Sunday, March 30, 2008

Holland - Easter weekend!

After meeting Ginnie on the Thursday ,we drove back to Harry and Brenda’s for a nice table grill dinner and a chocolate fondue for dessert. Since we had been up since 4:30 am and our coffee machine had broken down the evening before we left, I was dead tired and went to bed around 11pm. I know! Me? On holidays with friends and family and not partying until the wee hours? Unbelievable, right? Maybe we’re just getting older…, or smarter.

After some coffee and breakfast, we decided to go shopping and since the weather was really crap (again wet snow, rain and lots of cold wind), we opted for covered shopping areas. So off we went to Hoofddorp. The stores were not that exciting there, so we took another drive to Amstelveen, where OX bought himself a pair of really nice brown Van Bommel shoes. Shortly after that, I found a pair of dark brown boots just begging to be purchased. A perfect fit. How could I resist?

After our shopping spree, we had a few drinks at Café Hoevel, one of Amsterdam’s brown bars (usually bars with a lot of dark wood that serve simple dishes and of course, beer) along the Prinsengracht. An hour or so later, Brenda went to pick up Pa, Ma and two very good friends of theirs, Frits and Ria for dinner. We had reserved a table at the *Kelderhof, situated about 3 minutes walk from where we were, to celebrate Pa’s 76th birthday. How convenient… (and well planned for the digestive). Once Bren had parked the car, she gave us a call to go over to the restaurant and met them all. We had an excellent Tapas dinner and a lot of fun. Unfortunately, I had not gotten the part about not returning home before dinner, so I didn’t have my camera with me. We tried to take a few shots with our cell phones, but with the dim lighting, the quality of the picts turned out too bad to put up. You’ll just have to take our word for it.

Of course, the evening for us younger folk was not over just yet. Ma, Pa, Fritz and Ria took a taxi home and we walked straight over to the Café Heuvel again. Harry and other regulars there lovingly call it “the office” because many of them are into construction and much of the business is conducted there. It’s really interesting place and fun. The owner, Pierre, is an incredible host and makes anyone that visits feel at home. All of a sudden, he’ll take out a huge sausage and a kilo or so of cheese, cut it all in bite-sized pieces, put it on a plate and walk through the café offering some to all his guests. Anyhow, we met a few more people there, had a few more drinks, and came back home around 1:30am. (Don’t worry, Bren was the designated driver that evening, so we got home safely)

The next day (Saturday), we packed our things to drive southwards to Veenendaal to meet up with Jaap and Patricia. But first, we had to drive by Makro, a whole sale service chain, where Brenda and Harry are registered members. Now THAT, my friends, is a shopping experience non-plus-ultra! We bought too much stuff (mostly things that we can’t find here, or just so freaking cheap) that we had to take our luggage on the back seat in order to stack everything in the back of OX’s Volvo V70! I’m still amazed that we weren’t stopped at the Swiss border the next day. Our front wheels must have barely touched the ground from all that weight in the back. LOL!

We arrived at Jaap’s apartment around lunch time and after taking in our luggage, we drove to downtown Veenendaal to meet up with Patricia who was shopping with Jaap’s older sister. Did anybody mention shopping?? Oh, yes. Jaap and OX did some serious spending (it was all 25% off!) in a very nice local shop: Suits and casuals (only in Dutch). By that time, I was getting kinda edgy and went in to the next Esprit store to buy a few things for moi, too.

That evening, we had a really, really great dinner. Jaap had been talking about the **Royal Mandarin for a few years already, and we knew we wanted to go there. OMG! I cannot begin to tell you a) how good it was, and b) how much we laughed. And in this case, the laughter was NOT caused by an excess of alcohol. You’ll see why… soon.

Once at the restaurant, we were lead to an open fireplace, where we took an aperitif and were given the menu card (also in English) to study. We decided to go for the surprise menu. You then tell your Maître d’H if there is anything that you do not eat or are allergic to, and they arrange the menu accordingly. All are pretty fluent in English and so I wonder why their website isn’t. Anyway, the nicest thing is that once you have enough, you simply say: “Stop the food service here, please.” You can eat from 3 to 6 services, not to mention the 2 offered amuse-bouche. They just go on until you say stop.

After 20 minutes or so were taken to our table, chose a nice bottle of wine and the beautifully presented plates started arriving. Just a few courses to let your mouth water… now.

At the end of the meal (the men had a serving more than we did), Jaap started playing around with our camera and was just taking pictures of me without really looking. Unexpectedly, the Maître was standing behind him making “bunny ears” behind his head. You’ll see my reaction to that in the following film.

Otherwise, we laughed so much because of these two clowns.

And what did Patricia think?

Sorry guys, that’s just the way my Jaapie is (I love this shot).

More laughs followed that evening because, in a nutshell:

- Jaap and Patricia ate the four chocolates that were served with the coffee. They brought more chocolates and OX shoved them all in (except for one that I got) one after the other in intervals of about 3 seconds.
- When the fortune cookies came, and after all of the first load of chocolates were eaten, OX’s read his as last: “Don’t worry, Jaap’s taking the bill.” Of course he made that one up, but it came across so naturally that it baffled us all. It became the running gag of the evening. Oh… and guess who took the bill.

The drive back to Basel the next day went very well and got home in 5 hours. No trucks, very little traffic, good weather. What else could we ask for?

*I can really recommend this restaurant. It is fair priced, the quality of the food is excellent, the service friendly and guaranteed that you will sweat garlic for at least another 24 hours.

**Excellent restaurant/service, quite expensive for Holland, but worth every penny. For Switzerland, quite expensive, but not really over the top.

Meeting Expats

I first thought of combining the whole Easter weekend in one post, but then I thought a) it will be too long, and b) it might get confusing. So get ready to read a few posts in the coming days.

We left around 6:30am for Amsterdam on Thursday morning. The weather was a bit grimy, but the drive was pretty good after all. We arrived at Brenda & Harry’s at 12:30, dropped off a few deep frozen goods that we had carefully packed into a cool box for them. Since we were to meet Ginnie downtown Amsterdam and still had a bit of time, we unloaded the rest of the car and enjoyed a cup of coffee with Bren. Then, OX’s mobile phone rang and all he could see was “unknown number”, so he didn’t pick up. He thought it might be work related and he decided he was on holidays. “If it’s important, they’ll leave a message.” And right he was, but it was Ginnie, announcing that she was leaving the apartment and giving us her mobile number. I called back and told her that we were on our way.

I was so excited, an in all the excitement, I forgot the camera. Of course, Ginnie had hers, so she gets the credit for the pict. We’ve been waiting for this meet-up for almost 3 years, and now, it was about to happen. We met in front of the Heineken Hoek on the Leidseplein and, after a huge hug, we went in the café because the weather was really cold and windy. We started talking and ordered some lunch, and chatted some more. After an hour and a half, Ginnie invited us to her apartment for a beer, which we gladly accepted. It’s only about a 5 minutes walk from there, but by then, it was raining/snowing, windy and cold. We had some really interesting conversations and I just wish we had had more time. She’s has such a bubbly personality, her interests seem to have no boundaries and she’s very soulful: An incredible woman. And you know what? We even got to meet her niece, Lesley and her boyfriend, Chris, who were over for a one week vacation. Now we only have to meet Donica, too, and I have a feeling it won’t take as long as the first meet-up with Ginnie. It was truly a fabulous experience. Thank you so much, Ginnie! You are absolutely AWSOME.

Let's fast-forward a bit to Monday morning, shall we? (you can read about the weekend in A'dam in the next post). We had travelled back to Basel the day before to avoid the Easter Holiday traffic and to prepare for Expatraveler’s (a.k.a. ET) arrival the next day. Since I still had gotten no news from her by 10am on the Monday, I got a bit worried, but she finally called short before 11 to tell us that she had just missed a train, but would take the next one and arrive around 1pm in Basel. Perfect. Enough time to shop at the train station for breakfast the next day. We had just returned from Holland the day before and our fridge needed some basic filling-up.

We were just in time. Just as ET was boarding the escalator to go down, we were getting to the top in the opposite direction. Again a big “greeting Hug” and we made our way to the car. We drove home and we had to keep her there for a while. Why?... Because we had a little surprise for her. TBFs were coming over to say hello, but we didn’t really have a time set, so we had to keep her busy until they popped up. Finally, I thought they might be held up and decided to open a bottle of champagne for the occasion before their arrival. And you know what? I was just filling up glass number 3, when the doorbell rang. Hmm. I’m getting the feeling that TBF’s can smell champagne a mile away. Anyway, since Mrs. TBF had to work for most of the weekend and Mr. TBF has a “man cold”, they stayed only for an hour, or so.

After TBFs left, we decided to go for a Tex-Mex dinner with ET at Papa Joe's and relaxed a bit, chatting until about 11:30 pm. I still had to work the next day, so I did need the sleep. The next morning, OX drove me to the dentist and brought our coffee machine to get fixed (that’s another story). Then he drove home to meet ET for breakfast. Unfortunately, we had locked her (and Dale) in, so the poor girl couldn't even get out. I guess we expected her to sleep-in a bit longer. OX and ET had breakfast and chatted a bit before meeting me for lunch at the Market place in Basel. I had to return to the office after lunch, so I said my goodbyes and left them both to discover Basel a bit. It was great to meet with you again, ET, but this time, we knew who we were meeting.

It was really great to meet two Expats in one weekend, albeit a bit stressful, mixed together with visiting family/friends in Amsterdam. But what the hell… It was worth every second.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Easter!

We just returned from 4 days in Holland and we had a fabulous time!

We met blogger Ginnie in real life, celebrated Pa's (O-X's Dad) 76th birthday with family and friends, and spent a day with Jaap and Patricia.

Tomorrow, we get to meet another blogger face to face! And... we have a surprise for her :)

More about all of the latest happenings in my next post, but for now, Happy Easter!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

OMG! I'm a murderer!

We got up in time this morning for a haircut appointment. The sun was shining and it looked like it would be a glorious day..... *But no... not quite.

We left the house around 9.45am and, as I said, the sun was shining in all it's glory (and in my eyes). I started walking down the steps of the back yard and as I looked down... Yikes!!!... I saw it in the corner of my eye. Something small and dark. A leaf,... a branch??? No. But it was too late. I had already shifted my weight to the next step down and all I all of a sudden felt was a "scrunch" under my foot that made my stomach turn.

The first words I blurted out to Orange-X were: "Shit! I'm a murderer! I just stepped on a baby salamander!!"

I felt so bad for the poor thing - believe it or not, I think they're cute. Really! I don't even kill spiders (at least the big ones... to messy). I throw them out... in a tupperware.

And you know what Orange-X's reply was?...: **"Is it dead?"

* After my first shock (the murder) and the haircuts, we went 'next door' to Germany and bought a new sofa! The day is saved! Yayyyy! And only the equivalent to 1 trip for two incl. expenses (compared to 3-see post below) to Canada.

** 55kg (120 lbs) is enough to kill a 1 1/2 inch long salamander. Duh!

Sunday, March 09, 2008

You'll never ask again...

You must be wondering what we've been up to lately since my blogging has been more than slow. Well, actually, not that much. Secondly, I didn't feel like writing. About what???

Here's a litte summary of the past few weeks' activities, but don't get all excited, now.

- Orange-X has been very busy at work this past month (many internal changes, etc.)
- Jaap and Patricia (our Dutch friends) dropped in for an overnight stay on their way to and from their skiing trip in Switzerland.
- We had 2 1/2 weeks of beautiful weather (now replaced by rainy weather)
- I removed most of the moss from our back yard and there's still quite a bit to do there
- Did a lot of shopping. New pants, new raincoat, etc.
- Went out for a couple of nice long walks since the weather has been so good to us
- We're thinking of changing our sofa, but the one we saw and really like would cost about 3 trips to Canada. *sigh* So, we'll wait.
- I went for a massage from Paolo yesterday... HEAVEN! I must do this more regularly
- I cleaned out my closet... Two big garbage bags! The charity organisations will be happy.
- I filled out my income tax declaration form today. YAY me!

That's about all the excitement we had as of late. So, next time I don't blog for a while, don't ask or wonder. It's just not been that much going on.

BUT.... We do have fun up-coming events. Easter Holidays are nearing quickly and we'll be driving up to Holland to meet friends & family (it's Pa's birthday on Good Friday). AND... I will meet not only one, but two Bloggers personally. One in Holland and one when we come back.

Stay tuned....