Monthly Archives: June 2013

Our last days in Rotterdam and Europe … heading home

Oliver and I fly home to Sydney tomorrow. We are packed and ready to check out in the morning. Once we check out, we catch a metro train from our hotel to Rotterdam Central, then an express train to Amsterdam Schiphol airport, then a 3 hour or so wait for our first flight, then a 6.5 hour flight to Dubai, then a 2 hour lay over in Dubai, then a 14 hour flight to Sydney, then immigration, customs, a taxi and home to our beds!

We will spend the better part of 30 hours travelling door to door. I'm not looking forward to it because I caught a cold somewhere on our travels and feel pretty ordinary today. A man at the conference, who also has a cold, told me tonight that 25% of people develop a cold within a couple of days of flying!

Although Oliver and I have been busy at the conference — Oliver has made a lot of friends amongst the conference delegates — we squeezed in a few final fun things together.

Yesterday (Friday) afternoon, Oliver took a swim in the very fancy hotel pool. The pool deck has amazing views of the Rotterdam skyline.

Our hotel pool

 

On Friday Oliver also visited The New Institute (or Het Nieuwe Instituut in Dutch) with Nina, Doris and John. Oliver was keen to take me there this morning and navigated us back past Rotterdam landmarks without any trouble. Rotterdam has many wonderful museums and art galleries. Het Nieuwe Instituut “celebrates the innovative power of architecture, design and e-culture”. Right now it is staging an exhibition called “The Ruins”. Architecture seems to play a very important part in the history and life of the Netherlands. Rotterdam is considered the architectural capital of the Netherlands with a daring and impressive skyline. You can read more about Rotterdam architecture here.

It struck me as we walked to Het Nieuwe Instituut that old and new co-exist easily side by side in Rotterdam; a testament to the success of rebuilding following the devastation of World War II.

Sights on our way to Het Nieuwe Instituut

 

The displays at Het Nieuwe Instituut were fantastic and strange. They rather defy description. I think they aimed to express what architecture means to peope in the Netherlands, but i wasn't entirely sure (I guess like all great art?) Better to see (below) than to have me try to tell.

 

 

 

 

 

Whatever they meant, Oliver loved them, running from one display to the next, pointing things out. At the end he played for ages in a large building space. Here he used giant foam blocks to create his own architecture.

 

This afternoon Oliver and I sat in the hotel lobby and said goodbye to our conference friends. Some we will see at home, some we will be in touch with, some we won't see again until the next SARMAC conference (in Canada in 2015; Oliver is already planning to attend).

Tonight we had a final, quiet dinner with Rochelle — my wonderful, long term conference companion — and ran into still more conference friends starting to make their own way home.

Rochelle and Oliver at our last dinner in Rotterdam

 

Oliver is asleep now. And I will be soon. The last day and night of a wonderful trip together.

Thanks for reading about our adventures. We will see you soon in Sydney.

Amanda and Oliver

My favourite image of Oliver from our visit to Het Nieuwe Instituut

 

Rotterdam: A city rebuilt

On Wednesday morning Oliver and I packed our bags yet again and walked to Amsterdam Central Railway Station where we bought tickets to Rotterdam. I wish I had the knack of packing light because our bags have grown heavier with each stop; they now are full of solders, knights, books, soccer gear, Crumpler bags etc etc.

Waiting on the platform at Amsterdam Central Station

 

We arrived in Rotterdam after a slower than expected train journey then a race to the conference hotel in a pricey cab. My first conference session had already started, but I arrived just in time to give my 5 minute talk.

After the talk, we checked into our hotel. For reasons unexplained we were upgraded to a room in a 5 star hotel next to the conference hotel (at no extra cost). So our room easily is the biggest and fanciest we have had on this trip. The room is spacious. We have a spa bath (after no baths only showers everywhere else) and a TV embedded in the bathroom mirror! This morning Oliver enjoyed a bubbly spa bath while watching TV. We are on the top floor of the hotel with a wonderful view over the port of Rotterdam. Rotterdam is the largest port in Europe and the 5th largest port in the world.

Our room at the Mainport Hotel, Rotterdam

 

So Rotterdam very much is a working harbour, like Sydney, and we have wonderful views day and night of many different vessels.

 

Today I've been at the Biennial Conference of the Society for Applied Research in Memory and Cognition: giving two talks (one for myself and one for Penny Van Bergen; both went well), tossing around ideas, and lining up new connections for our team. Five other members of our team — Adam Congleton, Aline Cordonnier, Doris McIlwain, Amanda Selwood, and John Sutton — also gave talks today, which were very well received. Tomorrow and Saturday Rochelle Cox and Misia Temler, also from our group, will present their talks. So, busy.

Oliver went out and about today with the lovely Nina McIlwain, Doris and John's daughter. Oliver has loved being part of the conference scene, talking to people in the team and to researchers from all around the world. I think he is enjoying the limelight as the only kid at the conference. Nina was that kid once, as the daughter of two academics who have travelled far and wide to conferences. She is incredibly smart, articulate and warm and I hope Oliver turns out just like her!

This evening we went to a reception at the Rotterdam City Hall, called Stadhuis. The City Hall, completed in 1915, is one of only two buildings that survived bombing by the Germans on 14th May 1940. On that day, German bombers razed to the ground almost the entire old city, much of it dating from medieval times. Here is what Wikipedia says about the Rotterdam Blitz:

In total, 1,150 50-kilogram and 158 250-kilogram bombs were dropped, mainly in the residential areas of Kralingen and the medieval city centre. Most of these hit and ignited buildings, resulting in uncontrollable fires that worsened the following days when the wind grew fiercer and the fires emerged into a firestorm … Although exact numbers are not known, nearly 1,000 people were killed and 85,000 made homeless. Around 2.6 square kilometres of the city was almost levelled. 24,978 homes, 24 churches, 2,320 stores, 775 warehouses and 62 schools were destroyed.

Below is a painting of Rotterdam sometime between 1890 and 1905, before World War II and the German bombing. You can see the Tower of St. Lawrence' Church, built around 1660, in the background:

 

Now here is a photo of Rotterdam after the German bombing. Again you can see the Tower of St. Lawrence' Church, this time in ruins:

 

This photo reminded me of the destruction in Christchurch, New Zealand, still very evident two years after their devastating earthquakes (including the February 2011 earthquake). Here is a photo I took with my brother Gary in April this year. Like Rotterdam, almost all of Christchurch's buildings were destroyed and/or need to be pulled down. An entire city centre gone for all time.

The Christchurch Cathedral after the February 2011 earthquake

 

Will Christchurch be able to rebuild as Rotterdam has done so successfully? Circumstances are, of course, very different but it was inspiring to visit the beautiful Rotterdam Stadhuis — almost the lone survivor of an earlier age — and then walk outside and around their new Rotterdam.

Inside Rotterdam City Hall or Stadhuis

Inside Rotterdam City Hall or Stadhuis

Outside Rotterdam City Hall or Stadhuis

Modern Rotterdam

 

Tomorrow is more conferencing while Oliver and Nina seek out some fun. Then later in the day I hope to see more of Rotterdam with Oliver before final conferencing on Saturday and then we fly home from Amsterdam on Sunday. We will let you know what we discover!

 

Legoland! Part 4: Star Wars

In this final post in our series on Legoland Denmark, we share photos of the Star Wars display in MiniLand.

Being an “old school” Star Wars fan (B.J.J.B; that is, I liked it before JarJar Binks appeared), I recognised the scenes from Episodes IV to VI (Star Wars: A New Hope; The Empire Strikes Back; Return of the Jedi). Oliver knew the others and hopefully I have put the photos roughly in the right order. Perhaps in the comments you can identify the scene and the movie for each picture? Just type in the picture number and what movie it is from and what is happening and I will add it to the caption for each photo plus a credit to you!

1

 

2

 

3

 

4-6

 

7

 

8-11

 

12

 

13

 

14

 

Pretty amazing! My only regret: no Death Star!! Oliver has the Death Star Lego kit at home, but wouldn't it be cool if they made one to the scale of these other scenes? Time for some friendly customer feedback!

So! What do you think? Where are these scenes from? Over to you!

That's it from Legoland. We are off to Rotterdam in a few hours and now up to date on this blog. Catch you soon.

Amanda and Oliver.

 

Legoland! Part 3: Miniland

At Legoland Denmark, Miniland has models of cities and towns from across Denmark, Europe and the world. The level of detail is amazing. Most models have working parts, such as airplanes, cars, buses, trucks, or boats driving around each scene.

You can ride on a Lego train around Miniland …

Riding the Lego train around Miniland

 

Or you can walk around the huge area. There are scenes of airports …

The Lego Miniland Airport

 

Scenes of towns …

Fantastic models, beautifully landscaped

 

More towns …

Notice Gamera the radioactive duck come to wreck havoc!

 

Towns by the sea …

So much detail!

 

Castles, famous buildings and movie sets …

The Danish Palace in Copenhagen (top), Mann's Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles (middle), and a film set (bottom)

 

And scenes of hikers high up mountains (one of Oliver's favourites) …

High on a hill is a lonely goat ...

 

There is lots more including Lego models of the wonders of the ancient and modern world and life size Lego models of animals on a safari.

It was all so amazing you couldn't help but just sit and stare in wonder …

 

Amsterdam, bikes, feeling at home and Crumpler

We interrupt our Legoland posts for a quick travel update!

Today Oliver and I travelled from Aarhus to Amsterdam via Copenhagen. This involved one bus ride, two flights and one train ride. It took about 6.5 hours. Oliver is becoming quite the seasoned traveller and, so long as I tell him each of the travel elements to expect for the day, he does not complain (although he is not looking forward to the long flights back to Sydney on Sunday).

Amsterdam seems crazy busy after the peaceful lane ways of Aarhus. The streets here are a profusion of trams and cars and motorbikes and bikes and pedestrians. So. Many. Bikes!!! I thought Aarhus had a lot of bike riders but Amsterdam is Aarhus X 1000. Bikes going everywhere. It makes total sense for the environment but it makes walking the streets precarious. And no one wears helmets. Not even little kids biked around by their parents. I love bike riding but I suspect riding here in Amsterdam would give me a heart attack! No photos unfortunately because I feared being run over if we stopped to click.

Oliver and I emerged this afternoon from our comfy hotel room (check out tomorrow is at noon; bliss!) for a quick scout around. Amsterdam reminds me of London during my first one or two visits; when I didn't know or understand the city; couldn't find my way around; didn't know its secrets. I think it takes a local to help you feel comfortable in cities like London, Amsterdam and perhaps Sydney. I really love London. I'm not intimidated by it. But Amsterdam felt intimidating this afternoon, not knowing where to go or what to see. And so crowded. We needed a local or a visiting “old hand”.

Instead we followed a map on my iPhone to the Amsterdam Crumpler Store. I planned this visit before we left Sydney! As some of you know, I love Crumpler bags and they sell entirely different ones here in Europe. I found out this afternoon that this is because Australian Crumpler sold their European business to a German company. The German company has kept the same logo, general styling and design philosophy but produced a different range of bags. Awesome!

The man in the store was super friendly and gave me a couple of sample cases (apparently they've been celebrating their birthday) and some Crumpler shopping bags. I picked up a few gifts for friends, a cool silver carry on bag for me (since Oliver and my bags are pretty full) and a funky little Crumpler man key ring. The store had so many wonderful bags, cases, notebooks and other stuff to chose from.

If you get the chance, go visit:

Crumpler Shop Amsterdam

Haarlemmerdijk 31

1031 KA Amsterdam

Telephone: +31 (0)20 620 24 54

amsterdam@crumpler.nl

http://www.crumpler.nl

Amsterdam Crumpler Store

 

Or read their blog: http://blog.crumpler.eu/en/

Tomorrow we catch the train to Rotterdam for the start of three and a half intensive days of conferencing, starting at 2.30pm with one of my three remaining spoken talks (the 5 minute one). Onwards!!

My new Crumpler bag!

 

Legoland! Part 2: Around the Park

Legoland Billund Resort in Denmark is laid out in themed areas.

The Legoland Park Map

 

When you enter, you first walk into Miniland, a huge collection of city scenes and famous buildings from around the world all built out of Lego and landscaped beautifully. We will post pictures in Parts 3 and 4 of our Legoland Blog Extravaganza!

We next visited Pirate Lagoon. The main feature here is a huge lagoon with pirate ships you can ride in. There are water cannons both on the ships and “on land”, beside the Lagoon. So people riding the pirate ships and people standing around the Lagoon can have water battles. Lots of fun, but you end up very wet. Luckily they have drying machines; put in 30 DK and stand in a booth while hot air blasts you and your wet clothes.

Legoland Pirate Lagoon

 

Getting dry and hanging with pirates at Legoland Pirate Lagoon

 

Our next stop was Knights Kingdom, with its giant castle and Dragen roller coaster. The roller coaster winds through the bottom of the castle, past huge Lego tableaux from the Knights of the Round Table and an enormous Lego dragon guarding piles of treasure. Then it climbs to the top of the castle and flings you down and around for a while. Lots of fun. We rode this 3 or 4 times.

Dragen roller coaster at Legoland Knights Kingdom

 

We also visited Legoredo Town, a Western town with cowboys and Indians. There were giant Lego replicas of some American icons and an Indian village …

Legoland's Legoredo Town

 

We rode a Lego log ride around Legoredo and a Danish woman who sat beside us said it must be strange for us to find a Western town in Denmark. “I guess”, I replied, but then we worked out she thought our accents were American not Australian! By the way, I have no idea how to pronounce Legoredo!

My favourite part of the park was The Temple; an Egyptian themed area with a “Raiders of the Lost Ark” style of ride. You climb into cars and use laser guns to shoot at coloured treasure through a maze inside a pyramid. We rode this one maybe 8 times as Oliver perfected his shooting style and got more points each time.

Legoland's The Temple

 

One embarrassing part of the park is that during each ride they take photos of you with strategically positioned cameras. Then they try to sell you your “action shot” after you get off. Our photos inevitably were a fright, with hair and mouths going in all directions!

These are just a few snapshots of a very busy day. We also saw a new 4D Chima movie at Lego Studios; the 4D means they throw water over you, for instance, when the characters on screen fly through a waterfall! We also visited Polar Land, Adventure Land, and Duplo Land. And we wandered past a pretty cool mock up of the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida. This was part of Miniland, which we will cover in detail in Part 3 of our blog on Legoland. But I just want to say how cool these models are. Many of them have cars and trucks and boats tootling around. The Space one had the rocket counting down and then igniting. It was really amazing!

 

Oliver's favourite parts of Legoland were:

1. Legoredo Town

2. Pirate Lagoon

3. Dragen roller coaster

 

Mine were:

1. The Temple

2. Lego shops

3. Miniland

 

More on Miniland in Part 3 of our Lego Adventure!

 

Legoland! Part 1: Billund Resort, Denmark

This morning we caught intercity train 18 from Aarhus to Vejle. This train went on to Copehangen but we got off at Vejle after 45 mins.

We then caught bus no 143 from Vejle train station to Billund and a stop right outside Legoland. This ride took 35 mins. So the whole journey from Aarhus to Legoland took about 1.5 hours (and about the same time returning, although a little slower because of a wait between the bus and the train).

On the train to Legoland

 

We booked our tickets at Aarhus train station yesterday and the guides helpfully gave us details of train and bus numbers and connections, as well as calculated the best train and bus times so we arrived around 10am when Legoland opened and returned to Aarhus around 8pm for a reasonable bed time. Very helpful!

For Oliver and I, our all-in-one train and bus fare was 316 kroner (DK), although I think Ollie was free (up to 12 years). This is about $60 AUS. Not cheap but then I don't think much in Denmark is cheap. But the train and bus were cheaper and easier than hiring a car and driving ourselves (they drive on the “wrong” side of the road here in Denmark!!).

As an aside, I suspect we've spent way too much money in Denmark because the exchange rate is tricky. 1 DK is about AUS 20 cents. And AUS $1 is 5 DK. This seems harder maths when out and about (e.g., converting 359 DK to Australian dollars) than converting pounds to dollars (I usually just multiple pounds by about 1.5, but actually that underestimates the cost in Australia dollars, so I'm clearly not doing very well budget wise). I also wasn't able to put DK onto my Travelex cash passport. I found the cash passport super helpful in London for managing our spending and didn't use my credit card much. But for Denmark, I underestimated how much DK we would need when I exchanged money at Heathrow, and so have charged more expenses to my credit card, which means extra fees. I'll be back using the cash passport when we get to the Netherlands and euros tomorrow.

Tickets into Legoland cost 578 DK or AUS $110 for 1 adult and 1 child. I think this compares favorably with the cost of the Gold Coast theme parks. Entry into Legoland would have been 20% cheaper if we booked a week or more ahead but we didn't know which day we were going.

The entrance to Legoland Billund Resort, Denmark

 

So AUS $170 for transport and park entry. But once in, almost all rides and attractions are free (apart from two or three things we skipped).

We rode lots of rides in the 6-7 hours we were there; probably 12 different rides, some a few times. The wait in line never was more than 5-10 minutes. In comparison, I read on Trip Advisor that the wait for rides at Legoland Windsor typically is 40-60+ minutes! We skipped a few rides that looked busy and I also avoided most of the rides where you get soaked.

At Billund, most of the lines are under cover, which is great for the changeable weather (it showered on and off most days we were in Denmark, including our day at Legoland). And many of the areas set aside for queues are decorated with Lego displays to occupy you while waiting.

One of the Lego displays along the queue into the Dragen roller coaster

 

Legoland is super impressive. Apparently 60 million Lego bricks are used throughout the resort. The resort itself is immaculately clean and beautifully maintained. Even the garbage bins are shaped like Lego. The food is okay but very expensive, so I would recommend packing your own.

Lego garbage!

 

The resort is set out in themed areas, much like Seaworld or Dreamworld on the Gold Coast, but everywhere there are life size Lego figures, which make it especially charming and fun. We will post separately about the different areas, but for now, here are some photos of the figures around the park.

 

 

As you'd expect, there are many, many Lego outlets throughout the park, with Lego stuff not available in Australia. We enjoyed browsing and picked up a few small things.

Lego mini figure key rings. 3 for 99.95 DK!

 

In Part 2 we will write about and post pictures from different parts of the park. In Part 3 we will post pictures from Miniland, a huge highlight of our visit. And in Part 4 we will post pictures for Star Wars fans!