Scheduler at work: Hi Christine, are you still available to go to Rotterdam for this engagement?
Me: Umm, YEAAAA!!??
And thus, began my first trip to Europe via business class. Earlier in the week, I was sulking about not being able to afford a trip to Europe this year. And here I was, booking extremely expensive flights. For awhile, I couldn’t fathom the situation. Me, poor. Business class. Executive suite at the Westin. HUH?
On top of that, I’ve always wanted to travel abroad by myself. It was just me, sitting in my sweatshirt and jeans in business class, drinking orange juice in a champagne glass, pressing my face against the window wondering when we’ll takeoff and playing with the recliner function in my chair. Recline, reverse recline. Leg rest up, leg rest down. Buzzzzz.
Then I look over to my left, and there was a mid-aged man, in semi-business casual, fiddling with his blackberry. I could’ve passed as his teenage daughter, except he wasn’t Asian. So, uh, adopted daughter.
Nevertheless, I felt something I haven’t felt in awhile. Thankful to be alive. I love New York, but you have no idea how much it has desensitized me. It felt soo good to be able to breathe.
Rotterdam, the Netherlands
Ladies and gentleman, thank you for joining this tour where you’ll experience an overview of Rotterdam’s main sights. Over to the left here is the Erasmus Bridge stretching across Nieuwe Maas River. It was completed in 1996, and nicknamed “the swan.” And now, you’ve reached the end of our tour. Please watch your step as you exit the bus. Thank you, and I hope you enjoy your stay in Rotterdam.
Surprisingly though, I’ve had some amazing food in this city. I had THE most authentic Chinese food I’ve ever tasted (Tai Wu), really awesome Indonesian food, and drank THE most deeeelicious wine (Tignanello, Solaia, and a third one I can’t remember at Rosso).
The city isn’t the most impressive, but the E&Y office there is pretty amazing. When I walked into the lobby, I thought I was in a hotel. There were seating areas with cushioned chairs, sculptures, and a huge panda mascot for the Beijing Olympics standing next to reception. The ivory carpeting seemed to be made of some innovative material. When working late at night, I saw the janitorial staff (or, the PC term – custodial engineers) cleaning the carpet with some high tech machine that sprayed a quick-drying cleaning liquid. Back in New York, the carpeting is dark gray with, I think, some multi-colored dots sprinkled throughout. Translation – the colors cover up just how dirty it probably is, especially since the carpeting is never shampooed…only vacuumed.
Enough about the office. Snooze! We worked until about 10-11pm every night, but we got weekends off. I was only supposed to be there for a week, but it was extended another 1.5 weeks. So I went to France both weekends I was there.
This city is about a 1.5 hour train ride from Paris, and located in the Loire Valley. Very small and cute of a town. For breakfast, I had a croissant, small french baguette and freshly brewed black coffee. That alone made me feel delightful. In other words, FREAKING HAPPY!
Traveling by yourself can be so…peaceful. It felt like freedom in every sense of the word. That guy to the right was also traveling by himself (after close observation, not stalking). I felt like giving him a high five, but instead I’m posting a picture of his backside and giving him props in my blog. Go you! Ha…
Welcome to my homely abode. I mean, to the castle I paid an entrance fee to get into.
It is the only castle in the Loire Valley region to be built over a river.
Diane de Poitiers’ (mistress of Henri II) bedroom. You get taken care of and your own space in the castle, and you have your occasional nighttime escapades. Sounds like a nice arrangement, no?
Estampes exhibition room – a collection of drawings and engravings of Chenonceau.
Inside the Chateau de Chenonceau, the windows were open in every room and everywhere I looked, there were different kinds of flowers fully bloomed in bright colors and fragrances. It had rained much earlier in the day, and by the time I arrived, it was just sunshine and breezes all around me. I personified the Chateau in my mind, and visualized it breathing as I explored inside it. Sun, breeze, flowers, history. Inhale. Exhaaaale.
The corridor with the checkered floors is the part of the Chateau that’s built over the river, La Cher. Looking out of one of the windows, you see the winding river lined with trees whose leaves glittered with light reflecting from the water.
Can you believe that this hallway was a hospital during World War I?
The Chateau dipping its legs in the water.
Looking over from Diane de Poitiers’ garden…
…and then, from Catherine de Medici’s garden.
Hors d’oeuvres! Uh, I mean au revoir.