Thursday, October 2, 2008
ANYWAY....sorry that I skipped out on the last few days of the trip. We stayed in Leiden and Dutch's sister didn't have wireless internet. The post I made from Leiden was done on a stolen connection-- hey, I didn't know it wasn't THEIR network!!!!! I did make it to the Hague to see Vermeer's "Girl with a Pearl Earring". Incredible. She commands so much attention. But I have to admit it was "The Goldfinch" by Carel Fabritius that captivated me completely. Dutch's sister also felt I should see the Hague's Municipal Museum. And she was right. It was gorgeous. The building was built by Berlage (Dutch's favorite architect and famed for his creation of the "Amsterdam School" of architecture design) and is a work of art in its own right. But inside the collection is modern but not in the pretentious, artsy way. Best of all were the works of Piet Mondrian. I definitely gained a new appreciation for his work. Like the Van Gogh museum, the works are laid out chronologically so that you can see the progression of the artist. The earlier works are darker and appeal to me a bit more but they're all great. Most surprising to me was the deterioration of the canvases, especially those painted later, in New York. They are frayed at the edges, with the paint "yellowing" a bit. Amazing that the works of Frans Hals and others from much earlier periods should survive in such grand condition. Oh, there was also a fantastic exhibit of the works of the father and son painters, Jozef and Isaac Israëls. It was in this exhibit that Dutch's sister and I kept walking into the rooms and moving towards the same painting. Evidently, she has the same exquisite taste that I have!! One piece in particular caught our eye-- "Amsterdam Girl". I've got a picture of it-- if I can finally get around to posting it.
Friday was the funeral. Cultural anthropologists sometimes say that to understand a culture, you need to understand their death rituals. I think that's probably true. The funeral was very short. We actually rode with the family as honored guests. It's most likely the only time I'll ever be in a stretch Mercedes limo! We left the funeral home and a man in top hat and full mourning garb walked in front of the limo. But he only walked about 100 yards before he got in the car carrying the coffin. He got out again when we arrived at the chapel and walked the last 100 yards or so. Weird. The family was ushered in, greeted the "guests" and then we filed into a room where the coffin was placed. The deceased brother spoke a few words. Carly Simon's "Coming Around Again" was played (it was her favorite). Finally, the family walked past the coffin and said their final farewell before the rest of the gathering did the same. Then everyone went out into the lobby and had coffee, tea, cake and cookies. It was rather like blah, blah, blah, let's eat! Not to say it wasn't somber-- it just felt so VERY different and very, very Dutch. Oh, and the family sends out death notices to all friends and family immediately following the death-- the day of or the day after at the latest. Who the HECK can think well enough to do that so soon after losing a loved one?? It also speaks to the practicality of the Dutch that they only bury their dead for 15 years. You can "renew" the grave for longer if you're willing to pay for it. But most people just allow their loved ones to be dug up and disposed of. It's not a matter of respect but a matter of space.
Enough on such gruesome matters-- time to move on!! Saturday, we went to Delft for a quick trip around a beautiful town. Dutch's mother was raised in Delft and he was excited to visit again after a number of years away. Dutch spoke fondly of time spent with his Opa, aunts, uncles and cousins and showed me where he played when he was young, as well as the place his mother grew up. I also made a pilgrimage there because of the town's connection to Vermeer. We went to OudeKerk and saw the original grave marker of Vermeer (his body was moved long, long ago to his mother-in-laws family crypt). We ventured to Nieuwe Kerk and saw the royal tomb of William of Orange, who was assassinated in Delft, and the marker for the entrance to the royal crypt for the "royals" of House of Orange-Nassau. I wanted to spend more time there, but we had to get back for a trip to Katwijk. That's right, we went to the beach!! Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous!!! How many times have I used that word??? We had dinner at Key West, a restaurant right on the beach. (I had Schnitzel Key West-- chicken pounded very thin and lightly breaded, topped with warm brie and tomato.) We watched the sun go down over the North Sea before heading home for coffee, tea and cake.
Sunday we went with Dutch's sister's family to Panbos, near Katwijk but it's a completely different feel than the beach. It's a heavily wooded area that felt like being home, walking a trail on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Except that there's a tank wall built by the Germans-- a massive wall used as a line of defense against the allies that might try to land at Katwijk and come inland. It would have been a huge job to knock down this wall but the Dutch also keep these fortifications as a reminder. As I said before, it's these reminders that make the war and everything I've studied, real.
Monday, it was raining but that didn't stop us from returning to Haarlem for one last look around. We walked to St. Bavokerk to see the grave of another favorite painter of mine, Frans Hals. But I hadn't done my research (shocking, I know!!!) and we couldn't get close to it. We were only able to look through the locked gate of the chapel and see it. It's only opened on special occasions. Oh, well. What I hadn't anticipated was seeing one of the most beautiful pipe organs imaginable! It's said that this organ is one of the most beautiful in the world-- well, at least sound-wise. So beautiful in fact that Handel made a pilgrimage just to play on it. As did a young Mozart. I can't attest to the sound, no one was playing it for lowly tourists, but it is a work of art. After that trip, it was home again to pack and say final farewells before leaving on Tuesday.
Someday, I'll tell about our trip to Frankfurt and the odyssey of finding our hotel, but this post is already way too long! That's it. Except for the promised pictures. I'm working on those, too. Maybe tomorrow. Or Saturday. Or Sunday.
Right now, I just want to SLEEP.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
But some of the shine is gone. It's scary when things like this happen. It's hard not to internalize such a shock.
Monday, September 22, 2008
Sunday was a bit of a change-- we still saw one of Dutch's best buddies but we didn't go to Muiden. We went instead to Arnhem to the Open Air Museum. It's quite a nice place, big by Dutch standards, where you can see many historic monuments that have been moved there from all over the Netherlands. Its rather like seeing a microcosm of the country! There's windmills from all over, as well as a cheese factory, a brewery, a working farm, city gates, tram stations, and bridges. A little bit of everything, all gathered within an easy walk. We ended the day by having dinner at a bar in "Naarden. Naarden is gorgeous! It's tiny, quaint, and very old. It is also a VERY expensive place to live. But at any rate, I had a really good chicken sate with a strange potato salad (indescribable but okay, really) and what was labeled a "salad" but looked more like chopped coleslaw except made with lettuce and cucumbers. Very strange, indeed. The bar was loud, but gezellig . The football game was on and it was an important match-- Ajax vs. Feyenoord. It was a "must win" game for both, or so I'm told. I believe they tied-- if you're interested (which I wasn't).
Today, Dutch and I parted ways. He went to Helmond (hey Buffy fans-- he went to the Hellmouth!!) and I went into Amsterdam with Mum-in-law. We went to see the new exhibit of Caspar David Friedrich at the Hermitage Amsterdam. German romantic landscape paintings-- very nice! We then walked through the Jewish quarter to Rembrandt House. Beautiful etchings-- I never saw Rembrandt like this before! The etchings are better than the paintings! Impressive!! After that, we went to The Jewish Historical Museum. It was quite moving and very beautiful. After a brief lunch of brie cheese, tomatoes and basil on fresh rolls, we ventured to the Van Gogh Museum. I forget how much I LIKE Van Gogh until I see it in person. The books and reprints do not do him justice. His work is textural-- you really need to see it in person to appreciate the beauty.
Now, I'm having a glass of wine and then some Lumpia with the in-laws.
Then, I just might collapse.
All this fun is very tiring. Yes, yes, I know cry you a river. :-P
Friday, September 19, 2008
Wednesday was spent in Haarlem. I loved this town, built around an old city square. The feeling here is timeless. We could have been walking down the street in the 14th century or modern day. It exudes the feeling of the ages. We went to the Frans Hals Museum and I finally saw my St. Adrian Civic Guard painting that I've been longing to see. Hals work is truly inspiring and perfect. He remains one of my all-time favorites.
Thursday was spent in Utrecht. An odd city, with half the city being ultra-modern and the other half being very old. It was here though, that we found our favorite museum, Utrecht Centraal Museum. They seem to have the best of everything, beautifully displayed. Some painters I wasn't familiar with, but fell in love with immediately as well as a large collection of Rietveld furniture and house plans. This museum administers the Rietveld Schroder house which we wanted to tour but couldn't get tickets! As it was, we just enjoyed the things on display. Then we went into Amsterdam for a late supper of Falafel and Belgian fries, and wandered through the red light district. It's in the old part of town and it's a lovely walk (in more ways than one! *winks*)
Today, we're off to the Rijksmuseum and tonight is dinner with an old friend of Dutch. We're eating somewhere near the beach! Tomorrow, it's off to Leiden to see Dutch's nephews play football and then dinner out with another old friend (tapas! Whee!). Sunday, we're spending the day with yet another old friend in Muiden-- visiting Muiderslot and the old city defense posts. After that?? I have no idea. There's always SOMETHING going on!
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
There are no mergpijpjes. That's right. We can't find them. The pastry shops??? None. The Albert Heijn?? Nope. Well, we did find the little ones, but they aren't as good. We found a few of the bigger ones in single packages by a different company at the gas station up the street but they sucked.
WHERE OH WHERE ARE MY MERGPIPJS?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?
Monday, September 15, 2008
Saturday was a day spent on the football pitch. The rain cleared while we were visiting Ton's old soccer club. We found out that his old team was playing at "Aufsay". I had no idea what Aufsay was. In fact, I spent a good thirty minutes trying to figure it out on the tram. I looked at the maps and still didn't see anything. Unfortunately, Dutch didn't know WHERE "Aufsay" was either-- that's not right. He DID know but he forgot. Color me surprised. *eyeroll* A two mile walk later, we come upon the Amsterdam Football Club, aka AFC. Ah. That makes more sense than Aufsay. Anyway, we watched his old team play and he disappeared into the locker room with them at half time. While this fuels many fantasies, I can't say there was a team mate worth fantasizing about!! :-P
After departing the pitch, we went into Amsterdam proper and wandered around Waterlooplein, to Rembrandtplein and the Muntplein. Muntplein is the location of the Munttoren (Mint Tower), definitely a city landmark. It's a gorgeous area to wander through and we took lots of pictures. I'm converting them now but uploading takes longer than expected. I'll try to post a few tonight or tomorrow. We also visited the flower bulb market and it's beautiful! Did you know they sell cannabis starter kits? Isn't that coolness?!? They also sell cannabis lollipops.
Our dinner that night was at an absolutely lovely little Indian restaurant that overlooked Muntplein. We walked up these narrow little stairs into a tiny little place with a beautiful view. The food was excellent! I had chicken tikka marsalla and Dutch had chicken Tandoori. The tea was delightful-- real woodbark and berries steeped in steaming water. It was amazing, really. The naan bread was to DIE for.
After dinner, we wandered back to Dutch's old neighborhood, which was a bit nostalgic and bittersweet. His downstairs neighbors, who were very old, had apparently passed on and there was no one there he knew. But it was so lovely to be in the place that I fell in love with on my last trip, and hear the tram driver call the stop for "Javaplein". The #14 will probably remain my favorite tram ride, ever.
Sunday was a "family" day! Dutch's sisters and their families descended on him and swept him away. I went with his mother into the city to see my first ballet. The National Ballet company was performing a tribute to their great dancer and choreographer, Rudi van Dantzig. The performance was vignettes from his famous ballets. It was amazing! It was such a wonderful treat to see it! And the building is absolutely glorious, with a wonderful view of Waterlooplein, the Blue Bridge, the "Skinny" Bridge and the canals. You can see the building here. After the show, we returned and had "chinese take-out" (which is a misnomer-- I had Sate Kip met Nasi. That's chicken satay with lightly fried rice for the uninitiated and Dutch had Roti. Both are not chinese!)
Today, we're back to the city for a canal cruise and more wandering. I'll sign off now and catch you soon! Tot Ziens!
Sunday, September 14, 2008
Saturday, September 13, 2008
Today, we're heading to the football club, or we were. It's still raining here and I don't believe there will be football! So, it might be another rainy day in Amsterdam, but inside the museums, we wont' know the difference. More tomorrow! Hopefully, with pictures!!
Oh, the flight was rough, by the way. We were held on the ground for an hour and then there was a lot of turbulence. It didn't bother me, it just made it difficult to sleep. Oh, and the three screaming German children in the middle aisle made it even harder. *eyeroll* Their mother slept through most of it though. The train ride from Frankfurt to Amsterdam was easy and comfortable, though it became a bit long, too. Especially after it was held up because of Passport Patrol coming onto the train and checking everyone's papers. But it is so fantastic to be here, that I won't complain a bit.
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
To tide you over, here are a few of the pictures from my first visit. Not the greatest resolution, but at least there is a taste of what's to come! You can find them here.
Oh, oh!!!! I have to report that the pictures on this trip will be taken with my brand-spanking-new Canon 40D! That's right! My beautiful and perfect husband (note that he's only and beautiful and perfect when he's giving me things?!?!?!?) gave me a digital SLR camera (that I've been lusting after for ages) for my birthday. It's fantastic and I love it! I can't wait to show you the results!
Thursday, August 28, 2008
ALL RIGHT!! I can't actually USE this information for any reason. It's wasted time and effort. But it's pretty! SEE??
Stop laughing. It's not nice to make fun of the mentally ill.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
We've also procured train tickets! We'll be taking the ICE train from Frankfurt to Amsterdam. It's going to make for a long day, but we both figured we would enjoy the train trip much more than changing planes and chancing connections.
We're all set! Now, I just have to buy clothes. And shoes. And STUFF. Oh, and figure out how I'm going to pack it all. Don't worry about that though. I'm a compulsive list maker. I'll be ready. And so will Dutch. Even if he is crazy from my obsessive planning. *nods*
Thursday, August 7, 2008
I drive to work, get the day started and I sit down with my coffee, content in the knowledge that I have tickets on a great airline. Upon checking my email, I find I now have confirmations! Excitedly, I read. Yes, flying out of Charlotte, September 10th. Check. Flying into JFK. Check. One and a half hour layover. Check. Flying out of Newark. Check. Wait a minute!!!!! NEWARK!??!?!!? NEW JERSEY!?!!?!? ACROSS THE FREAKING RIVER???!?!?! There is no way anyone could make that connection! I was going to lose a day of mergpijpje madness! This could NOT be! I call Dutch. He created this mess and by GOD he wasn’t going to sleep through my panic. What does he do? He blows me off, he dismisses me. ME. The beloved thorn in his side. He says it will be fine and he doesn’t understand my panic. I immediately write Lufthansa begging to cancel the reservation. Dusseldorf was bad enough but into JFK out of Newark?? That’s impossible. For hours, everyone at work is treated to my tale, told of the horrors of my husband and our impossible flight. My friends get a panicked email that encourages them to sympathize with my plight. It is not a need for attention that drives me send these emails but the need to find validation that I have joined the most noble and long-suffering group of women who suffer from SSS, Stupid Spouse Syndrome. I refresh my email every few minutes. Nothing. Jiminy Cricket was singing “When you wish upon a star”. That’s it. I’m going home and sharpening the knives. It will all be fine, baby. Just go to sleep.
At 5:18pm EST, my husband is granted a stay of execution. Lufthansa sends me the following letter:
Dear Ms. Married to a Dutchman who Doesn’t Listen,
Thank you for contacting the Lufthansa Internet Service Center.
Currently the reservation that was made online is not ticketed and will not be until 27Jun08. So if you wish to cancel and re-try your online purchase you may and any agent at our reservations office may assist with schedules, fares and finding flights that best fit your travel needs. Currently the reservation that is on hold requires a connection between two airports (La Guardia, and Newark airport) which may not be suitable or comfortable for all passengers. Again, you may contact our reservations office and they will be able to cancel that reservation so you may either re-try your request online or our agent can give assistance. If you experience any online difficulties, you may contact our online support Desk at 1-866-583 8932 on Monday to Friday between 10am to 6pm Eastern Time.
We look forward to serving you online and in flight. Thank you for choosing Lufthansa.
I cancel the flight. I laugh gleefully. I have a celebratory drink. It is over.
Now, I get to start all over.
Coming up...finally getting tickets. The right tickets. With no help from my husband. Thank the maker.
Thursday, July 31, 2008
A woman has to face reality and realize that there are things she will have deal with in her life. One is wrinkles, two, bloating and that not quite fresh feeling, and three, if you’re married, your spouse will screw things up and you’ll have to fix it. I’m old enough to realize the first in inevitable, the second is bearable and the third?? I just may kill him before our trip is over.
Why, Nicole? What has brought you to the harrowing intersection of homicide and self-inflicted bite wounds?? I’m glad you asked.
The Dutch boy and I are planning a trip to the Netherlands. He wants to go home, to see family and friends. My needs are more simple and direct. I want to go so that I can eat my weight in marzipan and mergpijpjes. As is always the case, it fell to me to book tickets for this excursion into pastry paradise. For months I perused the pages of various sites, hunting down the best price. I study airport reports and statistics to determine who had more cancellations, which airline had the worst delays, misdirected luggage and customer complaints. I researched every aspect of air travel, immersing my self in the exotic world of trip planning. At last, I came to the conclusion, I had to buy direct from the airline for the best chance to avoid being bumped. Fifty dollars more or less wouldn’t matter but a lost day would mean less mergpijpjes. To keep this story short and interesting, I will tell you that I settled on Lufthansa airlines. Instead of changing planes in Philadelphia, New York, or O’Hare, we would fly non-stop from Charlotte to Germany. Oh, the pleasure of an uninterrupted nine hours in a metal cylinder with nothing but air, ocean and occasional stray bird and migrating fish beneath you! But I digress. Dutch, feeling the need to get involved, decided to follow up on the tip I had uncovered that sometimes a person can call an airline and the representative could get a better rate, or uncover a better flight. Unfortunately, not so with Lufthansa and the very nice young woman directed him to the website for the best fares. I tried to book the tickets on Lufthansa via their website. No dice! Site wouldn’t work. I tried twice and got bumped out both times. So, Dutch decided to be helpful and call them yet again! Helpful twice, in one night! It’s a record! Hooray!! Maybe this marriage thing isn’t overrated! Unfortunately, Dutch may have been willing to help, but Lufthansa wasn’t. The only flights available through the telephone representative were much more expensive and he couldn’t find the flight we wanted, even when I gave him the flight numbers and times. The rep did, however, offer us the number of Tech Support to help figure out our website woes. Dutifully, Dutch hung up the phone and called Tech Support. Which was closed. Yes. That’s exactly what I thought, too.
So, our magical mystery trip was off to a rollicking start! At this rate, we would be strapping ourselves to an oil barrel retrofitted with a homemade guidance system consisting of a rigged up TomTom, a Rand Mcnally atlas and sharpie marker, all carried by a couple of hundred crows tied on with curling ribbon. It is at this point in my story, we reach the point that leaves me at that fateful intersection I mentioned earlier. Dutch decided that I should NEVER be this upset over anything and he takes over. He heads to his PC and types www.lufthansa.com. He selects our trip dates. He selects leaving from Charlotte. He selects the first airport in Germany that he sees. I am standing behind him repeating, in an unending litany filled with mild panic, “Do NOT book a flight flying out of, or into, O’Hare or JFK! Watch the connection times! Allow time for delays! There are always delays!!” He gleefully continues punching keys, ignoring my ever- growing urgent pleas. He clicks the first flight he sees that looks reasonable to him. As he is entering our seat selections and flight information, I ask him, begging, “Where exactly are we going to fly to?” He waves me away saying, “It doesn’t matter! We’re going to Europe! It will be fine. It’s always fine!” I’m spitting and sputtering, pleading for him to NOT book me into a connection or return through O’Hare or JFK. He clicks away like a mad, clicking thing. And….the site accepts his reservation. Just like that. We’re going to Germany. Not to Munich. Not to Frankfurt. But to Dusseldorf. Not by direct flight but with layovers. The outbound flight has an hour and a half layover at JFK. And the return flight, a two- hour layover at O’Hare.
Now, gentle reader, I ask you, who would NOT be willing to commit murder under such a circumstance? Who would not stand behind their husband and scream like a banshee before stomping into the bathroom and locking the door, only to unlock it and come flying out again, spitting the vilest of epithets? Yes, I can see gentle reader that you understand my plight.
But time, Xanax and tequila can calm down the most restless of souls and I finally drift off to sleep, his apologizes and assurances ringing my ears, allowing myself to be lulled into thinking that this may, indeed work out. After all, we’re going to Europe!
Or, are we?? There’s more to this tale, but that will come tomorrow.