Come flush with us!

… or the story of our two-week vacation in Madrid. 

So, in between the jobs we thought it’d be nice for me (Jan) to go to Madrid for a two-week stay. We looked online, found a nice place with Rent4Days: a loft located close to Ciudad Lineal, some metro stops, in short: nearly ideal. The pics on the site also make you believe it’s lovely. It would also be overlooking a park, which is great – nature always is very relaxing. It also says it sleeps 7, so it’s gotta be big. Nice!

Diana did some initial shopping the day before, and on the first day we headed over to the place. We were a bit dissapointed, since it was actually more of a store that had been ‘reformed’ into an appartment. (reformed being a key word here). Oh, and it wasn’t really overlooking a park either – you had to get outside, walk a block, and then there’s the park. Ah well, as long as it’s nice, quiet, cosy…

Boy, were we wrong about this one.

Here’s a list of problems with the thing:

Overall problems:

  1. The place is _cold_. Both physically cold, and not cosy at all. It lacks furniture, posters, … anything on the bare walls to make it cosy. We had to put on the heating, while it was 25ºC outside.
  2. You get to enjoy the sounds of your neighbours peeing, taking a shower,… since every time they flush, or do anything with water, it sounds as if the ceiling is going to collapse. Not fun.
  3. Light. I like light by day. I hate it by night. The curtains (if you can call those pieces of fabric curtains) that were there were utter, total, complete, mega crap. They let through 99,9% of the light.
    They weren’t even long enoug! The bottom part was hung from the curtains using pins… (not even sewn on)
  4. Noise. NOISE. NOISE! You hear everything, the smallest movement someone makes in the other appartments, you’re part of it, you can follow it, it’s all yours!

Bathroom problems:

  1. The bathroom has a leak, from the upstairs neighbours. We reported this, no one came to look or even bothered to call us back.
  2. The shower is useless – it’s got a 5cm deep basin, and the drain is crap, so if you shower, you flood the bathroom.
  3. Again on the shower, don’t use it. It will break. We had to buy a new shower tube because it broke, and we didn’t want to cough up 50e or more (standard fee by Rent4Days, it costs maybe 8e if you buy it in a shop)

Kitchen problems:

  1. If you dare use the washing machine (good luck without the instructions), and spin stuff, don’t be amazed when the kitchen cabinet falls apart.
  2. The sink is placed in a way that you can never stand completely behind it, unless you’re a plank. Wonderful.
  3. There are no cabinets. Don’t even think of storing anything – there is NO room.
  4. This place is supposed to sleep 7, but forget about eating or drinking with 7. Not enough dishes/glasses/cutlery! You can even forget about cooking for seven! The biggest pot is about 3l.

Bedroom:

  1. This is supposed to be a double bed. It is 120cm wide, the width of a double bed about 30 years ago. Good luck trying to sleep in that with 2 people.

So after about 6 sleepless nights, we moved back into Diana’s place (which is tiny and with four definitely over-populated), and called the people of Rent4Days to explain the situation, and to tell them that their offer was below anything possible. What did they tell us? “You are the first persons to complain”. On the remark that this place does not overlook a park, they said “We know the area, it overlooks a park.” Sorry, it overlooks a GARAGE. Not a park. Not even remotely.

We took some pics so you can compare them with the things on their site.

So really, if you’re looking for something – stay away from Rent4Days. They’re crap. Expensive service that offers cheap crap.

To make a long story short, the rest of the days we spent at Diana’s place, and we didn’t really do much. The six sleepless nights were enough to drain our energy.

We did throw a party there, for our friends – even though it wasn’t allowed. Sorry, but after all this they deserve a very big screw you. It was fun, we played Killer Bunnies (having to explain everything to Diana and then she had to translate it into spanish… what a mess *g*). We had loads of food, brought by our friends and cooked by us, we also had booze! (sangria and sweet wine), and since it was the last Formula 1 sunday, the tv was on. It was great fun.

What we’ve been doing…

Diana’s been here since the 27th of july, and we’ve been busy bees sofar ! Ofcourse the necessary amount of relaxing and just enjoying the time, too :)

We’ve replaced one of the closets with a new Ikea Billy closet, and are still looking to find a magnetic whiteboard that has been very elusive at best ;) every time the website says they have it, we go and it’s no longer there. Pout!

We also went to play catch-up with our movies: we’ve seen Pirates Of The Carribean: At World’s End (good), Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix (good), Ratatouille (hilarious), Shrek the Third (could have skipped it), The Simpsons Movie (good) and Transformers (good but definitely not for kids).
(thank you Kinepolis and your cheap 100-days card!)

Diana’s cooked loads of lovely meals and also vegan cupcakes (weird ones (pic, pic) but oh so gooooooood)

We also bought three lovely cacti, which are currently flowering!

We’ve also made a short trip to Germany, to visit friends.

Diana had to go back to Spain, unfortunately, though …

Short German Trip

It seems that visiting Germany is becoming a habit of ours during summer ;) This time we went to visit Laura, Christian and Lumi (and Fina, the cat) in Germany, last (long) weekend.

Diana and I left for Germany friday 17th, and after a rather boring 2.5 we ended up in Ratingen. We had a room booked in the Relexa hotel Ratingen City, a nice non-expensive hotel.

(I just want to add here that I absolutely hate their parking entry/exit machines. I got a static zap from them nearly every time! *growl*)

After checkin, we went our way to Frimmersdorf, in Grevenbroich, to visit our friends. It’s a lovely town, very very green. Lumi’s a very adorable little baby, and the cat is also a fun creature :p Always hunting for flies, to the dismay of Laura and Christian ;)
We talked a lot, had some takeaway pizza and salad, and left around midnightish.

Next day we met up with Gundel, a knitty-friend of Diana, in Düsseldorf. We went to a cute yarnshop (called Woll – Duo, in Schamhorstraße 16), where Diana bought some lovely yarn: a skein of Opal Neon, two skeins of OnLine Supersock Silk, and a ball of mystery yarn.
After that we went for a walk through the city itself, grabbed a quick lunch there (great japanese stall in the basement of a mall), headed back to the hotel, and afterwards went with our friends to the Lantern Procession in Wevelingenhoven. Very cute, and very strange ;)

On sunday we first (ab)used the wellnesscentre in the hotel (which they were so nice as to open especially for us), and in the afternoon we went to the AquaZoo in Düsseldorf. Straaaange fish. Straaaaaaaaanger bugs. But educational, and fun too ;)
There’s a lovely park around the aquazoo too, in which we walked for quite a while before heading over to our friends’ place, and having some chinese takeaway for dinner.

Monday we had to leave again for Belgium, but we did a short sidestop in Die Wollfabrik, where Diana hoarded fiber for spinning and pretty rosewood sock knitting needles.

The pics of the trip can be found here.

April 2006

Saturday, 8th
On saturday, I went to pick up Diana, and we drove straight on to Ikea in Zaventem, to look for some general stuff and to check out their couch department. We decided on the Lund Valla couch (the red one), which comes in a handy do-it-yourself package :D It’s very comfy, you do need the pillows tho. Otherwise the back is a bit hard.

We also bought all kinds of stuff for the dyeing of the fabrics for the midieval clothing – a spoon, pincers, and a big plastic trashcan.

After Ikea shopping we went to the local Delhaize, bought some foodstuffs (for dinner and for Diana over the days I have to work), and we prepared dinner consisting of mushrooms, onion, coconut milk, and seitan fillet. Verrrrry good!

At night we watched the first part of Chicken Little, Diana fell nearly asleep halfway :)

Sunday, 9th
On sunday we went to visit Chris and Joke in their new house in some obscure place called Zedelgem, where we finally got after getting detoured plenty. It’s a nice place, which needs some work still tho. Mostly painting, putting in floors and so.
Unfortunately, Diana had a rather nasty allergical reaction to the cat :/ we got the local doctor, who gave her some injections, and she was better after that… bad cat! Bad bat cat! Come here so I can spank you!

After she was better we went home, made our choice for the take-away chinese, I went to pick it up, we ate and watched the second part of Chicken Little.

Monday, 10th
I had to work the early shift (from 7am until 3pm), afterwards we dragged down the old couches (being three: a one-seat, a two-seater and a corner piece), and got rid of them. After this (sweaty) labour, we drove off to Ikea to get our new couch! We got the last one (lucky us :p) and some more stuff for the dyeing (glass pot, really :p).
When we went to ask for home delivery – but it was helluva expensive! (almost 1/3rd of the price of the couch!). They told us about the option to rent a car from them and transport it home that way – which we did, it saved us 75e! Diana had to sit in the back tho (in the ‘trunk’ of the van) since the couch had to be folded to fit the packages, but we got it home!

After getting home, we put the veggy lasagna in the oven (to unfreeze/cook) and assembled our couch (yes, it comes with assembly instructions, and a nearly impossible-to-fit fabric), and then tested it while watching the extras of Chicken Little.

Tuesday, 11th
On tuesday I had to work the late shift (11am until 7pm). At home we ate bread and so, and then we watched Wallace & Gromit and The Curse of the Were-Rabbit! Very fun movie!

“Cheese, Gromit!” :p

Wednesday, 12th
I had to work until 3pm, and then we had a lovely lunch prepared by Diana at home :) A mix of broccoli, beans, onion, carrot, garlic, spicy tofu and yellow noodles, with a tofu – coconut milk sauce. Gotta love the inventions. (which I do. Very much even. Mjummmmmmm! :D :D)

We prepared the dye in the airtight glass pot (from Ikea), and let it rest for dyeing tomorrow. (for more on the dyeing, see Diana’s Blog)

In the evening we went to the Kinepolis Gent movie theatre to watch Ice Age 2: The Meltdown, a really fun movie! I do pity Scrat… He was so close!
We had some nachos with cheese (Gromit!) sauce and jalapeños (spicy hot) there too.

Afterwards we drove off to the Chinese to pick some takeaway, and had it at home while watching the extra’s from Wallace and Gromit.

Thursday, 13rd
We slept in this day, and after brunch started dyeing the first part of the fabric (which will later become my tunic).

In the afternoon we went to get some shopping done. Diana finally hit the sales (50% off!) and the summer season “preview”. Retail therapy ;) I also got me some hard-needed new pants, and a new belt. The old one is getting a bit… old :p

We spend the evening at home, watching Red Dwarf – Season VIII.

Friday, 14th
On friday we got up a bit earlier, and dyed Diana’s fabric – which was originally a bit brownish (bottom one in the picture), into a green/blue colour. Looks very nice :)

After doing that, we drove off to Brussels to go to the Albert Einstein Expo in Tour & Taxis, a fun and very informative expo about Albert Einstein’s life and his connections with Belgium. Lets not forget it was interactive. Buttons to play with things and look and touch and experiments! Buttons!!! Buuuutooooooons!!! Pushedy push!! Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! </kiddy>

After this we got ourself some lunch at the Green Kitchen snackbar close to work (and ergo close to Tour & Taxis), and then drove off to the Atomium, which has been renovated and is now again open to the public. There was a _huge_ queue, but we got in in the end. Unfortunately it’s a bit expensive for what it is – you only get in about 4 balls, and there wasn’t that much to see… Maybe it’ll get better when it’s completely finished, they were still doing some works around it.

In the evening we went to Bankok City, a local Thai restaurant were we’ve been before – and had a lovely dinner there, and back home we watched the first episode of Buck Rogers in the 25th century. Which is fun, but looks oooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooold :p

Saturday, 15th
This day we didn’t do much… just pack everything up, cuddle, and then in the evening off to the airport to see Diana off…

Newyear in Madrid

I spent my newyears in Madrid, went there the 28th (evening). After an uneventful flight, we went to Diana’s place, didn’t do much and went to sleep.

The 29th we first went to check into the hotel, did the grocery shopping in El Corte Ingles. We bugged the cheese-salesperson because we needed a fondue cheese mix that contained no cow cheese… he was so kind to find a mix, try it out if it melted well, and gave us a nice cheesy mix.
In the evening we met up with a good friend of ours (who’s a member of the Marmotfish Studios and who gave us a copy of Freakmen 451 – very cute magazine!). We walked around a while, I lost me bankcard in an ATM (when it gave my card back I couldn’t reach it *sniff* so I pushed it back in completely with another card), and had dinner at Ginos.

The next day we went to the jokes market on the Plaza Mayor – all kinds of fun masks, wigs, and whatnot – strange people those madrileños! Afterwards we went home and were lazy…

On newyearseve we stayed home all day, Diana killed the chicken like a pro and stuffed it with a lovely Mixed Mushroom and Sweet Potato Stuffing.
Around midnight we exchanged some gifts… I got a ton of them *blush*

The first of the new year we didn’t do anything really. Not that there was anything to do – we stayed at home/hotel and were lazy :p

On the 2nd of january we went shopping for a cute fondue set for making a fondue sometime during the next days. Really the only thing we did. Yeah, we’re lazy :P

The next day (3rd) we went to a lovely Artisans market in Madrid, where I bought a penguin shaped candle for myself, and a 1/12″ doggie for mum.
In the evening we had to rushrush because I decided last-minute to buy a portable dvd player for on the hotel and on the flights – so they’re less boring.

The 4th of january we didn’t do much. Diana made a very tasty ciabatta at home, which we ate with the lovely cheese fondue in the evening. Diana also made the beginning of the Roscon de Reyes – traditional cake for the three wisemen day.

The fifth we finished the actual Roscon, and it came out very nice! Other than that, it was really quiet that day, as it also was the the sixth… the sixth I had to leave unfortunately, and I miss Diana very much…

(ps: pics are here)

Jan

Trip in October…

Last week I went back to Spain to visit my girl – it was an overall quiet and relaxed stay, we didn’t really do much – except making american style pancakes (thick ones) *mjumm* and we went to an Indian restaurant, the Taj where we tried the Chicken Vindaloo (Red Dwarf anyone?).

Sad to go, but I’m going back! Wheeeeeeeeeeee! On the 8th of november!

September in Spain

On tuestday, 20 september I took the plane (yes, I gave it back ;p) once again to spain, to visit Diana :) :)

After a pretty boring flight (but good inflight menu) landing there, taking the cab to the appartment and having a mjummy good home-made pizza (even home-made dough!!), I helped reinstalling Diana’s laptop – new, faster and bigger harddisk. The Windows installer was a bit of a bitch, so we continued on with linux, which was on pretty soon. Putting it to download all the packages for Debian and then to sleep… (bed waterbed-effect without water! :P)

The next day we packed up soonish and drove with Mum off to Rascafria, a little village to the north of Madrid, for the remainder of the week. It was a bit of a boring drive there, and then ofcourse finding the way in the village itself. It’s really a cute and pitoresque village, and it felt like going back a few deccenia in time :P
The house itself was a modern house, nicely built and roomy, with a nice bathroom and kitchen – which is important!
After unpacking all the stuff from the car we took a little stroll into the village, which has a has-been waterstream and so, did a little bit of necessary grocery shopping and then went back to the house, having dinner (pisto with eggs), watching some tv and bed!

On thursday we drove off to Segovia, further up north in Spain. It has a well-kept Roman Aquaduct, and lots of old beautiful buildings. We first got lost in the city centre with the car, finally got out (damn smalls streets!) and parked around 10-mins walk from the centre. Unfortunately it’s a pretty touristic city, but it’s nice nonetheless ;)
For lunch there we had the typical Segovian dish: Cochinillo Asado (Roast Pig), which is made in a coal oven until it’s so tender you can cut it with an eating plate! (which they did, and then trew the plate on the ground so you could see it was a stupid plain old porcelain plate). Verrrrrrry good. As soup we had Sopa Castellana (Castillian soup), which is a sort of broth, with lots of old bread, pieces of meat, olive oil, garlic and egg. Heavy, but good soup.

After lunch we walked around in the city more, looking at the Cathedral and the churches. After that we went back to the car, and drove home – happy and tired ;p Dinner that eve was home-made croquetas! Mjummy!

The next day was a quiet day at home, legs tired and all.. Just watched some tv, read some, overall restful day. We baked an orange cake too, which is like *droooooool* mjummmmmmmmmm….Dinner was stew with baked potatoes, good!

On saturday we went off to Buitrago, to see the Midieval Fair there. Unfortunately I wasn’t feeling too well, and it was too crowded to find a place to eat, so we bought some stuff and went back home. Lunch consisted of meat with pan con aceite (olive-oil bread). Quiet day too, overal. In the eve we had more croquetas, cheese and the bread. After watching some tv we went to bed.

Sunday we had to go back to Madrid, pack up everything in my own suitcase and leave back for Belgium in the early eve. The stays are always too short… but I’m going back next month!

Jan

(ps: pics can be found here)

July meeting!

Last thursday, the 30th of June to be precise, Diana landed back in belgium :) After going through hell traffic we got home, spent a quiet evening there. We watched The Tuxedo) and went to sleep.

Friday the 1st, our anniversary day :p we moved out to Ghent for some relaxing days in the Ghent River Hotel, a nice ‘old-style-ish’ hotel near the River in Ghent (as you probably would have guessed by the name ;p). We did some impromptu walking about in the city, and then moved off to Brussels to go to the vegeterian restaurant L’Element Terre, one of the really cute real vegetarian restaurants in Belgium. We got lost going there tho, driving off on the wrong side on the ring around Brussels.. *shame* but we got there in the end.

On saturday we got out of bed late, had a small meal (Diana had poffertjes! and I had an omelette), and we went to Wellnesscentre Bijtebier in Drongen, where we spent a lovely 4 hours in different sauna’s, turkish steambath, swimming pool, jacuzzi, bubblebath, and a good backmassage too :)
Totally relaxed we went to the veggy eathouse Panda in Ghent, and afterwards met up with Chris and his girlfriend for Sin City, a weird black/white/red/yellow movie ;p take your pick of the color you like best ;p
Afterwards we went for a drink on the Friday market, where we basically closed the only ‘decent’ pub that was still open (djeez, everything closed at 1am…), going to bed around 3am.

Sunday ‘morning’ (more around noon) we left the hotel and went for pasta brunch on the friday market (goooood paaaasta ;p too much tho). We walked about a bit in the city and then went home to felicitate my sister for her birthday, and hand over presents.. and eat pancakes! Mjummy mjummy pancakes ;p and lots of them *g*
In the evening we went to Pinocchio, a true traditional Italian pizzeria, with veeery good handmade pizza’s (watch the chef while you wait), good wine, deliceous desserts.. *daydreaming* that was so good :)
Afterwards, trip back to the hotel and a relaxing night :)

On monday we signed out of the hotel, stuffed our stuff in the car, went home, and had a quiet day really. We went out to Aalst to buy some fresh veggies and other assorted stuff, and Diana cooked a great dinner at home :)
We did get some rather bad burns from ze evil polenta, but well, one’s gotta pay for good food…

Tuesday I had to go to work, and after getting home we walked around the rustique environment of Erembodegem (looking at the house-styles too, some ppl make weiiiiird buildings). We watched part of Princess Mononoke, a sort of classic anime, and went to sleep.

Wednesday we went first to my work’s offices in Capelle aan de Ijssel in the Netherlands to pick up a shipment, and went through to Rotterdam. Damn weird city, weird streets and too many roadsigns! We did some impromptu shopping at Albert Hein, went home and Diana cooked a lovely dinner for us both (I did help a little bit ;p)

On thursday I had to work again, and in the eve we went off to the cinema to go watch Madagascar! Great ‘kiddy’ movie! I like to move-it move-it!

Friday we met up with Kim (a good friend) in Ghent, and went to the Quetzal Chocolate-bar in Ghent and had a veeery good Chocolate fondue there. After that we walked around Ghent a bit more (shopping streets!), bought some general stuff (including a Belgian mobile + prepaid card for Diana ;p), had an icecream and went home again.

On saturday we had a big family meeting, lots of people (14 in total!), with cake, cheese, bread, … which basically took nearly all day.

And finally on sunday Diana had to go home again.. It’s been short, yet felt long, but too short all the time. Sad to see her go again.. but she’s back in August :D :D

Jan

26th.. Back to Belgium

Fenfen dragged us along to see some more nice viewpoints around Saarland, and old castle that was preserved more or less up a hill< insert name here >. From the tower you have a very lovely view of the surroundings :) During the walk down we did some impromptu-footballing with a rock, which unfortunately had to stay behind near the bottom of the walk.

After this we went to a < insert name here > old tower that’s the burial place of a few members of the Bochs family (which is way to rich), with a nice park around it. There was some strange ‘modern art’ thing there too that was supposed to depict nature or something. I didn’t really get it ;p

After this we went to < yet another place > with some vantage viewpoints where you can see the ‘loophole’ in the river Saar.

In the end we took off for Belgium once again, standing in some traffic jams, and having fun with a bus full of kiddies trying to catch the attention of the drivers, until one point Diana stuck out her tongue and they were mostly amazed ;p

For dinner we went to a little place called K-roes-L, where we had big buckwheat pancackes filled with goat cheese and tomatoes…. toooo goood and tooooo much ;)
After dinner we went to see Robots, which is a really funny movie to see ;p