Sunday, December 16, 2018

Life in Amsterdam

November 16 - December 7

Well we've reached the 6 month mark of our European experience.  As I reflect, there is a part of me that says the transition and been extremely smooth, but at the same time we have had to make major adjustments.  Since we are in a bit of a traveling break I thought I'd share a few of those.  I will start with transportation.  The city is always a buzz with people moving about, all with somewhere to go.
So you've heard of the movie titled "Planes Trains and Automobiles."  Amsterdam should be titled "Bikes, People, Trams, Scooters, Trains and Automobiles."  One of the key differences in The Netherlands and the US is personal responsibility.  The mixing of people and vehicles is like a large jambalaya.  You are expected to look where you are going and pay attention.  No guardrails or loud sirens.  Just a bell on the tram and voice from a bicycle "ga uit de weg!"  Look down.  If you are between two rails you'd better move.  Not too complicated.

On a related note, do not drive in the city unless you absolutely have to.   There is movement everywhere and if a car runs into something, it's is always the cars fault.  Combined that with the rain and darkness at 4:30 pm in the winter and if you drive, you are shaking hands with danger bro!

We have verified that the "whatever, whenever" reputation of Amsterdam is well earned.  There are outdoor urinals, the smell of marijuana at every corner and of course the red light district.  People typically dress in darker colors and a little more conservatively, but they don't blink an eye at wild outfits, body piercings and tattoos everywhere or brightly colored hair.  Cheryl and I have yet to partake into many of these activities but I did keep with tradition and dress up for Halloween.  Funny how people walk right past the person with 58 nose and ear piercings and florescent yellow hair but stair in amazement at a "pumpkin pi" costume.

With all the wonderful things The Netherlands as to offer, native food is not their strongest attribute.  Certainly you can get delicious food in the city (particularly Indonesian) but home grown food is an acquired taste.  For example, I have become friends with a local marathon runner Paul Zwama, who by the way, just set the world record for running a marathon on a treadmill (click here.)  He is a good cook of Dutch food and invited us over for Hutspot.  Its a native dish of mashed potatoes and carrots often served with sausage.  It is healthy and Paul did a great job cooking it, but it's not something you would seek out in a local restaurant.

Cheryl and I live in a terrific location in Amsterdam a block from the Museumplein (think Van Gogh museum).  We are always walking over there to see what's going on.  They do a terrific job transforming this area into new and unique experiences.  For example, this summer they set up a polo match.  No joke, the kind with horses and the whole deal.  Right now they are in the holiday spirit and have created a winter wonderland including an ice skating rink.  There are markets, museums (obviously) and simply people picnic on the grass.  It is a very unique and popular place.

Stairs, stairs and more stairs - The unique architecture in Amsterdam is from the 17th century and believe it or not, they didn't have the ADA back then.  Most of the buildings are at least 5 level and contain narrow steep stairs.  Our apartment is better than most but I still need to do a little stretching and get in a mental zone every night I come home from work before attacking the stairs to our living room.

Bikes, bikes and more bikes - There are over 880,000 bikes in Amsterdam compared to a population of 850,000.  Now I'm no Einstein but that's a pretty high ratio.  People ride their bikes everywhere in any kind of weather.  Sorry, mine's stored until spring!  You can see Cheryl cruising on her fancy bike along the canal (when the weather was warmer of course).

It's December now and the kids will be here for Christmas.  We are really looking forward to that and you can bet there will be a few stories to share.  Knowing our family, they might not be fit for all ages.  Until then, enjoy the Holidays!!

Sunday, November 25, 2018

The blurry lights of Berlin

October 27 - November 15

Germany has been on the must visit list from the first day we arrived in Europe.  Our initial plan was to go to Munich for Oktoberfest for large steins of beer of course!!  Between the Belfast trip and going to Barcelona, we could not get the schedule worked out. I can't believe I just wrote that.  Until 9 months ago our biggest travel conflicts were fitting in a Woodburn Walmart trip in between a visit to Vernonia City Park and shopping at Washington Square.  Fortunately, Nike has an office in Berlin and I needed to take trip there to meet the local team and tour the area.  Though not the foamy steins of beer, loud music and wearing lederhosen (yes I have a pair) that we expected, Berlin was a wonderful experience.  As we have traveled, we have found most cities in Europe have extremely rich and interesting histories that date back hundreds of years.  Berlin also has its share of old history, but it’s more recent history including WWII, the cold war and rise and fall of the Berlin Wall is captivating.   

We decided to stay in ANOTHER 25 hour hotel.  No balcony tub here but there was a sauna room just down the hall.  We decided to go for a sauna fairly late at night and I had the bright idea to get comfortable and remove my contacts so I could close my eyes and relax.  I didn’t realize that the sauna had a glass wall that overlooked the city.  Cheryl told me it was an amazing view and was oooing and ahhhing and I just saw blurry images that looked more like a kaleidoscope than the lights of Berlin.  Then just as we were leaving, a couple came in and enjoyed the sauna the European way (if you know what I mean.)  Again, I just saw blurry images, but from the report Cheryl gave there was not much to ooo and ahhhh over.  To quote famous line "They were real but they weren't spectacular!"

We took another Hop On, Hop Off bus to tour Berlin.  I must say, we really enjoyed driving through Berlin.  It is the capital of Germany and home to 3.7 million people.  Though it has a long history dating back to the 12th century, its recent history is what was so fascinating to Cheryl and I.  The symbolic significance of Berlin as the Capital of Germany during WWII and the many buildings that still show damage from the bombings and then the building of the Berlin Wall in 1969 and finally the reunification in 1989.  As we drove past Checkpoint Charlie into the former East Berlin, you can see a definite change in architecture.  The East is more utilitarian with simple, efficient, square buildings.  Even the landmark "TV Tower" which served an important function, but was also meant to represent Communist power is quite plain and simple.  

We definitely enjoyed the food.  It was as expected, in terms of lots of meats, potatoes and heavy sauces.  Our Nike site lead recommended a place called Schnitzelei.  They have a long list of appetizers/tapas that all looked very good so we ordered 9 of them.  OMG, it was delicious.  Of course there was a lot of bread to go with it so between the loaf of bread and 9 tapas and of course a beer (or two) I felt like Augustus Gloop.  Staying true to tradition, we had to try the local pub and bar scene.  We eventually "stumbled" upon a cool bar called the House of Gin.  It's located in the Hotel Palace Berlin and has over 150 types of gin on their shelves.  The drinks are very creative.  My Old Smoke Fashion was served in a smoke filled lantern.  

We were also able to see all the other sites including the Brandenburg Gate, Reichstag (German Parliament building), TV Tower and Berlin Cathedral just to name a few.  Our favorite attraction was the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.  It is a breathtaking place.  It covers 200,000 square feet with over 2700 individual concrete slabs.  A very impactful memorial.    

No more big trips planned until the family comes over for Christmas so we will hang out in Amsterdam and getting ready for the Holidays!!  Until next time........

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Balcony Tub and Game of Thrones!

October 5 - October 26

Seriously, how hard can it be to update a blog?  Sheesh, I am so far behind.  Between all the traveling, food and alcohol tasting and trying to at least fake like I'm doing something at work, I have fallen very far behind on keeping up to date on the blog.   A friend mentioned to me that they enjoyed reading about the Istanbul trip and I thought Istanbul?  That was forever ago.  We've been to Western Germany, Northern Ireland and Berlin since then.  I guess I'd better grab a Heineken (or 3) and start typing.

After that terrific trip to Istanbul we decided to stay a little closer to home for a couple weeks which for us means not flying.  We still wanted to go somewhere new by car or train.  Where to go, where to go.  How about Germany?  Only a 2.5 hour trip by car to the border.  Sounds good!  We settled on a stop in Dusseldorf for a night then to Cologne.  We didn’t put much thought into it (our typical procedure involves a coin and flip), but figured they must have beer, food and old buildings to look at so how can you go wrong?  As a special bonus, the historical Rhine River runs through both cities!

The first learning as we crossed the border was no speed limit.  As you know, I am very gun shy when it comes to speeding following my 3 speeding tickets for going less than 5 km/hr over the speed limit in the area outside Amsterdam.  I didn’t see any of the familiar red, white and black signs so I set the cruise control at what I figured was a safe 100 km/hr and moved over to the right lane with grandma and grandpa.  Much to my surprise, cars were flashing their lights and blowing past us like we were standing still.  I mustered up the courage to go 120 km/hr but that was it and we turned on a “How I built this” podcast and settled in for a nice drive to Dusseldorf.

Dusseldorf is a very nice town of about 600,000 people known for telecommunications and art and fashion (I still wore sweats and a T-Shirt).  We stayed at a fun/trendy hotel called 25 Hours and had the option to pay an additional 5 euros for a soaking tub on the balcony and of course we went for it.  Nice that the weather was still warm so there wasn’t too much shrinkage going from the tub to the room.  I signed us up for a boat tour on the Rhine River as I thought it would be a terrific way to see the city.  We decided to go early to ensure we knew where the pier was.  We’d then walk the park and city until our tour started.  What a great plan!  We went to KD Pier and saw one tour boat there and figured we were at the right place and off we went exploring.  We returned 10 minutes before our scheduled departure and as we approached the boat noticed that there were no people boarding.  In fact there were no people at all.  Hmmmmm.  Not a good sign.  So I double checked the location and verified we were at the right pier but upon closer inspection the “pier” is essentially the entire East side of the river bank and our boat was 3 km away!  So much for the boat trip!

On to Cologne.  It is about 45 km from Dusseldorf so an easy and quick (with no speed limit) drive.  There are 1 million people who live in Cologne but it didn’t feel that big.  We stayed at another 25 Hour hotel (our new favorite) in a central location with an easy walk to many fun places.  It was also the weekend of the Cologne marathon.  I was going to run it but unfortunately entry was closed (and if you believe that…).

We of course hit a market and had to have a German beer and Bratwurst.  From there we took a walk to see the Cologne Cathedral.  What a magnificent building!  The area around it has become a central square and many musicians playing and artists producing beautiful drawings on the walkway.  We decided to have dinner looking right at the Cathedral.  I don't even remember how the food tasted.....

My team at work had an off site planning session in Barcelona at the new office facility there at the beautiful La Rotonda building.  It was a quick trip and Cheryl decided not to join me.  The team got a lot accomplished, ate at a nice restaurant and enjoyed some authentic Flamenco dancing.

The next weekend Cheryl and I got itchy to fly somewhere so we decided on Ireland before it got too cold.  We settled on the logical choice and were headed to Dublin.  A couple weeks before, we were strolling around Amsterdam and walked into an Irish bar for a beer (big surprise there).  While bellying up to the bar, we struck up a conversation with the bartender and he convinced us that Belfast was a better place to visit.  So we changed our plans and headed to Northern Ireland.  Though I'm sure we would have enjoyed Dublin we had a terrific time in Belfast.

There is a lot of history in Belfast. It is a city with a population of about 300,000 but in its hey day in the early 20th century was over 450,000.  It is a town know for linen production, tobacco, rope manufacturing, and of course ship building.  The Titanic was built in Belfast in 1912 by the famous ship building company Harland and Wolff.  There is a wonderful interactive museum at the site where the Titanic was built and Cheryl and I had a great afternoon there learning about the terrible, yet fascinating tragedy.  Yes we even paid the 10 euros for the cheesy staged photo.

We also spent a day wondering the city center with all of the historical buildings including City Hall (which was very cool).  Two of the oldest buildings in Belfast are pubs, so of course we had to check them out (Dirty Onion 1680, Kelly's Cellars 1720).

One of the prettiest drives in the world (at least that's what the locals say) is the Causeway Coastal Route.  This drive consists of beautiful countryside and rugged coast line with castles to see and other points of interest.  Unfortunately the weather didn't cooperate and we had to deal with the rain the entire day.  This, coupled with me having to drive on the left side of the road had trouble written all over it, but we survived.

We visited the Carrickfergus Castle, Bushmill Distillery and the Dark Hedges.  Bushmill Distillery was granted a license to produce whiskey in 1608 and built the distillery in 1784.  The official tastings were closed for the day when we arrived but that didn't stop us, we just split shots!  Too bad I had to drive us home (that left side of the road thing too) and the tasting was cut short.  The Dark Hedges was also a fun stop.  Many of you may know it from the Game of Thrones which is filmed in Northern Ireland (another fun fact brought to you my the Winkler European blog!)

Cheryl and I are really enjoying our time here trying to maximize this opportunity which fills up the days.  We miss the family a lot and CAN NOT wait for Christmas when they will all join us here in Amsterdam.  It is going to be sooooo much fun.

Until next time......

Wednesday, October 17, 2018


September 26 - October 4

With a successful and wildly fun wedding behind us and a lovely new daughter law in the family, Cheryl and I can get back into the routine of exploring Europe.  Next stop?  Istanbul Turkey.  Yes you read that correctly.  I am going to Istanbul Turkey.  6 months ago I couldn't find Istanbul on a map and now I'm going there.  This sh*t is crazy! 

Nike is opening up a beautiful new office space in Istanbul and my team gets to provide the service experience for the employees there.  We had an all employee meeting to introduce the project so Cheryl decided to join me after the meetings so we could take a long weekend and explore this wonderful mid-eastern city.

Before Cheryl arrived, I had the fortunate experience to join my Nike colleagues and watch the first game of the Champions League at Turk Telcom Stadium.  Team Galatasaray  from Turkey and Lokomotiv from Moscow played with Galatasaray winning 3-0.  It was an AMAZING experience.  People often say how popular and fanatical the fans are in Europe but OH MY!  I had no idea it was like that.  We arrived 30 minutes early and there were no players on the field and the place was ROCKIN’!  Cheer’s and songs going non stop from 30 minutes before the start until the game ended 2 hours later and they don't even serve alcohol in the stadium!  My ears were ringing like I had just finished an AC/DC concert.

I know many of you probably snickered when I said I didn't know where Istanbul was, but I would bet any of you a glass of raki that you wouldn't come within 200 kilometers of it on an unmarked map (go ahead and try smarty pants).  A few fun facts for you.  Istanbul is the worlds 7th largest city (largest in Europe) at over 15 million people.  The Bosporus Strait that connects the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea is the boarder of Europe and Asia and goes through the city.  The currency in Turkey is the lira which is worth about 1/6 of a euro (keep that in mind for later).  Cheryl and I stayed in the Taksim area which is in the heart of the city and a across the "Golden Horn" from the historical section of the city.

Following my work commitments, Cheryl arrived Wednesday evening and took a cab to our hotel.   I reminded her that cab drivers only take cash so be sure to have cash.  What I neglected to say was lira cash.  I happily met her in the lobby and before the hug, before the welcome kiss, the first thing she said was “wow that cab was expensive!  It was 120 euros!”  I felt a hot flash as I realized she paid 6X the cab fare (or 20 euros!)  I suggested we go have a drink in the bar then I broke the news that she made the cab drivers week by paying him a days wages for one cab ride.  Oh well, a Merry Moment came early in Istanbul.

The weekend was filled with visiting old historical sites including mosques, shopping in the markets and eating many delicious meals.  The sweets are especially delicious and we had our share of the Turkish specialty made by Hakkizade (est 1864).

There were many highlights, though I'm not sure what to share.  We went to dinner at Sur Balik seafood restaurant on the waterfront with a fantastic view of the Bosporus bridge.  We toured the Basilica Cistern (an underground reservoir) which was built by the Romans in the 6th century.  That's freaking OLD!  We really enjoyed the markets.  There was the Grand Bazaar and the spice market each filled with a variety of things to buy (Cheryl was in heaven).  She even got a pair of Birkenstocks for 60 TL (or 10 euros for you people tracking at home).  Of course they were knock offs but hey, as long as they aren't Nikes.

Though everything was very interesting, my most vivid memory was at the intersection of two streams of pedestrian traffic entering the Grand Bazaar. I have never seen (or felt) so many people in such a confined area.  If you are claustrophobic then you avoid this area at all costs.  It was insane.  People "copping a feel" and not even meaning to.

Another fantastic European city (or is it Asian?) to check off our list.  We have many more planned and until next time......

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Introducing Kyle and Lindsay Winkler

August 23 - September 25

Well it happened.  Kyle and Lindsay got married! The past few weeks have been filled with excitement and anticipation for the big event.  Cheryl and I returned to Oregon on September 1 to spend time with the family and help with any final preparations for the big day.  The flight back was OK, though I will say we have been spoiled flying in business class.  Sounds pretty pretentious coming from a couple who recently sold their 1998 Purple Dodge Stratus.  Once seated in our cramped seats in coach, the excitement grew as we watched person after person walk by us without sitting in an extra seat next to Cheryl. Then it happened.  We heard the attendant say “we have closed the cabin door.”  YES!  We won the seat lottery!  Spread out and enjoy the long flight back to Oregon 

Though Jenna, Kyle, Lindsay and the rest of the planning team had done a lot of work prior to our arrival, there were many errands to run during the week and much beer to drink as we made time to visit family and friends.  The Dossier Hotel provided free beer from 5:30 to 6:30 pm each night so Cheryl and I even made some new friends there. 

On Thursday the events kicked into gear with the rehearsal dinner on Jenna’s apartment terrace catered by Crown Piaya.  Delicious food, of course more beer, and a few fun stories about the bride and groom really set the stage for the eventful weekend left to come (most notably morning headaches).  On Friday we all grabbed a coffee and aspirin and headed to Hood River for the 9 am rehearsal at the beautiful wedding location (Mt Orchard). Yes 9 am!  I had not visited Mt Orchard since Kyle and Lindsay reserved the space nearly a year ago and had forgotten how amazing it was with fruit trees surrounding the venue and Mt Hood as the backdrop.  Breathtaking.  Everyone then met at Waterfront Park on the Columbia River for more beer and a wonderful BBQ.  Lindsay’s family and friends from Boston were there and it was so nice to meet them all.   

Then came Saturday.   What a wonderful day!  Family and friends all gathered in one place to celebrate Kyle and Lindsay.  I have been to more weddings than I can count but it sure is different when it’s one of your kids.  Needless to say, it was emotional and there were a few tears (didn’t see that coming!) as I had the honor of walking with Jenna down the aisle to met Kyle at the altar.  A moment I will never forget.  Congratulations Kyle and Lindsay.  September 8, 2018.  #winklerwedding2018

Though the wedding was the big news since the last entry, there have been a few other happenings.  Cheryl and I took a 2 day Netherlands Culture training class.  I know what you’re thinking…..  Chris and culture is an oxymoron but Nike is doing their best to help me grow into being a man of the world (don’t laugh!).  We learned Dutch history, food traditions and societal norms.  It explained why I’ve received a lot of the funny looks since I’ve been here. 

We also continued our exploration of the Netherlands and spent a weekend on Texel island.  Texel is an island with a population of 13,641 in the province of North Holland in the Netherlands.  It is a beautiful area that you must travel by ferry to get to.  It is a quiet place with lots of sheep and farmland and the home of Texel Brewery.  Funny how we quickly found that.  We stayed in the small marine town of Den Helder in a fun hotel called Lands End.  Of course I had to take advantage of the complementary robes to make the walk to the hot tub both comfortable and very stylish!

Finally, Cheryl and I began to receive visitors for the states this past month!  My sister Corinne and her fiancee Wilson, were our first official visitors.  They ended their 1000 kilometer bike trek across northern Europe in Amsterdam and we spent a few days walking the city (they didn’t feel much like riding bikes).  We then had Devin Brown and his girlfriend Olivia stop by for, yep, more beer and then Dee Rumburg and her sister Cindy also completed a bike tour around the Netherlands and stopped by for a few days prior to heading home.  So great to see familiar faces from the good ol USA.  Remember everyone, we have a spare bedroom! 

Now that the wedding is complete, Cheryl and I will be in Amsterdam for the foreseeable future and time for us to get back on the road.  Next stop?  Istanbul Turkey! 

Until then.......

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Another milestone in the books!

July 31 - August 22

I did so well in only having one week between blog entries last time and now it's been over three weeks!  I have a good excuse because we have hard at work checking of milestones on our overseas adventure checklist.  If you're interested, read on!!

If you've been paying attention (which I know you have), you know having a bike in Amsterdam is critical to maximizing your ability to experience the city as well as just being efficient in how you navigate your way around.  I bought mine after visiting one bike shop for 10 minutes.   As for Cheryl, it wasn't quite so straight forward.  There were many hours of investigation including a thorough internet evaluation and MULTIPLE bike shop surveys.  Did she go for the white Cortina, or the blue Popal?  Hand brakes or the "dutch way.?"  Single speed or multispeed?  Oh so many choices and options to consider.  Then one day she woke up and said today is the day and pulled the trigger.  She decided on a Gazelle PUUR NL 3 2018 Dames 46 cm.  It is a three speed, Sienna brown with rear brakes (the Dutch way). It is a BEAUTY!  We can now explore the four corners of the city as the Dutch do.

As most of you know, Kyle is getting married September 8 and what precedes a wedding?  The bachelor party!!!  Kyle, 9 of his closest friends and Dad as a tag along took a motor home road trip up north to Canada.  Though I can't go into detail because "what happens on a bachelor party, stays with the bachelor party," I can say it was a blast.  We did a little drinking, playing cards, some more drinking, hiking and trail runs, then to a bar for a drink.  It was a lot of fun enjoying time with "just the guys."  During the trip, I was in a pub buying a round of drinks (shocking) and noticed I had 3 different currencies in my wallet.  How crazy is that? When we moved to Amsterdam, the goal was to visit many different countries and cultures, but in the last 5 weeks I have been in 6 countries (Belgium, UK, France, Netherlands, U.S. and Canada).  Maybe its time to slow down a bit! 

It's been been a long road going from an established routine complete with cars, motorhome trips, weekend BBQs and parties at the house, to living in a new city with no routine (unless you count wine every night and weekly trips to IKEA).  The motorcycle went first, followed by the Intruder, then the pathfinder and finally the mini Cooper.  I can now say that the house officially sold!  Cheryl and I have had a mortgage payment in one house of another for over 30 years and now that streak is broken.  It feels strange but in a good way.  It is a liberating feeling knowing that you have no ties to a particular area and have a clean slate when we return.  I may feel differently 2 years from now when we can't find a place to live but hey, let me enjoy the moment. 

Cheryl and I have been Hall and Oates fans since before we were in high school.  I'm not going to tell you how long ago that was, but Abandon Luncheonette was the first album we bought.  We have seen them multiple times in concert and before we knew we were leaving, Cheryl bought tickets for us to see them again in the Moda Center.  Since I was already home for the bachelor party, I hung out an extra day so Kyle and I could go to the concert.  Lexie, Kenzie, Greg and our friend Philly decided to join and we all took a trip back in time to watch two old, but terrific musicians.  We exchanged bets on whether or not they would come out in walkers.  They didn't and put on a great show. 

Well, that's the latest.  Until next time!

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Bonjour Paris

July 22 - July 30

It's another traveling weekend for the Winkler's.  This time we are on our way to Paris, France!  la Ville des Lumières, The City of Lights.  Since my responsibilities at Nike include Europe, it is important that I visit our Key Cities and other significant properties to ensure I meet the wonderful people working there and understand the local operation.  Paris is certainly one or those places (I know, tough job).

Cheryl and I decided to go a few days early so we could do some sight seeing and enjoy this famous and historic place.  Paris is about 510 km from Amsterdam.  Though you can fly, it is nice to take the train.  It is easy access from Amsterdam (Centraal Station), less security hassle, comfortable and only 3 hours and 20 minutes.    So off we went on Thalys number SSYYOJ Coach 12.  I didn't really do the math in how fast you need to go to cover 510 km in just over 3 hours but I quickly discovered you need to go FAST.  The train travels over 295 km/hr.  Let me help you folks back in the states... that's 184 mph!  That is freakin' fast.  Instead of worrying about what all can go wrong at that speed we decided to have a plastic of wine and relax. 

Cheryl and I don't even think about renting cars any more when we travel, we just head to the public transit station and get the metro pass (we're getting so European!)  We jumped on the 54 bus and presto, we were at our Hotel Mercure Paris Montmartre.  We've developed a travel pattern in which we start each adventure with the "hop on/hop off" bus.  It is a terrific way to get an overview of the city, see the highlights then evaluate the other places we want to see during the remainder of our stay.  So far it's worked out well.  I'm not sure what we'll do when we go somewhere that doesn't have one, but we'll cross that bridge when we get there.  We learned so much about Paris during the tour and saw all the major historical attractions.  The Louvre, Arc de Triomphe, Notre-Dame de Paris, Sacré-Coeur Basilica and of course, the Eiffel Tower.  As we visit these historic places I'm embarrassed at how much I didn't know about European history.  For example, I always thought of Nepoleon as a military leader but had no idea the influence he had on the politics and construction of the city.  No wonder they named an ice cream after him!  (yes I know it's Neapolitan).

As expected the food was delicious.  We tasted many different types.  We, of course, had onion soup and looked like tourists when we ordered "French" onion soup.  Kind of like ordering Canadian bacon in Canada.  Oh well, we are who we are.  We got some inside tips from a colleague who lives in Paris and went to a few places tourists don't know about.  One in particular was Sunday Brunch at Mon Coeur Belleville.  It was like going to a buffet but they bring everything to you in one shot.  It was unreal.  Couple that with sitting outside, overlooking the city.  Could make my Mt Rushmore of breakfast places.

Not all experiences were perfect.  If we didn't go to a recommended spot we simply walked the streets until we saw someplace interesting.  Most of the time this worked out pretty well, but keep in mind, city workers are active throughout the day in Paris.  Take note when you see trash cans sitting outside even in the late evening.  That means the garbage collectors are soon on their way.  There is nothing quite like the sound and smell of a Paris city garbage truck in 30 degree  C (85 F) when trying to enjoy your fish and chips. 

As I mentioned above, we like taking public transportation, but that does't mean we are experts.  We decided to spend one afternoon on the famous Avenue des Champs-Élysées.  So we took the subway to Charles de Galle station.  We found our stop OK, but believe it or not we couldn't get out (yes I know, easy to believe).  I thought Barcelona had some tunnels.  I figured we should just follow the sign with the little green person running our the door right?  Wrong.  We lost him.  Good thing there wasn't a fire!  Well we finally reached the street and it was worth it.  This is an amazing place.  The street is abuzz with with people, high end shops and beautiful buildings.  The Tour de France also ends here.  We missed it by a week! 

Wow, look at that.  I provided an update one week from the previous post.  Don't get used to it because the next couple weeks are going to be CRAZY, but you'll read about it soon enough.  Until then.....

Sunday, July 22, 2018

European Traffic!

July 5 - July 21

Its been a good couple weeks since my last entry. We continue to pass minor milestones in the life we are creating and living here in The Netherlands.  We are focused on getting out on the weekends and seeing new places and cultures.  Last weekend we thought it would be fun to drive down to Brussels Belgium and watch the World Cup game between Belgium and Brazil.  It's only a 2.5 hour drive and Brussels is a historic city.  We were looking forward to it all week and we left at 2 pm Friday afternoon to give us plenty of time to settle in and find a great spot to watch the game at 8 pm.  It was a wonderful drive for about an hour then we hit some of the worst traffic I have ever seen.  GRIDLOCK.  Google Maps initially estimated our arrival time at 5:30 pm.  3.5 hours?  Are you kidding me?  Well then that sinking feeling where you continue to drive (very slow) and the estimated time extends.  6:00, then 6:30, and finally we pull into the hotel at 7:00 pm.  5 hours from when we left!  The leisurely pub crawl until kick off turned into a mad scramble to find a beer and a seat (in that order by the way).

It was a terrific game to watch.  The weather was perfect and we stood outside a pub looking in at the big screen TV.  Needless to say the town was pretty excited that Belgium beat Brazil 2-1 to advance.  Car horns we honking and people were dancing in the streets until early into Saturday morning and this was only the quarterfinals!

Cheryl and I grabbed an ice cream cone (free extra scoop to celebrate the win!!) then headed to the hotel.  We had a big day of site seeing to rest up for.

Brussels is a city of 2.1 million in the immediate metro area and nearly 5 million in the surrounding area. I was surprised to learn that Brussels is the home of both the European Union and NATO headquarters.  It was also hosted the 1958 World's Fair.  As with Barcelona, we jumped on the "hop on, hop off" bus to see the city.  As expected, there was some beautiful building architecture and a great deal of history.  We saw the Atomium which was built for the World's Fair and the amazing town hall square.

Later the falling week we reached another milestone in establishing our foundation in The Netherlands.  We got a car!  It's a VW Passat .  It is certainly not fancy but it does fine for me commuting to and from work (it sits every night after I get home).  Though it has air conditioning, Bluetooth, navigation and all the bells and whistles, the most important feature is the cruise control.  Why you ask?  Speed detecting cameras that's why!  These pesky little devils are hidden throughout the highway system over here and they are relentless.  I was given a ticket doing 103 k/h in a 100 k/h zone.  They even have apps for your phone to tell you where they are.  I don't even want to play that game.  I set my cruise control at 100 and relax and listen to a podcast.  Just got through "How I built this" with Guy Raz. Highly recommended.

Finally, I took a trip to London.  London?  Yes London.  One of my organizations responsibilities at work is the food services program.  I know people think since I lead this team we only serve pizza and beer but we have a great team who does a terrific job.  However, we want to elevate the employee experience in all that we do but especially in food since that is so important to the employees.  We decided that London is a wonderful city for food with innovation and up and coming trends.  We saw all kinds of new food offerings and operational delivery models.  In addition to that it was a great team building opportunity for the food services team.

It's been a busy couple of weeks with a lot more summer left to come.  Including a very special day on September 8 (a little teaser there).  Until then...........

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Settling In

June 22 - July 4

Sheesh time is flying.  I have not written since we got back from Barcelona (that sounds strange).  It's funny, but Nike actually expects me to do work while I'm over here so the past couple weeks I figured I should do that (or at least fake it).  That doesn't mean things have not been going on, but the time I'm away from work has been more about "settling in" and finding our routine here in Amsterdam.

For example, I've mentioned beautiful Vondelpark a few times which is next door to our apartment.  We frequently make sandwiches, grab a bottle of wine and walk over for a picnic.  The weather has really been too good to be true.  Pretty much 25 - 28 C every day (see what I did there).  They have an outdoor theater with different programs throughout the week and one day we were all excited to see a couple comedians.  We rushed over early and grabbed a good seat up front.  On came the stage lights the comedian runs on stage and we hear "Hallo, je ziet eruit als een geweldige doelgroep."  Well that aint gonna work.  Hey Cheryl, can you please pass the bottle of wine!

For those of you who know us, part of establishing ourselves anywhere involves finding a gym to workout in.  There are many choices in Amsterdam but most are pretty expensive, and since I exercise every weekday morning at work, we wanted a very basic gym.  hmmmm, where to go, where to go.  We settled on "Basic Fit!"  Perfect.  It's just what we need and pretty close to home.  It's half way between a Snap Fitness with card reader access and a planet fitness with mostly cardio machines and weights.  There is one difference, I feel like I'm entering a prison every time I go.  I dread working out enough already but now I feel like I'm on an episode of Orange is the New Black.  Just call me Piper.

One of our big accomplishments this week was to start putting together all of the different European cities/countries we want to visit over the next two years.  It's mind blowing how long the list is by just writing down all the "famous" places like Rome, Paris, Istanbul etc  My next step is to run it past all the native Europeans at work who know the real gems to visit.  From Athens to London, there is a lot to see but we are also excited to experience all Holland has to offer.  For example, this past weekend we drove to a beach near Wassenaar on the coast just SW of Amsterdam.  The good news is that it's a fun place with some casual restaurants on the beach where you can relax and have a cold one looking out at the ocean.  The bad news is that 10,000 people had the same idea.

One of my big adjustments is integrating into a life in the city regardless of whether it's Amsterdam or downtown Portland.  There is street noise, smaller living quarters, public transportation, no yard etc.  Not that any of that is bad, in fact it's all actually really good....except forgetting that we have close neighbors and WINDOWS on three sides.  I can't tell you how many times I've changed clothes or gotten out of the shower and realized I'm parading around in the buff for all to see.  Helllllooooo Mr Johnson!  I know this loud (and sometimes naked) guy from The States is already making an impression on the neighborhood.

Of course as we learn the city, we also learn where to shop.  There is a large Market that goes on for what seems like kilometers (see what I did there) on Albert Cuypstraat.  Everything you could ever want or don't want is there.  From fresh fish (afraid to try it) to an HDMI cable (which we bought so we can watch Netflix from the iPad).  Of course there are the legit freshly made Stroopwafels which I have to purchase every time we go.

As I mentioned above, we have begun to settle in.  It was funny when we returned from Barcelona and we walked through the front door, it felt good to be back.  The address says Alexander Boersstraat 54, Amsterdam NL which is taking some time to get used to, but once our personal shipment arrives in two weeks and we get our family pictures on the wall, I think we will be able to call it our home away from "home" (at least for a couple years!)

We miss everyone back in the US.  Can't wait for you (yes I'm talking to you) to come visit!  Until next time.......

Thursday, June 21, 2018


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.......