Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Vagabonds Bonding

True to the plan and on time, two crazy women travelers got to rendezvous this past Sunday after meeting each other just a handful of blogging months ago. The real Vagabonde, the one who is French but who has lived here in America for 49 years (coming over the Pond at age now you know how young she is!), still speaks with a delightful French accent. "Do you really think I have an accent?" she asked, every time I mentioned it with delight. I LOVE accents and hers is priceless. I looked at Nicholas and asked him if he thought she had an accent. He smiled his huge YES.

So now you know who took this picture: dear grandson Nicholas (9)! I was boysitting him over the weekend in Atlanta when mommy and step-dad were away. While the cats are gone, the mice will play! And we did. He was such a gentleman and took all of it in stride. Several times he said to me, "G'ma, I can tell you are really excited!" Don't we love what the little ones pick up!

Vagabonde is not comfortable with showing her face online, for privacy concerns, but she sure helped us be creative. Look at that hair! No, the curls aren't natural but they sure do look it, don't they. SHE is natural. If you had been with us, you'd have felt natural, too...just like long lost friends catching up on each other.

Now here's the fun part. Pay attention because it totally blew me away. We connected to each other via our blogs just as I was leaving Atlanta for Holland last December. We both lamented the fact that my leaving meant we couldn't meet up...but we knew the possibility would still be there some distant day whenever I returned for a visit. And all the time I assumed she had found me through sister Ruth's blog, since I had often seen her name there.

No No No. It was through Renny's blog in Norway that Vagabonde found me. Back in Novemeber he was celebrating his 4th blogging anniversary and mentioned that an anniversary called for special gifts of "link love." He then listed all the blogs from his blogroll (over 100!) and said, "Pick out at least one you don’t know, pay a visit and make a comment saying you’re from Renny to say hi." When Vagabonde saw my blog on the list and that I was from Georgia, she chose me to visit and commented. That started the friendship!

Don't you love it! This is what blogging is all about, as far as I'm concerned. Vagabonde explained to Nicholas what a vagabond is: a hobo, in some contexts, but otherwise one who travels all around. In that regard, I consider myself a vagabond, too. Add the red hair and perhaps we're even sisters from a past life??

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Roller Coaster

By now most of you know that I was not able to make my original flight to Atlanta (from Holland) a week ago Saturday because of the volcanic-ash fiasco. My flight was automatically rescheduled by Delta for this past Wednesday at 1p. Good. So I kept my eyes and ears open all week for the status, knowing it, too, could be cancelled at the last minute. It was an hour-by-hour, day-by-day roller coaster of emotions.

Now, hold that thought.

I had sat at Amsterdam's Schiphol airport that Saturday for 8 hours before my original flight was cancelled. During that time, Schiphol was offering free wireless to everyone! Plus free water and free buns with cream cheese. So I was happy as a lark (almost as good as a free ice cream), sitting on the floor with my back against a pillar, plugged in to the power outlet, working on my photos from England and catching up on my e-mails. The time flew.

Then reality hit and I realized I wouldn't be leaving that day. But when? Who knew. So I contacted Astrid and she drove back the hour's drive one-way to take me back home. Two round trips in one day. Thank God for Granny Towanda!

Now here's what happens, remember, when they hand you a lemon! You go to the Keukenhof Gardens! We had planned to go when I returned from the States but we'd have only one week left for the tulip season and who knew what the weather would be like. With Sunday now free (no flights again), we made the spontaneous decision to go to the gardens NOW and not wait. That was a week ago today. The day was sunny and perfect in every way...not too hot and not too cold. So we drove past Schiphol airport, the third round trip in 24 hours, and "made lemonade!" I can't begin to tell you how everything I had ever heard about Keukenhof was even BETTER than what I had ever imagined. It was incredible in every way.

It even has a windmill, so you know I was in heaven.

Oh yes, and tulips of every kind and variety....

AND, orchids, of course....

It was a day to never forget. Totally worth the trip if ever you are in Holland during the Keukenhof tulip season.

Now, back to Schiphol and flying out to the States: it happened on Wednesday but NOT on the flight for which I had been rescheduled. The chaotic mess at Schiphol was so horrendous, I missed my flight! But they put me on standby for the next flight 2 hours later, which I made. It was a domino effect all day at the airport, I'm sure: people missing their first flight but making it on standby the next flight. While in the sky over the Big Pond, Astrid e-mailed daughter Amy who was able to reschedule a new flight from Detroit to Atlanta so that once I landed, I was able to go to the gate just as it was boarding. Son Mark was in Atlanta to pick me up and take me to Amy's...and I was in bed by 11:30 that night, 24 hours after having awakened in Gorinchem at the start of my day! THANKS to everyone doing their part!

And now I'm getting ready to go meet up with Vagabonde! Another sunny day (after rain all day yesterday and tornado warnings last night) and all's fine with the world...once again! (My return flight is on Monday the 3rd, via Chicago and London, adding another $900 to the cost of my flight back because of the change. But it's just money, right? Will there still be volcanic action then? I'm trying not to even go there yet....)

Thursday, April 15, 2010

What's In a Name?

If it piques your interest, please go to my turn at Vision & Verb today.
(and yes, I'm still in Holland)

There and Back Again

We did it! And we loved it!

The 5-day honeymoon to England came and went like a breeze of fresh air...and SUN. All 5 days! I think it was a record for England to have that many days of sun, without rain, in a row. Our hostess, Tracy, kept saying "You deserve it!"

I have miles to go before I sleep on all those photos...from Chester, Chatsworth (a royal house!), Stratford and Liverpool. But I can at least show you the two collages of the Shutterchance meet-up on Saturday. (I sure am loving that program!)

Since it was our honeymoon, everyone forgave me for making us center-stage in this collage. After all, you have to start somewhere, right? :)

There were 19 of us altogether: 15 Shutterchancers and 4 brave, tag-along spouses.
If you go to my SC site, you can put faces with names. But for you, you get the picture!

And now I get ready to fly out again, this time sans Astrid (boo hoo), for my first trip back to Atlanta since arriving here on 5 December. It's time to see my kids and grandson! We're still at temps under 50 F here in Gorinchem, even with the sun shining, so it will be a switch to hit the mid-high 70's while there. A switch but not to complain about, of course. :)

And speaking of meet-ups, Vagabonde and I will meet while I'm there, God willing and the creek don't rise. How cool is that!


Sealed with a Kiss! That's what Mick (one of the Shutterchancers) said on his post from the meet-up in Stratford. How could I not add it to this post, thanks to his kind generosity! :)

And for those of you wondering, it appears that my flight today (Saturday) is one of the few flying out of Amsterdam because of flying west, away from the volcanic-ash stream. It's scheduled for only 35 minutes late, so I feel very lucky!

LATER: The plans of mice and men! Long story short...I was at the airport for 8 hours before finding out my flight was totally cancelled (they kept putting it later and later), at which point I contacted Astrid and she came back to pick me up. Delta has already rescheduled me to fly out on Wednesday, without added cost, assuming the skies are cleared. I'll keep you updated. What a mess all over the world, right?!

Monday, April 05, 2010

It's a Small World After All

In a minute I'll get to the 'small world' part but first, Happy 2nd Easter Day (2e Paasdag). In Holland, there are two Christmas days, two Easter days and two Pentecost days; i.e. both days are federal holidays. So even though some shops may be open today, officially it's a holiday and Astrid is off work. It's a much-needed long weekend for her.

On the 1st Easter Day (yes, that's what they're called), yesterday, we took a nice walk around our citadel city where I was able to capture some of the first tulips of the year here. It wouldn't be very springlike or Dutch of me to NOT show you some tulips at this time of the in Holland!

Now to the 'small world' part. It's my turn again at Vision & Verb, a few days early from the last post because on Thursday, very early, we fly to England for our 5-day honeymoon. We had planned from the start to meet up with the other Musketeer in Stoke-on-Trent (near Liverpool), who will be our gracious hostess for the week. And then on Saturday we will meet up with the 3 Stooges in Stratford (think Shakespeare!) and others from our SC blogging family.

Please go to Vision & Verb to fill in the blanks of what that's all about. But it really IS a small world, after all!

On Wednesday afternoon, before we leave on vacation, I take a Dutch-language test to place me in a Dutch-learning course at our nearby Da Vinci College. I'm not sure I understand the test since I need to be in a beginner's course, but it's part of the drill, so I'll go. The offer, through the city hall, is that I will be able to take a 4/5-day morning course for 35 weeks at €15/month, instead of the €3-4,000 it would normally cost. Talk about a deal! It would NOT be available to me after I turn 65 in June, so I'm getting in under the wire. Lucky me.

More when we get back from England. In the meantime, enjoy Spring and don't forget to check out why it's a small world after all at Vision & Verb.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Drive-Through Windmills

Actually, make that one...because supposedly there's only ONE drive-through windmill in the world. And it's only 56 km (35 miles) from our apartment here in Holland! And yes, that's Granny Towanda driving through it, thanks to Astrid.

The windmill Rijn en Lek (Rhine and Lek rivers) in Wijk bij Duurstede, Holland.

While Astrid is at work during the week, I start Googling to see what the Gran Towanda (thank you, Red-Ink-Art-Photography Linda, for the nickname!) might want to see next. It was a no-brainer when I just happened to find a drive-through windmill that Astrid herself had never seen. So for our third trip out, this past Saturday was our longest round-trip to date at 154 km (96 miles).

But before I go back to the windmill, Wijk bij Duurstede is also known for it's 2 churches AND its castle. It's like slagroom on the appeltaart (whipcream on the apple pie) when you can get everything in one swell foop!

1. The Grote Kerk (Big Church) on the left has a flat top because the bishop didn't have enough money in 1486 to make the tower higher. It began as a Roman Catholic church but is now Dutch Reformed Protestant.

2. The Sint Johannes de Doper (St. John the Baptist) Roman Catholic church near the Grote Kerk is not as imposing but at least it has a spire!

3. The Kasteel Duurstede (Duurstede Castle), on the right, is a ruin from 1270 and is used as the site for weddings today, among other things. Can you imagine!

Of the 3 above landmarks, the Grote Kerk and the castle were my two favorites, as seen in this collage below.

The Grote Kerk and the Kasteel Duurstede.

But you know I'm going to say this: That windmill stole my heart. How is it that there is only one in the world...and how is it possible that it is almost in my backyard!

We saw other churches and windmills and castles both before and after Wijk bij Duurstede, which you can see here in my photo album. But as Astrid and I were driving home, I said to her that if ever we have family or guests visiting us here in Holland, THIS is the city we will show them. It has it all.

And in case you don't believe me, don't forget the klompen!