Friday, July 24, 2015

Grandson Nicholas in the Netherlands: Week One


A week is now under our belt, so to speak, and we're thrilled by what g'son Nicholas has already seen!  Remember that he just turned 15 and I just turned 70...so we're really celebrating big-time!

And for the record, here's a quick synopsis thus far, based on the collages I've been posting every day at Facebook.  Later, after he leaves, I plan to make a photo book with many more images in detail.

Day 1, Friday, 17 July:  Arrival at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam

Right outside the airport terminal is this art sculpture "I AMSTERDAM."
Talk about a tourist attraction we couldn't avoid/miss.

Later at home we walked into town to pick up museum cards...and an ice cream!

Day 2, Saturday, 18 July:  Fort Vuren, Loevestein Castle, and Woudrichem

We stayed pretty close to home but covered a lot of territory, starting with Fort Vuren.
It's an underground fortress from 1844.

We drove on the dijk along the Merwede river, crossed the bridge at Zaltbommel,
and drove back on the other side of the river to the Loevestein Castle, from 1357,
directly across the river from where we just were at Fort Vuren.
 With our museum cards we were able to go inside...my first time!


It didn't take Nicholas long to get the hang of walking on stilts.

Next door to the castle is a delightful town called Woudrichem,
our sister city across the river from us here in Gorinchem.
The "Nooit Gedagt" windmill sells the flour we use for Astrid's bread machine.
It also allows visitors to climb to the top, which we did.

While in Woudrichem we ate at the De Stroming restaurant.
It was Nicholas' first time to experience a Dutch uitsmijter!

Day 3, Sunday, 19 July:  Gorinchem Citadel Walk and Dinner with Jeroen and Eva

We had a stay-at-home day to walk around our Gorinchem citadel.
We stretched the normal one-hour walk into 2, stopping all along the way.

And as a huge surprise that evening, Jeroen and Eva invited us for Indonesian.
Jeroen is Astrid's son, so it was cool to see him, Eva and Nicholas interact.

Day 4, Monday, 20 July:  Kinderdijk and the Pannenkoeken restaurant

It happened to be a misty-rainy day but we enjoyed it nonetheless.
Nicholas said it felt "sacred."  His word.

And at our favorite pannenkoeken restaurant out in the polder,
Nicholas ate his first Dutch pancakes.  

Day 5, Tuesday, 21 July:  Paper Exhibition at the Gorinchem Museum

Again, because we had museum cards and were staying close to home,
we decided to see the Paper exhibition in our own city center.

Later that evening, Nicholas and Astrid did the dishes.
He's quite the sport, earning his keep.

Day 6, Wednesday, 22 July:  Amsterdam

 Have you noticed that we're pacing ourselves with days of rest between the big days?
Amsterdam was a long day but we did it, driving back-n-forth to the AJAX soccer arena,
and then taking the METRO into the city.

We started at the Rijksmuseum to see Rembrandt's "Night Watch" 
and then hoped to get into the Van Gogh and Anne Frank museums until we saw the long lines.
We walked by the apartment where Donica and I used to live, ate at Wagamama,
took the tram to the floating flower market, saw Central Station and the St. Nicholas Church,
and even walked the Red Light District, just to say we did it.
Nicholas giggled all day at the drug and sexual innuendos.

Day 7, Thursday, 23 July:  Malle Molen Restaurant and Mixed Fighting

  Besides going grocery shopping together and starting a 1,000 dot-to-dot drawing of Amsterdam...

 ...we went to the Malle Molen (Silly Mill) for supper (what the pot cooks),
and then immediately drove to Eva's father's house for  an adventure.

Nicholas had the chance of a lifetime to be mentored in Mixed Fighting
by Alex Hesseling (Eva's father), a real pro and instructor.


What a special and unexpected treat for all of us,
especially for me to watch and capture.

"Fighting isn't about winning or losing," the instructor said, 
"but about learning yourself and what you can or cannot do."
How's that for the first week!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

England 2015: Day 7--Chedworth Roman Villa and Malmesbury Abbey


Here we are, Folks, at the end of the week in England, one of my 70th-birthday gifts to me, myself and I.  Hello.  Mission accomplished!

It was our last full day with Lisl and Michael and so happened to be on Sunday, Father's Day, 21 June.  So off we went, first to the Chedworth Roman Villa 50 miles away over back, windy roads.

  It's one of the largest Roman villas in England and from the early 2nd to 4th centuries.

But true to English form, we immediately went for coffee break when we arrived.
Since I don't like just plain coffe, I usually find something else...like Ginger Beer!
And because the shop was nearby, yes, we bought a Beerus Britannicus to take home.

Then we were off to see the mosaics, still under excavation.
It's painstaking work to get it all back together as it once was.

Does it blow your mind that we're talking about close to 2000 years ago???

You know those Romans, of course, and their baths.
Almost everything we know today about water we learned from them.

This villa was discovered in 1864 and is believed to have been a farm
of a very wealthy Roman, founded in 120 AD.

It's still being excavated, as funds are available.
I think of Mom and how she would be beyond herself at such a place.
Among all the other things, she was an archeological nut!

Did you know that escargot snails were brought to England by the Romans?
They run wild and free at this Villa and are protected.
Look how big they are (and surely very tasty)!

As happens at such tourist attractions, there were shows and exhibitions.
What did the Romans do, of course, but fight the rest of the world.  HA!

And because it was Father's Day, the kids got to fight their dads.
How fun is that!

It worked up an appetite for a splendid picnic lunch, thanks to Lisl and Michael.
Talk about living the good life.

  ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

 On our way to the Malmesbury Abbey, we drove 8 miles from Chedworth
to the Cirencester/Corinium Ampitheatre from the early 2nd century.
It's approximately 150 x 135 feet and probably held up to 8,000 people.
Don't you wonder what history those grassy mounds could tell!

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Malmesbury Abbey, from the 7th century, was dedicated to St. Peter and St. Paul.
When we arrived, we saw hints of it from its back side along the weir.

 We then climbed steps over these inlaid history markers to the abbey....

 ...passing the world-famous Abby House Gardens along the way.
We stopped only long enough to get a good look at the naked wrestlers.
Apparently the present owners tend the 5-acre garden naked!

We continued to wind our way around the ancient ruins.

And just before getting to the entrance, we walked to the nearby Market Cross for tea break.
The English (and the Dutch, I might add) really do take these breaks seriously.

What a spectacular view on all sides of the abbey but especially at the front.

Surely every detail tells a story before you even enter.
Don't you love that it's dog-friendly!

When we entered, the late-afternoon service was already in session.
But the lady at the back told us to make ourselves at home, take photos..."no one will care."
Much of the abbey still survives, with this existing third of the nave still in active service.


This video doesn't do the sound justice but...
let's just say my deepest soul welled up with tears.

 As we left and rounded back to where we had first started,
I couldn't think of a better place to end the England 2015 trip.

It was the crowning touch to one of my best birthday gifts ever.

THANK YOU, Lisl and Michael, for knowing.  You know me...
sometimes better than I know myself?!

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

And now, with grandson Nicholas arriving tomorrow from Atlanta for two whole weeks,
I'm ready to concentrate on yet another 70th-birthday gift to me, myself and I.
Life really doesn't get better than this.

Monday, July 13, 2015

England 2015: Day 6--Salisbury and Its Cathedral


This was our day to see churches much grander than the parish churches we had seen up to this point, specifically...the Salisbury Cathedral.  Sometimes you have to see both in order to appreciate either!

So, we headed out to Bradford on Avon to catch the train to Salisbury, not quite an hour's ride away.

Chris joined us for the ride and once we arrived in Salisbury...ALAN joined us (bottom right).
What a great surprise.  Another Shutterchancer to make our day!

And as we walked through the city to the cathedral, we started spotting the Barons,
celebrating 800 years of the Magna Carta (more on that later).

 Since our goal for the day was the Salisbury Cathedral, we wasted no time getting there.
Its main body was completed in only 38 years, from 1220 to 1258.
 It's spire is the UK's tallest at 123m/404 ft.

You could spend an entire day studying the outside only.  Seriously.

How can you resist these fellas?  But who are they trying to scare?

 True to English form, we first went to the cathedral's café for coffee break.
It's so Dutch, too.  So European, I guess?

Then Astrid and I were off to the Cloisters, 
following the signs to the Magna Carta in the Chapter House.
What is it about cloisters?

And there it was: The original copy of the Magna Carta from 1215, 800 years ago.
If you don't know the history, this is where the Barons come in!
You betcha that we both signed the book saying we saw it.

But even apart from the main attraction, the Chapter House is its own delight.
Notice how the NICHOLAS cushion grabbed my attention.

 Now we were ready to enter the cathedral proper, at the west front.
Those first moments always take my breath away.

Almost immediately you see all the fuss at the new baptismal font from 2008,
celebrating the cathedral's 750th anniversary.
Talk about a work of art!

Along the long nave towards the altar, it was easy to get distracted
by transepts, vestries and chapels...

 ...and statues and tombs,

and more tombs.

But by the time we reached the quire/choir, we knew we were close.
Actually, for me the quire is often the most soulful place in a grand cathedral of this size.
Was that because I sang in church choirs all those years ago?

Here you see the long stretch from the entrance to the altar,
through the quire (top and middle left).

All the way back to the entrance we found the world's oldest working clock, from 1386.
It has no face and no hands but strikes a bell at precise times.
And guess who made it?  3 clock makers from Delft, NL!

You know I found cushions, of course.

And plenty else...

...as well as people watching.

How's that for an overview!

 ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

 Then it was time for lunch near the Poultry Cross (market cross).
"Open your mouth wide and I will fill it!"
And we did.

How fun, then, to see another church but on a much smaller scale.
This is the St. Thomas Becket church from the mid-15th century,
most known for its Last Judgment or "Doom" mural filling the chancel arch.

And of course, the old wood.  The chairs.  The hymnals.  The cushions.

  ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

 Walking through town was a smattering of impressions, as always.
You know me and architecture, especially the half-timbered/Tudor buildings.

And the weathervanes, of course.

Eyes wide open.  Short of eyes.

 It was a day from beginning to end, shared with fellow friends who are important to us.

Who knew this would happen when I first joined Shutterchance in 2006!
It's become quite a community of friends, sharing our love of photography.
THANKS TO FRIENDSHIP:  Lisl, Chris, Alan...and Astrid, who became my wife because of SC!

 ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

I put this up on Facebook yesterday:

"15 years ago today he came into my life and world and changed me forever. 
And on Friday he comes from Atlanta to visit us here in the Netherlands. 
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Nicholas J. Grannan. You're the man!"

There's only Day 7 left to get done before he comes.
I'm off-n-running.....