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.......

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!!