Sunday, June 29, 2008

Full to Over-Flowing!

Normally, our trips to Amsterdam last longer than a week! When they don't, like this trip, they can become chock-full to the brim! So, no wonder I haven't posted since I arrived...and before I fly home tomorrow!

Donica was here at the beginning of the week and got to see our Dutch friend, Astrid, on Tuesday before she (Donica) flew off to London till yesterday. So, while the cat was gone...yes, we played! I could do a separate photo album on each of these photo hunts, but for now, here's a smattering.

Even though Astrid has been to Amsterdam many times in her life, often with her father years ago, she had never been to nearby Vondelpark. So that's where we went on Tuesday. 120 acres (47 hectares) of parkland with ponds and grass and wonderful lazing-about places, full of flora and fauna. And yes, even ice-cream stands!

It was a photographer's heaven. And since Astrid is from my Shutterchance photoblog "community," we really were in heaven.

That was Tuesday.

THEN, we went to Windmill Heaven on Thursday!
I kid you not! If you can picture a place where there are 19 (NINETEEN, count them) windmills all within the space of a bird's-eye view, you have found Kinderdijk (Child's Dike), 15km east of Rotterdam.

Talk about a kid in the candy shop! OMG! NO, I do NOT have one photo with all 19 windmills in one shot. It's possible from the air, but that day I was not in the air, only on Cloud 9.

Because Donica was gone for a few days in a row, I was able to be gone, too, killing several birds with one stone in Astrid's neck of the world. I was able to watch tennis, two nights in a row. Astrid and her son are both tennis players and the first night, they played each other. Like mother like son! The second night I was able to watch Son play in one of his championship games...and win!

And THAT was on the same day, Friday, when Donica had the good fortune of being at Wimbledon, believe it or not. Centre Court! It was an all-day affair for her: Federer vs. Gicquel, S. Williams vs. Mauresmo, and Ancic vs. Ferrer.

Earlier on Friday we went exploring in Astrid's backyard.
How's this for the entrance to a museum?! HA! If you can't take a joke, you need to get a life, right??!!

Here is Astrid showing me her float for her city's big celebration in September. Shhhhh. You didn't see this. It's a surprise. No one in her city is supposed to know anything about it except the 12 ladies who are making it. You did NOT see a thing, did you!! When the parade happens, I'll show you everything then because Donica and I are planning to go watch it.

Just feet away from that float is a sheep fold (in the same shed/barn) where I went into fits of ecstasy. Baaaa. Baaaa. High-pitched. Low-pitched. I couldn't stop laughing hysterically. I just "baaaaaa-ed" with them.

And when we walked around and saw the cows and chickens running wild, I thought of my BIL, Don, and his chickens. Here an egg, there an egg, everywhere an egg-egg.

As if that wasn't enough, we then drove out into the polder where Astrid runs not far from her house.

Sheep and more sheep. This time I wasn't laughing hysterically but was in that blissful state of Soulful harmony with Mother Nature. Those sheep really do follow the leader. And I even saw one sheep turn around and start baaaaa-ing to those far behind: "C'mon, you donkeys! Hurry it up, would you?!"

Then we transferred all the photos off our cameras and enjoyed the whole thing all over again. It was the Second Blessing. Heaven.

All my trips to this side of the pond are not usually this jam-packed with activity. But this time I made the most of the opportunities at hand and took advantage of them.

Today Donica and I will slow down and may even go see a movie, which is relaxing for us. Tomorrow I fly back to Atlanta, followed by her on Tuesday. Then on Wednesday we fly to Michigan, along with Amy, Dennis and Nicholas, for the Hart Family reunion at the cottage for the July 4th holiday.

As you see, my knee is clearly up for the tasks at hand! It has not slowed me down one bit. So YES, I'm well on the mend! Thanks to all of you who have sent your best wishes. If you don't see me again before Michigan, a great July 4th to all you Americans. Enjoy the holiday!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Last Impressions of Hawaii

As you'd imagine, there was so much to see and do and feel in Hawaii. I have written about some of it, especially through Nicholas' eyes, since he was staying with us. I have two more albums which I'll include here (the island life, boats, etc.) and here (the flowers and birds, etc.). Here's a smattering of what's in the albums:

We stayed in the Sheraton Waikiki there in the background, right next door to the Royal Hawaiian, of which you can see a hint of pink. There was always some kind of boating activity going on there! It was a popular starting/ending spot for different sea excursions.

Sometimes I would watch these excursions from our 15th-floor hotel balcony. I have always loved to watch how things work!

Everywhere we walked there were flowers and tropical life. Not to be resisted!

The ever-looming Diamond Head is a focal point all along Waikiki Beach. It stands there proud against all skies and/or visitors passing by.

We took a couple daytime excursions to places away from Waikiki Beach, to the other side of Diamond Head, and saw a different side of island life. Different but similar. The sea is the sea!

You can't see the Diamond Head lighthouse from Waikiki Beach, which is reason enough to get away and start wandering. I LOVE LOVE LOVE lighthouses!

Amy's special flower since her first visit to Hawaii 2 years ago is the Plumeria. I remember being in Hawaii with Bill many eons ago and buying Plumeria perfume. I guess the apple didn't fall far from the tree!

One of our day trips was to the Kahala Resort not too far away where we were able to see the dolphins playing around during an instructional class. It was almost as fun to be the spectators...

...And to see more of the natural island habitat they had on display there. Donica is the Turtle, you may remember. HONU is sea turtle in Hawaiian. They can grow to be as big as me and her.

Always there was time to meditate and to see others doing it as well. How can you NOT slow down in a place like that and just BE! Maybe next time I'll go back and leave my camera at the hotel some of the time!

In a couple more hours I will close the laptop and be off to the airport for my direct flight to AMS, arriving tomorrow morning at 7:30a. Donica is there waiting for me...3 weeks since we last saw each other in Hawaii. It will be good to be "home" again.

And I'm glad to say that I turned the corner on Thursday after my knee surgery and now feel on top of the world again. I will not overdo it, I promise, but I will push myself to get back to full range of motion once again. Thanks for all your care and best wishes!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Aloha Boy

How many of us would gladly give our left knee to go to Hawaii (I would, gladly, right about now!!)! Can you imagine the impressions on a 7-almost-8-year-old boy?!

Remember, he chose the red suitcase and took ownership of it proudly, dragging it to the rental car we picked up at the airport upon arriving.

It was just a short little jaunt from there to our hotel (if you think in Atlanta terms, that is) where we all got "lei-ed" while Donica signed us in.

And he did say, when he walked into our room and peered over the balcony, 15 floors up, "It feels like a miracle. This is the best day of my life!" Kids know these things.

Before his step-sisters-to-be arrived the next day, Donica and I took him on the Atlantis submarine ride off-shore from Waikiki Beach. We had done it ourselves 4 years earlier and loved it. He had a blast.

But it was his own "ride" in the ocean every day that probably really made his day...and memories. The ocean became his buddy!

We had several walk-abouts from our hotel along the Waikiki Beach and especially loved visiting the Duke Kahanamoku statue whenever possible. That is one surfer dude to really look up to! WOW. Look at the difference in size.

Did you know that there is a live camera facing the statue that is constantly recording people who are having their picture taken for visitors who sign in? We saw Amy and Dennis there 2 years ago and Astrid (in Holland) saw me there this year. So Astrid asked if Nicholas could take a picture of me there....

...which he did! His little hands could hardly hold up my big camera but he did it and this is what he took! I'll never hear the end of it, I know. I will now have to teach him how to use a dSLR camera!

There were those rare times when there was nothing else to do but play his Nintendo DS. But, of course, that's why we brought it. While all the adults were enjoying a last-day Good-Bye, following the wedding, he, too, enjoyed himself. It was a good boy-sitter.

I already showed you the Diamond Head album from the last day when he and I climbed the crater before going to the airport. By then, everyone else had already left, including Donica (who is in Copenhagen and Hannover this week, incidentally). We made the most of our time, you bet. That post is here, in case you missed it.

If you want the full photo album of Nicholas in Hawaii, including the photos of him at Diamond Head, you can find it here. That's our Aloha Boy!


As I mentioned, Donica is in Europe right now...after flying to Spain from the wedding, then to China, and now AMS, Copenhagen, Hannover and AMS by Friday. I will join her in AMS on Sunday, leaving this Saturday, God willing and the creek don't rise..

Knee willing, too! I've had some rough times since my surgery last Friday but that's probably because I overdid it the first 26 hours when I was feeling no pain. AND I wasn't elevating my leg. Now I'm being a good girl and think I'm seeing myself get out of the woods. It's been a humbling experience because it wasn't as easy as I thought it was going to be. Must be my old age and stupidity. Other than that, I'm doing great. :)

Thursday, June 12, 2008

My Lucky Day

On my Shutterchance (SC) photoblog I have queued this photo for tomorrow (a muted version) for two reasons. No, THREE:

1). It's part of my Seoul series from our 23-hour transfer day in South Korea on our way home from Australia in May;

2). It's Lucky Bells on a pedestrian shopping street, and since tomorrow is Friday the 13th, my birthday, I want to be "superstitious" for a day; AND

3). I will be having a bucket-handle meniscus tear surgically removed from my left knee, yes, on my birthday, while Donica is in China. I have never had an UNlucky Friday the 13th birthday in my 63 years. This will be my 10th and I have no intention of changing my luck! :)

All of this reminds me that I have NOT told/shown you anything about Seoul, even though I've been doing a series of photos on SC. My bad!

So, here are some glimpses! We had a good 4+ hours to kill before getting on the plane again (after a good night's sleep in a hotel), so we decided to visit the nearby Gyeongbok Palace.

OMG! It was a feast for sore eyes. Actually, it was almost too much eye candy! But it could not be resisted and the camera just snapped away (as cameras are wont to do!).

We were lucky to see the changing of the guard, which had plenty of pomp and circumstance, of which this young-un is only a sampling. If you want to see more, please enjoy this entire Seoul album (130 photos).

On the same grounds as the palace is the National Folk Museum of Korea, where we spent about an hour. It was established by the US Military Government in 1945, the year I was born!

From the Folk Museum we walked to the nearby pedestrian street of Seoul's oldest outdoor shopping.

Vendors and artisans alike were selling their wares. It was delightful...

...and quite educational. Squid jerky, anyone?

I still have more of Australia to show you...AND HAWAII, of course. Please don't let me confuse you!! HA! (Lest I confuse myself!)

I plan to post about Hawaii mostly through Nicholas' eyes and NOT through the eyes of the wedding, for privacy reasons. IF you'd like to see the wedding album, just let me know (my e-mail address is in my profile) and I'll send it to you. It was a memory of a lifetime for all concerned, as you'd image.

In the meantime, have with me a great Friday the 13th tomorrow! Do you need a lucky bell?? :)

Thursday, June 05, 2008

"Grandma and Grandson"

Not to put the cart before the horse, BUT I just have to start here first!

On the day Nicholas and I flew back from Hawaii by ourselves (because Donica was on her way to Spain!)...I think that was Tuesday afternoon...we got up early to climb Diamond Head! We had been talking about it for a couple days and decided that was the day to do it after the Sunday wedding and when Donica was gone.

So we woke up early and got there at 7:30a to stay as cool as possible before the heat of the day set in. We knew it was a 0.8 mile hike up to the top and would take 1.5 hours to go and come back.

Of course, we went prepared and made sure we had plenty of water!

Besides everything to see along the path, there were fun things to explore, like this winch for a cable to lift things up from the crater floor.

And then a whole bunch of climbing! This stairway had 74 concrete steps leading to the first tunnel.

This stairway had 99 steps with cross-beams to support camouflaging.

Oh, and don't forget the views in between. You can see inside the crater along the crater's rim.

And yes, this was the 225-foot long tunnel, lighted along the way.

See how exciting it is to reach an elevation of 703.556 feet! Not quite the top (762 ft) but close.

When we saw the observation platform, we knew we had arrived. We did it!

And what a view on all sides!

On the left, while looking out over the ocean, is the Diamond Head Lighthouse.

On the right is Waikiki Beach where we could see our hotel. The low pinkish building in the center of the image (squint!) is the famous Royal Hawaiian hotel. The tall building right next to it on the left was our hotel, the Waikiki Sheraton.

When Nicholas first saw the ocean from our hotel balcony on the 15th floor, the day we arrived, he exclaimed, "It feels like a miracle! It's the happiest day of my life!" That's what it felt like to me when I saw it all with him from the top of Diamond Head.

We took our time and really took in the views...before heading back down the same way we climbed up. It took us an hour going up and looking; it took us half an hour going back down.

To put frosting on the cake, a few hours later as our plane was leaving Honolulu, we saw the crater we had just climbed from the sky. We did it. And we both were so proud of each other. If you want to see the entire album (50 photos), check it out.

Reward for a job well done!

Nicholas said, "When you do the post, G'ma, I know what you're gonna call it: 'Grandma and Grandson.'" So, yes, that's what I called it!