Friday, August 30, 2019

Gone Cruising!

 April 22 - May 19

April 27 is a very special day in Amsterdam.  It is Kings Day and everyone wears Orange (National Color) and party’s hard to celebrate King Willem-Alexander’s birthday.  From what I can tell, King Bill didn’t really do anything important to get a special day (it was Queen’s Day on April 30 before he took the throne) but the people in Amsterdam just love a party.  There is a massive boat parade, people selling their stuff on the street (think ginormous yard sale) and BEER.  There were more smashed Heineken beer cans than I have ever see in my life! Think laying a new layer of asphalt but it's beer cans instead.  We were fortunate to have Mike Kinion and his girlfriend Susan Minoza visiting so they joined us.  As good hosts we gave them the full experience (even using the outdoor urinal!).  In one paragraph I mentioned orange clothes, ginormous yard sale, smashed beer cans and outdoor urinal.  Yep, I'd say that sums it up pretty well.

As anyone who knows us can attest, Cheryl and I LOVE cruises.  Where else can you do nothing, eat and drink as much as you want while on the open sea.  Sounds like heaven to me.  Where better to cruise than on the Mediterranean Sea?  For you geography buffs East of Italy is actually the Adriatic Sea but hey, it's all water.  We decided to hop aboard the MSC Sinfonia for a cruise that would take us from Venice Italy to Split Croatia, Santorini Greece, Mykonos Greece, Dubrovnik Croatia, Ancona Italy then back to Venice.  

We decided to arrive in Venice, The Floating City, a few days early to see the sites (and make sure we didn't miss our cruise time).  It is an amazing place to be sure.  I first had to get my “vacation hat” to mark the official start of vacation.  Once that important step was completed, we did the tourist stuff and went to Doge’s Palace and visited Saint Marks Basilica.   We got a hot tip on a restaurant called Oliva Nera and it did not disappoint.  Since we were on vacation, we splurged on a Parmesan cheese appetizer.  Had no idea what we ordered but we figured that if it was expensive it had to be good right?  Turns out it was incredible!  It came with a show as the waiter took the 12 month, 18 month and 24 month aged cheese and ever so delicately added drops for 20 year, 30 year and 40 year old balsamic on top.  Wow!
From there we took the water taxi to Murano for a visit.  Murano is famous for it’s glass art.  Cheryl probably would have spent plenty to support the local economy in any state of mind but after a couple bottles of wine all bets were off.  Glass cherries, glass people, glass trees you name it and we have it in glass.  The next day the hangover from the wine was bad enough but then to see the glass…..oh boy.  We really did love Murano though.  Very beautiful and fun to just walk around. 

Now it was time for the cruise!  We decided to splurge a little on this cruise and get a window cabin. When we cruise with the family we are always next to the engine room near the bottom in “last class” so this was a treat.  In addition to the window cabin we got the all you can drink cards.  Not sure that was very responsible but hey, it’s vacation!  Besides, I convinced myself I would work out everyday.  Good one Chris, that justifies it!

First stop was Split Croatia on Mother’s Day!  Split is an old fortress town from in the 4th century with many old and interesting ruins in addition to beautiful beaches.  Unfortunately, the weather didn’t cooperate and after seeing an interesting a capella group sing in an old church and walking through the market the torrential downpour had us going back to the ship early (remember that the all you can drink card was waiting for us!).  Fortunately, that was the last rain we would see the rest of the cruise. 

The next stop on our adventure was the Greek Island of Santorini.  Santorini is one of the Cyclades islands in the Aegean Sea and made of volcanic rock.  It is one of those classic Greek places with the whitewashed buildings high on the cliffs overlooking the water.  Quite beautiful.  There isn’t a lot to do there but shop and eat so of course, “when in Greece……..”  We found a wonderful little restaurant overlooking the water where the Sinfonia was anchored and enjoyed an authentic gyro and a local beer.  The combination of food and view was unforgettable (also note the vacation hat!). 

Back on the ship and out to sea to the small town of Mykonos Greece.  It’s a small island town of about 10K and known for its thumping beach parties with world renowned DJs.  Of course that is right up Cheryl and my alley.  We had the tequila shots poured and our Sirtaki moves ready but unfortunately the one downside of a cruise is you sometimes don’t get much time at a port of call.  Such was the case at Mykonos where we were only there for 4 hours.  We did stumble on a delicious dessert consisting of a pastry with goat cheese filling with honey glaze.  OMG it was good.  I only wish I could interpret what it was called so I could order it again!

Next up?  Dubrovnik Croatia.  This town may not mean much to most but for you Game of Thrones fans it is one of the filming sites.  The old town sits behind a massive wall that was built in the 12th century.  We don't get HBO so I've never seen the show but I guess I'm supposed to be excited about being on set.  It was really cool city, especially looking down from Mt Srd.

Our final port of call was Ancona, Italy.  Ancona is an old shipping port and we spent the day just walking around.  I’d like to say it’s an amazing place but it didn’t really make too big of an impression so we headed back to the ship get use out of our drink card.  

I realize I am waaaay behind on the blog but I have more adventures and a surprise to share but I'll get this posted and get another update in another few da.... uh weeks!

Monday, April 22, 2019

Winter is finally over!

March 4 - April 21

As the months go by I find the exciting (if you can call anything we do exciting) part of our lives is on the weekends when we go exploring.  During the week we've settled into a pretty solid routine.  Especially in the winter when there is no reason for any sane person to venture outside for long periods of time. People say the weather in Amsterdam is similar to Portland.  Let's put an end to that rumor right now.  First of all Amsterdam is much further North than Portland.  Amsterdam's Longitude is 52.3680° N whereas Portland's is 45.5155° N.  I know that means nothing to most of you earth coordinate challenged people out there but for perspective, Amsterdam is further North than Calgary Canada!  That means it get's much colder in the winter.  The average temperature for Amsterdam is 37 F in January while in Portland it is a balmy 45 F.  As for rain fall, Portland actually gets more (36 inches to 32 inches per year.)  BUT, in Amsterdam you are always outside walking to the store or tram station of riding your bike (the diehards do).  None of this covered parking, automatic garage opener stuff here, so you get WET all the time!  Let's just say Cheryl and I are very happy spring has sprung!!  The tulips are in bloom and people are all out enjoying the sunshine in the Museumplein.  Cheryl and I have even taken the tarps of the bikes and cycling around Amsterdam again (we aren't diehards). 

During the week we usually watch a Netflix series (just finished Black Mirror and Pinky Blinders, both highly recommended).  Wednesday's we designated as glass of wine night (maybe two or .....).  We decided to hit the box wine so who really knows how much you drink!  That then gets us to Thursday and our Dutch lessons (tot zover goed) and then it's Friday when we hit the road to go see the beautiful and interesting sites in the Netherlands.  It's been a pretty good "wash, rinse, repeat" sequence.

The big news this entry, however, is that we took a trip back to Oregon to celebrate my mothers 80th birthday.  It was also a time to catch up with friends I have not had a chance to meet up with since I headed over to Europe almost one year ago (sheesh time flies!)

I wanted to spend some time at Nike World Headquarters to see the many colleagues I have not seen in a year.  A lot as changed in a year but everyone is still awesome.  Then then there was setting up the lunch meetings, let's have a beer meetings, dinner meetings with all the friends.  Though it's easy to get in the routine I mentioned above and enjoy the adventures Europe has to offer, there is nothing like reconnecting with friends and family.  So. Much. Fun.

When we were last home in September, Kyle and Lindsay got married, and they followed that with what most newly married couples do (no not a baby yet, damn it), they got a house.  It is a nice three bedroom in St Johns.  Kyle now has a frequent shopper discount at Home Depot and while installing a new floor learned terms like "Arris," "Base Shoe," and "Tapping Block,"  I helped him for one day and looked forward to the term "Beer Thirty."  The whole family got involved helping demo, paint and hammer and the house is looking great.  Just in time for GRANDKIDS!

Then there was the 80th birthday celebration!  Actually is was a low key affair with just Corinne, Wilson and local family on her actual birthday (March 24).  We will have a larger celebration on June 2 when all of her "snowbird" friends will be back in Oregon.  It was a fun time capped off by a huge Oregon Duck victory over the Anteaters of UC Irving to get to the sweet 16 of the NCAA men's basketball tourney!

Once back home and the weather got a little warmer and the days a little longer we ventured out into the wonderful world of the Netherlands.  We've taken a few short trips and quite a few selfies as you can see. 

We took a trip to Harlingen, a northern fishing village.  It is a gorgeous little town of about 15,000 people which received city rights in 1234.  Yes you read that correctly, 1234!  Things are old over here.  Fortunately we were able to find beer that was much younger than that and tasted delicious.

Finally, as everyone knows, Holland is known for it's flowers, especially tulips.  Each year there are many festivals celebrating the coming of spring and blooming of the flowers.  One of the best traditions is the Bloemencorso (flower parade) that runs 30 km from Noodwijk to Haarlem over a span of 12 hours.  It is an amazing event.  People line the route waiting in local pubs and restaurants until the parade passes and they all run out to provide encouragement for the participants as the band continues to play, dignitaries wave and kids throw candy the entire way.  We ended up watching the parade outside a little village pub (big surprise there) in the town called Hillegom.  In order to avoid the traffic we took the train to Haarlem to start the day and then a bus to Hillegom.  In Haarlem, we decided to ride the Ferris Wheel in order to get a good view of the town and surrounding area.  It was a little windy at the top as you can probably tell from the picture!

Well that's it for now.  I apologize for then length of time between posts.  Seems like the days turn to weeks and next thing you know a month has gone by.  We are still enjoying ourselves and everyday feels like a new adventure, and if it doesn't, there is always Wednesday and the box of wine.  If you feel like dropping us a line for a more personal response or want to make a reservation at the Winkler Hotel, my email is  You'd better hurry, though, we have quite a few visitors scheduled to come over.  We are looking forward to a wonderful summer of more traveling and visitors to our little piece of paradise here in Amsterdam!

Until next time......


Sunday, March 3, 2019

Is it Bruges or Brugee?

February 9 - March 3
Our focus on the local area continues.  There are many beautiful and interesting places to see in The Netherlands and surrounding areas (Belgium and Germany) and with the winter weather we have decided to stay close to home.  We have already started filling up our summer calendar with trips throughout Europe and visitors from the USA.  It's going to be so much fun!  That is a reminder that if you want to come stay at the Winkler Inn, you better make your reservations quickly as space is limited!

We decided to head south the the wonderful city of Bruges (which is Dutch) or Brugee (which is French).  It's interesting as both are used interchangeably on signs and in documentation throughout the city.  It is a historic city (I say that about all cities we visit) with a population of about 120K in the NW corner of Belgium.  It was an important sea port during the 13th and 15th centuries until the sea inlet filled with silt in the late 1500s.  It became a world financial market and opened what is thought to be the first stock exchange in 1309.  (Ya, I challenge you to find this type of useful information in any other blog!)  Bruges was occupied by Germany in both WWI and WWII and fortunately was spared any destruction and remains an incredibly beautiful city. 

Cheryl and I spent a couple days just walking the city center visiting shops and eating the delicious food.  There is a terrific beer culture (you know me, Mr Culture) there and we, of course, did our share of beer tasting as well.  The T' Brugsch Bieratelier has an AMAZING taster of twelve 8 oz beers.  Don't order this by yourself or you may not make it out!  We decided to stick with the nautical theme like in Rotterdam and stayed on a converted barge on the canal.  It is aptly named Boot Hotel Restaurant De Barge.  Since there was no exercise equipment and I needed to sweat out the pasta and wine (and beer) from the night before, I was forced to go for a run.  My body hates me for days after I go for a run anymore, but once I hit the trail along the canal, my ankle, knees, hips and everything else forgot the pain and were thankful I experienced the beautiful scenery.  Besides, I just kept telling myself, another beer tasting was only a few hours away and everything would be OK.

The next weekend we decided to take a day trip to Delft and Gouda.  Both have unique significance in The Netherlands history.  Delft is the city where they make the ceramic plates and vases with blue artwork on them (think grandma's wall).  I'm guessing what grandma had on the wall was probably a knock off as what we observed was quite remarkable (and EXPENSIVE if you got the good stuff).  We visited the Royal Delft Factory and learned the history and manufacturing process for these works of art (you know me, Mr Culture).  Delft was also a very beautiful city (geez I say that a lot too) with canals and a nice market with many delicious street foods for sale.  I also liked the many foot bridges that crossed the canals there and access to the water to feed the ducks.

We then hopped in the car and drove 40 minutes East to Gouda.  Gouda is famous for its' cheese, stroupwaffels and ceramic pipes.  We found a parking spot along the canal, and after about 30 minutes trying to parallel park in such a way as to not stick out more than 6 inches into the roadway (because you will lose a mirror) but not drive into the canal (hey city council, wider spaces and rails would be appreciated!) we set off to explore the city.  We quickly stumbled onto the City of Gouda Museum and you know me, Mr Culture, we had to go in.  There were some beautiful paintings from the 1750s and a traveling exhibit "Low Countries" with landscapes from around The Netherlands.  Two museums in one day was about all Mr Culture could handle so we headed to the city center for some wine and cheese!   It was a terrific day trip in the south of The Netherlands.

We've been in Amsterdam for about 10 months and we finally decided to take some Dutch lessons.  Yes you read that correctly.  Cheryl and I signed up for an instructor led (via video stream) Dutch course.  We figured if we are visiting a foreign country for two years, the least we can do is make an attempt to learn the language.  We are two lessons into it and I'm not sure two years will be near enough time.  We know the alphabet (sorta) and can count to 10 (sorta) so we have at least started.  We've found it is helpful to drink some milk prior to the class to get some extra phlegm in your throat to properly pronounce the "g" and "ch."

The weather continues to get warmer and warmer and the days longer and longer which brings peoples spirits higher and higher.  We even got the bikes out for a ride last weekend.  It was fantastic.  Time is flying by and it will be summer before you know it.  Can't wait.

In the meantime, we are planning on a trip back to the USA later this month to celebrate my mom's 80th birthday.  Will be fun to be back to see many family and friends.  I'll let you all know how that goes.

Until next time......

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Cruise without leaving the dock.

January 3 - Feb 8 (one month!)

It's been so long since I've written the on the blog, I just had to get back on because I miss everyone out there in cyber land (or space).  Not much of significance has happened because Cheryl and I are still in recovery from the Holidays but we still make it a point experience new more local places/events.

We decided to jump on the A4 and drive an hour and fifteen minutes to Rotterdam for the weekend.  A very unique city, Rotterdam is home to 633,000 people.  It is a major logistic and economic center and believe it or not, is Europe's largest port.  The architecture is very interesting and more modern than other Netherlands cities because the city center was completely decimated during bombing raids in WWII.
As most of you know, Cheryl and I love cruise ships and since it has been a few years since our last cruise we decided to spend the weekend on the USS Rotterdam.  The USS Rotterdam was launched in 1959 and had a wonderful career (do ships have careers?) sailing around the world until being retired and turned into a floating hotel at it's home port.  OK OK so we didn't really go on a cruise but we had a blast nevertheless.   The ship had all the expected cruise ship amenities like the lido deck and it's 50 mph winds.  Unfortunately there was not a salon on board to help Cheryl put her hair back together.

They did have a piano singer in the Captains Lounge who was very good.  Though I must say it was interesting hearing him say "Welkom in de kapiteinslounge. Dus erg leuk om je aan boord te hebben." Then crank our some Billy Joel and Beatles songs in English.  It was appreciated too.

One of our goals when we moved to Amsterdam was to try and get more "cultured."  I'm not sure if that's possible considering we still have our "You Might be a Red Neck If...." calendar in the bathroom.  Ever the optimist, we bought yearly membership passes to The Netherlands museums.  I'm a little embarrassed to admit that we bought them in early December and used them for the first time last week.  For those of you keeping score at home, that is six weeks.  It likely would have been less time if the Heineken Museum was included but unfortunately it was not.  So we walked to the near by and famous Rijksmuseum.  It was as beautiful on the inside as it is on the outside and I was amazed by the fascinating works of art.  My brain was not used to all of that mental exercise so after about an hour we decided to kill some of the cells we just exercised with a few beers.  Hey, we need to slowly lean into this culture thing.  We certainly don't want to pull a muscle.

As for our evenings, during the week we are pretty low key.  We may visit a neighborhood restaurant but usually we stay in.  We've started a few Netflix series.  Ozark was really good though I was bummed there were only two seasons.  We are currently on Black Mirror and House of Cards (OK, I know we are late to the party).

On the weekends we always go exploring.  Sometimes we just grab a Tram and say "OK let's get off at the 5th stop and see whats there."  That usually produces good results but most of the time we've prefunctioned in our apartment beforehand then can never remember where we ended up.  So if you come to visit don't expect a lot of recommendations.

Though Cheryl and I have not traveled outside The Netherlands since the kids left, I have had to travel a bit for work.  I went to Istanbul for the opening of a new office there and then went to Barcelona for a meeting later the same week.  Every time I write statements like that it freaks me out.  Seriously, Istanbul and Barcelona the same week?  The sad part is that sometimes I feel like a "corporate traveler." I get stuck behind a person who actually thinks is OK to recline their seat.  Are you kidding me?  Also when I traveled to Barcelona my flight got in late and I was tired and actually just ordered room service, did some email and went to bed.  OUCH.  Felt bad that I didn't take in the city, so after our meeting the following day I made it a point to go for a walk around the city. 

We hope you are all doing well!  Until next time.......

Thursday, January 3, 2019

European Holiday with the Family!!

December 8 - January 2 (2019!!!)

Well it's been a long time coming and something we have been talking about since April.  The Winkler's invade Europe!!  I'll end the suspense right now.  No one got deported or arrested, but we did have a lot of fun.  There is a lot to cover so sit down and grab your beverage of choice and get comfortable.  Personally, I am going to have some water as I need to dry out a little after two weeks of singlehandedly attempting to empty every keg and wine bottle in London, Amsterdam and Barcelona (but more on that later).

Before the family arrived, Cheryl and I took a weekend trip to a fun little village called Valkenburg.  It's about 2 hours and 15 minutes from Amsterdam near the Belgium and German borders.  In fact, that is one of the reasons to visit as you can stand in three countries at one time just south of town. Of course Cheryl and I had to partake and stood in The Netherlands, Belgium and Germany all at one time.  It was pretty cool.

The town of Valkenburg is known for creating a Christmas atmosphere with fun shops and decorations and we wanted to get in the Christmas spirit so off we went.  Now you know those cheesy Hallmark Christmas movies where the entire town looks like a Macy's store window and you laugh at how everything is just perfect down to the carolers walking the streets?  Welcome to Valkenburg.  We had a wonderful time just walking, shopping and getting in the Christmas spirit.  The funny thing was, while we were in the hotel getting ready for dinner we heard drums playing outside our hotel window and when we looked out?  Yep, a Christmas parade.  Did I just say Hallmark movie?

The next week was filled with anticipation as we waited for the our flight to London where we would meet the kids for the first leg of our European Vacation (step aside Chevy).  The plan was to all meet in London but unfortunately Kyle and Lindsay got stranded in NYC because of the drone fiasco at the Gatwick London airport.  Though we missed them terribly, they were able to get a flight to Amsterdam on the 23rd (whew!).

The 2 days (actually 1.5) in London were a whirlwind.  A lot of walking, site seeing, eating and drinking.  If you've never been to London during the holidays it is terrific.  There are decorated streets around every corner.  Not quite like Valkenburg but pretty neat.  We were able to see all the classic sites like Buckingham palace, Parliament, Westminster and of course Big Ben.  That was a little underwhelming as the clock tower is undergoing a renovation but of course we still needed to get a selfie.   We (along with 100,000 other people) walked Carnaby Street which has incredible lights.  To add additional impact, the lighted banners had the words to Bohemian Rhapsody to mark the release of the movie about Queen.   We ate at a terrific Indian restaurant called Dishoom that Jenna had on her list and shared many small plates.  Finally, as if all that was not enough for 1.5 days, we decided on a trek out to Abbey Road where we could walk across the famous crosswalk that the Beatles did in 1969.  It was hilarious watching people try to avoid traffic and get that perfect Instagram shot.  Of course we were right there with them.  I'm sure the locals just love idiots like us stopping traffic 24/7.  Wish we had more time in London but we had to get make to Amsterdam for Christmas!

Cheryl and I have been looking so forward to having the kids see our life in Amsterdam.  We wanted to schedule specific activities yet provide everyone time to explore on their own.  You know, so they could smoke a joint or see a sex show in the Red Light District.  Experience the real Amsterdam!  We had everyone stay in our place the first two nights but figured people would start requiring additional space by day three so we rented a room at a neighborhood hotel (come on, we love each other but we aren't idiots!)

Our first experience was a canal ride on a boat to see the lights of Amsterdam from the water.  Though we had great weather every day but one, it so happened the one was during the canal ride.  We were stuck in a 20 foot boat with plastic on three sides.  Fortunately for us we had plenty of beer and Gluhwein wine to keep us going.  Oh and I mustn't forget the matching Amsterdam hats we got to keep us warm.  The only thing missing from those were the neon lights spelling out "tourist"

The remaining three days were filled with traditional activities on Christmas Eve like making mini pizzas and watching Christmas movies.  We played board games, drank wine and enjoyed each others company.  It was a wonderful time.  After Christmas we explored the city visiting the Food Hallen (think big food court) wine tasting and of course we had to test our ice skating abilities.  Not a lot to share there except that fortunately there were no injuries.  We took the "More Beer Tour" (think BrewCycle without the cycle) and of course walked the Red Light district.  I must say, regardless of how old your kids are, it's a little awkward walking past half naked women in windows and sex shops and theaters with them.  "Hey kids let's step inside the Banana Bar and see what's shakin'.  I hear the food is delicious"

Two legs down and one to go.  Since the kids spent so much vacation time and money to "cross the pond" we felt it would be a shame to not visit one more European city.  There are so many options!  We discussed visiting the snow in Austria or the Colosseum in Rome but settled on the great and historic city of Barcelona!  Jenna was meeting a friend of hers to taste the delicious cuisine and wine in Paris and was unable to join us.  We missed her but from the pictures we saw, she had a great time.

We rented an Air BnB in a great location near the center of town so we could walk to most places.  And walk we did!  My Apple activity monitor had us walking an average of over 20K steps a day!  We even walked to see the Temple of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  For those not familiar with Barcelona, that's the one on the TOP OF THE HILL on the outskirts of town.  If you're keeping score at home, I got 21K steps and 131 floors climbed that day.  Did I mention I was wearing jeans?  Hello?  This is vacation!

The rest of the trip was a lot of fun.  We saw the Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya, the, Cathedral of Barcelona, the Olympic Stadium, attended a Barcelona basketball game and dipped our feet in the Mediterranean Sea.  Unfortunately the tickets to see the inside of the famous La Sagrada Familia were sold out, but just being near the outside is extremely impressive.  A few us even decided to take a sail boat ride on the Mediterranean Sea.  If you're keeping score at home, I got no steps for that trip and was extremely happy about it.

It wasn't all about seeing the sites, we also had some terrific meals and plenty of beer and wine (big surprise there!).  We had street food at the Central Market, amazing paella at Bodega Joan and Italian at the El Nacional.  Barcelona is catching up to the beer culture and we found many great beer places like the Beer Garage and the Humble Beer.

We were fortunate to be able to spend New Year's Eve in Barcelona.  We had dinner as a fun place called Beer'linale.  From there we went back to cheers a fantastic 2018 and welcome 2019 and play Kings Cup.  It was my first time playing this drinking game, and between having to drink with T-Rex arms, naming types of cereal and answering questions with questions, I'm surprised we made it out on the town to celebrate at midnight.  But we ended up at the Dow Jones Bar where prices for drinks fluctuate with how many drinks are sold.  Needless to say, prices soared when the Winklers walked through the door.  We had a great time and loved that we had no where to be the next morning and slept until 11 am.

Unfortunately the time came to say good bye.  Cheryl and I had an early flight back to Amsterdam while everyone else flew out later in the day to London.  I think it was good that the good byes happened quickly in the morning which minimized the tears.  We had so much fun being together and I so look forward to when we are all together again.  Cheryl and I love and miss our family so much.

Until next time........Happy New Year everyone!!