Monday, July 30, 2012

On Firetrucks, Military Vehicles, Gardens and Such

So, now that the London Summer Olympics are in full swing (YES YES YES), how about  a sweeeeet little commercial.  One of the best I've seen:

Yup.  Astrid and I are gluttons for the Olympics.  This year I'm rooting for 3 countries:
USA, Netherlands, and Great Britain.  Well, add Canada, too.  :)

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Now, a bit of my own olympic mish-mash of this, that and the other....

First, a bit of nostalgia when one recent Saturday the nearby Stoomspuit Gorkum ("steam-spout" firehouse museum) displayed their goods.

  We heard the clanging bells and ran to our balcony off the kitchen.
We almost didn't get the shots in as they quickly passed one floor beneath us.
Notice the old geezers...having so much fun (click any image to enlarge).
I still pinch myself when I see such things!  (Here's a YouTube.)
(And yes, those are the apartments behind us, ready to be torn down.)

Speaking of museums (and old geezers), they're all over the place here in the Netherlands.  If it's not one thing, it's another.  One of the "others" is a walk away from us here in Gorinchem:  the Rijdend Unifil Museum (military vehicles).  It's open every weekend and we decided to finally go visit it, on the day they also had a flea market on the premises (yup, you heard that right).

From the outside, it started to make sense...the juxtaposition of the flea market with these dinosaurs.

Once inside, it was a photo op for these old geezers.

Thank God for the Red Cross.  But don't you wish they weren't necessary!

And as regards the flea market (which I didn't shoot, for some strange reason), I bought a new orange polo shirt for €1.50 (important for those important Dutch holidays!) and together we found 18 DVDs for €25.  Crazy, you say, but it's one of our favorite pastimes...watching movies together.  We now have over 400 in our library.  :)

I won't call Thelma and Siem old geezers, at age 75 and 76 respectively (since I'm too closely following suit!), but we went to visit them in their lovely home last weekend, giving me another photo op with my macro lens:

 Oh yes, and I took the oculus with me (bottom right), just in case!

 ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

This past Saturday we drove 100 km north of us to Wijk aan Zee to meet up with new bloggers for us, from Sweden:  Mr. and Mrs. Lifecruiser!  So my week is cut out for me, processing those images with the TV screen in front of me.  


Monday, July 23, 2012

After Giethoorn, KAMPEN, NL

That same birthday weekend when we visited the Dutch Venice of the North in Giethoorn (last post), we drove to Kampen the following day, only 15 miles from our B&B.  Whereas Giethoorn had been a blissfully sunny day, we awakened to rain and walked in between raindrops all day.

But how can you say NO to skies like that, full of rain!
Every time we wanted to stop, we did, dodging the rain at the right times.
You know me, I have to stop when I see spires and steeples so captivating!
Bottom right:  Bovenkerk in Kampen from the bridge over the IJssel river.
Top center:  Niewe toren in Kampen from the same bridge.

 As bridges go, this is one of the best I've seen in the Netherlands.
It's a new counter-weight bridge built to replace the old-for-wear first bridge,
catering now to pedestrians and cyclists, as well as increased traffic over the years.

And because we had seen it from the bridge,
one of the first places we walked to was the harbor.
We're both gluttons for Dutch boats!

And then city center, of course, where the oldest architecture usually is.
The old City Hall (c 1350) is bottom left and center right, along with the Bovenkerk spire.

 In the shadow of the old City Hall (bottom center) is the Niewe Toren, a carillon tower.
You can see it from almost anywhere in the town.
The 2 bottom right images are of a nearby "swan tower"...a wannabe?

The Broederpoort (Friar Gate) from 1465 is one of 3 remaining gates in the town,
now also used as a wedding location.

Impressions.  Glimpses.  Touches.  Feelings.  
Sometimes that's all we need.

 Gevelstenen = gable stones.

(Four is better than none!)

All to whet the appetite before heading back home.

The Olde Zwarver windmill (1842) stands outside the town,
and nearby is the Molenbrug (Windmill Bridge, 1983) under which we drove.
And as so often happens everywhere around the country, a piece of art sculpture (bottom right)!
(And all this from the car!)

What a way to end a wonderful birthday weekend!

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Lest I forget!  Today is my turn at Vision and Verb where I talk about--guess what?!  Yup, Mercury Retrograde.  We're in the middle of it, in case you wondered why things have seemed a bit caddywampus of late.

Just breathe!

And slow down a bit!

[Mercury stands atop the Royal Palace in Amsterdam, NL.]

Monday, July 16, 2012

GIETHOORN: Venice of the Netherlands

One month after my 67th birthday and two months after we celebrated it, I am finally ready to tell you about Giethoorn, the Dutch Venice of the North.

As with the Moses Bridge back in April, we first heard about this Little Venice from my daughter's father-in-law in California.  Imagine that.  And ever since, I've been dying to visit it.  So THAT was what Astrid gave me for my birthday this year!

First things first, we drove straight to our Fam. Groen B&B...approx. 90 miles from home.
We LOVE B&Bs because of all the stories and personal touch:
She (sadly) has cancer; her mother had just fallen and she was on the phone with her daughter;
both she and her husband had owned a café in town for years and traveled around the world during vacations;
 their other daughter is gay and in a loving relationship; now they are retired with this darling B&B.

Our hostess recommended a place for lunch which was on our walk to our reserved boat.
Hollands Venetië = Holland's Venice.

Astrid had reserved a small motor boat for 4 hours, starting at 1:30 p.m.
It was a nice walk from the B&B with the café in between.  Perfect timing.
Astrid did all her research ahead of time and chose 't Zwaantje (the Little Swan).

 And thus began our 4-hour tour of one of Holland's best-kept secrets.

Actually, it's not a secret, which is why we went in mid-May before tourist season.
During high season (now!) there can be 700 boats at a time on these very narrow canals.
But while we were there in mid-May, all the boating was leisurely.  
So much so, the kids were able to do their thing after school!

 Did I mention only residents are able to drive cars in the town center?
Everyone else gets around on foot, bike or boat.
And if you want to go visit someone by boat, just pull up and dock yourself!
That includes going to the restaurant or grocery store.
You can see the pride of ownership here, can't you!

One reason why we chose 4 hours instead of 2 was because of the nearby Bovenwijden Lake.
A loop including the lake would take us through the town, out onto the lake and then back into town.
It's a man-made lake only a meter deep, 2 km long and 1 km wide...another playground for the kids.
The house out in the middle (top-left image) is the Kraggehuis, a place you can rent.
And yes, that's a windmill (left-middle) without its sails!  Lots of windmills, as you see.

 As we rode back into town, these friendly cows greeted us.

 And then just like that, before we finished saying "MOO MOO,"
we happened upon this wedding photo-shoot!

 Astrid stopped the boat's engine and docked nearby so we could watch and shoot.
Listening to the photographer's instructions was half the fun.
At this point, he was having them run back-n-forth across the bridge.
And yes, that's the one church in town as the backdrop.

Of course, they ended up in the Love Boat!
All before our very eyes.

Truth be told, they probably got married in the Gemeentehuis = Town Hall,
which we passed as we returned the boat.  Not in the church.  Or maybe both?
(click any collage to enlarge)

 After returning the boat, we walked back to town to see it on foot.
It was totally different, of course, from another POV (point of view).

Is it enough to whet your appetite?
It's a birthday present I'll never forget!

And with enough weathervanes to put frosting on the cake!
Happy Birthday to me!  :)  Thanks to Astrid!

Monday, July 09, 2012

ENGLAND 2012: The Farm

Last but not least, here's the finishing touch to our wonderful time in England 2 months ago!

In the 4 previous England 2012 posts, I've taken you to Glastonbury and Cheddar Gorge, to Clent Hill, Blists Hill and Ironbridge, to Ledbury and Wales, and on a nature walk in Bath.

Today we're close to the farm where we stayed, all within walking distance...except for the crowning surprise-dinner touch of our first day.

We arrived early enough our first day to take a walk in the neighborhood with host Chris (Astrid's "big brother," remember?).  As a reminder, we first met him on our Shutterchance photoblog, the same place where I met Astrid 5 years ago next month.  So YES, the internet is a wealth of Joy if you're liucky enough to find it.

Over hill, over dale, hither and thither and yon...we walked.

It so happens we must have brought the sun with us,
because it was the first day in weeks without rain there.
And the sun continued throughout our stay!
Chris BASKED in it.

This is so British English!
It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood...would you be my neighbor!
(click to enlarge)

 What is it about those iconic red phone booths!

The neighborhood church is St. Christopher's Church in the Ditteridge hamlet.
It's an early Norman (1097) two-cell building constructed of local stone.
Notice in the bottom-left image how close the living live near the dead!

I LOVE that these churches are open throughout the week!
It was Saturday afternoon.

Look at what we saw within the first hours of our arrival.  We were short of eyes!

But the BIG SURPRISE of that first day was a dinner engagement with a mystery host and hostess that evening.  Chris loves surprising us, over and over again.  He doesn't ask; he just DOES.  So when we opened the door and saw the hostess....

...we both stood dazed, trying to guess who was standing before us.
Lucky for me, I remembered that Lisl had recently joined us on Shutterchance.
I just didn't know she lived in the Bath area near Chris!

Think about this for a minute:  Lisl had never met us but was hosting us at her house for dinner.
Did I mention she and her husband cooked enough for an army?
They were basing their generous hospitality all on Chris' word!  It blows my mind.

And that's how we started our stay in England this 2012 year!

Speaking of food, enough for an army, Chris served this twice for breakfast.
Can you imagine eating that every day?  NO.  But it's typically English.

One of the reasons I love the farm where we have stayed two years in a row, is watching how Jackie works with her horses.  One early morning she gave this fella a workout.

Jackie's horses are used by her students in horse shows.  And they win!  
Jackie knows what she's doing...but she's been doing it since strapped to her parents' backs from birth!

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

From England 2012, the weathervanes.
Now you know why we say it's a sin not to go back, year after year!
Just an hour's flight away....

Monday, July 02, 2012

Mart Martorell's Open House

In my last post I wanted to whet your appetite with lots of faces from the glassblower's Open House in Laren (Gelderland), Netherlands back on June 9-10.  By now, Mart Martorell has become our friend...and to think it all started at the Christmas market in Düsseldorf last year!

It so happens Astrid told one of her co-workers about the Open House because she knew Sjarien (pronounced Sha-REEN) was excited hearing about Astrid's experience with blowing glass.  If Sjarien came, she could possibly have a chance to blow glass herself.

And she did!  And her sister came to watch (upper right).
Nothing like passing on the thrill of the moment.

Actually, Sjarien came on Sunday, the second day, so I'm ahead of myself....

After Saturday's festivities, once the huddled masses were gone, the remaining "workers" stayed in the shop/gallery to watch the first Dutch soccer game of the 2012 UEFA European Football Championship.

 We all quickly went into game mode!

We hooted and hollered.  We did everything right.
But alack, alas, Holland could not pull off the win...then or in their next 2 chances.
HUP HOLLAND was out and buried early on in the tournament.  Sad but true.
Still, we had fun and were able to get to our nearby hotel before 9 p.m.

It was so nearby, we could have walked to the Ehzerwold Hotel from the glass shop.
What a delightful, restful former hospital in the midst of the woods!
We slept 10 hours that night and had all morning on Sunday to just enjoy the place.

While Saturday's open house was for anyone and everyone, Sunday's was specifically for Mart's family, colleagues, and friends as well as random visitors (like Sjarien).  So if you look through this YouTube of both days, the second part is of very special people to Mart, including his parents.

I processed 410 images in an album for Mart to use as he wishes.
Then I reduced it down to 300 images for this YouTube.  That's a LOT!
My first draft was 300 images in 4 minutes at .8 second each.  Way too fast!
Mart told me he wanted all 300 images and didn't care how long it was.
So that's why it's now 7.35 minutes at 1.5 seconds each.
I guess you could say it's something only the attendees will want to see.  HA!
(does anyone know how to slow down the opening slides with credits???)

What a grand experience!  And now Mart will let things settle during the next weeks, after which we'll go back to take individual shots of glass pieces for his website.  It's a story that has no end...yet!  I love it.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Before you is my turn at Vision and Verb again....on Our World is Not Flat!

 ...and other Big-Fish stories.

I was inspired by a blogger friend, Geoff Dunn, to buy a 3cm clear-glass oculus
and take pictures through it.  How fun is that!
The images are upside down through the oculus, so you have to flip them.

How 'bout having the whole world in your hands!