Saturday, March 31, 2018

Long Weekends

We were lucky enough to be in town during the Easter Holiday which means we have Saturday – Monday to explore.  Since we have a car we decided to hit the road on Saturday.  Knowing nothing, we flipped a coin which pointed us southwest to the historic city of The Hague.  This is an old town which houses much of the Netherlands government.  There is some beautiful architecture there.  Here is one government building called the Binnenhof.  Some of the buildings in tis complex are over 700 years old!

Of course Cheryl and I can only handle so much culture so it’s time for some food and beverages.  We stumbled on a Saturday street market with all kinds of foods, jewelry and clothing.   We just had to buy a couple zjoko kuzu.  These are chocolate covered crème puffs on a stroopwafel.  Delicious!

We decided to continue west and visit the coast, again, completely blind as to where we are going or what we might find.  Of course we could ask someone but that would be way to easy.  JUST DO IT is our mantra!  We stumbled on Scheveningen Beach which is a nice place with a lot of tourist attractions.  Zip lining, Ferris Wheel, shopping and restaurants.  We had a couple learning experiences (again getting out of the parking garage) and filing the car with gas.  Seems like such a simple thing, but at this station the green handle was gas and the black handle was diesel.  Good thing they were both marked IN ENGLISH, otherwise Hertz would have had a nice engine repair to do. 

We finished the day with a wonderful dinner at “The Duchess.”  All in all a terrific day exploring and learning the culture.  

Friday, March 30, 2018

Barry, what a guy!

Huge day for us today as we are going house hunting.  We are really excited.  Cheryl is excited to see all the interesting places we may live in for the next two years and I am excited that Dorte will be driving!  We meet Nadia, our real estate representative and she has 12 properties for us to look at.  I feel like we are on an episode of house hunters.  Nadia did a great job of finding a variety of properties with different options.  One thing was common to all…….stairs.  if you don’t like stairs then you won’t like housing in Amsterdam.  ADA compliance?  Not in the Netherlands.  All of the apartments were really nice and had their own unique qualities but at the end of a long day we settled on two.  Coincidentally, they are both in the same building (though very different layouts).  We are going to think about them over the weekend and walk through each again on Tuesday and decide.  I know we will be happy in either one.

We had some time in the afternoon, so we decided it was a good time to get some laundry done.  We hauled two large bags to the “clean brothers” laundromat.  Hauling laundry through the streets of Amsterdam, just how I imagined it.  While unloading our bags and figuring out the machines, we met a nice gentleman named Barry. He’s from New York but has lived in Amsterdam for 30 years!  He watched our stuff while we went for a beer!  Love Barry.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Public Transportation & Parking, my favorite.

Nothing can start until we get our immigration paperwork complete which includes the Netherlands equivalent of the Social Security Number which is the BSN number.  Dorte, our representative from Cartus quickly took us to the World Trade Center where we got finger printed, photographed, registered in Amsterdam and even got our public transportation “ov-chipkaart.”  It was an amazing morning until we had to get the car out of the parking garage.  Unfortunately, Dorte had to leave and it was just Cheryl, me and the automated parking ticket authorizer.  Of course, the instructions were in Dutch.  So there we were, hitting buttons aimlessly until finally we must have hit the button that changed everything to English.  Or maybe it’s just programmed to know 15 unrelated button pushes means a dumb American is trying to pay for parking.  Whatever the case, thank heaven it changed, or we might still be standing there. 

I spent the afternoon at work meeting the wonderful people I will be working with for the next two years while Cheryl conquered the public transportation system and made a visit to the local market.  She fits in quite nicely and prefers the rolling cart.  Why carry when you can pull!  Big surprise there is a bottle of wine on top. 

Our first few days here were fairly consistent.  I would start the morning battling the daily commute from the city center to Hilversum (where Nike EHQ is located).  I am forever in debt to whoever designed the GPS directional system.  I literally have NO IDEA where I’m going and blindly follow the commands.  The first two instructions are “turn right on Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal then left on Raadhuisstraat.”  Seriously?  It doesn’t get any easier from there.  Add in navigating through the thousands of bikes, busses, trains and people and, well, you see why I don’t plan on driving much.  The afternoon is simply the reverse except I get a glass of wine as a reward for making it back.  

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Bacon in Business Class

We left Kyle’s 30th birthday gathering in Manzanita Oregon to drive to the airport to make our 1:26 PM flight on Delta.   Cheryl and I feel so fortunate to be able to fly business class for this nonstop flight to Amsterdam.  We even got membership into the Delta Sky Club.  Feelin’ like a big deal!  They have beverages and finger foods for us to enjoy before boarding.  I put the condiments (including bacon) into my tomato bisque soup and Cheryl reminded me that those condiments were for the Mac – n – Cheese.  OK, maybe I’m not a big deal. 

We boarded the plane and were treated very well with hot towels, great food and even ice cream sundaes.  We tried to get some sleep to help with the jet lag, but we were having too much fun pushing all the buttons and eating the food!  How often will I ever fly business class?  I need to enjoy this!

We arrived at the W Amsterdam Hotel which will be our home for the next 10 days.  We figured we would actually take the time to put our clothes in the drawers!  Feels just like home except this room is  literally 150 square feet.  No worries, we aren’t supposed to stay here when we have Amsterdam to explore!  No complaints about our view from the room though.  Feels like Amsterdam! (though at this point I’m guessing what that is.)

The first day was spent walking the street trying not to get run over by the thousands of bike riders, scooters, buses, trains or people.  It’s a free for all!  

Of course, we couldn’t wait 24 hours before hitting the famous “red light district.”  It was Sunday night and it was more mellow than usual, and though many of the “red lights” were off, we did see some interesting stores and merchandise.  

Our plan for this trip is for me to work this week to begin my transition and meet the WD+C EMEA team.  Cheryl and I will then do some exploring at night.  The rest of the time we will spend finding a place to live and learning about the area.  Plan set, now let’s see if we can execute!

Friday, March 23, 2018

Let's do this - Amsterdam or Bust!

Let's do this!

Another Winkler adventure is about to commence.  This time Cheryl and I will be heading to Amsterdam.  Yep that is not a misprint.  I have accepted a 2 year expat assignment to manage services for Europe.  We are selling the house, cars, motorcycle, kids (wait check that), storing a few irreplaceables and discarding everything else.  A possession cleansing.  We will be heading over for a “familiarization” trip March 24 – April 4.    We then come home for a few weeks and then I will head out on my own until Cheryl comes to join me in early June.  I can hardly believe at our age (you’ll have to guess) we are actually going through with this.  But the timing is perfect and we both agree we cannot pass on the opportunity.

As with our previous two major adventures, I thought I would try out my blogging skills once more.  This will be slightly different in that I will likely not blog every day.  Though I would like to think something exciting or interesting would happen every day, Once settled, we will establish a routine and there is no reason to blog about my email inbox at work or come home and take pictures of dinner.  But I know there will be many interesting events that we will struggle with and enjoy as we live the next two years in Europe.  So here we go!