Urban Pie–Going Green

The other night, Cora and I were out getting groceries, and it was late.  Getting toward 9:00, and we haven't eaten yet.  Nothing in the deli looked good.  I didn't want to swing by Popeye's after what had happened 2 weeks earlier.  (Ask Cora.)

We wanted to get a "take & bake" pizza, but they didn't seem to have any, so we went back to the pizza section and were looking around for something a little nicer than the Jack's/Tombstone we usually get.

And we wanted to get something not too spicy.  It was getting late, after all.

We decided to take a leap and bought an Urban Pie Pizza.  We got the pesto & fresh mozzarella pizza with the cherry tomato slices.

Little Italy Pizza Slice

Wow.  Cooked up crisp.  Basically, a pizza margherita, but with pesto instead of basil leaves.  And it's a good call.  The garlic in the pesto adds a level of depth that I always look for but often miss when eating a margherita.  It could have used a little more mozzarella, but that's a little bit of a quibble for a $7 frozen pizza.

Cora liked it too.  Said it was hard to believe that this was a frozen pizza.  It reminded me of a flatbread appetizer you would find out at a decent restaurant.

We will definitely be adding this to our occasional purchase list.  Next time we may add some of those Tyson frozen pre-cooked chicken to it.

And I think we will be trying their chicken sausage and yellow pepper pie, too.


Travel Tech Update - 2016

Firing up the old blog again. I recently went on a roughly 3 week trip to Europe, my first in 10 years, and somethings sure have changed.  Others haven't.


Data plans – My cell phone company (AT&T) didn't offer free coverage in Europe. so I bought their plan for 300 MB.  I then went through all my apps (except work email) and set them to wi-fi.  Made it with flying colors.

And with the plan, I got unlimited texting, which was great for keeping in touch with Cora.

Google Maps – Without data, wasn't I lost?  No.  Turns out, you can pre-download maps for your destination onto your phone.  (Here's how.)With the maps stored on the phone, it just needed GPS to tell me where I was.  As a bonus, since I have a GMail account, when logged into Google on my laptop, I could * and save locations I wanted to visit, and they would transfer to my phone over wi-fi.

But, if, hypothetically, you leave the apartment the first day and forget your phone on the charger, if you don't have a good sense of direction, it might not hurt to have a paper map in your bag.

Battery – Using the phone for navigation does really kill the battery.  You may want to carry one of those some external battery packs that gives your phone another charge or two.

WI-FI – Look for free wi-fi where ever you can.  And leave Facebook alone until you get back to the hotel for the evening or find a good wi-fi signal.


Don't worry about the price of a phone call home.  Use Skype.  I would text with Cora, and set up a time for the Skype.  Love the wifi at the apartment/hotel.  It made the distance feel less distant.


Don't be a goof and just use the one on your cell phone.  That's not a camera.  If these are your memories, make them real, and use a real camera.  I took the wife's DSLR and snapped about 2,000 pictures.  I took about 20 with my cell phone.  And about another 20 with my point-n-shoot.

The DSLR was awesome.  Got some great photos.  It was a little heavy at times, and not as weather forgiving (which is why some shots were with the other cameras).  I tried not to rely on the neck strap, but carried it in my messenger bag when not shooting.

This also saved my phone battery, not relying on it as my camera, too.  One co-worker I was with, who only had his phone, and the battery died while we were out.  Luckily I was there to shoot for him.

I'm not saying you need to drop $500 on a camera for your trip, but maybe dust off that point-n-shoot that's in the drawer.


This was a fail.  I bought it for the trip, and at $49.99, I'm going to get my money's worth: just not on the trip.  I loaded it up with season 2 of 24, and it worked fine.  But it's region specific, so I couldn't download any more episodes while I was there.  And, unlike my phone, I couldn't download a mobile version of Google Maps for even a bigger screen map on the go.  And notice, it wasn't even listed in the camera list.


One thing you need when traveling overseas is a plug converter or two.  All my devices are multi-voltage, so that was handled by the converters already in the devices.  But, you still need to plug them into the wall.  At the first place I stayed, they loaned me a pair of converters for £5 each.  That worked well.  The second place sold me one for €15.  It may make sense to buy a pair in advance.

And I NEVER travel without at least one 1-to-3 outlet "T" plugs.  That allowed me to maximize my plug converters.  And I took a few extra USB cords and plugs.

Speaking of plugs, in London, all the wall outlets had a switch right on the outlet that could turn the individual outlet on/off.  The first night, I plugged my cell phone into the outlet next to the bed.  Woke up with the phone at 15%.  The outlet was turned off!  But they did have something cool: right next to the front door was a master switch.  Hit it, and all the ceiling lights that were switched on went of/off.  When you left, no reason to run around turning off lights.  One switch: All off.  Return home, one switch: All on.  Wish I had that at the condo.


Since I was going to be in London for 2 weeks, before leaving, I want to the bank and got $200 worth of pounds.  It was nice to have some folding money, but I did come home with £20.  My other destinations were supposed to be 2 or 3 days in Brussels (euros) and 2 or 3 days in Geneva (Swiss francs).  So, I figured I would try and just use cards there.  I ended up not going to Geneva, so glad I didn't get those francs.  My bank doesn't have any ATMs where I was going, and I hate paying ATM fees.  The bank suggested doing that deal where you buy something something with the debit card and get cash back.  Didn't end up touching a euro.  And while I made it, I will admit, having a little paper money would have been nice.

But at least I didn't have to hassle with traveler's checks.

As for the credit card, make sure you have a at least a "chip and signature" card.  If you don't have the chip, you're screwed.  They are all chip and pin.  Most places can deal with the signature part without too much hassle, but keep a pen with you to sign the receipts.


In Europe, don't be a putz, use public transportation or cabs.  As a CTA rider, I enjoyed the Tube.  I suppose you can Uber, but you're braver than I.  Between London & Brussels, I took the Eurostar train.  I didn't even realize we were in the Chunnel until they said, "Welcome to France".


He Hustles to Brussels–Part II

My last full day in Brussels.  My last full day of the trip.  By London based co-workers took off mid-afternoon for the train back home.  My flight back home was Friday around noon.  I was hoping to duck out a little early, too.

That didn't happen.

I got out about 6:00, and made a break for it.  I'm going to start loosing my light soon!

Welcome to Belgium: Need social security benefits. But there were signs that either the Avengers or Anarchists are in town.
This funky van was parked in front of the royal palace. Which I glanced over the fence.
But it was protected by lions.

King Leopold, watching out over the palace, too.

I was walking down this street by the palace, and got yelled at by police/ soldiers with automatic weapons.

Because I was literally walking down the street.  Right down the middle. They wanted me over on the sidewalk, I guess.

Whatever, there was no traffic on the road.  Maybe, just maybe, they should be less concerned about me, and more about people vandalizing the mail box they where standing in from of.
Godfrey of Bouillon – The inventor of the bouillon cube.
Musée Modern Museum – Museum of Fine Arts There's scaffolding around the Palace of Justice.  So, the Palace of Justice is behind bars.
I have no idea what is going on with these trees… SERIOUSLY, no idea.
I turned the corner to find a crowd gathered to gawk at a little boy peeing.

Manneken-Pis is the mascot of the city.  You find his image everywhere, from shirts

To larger than life sized chocolate statues

Here's the original Manneken-Pis

I knew that going to Brussels, I would need to get Cora something Smurfy.  After passing on the lunch box earlier, I found this Smurf shop right by



I mean, she dressed as a Smurf for Halloween when she was younger.

This is one time I wish I had some folding money on me.  But I had my charge card, she got some Smurfs.

I made my way back to the Grand Place…
To get some shots before the sun set.
Le Roy?  Is that you, Le Roy?  I didn't recognize you in the daylight.
And then I started wandering the side streets… just to see what I could see.
And to find more neon… and more neon…
and neon with the red filter… and terrifying hostage taking rabbits.
And this is Manneken-Pis's sister, Jeanneke Pis.  She's peeing in jail. But she seems happy about it.
She's actually located down this little alley Delirium Alley
Beer Planet.  Not Beer Asteroid.  Not Beer Moon.  Beer Planet. I found this cat highly disturbing…
And a little exciting. I have no idea what they show at this cinema.  Probably naked cowboys sitting around eating pudding.
"A La Mort Subite" – "A Sudden Death".  Like the beer from the night before.  Named after the last round of a dice game some patrons used to play on their lunch hour. Back at the Cathedral.  I a walking is circles around the Grand Place area.  Snapping as many pictures as I can before I lose my light.
Mooo!  Mooo!
As always, a few flowers for Cora And a few more for me.
Back in the Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert.  Le Pain Quotidien.  Appears that there's one in my old neighborhood now.

Now that's an Easter egg.  Hopefully not a Cadbury Creme Egg.  Imagine all that goo. 

Easter bread with rabbits baked into the crust. Belgian Waffles.  In Belgium.  They did not have Brussels Sprouts shops.
A nice jazz band grooving in Agora Square. Touching the mustache of Charles Buls, former mayor of Brussels.
I remember this place.  When I last visited about 25 years ago, the I was staying with my ex-girlfriend and her now ex-fiancée worked at that hotel at the time. There were some emotions here.  Echoes of the old jealousy/hurt, but mostly relief.  Cora was worth the wait.
That's some name. Some beautiful stained glass in a store window.
A guy playing the accordion on the far corner has a guy on the near corner dancing. I assume this means that it is okay to let your dog poop on the street.
So, I had lost my light and was getting hungry, so I decided after wandering around for a while that Falstaff looked like a good place to eat.

Until I noticed the sign that said "Only cash today!  Sorry"

Not having any cash, I kept walking, but not before taking a shot through the window.  And the guy sitting there was well aware that his picture was being taken.  And he was not happy about it.
Out in front of the Brussels Stock Exchange, looking up at the lions. It sits on the Place de la Bourse.  If this looks familiar, it was where Brussels gathered after the bombing.  Freaked me out a little when I saw it on the Today show and I realized I WAS RIGHT THERE!
These guys tried to sell me some "homemade" trinkets to help pay for their mission. I gave them a $1 (once again, no local currency).  Still need to email them this picture. Ended up eating at Raphael's Restaurant.  It was filled with these old religious statues.  I could not find restaurants for Donatello, Leonardo, or Michelangelo.
More inside on Raphael's. The staircase to the upper floor where the bathrooms were wound around and past this chandelier.
I think the book says, "Bathrooms that way". And a nice light (bot not "light") beer.
More neon.  I told you.  I fell in love with neon this trip. Maybe they have "Dogs Playing Polo"?
I'm not certain this guy makes me want to try your frites.

Mont des Arts – Clock says you better bet back to the hotel and get packing.

I think these kids are mocking me. Looking down the Mont des Arts toward the Grand Place.  Even though I needed to get back, I lingered for a few minutes.
Maybe that means something different in French or Flemish? I told the native French co-worker Lalie that this sign said, "Cheese Ball".
And now I feel like I'm in any mall USA.  But no Conan [LINK to blogpost] And one last blast of neon.

And with that, I called it a night.  Packed, Skyped with Cora, and prepared to have one of the longer days of my life as I chased the sun across the Atlantic.

This part of the trip involved passing through the Brussels Airport.  This is about 10 days before the bombing.  I remember as I was walking through the airport, I think I went through 4 different security checks, how safe I felt.  I didn't take many pictures inside.  There were a lot of serious people with their fingers not far from triggers.  I didn't want to draw any undo attention.  But, as best as I can tell, I walked within a few feet of where the explosions happened.  [Chills]

Back at Luxembourg Square, looking at the European Parliament. This old train station is actually the EU Parliament Information Office.
The fuschia squirrel was a little freaky. The statue of John Cockerill, a prominent British-Belgian 19th century industrialist in the center of the square.
Look who is creeping around behind the trees!  It's CORA!  It's a SIGN! And I'm at the airport, about ready for my flight home.
The "B" is supposed to look like a heart.  Their motto is "The Heart of Europe".  Luckily this play area was well aware of where the bombs went off.

It was a long flight back, but I entertained myself by watching Star Wars: Phantom Menace (fell asleep during it), Ant Man, Man of Steel (it turned me off from wanting to see Batman V Superman), Star Wars: The Force Awakens.  But even with that and all the ice cream sundae cart, I couldn't wait for the flight to get over.


Im Home

Cora was waiting for me.