Sunday, October 19, 2014

Our 2014 America Trip: Overview


Has it really come and gone so quickly?  We're packed and have a couple more hours before we leave for the Atlanta airport for our flight back home to the Netherlands.  So while we're waiting, here's a bit of an overview, from collages I put up on Facebook.

 As you surely know by now, we fly back in October because Nicholas still wants to go to the fair!
This was his first year to take a school buddy, which actually changed everything!
We all rode the skylift together, first off, with them in front of us, of course.

Then they AND we were off on our own till it was time for supper.
The menu is always turkey legs and roasted corn.  Hard to beat.

While the boys were going on all the crazy rides, Astrid and I had a photo op!
(Remember, this is just an overview!)

And just before going home, we had our prerequisite homemade ice cream.
It was the best fair ever!

 You know I can eat that boy up, now 14, a freshman in high school.

And what I love so much is how much he and Astrid are bonding.
You can't fake that!

This year she had her new iPad4 waiting for her.
And guess who taught her everything she needs to know!

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Remember Bob and Peggy from just south of Atlanta?
We spent 5 days with them, while the kids worked and Nicholas was in school.
We love our little side trips with them around the backroads of south Georgia.
The Laurel and Hardy Museum is in Harlem, GA, which I didn't even know existed.
Oliver Hardy was born there in 1892.  Who knew?!

Nearby we visited Monticello, GA, where My Cousin Vinny was filmed.
The Two Yutes Tuna at the nearby Sac-O-Suds is their best seller.  HA!

We also spent a day, with picnic, at the nearby High Falls State Park in Jackson, GA.
(Those pics will come later, I assume.)

We were there to see the full, hunter's blood moon on Tuesday the 7th
with the lunar eclipse the next morning, Wednesday the 8th (bottom right).
Lucky us!  We'll never forget it.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

After Bob and Peggy's we went to the Blue Ridge mountains for our family's 5-day cabin retreat.
Talk about a room with a view!

 We even drove down the mountain to Blue Ridge, GA, to be tourists for an afternoon.
Pumpkins are my favorite time of the year!

And yes, this was another photo-op time for us as we walked around.

Amy took this on her iPhone one night while we made s'mores on the porch.  Memories.

And we always end the cabin time at a Waffle House for breakfast the day we drive back.  HA!

 ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

 After the cabin, son Mark had us over for potato-sausage soup, a family favorite.
(thanks to Astrid for the images)

His cat, Piper, showed all her best sides to Astrid, the photographer.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

We even had time to spend 4 days with Bob and Marc at their lovely home on Lake Lanier.
Their Cresswind 55+ retirement community is ranked among the top ten most affordable communities 
for retirees by AARP Magazine.  Astrid says she could move there...and that's saying a lot.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Last but not least, we captured between us these 4 weathervanes.
"We're not in Kansas anymore!"  But at least there was a Hart.

Like I said...an overview, before I get home and work on the rest of the images.
Man alive.  We really packed in a lot, didn't we!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Open Monument Day: Hoeven Abbey/Bovendonk


Remember how I mentioned (last post) that every September there is an Open Monument Day in the Netherlands when over 4,000 historic buildings and sites are open to the public free of charge?  Actually, that day, Saturday, has now become the weekend.  And because of that, we got to go somewhere on Sunday.

The village of Hoeven (pop. 6,500) is only 60 km from where we live here in Gorinchem, so even when we drive the backroads, you're talking about less than an hour's drive.  And you know us, we like to stop to see whatever is of interest along the way.

Like this city hall in Klundert, built in 1621, for instance.
Astrid LOVES doing the research to find these gems for our cameras!

It doesn't take long to walk around such a specimen and ooh and aah.
And since Dutch weddings are done at city hall, can you imagine getting married there?

While I'm at it, we saw other stuff, coming and going,
including that colossal basilica in the middle of nowhere in Oudenbosch (remember?),
just 15 km from Klundert.

But the weathervanes still take the cake for me.  I c a n n o t  resist them.
(To be honest, I don't think Astrid can either!)

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

But now, the Hoeven Abbey, which was our goal for the day!  Here's an overhead view which I found on the internet:

You enter at the bottom.

 The ground was purchased in 1282 by the abbey of Cistercienser of St. Bernard.
From then till now, it lost its Roman Catholic church function, became Protestant,
and now is the Bovendonk conference, hotel, exhibition and event center.  

 Because it's used as a conference center, it's not open to the general public,
which is why we jumped at visiting it on Open Monument Day.

Step inside and be amazed.

It was hard to know where to start, even at the very entrance.

We knew we wanted to see the chapel, of course, and eat lunch,
but the chapel wasn't open yet (recent service) and we weren't ready for lunch, so we walked around.

When we entered the courtyard, it all took my breath away.
Smack dab in front of us was the chapel...and the lunch tables...
and the chapel weathervanes....

And the cloisters clock, by architect Pierre Cuypers!
Gebruik den Tijd eer hij Ontvlied (old Dutch): 
"Use the time before it flies away."

Yup.

The cloisters.  The cloisters.
Okay, so they're modern now but couldn't you be a nun/monk there?
You'd at least want to go to a seminar, right?!

By then it was time for LUNCH.
As you know, many abbeys make their own beer, but because this is no longer an abbey per se,
this Magister beer is made for it by the Scheldebrouwerij in Belgium.
We are loving trying out new beers, can you tell?

On that wonderful note, totally satisfied, the chapel was ready for viewing!

Have you noticed how ornate the floors are throughout the entire abbey,
including the chapel!

I could imagine sitting at a service here.

As we left the complex, the same way we entered, the statue out front had new meaning for me.
I made up my own story for it:  Praise and Hallelujah.

A few yards further, near the gate, Mother Nature, too, was singing her praise.
It was that kind of day.

 ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

As an FYI, Astrid and I fly to Atlanta on Wednesday for our annual 3-week trip to see my family and friends.  We're down to counting hours....!  :)  

Monday, September 22, 2014

Open Monument Day


Every second weekend of September is Open Monument Day in the Netherlands when approximately 4,000 historical buildings and sites are open to the public free of charge.  We'd be stupid if we didn't take advantage of that, right????

So, last weekend, we took advantage of two places here in Gorinchem, within walking distance from our apartment, and then on Sunday drove to nearby Hoeven (next post).

Our goal for Saturday was only one place:  the Toll House on the periphery of our citadel walk.  Back in its day, ships passing by on the Merwede river had to pay taxes at the toll house to...pass by.  Hard to imagine?  Think about our toll roads in America, which is basically the same idea.

 This is what the Gorinchem layout (citadel) looked like in 1649.

This is what it looks like today, with the majority of Gorinchem's 35K population outside the citadel.
Astrid and I are lucky to live inside the citadel, which is the "old" city center.

From the citadel walk (bottom-center) you see past the toll house to our grote kerk inside the citadel.
Inside the citadel the toll house looks like...a house, built in 1598 (top-right).
The handy thing is you can tell what's open to the public by the Open Monument flag.

What we didn't know is that the toll house is now used by the Syndion non-profit group.
Syndion helps to mainstream adults with disabilities.
In fact, our favorite café here in Gorinchem, Metropole, hires disabled servers who wait on the tables.
(The café above is in the toll house, not the Metropole, for clarification.)
We LOVE the Syndion concept.

 So when we discovered the toll house is a place for the disabled to chill, we were thrilled.

Sometimes the "disabled" put the abled to shame, don't you think?

Thank God all this creativity has not gone to waste!

It makes me want to get out my own "paintbrushes" to start creating!

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

It so happens that we had an appointment in the afternoon and started out on our way home after the toll house, to eat lunch and get ready.  But much to our surprise....

...we saw another Open Monument flag and decided to check it out.
Guess what?  It was the Freemason lodge of Gorinchem, which I never even knew existed!
Who knew it was a national monument!
And after all the years of "secrecy" I had experienced about the Masons, 
I was not going to miss this chance to see as much as I could.

Very nice gentlemen were available to tell us everything we wanted to know,
without giving away secrets, which they explained were more inside each individual person.
Know thyself.  Conscience.  The Eye of God.
Sounds like something we all want, right?

To see and enter what I thought was their Holy of Holies rendered me speechless.

The Square and Compass are everywhere, of course, the most universal freemason symbols.
 The Square is for virtue, to "sqaure our actions by the square of virtue with all mankind."
The Compass exemplifies "our wisdom of conduct, the strength to circumscribe our desires 
and keep our passions within due bounds."

So, why don't they allow women??!  HA!

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

 While coming and going, we saw all those things that are "old hat" by now.
But sometimes I pay attention to them again, as though seeing them for the first time.
(My new 1200mm camera helps, of course.)

This is where we live and we love it here.
How many times have you heard me say that?!

And while I'm on the subject of where we live,
here are some more weathervanes while out-n-about on any given day.