Thursday, June 21, 2018

Barcelona!

June 11 - 21

It is with a heavy heart I begin this entry.  The afternoon of June 16, we got news that Cooper, our beloved dog had a seizure and had to be put down.  He had been a part of our family for nearly 15 years and seen all of the kids grow from teenagers to adults.  Whether it was wrestling in the family room, pulling sticks out of the river or digging sand at the beach, he was a joy to have around.  The last years he was a constant companion to Cheryl and I whether taking trips in the motor home or simply relaxing at the house.  He was definitely one of the family and he will be sorely missed.  Thank you Cooper for being such a good friend.

As has been typical, there has been A LOT going on since the last entry.  First of all, with Cheryl here, we can finally get serious about making the apartment feel like home.  To me as long as there are Doritos in the cupboard and beer in the fridge it feels like home, but with Cheryl here it's a little different.   So whats the first step?  IKEA!!  I got home from work at about 6 pm one evening and I actually got the bright idea to go to IKEA on a weeknight to miss the weekend crowd.  Seemed like a great idea.  GEEZ these stores are HUGE!!!.  I'd not really experienced IKEA at home (except of course putting everything together once it got home). So we walked back and forth for what seemed like eternity through the "showrooms" writing down all the numbers of what we might want.  Then we got downstairs, and to my unpleasant surprise I was among-st thousands of square feet of small wares.  Back and forth and back and forth.  Cups, rugs, dishes, artwork, plants, it never ended!  We finally got to the warehouse where I thought we would tell an IKEA employee the number and he would retrieve the box for us.  NOPE, we had to search it out and place it on our cart ourselves.  Then the 15 minute store closing announcement came on and everyone rushed to the checkout, but of course I was still wondering through the warehouse looking for my unassembled white  Tarva night stand box.  When we finally got back home it was 10:20 pm.  Remember, we left at 6:00 pm. You do the math.


With the IKEA debacle behind us, Cheryl and I decided to take advantage of a business trip I had planned to Barcelona by leaving a few days early and enjoying this great city for some personal vacation time.  As we planned the first of what we hope to be many trips throughout Europe, we initially had to figure out how to get there.  Hmmm, first we have to get to the airport and then the hotel in Barcelona.  Typically, our goal is to minimize use of the car (and parking).  So here we go......  We took the #5 tram to Station Zuid were we got the train to Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam.  We boarded Vueling Flight 8303 for a 2 hour and 15 minute trip to Barcelona.  Once in Barcelona we hopped on the A1 bus to the subway station where we caught the L1 to Catalunya.  We had to walk through a maze of tunnels (including 2 wrong turns and multiple
dumb looks from locals) to the L7 where we got off at El Putxet and a short walk to our hotel.  953 miles, 4 1/2 hours, 1 tram, 3 trains,  1 plane and bus but no car!  We did it!

We had a special treat for our first day in Barcelona.  We got VIP tickets to attend the Moto Grand Prix.  It was a very special opportunity to see these daredevil racers in action.  It is insane to watch these incredible riders lean into the corners on one knee then, crank it up to 160 mph on the straight.  Not only are they fast but they are LOUD!  We'd watch for awhile then head inside for a beer (hey, I did it to protect what hearing I have left.)  My liver is fine, my hearing is bad. 

On Sunday we decided to check out the amazing city of Barcelona.  They have  "hop on, hop off" tour buses where you can ride all day and get off when and wherever you want.  It is a terrific way to explore the sites of the city you care most about.  There are so many interesting and historic places to see.  We decided to spend some time walking around the Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya.  Not only is it a beautiful building in a wonderful location at the top of a hill that overlooks the city, they also sell beer there.  BOOM!  Cheryl was intrigued by the "lemon beer" option on the menu.  How do they brew it you ask?  Well they pour in 1/3 of a glass of lemon slushy and top it off with a Heineken.  Not sure you will see that any time soon at the Portland brew fest, but hey, it tasted great overlooking Barcelona. 

Sunday was also Fathers Day.  As I've said before, there was never any doubt that Cheryl and I were going to accept this wonderful opportunity to join the EMEA Nike team and explore Europe the next two years, however, that certainly didn't mean that we were excited to be leaving the family back in Oregon.  That has been the hardest part (even including getting my parking permit).  So for Fathers Day, the family all logged in to the Google app "Hang Out" and had a group chat.  It was wonderful.  Not as good as being there in person, but pretty darn good.  It was a wonderful way to spend Fathers Day.  Thank you family!  I can't wait until we are all together for Christmas. 

For those geographically challenged people (like me), you may not realize that Barcelona is on the Mediterranean Sea.  Cheryl and I have never seen or touched this famous body of water so of course that was a goal of ours during this visit.  Getting there was as simple as hopping on the V15 and transferring to the N28 (see what I did there?).  Next thing you know the waves of the Mediterranean were crashing over our feet.  OK, "waves" and "crashing" is a little over stated but it was awesome nevertheless. 

I could go on and on about our wonderful visit to Barcelona and how we almost got arrested for buying a blanket from an unlicensed vendor on the beach or our visit to Camp Nou (FCB Stadium) or walking through a midnight street party with our 5 euro bottle of wine, but I need save some of these stories for when we share a glass of lemon beer when we see you back in Oregon. 

Until next time.......



Sunday, June 10, 2018

She's Here!!!

June 3 - June 10

Well it's now been 5 weeks living apart from Cheryl.  It's been a team effort getting ready to begin our new experience in another country.  I came to the Netherlands first, settling in with my new position at Nike and Cheryl hanging back tying up all the loose ends in Oregon.  Though I always enjoyed our phone conversations, they typically were less about "fun stuff" (if you know what I mean) and more about selling our cars, listing the house, immigration paperwork or expense reports.  But that is all a distant memory now as CHERYL IS IN AMSTERDAM!!!.  She arrived this morning (June 9) at 8:30 AM.  It has been so long since we had seen each other I wanted to make sure Cheryl could find me so I made a sign and hung out with the Viking tour directors.  Worked out pretty well.  Turns out we recognized each other so that's good.  

The house felt full as did my heart as Cheryl entered the front door.   There is so much to do but it was fun to just relax on the deck with a glass of wine (we waited until 12:01 pm) and enjoy each others company and our first day together in 5 weeks.  We walked the neighborhood and ate lunch at Cafe Gruter a local place near our apartment.  I also introduced Cheryl to Barry the florist next door.  He helped me out with the welcome bouquets in the apartment.  I'm sure we will get to know Barry very well the next two years as he has beautiful flowers.  

We finally decided that we needed to start getting the new residence in order.  Where to start...... Well over the past month, I have been collecting food and other staples that we will need in order to at least have a foundation when Cheryl arrived (I am good for some things!)  So we decided to unpack all of that and start organizing it in our downstairs storage closet.  I had a little surprise for Cheryl as she opened one of the boxes..... Smirnoff Ice.  Yep iced her big time.  It was a good and bad situation.  Good in that the bottles are much smaller over here, bad in that it was warm.  But she downed it like the champ that she is.
Cheryl's arrival was certainly the big news this past week, but there have definitely been other things going on.  Most notably I have a parking permit for the car.  Though it may not seem like much, its a big deal, trust me on this. A parking spot is like gold over here and when you pay by the day you'd better have a lot of the shiny stuff.  So getting the permit is big.  As you can imagine, it is super easy and convenient to get one.  Here is all you need: 1) Residence permit, 2) application form, 3) vehicle registration card, 4) drivers declaration of ownership, and of course 5) a debit card to pay.  So I grabbed a wheel borrow and loaded all of my documentation and headed down to Stadsloket Zuid to get my permit.  I nervously waited as the attendant reviewed my pile of documentation and typed it into the computer.  Then the dreaded pause as she looked over her glasses "I'm sorry Mr Winkler, but the previous tenant has not canceled her permit.  Only one per residence"  Are you freakin' kidding me?  Fortunately there is one more form to fill out.  The "I give up my first born if the tenant is still living there" form.  Essentially I guarantee that they are gone and we have time to get it canceled.  Whew!

It was a very good week this week.  With Cheryl here we can now look forward to all the adventures that lay before us.  I can't wait!

Oh by the way, one more thing....  Since I am very unpredictable in when I update the blog (imagine that), I think you can add your email and you get notified when an update is made.  I think, but no guarantees.

Until next time.............  





Sunday, June 3, 2018

Alexander Boersstraat 54 II

May 30 - June 3

As I mentioned in the last post, there were some big events coming up in the next 10 days.  Well one of them happened Friday June 1.  I MOVED INTO OUR AMSTERDAM APARTMENT!!

It is super exciting.  Our new address is Alexander Boersstraat 54 II, 1071 KZ Amsterdam NL.  Yes I realize you will get carpal tunnel typing all that in which is why I expect no cards or letters from the states.  Besides, that's what texts and emails are for.  At least you know what to type into your phone when you get on the plane to come see us.  Oh ya, that too will never happen.  But if it does, you know where to find us.

It was quite the event moving here.  First of all, I came by a couple of days early to walk through the apartment while Facetiming with Cheryl to see what "furnished" really means and how much of our own stuff from Beaverton should get shipped over.  The verdict?  The entire kitchen needs to come over.  Not that it matters to me as I've been eating pizza, but Cheryl needs her good knives, pots and small appliances (we have a converter for the electricity).  So once that was done, I went back for my final night in Utrecht.  Unfortunately before I got to my place my car got backed into!  Oh great, less that 30 days in the Netherlands and I'm in a car accident.  Fortunately there is just a scratch on my bumper that I doubt will even get noticed.  The other driver was a "younger" kid (with a full beard) and we waited at the scene for his dad as there was a significant dent hi his bumper.  Of course I couldn't understand what he was saying but by the look on the kids face, the volume of the dads voice and all the arm waving, I don't think he is going to be letting his son drive again anytime soon.   


Thursday night was busy as I had to repack all of my clothes, gather up the food I had accumulated and do laundry so I was ready to head out to Amsterdam first thing Friday morning.  Before I did all of that, I had to join Jerome and Mo for one last Ramen meal at Sanju.  "The usual" I said to Jerome as I walked in.  Then it occurred to me that I was one of THOSE guys!  Maybe its good for me to be moving on.   

Simply packing up and loading the car is not as trivial as it seems.  There is literally no room in front of my apartment to park so I need to have everything staged at the door, go get the car, then park in front of my door with the hazard lights on (like that really helps the pissed off person behind me) and do my best impression of an Indy Car Pit Crew and get everything loaded.  ready. Set. Go!  Unlock the front door (tick, tick tick), load the front seat (tick, tick, tick), remotely pop the hatch while getting anther box (tick, tick, tick).  Jump in and hit the gas!  Made it in record time!!  I didn't get it all as I have to come back for the bike in the afternoon.  Jeez got to do this AGAIN!

The stress of the loading event had passed as I got to Amsterdam to meet Dorte (rep from Cartus), Nadia (real estate agent) and Pauline (landlord) to take possession of the apartment.  Seeing it cleaned and move in ready reaffirmed we made the right choice.  It is such a neat apartment.  I think we will be very happy here.  There is plenty of space, the large deck and excellent location.  Pauline is terrific and really concerned that everything must be perfect at move in.  The TV wasn't working and she immediately demanded a cable guy come right over.  "Pauline" I said, "I haven't watched one minute of TV the past 30 days!  It's fine." Cable guy was there in 30 minutes.  I need Pauline on my services staff at work!!

OK, back to Utrecht for the final loading.  The heart rate began to accelerate as I rehearsed the loading sequence in my mind and I approached Korte Lauwerstraat #3 one final time.  What if the bike doesn't fit?  What is my back up plan?  I decided to take the safe route and parked the car in a safe location and rode the bike to the car to test fit.  Pretty smart eh?  (I was born at night, but not last night!)  Oh no, bike didn't fit!  3/4 in and the hatch won't close and no rope to tie the hatch down.  My solution?  Make a rope out of a garbage bag.  It wasn't pretty and the Utrecht passers by could only shake their heads as I slowly and carefully drove to Amsterdam holding my breath that I would not lose the bike out the back.

The unpacking was uneventful and I had a terrific first nights sleep.  I got up Saturday morning and went for a run in Vondelpark.  It is a huge and beautiful park literally right next to our apartment.  The run was terrific (as runs go anyway) as there are miles (or kilometers) of trails crossing back and forth in and around the trees and ponds scattered throughout.  I see Cheryl and I spending many hours in Vondelpark. 

After the run, I decided to see what Amsterdam had to offer.  I had heard at work about "A Taste of Amsterdam" food event at Amstelpark.  Food, alcohol and a bike ride away on a beautiful day.  That's a pretty easy decision.  It was a fun event with many types of food and beer and wine.  My favorite was the Gado Gado by Remy Martin.  I know I sound smart saying that but truth be told, I didn't even know what Gado Gado was but it was 4 euros and that's how many tokens I had left in my pocket.  Serendipity!

If you remember a couple posts back I went off on the Google translator app.  I used it today as I was approaching the entrance to the A Taste of Amsterdam and wanted to show you first hand.  I had arrows pointing in two different directions.  Where to go, where to go..... Turn on the app point my phone at the sign and presto, I know right where to go!  It's like magic!

So that's it for now.  Another big event happening in a few days.  Looking forward to it.  Until them...........









Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Time to catch up on the blog!!!

May 16 - 29

Wow how time flies!  It has been almost 2 weeks since my last update.  Sheesh, I was going to update the blog at least weekly.  It's amazing what nice weather (hottest May in 300 years here), good food and wine, plus a bike will do to my planning.  Of course I covered myself saying this wouldn't be a daily blog but at this rate it may turn into monthly!!.

A lot has been happening so grab yourself an Americano and let me catch you up!


Of course everything starts and ends with alcohol so as to not disappoint, let's start there.  I have been doing may share in enjoying the wonderful wines and "OK" beers here in the Netherlands but as amazing as it sounds, I have not had many spirits.  Marty at my go to coffee shop knew I worked at Nike and turned me on to a whiskey bar only a block away and the owners wife works at Nike.  It's called the Malt Vault and it's pretty cool.  They have many types of whiskey (said Captain Obvious), some of which, are very exclusive brands (I can't name any of them but take my word for it!).  Sitting on the sidewalk tasting whiskey, not bad, not bad at all.

Not far behind the alcohol is the food.  Wow the food here in Utrecht has been really delicious.  I've had salads, burgers, pasta, pizza, kabobs and of course the Ramen and Kangaroo.  Even as good as it is, it is made even better by the atmosphere.  There are a couple shopping areas here where it is foot traffic only (that's serious if bikes are not allowed) that have many shops and restaurants.  A few of the restaurants are located right on the canal which on a sunny day makes anything taste good.  Even my barbecue ham and a can of Safeway Select cut green beans would stand a chance here.

With lots of good food and wine comes lots of good calories.  As you all know I am a exercise psycho and need to work out everyday.  It has been made worse by my obsession with Orange Theory Fitness.  I got hooked on the whole green/orange/red system while in Beaverton.  OTF has an app with a selection they call "Out of Studio" workouts.  Its where your monitor logs your workout with the green/orange/red system away from a studio.  Even here in the Netherlands!  I use it everyday and though I really feel I'm getting excellent workouts in and burning a lot of calories, my belt buckle tells a much different story.  I guess it's time for a new belt!

Last Sunday my boss Nuno and his wife Patricia graciously invited me to spend the day with them in Amsterdam to walk and learn the city.  Of course when they said walk the city I didn't think they meant WALK THE CITY.  Hey Nuno, Amsterdam has an amazing public transit system!  Nuno and Patrician are Portuguese so we started at a wonderful Portuguese cafe called Nata Lisboa.  We had some delicious tarts and coffee before heading out for "a 3 hour tour..... a 3 hour tour."   Though I joke about all the walking, it really was a terrific day and I can't thank Nuno and Patricia enough for all the time they spent showing me the best theaters, comedy clubs and markets to go to.  We even walked by Cheryl and my future residence.  It was also my first attempt at navigating the intercity train system by myself.  It's less than an hour door to door from my place but I gave myself two hours just to be sure.  I only had to talk to the information center person twice.  I think that's pretty good!

This last weekend I had planned to go to a nice little lake called Henschotermeer for a little run and possibly a jump in the water since it was over 27 C here.  As I was getting my gear together I got a text "Vickiy Van Beek here in Amsterdam!!!!"  For those that don't know, the Van Beeks are long time friends from Tri-Cities Washington.  You may remember them from our visit at Lost Coast Brewery during our 1ktothebay ride (see below).   We never see them where we live.  We want to wait until we are thousands of miles away.  It gives "I was just in the neighborhood" a whole new meaning.  OK, so back to the story.....   So I obviously decided to put the jog on hold and opted for the ice cold beer near the canal in Amsterdam.  Just call me the Rocket Surgeon for making such intelligent choices!  It was soooooo much fun spending the afternoon with the Van Beeks and their traveling friends Paula and Jeff.  I can't wait to see them when I travel to Antarctica.  I can see it now, "Vickiy Van Beek here in Antarctica!!!!"

So that's it for now.  I've got some big things coming up in the next 10 days but I'll leave that as a surprise for now.  Until then, so long from Utrecht!












Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Pancakes, Castles and a Bike. What else is there?

May 11 - May 15

Thursday night (Ascension Day) I was having a delicious ramen meal at my go to restaurant (Hot and Spicy Chicken is my favorite) thinking of a place I'd like to visit outside the city on Friday.  I asked Jerome the waiter at Sanju (yes I'm on a first name basis) where I should go and he suggested I drive out to the small village of Lage Vuursche.  Not only is there room to run/hike, he mentioned there is an amazing pancake house there.  Pancake house?  Say no more.  So the next morning I was off to Lage Vuursche.  Of course I had to stop by the Village Coffee and Music shop for my "American Americano" from Marty (yes, first name basis) then I was on my way.  It really is a beautiful little town, but before I partake in the pancakes, I need to get some exercise so I went for a run.  The Netherlands is the 30th most densely populated country in the world yet when you drive from city to city you would never know it.  There are long stretches of beautiful farmland and lush forests with canals permeating through the land every few kilometers.  It really is beautiful.  The area around Lage Vuursche is one of those gorgeous rural places.  When I arrived I was actually able to just park the car (YES! there was parking!!!!) and set out to run off a few calories before I put them back in at the pancake house.

I staggered/limped to the imaginary finish line at the end of my run eager to sit in the morning sun and eat the well deserved pancakes.  I walked to the De Vuursche Boer Pannenkoekenhuis (The Fiery Farmer Pancake House).  It was 10:15 am and I asked the waiter for a menu and was told me they don't start the kitchen until 11:00 am.  Uh excuse me?  We are talking pancakes the breakfast food right?  Oh that's right, different country, different customs.  So I order a coffee and got the typical cappuccino that is served in the 4 oz cup that is sipped with the pinky out.  I finished my coffee, caught up on some email and alas, time to order breakfast (nearing lunch).  There were 15 different kinds and I opted for the ham and cheese and it did not disappoint.  It was DELICIOUS!  Nice recommendation Jerome.

I'm in a tough spot being by myself here in Utrecht.  I want to get out and experience the different sights and culture but careful to wait for Cheryl to hit the really BIG stuff.  Searching around I came across the Kasteel De Haar.  It is an old Castle that looks interesting, that I'm betting Cheryl will not be interested in (I'll let you know how that turns out when she gets here!)  The castle was originally built in 1391 by the De Haar family (go figure) but was passed on in 1440 and fell into ruins and rebuilt multiple times.  The final restoration was in 1891 designed by the famous Netherlands architect  Pierre Cuypers.  He worked on the project for 20 years.  It has 200 rooms and 30 bathrooms!  See how much you can learn reading this blog?

Sunday was a particularly good day here in Utrecht.  First of all it was Mother's Day and I got the opportuntiy to talk with my wonderful mother and wife (and family) which was awesome.  That would have been good enough but I also did 4 loads of laundry AND decided to get a bike!  In the Netherlands, having a bike is a must.  Though I know road bikes, I know nothing about the cruisers most everyone here rides.  Conventional wisdom is to buy a used bike which made sense to me since a) I'm not taking it home and b) it will probably get stolen anyway.  I decided to go the safe route and purchase from shop as often times bikes sold on-line are stolen (see "b" above).  I purchased a Sparta "stay cool" which means absolutely nothing to me but just as rescue dogs bond with their owners, I have a special feeling about my Sparta.  One more box checked off!!








Thursday, May 10, 2018

Kangaroo in Utrecht

May 6 - May 10th

I had the bike for 24 hours so I wanted to maximize the time I had it so I got up early Sunday morning (OK "early" is a relative term) and wanted to go see some more of Utrecht that was outside my immediate neighborhood.  Where to go, where to go........  Well I have had difficulty finding a drip cup of coffee here as everything is in the small cups (pinky out) that are really strong.  Even if I order an Americano they only fill up my hydro flask half way.  OK, there has to be a Starbucks in Utrecht.  Yep only 5 minutes away by bike!  When I arrived, "Venti Americano please" was all I had to say and BOOM! flask was full.  Weather was amazing again.  27 C! (you'll have to figure that out yourself folks.)  I stopped by the HKU Utrecht Conservatorium to just sit on the bench with my wonderful Starbucks Venti Americano and think about things.  It was awesome.

Later that night I was at a restaurant waiting and waiting and waiting for my check.  Seems like serving staff are not in any hurry to present the check in the Netherlands.  Take a deep breath Chris, relax and enjoy the experience I keep telling myself as the waiter walks by my empty plate and glass 20 times.  Anyway I digress.  While waiting, I decided to see if there are any good translator apps that might make my life reading menus and going to the store a little easier.  Duh Chris, ever heard of a company called Google?  I downloaded Google translator and let me tell you, it is freaking amazing.  You point the camera and it translates the text from Dutch to English real time.  It's crazy. No more Russian roulette in the store and getting sardines when I expected chicken!  You have got to try it.

The week so far has been really good.  It probably helps that it is a 3 day week due to the celebration of Ascension Day on Thursday and then an additional day off on Friday (sort of how the US treats Thanksgiving weekend).  Tuesday I actually made my first international trip and ventured into Belgium.  Belgium is South of The Netherlands and about the size of Massachusetts (11K sq miles) but almost twice the population (11 million).  I went with 3 coworkers to see a renovated work area at our distribution center in Laakdal.  It is quite an amazing place though we didn't get a chance to see much of the actual distribution center. I was all fired up to show my passport and get a stamp but, noooooo, just an "Entering Belgium" sign as we crossed the border.  How anti climatic!


As if traveling to Belgium was not enough international experience for one day I decided to really go off the rails and go Australian for dinner.  Scanning the menu the Kangaroo really caught my eye (not really, the Ostrich was the only other choice).  So I decided to go for it.  I also decided to order a side of french fries just in case.  Believe it or not it was pretty tasty.  Not sure if it was the sauce or the meat, but it had a little kick to it (OK, I couldn't resist).

Thursday was another pretty good day.  I decided to go on a morning run along the canal.  It is really beautiful.  Winding around on the path periodically crossing the streets, running past the shops and cafes.  I almost forget how tired I was.  Since I didn't have a bike I explored my neighborhood to see if I could find a coffee shop close by where I could walk them through a proper Americano that would fill up my hydro flask.  Success!  Now I have a spot in my Binnenstad neighborhood that I can frequent.  The Village Coffee and Music shop made a wonderful cup of coffee for me.  The barista even provided the origin of the term "Americano."  According to popular belief,  the name has its origins in World War II when American G.I.s in Italy would dilute espresso with hot water to approximate the coffee to which they were accustomed.  So there you go........


Saturday, May 5, 2018

The first week....

April 30 - May 5

As with any new experience, it takes time to get settled and that is what I have been doing.  Trying to set the "routine"  I must admit it's one thing to set a new routine when you move across town, but quite another when you move across the world and start a new job.  But I'm adjusting fine.  The Netherlands is really a great place.  The people are so nice and having everyone speak English is a game changer.  Sure I can't read a menu, a street sign or can of tuna (its tonijnstukken by the way) but I am not complaining!.

My routine consists of working out at the campus gym every morning and showering there (I have yet to use the apartment shower!)  I'm working long hours now so I won't need to when Cheryl get's here so I get home late, walk to a local restaurant, go to the store and that's about it.

I've tried a different restaurant each night (not much cooking going on in the apartment) but I think I found my go to spot.  It's called Sanju Ramen and the people that work there are really nice and the Hot ans Spicy bowl I had last night was amazing.  I've talked with one of the waiters, Jerome, and I think we will get to know each other over time.

Saturday was a big day.  The weather was amazing so I rented a bike to go exploring the town of Utrecht.  As is common in many cities here, there is a large old temple, church or government building in the center of town.  Utrecht is no different and in this case it is the Dom Tower.  It is a church tower standing 368 feet tall.  There are many wonderful shops and restaurants in the area so I locked up my bike and had a beer at the base of the tower at Brasserie Domplein.  The beer was cheap (2.60
euros!) and the atmosphere was priceless. 

I like to consider myself an experienced cyclist in that I have ridden to San Francisco, completed Seattle to Portland and thousands of miles around the Willamette Valley.   Similar to how scuba diving is not swimming, being on a bike in a Netherlands city is not cycling.  Sheesh, these people don't mess around.  There is no joy riding here.  These bikes are utility bikes.  You want to joy ride then get on a back street (which is exactly what I did!)

Well time to get a little laundry done and get something to eat.  It's been a good week thus far.  Though I would have liked to be in our permanent residence immediately, living in Utrecht for a month is going to be an unexpected pleasure I think.  It's a very nice city.  So until next time, I miss you all I hope you are doing well.








I am in the Netherlands!!!

April 29

Well, after months of talking about it, weeks preparing for it and days constantly thinking about it, the hour has arrived.  I am going the Netherlands to LIVE.  Yep, take 4 seasons worth of clothes and the charger for the electric toothbrush.  It was a day I was not looking forward to.  Not because I don't want to go, but because the reality of having to say goodbye to the family is much more difficult than I expected.  Our lives are built around each other and though it's easy to say "there will be visits," it will be different.  So here I am at PDX after sharing some some tears with Cheryl and am ready to check into Delta Flight 178 non stop to Amsterdam!

The trip was uneventful and I actually got a couple hours sleep because I will be spending the day at EHQ after I arrive and I don't want to bonk!  I only needed to get my bags and rental car (my permanent car is not available yet).  I got a nice little SUV Ford KUGR.  One problem, they only had a vehicle with a manual transmission.  Seriously??  It's not that I can't drive one, but I'm an old man.  I don't need to drag anyone off the line and with all the bikes, pedestrians, buses, trams, traffic lights, narrow roads, street names like "Plompetorengracht" to look for I don't need one more distraction!  OK, I'll take it, but "madam, will you please double the insurance coverage?  Thank you"

My first day at EHQ was good.  The people are terrific and I will have no problem adjusting.  They may be the one's who need to adjust to "the loud guy."  The campus is significantly smaller than WHQ but a major campus renovation is just kicking off and the rest of the European region is also undergoing some major changes to align with our new company strategy so there is a lot to do.


I left work a little early (good first impression eh?) to meet the real estate agent and get my temporary apartment.  It's in downtown Utrecht.  A town about 10 miles south of Hilversum (where EHQ is located).   I'm in a cool old area (well, every area is old) that is only two blocks from a nice downtown with restaurants and a grocery store.  The town itself is about 350,000 people but like Amsterdam, doesn't feel as big as it is as everything is broken up into neighborhoods.  Just a block north of my apartment is a beautiful canal.  The canals in Utrecht are different than in Amsterdam in that you can get right down to the water.  It's pretty nice and allows people to canoe and boat around a lot more.

It can't be all fun and games.  I need to go shopping so I have something in the refrigerator as this is going to be home for the month of May.  I got lots of sliced meats and cheese as I don't expect to be cooking many meals.  Maybe an occasional pot of spaghetti but don't be looking for me on Chopped any time soon.  I was very thankful to see Doritos made it over to the Netherlands.  I was a little disappointed in the selection.  Only Nacho Cheese.  Was looking for Spicy Sweet Chili flavor but I guess I can't have everything.

Well that's it for my first day of my new life experience in Europe.  I am excited to be here but even more excited for Cheryl to join me so we can share the experience.  Only a month to wait......

Monday, April 30, 2018

Getting Ready to Head Back


April 5 - April 26

When I left off it was April 4 and we were heading back to Oregon to continue getting ready to come back to start the 2 year stint in the Netherlands.  Cheryl and I both had "an idea" of what we were getting into but we under estimated by, well...... a factor of 10!  We ended making it home safely though I required a special security search by an "all to friendly" security professional.

Next on the agenda was taking care of all the little things you don't want to have to worry about while away.  You know, hair cut, cutting your toe nails and of course getting your teeth cleaned.  It seemed like such a good idea at the time, but while there,the dentist reminded me that I had a tooth that's been ready to crack for about a year and needed a crown.  Since I was just over a week from take off, he offered to do me a favor and stay late to install the crown.  Geez I hate getting my teeth worked on.  Extra novocaine please!!

Cheryl has been doing an amazing job clearing the house of unwanted "stuff" and we have been hauling other items to the kids for their use or selling on Craigslist.  One of my golden rules is "don't love something that can't love you back."  By following that rule you would think it would be easy to sell the motor home and my motorcycle.  Well, it was hard!  We had the Intruder for 7 years and we keep a log of every time we use it.  There were 140 entries!  You math geniuses out there can quickly deduce that we take the Intruder out 20 times a year.  That's one hellava lot of Walmarts!  I hope the new owner has as much fun with it as we did.  Safe travels.


Next on the list was the motorcycle.  Though I didn't ride it much, there aren't many things better than riding a motorcycle in the country on a sunny summer day.  OK, there are probably a lot of things better, but still, it was fun.  The Yamaha V-Star 650 was my first motorcycle after I got my endorsement and the person who bought it just got his also.  That explains why he asked me to drive but back to his house after he bought it.  I was happy to do it as it gave me one more time to ride it.

The last items on our list were the good byes.  Crowns, selling the Intruder and motorcycle were bad enough, but visiting our many wonderful friends that we will not see nearly so often was tough.  Sure we will be back on occasion, but it s not the same as the routine "pop-ins" or an impromptu dinner out or a Sunday BBQ.  I must say that my heart hurt as the last couple weeks past but my liver was really feeling the pain.  Lots of farewell toasts but they were moments I will always remember.  We are so blessed to have so many wonderful friends.  We love you all so much. 



We Have an Amsterdam Address!

April 3

It was a huge day for us today.  We are going to decide on our apartment for the next 2 years.  It’s down to two but we discussed it all weekend and we are pretty sure which one we will take.  But first we need some breakfast and we’ve found there are not a lot of bacon and egg places around but there are a ton of bakeries.  We hit the “Ice Bakery” (a chain here in Amsterdam) and not wanting anything too sweet Cheryl decided on a waffle.  “What would you like on that?” she was asked.  “Strawberries, whipped cream, Oreo cookies, Nutella, sprinkles, bananas, sour patch kids…….” At that point Cheryl declined and settled on an apple turnover.  I also didn’t want anything too sweet either so I decided on a white frosted doughnut.  To my surprise, as I bit into it I realized it was filled with Nutella.  Sheesh, the Dutch like their sweets!

Off we went to check out the two apartments.  We were pretty sure we wanted the one with a gated entry on street level because the layout was very practical and it has a very large deck, however, we needed to look at them both again.  Though we loved the beautiful main floor of the 3rd/4th floor unit, the stairs were a killer, even for Amsterdam.  Believe it or not, this was only the first flight of stairs!  So we decide against this one.

The apartment we settled on is a 2 bedroom with a very unique lay out for Amsterdam.  There is a gated front all to ourselves, a large entry way and the stairs are broken up.  The guest room has some privacy and there is a huge deck off the living room.  I can only show pictures from the outside because it is currently occupied and current renter doesn't appear to know what clutter is.  The bottom line is that we have a place with a real Amsterdam address!  Are you ready for it??? Alexander Boersstraat 54 II.

 Time to head home bright and early in the morning.  We'll catch up on a few things then, I'm back over at the end of April to stay here permanently (well 2 years feels pretty permanent)  So until then.........






Monday, April 2, 2018

Tulips in The Netherlands?

April 2

Another day of exploring the Netherlands!  We want to take advantage of the rental car so we decided to again flip a coin and today that coin said to go to see the Tulips!  The Netherlands is known for their flowers.  In fact, iamsterdam.com says that the Netherlands accounts for 70% of the worlds commercial flower output.  So off we went to Keukenhof flower garden in Lisse.  Probably not the best day to make this adventure as it was raining and we were a little early in the season and there were very few tulips at the tulip garden (as noted below) but we always go where the coin tells us.  

Today
Typical

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Easter


With all of the activity happening this week we decided to take it easy and sleep in.  The big accomplishment today was to head outside the city center to FoodHallen food court on public transportation.  They really have it dialed in here.  Even I can figure it out.  Thank goodness everything is visual because if I had to rely on street names I would NEVER get anywhere.  In this picture, the street monitor is blurry, but that doesn’t matter because as the names show up in the picture is how they show up in my mind…..blurry.