Monday, December 26, 2011

The 2nd Christmas Day

Today is the 2nd Christmas Day here in the Netherlands.
NOT the 2nd day of Christmas and NOT Boxing Day. Just the 2nd Christmas Day
...the 26th, following the 1st Christmas Day yesterday, the 25th.
It's an official holiday...more of which you can read about at my Vision & Verb today.

And because it's still Christmas here where we live, I need not apologize for showing the Düsseldorf Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas market) from when we visited a couple weeks ago.

Where to start!

Since we went to see the Christmas market, let's start there.
Make that markets, plural, since there were several near each other.

The huge Christmas tree from Lillehammer, Norway, stood on the main square
in the old town/Altstadt, near the historic town hall.

Just when I wondered if they'd have a huge pyramid
(similar to my days in Hannover)...there she stood.
I was not disappointed.

And yes, I got my chestnuts roasting on the open fire!

And since I'm on the subject...there was food everywhere.... well as the ubiquitous glühwein.
Every stand had its own mug you could buy with your drink
(which we did, of course).

Yes, Santa, too, was there.... new and old versions, with all his toys.
(click on any image/collage to enlarge)

This is the eye-candy of the Weihnachtsmarkt!
When Astrid saw my image of the wooden tops, she said "Ohhhhh!"
Had she seen them, she would have bought one...memories from her childhood.

At one point we walked away from the markets to the nearby Rhine River, on which Düsseldorf sits:

This is one of the most famous promenades of Germany.
If ever you've been on a European river cruise, maybe you've seen it!

We actually saw the promenade from the other side of the Rhine
when we crossed over the bridge.
The Rheinturm steeple is the telecommunications tower.
When you see the tower from a distance, you know you're almost there.

You know me and architecture!

And weathervanes, too.

About this time we were ready to eat!
We already had our latte macchiato and bread-with-chocolate earlier.
And we would have had bratwurst with sauerkraut at a stand...
except that we wanted to sit down somewhere inside.
So we ate wonderful Indonesian food while overlooking a German market!

Then we were off to see one of the things we had come to see for Astrid: the Königsallee shopping street with all its posh stores decorated to the nines this festive season.

Königsalle, on a picturesque canal, is known for its fashion showrooms and luxury retail stores.
Astrid had last seen the window dressings 30 years ago.

It tells you everything you need to know
when you see furs selling for €15.900 - 48.900 ($20,760 - 63,849).
Or even that FURS are being sold in the first place!

It was the menswear window displays Astrid most wanted to see.
(Remember, this is what she trained for all those years ago.)

But we sure enjoyed seeing everything else, too....

...some things more affordable than others,
even though we didn't buy a thing!

It was a day for the eyes...and being "short of them," as the Dutch say.
Christmas was everywhere, whether commercial or not.
We got what we wanted...and parked two blocks away from all the activity!
(Remember that clean-car sticker we got for this Clean City!)

You might recall we also got a surprise.... Remember the glassblower? Maybe I'll show you more about him next week. He totally made the day worthwhile and deserves his own post

Till then...what will YOU be doing this day after Christmas, the 2nd Christmas Day? Check out my Vision & Verb to see what we'll be doing....

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Wonder Week

From wonder into wonder existence opens. (La0 Tzu)

My intention today was to post about the Christmas market in Düsseldorf, Germany (where we saw this little boy), but I've decided to leave that for our "2nd Christmas Day" a week from now.

Today needs simplicity. It needs wonder. May you have it in abundance all week long. And for those of you who celebrate it....

(from Web Images)

Monday, December 12, 2011

A Clean City and Rummikub

Do they have anything in common? Nothing more than that they're here in this same post....

First, Rummikub. After our two-hour play on Friday, we had our year-end party to celebrate a year of battling against each other. HA! Well, sometimes that's what it felt like. Old geezers, you know (yes, I'm one of them).

Jouke, our leader, reported the afrekening (= accounting) for the year (left side).
There were 10 of us paying €,50/week, bringing in €226.
A drink each week (koffie, tea, chocomel, or sparkling water) plus year-end prizes...etc.
Money in, money out. He had it all down pat.

Then he explained how the scoring worked.
We played 44 weeks but counted only 31 because of vacations.

The one with the minste punten (least points), took home the trophy.
Not bad for someone who had never heard of the game before coming to the Netherlands!
I felt very honored. Lucky me.

Then we got nice gifts...Dove shower gel and a €10 gift-card....

...and a hand-stitched Christmas card by Jouke's now-deceased wife.
When he saw how intrigued I was by her handiwork,
he ripped off another card to show me the back. It's the kind of minute detail I love.
(click on any image to enlarge)

Next week we'll see each other at our community's annual Christmas dinner.
It's been a good place to live!

Now, a clean city.

A week ago Saturday, Plan A was to drive the 116 miles to Düsseldorf, Germany, to see their Weihnachtsmarkt (= Christmas market). It had been 30 years since Astrid had last visited it to see the window displays for the rich and famous (remember the post on her window-dressing career?). Even though the forecast was for rainy weather, we still wanted to go.

However, the night before, when Astrid was plugging in the address info for Tom-Tom, she discovered Düsseldorf is a clean city. You can't even drive into it, let alone park, without a sticker on your car showing you have a clean car. You can get the sticker through the mail after you've sent in all your car's paperwork, showing what color (red, yellow or the traffic light!) your car is worth.

In other words, clean city means a clean, GREEN car.

So Plan B was to send in for the sticker and get it in time for this past weekend...which was a gloriously clear and sunny day. See, there's always rhyme and reason!

The sticker arrived on Tuesday in pleaty of time for Saturday's drive.
I promised Astrid I'd mark out all the important info, especially our license plate number,
protecting the innocent, of course. But look how proud Granny Towanda is!

That green sticker means we can park anywhere in all of Germany!
A clean GREEN car means a clean city.
(A yellow sticker means you can drive/park in some places throughout the city,
but red means, sorry, your car is not allowed.)

Don't you wonder why this hasn't yet caught on in America?????

As you'd guess, I'm now working on my Düsseldorf images. I'll give you one bite for now, because we had the unexpected surprise of watching a Dutch glass blower making tree ornaments at one of the stands:

Next week I hope to give you the whole enchilada! Till then, stay safe and warm.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Life's Serendipities

ser·en·dip·i·ty (srn-dp-t) n. pl. ser·en·dip·i·ties

1.The faculty of making fortunate discoveries by accident.
2. The fact or occurrence of such discoveries.
3. An instance of making such a discovery.

Today in the Netherlands it is Sinterklaasdag, 5 December. It's the traditional day for the Dutch to do their gift-giving for the Christmas season (in spite of American influences seeping in to augment gifts on Christmas day). Think Santa Claus and presents. Today.

Two years ago today (though it was a Saturday then), I moved to the Netherlands from America to begin a new life with the Dutch woman I married two months later. It was totally coincidental that the day I arrived was Sinterklaasdag. We didn't plan it that way. But every year since then, Astrid and I will celebrate this day as our biggest and best gift to each other.

That's serendipity. And, YES, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus!

I have always loved serendipitous moments. They may be more rare than "normal," but maybe that's what makes them so "fortunate" and "by accident."

This past September, when we spent a few days in England....

(continued at my Vision and Verb today)