually, if you ARE A meat eater, Italy is a great place to be, plus the vegetables are wonderfully ripened by the sun, the olives are divine, the cheese amazing. You don’t even NEED pasta or pizza, there are plenty of other choices.

I have to say too, I feel good. I feel strong. I feel kind of lean. It sounds strange to say it maybe but when I’m running lately my core feels really strong – I don’t think I’ve ever felt like that before.

Anyway, the whole point of this is that I am actually losing weight:

and down 900gr according to the scale at the gym this evening, from the last time I weighed in.

So yeah. About time I did something different!!

I told you it was crazy right?

sorry for the silence, especially after that huge rant!

after speaking to my PT, I did actually try the new diet again and was probably 90% successful from Saturday until Friday night when I had pizza. It wasn’t a breakdown it was actually just a choice that I made and enjoyed :)

It’s not super hard to eat this way, I think it’s mostly mental. Now that I know when and how I can eat it’s really fine.

I have to say though, I was away (well, away from the office, still in Amsterdam) for 3 days working at a huge leadership conference and it was fairly challenging to eat outside of your own realm of control so there were moments of carbs combined with protein. I did prepare by bringing loads of approved fruit and veggies and I even brought some coconut milk to replace the dairy. These three days were only at about a 70% success.

So I’m back at it again. Dinners are challenging, but maybe I’m going to pick up a cook book. I don’t like to be limited so I have to make the best of it to really give it a go and see if it works.

I did actually lose a kilo from the first time I weighed in at the gym, to the last time that I saw the PT. No idea if that was diet related or not. You know me, I don’t want to celebrate too quickly.

Tomorrow is another appointment. I’m exhausted otherwise I would share more with you.

Things happen when you run

Running is usually just a “thing” we do, to prove something to ourselves, or to feel good about ourselves, or even to burn off the indulgence of a holiday, or a birthday, or a heavy weekend out. Running is so much more than just a physical thing for most of us who do run though… it’s a mix between physical and mental. I know for me, running is a sort of therapy. I feel much more grounded and peaceful within myself when I’m able to just get out in the fresh air (or even rain) and go for a good run to rid myself of negative feelings or thoughts. Running is brilliant, don’t let anyone tell you it’s not (and if you don’t like running, I respect that, it’s also not necessarily for everyone).

It’s become that kind of habit or hobby if you will, that I actually like to run if possible whenever and wherever I travel not only because, well, who doesn’t want to run in London’s Hyde Park, Berlin’s Tiergarten or around the Colosseum in Rome??? Seriously, I’m from a town of 40,000 people – I dreamt of living in another country but couldn’t have known I actually would. I dreamt of traveling and seeing the places and things that I’d only heard about on television or read about it books, but couldn’t have known those things would actually happen.

I always tell people, there are a few things that are “me” – running, traveling, coffee, music. An Ultimate Trip would include all four of these things, but generally speaking I have at least three of them combined.

Back in April or so, I met another expat (expat wife, trailing spouse or whatever you want to call it… but mostly just a cool chick from California who lived in the Netherlands like I do)this time on DailyMile, and in May I was struggling to get out for a run, as was she (she actually had a race to do) and basically she helped me get out and do something rather than sitting on my butt feeling sorry for myself. (Remember that sad little Half Marathon that happened in April, yeah it was after that). Since then I’ve had the opportunity to meet Monique in person and read her travel and running blog often (and feel envious about where she gets to run!!).

Imagine my surprise when she asked me if I wanted to be on a relay team for a Marathon? Uh, let me think about that for a milli-second – OF COURSE I WANT TO BE A PART OF A RELAY TEAM FOR A MARATHON! What better opportunity to take part in a marathon and not have to run the whole thing? She went on to explain to me that we would be a team of similar ladies… travelers, runners, bloggers, expats! GREAT! Where do I sign up!?

Ladies and Gents – On April 15th 2012 I will be running the 7KM leg of the MILANO CITY MARATHON!

That’s not all… yesterday I was reading more about the relay, it seems the 7KM is the LAST LEG of the relay. I’m going to be the one crossing the finish line *gulp* !!

My team consists of:
Monique, who is no stranger to traveling and running; I highly recommend you check out her blog here at Mo Travels:: Mo Runs

Hanna, who lives in Milan and blogs at Run Like Noone is Watching and can be found on twitter here

and Maya Marie who blogs here at Livin Life Daily who currently lives in Spain.

So I think it will be a challenge, no I KNOW it will be a challenge, especially the team being apart from each other, but I’m really confident that it’s going to be an amazing event. I am more than honoured to be part of the team and giddy with excitement!

So, MILAN anyone?

That Little Berlin Trip

I mentioned that I was nominated to go to Berlin for a special event that was taking place there for our German Retail Market. The reason that I and a few others from my office had been selected was because the CEO of the company was unfortunately not going to be stopping off in Amsterdam on his “European Tour”. My Finance VP actually suggested to my bosses that I go as one of the four to represent our regional support center based on our passion and enthusiasm for the company. Of course I was totally honored and humbled to have been chosen! But I may have also mentioned that it was the busiest time of year for us?

The normal work challenges were enough during this period, but somehow I had to find a way to make it work. On the 20th I left the office and went directly from Amsterdam to Düsseldorf, where I would stay the night and in the morning very early take a flight from there to Berlin. I was completely stressed from work load, tired from working overtime and on top of everything run down and feeling like crap because I had been (stress) eating like crap. The hotel I was staying at was amazing, but kind of out in the middle of nowhere. I had very little cash (bad arrangements on my part and the taxi costing more than I’d planned) and very little food and the reception closed literally 15 minutes after I arrived so I couldn’t even inquire about a place to eat and was too tired to even bother anyway. Unfortunately I didn’t get a brilliant night’s sleep regardless of how comfy the bed and pillows were. I was up and out by 6am and on my way to the airport. Thankfully I was greeted by smiles and friendliness at Starbucks and had a delicious breakfast and eventually I was on my way to Berlin (oh yeah and sidenote: I was also visited by Aunt Flo in her Big Red Hat… had “supplies” with me but no pain tablets, which really, really sucked the full day I was in Germany).

The flight was uneventful (except for the fact that it was during Oktoberfest, so on the flight they gave us yummy fresh warm pretzels…) and once I arrived I met up with two of my colleagues who’d just flown in from Amsterdam. We thought it’d be pretty easy to get to the hotel where the event was happening, but as it was the Pope was also in town, AND staying at the same hotel so we had to take all kinds of detours through the city.

The event itself was really nice. In the beginning we just mingled, had coffee and sandwiches and I was so lucky to meet a load of people I’ve only had email correspondence with over the last 5 years. Everyone seemed to be in good spirits despite some news that had been delivered a few weeks before (the office is relocating quite far from where it is now) and soon it was time for us to go in for the Open Forum.

We watched inspirational videos made by partners in the Market themselves (and of course it was all in German so I had to crank up my language skills pretty hard to get most of it – the gist anyway) and then videos that had been shown to partners all over the world. Then the CEO spoke to us and shared a few of his stories as well and opened up the forum for questions. To generalize (which I hate doing but I don’t mean it negatively) the Germans are not as vocal or daring with their questions in these situations, at least not like the Dutch or the French who will just come out and say whatever it is on their minds. A few of my German colleagues asked a couple of questions, my American colleague (who works in Amsterdam) asked a question and then I asked a question last. I was kind of scared to ask what I wanted to know from him, but at the same time I’m familiar enough with how he is to know it would be ok. And… he said it was a very good and very brave question and he answered it honestly.

After the forum we chatted a bit with several people and then took a stroll through the Brandenburg Gate up and over to Potsdammer Platz where we finally decided to get some lunch. We ended up at an amazing restaurant with gorgeous food and sat and chatted for two hours before we headed back out to the airport. At this point I was in massive amounts of pain thanks to Auntie Flo, but I still have to say I had a brilliant day. At the airport I found the nearest pharmacy and the woman there was so incredibly helpful and even offered me water for the tablets I bought to ease the pain (that has never happened to me, regardless of country I’m in).

I arrived back at Düsseldorf and my lovely husband was there to pick me up (he rocks!!!). On the way home we stopped in a German town about 45 minutes from us for dinner. It’s always the little places in the middle of nowhere that have the best food and service and this place was no exception! The day was great but there was still stress involved in getting there – the dinner with my husband was exactly what I needed to feel more relaxed. A perfect end to the day!

Next up – Work Event and Social Event

Here I am

I have four posts in my drafts for my blog, so at least there’s been an attempt to write. It’s been particularly mental the past month – September always is anyway at work (I work in finance, it’s year-end), and socially it was busy as well.

My birthday weekend was spent with my family – normally we end up not having the kids on my birthday so Hubs and I usually just spend it together, but somehow our schedule ended up that we were the four of us together! The kids are older now, but they always have been pretty easy going (I’m a very lucky stepmom if you ask me; the “normal” horror stories don’t apply to me or my kids, the ex, Hubs, etc.) and it’s quite pleasant going out with them. The Girl and I even did our nails the same and got glammed up and we all went out for Japanese! Yum!

The next weekend Hubs and I were off to Belfast. Every year we go away as my “gift” – remember last year we went to Rome? Neither one of us had ever been to Belfast and hubs had never even been to Ireland –it was a great deal for flight and hotel so we decided to go for it! Our friend M (you’ve seen/heard about her before) joined us as well which is always loads of fun. We did a lot of touristy stuff, hit quite a few pubs, had some good food and walked a LOT. The highlight was probably the Giant’s Causeway – in a word: Incredible!

After I returned, it was back to work and back to Hell Month. I found out that I’d been nominated to go to Berlin for a special event that was happening for my company the next week! I was over the moon! Not only is Berlin one of my favourite cities ever, it was a chance to be in an open forum and actually ask questions and even meet our CEO! But did I mention it was Hell Month? Yeah, the timing was awful, but HELL YEAH I was going!

Prior to that though… I had the Leontien Ladies Ride – 70KM for Stichting Pink Ribbon. I have to say I was not looking forward to it anymore. I was exhausted from work and didn’t feel like I’d really taken all of my opportunities to ride my bike and be fully prepared. Plus it was turning out that my family wasn’t going to be able to come with me – we’d originally thought we’d all go down the Saturday before, spend the day and stay over in a hotel, but it was just too expensive, plus we also thought, yeah, all day Saturday, then they’d have to hang out all day Sunday as well…I was going to have to get up pretty early on Sunday and get my bike on the train to Den Bosch on my own. I don’t mind doing stuff alone, but at this point I just wasn’t feeling it. Even that morning Hubs thought I may not make it – I was rushing, left late, then had to call him while I was on my way to the station because I couldn’t even remember if I locked our storage area or not (I was struggling getting everything in my bike bags, late, stressed). But I made it and after a rocky start (like, literally finding the start), I began my 70KM ride with thousands of other ladies. Admittedly, it was tough for me to be “stuck” behind so many people on the bike paths – I like to go at my own pace, but obviously, in this case I was only as fast as the slowest group in front of me! Eventually I made it to the lunch break stop (at Land van Ooit) to pick up my lunch packet and have a little bio-break. At this point we were at around 28KM. I probably was off my bike maybe 15 minutes when it looked like it was going to rain in the distance, so I layered up on clothes and decided to head off. This time I was wonderfully pretty much on my own! The day started off as a beautiful, kind of chilly late summer day but about halfway the heavens just opened up and dumped a mass amount of rain and hail the size of ping pong balls on us! I stopped before the hail to put my rain gear on, but after three minutes I had to just pull over and wait under a shop awning, it was too much.

Then it just stopped.

And the sun came out again!

So I took off my rain gear, re-packed it in the bike bag and headed off again. For about 20KM I was blissfully alone, cycling through such a gorgeous area of Brabant, up until the point where the “short-route” ladies met up with our route, then I had to slow down again. My family was following me on my GPS, but unfortunately it wasn’t correct so when I crossed over the finish they thought I still had 7KM to go. No one was there to meet me :( I felt bad that they made the trip down on their own to see me and then ended up not anywhere near the finish when I came over.

Sidenote – I bought cycling shoes. I have to say I was not convinced (but spend the cash anyway) but actually found they made a huge difference on the bike! Usually I just wear my mary janes but they do slip on the pedals and I didn’t even think about whether my feet were sturdy or not. Cycling shoes really keep your feet stable and don’t slip for the most part, so I’m really glad I invested in them! (Side to the sidenote: I most certainly wasn’t the only one in a skirt, but I did wear bike shorts and tights underneath – for this distance I do find bike shorts a complete necessity)

Anyway. All in all it was nice. The family and I had something to eat and drink and then Hubs took the kids back to their mum’s…. it was time for me to get back to Arnhem with my bike on the train. I did a total of about 80KM with the round trip cycling to and from the train stations – the most KM I”ve done in one day to date! I would definitely like to up this mileage, I just don’t know when – I may need to get some better biking clothes.

Next Posts Berlin, Work Event, Social Weekend, Arnhem Food Fair and then I might even talk about what’s going on in the weight and exercise areas…

A funny thing happened on the way to Luxembourg (part II)

“They” say things happen in threes. I believe this to a certain extent.

As I mentioned in my previous post, we rented a car to go to Luxembourg to pick up my parents. They had been on a long cruise and we knew they’d have quite some luggage with them (plus all of dad’s camera equipment) and we wanted everyone to be comfortable. The plan was Hubs would drive to the Station nearest to where I work, as they have a very good, very secure Park and Ride for a lot less cash than parking at the airport. I left work early on Wednesday and we agreed to meet at 3:30pm at the station.

I was the first to arrive so I purchased our tickets to the airport. We were renting the car from the airport since all four of us were leaving Friday midday to our subsequent destinations. Hubs called right after I had the train tickets in my hand; the Park and Ride was closed for construction!! Of course! The day we want to actually use the Park and Ride, it’s closed! We decided to drive to the airport and park in Long-Term Parking. We needed petrol (diesel actually) but could definitely make it to the airport with no issue whatsoever so we just drove directly there. I needed to pick up the car at 4:30 and we were now pressed for time (I have a “thing” about being on time, this is why we did not stop for diesel). We made a mental note that we would need to fill the tank when we arrived back from London. We had the GPS anyway and it would tell us where the nearest tank station was located. Having the car at the airport made perfect sense – now we could just drive directly home and not have to worry about any trains at all.

We picked up our car and drove to Luxembourg.

We picked up my parents the next day.

Everything went very smooth.

Thursday after we’d arrived back at our apartment we sorted my parents out with their check in for their flight back to the US.

We also checked-in to our flight to London. But I noticed something; Hub’s name was spelled wrong. You know how “they” are always going on about your ticket/ boarding card has to match your passport? We got on the phone to KLM who said we needed to phone Expedia as we arranged the booking through them. We phoned Expedia who said they would phone KLM to arrange the changes. There were TWO spelling mistakes (my bad; obviously I was in a hurry when I booked and I didn’t check properly) one in his first name, one in his last name. They said they would take care of it. We left it at that.

Friday we went to the airport. Everything went very smooth.

We dropped off the car. We got my parents to their luggage drop off desk. But. Something was still wrong.

They fixed his first name on the ticket, but not the last name.

I checked with KLM. They couldn’t change it. Not without a charge of EUR 50.

Now I’m getting nervous.

I phoned Expedia and had a very slight argument with the service representative about how it WAS actually important that the boarding card match the passport, especially in the UK where they are VERY strict about these things. Maybe we didn’t have a problem going to London, but we could have a problem coming back. Little did I know what was really in store…

So I’m on the phone, my parents need to leave, I end up on hold, Hubs hugs and kisses dad and stepmom, I give him the phone so I’m able to also say “so long” to them as well.

Eventually it gets sorted out. They issued a new ticket. We got checked in, we dropped off our bag, we went through security, and we got on our flight.

We had a great weekend in London. As I said before, going away even for a weekend with Hubs is always enjoyable. We like the same things. We love music, going for coffee, walking around, hanging out, having a beer. We did all of these thing and even met some interesting people at the music festival we attended Friday and Saturday. Sunday a few plans for meeting people fell through so we just wandered around a wee bit and eventually headed to the airport when it was time.

Heathrow is always a little challenge. It’s always busy and no matter whether or not you have checked in online, you still have to wait in a queue to drop off your bags. Sunday was no exception and it seemed we had loads of people ahead of us who had 5 bags and had to repack and change hand luggage or had some challenge with their boarding cards. We were still on time so no issue just more annoyance than anything. About 40 minutes before the flight we headed through security. As a seasoned traveler I pride myself on being fully prepared to go through security at any airport – I’ve got my few liquids separate in a clear plastic bag, my belt off, no sharp objects, phone put away, that sort of thing. Sunday was no exception. I put everything through, walked through the sensor, completely free and clear.

I saw my bag come through and the belt stopped. One person was looking at the x-ray. Then two. Then four. Then SIX people were looking at the monitor. Hubs was also through and waiting with me at the end of the belt.

One man came forward and asked who the owner was of the bag. I raised my hand, he came over and asked “Can you please describe to me what you have in the bag?” So I started naming items. Camera, wallet, iPod, headphones, tampons, a pen. Then he said “We noticed a small piece of metal in the bag, what could that be?” I said I didn’t know. Honestly, I had no idea. I had no nail files, tweezers, nothing of the sort in that bag.

The bag, which by the way, my dad gave to me in March, that belonged to my (dead) Uncle. The bag, which already passed through US security once as a carry on in March and through security from Amsterdam to London, just 3 days earlier.

They said I had to empty the bag. So I started to remove the contents. Everything in a big tray. Another man had a metal detector. And there it was. The small metal object in my bag.

A bullet.

Yes, a bullet!

I have to tell you I was absolutely flabbergasted. I had no idea what to think. I was scared that’s for sure, I wanted to cry from the shock. I explained I had no idea that bullet was in the bag. I explained it once belonged to my Uncle, that I never even noticed it. I explained that he was former military and a marksman to boot, but I honestly never, ever saw it in the bag. The guard explained they had to call the police. The POLICE.

He took my passport and asked us to wait in another area.

Our flight was now being called for boarding. We weren’t going anywhere.

Fifteen minutes we heard that our flight was about to close, final boarding call. The security guard came back, gave me my passport and said “We’re going to let you go, but we’re keeping the bullet. Be careful next time when you receive things from others; you never know what might be in store waiting for you!” We then RAN to the gate and got on our flight.

Remember I told you that we needed to get petrol when we arrived at the airport, that Wednesday we picked up the rental car? Well, yeah, we tried, but we still ran out of gas.

Three things. Ticket. Bullet. Diesel.

I think this means that I’m in for some really GOOD luck soon!