Monday, August 29, 2011

For Bob and Peggy

In my last post I mentioned we had just had our first overnight guests ever to our apartment here in Gorinchem, Netherlands. For 5 days and 4 nights, we had the pleasure of their company!

Peggy goes back to my assisted-living days, when she was our Executive Director. Lucky for me, and I might add with some surprise, after we both retired we kept in touch, meeting for lunch once a month. Somewhere in there, she, who had been widowed, married Bob, who had been single for years after his divorce, with two grown children. I had the good fortune of attending their wedding 7 years ago and ever since, it's been a delightful acquaintance. Peggy often was my confidant when I needed a listening ear and both have been there for Astrid and me from the get-go, supporting us and waving us on to victory, sometimes before anyone else was able.

So it's appropriate they were our first guests! This post is for them.

Our apartment is a one-bedroom apartment with no sofabed, so it's lucky for us that our complex here has 2 guest bedrooms available directly across our courtyard.

Every day we could watch them come-n-go...
(click any image/collage to enlarge)

...for breakfast, first, and then for whatever else was on the agenda after power naps!

That Wednesday when we picked them up at Amsterdam's Schiphol airport (first collage above), we scheduled nothing but a walk around half of our citadel to give them the lay of our land.

I've already taken you on this walk, remember?

See how we celebrated afterwards?! Italian ijs.

That was Wednesday. After a good night's sleep and a good breakfast, we spent Thursday in nearby Culemborg, Wijk bij Duurstede, and Buren, all cities we've visited and wanted them to see.

In Culemborg we wanted them to see the gate and city hall as you can see here from 2010.
As it was, we spent more time at the gate and only peeked at the city hall (seen through the gate in the bottom left-hand corner above).

The biggest thrill for me, however, was seeing this De Hoop windmill from 1854 being painted outside the city gate. It was a first for me.

Then we continued on to Wijk bij Duurstede, our main destination of the day. We just had to show them the world's only drive-through windmill, which we saw in April of 2010.

Yup, Bob and Peggy are in our car (Granny Towanda). They drove through!

Then, on to the Duurstede castle a short walk away...

...where a wedding was actually taking place!
We had read that this castle was often used for weddings, so we were delighted to see it.
(BTW, if an image is Astrid's, I'm adding an 'A' to identify it in my collages now.)

We decided to make one more city stop on our way home and made it Buren from our time there in March of 2010. Some places nearby really impressed us that much, to show them off.

But the surprise of the day was when we walked to De Prins van Oranje windmill....

...and found it was open for us to tour, on a Thursday!
Talk about a gift for Bob who loves to see how things work! It closed right after we left.
(I won't mention that Peggy is afraid of heights and didn't walk up to the top with us.)

We had had a long day....

...but still stopped at our Gorinchem second-hand store before supper that evening.
We are often surprised by little goodies that are vintage and Dutch!

That was Thursday. On Friday, we had a 2 p.m. tour scheduled at the nearby Trappist brewery, but first Astrid headed us to a new city for me, Heusden:

To be honest, it's like a sweet little tourist town! And it's a citadel city, like Gorinchem.

Full of gevelstenen, too! I was in heaven.

But it was the harbor and the windmills to die for.
First, the Nr. 1 windmill from 1971....

...and Nr. II behind it, from 1973. What creative names, right?!

All that before our brewery tour at the Abdij Koningshoeven near Tilburg! Remember when we were there this past February? This time we took the tour because Bob just happens to be a beer connoiseur and even makes his own beer!

Before the tour started, Bob and Peggy sampled the beer.

Then the tour...only 6 of us plus the guide, speaking English...

...followed by another beer that came with the package! No, we're not drunk yet.

And then another beer with our meal. Still not drunk!

Maybe it was the monks sitting outside. Maybe it's just good beer!

You'll be glad to hear that we basically did nothing on Saturday instead of what we had originally planned. We took it easy and finished the remainder of the citadel walk we had already started on Wednesday.

Enough photo-ops to last a lifetime.
And this time Bob treated us to a refreshing drink on our market square,
not far from the ice-cream cones we had had on Wednesday. Full circle.

Astrid propped up her camera and did the timer thing. I love it!

That evening we celebrated our "last supper" at our favorite pannenkoeken place.

And then on Sunday we drove them back to Amsterdam for their Viking River Cruise to Basel, which they just finished yesterday before flying back to Atlanta:

They said their time with us was a good appetizer. It was Peggy's first time in Europe.
And guess what WE now want to do, as soon as we are able! HA!
That Viking boat really looked nice. Only 200 passengers.

Talk about a great visit, chock-full of the things we love best! Thank you, Bob and Peggy, for coming. We still can't believe the time came and went so fast. Here's till the next time!

And to our next visitors. Who will it be?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Guilty Pleasures

It's my turn at Vision and Verb again today,
talking about those guilty pleasures that are good for our heart and well-being. Enjoy!

In the meantime, we've just come off a fabulous week with Bob and Peggy from Atlanta, our first houseguests here in the Netherlands. We picked them up at Amsterdam's Schiphol airport on Wednesday morning and dropped them off at their Viking River Boat yesterday in Amsterdam for their 8-day river cruise to Basel. How fun is that! Too bad we couldn't have stayed on board with them.

Instead, I'll now spend a week processing the many images from our delightful time together out-n-about where we live here in Gorinchem. It was special looking at everything through their eyes, as you can imagine.

Change gears now and go back to a week ago Sunday when our summer festival was ending here in the city. We had the chance to see a stained-glass exhibition held inside our Grote Kerk just two blocks down the street from us.

Yes, this church with the tilting tower....

...and full of light during the afternoon hour. I saw it all in a new way.
See how the pulpit banner, stitched, picked up on the stained-glass theme.

All the stained-glass pieces were set up on displays around the inside of the sanctuary.

Our eyes were everywhere,
even on the things that had nothing to do with stained glass.... the offering baskets bags.
They fascinate me because they're not like what I grew up with.

In fact, almost nothing in the church reminds me of what I grew up with!

And yes, it was a free exhibition.

The minute we walked out of the church, a concert was ending on the market square,
featuring Carel Kraayenhof, a famous Dutch bandoneon player (like an accordian).
In 2002 he played at the wedding of the Queen's son, Prince Alexander,
who married a woman from Argentina where the bandoeon is well-known.
He's been famous ever since!

Remember this fella? Yup, our fellow Lindeborger friend, Dries!
He's one of our city's newspaper photographers, always in on the action.

I love it. Small and guilty pleasures are all around us everywhere...and life is too short to miss them! More on that at Vision and Verb today....

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to sister Ruth today.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY to wife Astrid on Wednesday!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Out-n-About Again

This week, Wednesday - Sunday, we have friends Bob and Peggy coming from Atlanta to stay as our very first houseguests. Astrid is working today but will take the rest of the week off so that we can give the big tour, packing as much in as possible to show where we live.

So, after our Apeldoorn trip 3 Saturdays ago, we've basically stayed put these last two weekends, except for backyard trips near our favorite pannenkoeken restaurant out in the polder, 15km see things through their eyes. It's been fun to plan each day.

Many of the canals right now have a carpet of kroos (= duckweed) growing on top.
Parents have to make sure small children/dogs don't accidently walk in!
But the ducks are in heaven because it's highly nutritious for them.
As Astrid says, they just open their mouths and vacuum it up!

If it's not kroos, it's wonderful sections of lily pads. This is that time of year!

Every once in awhile we see llamas...just like we do in America.
But look at the buck teeth on the right-hand fella! A face only Mama could love. HA.
I'm guessing they've learned not to walk into the kroos.

I love the polder. What is it about all that gorgeous space away from the city?!
Actually, some of the wealthiest homesteads are there....

...along with their weathervanes, of course.
This is the second windmill vane we've seen since I've been here.

Bob and Peggy will be intrigued by all the war bunkers around the area.
Some like this one are national heritage sites and cannot be torn down. They're Dutch reminders of both world wars and are called groepsschuilplaatsen (= group hiding/safe houses).
The steel hooks strengthen the concrete and held camouflage nets.

The Leerdam water tower from 1929 is down the street from the above war bunker.
I took its picture over a year ago but this time I was up close and personal.

All of that was two Saturdays ago...15km away from our back door.

This past week there was every bit as much to see within walking distance here within our city! You really do just have to get out and look, right?!

I wonder if this is the same fella from a couple posts back?
Can you imagine carrying your house on your back every time you go out-n-about?

I love the hollyhocks in bloom everywhere.
They grow wild here and are called stokrozen = stick roses.

I'm still trying to figure out my macro lens. Lots of experimentation!

It so happens this past week was the last week of summer vacation before the kids start school today here in the Netherlands (grandson Nicholas started 6th grade last week in Atlanta!). In many cities, the last week of summer vacation is day camp, as it was here in Gorinchem where we live. And that meant TIMMERDORP (= Hammer Village).

Ik hout van Holland on the above banner is a play on words.
Hout = wood. Houd = love. Both pronounced the same: "I love/wood Holland."
Besides all the water activities, the kids get to build houses out of wood supplied by lumberyards (like where Astrid worked last job). Every child brings their own hammer from home and helps build their fort,
often with a loft, supervised by adult leaders.
I didn't take pictures of the forts because I had the wrong lens (macro), but here's a video.

By Thursday, the kids were "over" their forts anyway, having too much fun with everything else.

All this took place at Buiten de Waterpoort (= outside the waterport) on the Merwede River.
It's where the war memorial stands...remembering those who never came back from the wars.

It's also where the water taxis come to ferry people from here to there.
Lots of nice benches to wait on till the right taxi comes!

Right there, over the shoulders of the family eating lunch, is the gate that enters the Lingehaven harbor into Gorinchem from the Merwede River (the same entrance for Sinterklaas on 5 December each year). Remember, this is a citadel city. Again, I watched through Bob and Peggy's eyes as a boat entered from the outside (top row of images below)....

...and then came through into the harbor (bottom row above).
There's a holding place big enough for 2-3 boats while one gate is closed and the other is opened.
And you can stand on top and watch the whole thing!

Talk about the life of Riley!
(click any image to enlarge, of course)

And then I came back home to almost as much excitement...a week of repairs to our sidewalks here inside our Lindeborg courtyard. See, sometimes you don't even need to leave home!

I told a British blogger the other day that all our brick/cobblestone walks/roads are "cemented" with sand.
It means they can always be pulled up very easily and repaired.
I love to see how things work here. Bob and Peggy will, too!

One last thing: did you notice that I tweaked my template a little bit? I decided to to give my Shutterfly photo book some shameless exposure on my sidebar. The only way I could get it to fit properly was to widen the sidebar.

So....there you have it. Enough out-n-about till another week!