Tuesday, June 22, 2010

the internet illuminatti in the land of chcolate

yesterday morning we walked about 1.8 km in light rain through the streets, pulling equipment and trying to find our way. sitting in the convention center where we're doing our interviews, i realized that in the last two days, all that i had eaten was a waffle with ice cream (granted, the best waffle i had ever had in my entire life, but still just one waffle) and a croissant i grabbed at the hotel that morning. belgium was great, but not without it's hassles. on top of it all, my pockets were jammed with my passport, ipod, and big fat wallet (mostly from discount/point cards from america, not euros).

since then, we have been able to store our equipment at the hotel where the ad agency team is staying, i've found a way to streamline and carry only what i need (much more comfortable), and we've had some good food. for example, yesterday i ate a pig knuckle.

when i'm traveling, i really don't want to eat food that i can get where i live (this maxim stands whether i'm in another state as well as another country; it can backfire, though. there was that place in thailand where i ordered something that didn't even have an english name and unfortunately ended up with barbecued chicken, to the envy of several girls around me....). we went to an solidly belgian-looking restaurant (next to the "boston cafe") and looked over the menus. french cuisine seems more enigmatic than japanese does to me and i was thoroughly confused. still, with several mispellings in the menu (notably "beaf" and "kooked"), this place seemed pretty legit. i gave the waiter my order and he nodded while saying something that sounded like "soup." i wanted something heartier than that, and so fumbled in bad french and hand gestures to change my order, pointing the next thing on the menu: "a knuckle of ham."
really, you image of it is as good as mine was. basically, it was a chunk of ham with several different-sized bones sticking from it. and, past the occasional tough pieces, was pretty darn good, along with the mustard sauce.

this year is the 25th anniversary of ".com", and so we're interviewing people at this internet conference about their experiences with ".com". hoping to get fun stories. one of our favorites so far is the guy who booked a hotel online for his honeymoon and arrived in spain one night, only to find a giant hole in the ground and that the hotel was still very much under construction (six months later, he received an invitation from the hotel, inviting their "valued customer" to join them for a grand opening). the trouble is, these guys are mostly internet domain name registrars, meaning they're the ones who sell internet addresses, and so they think of ".com" differently than we do and we end up getting a lot of dry stories.
essentially, these guys control the internet. i mean, if you were a g.i. joe-like super-villian and wanted to, say, blow-up the internet, this is the time and place to bomb. in years to come, the next dan brown conspiracy author will be writing about these guys and the power they have as they control the world.

we were waiting to hail a cab when a woman came up next to me and said something in french. startled and knowing only the smallest bit of french, i mistakenly responded with "please. no do you speak french?" fail.
realizing the nationality of the idiot in front of her, she spoke again in broken english. i'm not sure if she was asking if this was a bus stop or was telling us that we were not at a bus stop, since it did look like that was what we were waiting for.
to top it off, the first cab we stopped listened to our inability to speak french, saw that there were five of us plus several pieces of equipment, and drove off, leaving us confused and cabless.

belgium, like pretty much all of europe, runs on 220v electricity, twice as much as we do in the u.s. i'm learning that nearly everything that has a little block that plugs in between the item and the wall (e.g. my computer, my phone, my camera battery, our lights) can handle the 220v, provided you have a nifty little plug adapter; no power inverter needed. there are some things we still learn the hard way, as we somehow blew the circuit at the fancy hotel we were shooting at the first night. in america, it's a simple fuse box switch fix. it seems much more complicated here, as they had to call a utility guy and we still never did get the outlet back on that night. i still kind of feel bad about that one.

i assumed that most of europe was on roughly the same latitude as the states, but began to wonder when it was 10:30 last night and still notably bright outside, even for the summer solstice. checking a map, it looks like i'm roughly level with 300 miles north of canadian border. can't complain, though; the weather is absolutely perfect.

david sedaris is right: in europe, people do smoke everywhere. at an outdoor cafe today, the tables on either side of us were lit up.

at the same aforementioned cafe, everything around us was so amazing i could barely take it in. we were eating some sort of town square or plaza that was actually the royal courtyard or something. all four buildings in the quad were enormous museums, churches, or palaces. probably all over one hundred feet tall, they were covered completely in ornate stone scroll work, statues, and gothic-looking decoration. the streets were cobblestones. it's exactly what you think you mistakenly imagine "europe" to look like but presume that just fantasy stereotype. it's not.
brussels was already 1,000 years old when i was born and seems to have no shortage of truly-amazing architecture. it's awesomely baffling.

we opted to pass on dessert at the cafe, instead doing a "chocolate crawl", popping in and out of just a few of the many chocolatiers lining the narrow european streets. some look like old-world chocolate shoppes, others are sleek and modern. they all seem to have the best chocolate in the world.


Jaime said...


The Former 786 said...

This entry made me miss my mission. And thank you for giving me the final piece to my evil plan for world domination!

kwistin said...

odd, when i think of "a knuckle of ham", i now think of sushi. :)

and, it CAN be a big deal in america to blow a circuit. sometimes it takes three guys to flip the switch. ;)

people smoke everywhere in europe? then new york was a good precursor for me to hit up europe. watch out, lungs....

and having tasted it a few minutes ago, i'm pretty sure you're right about it having the european chocolatiers having the best chocolate.

except for 'the chocolate'...but that's a different story.