Monday, April 30, 2012

A Button and a Bridge

Did you notice a couple weeks back that there is now a Vision and Verb button graphic on my sidebar?!  Now there's an added one underneath for Our Shoppe which is having its Grand Opening today.

If you go to my Vision and Verb post today, you can read all about it.
The short version is that we 21 collaborators are reprising select images from the past 2+ years to sell as greeting cards, the profits of which will be loaned in $25 allotments to the working poor around the world who are starting up their own businesses.  It's our way of giving back, through KIVA as our conduit.
So if you go to my sidebar and click on the Shoppe button, you'll be there.
Scroll down to find me and you'll see my 5 images up for sale...for a good cause.

What I never told you is that another collaborator and I took on the Shoppe as our project over a month ago.  To see it brought to fruition now is beyond thrilling for me.  It's been a great labor of love for both of us.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Now...a bridge.  The Moses Bridge, to be exact.  Who hasn't heard the Old Testament story of how Moses parted the Red Sea by waving his staff over the water, allowing the Israelites to cross over on dry land! 

And yet almost no one in the Netherlands has heard of the Moses Bridge that is only 48 miles SW of us in the city of Halsteren! We actually heard about it through daughter Amy's father-in-law in California.
Astrid has since Googled to find people all over the world who know about it...except the Dutch.

So a week ago we made it our business to go find it.
Fort de Roovere was the largest fort on the West Brabant water line in the 17th century,  
holding Spanish and French invaders at bay.

The orginial fort was surrounded by a moat with no bridge access.
But in 2010 a restoration project added the bridge to give access to the entire fort area.
In the center image above, you see the opening to the bridge in one of the fortress trenches.

Can you imagine the excitement we felt as we approached that narrow entrance to the bridge!
And there she was...spread out before us, like the parting of the Red Sea.
The bridge is built from Accoya wood sheet piling on either side, with a hardwood deck/stairs in between. Accoya wood’s durability and guaranteed performance in-ground and in freshwater made this possible.

 Believe it or not, we were the only ones there, so Astrid was my model to give it scale.
Do you notice how yellow-green everything is?  S P R I N G.

Up close and really do feel like you're walking through the Red Sea!

When it started to sprinkle, the photo op took on a whole new meaning.

Yup.  My University of Michigan colors now grace the Moses Bridge!
 And what Astrid is pointing to is the sign in the bridge wall that gives the pertinent stats:

This invisible pedestrian bridge was built in 2010 by Ro Koster and Ad Kil Architects.
It happened since I've been living here.  Leave it to the Dutch!

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

 Another Jan van Haasteren puzzle finished:  On the Assembly Line (only 500 pc.).
(click to enlarge)

 And don't forget the Grand Opening of Our Shoppe at Vision and Verb today!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Bats in the Belfry

You already know about tree huggers and how they can make or break a project, but in this post, instead of trees, keep thinking BAT HUGGERS.

For several years now, even before I arrived at the end of 2009, our city here in the Netherlands has planned renovation of old neighborhoods.  Call them eyesores.  It so happens one of them is situated on two sides of our beautiful senior-living complex.

As a reminder, this is the front of our beautiful complex, in white, where we live.

At first the renovation project got started and then stopped because of lack of funds.  Welcome to the real world, right?!  Renters in the apartments were asked to leave, and then suddenly the bat huggers said NO, the buildings could NOT be torn down.  So things were put on hold and renters were allowed back.  All this since I've been here.

Apparently the city found a solution for the bat huggers because finally renters were asked to leave again and, as of a month ago, the buildings were cordoned off for renovation.

First stage:  FREE THE BATS!

 One morning a couple weeks ago we heard some pounding across the street behind us.
These guys are almost at eye level from our balcony on the backside of our apartment.  In the top middle image you can see our apartment complex on the left, the street between us, and the building being renovated.
That's how close they are to us.
See the bat holes?!

And then on the other street, adjacent to one wall of our complex,
another section of apartments got pounded and punched.
See what I mean about an eyesore?

But how fun to watch these guys at work!
Were they having fun, I wondered?

Did you notice all the brick?
It so happens building with wood in the Netherlands is considered a luxury.
Brick is so much cheaper and readily available.

Speaking of wood, one morning I walked behind the apartments 
from the first collage at the top of this post.
I had heard more commotion going on and this time guys were cutting down a tree.

And that's where I saw the most trash.
In the middle image above, you can look through to OUR apartments on the other side of the street.
And for some reason, these bat holes were punched all the way through the wall.
Don't ask me why.

Don't you wish you knew all the ins and outs about such things you've never seen before?  For one thing, we both had to ask about the holes in the first place.  Supposedly they are escape hatches for the bats!  Are you kidding me!  There are that many bats living inside the walls of these apartments???

And now we wait for the next stage...when the buildings will be torn down.  When that happens, we'll have an open view from our back balcony to the river...until the city has enough funds to build new apartments a few years from now.

Until then, at least the bat huggers are happy!  I guess?

ADDENDUM:  Astrid Googled and found out the bat has been a protected species in the Netherlands since 1973.  For one reason, the mama bat has only one baby per year!

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

  Another Jan van Haasteren puzzle completed:  Motorbike Race (1000 pcs).

Monday, April 16, 2012

Springtime in Gorinchem

Even though our temps here in mid-Holland continue to hover between 40-50 F, it really is spring and we are full of it.

You've heard of spring cleaning, of course....

Surely you've also heard of DUTCH cleaning!
There's a reason!!!!!!!!!
It's in their collective psyche, seriously.
And when she's on a roll, I leave her to her own devices.
Sometimes she's on a mission and wants to do it alone...and I let her.

In the meantime, my walks during the week fill up my lungs.

All the sights so familiar take on renewed life after winter's hibernation.

The harbors are starting to perk up.

And while the construction work never stopped,
it, too, is alive with music...radios not-quite blaring.

But it's the flowers, of course, that are screaming SPRING SPRING SPRING.

Astrid's orchids bloom all year 'round on our windowsill...
as elsewhere all over the Netherlands.
I have seen more orchids in 2 years than the rest of my life put together!

But now it's tulip time and the window of opportunity is small.
Tulips or whatever you can find. It's the Dutch way.

HAPPY SPRING to us all in whatever way we celebrate it. Maybe you've had a lot of it already and feel summer is here. For us, we're still in sweatshirts and jackets....but the smell and feeling of change is in the air.

Monday, April 09, 2012

TIEL, Netherlands

Today is Holland's 2nd Easter Day, very similar to their 2nd Christmas official holiday. That means Astrid is off work! It's a lovely 3-day holiday.

Because it is still officially Easter, my post at Vision and Verb today is about how death always has a reason. This is something Astrid often says...but you can read about that there.

Happy Easter. I hope you've celebrated LIFE with joy.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Now, back to where we were headed last week: Tiel, Netherlands, 20 miles from home.

We entered the city through the port entrance by the Oude Haven (Old Harbor).
It ended up being the only gevelsteen (gable stone) we found the entire day/trip.

It so happens that Flipje is Tiel's mascot and is everywhere all around the city.
(I introduced you to him in last week's post, remember?)
Flipje (Pippin, in English) was conceived in 1935 by an ad agency for a jam factory.
He's made from raspberries. Isn't that fun!

Because it was a Saturday, the market was in full play on the market square.
This was the first time I saw cheese for sale shaped like wooden shoes.

As often happens, we just start walking!
Whatever "gets in our way" becomes game for our eyes.
We thought this was a church and went to see if the door was open.
What we found was an art exhibition next to what used to be a synagogue, now a mosque.
It was free to look, so we did.

There were plenty of other churches, which always catch my eye.
None of them were open, but their architecture makes me want to see more.
There was another time when a group of boys wanted me to take their picture
when they saw my big camera lens. Remember that?
It's a good thing I don't know Dutch that well because Astrid told me how obscene they were.
Boys will be boys will be boys. I guess?! I just laughed it off.
Sometimes what I don't know doesn't hurt me!

Besides, as if to wash out our ears and eyes,
we immediately found a church that WAS least the side chapel.
This is the St. Dominic Roman Catholic church from 1939.
There was a "gate" separating the chapel from the nave, affording a few pictures.
It felt like my long lens was redeemed after the boys!

That made us hungry, so we walked back towards the market center.
Seeing the mail-slots in doors we passed reminded me of these ubiquitous stickers.
They tell the post[wo]man what they're allowed to leave, or not,
related to flyers and periodicals. Good idea, right?!

On the market square sat this wonderful Vietnamese restaurant, An Nam.
Good choice, we both agreed, both before, during and after the meal.
The flowers at the top of this post were from our window seat there.
We love eating good meals at lunch prices! Just call us cheap.

It was then time to get back in the car and drive to the nearby Prins Bernhardsluizen (Prince Bernhard Locks), one of our main destinations for the day.

Built in 1952, these locks link the Waal and Rhine rivers.
The lock complex comprises two lock chambers. The oldest dates from 1952 and is 350 m long and 18 m wide. The second vortex was built in 1974 and is 260 m long and 24 m wide.
What a beauty to just stare at!

And yes, we stayed long enough to watch one lock close and another open
to let this yacht pass through. It takes 15-20 minutes.

Each year 38,000 boats pass through these locks, carrying 70 million tons of freight.
But one of the main purposes of the locks is to maintain water level in the Netherlands,
to keep it from flooding. The water level differential between the two rivers is 37 feet.
Things like this blow my mind!

So, two posts on Tiel, basically in our backyard...but it only took us 2+ years to go visit it! It was even a first for Astrid.

They even have their own water tower, from 1946...a year my junior.

After all that, it's still Easter here in the Netherlands on this Monday...a reminder of my post today at Vision and Verb.

Monday, April 02, 2012

On Our Way to Tiel, NL

A week ago Saturday we made a short trip to nearby Tiel...finally. We had talked about going there often but never got "a round tuit." HA!

Going the quick way would have been only 20 miles but, as usual, we set Tom-Tom to the scenic route...driving along the same dijks we drove last year January when we were at near-flood stage. Except that this time it was a sunny day!

This was the very first image I took this trip...
which turned into a bit of a story.
The lady of the house came out to see what we 2 "old ladies" were doing with cameras!
Point a camera and ...well, you can imagine what people start thinking these days.
Guess what her husband does? Yup. you guessed it.
She said they found the weathervane on the internet!

As we continued driving, I began seeing things I remembered from our last drive there,
and even started anticipating the the windmill without sails
and the crazy chair and gun atop that chimney!

Then, before anyone could say BOO, Astrid caught the storks out of the corner of her eye!

A Herwijnen stork village was created to multiply their population in the Netherlands,
after nearly dying out the first half of the 20th century!

We counted at least 10 nests, for a pair each....
(click any collage to enlarge)

...and even saw one couple do a "quickie." HA!
She fluffed her feathers while he dive-bombed himself away.
After all, it IS spring when all such things turn to love.
Hopefully the babies will come in their expected time.
"It takes a village," of course!

And wouldn't you know, 3 days later our city newspaper had this very Herwijnen "village" on its front page:

Lentekriebels = Spring itches.

Spring really IS the time for love.
Babies were everywhere to be found as we drove around!

We saw HUNDREDS of these liddle lamzy diveys!

That must have made us hungry because we were ready for our koffie met apeltaart when we saw this restaurant right there on the dijk: Het Dijkhuis = The Dijk House.

Did I ever tell you how much the Dutch LOVE the sun?
I thought Americans were sun worshippers!
You ain't seen nothing yet. Astrid was in heaven.

This church was a stone's-throw away...on the outskirts of Tiel...

...and when Astrid saw these bird houses by the side of the road, near the church,
she had to explain them to me. One word: Flipje.
Flipje is the mascot of Tiel, but more on him next week.

Continuing along the dijk, you can't miss this bronze monument by Cor Litjens:
Huizen op de Dijk = Houses on the Dijk, from 1997.
See how Astrid gives it scale...for all the big landmarks around the world.

This is my image on Shutterchance today from the monument,
a tip of the hat to Big Ben and all our English friends!
(Shutterchance originates from the UK.)

As we often say, we were short of eyes...and we hadn't even arrived in Tiel proper!

To be continued next post....

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

As a teaser, here are the weathervanes we saw that day, in and around Tiel:

Happy first week of April.
Happy Easter Week!