Friday, July 30, 2010

Family Visit

Bobby and I have finally had summer visitors in Copenhagen! Last week, Aunt Carolyn, Uncle Ben, Dad, and Gloria arrived in Copenhagen after a 10 day Scandinavian cruise. Behind the five of us is their giant boat. We checked them into the Granny's House B&B, the only hotel in our area. The B&B sits atop one of the best bakeries in all of Denmark. Every morning my family members would wake up to the smells of fresh baking. Lucky them!

I acted as tour guide for the family. We saw all the major attractions of Copenhagen over the course of 3 days. Bobby and I have not done some of the touristy things since moving because we wanted to save them for when we had guests. One of those things was taking a canal cruise. Pictured here is Dad, Gloria, and I, ready to take the canal cruise.

Departing from Nyhavn, the one hour ride took us by many beautiful places. The weather was perfect... a little bit cool but no rain.

One of the bridges we went under was a really close fit.

Another touristy place Bobby and I have been waiting to see is Tivoli Gardens. Opened in 1843, Tivoli is the second oldest amusement park in the world. There are a few roller coasters and many carnival games. Dad and Bobby played one game where you throw balls at plates. You don't win any prizes... you simply gain the satisfaction of breaking plates without getting yelled at by your mother or wife.

After walking around the entire park and smashing plates, we built up our appetites and ate at one of the many restaurants in the Gardens. This restaurant sits over the Tivoli Lake. Sadly, the view did not make up for the over-priced and bad food. But Bobby and I still put on a happy face.

After three days, Aunt Carolyn and Uncle Ben departed for the States. Dad and Gloria stayed on for a few more days, so we took a day trip to Helsingør, home of Kronborg Castle. This beautiful castle was made famous by Shakespeare's Hamlet, which is set in the castle (Shakespeare anglicized the name of the town to Elsinore). Built in 1420s, Kronborg Castle looks over the Baltic Sea. Any ship wishing to pass had to pay a due to Denmark, which made Denmark very rich.

We explored many areas of the castle, which is still in great shape. The military continued using the castle until the 1990s. In WWII, the Germans occupied it.

There is a church inside the castle. Every pew had a unique carving above it. Many of there were amusing, like this one.

Can you spot Dad and Bobby in the chandelier's orb?

The inside of the castle had many large rooms. Because of the many battles with Sweden, much of the original artwork has been stolen or destroyed. A few original pieces remain in the Grand Hall, which was huge!

What trip to Scandinavia would be complete without a trip to Ikea? We took Dad to the local Ikea, where he kindly bought us a dining room table (we had yet to find one on the street). We enjoyed a last lunch on the new table. Thank you, Dad!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Our New Apartment

Within hours of our return to Denmark, we moved into our new apartment. Our name was already on the board of occupants. Suddenly our last names appear so foreign! Our new address is

Vangedevej 222A
2870 Dyssegård, DENMARK

We have an awesome amount of space -- I would say nearly twice the size of the previous apartment we rented. And now we are paying half the price in rent! Plus I am only two zones away from work, rather than 4. Above, Carla unpacks some kitchen stuff kindly donated by the previous tenants.

The bathroom cabinets have enough space for all of the cold medicine Carla's mom sent us... which continues to be of use with our current colds from Paris.

We even have a porch for my hipster self to drink Akvavit -- the national drink of Denmark.

In addition to our porch furnishings, we have found all of the things seen in the picture above on the side of the street: a wire paper tray, an antique rødbrød slicer, two working lamps, a phone, a clock radio, the 1909 Danish version of Uncle Tom's Cabin, a wood chair, a beach chair, a desk, a pink (not for too much longer) coffee table, a rug, and two book shelves. We also found two cool jackets. We are now patrolling the streets for a clothes drying rack, baskets for our bicycles, and every other thing we can use.

Since we furnished our living room so cheaply, we splurged and bought a bed new. Carla and I aren't so enthusiastic about searching for a bed on the side of the road.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Our final 4 days in Paris

We were happy to return to Paris from Porto and have a few days more to spend with our friends. Bébé Iris was so pleased to see us return!

Katie and Ollie, and their smiling dog Sacha, took us on a lovely picnic in Puteaux.

I brought the old squeezebox and played while sitting on one of the giant plastic rabbits in the park.

With my lovely new hat, and skinny jeans, I have become a hipster.

I drew some beautiful portraits of bébé Iris. Katie and Ollie were so umpressed!

Guillaume and Isabelle had us over for a lovely dinner of homemade paella -- all prepared in their newly refinished kitchen. We even got to try some of Guillaume's new favorite cheese, munster -- which he described as not unlike tasting the back of a tramp's pants. Carla and I both agreed, and much amusement ensued. We can add this to our list of "worldly things we profess to have eaten and survived."

Our time at Katie and Ollie's was so excellent that we did not mind the fact that one of their cats peed all over Carla's shoes -- which we realized only when we have sat down on the airplane and asked, "Is that you?" We also didn't mind the nearly 8 hour apéro/hostage crisis. We look forward to seeing them again and watching Iris grow even more! I am trying to teach her to say, "More accordion please Bobby. Don't listen to what the others say."

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Our Trip to Porto

We have landed in Porto! And pretty quickly we partook of sangria, and some sight seeing.
We have already been to Porto before --- in fact nearly one year ago --- so this time we spent more time at the beach.

Can you tell which room in this hotel is ours? We did not stay in Porto, but in Matosinhos which is a fisherman's town to the north. It is closer to the beach, and offers the best in seafood.

My friend Fabien, who lives in Porto, lent me his board (NSP == Null Space Property), which surfed pretty well. It has been a year since I was in the water, so I was surprised how quickly I got back into the groove. Carla got to borrow his girlfriend's body board, and she was surprised how quickly she got the feel for it. But more than anything, we are both very surprised at how frigid the water was in the morning. Even though the ambient temperature would hover around 85 degrees, the water must have been about 65 --- which is quite like Santa Barbara.

Fabien took us to the Crystal Palace where we watched the sun set over the Duoro river as we sipped some port with ice and tonic.

We really love the pastries in Portugal. With some coffees and creme, they are the perfect afternoon treat. And late morning treat. And before dinner treat.

But the one food we adore here is the salted and grilled sardines.

After I get over the fear of choking on fish bones, I learn to relax and voraciously consume sardine after sardine after sardine. By the end of dinner our plates were nothing but bones and skin, and all the innards with which we are not quite sure what to do, but we know it tastes bad.

Finally, on Wednesday I (Bobby) visited the Faculdade de Engenharia da Universidade do Porto to give a seminar on my research. Fabien is an assistant professor there in music information retrieval and research. He showed me around the campus, introduced me to some of his colleagues, and took me to my seminar. My talk was warmly received it seemed, and resulted in many good questions pinpointing several of the areas in which the research discipline of sparse representations has yet to mature --- especially in the perceptual and cognitive directions. This also pinpoints many of those areas in which I lack the expertise to make immediate contributions, so I have got to get working!

A Picnic and some lille Lille

We are lucky that our trip to Paris overlapped with that of Carla's cousin Paul and his wife Heidi. We took a picnic to Parc Morceau on a very hot day, and by the end of it the roquefort had certainly become forter.

On our trip to Lille, we partook in some classic Belgian fare. Above you see a frikadella (deep fried hotdog) avec frites (fries). Lille is on the border of Belgium, and one of the roads in town straddles the two countries. The difference in affluence was less than stunning.

We had a lot of fun in the sun with bébé Iris. It was her first time in a baby pool, and I had to go splash around my self.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

A little video from Lille

To escape the heat in Paris we took a trip to Lille, which included inflating a baby pool for our little niece-by-association, and eventually me playing in the pool to keep my feet cool. Here I play the neat tune Rusty Gully in the neat time of 5. This is the Tune of the Month for June 2010 at Tomorrow we are heading to Porto!