Monday, January 28, 2013

A Week's Mish-Mash

First of all, today is my turn at Vision and Verb again....

...and it's about coloring outside the lines.
This is my second time in 3 years to pick up the 12 books I brought with me
when I moved here to the Netherlands, collected from 10 years ago.
I feel like I have found a much-neglected friend!

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Secondly, Astrid and I went to see Les Miserables yesterday, Sunday, at our nearby theater's 11a showing.  We were the only ones there!  It was our own private presentation...and meant I could cry unabashedly every time I wanted to.  OMG!  I don't care what anyone else says, it was W O N D E R F U L.  

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Thirdly, my laptop was in for its manual maintenance for 4 days last week.  OUCH!  I do NOT like being without my friend day in and day out.  Sure, I was able to use Astrid's and did, thanks to her gracious generosity.  But as you know, it's not the same.  For one thing, I didn't have access to PhotoShop and therefore did no processing of images.  HEAVENS!

BTW, I had never heard of an annual maintenance for a laptop, but I've faithfully done it now for 3 years...and it appears to be paying off.  And the reason why it took 4 days instead of one is because they found a virus that by-passed our Norman security.  That little bugger!

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Now, with what was left of the weekend, I was able to process images from a couple weekends ago when we drove out into the polder...after getting more snow.

 I suspect one day I will sing "I left my heart in the Polder!"
That's how much I love it.

 Astrid took a slight detour from the way we ususally drive home after the pannenkoeken restaurant. 
Lucky for us, we found a small stretch on one of the canals where skating actually was good.
Most of the canals this year have had slushy ice because the snow fell while it was freezing.
Astrid can give you the whole science behind it.  Trust me.

 But it was the sheep...always the sheep...that stole my heart.

How can you resist them!

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Did I ever mention that Astrid has a green thumb?  As second nature as it is for her to bike-ride and ice-skate, she thoroughly enjoys growing flowers and plants on our window sill.  So, I got out my macro lens while my laptop was gone.

 She bought 3 amaryllis bulbs...one pink...

 ... and two red.
Oh yes, I also got out my oculus, as you see.
Those plants totally blow my mind.  Have you ever watched them grow??!!
And seen how strong their stems are to grow so tall and hold so much weight!

 But THIS blows my mind even more!
Astrid buys hyacinths throughout the winter but this first one is, as you see...in water.
I had never seen this done in my life, with a vase made for it.
Not only did she never add water after the initial fill, it never turned cloudy or dirty.

You all know by now it doesn't take much to make me happy!  Which reminds me to remind you about my coloring post today at Vision and Verb

Monday, January 21, 2013

GRONINGEN, Netherlands

Just when I think I couldn't possibly surprise myself further....!  Remember last week when I started backtracking and found files basically untouched in my archives?

Almost exactly THREE years ago, before Astrid and I bought our Granny Towanda (Daihatsu Cuore car), we took 2 trains in February 2010 to Groningen, some 120 miles to the NE of us.  It was an all-day affair for us and our biggest trip after my arrival to the Netherlands the previous December.

Not only did I make no post of that trip whatsoever here on this blog, I didn't even have a tag word for Groningen.  Today I will make up for that lost cause!

The 1866 Groningen train station, for starters, is called the cathedral of the winged wheel.
 The statue of the horse and its owner (“Uncle Loeks’ horse) has been there since 1959.
First impressions are always important, of course.

Straightaway from the train station you walk across the city canal to city center.
You can see how cold it was...in February.

You know me and spires.  This was the first one we saw.
It belongs to the Aa Church from 1247!
Sadly, it wasn't open that day.

Whenever we walk to any city's center, we always get impressions.
That was the first day I ever saw snowdrops with my own eyes!

Within minutes...another spire.
This one is from the University of Groningen, founded in 1614.
It's one of the oldest and largest universities in the Netherlands and was voted its best in April, 2012.

The mother of all spires in Groningen, however, is the Martinitoren (Martini Tower) of the Martini Church.
Right there on the market square, it dominates everything.
You should know by now that I also love clock towers and sundials.
B I N G O.

Before doing anything else, we bought tickets and climbed the 1469 tower.
That's where I got my classic views of all the landmark spires...as well as the market square.
And, oh, I even got the windmill there in the background, far, far away (top center above)!

Lucky for us, the Martinikerk was open!  It's Groningen's oldest church, from 1225.

Much of the wall and ceiling paintwork has been preserved.

The choir dome of the church is 25 meters tall, surrounded by mural stations of the cross.
I could have spent LOTS of time there and would love to go back one day.

Another fabulous spire is from the 1602 Provinciehuis, seat of the provincial government.
It's a stone's-throw away from the Martinikerk, in the same neighborhood
  as the beautiful churchyard houses (Martinikerkhof), top above.

And lastly, at the end of our day, another spire is from the Jozefkerk, 1885.

 Officially, this is the Cathedral Church of Saints Martin and Joseph...

...which is why the St. Martin statue (middle left above) is in this church.

 The legend of Martin of Tours, b. 316-397, is well worth a read:  While a Roman soldier, he cut his cloak in half to share it with a beggar...and later dreamed the beggar was Jesus.
Those random acts of kindness...really do count!


On that inspirational note, it was time to head back home,
with impetus to get back to the Winter Olympics from Vancouver, February 12-28, 2010.
We visited Groningen on February 20, 2010!

Monday, January 14, 2013

A Sunday Joy Ride

When we found out IKEA was open last Sunday, a week ago (the first Sunday of the month), we decided to drive the 35km to go buy a new lamp.  The one Astrid had brought to the aprtment was from 30 years ago.  Kaput!

So, off we went to do our business...knowing we would then take a round-about joy ride on our way home!

At the IKEA entrance was this lovely group of tennis ladies having a party.
Who knows why they were at IKEA but they are students at the University of Utrecht.  
Girls just wanna have fun, you know!

From IKEA Astrid drove off the main roads along the Lekdijk...(the Lek river on the left with us up on the dijk)....to start our joy ride.

We weren't the only ones, as you'll soon see.

This alone made my day!  How's that for a joy ride!

Everyone was out-n-about...and the sun wasn't even shining.
One thing I've learned about the Dutch:  they have to be outside whenever possible.

And the farmhouses we passed were older than dirt!

It was about this time that Astrid mentioned we were near Schoonhoven.  We were here before, she said, back when I first arrived in the Netherlands.  Really?  I had no recollection of anything!  The name didn't ring a bell.

So, once home I opened my Schoonhoven-Oudewater-Nieuwpoort file from May 2010 and...no wonder I didn't remember.  I hadn't processed most of the images I took that day!  That was back before I was doing collages.  So guess what I decided to do this past week....

1.  SCHOONHOVEN, pop. 12,000:

Actually, this isn't Schoonhoven per se but out in the polder before getting there.

THIS is Schoonhoven and reminds me of a smaller-scale Gorinchem where we live.

This, too, is Schoonhoven, in May 2010, remember....

...with one of the most ornate water towers I've ever seen, from 1901.
(click any collage to enlarge)

2.  OUDEWATER, pop. 10,000.

Just as charming as can possibly be!  
St. Michael's church is on the right (above), from the mid-13th century...

...and here's St. Franciscus church from 1882.

 Oudewater is famous for its Heksenwaag (witches weigh house--bottom right above).
So it didn't surprise us when we saw this parade of witches with school children that day.  HA!

 Every town has its icons, of course.  Some are unique.

As we left Oudewater on our way to Nieuwpoort, we passed hundreds of sheep tending their wee ones:

I can never get my fill of sheep!  So adorable, especially in the spring...which is coming soon.

And out in the same middle of nowhere, we had to stop...
first for the water tower near Polsbroekerdam and Lopik, and then the free-range chickens.

3.  NIEUWPOORT, pop. ca. 1500.

 You may recognize this small town by now because it's where we go for spareribs 2-3 times a year.
We were there back in November when the Christmas lights were over the canal.
That's when we went to see Adrie, the wood turner, at his exhibit, remember?
Gotta love all that charm!

And speaking of Adrie, that drive home from Nieuwpoort always takes us by the windmill and church in Goudriaan where he lives and has his shop:

This, Folks, is Holland as I know and love it!

I stop for every weathervane I possibly can.

...and every gevelsteen.  You know me:  I want to see it all!

All in a Sunday's joy ride...and an added trip down Memory Lane from almost 3 years ago!  Now I need to go to my other files and see what images I never processed!  Stay tuned....

Monday, January 07, 2013

Nijmegen, NL, at Christmastime

Remember when we drove to the Christmas markets in Köln, Germany, the last day of November?  After spending the night there, we decided to NOT stay and do more of the same but to visit Nijmegen on our way home.  It's a city in the Netherlands we've had on our back burner for a long time, population 165K, because supposedly it's Holland's oldest city, celebrating it's 2000th year in 2005..

Like always, we headed straight for city center, where everything was decked out for the season...

...and because it was Saturday, the market was in full swing on the city square.
Pay attention to how close the church is.

We love to arrive in these cities at koffie-break time.
So right there midst all the market stalls, we spied this Atlanta Grand Café and Restaurant.
You know me and how I make connections.  It was a no-brainer.
Having lived in Atlanta for 25 years was not for nothing.

From there it was a short walk to the church through the market square...

...past the Weigh House (Waag) from 1612 and through the city port/gate.

And past 2 of the city's iconic statues!
The one right in front of the church is Moenen by Piet Killaars.
The lady is Mariken van Nieumeghen from a 15th century legend.

And because it was right there in front of us, we visited the Sint Stevenskerk from the 16th century.

 What a grand church from the outside.  So majestic.

But OMG, when we walked inside....it was the polar opposite of the Köln Cathedral from the day before.
Wonderfully bright and inviting.  The sun was streaming in everywhere through HUGE, unstained-glass windows, right on the magnificent organ pipes!

Did I ever mention I am a glutton for wood!

And these salmon colors!

As far as European churches go, this is one of my favorites thus far.
But that may be because the one in Köln really did depress us the day before!

Once outside again, we immediately saw a Zwarte Piet (Black Peter).
Remember that this was December 1 and Sinterklaasdag is December 5!

Speaking of which...yup, he was all over town in store windows.

Not hard to get into the spirit of things!

This is how it's done in the Netherlands!  HA!

By now we had walked through city center and were on our way to the railway bridge.

A pedestrian, cycle and train bridge, to be exact. No cars allowed.

Isn't that fun!

Daddy and daughter making a great memory!

All good things come to an end, they say.  We had to go back down!
But not before watching these 2 guys push their bikes up the side bike track.

From on top of the bridge we had seen a castle in the distance and headed for it straightaway.

It's the Kruittoren from 1425...

...and sits in this lovely Kronenburger Park.  
Black swans are rare in the Netherlands, so we were lucky to see one.

 By then we were ready to go home.  Enough is enough.
(I'm guessing you're saying the same thing.  HA!)

I even got some fancy weathervanes!

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Today is my turn at Vision and Verb again...on The Answer is Within You.  You might be surprised by how I found an important answer to the beginning of my new year!  Here's a clue:


Hope you're all off to a great New Year!