Thursday, January 30, 2014

A Commercial Break

So, here's the story of how it was that we traded in Granny Towanda (GT) for a new car, after a month shy of 4 years!

Unbenownst to me, in European standards when you drive a small car like ours, 50K km is the magic number over which you don't really want to drive, if you expect a good trade-in value.  Our Daihatsu Cuore was at 48K km (30K miles), so Astrid was already calculating in her head what that meant, especially with the government-required 4-year check-up coming in March.  To say nothing about the potential repairs once a car turns "that old."

Like I said, totally unbenownst to me, because I thought GT was just getting started!  So when Astrid opened her mouth in mid-January to say she was thinking it was time to trade in GT, I'm sure I looked at her as though she were crazy.

But she's not, of course.  Europe is NOT America.  The roads here are NOT American, when you consider all the cobblestones we drive over everywhere (apart from the highways).  And besides...a small car does not have the long-term durability of what we're used to in America.

So, off we went to see Pedro, the same man who sold us GT back in 2010.  When Astrid made the appointment he immediately asked, "Is Ginnie coming, too?!"  Awww.  After 4 years, he remembered...and that's worth a lot, you know.

Did I mention that Daihatsu, the oldest Japanese car manufacturer, no longer sells the Cuore in Europe...because it's not cost effective for them?
So Pedro sells Škoda's instead, manufactured in the Czech Republic.

We had already decided Sunflower Yellow would be our new color of choice before walking in.
But after driving this "silverleaf" demo car, we both exclaimed, "I like that!"

So much so that we negotiated for it on the spot, in spite of its 6,500 km!
Pedro gave us a deal we couldn't refuse.

A week later (this past Monday!) we were surpised by its unveiling when we picked it up.
Thank God for Pedro's handy iPhone!

Have YOU ever purchased or traded in a car to that kind of fanfare?


Ginnie and Astrid
Congratulations on your new car!!
We wish you driving pleasure.
On behalf of the De Waal workers.

And following the unveiling, we were presented with our keys.
You don't forget that kind of service!

The logo on the left was the Škoda logo til 2011.  Now it's the one on the right (Wiki image).
It means:

as straight as an arrow
swift as a bird
with an eye to the future

And now for a bit of interactive fun.  Remember when we asked you to help us name Granny Towanda?  Well, it's time now to name this "silverleaf" Škoda Citigo.  It's 100 kilos heavier than GT and with a wider wheel base, hugging the road better...and yet is "greener" than GT.  It was crowned the Auto Express Best City Car of 2013.

When you see it up close, it has a bit of a sand hue to it, so I immediately think of a sand dollar.  Surely there's a good name there?

The myth of the sand dollar.
The spiritual meaning of sand dollars.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Holland's National Glass Museum, Leerdam, NL

Back in early December, one of our friends here where we live gave us tickets to the nearby Leerdam Glass Museum. The expiration date for them was Saturday, December 28, and that's the day we went.

Leerdam is a delightful city of 20K+ people just 16 km northest of us here in Gorinchem.  We've been in or near it many times in my 4 years here but this was the first time for us to visit the Glass Museum.  Leerdam's glass industry is internationally known as Royal Leerdam...also known as Royal Leerdam Crystal.  Leerdam is also known for it's Leerdammer cheese, but that's another story.

So off we went on a gorgeous, sunny, December Saturday!

We parked by the Ter Leede windmill near the Linge River.

What a delightful walk along the inner harbor... the Glassworks building, where the glassblowers give their demonstrations.

BUT...that's not what our tickets were for!  
They were for the Glass Museum, back where we parked our car.
Okay, then.  As you know, we've already seen glassblowers, so we weren't too disappointed.

 We moved our car to the Glass Museum parking lot and got our first taste.

Make that Holland's National Glass Museum.
It's two connected houses with four overlapping bridges to make one continuous gallery.

 You can see it better out back, with the one house on the left...

...and the other on the right.

Now, come inside with us...for an exhibition called "A Sea of Glass."

Many things were from the sea, of course... but there were other things as well.

 I called this the Torture Chamber!

Remember those four bridges between the two houses?  Yup.

9,000 glass objects are on display there, as part of the museum.

And yes, there's a glass shop, with many items for sale.

But we went downstairs to the café and did our thing, per normal, while out-n-about.
That's where they had a fish tank with live jelly fish and a table for interactive, artistic fun. 
Something for everyone.

Totally worth our free tickets!

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

On another note altogether, now that one month of a new year is almost under our belts, we've been out-n-about also in January....

...first to our favorite pannenkoeken restaurant out in the polder.
This view is across the street from where we ate.  Sister Ruth calls them "the brethren."

Down the street, in nearby Leerbroek, is a Reformed Church, ca 1500.
The pannenkoek son told us they had a new cock atop the steeple.  Indeed.
And the church chimney hosts a stork's nest.  How's that for reaching out!
In fact, not far away we found a nice stork specimen, out in the polder...

...along with a heron and some more "brethren."

Birds of a feather:  storks, herons and sheep co-existing side-by-side.
I'm sure there's a sermon here somewhere!

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Today we trade in our 4-year-old Granny Towanda for a new car...but that's a story for another day.  Another day, another dollar.  :)

Monday, January 20, 2014

THORN, NL: The White Village

We're finally at the end of our two-day trip that took us to Valkenburg, NL (Christmas market), Lanaken, BE (Jo Myns sculptures), Maaseik, BE, and now Thorn, NL, the last week of November, 2013.

You know us.  We like to pack a wallop!

Thorn is known as "The White Village" in the Netherlands, with only 2K+ inhabitants.

See what I mean?!  It's brick painted white = whitewashed.

The "eyes" of the village watch over you everywhere you go.

BTW, the Dutch language does not have the "th" sound.
That means Thorn is pronounced TOR-en, with 2 syllables.
Does that confuse you as much as it does me?

When we first entered the village, we passed a doorway to what looked like a junkyard.
Wrong!  It was a huge haven full of antiques...about 35+ years worth, we found out.

Are you looking for something to add to your collection?
Surely the man who owns the place has it!

And if that isn't enough, he has an assortment of rare pigeons for you.
He's been collecting them for as long as the antiques, taking them over from his dad.

Some of them give new meaning to being "all puffed up!"

And on that note, we suddenly had an appetite for koffie and a bite of something.

I had the rice-pudding tart and Astrid had the apricot tart.
Usually we share but we both stuck to what was in front of us, with no complaints.  OMG!

It so happens our café was across from the Abbey Church, which was one of the main reasons why we chose to visit Thorn in the first place.

We had already seen it from where we had parked our Granny Towanda (green car)... well as elsewhere throughout the small village.

It's actually smack-dab in the middle of the village, with cemetery included.

BUT...even though it was open, you can't get in for free!  
What a disappointment until we discovered this particular abbey had been run by women.
So we HAD to go in...and quickly paid the €3/person entrance fee.

This abbey was founded in the 10th century as an imperial abbey for the Roman Empire,
led by an abbes and a convent of twenty noble ladies.

In Thorn, only women with the most impeccable pedigree were accepted.
They dwelled in luxury in the white houses, being attended by servants and owning property. 
If they married, they left.

 The village of Thorn exists because of this church.

 In the crypt under the chancel are tombs and the mummified remains of a a male and female cannon.

So many nooks and crannies.  So much history.

Don't you wish you could read all languages!

Some languages, like art, can be read by almost everyone.

And even though I was still on the wrong F-stop on my new camera (camera language), 
most of the images came out good enough to preserve for posterity.
[Once we got back home, I found out how to change the setting, remember?]

So, that does it...almost 2 months later!  
Hopefully some things are worth waiting for.

Monday, January 13, 2014

MAASEIK, Belgium

Sometimes it's the little towns in between that can totally make my day, if you know what I mean?

In between our stop at Lanaken to see the Jo Myns sculptures (last post) and Thorn, to see the "white village" (coming up), we stopped in Maaseik, still in Belgium.  If I told you it had a shipload of gable stones, you'd immediately know why I loved it.

Remember, this was the last weekend in November before Sinterklaasdag on February 5.
So the jute Sinterklaas sacks were hanging everywhere as decoration.

Maaseik has a population of circa 25K but the inner city is like any other town square
where we spend most of our time.  See that curch steeple in the center image above...?

That's the Saint Catherine church, not far away from city hall (top-right and middle-left).
The steeples stand out like sore thumbs and always direct us.
The bottom-middle statue is of Maaseik's two favorite sons, the Van Eyck brothers,
painters from the 15th century.

Thankfully, the Saint Catherine church, from 1840, was open.

Do you know the significance of walnuts at the front of the church at Advent time?

How many times have we said these churches are the "museums" we visit.
Even if they are all varaitions on a theme, we try to see them all.

Remember, this is Roman Catholic country with lots of niches.
We don't see them where we live in middle Holland.

The one church we really wanted to enter was the Minderbroederskerk from the 1620s.
It was a Friar monastery in its day but was being refurbished while we were there.
That didn't keep us from walking around it, enjoying the autumn weather.

There were two interesting sculptures we saw, this one near the market square.
De Vloeëjekuning, The Flea King, is by Jan Praet from 1994, a carnival society initiative.
Don't you wonder what that is all about, especially with the tiny people/fleas climbing him???

 The other sculpture, Bokkenrijder, on the market square, is by Roland Rens from 2001, near the Maaseik library.  It reminds me of Don Quixote, tilting at windmills, except he's riding a bok (male goat).

But it was the gable stones of Maaseik that captured me the most:

As you know by now, some things for me never the joy of finding gable stones!

After Maaseik, we drove to Thorn, 5 miles away back into the Netherlands,
(to be continued...)

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

On another note, it's my turn at Vision and Verb today, talking about a Dutch word
used to describe what happens at the New Year:  jaarwisseling.

Jaarwisseling means "turning the year" in Dutch.
See what that has to do with this burned-out church from Bolsward!