October 2011

Romanian Buskers, British Theatre, and American Fossils in Frankfurt, Germany

Romanian Buskers

Week 39 of 52

Frankfurt DestructionFor a city known more for its commerce and finance than for its culture, Frankfurt turned out to be more appealing than we expected so we stayed on for a few extra days. Since we had such great fall weather, we took the intensive 4-hour Frankfurt on Foot Walking Tour and got a thorough introduction to the place. When you look at the city today, it’s hard to imagine how it looked after World War II when bombing almost totally destroyed it. The top photo on the right shows what little was left of the city center in 1945. Despite that destruction, the bottom photo on the right shows buildings in the town square that look old. That’s because they were built to look that way… in about 1980!


Frankfurt RowhousesSince much of the city had to be rebuilt, Frankfurt had the opportunity to experiment with architecture. A lot of ugly buildings sprouted up in the 1960s and ’70s, and our tour guide pointed out several large construction projects where those buildings have already been torn down! We did see a few examples of interesting modern architecture that seemed to work. One street had houses built as part of an architectural design competition to create a residential area with traditional tall, narrow buildings but in a modern form.


Jack and Gwendolyn

Jack proposing to Gwendolyn, who looks just like our dear friend Maggie!

For entertainment, Frankfurt has its share of street musicians like the group from Romania at the top of the page. We also discovered that the city has the largest English theatre on the continent, and we happened to arrive during the final week of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest. It’s one of our favorites and we’ve seen it quite a few times over the years, but we have to say that this was probably the best performance of them all. The cast all came from England and delivered Wilde’s witty dialog with perfect timing and impeccable native British accents. The clever staging and lighting, elegant period costumes, and just the right amount of music made for a thoroughly enjoyable evening. And all just a 10-minute subway ride from our apartment!


T-RexWe talked last week about some of Frankfurt’s many museums. We saved perhaps the top museum for this week, the Senckenberg Natural History Museum. While not quite the tour-de-force of the Smithsonian or some of the world’s other top natural history museums, it has a wide variety of exhibits covering most of the current and historical natural world including a large collection of dinosaur bones, many of which came from the United States.



The text reads, “After loveplay can lead to the development of a child if the sperm cell of the man fuses with the fertile egg of the woman.”

We continue to be amused and impressed by the European approach to sex. Walking down one of the corridors at the Senckenberg, we came to an exhibit showing the development of a human embryo. The first display panel (at right) introduced the subject in the usual direct, matter-of-fact European style. We can’t imagine this (particularly the sketch) at an American museum, but as we looked through the exhibit, throngs of Frankfurt grade-schoolers on a field trip passed by without so much as a giggle.


Spitting StatueLike most European cities, Frankfurt has its share of cute neighborhoods. Our favorite is Sachsenhausen, just a short walk from the Frankfurt city center on the south shore of the River Main. Besides being home to many of Frankfurt’s museums, the old part of Sachsenhausen, which was largely spared in WWII bombing, still has its original narrow streets, buildings that are hundreds of years old, and small plazas with unique artwork such as the “spitting woman” statue at left. Every 15 seconds or so, the woman lets fly a stream of water that will soak the unsuspecting visitor. Perfectly timed for a Halloween “trick”!

With that we will close by saying Happy Halloween and of course, Aloha and A Hui Hou!

Sharene and Harrison

Guten Tag!

Frankfurt Romer Square

Week 38 of 52

We arrived in Frankfurt, Germany, last night on the ICE (Inter City Express) train, which is the German version of the high-speed trains that run throughout Europe. Once you travel on one of these trains, you will never want to go through a TSA line or board an airplane again! Such a nice ride and so civil. This morning, Frankfurt welcomed us on our first full day with blue skies and fantastic crisp autumn weather as we made our way through some of the museums.

In pretty much every museum, some of the exhibits are breathtaking, moving, surreal; some are really interesting, odd, quirky; and then there are those that simply leave you scratching your head. Today we saw all types! Now we don’t have art backgrounds, so we often have to rely on our artist friends to come up with something redeeming about large pieces of stuff that a museum is trying to pass off as art. But we can’t help wonder how the “artists” who created the three items below convinced the head of a world-class modern art museum in a large cosmopolitan European city to give up some of its precious museum space for them. Keep in mind, each piece takes up either an entire room or at least an entire wall or large floor space. (And there were a lot more than three pieces like this!)

But we also saw things that we found very interesting. The first photo below shows an exhibit in which projections of a moving elephant appear on two giant translucent screens along with the viewers’ shadows. The second photo shows a beautiful sculpture made up of 100 or so thin plastic slits suspended between floor and ceiling with tiny parallel wires. The artist simulates a scene and its reflection almost as if it were a mirage. The third photo shows how thin the plastic pieces are.


A beautiful walking bridge crosses the River Main between our apartment and the art museum. We have started noticing an apparently very popular fad in which bridges are becoming covered with hundreds or even thousands of padlocks. The locks display names and sometimes dates and even slogans, the idea being that lovers put their names on the lock, lock it to the bridge, and throw the key in the water to express their eternal love for each other. At least until they break up, when we’re waiting for the bolt-cutting fad to begin! This must be a whole new business opportunity for lock manufacturers!


With Frank on Sharene's BDWe did have one last celebration in Amsterdam before we left: Sharene’s 58th birthday (and she thanks everyone for all the good wishes).

We couldn’t think of anyone we would rather be with on one of our last nights in our new most favorite city than our dearest Amsterdam friend Frank. He has been the best and most helpful friend anyone could have. It was a nice evening and don’t worry, Frank… we’ll be back soon!


Frankfurt MenuWhile there are lots of American fast food restaurants in Europe, such as McDonalds, Burger King, KFC, and Starbucks, you don’t see the bigger American chain restaurants like Applebee’s, TGI Friday, Olive Garden, etc. But what you do have every 100 feet or so in every big city is some cute little local bistro. Tonight we ate at a charming little place and asked for the menu… this is what they brought us!

We hope everyone is having a great October. We’ll check in next week.

Until then, Auf Wiedersehen,

Sharene and Harrison

Fall Is Here As We Prepare To Say Goodbye—For Now

Amstel Apartment View Fall

Week 37 of 52

Michael and Peter

Michael and Peter on the day they gave us a tour of the neighborhood.

We have less than a week here in the apartment on the Amstel that we have called home for the last six weeks. We have lived in Michael and Peter’s Amsterdam home while they have been in their other home in Spain. They told us they had one of the best locations in Amsterdam and they were right! The view outside our door has been a constant show of boats, barges, and tankers, bridges going up and down, bicycles and people going by. The trees were all green when we got here and now they are showing their fall colors. It’s been a lot of fun, but now it’s time to move on to another adventure. We thank Michael and Peter for the opportunity to be in the middle of all the action!

Even though our time here is winding down, we sure filled the last of our days with something going on every night this past week! We really are waiting for the week when we write: nothing much happened this week…


Rijsttafel with Lyn and Richard

Lyn is just to the right of Sharene and Richard is on the far right. Merci you two!


Lyn and Richard (our friends from Vancouver BC featured way back in Week 13 of 52) came to Amsterdam for two days on their way to a vacation in South Africa. They treated us, their traveling companions, and their Dutch relatives to a fabulous rijsttafel (rice table) dinner, which means about 40 little dishes of Indonesian food for 10 people. It was great to see Lyn and Richard again and we enjoyed meeting everybody and making some new Dutch friends.


Hans Klok

In this illusion he spins her head around about 5 times Exorcist-style… BUT HOW?


Hans Klok… magician, illusionist, entertainer, and amazing showman at the Carré Theater right across the Amstel River from our living room window. Everything he did was fast, fun, and left you wondering how did he do that???? Klok is Dutch but also performs in Las Vegas; if you get a chance to see him… GO! A very fun outing. Watch this quick YouTube clip and you’ll get an idea of his amazing talent!


Concertgebouw for Bolero

Our view inside the Concertgebouw before the Bolero performance.


Harrison fell in love with Ravel’s Bolero at a very early age and Sharene probably discovered it in the famous sex scene of the movie “10.” Together we’ve heard it countless times over the decades in recordings but never live, so we couldn’t pass up an opportunity to hear it performed in the Concertgebouw. Harrison got chicken skin (that’s “goose bumps” if you’re not from Hawaii) as the snare drummer began his quiet chant, and the almost painfully slow, sensual crescendo of the piece mesmerized us. We loved being able to watch each soloist create those familiar phrases. When the piece reached its glorious climax, Harrison was reminded of the famous review after the Paris premiere of Bolero in 1928, “If he had gone on for another beat he would have had to marry the girl!”


With Janice Ian

A very emotional evening for Sharene.


Remember Society’s Child and At Seventeen? Well, Janis Ian has been one of Sharene’s favorite musicians for the past 40 years. (And Sharene only has about 5 favorites…) So when we heard she was performing in Holland, we had to go! We took the train to charming little Zaandam, near Zaandijk where we visited in Week 25, and heard Janis put on a fantastic performance with a standing ovation. After the show she graciously posed for a photo. Sharene looks happy for two reasons… she got to meet this talented woman whose songs she knows by heart and she found someone in Holland who is shorter than she is!


Lance and Erica

Our Hawaiian neighbors giving us the SHAKA sign!


We almost didn’t recognize our friends and Big Island neighbors Lance and Erica. The last time we saw them they were hosting a going-away party for us in Hawaii last January and wearing substantially fewer clothes! We have to say it was pretty cool to have our neighbors visit us here from half way around the world. We had a nice visit with them over the last couple of days and gave them a tour of some of Amsterdam’s highlights including a walk through the Red Light District… no guys, you aren’t in little Hilo anymore!


Ferris Wheel at Dam SquareOver the next few days we’ll pack up our things and head off to Germany for a while. But who knows what we’ll miss in this fascinating city while we’re away? Just the other day we were walking by the Royal Palace and what did we see? An amusement park created in Dam Square with a mega-ferris wheel and roller coaster! This is a city where the fun never stops… We’ll be back, Amsterdam!

A hui hou,

Sharene and Harrison

A Local Tribute To a Man Who Changed the World

Steve Jobs Tribute

Week 36 of 52

When we got off the tram at the Leidseplein in Amsterdam this morning to meet some friends for breakfast, we discovered this 30-foot tribute to Steve Jobs tacked up on the side of a building. No doubt similar signs of respect and gratitude have appeared around the world. If you live in an urban setting pretty much anywhere, all you have to do is stand in a busy area, make a 360-degree turn, and you will see iPods, iPhones, iPads, and other creations that exist because of this man’s vision. Pretty powerful.

Besides using Apple products since almost the beginning (Harrison began using the original Apple II computer in 1979, his main computer is still a Mac, and we both have iPhones), we had a couple other connections with Steve Jobs. Some of you have heard these stories, but they are good ones, and this week we think they are worth telling again.

Harrison went to the Stanford Business School with many bright, interesting and beautiful people. One of his classmates in the year after him was a woman named Laurene Powell. The school often attracted top business leaders to give talks, and Laurene attended one with Steve Jobs. Steve was sitting in the front row of the auditorium waiting to speak, and Laurene introduced herself and let him know that she had won the business school contest in which the prize was a lunch with him. They exchanged contact details and set up the lunch. Well, they had lunch, soon became serious, ended up getting married, and by all accounts had a wonderful 20+ years together.

The twist to this story is that there was no contest. Laurene made it all up! You have to admire her ingenuity and bold self-confidence.

Like many Stanford MBAs, Laurene became an entrepreneur and launched a couple of small businesses. A few years later when Stanford’s Entrepreneurs Club wanted to have an event where a group of current students who wanted to become entrepreneurs would have dinner with a group of graduates who had become entrepreneurs, Laurene offered her home in Palo Alto as the venue. Of course, her home was also the home of Steve Jobs.

At the time, Sharene owned her bed & breakfast reservation service, and Harrison was involved in that business and his own entrepreneurial interests, so we were fortunate enough to be invited to that dinner. We arrived and a young woman who introduced herself as Lisa (we learned it was Steve’s daughter for whom the ill-fated Lisa Computer was named) ushered us in. The home was beautiful but they hadn’t gotten around to buying furniture yet, so we sat on cushions on the dining room floor and ate dinner on a big comforter! Steve came in and we all traded questions and answers and shared our experiences. An unforgettable evening… we especially loved watching Steve and Laurene interact with each other.

Thank you, Steve Jobs, for a very nice evening and, oh yes, for making our lives better.

Speaking of connections…

Mary Lou and Ben

Mary Lou and Ben on Utrechtsestraat


As you have seen from our weekly updates, we have not been bored or short of company. When you choose an interesting place to live, you can always be assured someone will visit.

Harrison has known Ben, a consulting engineer from Seattle, for over 40 years. For several years they were officially competitors, but in the small world of broadcasting they always saw themselves as professional colleagues and have remained good friends.

One of our first dinner parties on this year’s adventure was at the home of Ben and his wife, Mary Lou, during our stay in Seattle last winter. We got to see Ben and Mary Lou again a few weeks ago when they came to Amsterdam for Ben to attend the annual IBC Conference and Exhibition, one of the world’s largest broadcasting trade shows. We had a couple of dinners together as well as a private showing of our beloved Taylor Camp film, and Ben was kind enough to get Harrison a pass to the gigantic IBC exhibition hall.

Janice Walter Concertgebouw

Janice and Walter in front of the Concertgebouw


This past week, our friends Janice and Walter came from France to see us for a few days. Although they live only a few hundred miles away, they hadn’t spent much time in Amsterdam so their trip was a wonderful getaway. Janice is American (although she has been in Europe for 32 years), Walter is German, they live in France, work in Switzerland, and they have a son who speaks English and German at home but French at school. Talk about diversity!

Janice is a violist with the Basel symphony. We knew we had to get her together with Connie, another professional violist, who you may recall lives in Amsterdam with her husband Sape and has been featured in these updates a couple of times. Where better to spend an evening than the world-class concert hall, the Concertgebouw! No violas in this performance, though; we heard an evening of Brazilian jazz featuring legendary harmonica player Toots Thielemans who, at age 89, blew the audience away.

We had a wonderful time with Janice and Walter and we thank them for coming to see us!

At the Pancake Corner

Harrison, Sharene, Randy and Kathy at the Pancake Corner


This morning we met Kathy and her boyfriend Randy for a breakfast. Randy is CEO of an IT company in California and is in Europe on business. It was interesting to hear “CEO-speak” again; we haven’t heard that very much since we started on this trip, but it’s something you never forget! Randy is an impressive guy and like most CEOs he juggles a lot of plates and was often interrupted by calls on his cell phone… another reminder that we are happy not to be that busy but we enjoy watching someone else do it so well.

We have known Kathy for about 10 years; she also owns a condo at Kihei Akahi on Maui. Kathy has her own vacation rental company, Maui Vision, so we have worked together over the years. She’s also an accomplished artist, so after breakfast they were off to the art museums!

At 't Fornuis

Old friends, new friends, good times


You know how annoying it is when you go to a romantic, charming, quiet restaurant and there is a group of people at a nearby table laughing loudly and having a great time? Well, that was us tonight! Thanks to Kathy and Randy, we had the opportunity to share a lovely dinner at a neighborhood restaurant and meet two of their friends who live here in Amsterdam.

Manouk and Tony both work in theater, television, and movies (Manouk being an actor, Tony a former actor now coach). Another “connection” on this amazing trip.

And that’s how it goes… people ask us how we know so many people in Europe, and it just happens organically. We thank Kathy and Randy for taking the time to visit and introduce us to interesting people, sharing their aloha half way across the world.

Wishing everyone a great week with lots of interesting connections.

A hui hou,
Sharene and Harrison

Danke Switzerland and Vielen Dank to Amelia!

Our Extended Visas

Week 35 of 52

We left Amsterdam this past week and flew back to Switzerland for a few days to get our visas extended so we wouldn’t be considered illegal aliens!

After months of work on Amelia’s end talking with the Swiss immigration department, and loads of paperwork from us and Amelia, Switzerland decided we were not high-risk individuals after all (it took so long and so much effort, we aren’t sure what they thought), and in the end they granted us our requested 90-day extension beyond the standard 90 days of a tourist visa to the Schengen Area of Europe. Without Amelia’s efforts and perseverance, we’d be packing our bags and getting on a plane back to the U.S. right about now.

With that new page pasted in our passports, we are now legally able to stay in Europe as planned until the beginning of January 2012.

We won’t bore you with all the details, but if anyone is interested in spending more than 3 months in Europe… talk to us first!

The immigration office is located in the cantonal capital of Aarau, on the Aar or Aare River of crossword puzzle fame. Amelia’s sister, Isabel, gave us a tour of that picturesque city and served as an effective translator and bureaucrat interface for us at the immigration office… thank you Izzy!

Sharene enjoyed some gardening on Sarah’s terrace in the wonderful Indian summer and had so much fun getting dirt under her fingernails again! (Note the mountains in the background… your first hint we are in Switzerland, not the Netherlands.)

Dinner with Samantha

Harrison, Amelia, Sharene, Isabel, Samantha and Phil

We ended our stay in Switzerland with a dinner party where we met Sarah’s sister Samantha, who had just arrived from New Hampshire for a visit.

Sammy entertained us all evening with her hilarious stories and great facial expressions. She’s a wonderful storyteller and we think she missed her calling as a comedian or politician!

Back in Amsterdam, Frank (or Captain Frank as we call him) invited us out on his boat for a canal ride on Saturday. The weather was a fantastic 75 degrees (that’s 24 C to the Europeans) and the canals were packed with boaters! We took lots of photos of all the traffic in the canals, but we loved this one of the houseboat… look closely and you can see that the “green” plants are actually upside down glass bottle sculptures.

So another Sunday brings us to the end of another week. Although the sun is out, we can definitely feel the season changing into fall and it’s pretty exciting since we haven’t experienced fall for a long time.

Wishing all of you a beautiful autumn as we head into October.

A hui hou and mahalo Switzerland for letting us stay!

Sharene and Harrison