The is the story of the Vampire Rabbit, and other bits and pieces from
my European vacation from May 2 to 23. Yes, this is a bit overdue.
Overall, the timing of the first half was unfortunate -- I received the
reviewer's comments about my Vivi paper just before leaving on the
ferry. This meant that I spent the nights (after my traveling companion
had fallen asleep) making typographical corrections, hunting up more
references, and rewriting paragraphs to avoid misunderstandings. Now,
there's a long Percival tradition of doing academic work while on
vacation... but I had hoped that I'd have another 2-5 years before I
fully embraced that life.
Processing the photos took a lot longer than I was expecting, and even
then, there's still a lot of mistakes in them. Mispellings (I had at
least two different ways of spelling "Ben Nevis"!), typos, wrong words,
etc. But I've already spent far too long playing with these, so I'm
reminding myself that "the perfect is the enemy of the good" and moving
on. I'll only make a few additional comments to the photos.
Newcastle and North
(not scotland, but it fits in this section)
The trip began in Glasgow; my friend arrived from Vancouver. I only got
lost once while looking for the airport bus to go out and get her, but
I'd budgeted sufficient "buffer time" so that I wasn't late. The idea
was that we'd spend a few days in an English-speaking country while she
got over jetlag.
We began by walking all over Glasgow (particularly the West End, where
Hogwarts is). Lest anybody doubt that I know how to show a girl a good
time, the necropolis was a big hit. Direct quote: "This is so cool!".
Next day we went to Edinburgh, saw the castle, climbed Arthur's Peak,
etc. On the way back to the train station, I wanted to find a washroom,
and we ended up in the Scottish parliament debate chamber. True story! I
saw a sign for the washroom, so we went into the building, and then
security guards kept on noticing that I was looking around and seemed a
bit lost, and they all said "aye, go on around the corner / up the
stairs / through the doors", and there we were.
Driving tour of the Highlands; from Stirling to Fort Williams to Oban to
Stirling again. Saw hills, ocean, sheep.
Final day in Glasgow: sort out any last-minute stuff for the rest of the
trip. I bought a new travel shaver because my current one had really
dull blades; new shaver was £37 while replacement blades were £44.
Economy: 1, environment: 0? We also saw a junior (12-17 years old?)
chamber music concert. Intonation was better than we expected, but
dynamics and range of expression were worse.
Then we took the train to Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Saw the VAMPIRE
Took the DHS overnight ferry to Amsterdam; an unexpectedly swanky trip.
Highly recommended! It was much better than taking an airplane for 2
hours (plus all the travel to/from airport, security, waiting at gates,
Amsterdam, city of bicycles. Deservedly famous for a huge fraction of
the population of the population cycling as their main form of
transportation. Also infamously famous for their red light district,
which my travelling companion insisted on us visiting. (also infamously
famous for marijuana, but since we've from Vancouver that wasn't
We spent an hour trying to find the red light district. As we were
nearing giving up, we found a McDonalds and Burger King right next to
each other, with red neon signs. We saw the red lights! ... ok, that
wasn't the real place, but I was starting to doubt that it really
existed. We saw five "chinese message" stores. They honestly did have
massage chairs, and in one store there were people doing stuff with
somebody's feet... but I really cannot believe that Amsterdam has such a
huge market for chinese massages that it makes economic sense to have so
many stores in such a small area. I suspected that "chinese massage" was
a euphamism, but my companion insisted that she should be seeing "women
in windows" with red lights.
After once again checking our two maps, cross-referencing them with a
printed guide-book, checking the compass, and walking another 15
minutes, we found the red light district. This time, there was no doubt.
It was about 9.30, so getting dark, by the way.
There really were red lights. I'd thought that "red light district" was
just a phrase, but no -- there were individual "store fronts", lit with
a red neon florescent bulb above the door and window. And in the window
(actually, often the door), was a woman in "underwear". Often shaking or
grinding, sometimes tapping the door to attract attention. It was...
well, the first word that comes to mind is "tacky". Certainly not sexy!
That said, there was one "store front" which attracted my attention --
it did not have a woman cavorting about. Instead, there was a blond
woman sitting on a bed, wearing glases, and reading a book. I'm fairly
certain that the glasses were fake and the "intellectual" facade was a
sham -- but at least somebody was pretending to be classy. And no, I
didn't see any women with cat ears. Now *that* would have gotten my
Note that we didn't make an extensive tour. We passed about half a dozen
windows on our way into the central red light district, and then we saw
a group of seniors in a tour group. We followed them for a bit; this
group was circling a big old chuch smack in the middle of the red light
district. My travelling companion thought that it really was a church
tour group, but I pointed out that if they were honestly there to see
the church, they'd have gone in the daylight, not at night. I mean,
there were red lights just opposite the street from the chrurch, clearly
visible from where they were. After circling the church, we stopped
stalking the senior's travel group, and walked back to our hotel. We
passed another half dozen windows along the way. No, we didn't stop for
any of the live sex shows.
All in all, it was more weird than anything else. I didn't feel unsafe
-- granted we left the area before 10pm, but the whole place still felt
quite regulated and well-policed. And I certainly approve of having a
safe place for this kind of thing! But it's not quite my scene, just
like a football match isn't my scene. (I'm sure that the Amsterdam red
light district is much safer than a British football match, though!)
The next day we saw a bunch of museums, and stopped for dinner at a
"bergermeester", where I had a "meester biefburger" with "dragonmayo".
It was absolutely gigantic (even by North American standards!), and I
wasn't certain if I would eat it or if it would eat me.
Went to Kukenhof, saw flowers. Not being female, that's about all I can
say about the place. :) After that, we went to the Concertgebouw. Saw a
string quartet, not impressed. They played Haydn like Haydn (clean,
together, careful, fussy, uninspired). The played Beethoven like Haydn.
They played Debussy like Beethoven (some expression, moderate rubato,
taking some risks, not always together but that's ok). No visible
communication between the players; I suspect the Haydn and Beethoven was
really together because they'd played it a lot and knew exactly what
everybody was going to do.
Saw the zoo. Protip: reserve a whole day. We could only spend the
morning there due to train ticket reservations, and regretted it.
Brussels wasn't as nice as Amsterdam. It's famous for fries (with
mayonaise), but the two or three places we tried fries weren't
particularly special. I mean, they were better than McDonalds fries, but
that doesn't exactly say much.
Saw the Musical Instrument Museum. That was neat, and they even had a
bunch of old electronic instruments in the basement! That was a very
Really fancy churches. Protip: if you want to see art, don't bother with
museums or galleries; just wander into a nearby church. Doesn't have to
be a big cathedral; they all have fancy artwork.
We did a bunch of short trips to surrounding towns/villages/cities.
We were met at the train station by one of the LilyPond developers. He
very kindly showed us around the town, translated, and gave us the
"inside view" of the city! We got plenty of exercise walking around
We met with other LilyPond developers (plus some of their girlfriends --
that is, the girlfriends of some LilyPond developers. I haven't heard of
any of them having more than one girlfriend!). It was really neat
"putting faces to the names".
In addition to seeing the big sites, we visited a cemetery. I really
liked the cemeteries in France when I visited in 1997, so I insisted
that we go to one this time. Not for any kind of macabre reason, or any
kind of "omg this famous person is buried here" reason -- I just like
the fancy graves as pieces of scuplture/architecture.
Miscellaneous pictures from driving
We met up with a friend and he drove us around southern England,
starting from the ferry to Dover. We stopped to admire a few extremely
picturesque villages and wild ponies, then arrived at the Dorsets area.
In the morning we saw the really cool Durdle
then continued driving around, ending up at London for the night. In the
morning, we briefly saw the really big tourist stuff (Buckingham palace,
Westminister Abbey, parliament buildings, big ben, etc).
Returning to Glasgow was a pain. I dropped off my companion at Heathrow
at 14:30, and then took the underground back to London Euston -- only to
discover that the train had been cancelled due to high winds in the
Scottish Borders area! Instead, I was to take a train up to Edinburgh
(from King's Cross), then get a train from Edinburgh to Glasgow. But
halfway along that trip, we were told that the train would end in
Newcastle, and we should wait for the next train (which would be
continuing up to Edinbrugh).
All in all, I only got back to my flat at midnight. It normally takes
about 5 hours to go from London to Glasgow, not 11.5 hours! But I
arrived eventually, exhausted but happy.
Tentative plan for next year: Berlin, Zurich, Vienna, Prague.