Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Stress free travel. Or not.

I've been meaning to add a couple snippets about the flight back to the Netherlands.
First of all, we had some issues trying to get seats together on the way over, (to Canada) and were becoming less and less enchanted with the whole process, especially after having been directed upstairs to the First Class lounge, only to be told that there was nothing that could be done.
Of course, this was after having previously unsuccessfully tried to go online and book seats like we had always done.
For my part, I have to say I was surprisingly calm, even after a rather long and fruitless hike, since I try to put myself into a bit of a trance for any visit to an airport anyway, to more or less deaden the effect of the whole unpleasant experience.
My travelling companion was however, a little more vocal.

That's fine, I'm willing to pass that particular torch.

I can't quite put my finger on it, but I think it has something to do with KLM no longer being associated with One-Pass, since normally it's a breeze to go to their website and put yourself in a couple adjoining seats. Usually in a fairly decent location on the plane as well.

Couldn't do it.

So I ended up in row 30, and Gabe was back in row 38.


After getting myself situated in my little hell hole (I fail to see the point of a window seat when first of all, over the Atlantic Ocean and secondly at a bulkhead) and coming to terms with the notion of being pretty much stuck there for eight hours, I realised that there was a lot of movement on the plane. Everyone seemed to be changing seats. Were we suddenly on Ryanair?
It was taking a quite a few minutes for everything to get sorted out, and I thought we were pretty much done, when one of the flight attendants got my attention and asked something about wanting to sit with my wife?

Whu? Well, sure!

That was a bit of a pleasant surprise especially since I was quite willing to accept my fate, with the realisation that the good times are over, and we'd no longer be flying with KLM all that much anyway, since we'd be moving to Vienna.
Somehow the word must have made it's way through the rank and file. Not sure how these things work.

One thing for sure, you won't ever see that sort of thing on Air Canada.
I'm just saying.

So that more or less put KLM back in our good books.

Now, you have to understand, you're still in "steerage", it's still pretty much eight hours of hell (note previous blog entry referring to screaming children) and for my part, I have to be really pretty careful with the diuretics, otherwise I have to get two people to move out of their seats so I can visit the loo.

At least by sitting together, we could commiserate.

For this reason, once back home, my travelling companion felt it was worth all the time she spent on the phone with the One-Pass service centre in Houston so we could get ourselves into first class for the trip back to Kikkerland. I mean, we have these points, and after the end of October, we wouldn't be able to use them on KLM anyway, so there was no point hanging on to them for dear life.
Admittedly, we can still use them on Continental, but that always involves doing a stop-over in the United States. Don't get me wrong, Newark is a perfectly fine airport, but getting into and out of the US by air is not something I recommend.

That's all I'll say.

Well, I think a few photos might shed some light on the experience.

Here's something we both did for about half the trip....

...which meant not feeling like a complete zombie when we finally got to the house here in the afternoon of the next day.

Here's me trying with all my might to even reach the seat in front of me.....Had to really stretch!!

And here we are, on the decent into Schiphol, feeling pretty danged happy....
Holy Moly, what a difference from "steerage"! Now, I've been in First Class before, on the aforementioned Continental, and I have to say, KLM has it figured out.

Really cool power seats.
Your own little video thingy.
Gobs of room. (the byproduct of which mean diuretics be damned!)
No screaming children....

Oh, I could just go on and on.....

Probably will never happen again in my life, so it's worth while hanging on to every moment.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Shopping at Ikea.

I can't say that I highly recommend it.

It was however, a necessary evil since the place we're moving in to has nary a closet. In spite of it being a new renovation, there was no thought about installing built-in closets. That is one of the very few things that I have to say has been a real convenience here in Delden.

Can't have everything though.

Would have been just way too much for us to handle if we had had built-ins here along with heat upstairs. I mean, I think I would have been beside myself with joy.

Best leave that alone, or I'll just go off on a rant, and get accused of being "negative"...

I'm just surprised that I haven't yet seen a "for sale" sign out front. Notice has been given, and I bounced the idea off our neighbours that maybe the owners might move back in, but there was some talk of the Mrs. suffering with her rheumatism when they were here. (getting more snippets of the real story)
Kind of makes sense when you consider that my heated shop back home is cozier than this place.

Once again, best to just stop....

But I digress.

What was I saying? Oh yes.

The Ikea thing.

I don't really shop at Ikea in Canada, any more than wandering in and picking up whatever I can carry out in two hands and getting away from the place, so this was a new experience for the two of us.

We had quite a list.and ended up using three of their goofy little unidirectional carts..

I'm not sure who designed those abominations, but seriously....somebody needs a kick in the posterior. At least two wheels need to be the non-steering type, otherwise just a pain in the rear to negotiate.
Maybe that's why the place seems so busy, since nobody dares pick up any more than what they can carry out in two hands?
We knew that we would have to have some of the bigger things delivered, so it was a matter of first figuring out the "system", then going to the big storage area and picking out all the components to the cabinets that we had selected. That is, along with the beds and mattresses we know we'll need in Vienna.
You'll notice on the third cart back there, (um, just to the right of the baby buggy) that there are some "bed parts"?

The somewhat amazing part is, everything was delivered Saturday night around 7:00 p.m!!

Um....we shopped for this stuff on Saturday....

That, I must say was a huge pleasant surprise.

I thought I misunderstood the gentleman at the counter, even though he was speaking English! I figured for sure it would be the middle of next week. Probably took us longer to gather up all the stuff, pay for it, and get our items delivered than for the guy to get it here by truck.

It was at the unloading that I realised the true value of the "cunning plan", since a few of the components are bloody heavy, and the whole lot adds up to around 350 kg. I more or less shoved it in the garage,

and then today went back out to straighten it out some, since everything was all over the place.

I have to send a note on to the moving company dude to let them know of the extra weight, even though I'm not so sure we're completely done....

You see, we've been looking at what we'll call the "linear footage" of clothes we have, and something doesn't quite compute.
I really think we might need another cabinet or perhaps a couple dressers, because I can't quite visualise where everything is going to go.
Just now I went to the Ikea website and I'll be darned if I can come up with just what the heck we ended up with, and probably won't quite remember until I put the two of them together. (we made a selection and then doubled it)

I just have to remember to go back on Thursday and pick up the three drawers they were missing.

Best to have everything here ready to go, rather than waiting to get to Austria.

I'll start the countdown in a couple days.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

You know it's Autumn when....

...solicitors start showing up at the door.

I noticed that within days of the kids going back to school, which was in mid August by the way, that the doorbell rang, and there stood someone about to put the bite on me for a couple Euros.

Actually, this young lad was selling some lame-assed greeting cards, and I already knew that I didn't even want to bother looking at them, since I still have the lame-assed cards I bought last year. (Well, as it happens, I think they must have gone out with the recycling, 'cause I was just looking for an example, and the cupboard is bare)
Um...not sure what the deal is with the sense of humour on some of the stuff over here, but it quite often has to do with cows and along with the cows... manure.

So I just gave him a couple Euros for whatever outfit he was collecting for, and sent him on his way.

Late yesterday afternoon again, the doorbell rings, which usually scares the cr*p outta me, and there stands a lady collecting for the "nierstichting"


It just so happens that I remember them from last year, in addition to which, "Nieren" is the same word in German as it is in Dutch, so I had already clued in last year that it was the kidney foundation. I keep money right by the door in the mail slot thingy, so she got what was there, which was a whopping €3,00.
Now before you go all wonky on me and think that's a little on the cheap side, first of all, that's darned near five bucks and, in light of an analogy to Hallowe'en, which is right around the corner, one does not give out all the candy to the first kid that shows up at the door. There's simply going to be more kids, and you'll need some for later.

Oh yes, that doorbell will ring a few more times.

Trust me.

And...I'm sure you care.

In other news....

After a flurry of emails yesterday, (hey, anything more than five is a "flurry", OK?)
we now know that the movers are coming on the 29th of October at 8:00 a.m. to pack. They'll be in Vienna on the 2nd of November.
There was some question as to whether I'd need time to paint or clean? All I can say is, I hope not. The place is already painted the typical apartment "off-white", and we've been assured that it will be clean. Plus they need to rehang a door that wasn't installed properly, but that's another story, and I'm keeping my fingers crossed on that one.

Now, just to add to your knowledge base, I figured I'd make mention of just how these guys are most likely going to get our stuff up to the fifth floor.

and on a different street, another version....

OK, those last guys were actually working on the building, but it's the same idea.

I took these last year in Brussels, but it really doesn't matter, as this practise is very common in the cities here in Yurp. The staircases are for the most part, just too danged hard to negotiate.

As for the travel plans over the next month or so, I swear I'd need to have a noggin' the size of one of these guys to try and repeat it here.
Lemme see:

Gabe is headed for Vienna next week, then at some point the two of us are going to be there around the weekend of the 10th of October, since we need to open a bank account and we're meeting up with some fellow Canadians who are flying in to Geneva and driving over to see us...., and then....oh cr*p....I'm empty.

Well, I know I have to be here for the 29th. I'm sure of that one.

I think my head is starting to do that Talosian twitch.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Home time, Part Deux.

This was an entry I really should have done when I was actually there, but somehow when we're at home there is just so much to do in so little time, that the motivation for blogging is kind of shoved by the wayside.
I suppose the very next entry should have had the title, "We have an apartment in Vienna", since that was the latest development. I only wanted to use that as a title since those are words that I never thought would ever pass my lips.
I mean, if you had told me 20 years ago we'd end up moving to Vienna, you would have had some "splainin' " to do.
Just to make it that much more fun, we're not going there on some poor student shoe string budget either. Not having to live in a dorm or a youth hostel makes it that much more exciting.
Now, don't get me wrong. We're simply not big spenders, and we'll be heading to Ikea later in the week to round out the rather sparse furnishings that we presently have here in Kikkerland.
We didn't really ship all that much from Canada, simply because we knew we were coming to a furnished house. There was no indication there would be a "plan B".

That's fine.

Besides, we wouldn't have had any more space in this house here anyway.

As much as I'm not overly keen on the stuff at Ikea, it will serve a purpose, and can easily be shipped to Austria before being assembled.

I realise there's an Ikea close by in the Vienna area because I saw one, and you're probably wondering why I would have big items shipped from here? Well, the new place is on the fifth floor, the elevator is tiny, and muggins here ain't lugging no wardrobes up five flights of winding staircase.

Hence, the "cunning plan".

Meanwhile, being at home in Canada meant shopping and running the roads.

Visiting with family...
Getting work done to my daughter's car...
Getting work done to her dog....
...and doing a little work around the house. Since we won't be back until some time in December, I thought it best to winterize the sprinkler system and be done with it.
They had a fair amount of rain in the summer time, so it wasn't needed all that much, with the exception of about 20 days or so in September. Turns out I have an issue I'll have to deal with next spring before putting it back into use, but I've at least done the prognosis. Now I just need to treat the patient.
We took home two empty suitcases, since we seem to always be missing this or that, and there is the issue of winter in Vienna. There was no problem filling them both, since there was also "stuff" we had left behind the last time we were home in June.
I'd sooner bring "stuff" back with me, rather than end up duplicating it over here. First of all, we seem to have enough "stuff", and when I look at the price of something I already own here in Yurp, I usually decide to temporarily do without.
I also wanted to buy an external back-up for computer "stuff", since there will come a time when this laptop will crap out, and I don't want to lose a couple thousand pics I've taken over the last year or so.
Between that and a new camera I bought, Gabe has no worries about what to get me for my 52nd birthday. Nice how that works, huh?
By the way, it's the SD 990IS (which stands for 'image stabilization') and nicely slips into my pocket, so there won't be the worry of leaving it behind in some little eatery in Vienna.
(um...that's another story, and turned out just fine, thank-you. But it was a close call)

Now, about the apartment:

There's certainly not going to be any mention of an address on a blog, but suffice to say we're "in the thick of things", and even though I'm not much of a city boy, I think it's going to be cool to be so close to the heart of Vienna. I'm sure I'll get around to taking more photos, but I only have one or two that I took of this place when we were out two weeks ago house hunting.

The relocation lady was kind enough to forward us a copy of the floor plan, and even though you won't be able to make it much bigger on the net, you'll get the idea.

It's smaller than we were shooting for, but that's no big deal, since we have this rather spacious "terrasse" on the roof. There's also a small outdoor space just off the kitchen on the main level.

Cool, huh??

This one will give you an idea....

Um... speaking of "cool". When we were in Vienna in July, and on subsequent visits, it's been rather toasty. They do seem to get hot summers, yet don't have a lot of air conditioning.

Well...(heehee) this place is air conditioned!

This was on our "wish list" and we were kinda hoping for a miracle, and with it being a new renovation, there just happened to be air conditioning.
We were also quite aware of just how each place was being heated since we kinda got short changed here in Delden, and I really don't want to freeze my arse off again this winter. Seriously, it's already getting a tad "fresh" upstairs. Hopefully the weather holds out until we can get outta Dodge. The new place has a boiler system, with convectors in every room.

Oh man!

The plan for house hunting was to take photos and copious notes, which is what Gabe is doing in the photo. I also made sure to try and put the number of the photo with the notes, so we could later try and retrace our steps. After the first dozen or so places, it can all start to get a little muddled up.

Trust me.

Oh, and you might notice, there are no closets, so that's why we'll be bringing our own.

Hey, I'll bring my own closets if it means I get heat.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Home time.

I don't think it would entirely fair to sort of leave everything hanging, even though most everything going on here in "blog land" has to do with being in Yurp.
In the absence therefore of going on about hanging around airports, putting up with smelly farting people on airplanes or being jolted awake by some screaming banshee that then chooses to finally go to sleep after we're all OFF the flippin' plane....I'll instead put up a few pics and perhaps just the odd comment or two....

I didn't get too carried away while in Gmünd, since the town is pretty basic. There were a couple nice views however, including the little chapel that's in the centre of town.

The hotel....

Another view of the centre.

You'll notice that the layout is similar to the way Dutch cities used to be laid out say, thirty years ago. I don't think the Austrians are too interested in closing off town centres and making them all bike and pedestrian areas, however.

There's a certain amount of wine produced in Austria, and one of the sights one will see most anywhere, is the "Heuriger".

I had no idea what that was all about, but the young lady at the desk was able to clue me in.
This can either be a stand alone venue, or a drinking establishment where one can purchase locally grown wine.

This one happened to be directly behind the hotel.
Didn't open until four p.m. though, so it was given a pass this time around.

So for the two days that we were in the Shrems/Gmünd area, I kept getting stuck behind these tractors hauling potatoes, since it seems that, along with the wine, we were in potato country.
On Friday I followed one of these guys to see just where they were going, and I at least found the "staging area", but didn't think I wanted to go up the road to see where they were being stored. Too many tractors, too little room.

Now, I didn't stop to count them all, but I'm pretty sure that's a lot of potatoes.
And no, I didn't sneak off to New Brunswick to get this one either....

Thursday, September 10, 2009

On the move.

Don't have a lot of time left on our little internet allotment, so I'll have to sum things up.
We're presently still in Austria, having spent the first part of the week looking for a place to live.
Well, the two of us together on the Monday with the relocation lady along with at sometimes a host of real estate agents, then I went out to have a look around on the Tuesday as Gabe was working. With the exception of finding one place that was way more expensive, Tuesday didn't bring anything.
The plan is to be right in Vienna, in the thick of things, so to speak. We think we've found something, and have a back up if it doesn't pan out.
The back up location is out in district 21, which is Floridsdorf, and although a part of Vienna, certainly isn't "in the thick of things", so we're hoping the first choice works out.
I'll post details when I get myself someplace where the internet clock isn't ticking.
Today we head to the airport, which from here in Shrems, is about an hour and a half drive.
The hotel we're at here is actually in Gmünd, which is right on the Czech border, and there's a whole story there about why this location is close to the Czech border, but that will have to wait.
Plus, there's a somewhat shorter story about the fact that I used to have a pen-pal in Gmünd, about 35 years ago....
Crazy, huh?

We should be in Amsterdam this time tomorrow, and then in Canada later in the day.

Can't wait.

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Thatched roof project.

Back in July we happened to take a little detour into one of the side streets here not far from the house. Just thought you'd like a little update on the finished product.

This pile of straw.....Ended up on this house....

....which then ended up looking like this....
Can't really come up with a price just by looking at the house, but the story goes that a thatched roof is more expensive than tile, but there's no additional cost of eavestroughing or roof ventilation. I started out trying to sort out the difference between the cost of a square meter, versus a "square", which is 100 square feet, and decided I wasn't going to go there.
Too many variables.
Suffice to say putting any kind of roof on a house that size is going to set you back a pretty penny. We don't really need to know.

Nice job though, innit?

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Little ironies.

Not too much happening today. Managed to spruce up the interior of the car a tad, after our recent bout of visitors. Guess I just didn't have a chance or the motivation to get out there with the vacuum cleaner up to this point.
Also took a little trip to my favourite store ever since I figured I'd take off the little sticker do dad that we had to buy to drive on the roads in Slovenia. There was no way it was coming off without the help of a razor scraper, and I probably have two or three of these things, but didn't think to ship one over here.

Meanwhile, Gabe keeps sending me more places to look at compliments of the relocation people in Vienna. Talk about a contrast from when we came here! I think we're up somewhere in the range of a dozen to 15 places to look at. That is of course, if we do manage to get around to them all. There were a couple that looked like it was a bit of a hike for Gabe to get to work, so we might eliminate them from the list.
I think we saw a total of four places when we came to the Hengelo area.

Anyway.....right after I got a note from her earlier today, the phone rang. So I was a little confused when there was someone on the other end speaking Dutch, since I just figured Gabe was making a follow up call to the note. The chances of Gabe speaking fluent Dutch was pretty slim, so I told this person she must have the wrong number, but she wasn't about to give up....

See, here's the thing.

Back, oh I dunno, about six months ago, for something to do, and with the encouragement of my significant other, I put an ad in the local rag offering English lessons. Don't laugh, it is something I can certainly do, and figured it would maybe bring in a couple shekels to boot.
So I ran the ad for a couple weeks, and heard nary a peep. So I just figured fine, nobody around here thinks their English is all that bad (little do they know) and simply never gave it another thought.

Until today.

Wow. Here I thought I was a shoo-in for the Procrastinator of the Year Award, but obviously I'm only in double "A", and this lady on the phone is Major League.

So she had managed to keep my number for some six months or more, and then finally today decided to muster up her courage and give me a call.
Like I said. Wow.

Either that or one of her kids finally said, "Mom, your English sucks, why don't you just phone that guy?"

So I actually felt kind of bad when I had to explain to her that we're moving to another country.

I mean, what could I say?

Getting together once a week would be a bit of a non-started I'm afraid, since I'm pretty sure the airfare alone would make the lessons a tad pricey. Plus of course, do I rent a car? Take the train? And then of course there's the per Diem....and well, I'd have to stay over...

All kidding aside, it's too bad I suppose, since I could have been taking this person's money for the last six months.


By the way, I have it on pretty good authority that the Austrians suck when it comes to English. Hmmm....

In other news, the neighbourhood has been somewhat quieter now that the house down the street has been completely leveled.
Of course, since these places don't have basements, there's not even a hole to fill in.

*for those of you who don't speak the lingo, that's pronounced "yammer", and it sort of means, "too bad", or as the Germans would say "shade".....oh...and with that one you pronounce the 'e'.
And it's not like shade, as in a window shade, but pronounced with a long 'a'....
sort of like "shahdeh".

Oh forget it..

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

No more beds at the Inn.

Which isn't to say there's no place to sleep, since we still have the two beds that the owners left here for us, but the last of the "big" beds is now taken apart and ready to go.
It seems like I'm getting ahead of myself here, but I have a nagging suspicion that, once we come back from our house hunting in Vienna, and then on to Canada and back, there's not going to be a whole heap of time to mess about with these types of things.
I mean, it will all depend on what type of living arrangements we come up with, but I'm sure once the movers get the word to come in, they won't need any more than a couple days to show up.
It's probably better if I'm ready.The rest of the time seems to be spent wandering around trying to arrange our "stuff" so that it gets packed in a sensible fashion. Plus I really and truly don't want any of the "stuff" that was left behind by the owners.
Got enough of my own junk, thanks.

Oh, did I say "junk"?

I'll probably take a little trip to Ikea tomorrow to pick up a couple more of their nifty little clear plastic storage containers, and then head on into Enschede with the sewing machine. We bought the thing last November some time, and aparently it can be switched to 120 volts, but for that you need the proper cord. Had to order it of course, and I was originally only going to go pick up the cord. Meanwhile there was some rumblings about the tension giving the operator some grief, so I'll drop off the machine for the sewing machine guy to look at. Pretty sure it's no longer under warranty, but we'll see.

You may be wondering if I'm going to be doing all that on the bike? Well, no.
Not Enschede, and not a sewing machine. Gabe is once again going down to Bonn tomorrow and this time I don't have to drive, since there are two of them going from the Hengelo office and there was an offer from the Plant Manager to drive.

I'm just so sad.

Pretty sure I'll get over it.