Sunday, May 31, 2009

Holy Head Wind.

In a similar fashion to the technique when one goes out for a day sail, it's a good idea to head upwind when out for a jaunt around on the bikes.
One of the by products of living in a country that is dead flat.You'll notice that there are a few ripples on the water.

We stopped by the golf club on the way to enquire about getting our licenses and picked up a pamplet. Seems the use of the driving range is open to anyone who's willing to pony up €2,50 for a bucket of balls. Somehow I don't think you get that many, but we'll find that out soon enough.

We thought we'd head to Enshede on Saturday, just to do a little shopping. Not sure if you can quite get the idea from the photos, but the market was slightly mobbed. There were even families there that had ridden over from Germany, which makes sense I suppose, since the closest large market would be in Münster.
Oh, and it so happens there was a jazz festival going on, but by this point not only was our parking tag about to expire, but the knees and hips had decided they'd had enough as well.
I'm beginning to think there's something not quite right with the Nikon (still) since every so often I get a pic that seems a tad over exposed. I'll have to dig out the manual and see if there's some minor thing that I've managed to over look.


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Back from Paris and there's gonna be laundry.

Seriously. Been at it for two days.
Doesn't help that the wonder machine can be a bit of a challenge. Of course, our guests had a few laundry items to deal with first, since they're already on their way to Amsterdam for a couple days, and then back home.

Time flies.

Here they are booking it for the train this morning. Haven't heard, so I'm guessing they've made it OK.

The thing is, if the guests aren't complete sleepy heads, that certainly can cut into "blogging time".
But really, it's all about the experience, and not necessarily writing about it.
Part of the "experience" of course is getting caught in the rain when out cycling.

One of the dryer moments:

The initial culture shock that one experiences when coming here mostly has to do with the biking culture. As Canadians it takes us a while to get our heads around the volume and types.

Takes a while for it to completely sink in that riding a bike here in The Netherlands isn't about going out for a ride, but just another means of getting around.
We did get out to dinner Thursday night and took the bikes.
Also part of the experience.

Those in the know are of course aware that we went to Paris for the weekend with a brief stopover in Bruges. Sort of breaks up the trip, even though it makes it a tad longer. Best to get into Paris late in the evening, since the traffic is usually pretty nasty.

Meanwhile, in Bruges I was quite a happy fellow now that I have the Nikon back again. Such a pleasure to use.

You'll notice that Bruges was mobbed. Pretty sure that's par for the course this time of year.

I'm not going to bore you with a hord of pictures, so I'll try and cut to the chase.
Once upon a time, when I was a student in Paris (boy, that sure sounds high and mighty) the Musée d'Orsay was one of the train stations. In the eighties it was converted to a museum. They've done a very nice job of adding second floor galleries to the existing open space.

Of course, where there are paying guests, it's not a bad idea to sell them something to eat. Probably as good a place as any for a restaurant.
A great place from which to take pics of Paris.

That's it for today I think. I'm starting to even bore myself, so that's usually a good time to call it a day.

Keep yer collective sticks on the ice.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Chronically absent

OK, I've been kinda tied up.

I should first say that I did in fact get out to the driving range at the one and only public golf course that I've found in Europe up to this point.

Just happens to be in Denmark.

What ya gonna do?

It was a windy day, and the course was a bit of an open space.
Managed to keep ahold of my hat.
I probably could have played nine holes, but I figured I'd first whack away at a few balls to see how that turned out.
I mean, I have seen guys out on golf courses all by their lonesomes, but we're talking virgin clubs here, and I haven't too much of a clue...

I managed to not frustrate or embarrass myself too much at all, and made contact with about 90% of what I was trying to hit. Just have to work on getting rid of a bit of a hook is all.
I have an idea what my problem is, but I'll probably need to take some lessons to sort it out.

This is the "club house", looking back from the driving range.
They're not quite done yet.
I guess they figure the half kilometer walk over to the driving range will suffice as some sort of warm up? I couldn't for the life of me figure out what other rationale they had come up with.

Not exactly a Robert Trent Jones creation.

I went through two buckets, and that was about all I wanted to put myself through, since at that point, I wasn't getting any better, and I wasn't about to overdo it and end up regretting it the next day.

I did take a few photos around Vejla with limited results, since my Nikon had not at that point boarded a plane in Toronto to make it's way back to me. This is one of the few that turned out, which was a happy coincidence, since I thought these two new buildings were kinda cool.

Um so, was the architect a serious skateboarder in a previous life?

I'm just saying.

Presently our visitors are off galavanting around town on a couple bikes. The weather has been hit and miss today, as we started out this morning with some hail, then it's been blustery all day with intervals of rain. The trick is to be somewhere close to some shelter when the sky opens up. Takes some luck, since they got caught once already and stopped in for some dry clothes.

That's the way it can go sometimes here in kikkerland.

There's more to come. I promise.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Smelly Place.

OK so, what's the deal with the Best Westerns? The room is only kind of smelly, so I opened a window, but the hallways smell like they turn them into pubs after happy hour.


I just now took the time to fill out one of their "we value your opinion" surveys. Pretty sure they'll not really be too keen on what I had to say.
So fine, we're "0" for "two" on the Best Western front. And this place was still €85 (636 danish kroners)
That's about all I can say for now without starting to sound like a negative Nelly, so I'll just stop.
Hey, it's a beautiful day, nice and mild, and with the exception of over 70 kilometers of road construction in north Germany, it wasn't too bad a trip.
The objective was to get my cargo to Eaton here in Vejle before 1:00 p.m., and even though we lost well over a half hour because of our limited speed through the construction, we still pulled in at something like 12:47.

Hate to be late.

Brought my golf clubs, and I might head out to the driving range in the morning.
I've already made a stop into Fotex for the coveted Miracle Whip, and that was my only assignment.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Company's coming

That's all I have to say.

OK, maybe a little elaboration.
This purchase was actually quite co-incidental, since it's rare to find anything in the stores in the jumbo packages.
It was on special.
I couldn't help myself.

But yes, company is coming, and by that I mean we're heading to the airport on Thursday morning to pick up older daughter unit and her boyfriend. We offered to fetch them, they didn't ask.
Just so you know.
Plus, Thursday is some sort of holiday, and the hope is the traffic won't be the usual nightmare.
I try to be pretty choosy about who gets fetched from yon airport due to the above mentioned traffic situation.

I should also mention that, we're heading for Denmark first thing in the morning, only to come home again Wednesday night.
Just got a confirmation that we're booked into the Best Western.
I certainly hope it's a better "Best" western than the one we had in Brussels. I see there's at least free internet, but quite often that means you get exactly what you pay for.

Since the time will be short between now and when we fetch our company, I need to get the spare room sorted out, so they can crash when they get here. It'll only be for one night mind you, since we're then heading for Paris the next day.

No, I'm not making this up.

There are a couple other little snippets that I wanted to share, since I saw something at the airport in Düsseldorf that made me do a bit of a double take.

Gabe's flight was due to come in at 10 past 10, and of course I was maybe a half hour early, and the flight was about a half hour late, so that meant there was some time to kill. Decided to go up to the departures area of the airport, where it turns out, not much is happening on a Friday night.
Nobody leaves town.
It was kind of spooky, considering it's an area the size of a couple football fields, and there were no more than maybe a dozen people, mostly employees.
Seems it was a good time to clean.

I know the footage is pretty pitiful, but you get the idea.
Plus, I find it's helpful to keep the clips short if at all possible.
Pretty sure my employer isn't about to pony up what is sure to be some serious dough for this beauty.
I'm refering to the machine, not the driver.

See? Not such a bad thing that the video is a bit poor.

This is more like what we get to use. I pretty much thought I'd died and gone to heaven when these were first introduced.
Oh, and note that the lady walking behind the machine is a tad slimmer than the lady riding the machine.

I'm just saying.

But, 'nuff of that.

Speaking of really lazy, there was some other person that was riding around on some sort of personal transportation device that I wanted to somehow suriptitiously capture. He was too elusive though. Saw him go through a couple times, and I have no idea what he was up to. Maybe he was a "supervisor", and had a huge area to keep tabs on? The thing he was riding looked like this

Well, there's grass to be cut and beds to be made.

Fun times.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Back from Düsseldorf

I have to say, that wasn't too bad. The airport is bit of a labyrinth mind you, but why should it be any different than any other international airport?
The Sheridan was pretty spiffy. I see why Gabe likes to haunt these places when she travels. Located right at the airport, so it's a no brainer.
Five minute walk to departures.
And I noticed there's a train station there as well.

Hm. Do you think they're on to something with that whole, "why don't we put a train station at the airport?" program?

Maybe these boneheads should take a little trip to Yurp.

The big seasonal dish most anywhere in Europe at this time is asparagus, so that's what Gabe had for dinner. I went with a hamburger. It was passable. When you're hungry enough, many things are.
By the time we ate it was after ten, so that doesn't help.

I was on the Autobahn this morning at 6:20 and made it back to Nederland in an hour flat. There was no construction, no issues (a lot of traffic going the other way mind you) so hopefully I won't need to watch the mailbox for any little surprises from the speeding ticket gods. (hey, I was just keeping up with everybody, c'mon!)

Perhaps my biggest challenge at most any place like one of these huge airports is being able to find my way back to the car.

I'm not kidding.

I have to say that at Schiphol, someone very clever came up with the idea of naming the parking lots. Now, since most of us can remember a name better than some number (unless you happen to be some finance person, but we won't name names) it's heaps easier to remember that you're parked in "Klompen" say, as opposed to something like P3 31B #12.

I didn't just make that up either.

In spite of that, I did find the car, after having only briefly walked towards the wrong corner of the sea of cars, before realising how the pattern of numbers was working.

Now, since I tend to be the only member of the party that happens to carry around the cash (it's the shopping, OK?) I need to make sure once in a while that Gabe actually has some dough on her. I only had a few fifties and a twenty, and she was only willing to take the twenty.
At that moment, I knew there was something nagging at me telling me I should have kept the twenty, but it wasn't until I went to pay for parking that it became clear what that nagging thing was all about.

Um...ya, that would be the amount of change you get when you pay your parking with a fifty.

At least the machine didn't light up like some one armed bandit.

And then I wonder why my pants pockets are forever wearing out?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Font Size.

Ok...the more I tried to fix it, the worse it seemed to get, until I just had to quit. Sorry for the abuse.

Travel updates.

I guess I haven't really touched on upcoming items up to this point, since I tend to look into the past.
However, things be happenin' and I figure I'd better spell out a few things.

A trip to Denmark for next week has been in the works for a little while now (like, since January maybe?) so we're heading to Vejle on Tuesday afternoon and will be coming back on the Wednesday quite late. Now, as it happens our oldest daughter is arriving at Schiphol the next morning at 7:00 (that would be the 21st) and, although the original plan was for her and her boyfriend to take the train, we've offered to come and fetch them. It's basically a two hour drive.

You do the math.

That Thursday is a holiday so I'm hoping that means the traffic won't be the usual nightmare.
Then... we're heading for Paris by way of Bruges the next day. OK, that's too far into the future.

Meanwhile, just yesterday afternoon Gabe was asked to make an appearance in
Bangor, Wales
which meant flying into Manchester. (go east past Liverpool)

So that meant heading to the airport tonight, staying overnight and leaving early in the morning.
Something to do with some due diligence or whatever and anything else is strictly hush-hush.
Well, turns out it was too late to leave from Amsterdam, so we're driving down to
Düsseldorf instead.

It's pretty much the same distance. Only thing is, I'm just ever so slightly more familiar with Shiphol than Düsseldorf International, or whatever it's called. I guess I'll find out.

Plus that means I need to go and fetch her on Friday night, since she would have taken the train back from Schiphol, had she gone from there.

What the heck, maybe I'll tool around Germany a little during the day.

You may notice, that I'm having some issues with my text size here. Well, lemme tell ya this about that. So far I've been able to figure out putting in links to other web pages, and even having them conveniently open in a new window. Putting in links to google maps is a whole different kettle of fish.

Go ahead and try it. I dares ya.

Meanwhile, I can mess around with stuff, but I don't really completely grasp the whole concept.
The links are bloody long and complex, and if I'm not careful I end up with some wacky looking text. Trust me on this.

I just chose not to share the messy bits is all.

Lucky you

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The things you see.

Even though the Netherlands is developed to the max. There do seem to be enough trees to go around, which might also explain why there are boatloads of birds in our neighbourhood. the point where you think you're in the flippin' jungle.

Then every so often, I see that someone has decided to cut down a tree for some reason or other, like this one.

Not sure what species it is, but it looked to be over a meter at the base. Perfectly healthy, and the only reason that I can see that it was cut down was that it was a little close to the side of the road. I later saw the stump on the other side of the roadway, but didn't take a picture. Sorry.

It stayed in that spot for over a month. My guess it was waiting for some serious equipment to get it out of there and over to the saw mill.

Now, speaking of equipment, I saw this yesterday in Delden and couldn't help myself. When I first spotted this thing I tried not to stare, or drool, or leave my mouth open too long.

I just think it's cool.

The trim on the building was getting a paint job, and these guys were not using any ladders.
My kind of painting. (not a big ladder fan)
Man! The work I could do on the house with that thing.

I don't mean this house,

but this one....

....back in Canada.

If you squint ever so slightly, you can see there's some work that needs to be done on the overhanging "veranda".
There's a very good chance I'll be hiring someone to do that work anyway, since it's a bigger job than I'd like to tackle.

And if you believe there's snow on the ground year 'round in Canada....well, now that I think of it, you're probably too dim to actually be able to read anyway, so nevermind.

Monday, May 11, 2009

When there's a headwind both ways.

Seems to be happening today, and I'm not sure how that works.
One of the things about living in a very flat country I guess. The wind does tend to blow. Probably a good place for say, windmills? Hm.
Now there's an idea.
My first urge was to name this entry "Life in Mayberry", but I've been accused of being slightly negative lately in my posts, so I guess I relented.
Thing is, I decided to have another chat with the constabulary, and report the suspicious bike that appeared right next to the spot where my previous "new and shiney" had been parked.
Now, here in Mayberry er, I mean Delden, the police are only at the Parochial house on certain days. I think I touched on the "Parochie Huis" in a previous post, since this is now a community building where we've been known to go for blood work and eye tests. Oh, and I did drop off some pee on one occasion.
Almost forgot.
I'm sure you care.

Where was I?

Right, the Parochial House. Sorry there's no English version in that link, but at least you can look at the nice pictures.

So last week I managed to screw up, since I somehow thought there was someone there after one p.m., when it turns out the hours are from 10:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m.
I certainly wasn't about to ride into Hengelo to report what I suspected is a stolen bike, so I figured I'd just wait.

So I show up after 10 and go in to see Barney, who is at the desk sorting out some paperwork (well, he was on the computer, so I can only guess) and we had a little chat. I proceeded to tell my little tale of woe, and explained that the reason for my visit had to do with this bike that was still standing in front of the bakery.

I guess I wasn't sure what to expect, since I suppose there are all kinds of different ways of handling stolen bikes, none of which are too terribly effective, and so I wasn't too surprised when he offered to take a little trip to check out the situation.
Now, I don't want to give away any dark secrets or anything, but I have been in the inside of a police cruiser at some point way, way back in my past. I think it was a Crown Vic. (This was in the days when you could actually get out of your car and go up to the cop car and get in the front seat. Nowadays they'd shoot yer sorry ass)
So stepping into a "police cruiser" in the Netherlands was a bit of a different experience for me.

Let me just give you a visual.....
Yes kids, that's a VW Polo.
At least it wasn't a "Lupo", which is even smaller.
Now in all fairness, this had to have been his own vehicle, since the only gadgets I saw in the thing were a couple flashlights and a gps. The typical police car over here looks more like this:

Maybe there was a police radio, but I sure didn't see it.

So we chatted on the way over to the scene of the crime, and he proceeds to tell me how just about everyone in the country has at least one bike stolen in their lifetime.

Swell, now I feel like I really belong.

The thing is, every bike has a serial number. Most times it's on the bottom of the stem at the apex of the crank, or in the case of this particular specimen, the number was also on the lock. (so we didn't have to heft the thing and flip it over) Barney didn't think to bring a piece of paper, so he had to write the number on his hand.

Hey, I didn't bring a pad with me or anything.

Should I?

Pretty sure they would have covered that in the Police Academy. Then again, maybe they're striving for a "paperless" police force or something.
I dunno.

OK, I'm trying not to be negative here. He was a really nice guy. Really.

Gave me a ride back and everything.

I'm sure he'll wave if I see him next week.

Friday, May 8, 2009


OK, I'm confused. Is there such a thing?
Here's the deal. We thought it would be a hoot to go out to dinner this evening, since it's something we don't do all that often, as we tend to eat out enough as it is whenever we're on the road.
Also, I'm no Wolfgang Puck, but I can by this point put a decent meal on the table and for the most part it's as good as or better than some of the stuff I've had served to me in restaurants.

(Been looking for an excuse to put this one in here....)

For example:

No sweetbread, thank-you.

And yes, I've had that. And no, I won't be having it again.

Plus, eating at home doesn't cost us three days worth of groceries.

But I digress.

Once in a while it's not a bad idea to repress my "cheap gene" and make dinner reservations. Plus, there's the notion that we go there and come back on the bikes, which makes the whole experience even more delightful.

So....we're sitting in the dining room of Het Witte Paard and at some point I realised, I'm the only one in there that finds it warm. Everyone else seems quite comfortable, yet I'm sweating like a steer*.

What gives?

Half the time in this country I'm freezing my what's it's off, and now I'm sweating?
So there was a motion from the floor that I was suffering from "manopause".

Thanks Dear.

It was by far too cool to sit outside, since it only got up to around 13 today, but it was sure some relief to get cooled off on the bike on the way home.
And that, my friends, would be the other good thing about riding one's bike late into the evening. (plus we have these really cool looking lights)

The other rather unfortunate discovery that I later made was that, the "no coffee after five p.m." rule still applies.

So I fell asleep on the couch, and then proceeded to lie awake in bed.


*That's a highly technical medical term, by the way, but it turns out further research on the subject reveals that "sweating like a steer" isn't one of the symptoms. So now I'm even more confused.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Liberation Day.

Sounded like a good title.
I'm sure it's a little known fact most anywhere else, but there have been two days of significance here in the Netherlands. The first is May 4th, which is Dodenherdenking
at which time you lower your flag to half staff after eight p.m. I haven't yet been able to discover the significance of eight p.m., since my understanding was that the word came to the troops that all hostilities would cease at midnight. (?) But maybe eight p.m. is a convenient time or something.
There's the laying of the wreaths type ceremony in Amsterdam at the National Monument on the Dam square in Amsterdam, which is of course covered on live TV, much the same way that Queen's day was.
The following day is then Liberation Day

So I put out my puny flag.

There are a few gatherings in some of the larger towns, and I caught something on the news about a festivity up in Zwolle, where they had something like 150,000 last year. There's never that much trouble getting folks together for a festival here it seems.

Just an observation.

There has been a definite dry spell when it comes to blog entries.
Sometimes the force just isn't with me in that department. I think the whole bike theft thing kind of took the wind out of my sails just ever so briefly. Been in a slump on numerous counts.
Did manage to go out and maim a small tree and yank out another one in the poor excuse for a garden. I've run out of room in my green waste containers though, so I have to hold off on any more pruning.
We did go out on Saturday and replace the aforementioned absent member of the team, but I think I'm still a little annoyed with the whole idea that some bastard would simply get on your bike and ride it off.
Just makes me want to spit.
And I'm trying to be nice and not slip off into a stream of obscenities here.
We had been looking at a replacement bike for Gabe, since her Schwinn was both too complicated, and a bit too short. (why do we get these bikes that are too friggin' small?) We therefore ended up getting a matching pair of Gazelle's. His and her's.
I know, you're rolling your eyes.
Just stop.
She's already managed to drop the thing. OK I realise that that's a motorcycle term for "fall off", since if you "drop" your bike, it means you took a spill. That happened on Sunday afternoon 'cause she wasn't watching where the hell she was going and damned near plowed into the back of me. At that point gravity took over.
She's fine.
One of the pedals on the bike is a little scuffed. Thankfully I had already installed her fietstas, which took the brunt of the dusting up.

So I've been out a couple times to pick up a few things (gotta eat) on "new" New and Shiny, but now of course I'm eyeing everyone and his dog, figuring I'm surrounded by bike thieves.
If they only knew.
Maybe paranoia will mean I'll get to keep this one a bit longer. That would be nice.
To make matters just ever so slightly worse, I had to go back to the bike store on Monday afternoon to pony up some more dough, since we completely forgot to replace my bike bag on Saturday. Shoppings sans bike bag ( fietstas ) really sucks, and I don't recommend it.
I may or may not replace the sunglasses I lost. I don't really need sunglasses on the bike in this country, but they do help keep crud from getting into your eyes from time to time.

I'll have to think on it.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Two things I've learned.

One: It wouldn't surprise me in the least if the next person who buys a small black Suzuki will be asked to undergo a psychiatric evaluation, and two: Leaving your bike unlocked for just five minutes to nip into the bakery can end in you having to walk home.
I fessed up.
Someone ripped off my bike on Wednesday afternoon. I now know where the cop shop is in Hengelo and how to fill out a report. Like that was something I needed to learn in my life.
OK, so if you count the last two, that's four things I've learned.

Don't get picky.

I've been vacillating between being really pissed off (sorry to those who are a little sensitive) to just feeling really stupid.
Then yesterday while watching the Koninginnedag (Queen's day) it became clear that it could always be worse. Like getting run over by some guy who thinks a Suzuki Swift makes a good battering ram.... and also thinks that it would be a bright idea to try and drive it into the side of a honkin' big bus.

What is the thought process there? Is there one?

Or for that matter, the immovable statue? Well, I don't think he really meant to drive into the statue since, at that point his head was pretty much like a bowl full of jelly....

Apart from feeling very sad for the individuals and their friends and families who lost their lives through no fault of their own, it will also be rather unfortunate, and not surprise me in the least that security for future events will be tighter than a bull's ass in fly time.
I've you've been to Washington, D.C. since September 11th, you'll know what I'm talking about. It's just never the same.
In this case, because of some nut-bar.

So....on a couple fronts, not really a good week here in the low countries.

Of course there are more bikes in the stores, and at least the cops have my info.

Please understand this however: If I get a call saying, "oh....we found your bike!" I will be buying so many lotto tickets, you'll think I have some sort of gambling problem, since I figure the odds are pretty much the same.
I'll never lay eyes on that bike again. Simple as that.

Here I would like to insert a quote from you know who, "It's only a bike....these things happen. Just buy a new one". And I was waiting for her to say, "just get over it".

I'll try. Really.

On a positive note, as I was out getting the mail this afternoon, our neighbour lady Liedeke complimented my on the Dutch flag that I put out for Queen's day.
That was kind of her, considering how puny it is.