Monday, October 18, 2010

Meeting the Parents

You've seen this before from when Astrid and I were in England this past April, taken at Chatsworth House, if that makes any difference...the seat of the Duke of Devonshire. So British. Actually, so English (we were corrected repeatedly). It's my favorite picture of us to date.

But I digress. When I post this today, Astrid and I will have been in Atlanta since Friday evening, visiting for almost 2 weeks while I'm on Herfst (autumn) vacation from school in The Netherlands. I wouldn't be posting today if it weren't for the fact it's my turn again at Vision and Verb, on Meeting the Parents...or When Your Children Have Two Mommies! I don't want you to miss that. It's the first time for my 2 kids and grandson, Nicholas, to meet Astrid, even though I've known her now for over 3+ years.

How it all goes (HA!) is something I'll post about after the fact: taking Nicholas to the same Fair he's been to since he was 2 (he's now 10!), carving pumpkins and roasting pumpkin seeds (an annual tradition), watching college football, going to Outback Steakhouse...our treat for all the birthdays we've missed. During this week (while Amy and Dennis work and Nicholas is in school) Astrid and I will be with recent retirees, Bob and Peggy, friends south of Atlanta, but will come back to be with the kids this coming weekend, up in the North Georgia mountains. That's the plan. Once we're back in Holland after the 27th, I'll work on sharing those posts.

In the meantime, there are two things to catch you up on from a week ago, back home in The Netherlands. First of all, Gorinchem's autumn Fair took place at the same Grote Kerk spot where the Monday market takes place and so many other things throughout the year...just 2 blocks from us. Talk about CLOSE, the things that are at our fingertips.

As fairs go, this one doesn't cover a lot of square feet but it sure packs a wallop. It amazes me how much can fit into such a small space. But then, that's like Europe in general and they're used to it.
(Remember to click on the image to enlarge it and then click again.)

I especially had fun watching the little fellow on the right (above) who reminded me of Nicholas when he was that age. Needless to say, our appetites were totally whetted for the Fair with Nicholas this past Saturday...which gets better every year as he gets older and older (now 10). In fact, he tried the same bungee ride for the first time ever and had a blast. And this time Astrid was his buddy on rides I wouldn't dare attempt. But as I said, that's another post to come.

Secondly, Astrid and I drove a week ago Saturday to nearby Ridderkerk, outside of Rotterdam, to watch Jeroen, Astrid's 22-year-old son, play tennis. It was a gloriously sunny day, cool, and very Fall-like. It so happens Jeroen was what we call "playing up" with a guy 2 levels higher than himself. So it would have been a miracle if he had won. He didn't win but it was still fun to watch him play:

First, the warm-up...

...and then the real deal.
Notice in the bottom left-hand corner (above) how they score the games and sets. The yellow balls indicate who has won what games in this particular set. Thus, the one on the left side of the court is up 4 games to 1 in this set. The red ball indicates he also has already won one set. It's actually pretty cool. At this level/match, there were no umpires, so the players kept track of their own scores...under close scrutiny, of course, of all their friends and relatives!

Tennis is a big deal for both Astrid and Jeroen. Here's a picture I took of them together back in June of 2008 when I watched them play against each other:

Jeroen is Astrid's only child. Like mother like son. Seriously. I adore him and have already spent umpteen times with him and his girlfriend, Eva. In fact, they're watching after our apartment while we're gone. Though it hasn't been easy for Jeroen to experience the break-up of his family, he has graciously received me as his mom's wife. He's become my second son.

Which takes me back to my Vision and Verb post today...and when our children meet the 'other' parents after break-ups and divorces. We all know it's not easy. No, it's NOT easy! And that's why we take any of the joys and happy moments we can get.

So far so good....

Monday, October 11, 2010

Zeeland Province, Netherlands

Ready, get set, GO! And don't forget to put your seatbelt on.

A week ago Saturday, Astrid and I drove 310 km (192 m) roundtrip from home to Zeeland province in the SW corner of The Netherlands. See those brownish fingers in the bottom-left image (click to enlarge)? That's Zeeland with its many islands, much of which is below sea level. Our main goal was to spend time in two cities: first in Goes and then in Middelburg, the capitol of the province. But we also wanted to island-hop by way of the dijks and bridges, all part of the Deltaplan, one of the wonders of the world. Leave it to Dutch engineering. But this is one of the things they're known for: "God created the world but the Dutch created The Netherlands."

Goes was first and gave us one of our biggest treats of the day with its two-for-one main church: the Maria Magdalenakerk. If you Google for images of this church, it will show you two different churches that face each other across the street. On each church is the same name but one is the protestant church and the other is the Roman Catholic. We're sure there is more to the story but for now, these are the two churches from both viewpoints:

On the left, you see the RC church, taken at the corner of the protestant church.
On the right you see the protestant church, taken at the corner of the RC church.

First, the protestant church, with some more views.

And inside the protestant church.

Then across the street to the RC church (in the bottom left image you see both churches again).

And then inside the RC church.

It so happens we were there at just the right time because both churches were preparing for a musical festival. In the protestant church there was a small chamber concert going on, which we could have stopped to listen to for several minutes longer than we did. Both of us were in heaven. In the RC church, a choir was rehearsing. The acoustics in both places were out of this world. When we got home and talked about it later, we made the decision to make sure we find such a church nearby during the holiday season where we can listen to some of the great music of the world in such an environment...maybe Handel's Messiah!

That was Goes. We could have turned around and gone home right then and there! We even got some splendid sun for a few minutes, especially during our late morning koffie and appeltaart, sitting outside where we could see both edifices.

But on to Middelburg we drove, another 27 km further...the capit0l of Zeeland province.

Surely by now you get the picture of why we always visit the churches everywhere we go!
When you see a tower such as this from several vantage points around, you are drawn like a magnet. This is Middelburg's 1568 Nieuwe Kerk (New Church) with its Lange Jan (Long John) tower from the 14th century. Actually, it's an Abbey with 3 churches all connected by the Lange Jan tower.

What we usually do, once we get our bearings, is try to find any door of the church that's open. Usually it's the main entrance but not always. In this case we never got inside because there was a reunion going on for the Snoek family within the courtyards of the Abbey. The outside architecture for us was to die for, and since we had already been inside the churches of Goes, we took advantage of a horse of a different color altogether: the historic costumes (klederdracht)of the Zeeland province within the Abbey courtyards.

Astrid tells me that's gold and red coral...the wealth of the family, worn for the world to see.
These were the welcoming committee for the Snoek relatives from all over the world. And we just happened to get in on some of the action, lucky us.

That's when we found out the church wasn't open, but the Abbey's inner court with herb garden was, so we walked along the inner passages and went inside.

As you see, Astrid was in heaven...and so was I, watching her.

From the church/Abbey, we then headed to the market square for lunch...and this is where my mussels collage from last post comes in. Remember? That restaurant overlooked City Hall:

City Hall in Middelburg just happens to be the main building of Roosevelt Academy, ranked as the top liberal arts college in The Netherlands for the third time in four years since its inception in 2004. Not bad! Remember the collage of the college guys from my last post? Bingo. Their school.

After a great lunch, tummies full, we strolled around a bit more till we headed back to the car to continue our Zeeland island-hopping on our way home. There's always something to grab my attention, of course.

Then it started raining cats and dogs! Astrid was so upset that I didn't really get to see the Neeltje Jans Delta Park at one spot connecting two of the islands. Astrid calls it the 8th Wonder of the World...because it is! But I assured her it was perfectly okay we couldn't see it then because otherwise we'd never get home! And we now have a good excuse for going back.

We did see 3 more water towers this trip as well as a light house, so my collection is growing:

And two more special windmills...from Zeeland province:

See, I told you to put on your seatbelt! I'm such a glutton for these trips.


Change gears now because this Friday Astrid and I will fly back to Atlanta where we will be till the 26th. School has its Fall Break next week, so we're both taking advantage of it. We'll take grandson Nicholas (now 10) to the Cumming Fair, carve pumpkins, celebrate birthdays and enjoy the North Georgia mountains, in the same cabin as last year. We'll also spend time with friends south of the city.

Hooray for vacations and breaks! I'll be keeping my next date with Vision & Verb on the 18th, a week from today, so I won't be absent. Just not in The Netherlands!

Monday, October 04, 2010

Eat, Drink and Be Merry

It's my turn again at Vision and Verb, where I expand on the subject, of course.
Eat, drink and be merry...for tomorrow we die...or diet?

In the spirit of that celebration, I'm dying to show you what just happened recently.

Remember the Koorfestival (Choir Festival) I told you about in my last post? At one of the venues I just happened to see our town photographer for the paper who is often out-n-about at the same times and places we often are, especially when we're home on a Saturday. He, Dries, also just happens to live here at our Lindeborg senior-living complex, along with his wife. He is one of the writers and photographers of our De Lindeborgpost magazine which comes out at the beginning of every month.

What happened is this: When I saw Dries at the one choir venue, I started snapping away, taking pictures of him. I remembered once eons ago, when Bill and I were married, that one of Bill's uncles died but when they tried to find photos of him, there were none/few. He was the photographer of the family and was never in any of the pictures. So I wondered if the same happens to Dries.

When the choir finished, I ran over to Dries and told him I had more fun taking pictures of him than of the choir. HA! And that evening I sent him the ones I had taken, just for his enjoyment. Here's a collage of a few of them:

Well, you know how one thing leads to another! Dries checked out my blogs from my e-mail signature and before anyone could say Jack Sprat, he wrote me asking if I'd be willing for him to interview me for our October De Lindeborgpost magazine. Since flattery gets almost anyone almost everywhere, YES, OF COURSE! The lucky cherry on top was that Astrid was home (because she had a sinus infection, remember?) and was able to fill in all the gaps of our broken English and Dutch.

After 2+ hours and almost nothing written down on his paper, we all got to know each other better...before he was off to another photo assignment. He wrote nothing down guessed it...he learned everything he needed to know from my 3 blogs: this one, Hart & Soul, and Vision & Verb. Wow. The computer of his brain must have been working overtime. And that's when I realized my whole life's story is there on the internet for the world to see. Gulp!

So, on October 1st last week, our new Lindeborgpost hit our mailslots and look what was there, on four separate pages:

Okay, so it's in Dutch (click to enlarge)!
But you get the idea of it and the honor for me to be included this way. Dries was very kind and even included Astrid in it, writing about how we met, our marriage, etc. He was the one who chose which images to use. My only stipulation was that he would include one of the images I took of him! And he did (as you can see).

Speaking of Eat, Drink and Be Merry...this past Saturday we drove a total of 310 km (193 miles) to and from the Zeeland province in SW Netherlands. I'll post more about that starting next week but for now, two fun things.

Zeeland is known for its mussels. Surely you've heard of "mussels in Brussels?!" Since Zeeland borders Belgium (where Brussels is , of course), our guess is it's the Zeeland mussels you get in most of Belgium. So when Astrid said her wish was to have mussels for lunch, I knew I would make it happen for her (lunch/supper out is always my treat on Saturdays, no matter where we are). Sure enough, in Middelburg, the capital of Zeeland, there on the city-hall square, we found a delightful restaurant that served mussels even better than Astrid was expecting. It's her thing, not mine, but I enjoyed it for her as though I, too, were queen for the day:

My dancing queen with her mussels in Middelburg, capital of Zeeland province.

The other thing (reminiscent of my last post and the pictures of the Middle-Eastern boys), as we were walking off lunch through Middelburg, we passed these guys hanging out their window. I said to Astrid, as I often do, "Now that's a picture!" But just then, they started looking at us and I put my camera down before shooting even one picture. Astrid was shooting, though, and they asked her if they'd now be famous?! That started a conversation between her and them, while I took advantage of the moment...and she got their e-mail address (which she's picking up in the image below). These guys are students at the Roosevelt Academy there in Middelburg and were totally respectful and adorable:

Maybe I have a calling: to shoot young men everywhere we go and see if I can make a photographic case study of them. HA!

Eat, drink and be merry! Why not. Tomorrow we either die...or diet! Not bad, considering the alternative! (Don't forget my Vision and Verb post today. Thanks.)