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...........