Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Some R&R Time

It's that time again when we will get away and sail the seas. Just what the doctor ordered for Donica in particular who is soooo ready for some R&R. I told her we may need to take a cruise every year to force her to get away and not be able to leave!

Photo taken in a cafe across from the Westerkerk when Amy & Angie were here on 10/10.

We leave Amsterdam this afternoon and fly to Barcelona, Spain, where our ship departs tomorrow evening. We'll meet up with a Shutterchance blogger tonight (José Angel Sáez-Díez) and then tomorrow will have time to sight-see a bit before we go to the ship.

Here's the Royal Caribbean route of our 12-night cruise.
And below is the exact itinerary.

Our Itinerary:



OCT 23

Amsterdam to Barcelona

OCT 24



OCT 25




OCT 26




OCT 27




OCT 28


OCT 29



OCT 30



OCT 31




















Barcelona to Amsterdam

After last year's cruise to Scandinavia, I promised both Donica and me that I would NOT ever again do the daily posting I did then! The Internet at sea is very slow (if at all) and expensive. So for both of my blogs, I really am taking a rest and will see you all once I get back to Atlanta on November 7th.

Don't forget about me! You can be sure I won't forget about you, even though I may not visit your sites. You're in my heart and that's what matters. I'll have a lot of catching up to do when I return. But for now.....Ciao!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Laura's Chalk

When I walked out onto the Leidseplein after lunch with Scarlet on Thursday (see last post), I saw Laura. It was 3:30 in the afternoon and she had been there, she said, since just before 3, starting this chalk painting.

I was in heaven and stuck around for over an hour, taking photos. When I realized how slowly it was going, I asked her if she'd still be there around 6p? "Oh yes," she said. So I went home to the apartment 10 minutes away and worked up the last post of my 3 blogger meet-ups in less than a week.

Then, back to the Leidseplein!

See how much she had done while I was gone!
By now it was almost 6p and the sun was going down.

This time I met Sava who lives here in Amsterdam and likes to help Laura by filling in the grunt work...the open spaces. That's his wheelchair.
Laura herself is from Florence, Italy, and has quite a network of friends who are chalk artists like herself. But this was her first time doing chalk "on the floor" here in Amsterdam.

She's 21 years old and has been chalk painting since she was 17!
What a beautiful, energetic, captivating, contagious smile.

Even though this was her model, she says she almost always puts herself, her own face, in her pictures!

After another hour of watching and taking more photos, I realized that I probably could go back and eat my supper and still get back in time before she finished up. When I asked, she said she expected to be done by 10p.

So I was back at 8p. It was dark except for the yellow street lights of the Leidseplein and all the bustling activity of the nearby cafes and other street artists.

The last thing to finish was the lady's hand on the book.

Once it was done, by 9p (six hours of work!), Sava graciously offered me a drink of wine that his parents had made (little red plastic glass). I would not have refused it for anything. The best wine in the world because of the moment and the celebration.

And then he said I must be in a photo with Laura. Why didn't I think of that! I had been using the tripod and my camera's timer for all the night photos (no flash). He put two and two together and said the camera could take our picture together. And it did!

I really was in heaven! I told Laura that every time I see chalk art on the Internet, it makes me cry because of how long it takes and knowing that a sudden rain will wash it all away. Talk about unselfish creativity. She LIVES for this. This is her life. She doesn't want to do anything else.

Yesterday I made a photo album of 86 photos and e-mailed it to both Laura and Sava. It was my gift to them after what they gave to me. I will never forget it. An eternalized moment of Laura's Chalk that I will cherish forever!

For those of you who want to see the album, copy and paste this URL in your browser:

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Blogging World

When it rains, it pours! Or, as Renny from Norway says: "Make blogs, not war!"

And so it is that in less than a week's time, I have met 3 of my fellow bloggers, two for the very first time.

James by now is an oldie but goodie, of course! I met him through this blog and saw him and his partner Matt in Duesseldorf, Germany, for the first time in June of 2006. Now they live within walking distance from us here in Amsterdam. Talk about a small world!
This photo was taken by my daughter, Amy, this past Saturday while on our canal boat ride.

This past Monday I had the good pleasure of meeting Yinks who was here in Amsterdam for the day, returning from Nigeria to where she lives in NYC. She's one of my Shutterchance bloggers, and, yes, might as well be one of my daughters. I'm starting to get a few of them! :)
A nice little connection is that she works for Ernst & Young, the same company Matt works for!

Just today I met Scarlet (aka Saskia) who is actually from Den Haag but takes the train every day, 1-1/2 hours each way, to work here in Amsterdam. Yes, she's Dutch and speaks impeccable English. She also is a fellow Shutterchancer. For 2-1/2 hours we talked non-stop about everything under the sun, from cultural differences around the world to who's going to be our next American president!

To top that off, I have Astrid in the wings one of these trips back to Amsterdam when I can take the train to her small village nearby. And this very next week, on Tuesday, we're scheduled to meet José Angel Sáez-Díez (another Shutterchancer) in Barcelona, Spain. But that's another story altogether for my next post.

How fun is that! As Scarlet and I were saying today, the world really is getting smaller and smaller with every blogger we meet. It really is an amazing thing, when you stop and think about it. By the law of averages, I just might meet all of you by the time I kick the bucket. :)

(And if anyone noticed that I'm wearing the same shirt and vest, it's so that you'll all recognize me!)

Monday, October 15, 2007

Out of This World

Of course, I HAVE to tell you about Saturday's boat ride(s) here in Amsterdam, since that was what we all looked forward to the most. And of all the days, it was the sunniest and warmest! The Universe was smiling!

We started with the most famous cheese shop in Amsterdam, De Kaaskamer, which happens to be just a 10-minute walk from our apartment. So many choices! HOW do you choose? Thankfully, all I did was take the photos and left everything else up to them. Donica, of course, was the one who knew.

At 2 p.m., the boys came in the rental boat to pick us up at the dock a couple blocks away from our apartment on the Lijnbaansgracht.

That's Matt at the helm, who was our chief navigator for the 3-1/2 hours we were on the canals. Oh yes, James, to my left (out of the photo) was often the pilot, of course.

This is an electric boat, BTW, that gets charged up at night and lasts for 12 hours. The engine is underneath the table and is so quiet you can't hear it. What a way to go!

The lucky part of the day, besides the sun, was a rowing competition that we bumped into several times throughout the day. What a fun event to see up close and personal!

You can see how it was a sight to see for those NOT in boats as well. How they squeezed through those tight spots is beyond me.

You really see a different perspective of the canals when you're at ground level, so to speak!

Potty break time! Yup. So you just find a place to stop, climb out, and find your nearest cafe. Which we did. :)

What a lovely time to just BE. Family and friends together.

Amy and Jack (aka Jackie) strike up a pose.

And then it was time to say Good Bye.
A humongous THANK YOU to James and Matt for joining us and facilitating this incredible adventure. What a memory!

As if that wasn't enough, later in the evening, after it got dark and we had eaten dinner, we went down to the Centraal Station area for a night cruise on a tourist boat. Here we're waiting in line with Centraal Station in the background.

With all those windows, it's a great way to see over 100 Amsterdam sights in the course of an hour...many of the same sights we had already seen during the day. That's the Sint Nicolaaskerk (St. Nicholas Church) in the background.

Speaking of Nicholas! While we were on the little boat, Donica's phone rang and Nick (Nicholas' dad) was on the line. He started off by saying what a soccer game (in Atlanta) we had just missed! Nicholas not only kicked his first goal ever ("and it was a hard kick, not just a wimpy dribble!"), which tied up the game 1-1, but at the very end he saved a kick from being scored by the other team! When Amy asked Nicholas how that felt, he said, "It felt like I kicked it out of the world!"

The girls are now safely back in Atlanta after a safe trip home yesterday. But that's exactly what we felt at the end of the day on Saturday after a long weekend. It was a day out of this world, which we will never forget.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Amy & Angie in Amsterdam

It doesn't get much better than this! We're the 3rd day into the long weekend with the girls and have had nothing but wonderful weather and great memories, packing a lot into the minutes we have and yet taking time to eat on the cafe terraces and people watch.

Amy said she wanted photos of the two of them together because their company will want to have an article on this trip, since the girls used their bonus money for this.

You don't have to ask me twice, Amy!

When we went to the Van Gogh Museum yesterday, we had to take photos in front of the "I amsterdam" logo, in front of the Rijksmuseum nearby. Talk about a photo op!

Here's Amy...

...and with Angie.

They both brought their own cameras, of course, and clicked away everywhere we walked. Speaking of which, we DID walk. Everywhere.

At the nearby Leidseplein, we had more fun people watching and looking at the street art.

The artist had a great time explaining the different pieces he painted.

And yes, he gave them a good deal on the pieces they settled on.

All of that was yesterday! The day before, soon after we arrived and they had a 2-hour nap, we went to the Anne Frank House and then walked to various places of interest, like Dam Square, the Red Light District...and to Amsterdam's only windmill, which even I had not yet seen. Woo Hoo!

Tomorrow is our boat ride along the canals of Amsterdam with James and Matt. If the day is as glorious as today, we'll all be in heaven.

So, in case you wondered, we're having a fabulous time!!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Amy and Angie

Today is a big day! Later this afternoon, Amy (my daughter who just turned 35) and her best girlfriend from work, Angie (turning 40 in November), are joining me on my same flight back to Amsterdam and will be staying at our apartment till Sunday.

Angie and Amy on June 13, 2005 (my birthday)

Amy and Angie both work at the same company here in Atlanta and just recently had a nice little bonus given to them, enabling them to make this trip to Amsterdam. Amy's birthday gift to Angie is the board and room at our apartment. Isn't that sweet!

So in 4 short days, we will cram everything in that they are up for. I think the Van Gogh Museum is on the list, which is good, since it'll be my first time to go as well. Other things like the Anne Frank House will happen, of course, but what we're all looking forward to (maybe the most?!) is a boat ride on Saturday afternoon with our buddies, James and Matt. Nothing like our own personal tour of the city along the many canals...with cheese and wine to boot.

Donica is in Hannover all week until Friday evening, at which time she'll join us for the weekend. How fun is that!

So, here's to Amy and Angie! Hip-hip-hooray!!

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Happy Birthday, Mark

When was the last time I waited SIX DAYS between posts?! I don't know but this time it's symbolic. 32 years ago, my son, Mark, was due on his sister Amy's 3rd birthday, September 30. He came 6 days later.

So today, after my last post recognizing Amy's 35th birthday, I recognize Mark's:


We'll be celebrating both kids after Nicholas' soccer game today, eating together, playing Spades and watching football. But last night we also celebrated by going to the Fair! We needed another person to accompany Nicholas on some of the rides Donica and I can't stomach. So Mark went with us.

My favorite shot of the evening was this one, showing the legs/feet of Mark and Nicholas. I love the difference in size. :)

Donica decided to try one of the rides (while remembering last year's debacle) and was behind Mark and Nicholas the entire way...looking like a sick puppy.

Nicholas had his own moments, as did Mark, but a couple of these rides did go down in history. Nicholas is clearly an older boy than even last year!

But from that point on, the 3 of them stuck to terra firma rides.

Since I spent my time taking photos, I didn't ride anything until the end of the evening when Nicholas and I rode the 30-minute round-trip alpine ride across the entire fairgrounds. It was already past Nicholas' bedtime, so it was a good ride to end on.
Calming and reflective.

I'd like to think Nicholas will often reflect on Uncle Mark's being with us for the first time in his 6 fairs. So thank you, Mark, for joining us and being the uncle Nicholas (and we) needed. I'm quite certain he'll always remember THIS Fair as the time you came and were his buddy. It was a birthday present to all of us. I hope it also was to you.