Saturday, August 01, 2015

Grandson Nicholas in the Netherlands: Week Two

As I write this, Nicholas has been gone less than 24 hours.  How is that possible?  Tears in my eyes this time but with so many happy memories from the second week of his 2-week visit to see G'ma here in the Netherlands.

Day 8, Friday, 24 July:  War Bunker and the Lindeborg Happy Hour

It so happens that every Friday afternoon I play Rummikub in our senior-center's recreation hall.  We all decided that I'd still do it this particular Friday so that Nicholas could experience our Happy Hour afterwards.

So, while I played Rummikub, Astrid took Nicholas to this WWII Bunker 599 from 1940.
We had seen it before in September 2013 when Chris and Chad were visiting from England.
It's been split in half so you can see what it was like inside.

When they came back, it was time to join me for our Borreltje (Happy Hour) after Rummikub.
Nicholas had the chance to sample the hapjes...bite-sized, deep-fried goodies.
The lady at bottom-left just turned 100, so the photo-op was a must.
100, 70, 15:  That's about the size of it.

Day 9, Saturday, 25 July:  Rotterdam

Unbenownst to us at the time, this day ended up having the most severe storm weather in Dutch recorded history for July since 1901. 

So guess what we did?!  
We took the Waterbus from Papendrecht to Rotterdam on the Nieuwe Maas river, a 45 min. ride.
Besides visiting the Maritime Museum, we walked around the area to see the crazy architecture.
Nicholas and I giggled all day because it was so blustery.

Day 10, Sunday, 26 July:  Scheveningen Pier and Den Haag

Grabbing good weather, we drove to the North Sea after all that stormy craziness,
to walk the Scheveningen Pier and beach.

Look what Astrid found.  A wee little star fish (zee ster).
And yes, that's Nicholas' voice saying "they regenerate."

Just as we left the beach, it started to rain,
but we still drove to the Peace Palace in nearby Den Haag (The Hague).
We told Nicholas that if Hitler were still alive when the United Nations was founded in 1946,
he would have been one of the war criminals tried here.

Day 11, Monday, 27 July:  All Day at HOME

About this time into the second week, we all started needing HOME time and made the decision to do nothing.   In fact, about every other day Nicholas was able to sleep in till noon, which gave us all some "me" time.

Astrid decided to make her home-made macaroni specialty for Nicholas for supper.
Yum Yum Yum Yum.  I think he had 3 helpings?!

During the afternoon he finished his 1,000 dot-to-dot drawing of Amsterdam.
In fact, we both did since I had made a copy for him from the Cityscapes book I had just purchased.
(Thank you, Anne, for the great idea!)
Amsterdam was the first of 20 cities in the book, which made a good souvenir from our trip on Day 6.

Day 12, Tuesday, 28 July:  Brussels, Belgium

Okay, so this isn't the Netherlands, but because we can drive to Belgium within 30 minutes and to Brussels within 1.5 hours (80 miles), it made sense to make an extra-special trip to Brussels, the seat of the European Union, just to say we did it...and to give Nicholas another country-notch in his belt.

 We first drove to Mini-Europe on the north side of the city where we parked for the day.
On-n-off rain did not hamper us at all.
We told Nicholas he saw all of Europe in 1.5 hours.  HA!

From that point we all got Metro day passes and took the train to the European Parliament.
I told Nicholas this was like going to the Capitol in Washington, D.C., where he visited with G'pa Bill.
It was Astrid's and my first time to see it, too, so a real sight for sore eyes.

Then it was back on the train to the Grand Place in city center.
Mussels in Brussels was a must for Astrid and Nicholas,
followed by a real Belgian waffle and hand-picked chocolates by Nicholas.

BTW, at the start of the day Nicholas wondered if anyone would recognize his shirt's logo.
I told him that I bet at least one person would!  And indeed, one guy said "GO DUCKS."
Nicholas wants to go to Oregon once he graduates from high school!

Day 13, Wednesday, 29 July:  All Day at HOME (again)

It was laundry day and Nicholas got to sleep in again.
This is how we do our main living area where some clothes hang to dry,
and the rest goes to the community commercial-sized dryer.
See Nicholas' bed for the 2 weeks?  Yup.  The couch.
And once he was up, he had the entire afternoon to "game" on his laptop.

Day 14, Thursday 30 July:  Zuiderzee Museum in Enkhuizen

Our last full day together was perfect weather-wise, NE of Amsterdam.
I don't think we could have had a better last day together!
There was enough interactive Dutch experience to last a lifetime.
And because Nicholas bought a family plaque with his "Grannan" name there (now on order,
 see the handshake?), he said it was a "clutch gift" right at the end of his trip.
We'll take it to him when we visit Atlanta in October.

Day 15, Friday, 31 July:  Back to Schiphol Airport for the Trip Home

The last meal we had before taking Nicholas back to the Amsterdam airport was erwtensoep,
which reminded me to show the Dutch food experiences he had while here.
As I said on Facebook, he tried everything Dutch we offered him:
 uitsmijter (fried eggs on cheese, ham and toast), erwtensoep (split pea soup), hapjes (bite-sized goodies), appeltaart (Astrid's specialty), patat friet (fried potatoes in a cone), pannenkoeken (pancakes), zoethout (licorice root), beenham (hot baked ham) sandwich, gerookte haring (smoked herring), suikerbrood (sugar bread from Friesland)...
and many ijsjes (ice creams). 
He was such a good sport!

 After lunch, as we left for the airport, I already had a sob in my throat.
In fact, as I've written this post today, the sob has returned.
The only good news about that is it'll be 2.5 fast months before we'll see him again,
on our annual trip to Atlanta.

I guess the other good news is that we fell in love with him all over again.
Though it's always good to get back to "normalcy," we both miss him like the dickens.

Now it's time to make the photo book...full of second blessings as we review them.

A Series of Very Fortunate Events!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Grandson Nicholas in the Netherlands: Week One

A week is now under our belt, so to speak, and we're thrilled by what g'son Nicholas has already seen!  Remember that he just turned 15 and I just turned we're really celebrating big-time!

And for the record, here's a quick synopsis thus far, based on the collages I've been posting every day at Facebook.  Later, after he leaves, I plan to make a photo book with many more images in detail.

Day 1, Friday, 17 July:  Arrival at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam

Right outside the airport terminal is this art sculpture "I AMSTERDAM."
Talk about a tourist attraction we couldn't avoid/miss.

Later at home we walked into town to pick up museum cards...and an ice cream!

Day 2, Saturday, 18 July:  Fort Vuren, Loevestein Castle, and Woudrichem

We stayed pretty close to home but covered a lot of territory, starting with Fort Vuren.
It's an underground fortress from 1844.

We drove on the dijk along the Merwede river, crossed the bridge at Zaltbommel,
and drove back on the other side of the river to the Loevestein Castle, from 1357,
directly across the river from where we just were at Fort Vuren.
 With our museum cards we were able to go first time!

It didn't take Nicholas long to get the hang of walking on stilts.

Next door to the castle is a delightful town called Woudrichem,
our sister city across the river from us here in Gorinchem.
The "Nooit Gedagt" windmill sells the flour we use for Astrid's bread machine.
It also allows visitors to climb to the top, which we did.

While in Woudrichem we ate at the De Stroming restaurant.
It was Nicholas' first time to experience a Dutch uitsmijter!

Day 3, Sunday, 19 July:  Gorinchem Citadel Walk and Dinner with Jeroen and Eva

We had a stay-at-home day to walk around our Gorinchem citadel.
We stretched the normal one-hour walk into 2, stopping all along the way.

And as a huge surprise that evening, Jeroen and Eva invited us for Indonesian.
Jeroen is Astrid's son, so it was cool to see him, Eva and Nicholas interact.

Day 4, Monday, 20 July:  Kinderdijk and the Pannenkoeken restaurant

It happened to be a misty-rainy day but we enjoyed it nonetheless.
Nicholas said it felt "sacred."  His word.

And at our favorite pannenkoeken restaurant out in the polder,
Nicholas ate his first Dutch pancakes.  

Day 5, Tuesday, 21 July:  Paper Exhibition at the Gorinchem Museum

Again, because we had museum cards and were staying close to home,
we decided to see the Paper exhibition in our own city center.

Later that evening, Nicholas and Astrid did the dishes.
He's quite the sport, earning his keep.

Day 6, Wednesday, 22 July:  Amsterdam

 Have you noticed that we're pacing ourselves with days of rest between the big days?
Amsterdam was a long day but we did it, driving back-n-forth to the AJAX soccer arena,
and then taking the METRO into the city.

We started at the Rijksmuseum to see Rembrandt's "Night Watch" 
and then hoped to get into the Van Gogh and Anne Frank museums until we saw the long lines.
We walked by the apartment where Donica and I used to live, ate at Wagamama,
took the tram to the floating flower market, saw Central Station and the St. Nicholas Church,
and even walked the Red Light District, just to say we did it.
Nicholas giggled all day at the drug and sexual innuendos.

Day 7, Thursday, 23 July:  Malle Molen Restaurant and Mixed Fighting

  Besides going grocery shopping together and starting a 1,000 dot-to-dot drawing of Amsterdam...

 ...we went to the Malle Molen (Silly Mill) for supper (what the pot cooks),
and then immediately drove to Eva's father's house for  an adventure.

Nicholas had the chance of a lifetime to be mentored in Mixed Fighting
by Alex Hesseling (Eva's father), a real pro and instructor.

What a special and unexpected treat for all of us,
especially for me to watch and capture.

"Fighting isn't about winning or losing," the instructor said, 
"but about learning yourself and what you can or cannot do."
How's that for the first week!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

England 2015: Day 7--Chedworth Roman Villa and Malmesbury Abbey

Here we are, Folks, at the end of the week in England, one of my 70th-birthday gifts to me, myself and I.  Hello.  Mission accomplished!

It was our last full day with Lisl and Michael and so happened to be on Sunday, Father's Day, 21 June.  So off we went, first to the Chedworth Roman Villa 50 miles away over back, windy roads.

  It's one of the largest Roman villas in England and from the early 2nd to 4th centuries.

But true to English form, we immediately went for coffee break when we arrived.
Since I don't like just plain coffe, I usually find something Ginger Beer!
And because the shop was nearby, yes, we bought a Beerus Britannicus to take home.

Then we were off to see the mosaics, still under excavation.
It's painstaking work to get it all back together as it once was.

Does it blow your mind that we're talking about close to 2000 years ago???

You know those Romans, of course, and their baths.
Almost everything we know today about water we learned from them.

This villa was discovered in 1864 and is believed to have been a farm
of a very wealthy Roman, founded in 120 AD.

It's still being excavated, as funds are available.
I think of Mom and how she would be beyond herself at such a place.
Among all the other things, she was an archeological nut!

Did you know that escargot snails were brought to England by the Romans?
They run wild and free at this Villa and are protected.
Look how big they are (and surely very tasty)!

As happens at such tourist attractions, there were shows and exhibitions.
What did the Romans do, of course, but fight the rest of the world.  HA!

And because it was Father's Day, the kids got to fight their dads.
How fun is that!

It worked up an appetite for a splendid picnic lunch, thanks to Lisl and Michael.
Talk about living the good life.

  ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

 On our way to the Malmesbury Abbey, we drove 8 miles from Chedworth
to the Cirencester/Corinium Ampitheatre from the early 2nd century.
It's approximately 150 x 135 feet and probably held up to 8,000 people.
Don't you wonder what history those grassy mounds could tell!

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Malmesbury Abbey, from the 7th century, was dedicated to St. Peter and St. Paul.
When we arrived, we saw hints of it from its back side along the weir.

 We then climbed steps over these inlaid history markers to the abbey....

 ...passing the world-famous Abby House Gardens along the way.
We stopped only long enough to get a good look at the naked wrestlers.
Apparently the present owners tend the 5-acre garden naked!

We continued to wind our way around the ancient ruins.

And just before getting to the entrance, we walked to the nearby Market Cross for tea break.
The English (and the Dutch, I might add) really do take these breaks seriously.

What a spectacular view on all sides of the abbey but especially at the front.

Surely every detail tells a story before you even enter.
Don't you love that it's dog-friendly!

When we entered, the late-afternoon service was already in session.
But the lady at the back told us to make ourselves at home, take photos..."no one will care."
Much of the abbey still survives, with this existing third of the nave still in active service.

This video doesn't do the sound justice but...
let's just say my deepest soul welled up with tears.

 As we left and rounded back to where we had first started,
I couldn't think of a better place to end the England 2015 trip.

It was the crowning touch to one of my best birthday gifts ever.

THANK YOU, Lisl and Michael, for knowing.  You know me...
sometimes better than I know myself?!

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

And now, with grandson Nicholas arriving tomorrow from Atlanta for two whole weeks,
I'm ready to concentrate on yet another 70th-birthday gift to me, myself and I.
Life really doesn't get better than this.