Crazy year – the final part!

21 12 2010

Well now that we are on our way back to Croatia, the weather has turned on us.  After a week of amazing sunny skies and hot temps, a massive – scarethepoopoutofyou- thunderstorm hit the night before we left.  Thankfully Isabella slept through it all, me on the other hand not so much!  The lighting was so bright that one flash turned off the street lights!  But with the storm going through the temperature must have dropped a good 10 degrees.  It was actually cold out.  But with the rain, also came the clouds and fog so our view of the sea wasn’t the best.   So the drive seemed longer then what it probably was. 

But soon we were back in Gospic and at my grandmother’s.  My grandfather was there pacing the street waiting for his Isabella to come home.  I don’t think I got her out of the car seat before he was grabbing her.   She of course just lapped up the attention!

During our last days there we did one more big trip to Plitvice National Park/Plitvička Jezera.   After a bit of a round about trip thanks to Penelope the GPS we arrived.  Now at first it didn’t seem like much, lots of trees, people, air, the sound of water… but then once we got through the main gate and on to the other side, this is what I saw…

The sight of the falls was just spectacular!!  But the climb down would be interesting.  Isabella in her wobbly little stroller, me with crap knees,  unstable ground beneath, lots of people, oh never mind… DAD!!!!   Here you do it!   So my dad took Isabella and he went for a stroll down the opposite path so Leigh Ann and I could go to the big falls and get some pictures.   I’m not going to say much more… I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.  Oh and yes the water really is that colour!

The park is just amazing and I guess we only went to one side.  The other side is much prettier but the trails are rougher and it’s too hard with Isabella in a stroller.  So I’m going to have to wait until she can walk on her own and take her back there.  I think this is one place everyone should put on their “to do” list.  Just remember, it’s a lot of walking and bring a snack and water.   And don’t forget your camera!  The cost seemed to be reasonable and the best part is outside the gates back on the streets, you have people selling their homemade goods.  Nothing like fresh honey, or strudel, or cheese.  The goat’s cheese was fantastic!  It was drier then most cheeses I’ve had and the seasoning was top.   I would just go back for the cheese!   I did bring back some honey from there, sadly it is all gone, but I enjoyed every last wonderful drop!  Since the war did hit that area we were again hit with destroyed houses and churches, fields where they are now unkept and you can’t venture in them for the fear of mines.    Towns where the buildings are still pockmarked from the bullets,  and some that should just be torn down but yet they still somehow manage to stand. 

Another trip we took was to go back to the sea so Isabella could dip her toes in again.   The day had turned right back to beautiful so the drive it’s self was amazing.  Such a drastic change from my dad’s side of the mountain to the coast side.  We also stopped at a little bar/restaurant/apartment place so we could grab a drink and a bite to eat.  Dad and I shared a grilled fish platter – ok… YUM!  Isabella sat quietly in her stroller/on my lap/on grandpa’s lap looking around and being nosy as usual.  Leigh Ann had headed down to the little beach on the other side of the street to try and get some sun.  The drive back was great as usual, since the sun was out the sea looked a brilliant blue.  We did stop to get some pictures along the way as we went up the mountain again.  

But sadly it was nearly time to head back and leave this beautiful country, the mountains and sea, the rolling hills and awesome pig roasts.  Oh did I forget to mention that?  It seems that every little bar and restaurant has a pig roasting or a lamb.  Growing up in a meat-eating family (PETA people I don’t need to hear it), pig roasts were always a great treat.  So the last night I was at my grandmother’s we had lamb and pig with the family and some of the neighbours.   My grandmother made an excess of coleslaw because she knows that I love it.  So it was a meat, slaw and bread meal…how perfect is that?  We did family pictures, and I made sure to get a bunch with the three of them.  Plus all of us together.   But in true style it was time to go to bed (around 9pm).

The next day we took more pictures and I had to get all my stuff together since we were heading to the airport for my 3:45 flight.  Isabella was a good girl all the way to the airport, at the restaurant in the airport and right up until we got to the waiting room…then she fussed.  But on the plane she slept the whole way again and was the perfect passenger.    We had such a great time, it was sad to leave especially since they loved having Isabella there with them.   I don’t know if/when I’ll get back to see my grandparents, but I do hope that it is in the near future. 

The final picture I took before leaving Croatia,  it was hard trying to take pictures and hold her at the same time.    

So all said and done, Isabella has managed to travel to 7 countries, travel on 2 plane trips, countless train rides, car rides, boat rides all before the age of one.   Her passport says it all!  Netherlands, Germany, Canada, The United States, Slovenia, Italy and Croatia.  I hope she gets the travel bug when she’s older!!


Crazy Year – Part 3

17 12 2010

So after a few days in Gospic with my grandmother and grandfather, we head to my mom’s home town of Morsano al Tagliamento, to visit my great-aunt and her family.  Isabella and I stayed with my Zia Eda (My great-aunt), Zio Ettore – not pictured (My great-uncle), Nino (their son), Mariatheresa (Nino’s wife), Stefania (daughter), Lady ( the dog) and two cats.  Their son Marco lives in another town about 30 minutes away.

When I first arrived, I couldn’t believe how bloody HOT it was!! OH MY GOD!!!!!  Coming from the cool side of the mountains in Croatia to this was a slap in the face.  I know Windsor gets hot but this was just incredible.  It was the slap you in the face kind of heat.  I was glad I had a lot of short and summer outfits for Isabella, but I was lacking in that department.  So it as going to be a hot week for me in my jeans.  But I’ll have to make do with what I have.  As long as Isabella is cool then I’m happy. 

After the initial ooohs and awwws of Isabella, I’m no longer important,  we had to get some groceries for the house.   We piled in to the non air-conditioned car (Lord help me) and headed to Lidl of all places!!!!  I swear this grocery store has the market on Europe.  But I managed to get Isabella more diapers, and some veggies since at the time she was just starting her solids.  The Lidl is in San Vito al Tagliamento,  another town about 20 minutes away.  I’ll put some pictures up of that later.  

The following day I wanted to go for a little walk in Morsano, The best part about this town… one main road you can’t get lost!  I’ll just put up a few of the town that I took.  Notice the blue sky!!  It was like this the entire week I was there.  Morsano has some beautiful new and old buildings in the town.  The centre has a grocery store, doctor, pharmacy, a few bars and cafes (of course), church, and some smaller stores.  There really isn’t a lot in this town which is why I think my family does their shopping in San Vito.  But regardless, it is like stepping into another world when you walk through, and I swear every person that I walked past said hello!!  Of course all the nonnas had to stop and give Isabella the little tap on the cheek and say she was bella.  Isabella soaked up every adoring minute!

The next day we went to San Daniele, where they make prosciutto, that’s right…PROSCIUTTO!!!  Cue Angels and harps.  I love the stuff!!  San Daniele is a beautiful town located a little up the mountains so the landscape started to get hilly compared to the farmland of Morsano.  The building were gorgeous and the prosciutto dinner we ate was  just yummy!!  Who thought you could get excited about a couple of pieces of paper-thin meat with bread, but the stuff is just amazing.  The weather again was perfect, and since we were in the mountains a bit, it was MUCH cooler.  I think I would have rather of stayed there!  Not that I don’t love my family, but  that heat is horrid especially when there isn’t any air-conditioning in the house.   San Daniele was a nice little side trip for me, and since I had never been there a new experience. 

The week was filled with trips back to San Vito to walk around town and lazy days at the house.  I wasn’t really in Italy to play tourist I was there to bring Isabella so she could meet her great-great aunt and uncle and her cousins.  The traveling part was just an added bonus.  I remember some of San Vito and Morsano from when I was there last, but it was great to see it all again with fresh (older and more appreciative) eyes.   San Vito has a wonderful city centre, the building are old and well taken care of.  There is a cute little park we wandered through and strolled up the street to the stores and cafes.  I was content with wandering and of course a little shopping doesn’t hurt anyone either.  I’ve put some pictures of  San Vito down below, I think I took the most pictures from this town then any other. 


 With the clock ticking down on my visit to Italy, I had to make sure I spent time with my aunt and uncle who live in the bottom part of the house.   Nino and Co. live upstairs and a beautiful apartment addition they built years ago.   I loved spending time in Italy, and it was too short of a visit.  I’m going to have to make it back there again with Isabella as soon as possible!  

But alas… I had to return to the gorgeous mountains of Gospic.  I also needed to spend more time with my grandmother and grandfather since I didn’t know if I’d ever make it back to Croatia again.  So before I knew it my dad and Leigh Ann were there to pick us up and after a wonderful week in Italy it was time to say ciao.  

Crazy Year – Part 2

1 11 2010

After returning from Canada, we were going to have a slew of visitors in the next few months.  Starting with my brother and his now fiancée Mary.  They came over to stay with us for a weekend before heading out to explore Europe.  We went to Maastricht, on I swear the most humid day possible.  I was drenched after walking for 5 minutes, it was Windsor in Holland.   We also spent time in Amersfoort taking a boat ride on the canal, unfortunately Isabella wasn’t into it and started to fuss.  Luckily she did hold out until near the end of the ride.  It was a nice ride and a different view of the city.  I wish they could have stayed longer, but they were on a schedule and my brother had a plan.  He proposed to Mary in Paris (let’s all say it together now… awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww).   They did however return back to NL for a quick visit before leaving to go home to Canada.  So we headed down to Amsterdam and did the “must-see-tourist-traps”.   Oh and of course the Red Light District.  Granted it was during the day but they got the idea of what goes on at night.   It was a good day and it was nice to spend it with the two of them.  Plus they also got to spend time with Isabella before leaving. 

The day my brother and Mary left,  Frank’s parents and Aunt arrived from the U.S.  It has been a few years since they were over to visit.  Frank hadn’t seen his father in nearly 10 years before they came this summer.  Of course this was the first time they met Isabella and at first she was a bit… “Um and you would be??”  but quickly warmed up when she realized, “HEY!!!  I’m getting MORE attention!!”   It was nice for them to see all the grandkids and one great-grandchild on this side of the ocean at one time.  With day trips around the Netherlands, it was a busy few weeks.    His aunt was with us for about a week and a bit, she then left for Italy for a tour and returned the day before they left to go back to the States. 

Now, just before Frank’s parents and aunt leave to go back to the US, my dad and his girlfriend  Leigh Ann, show up for a visit!  They ended up staying here in NL for about a week before heading out on the road to drive to Croatia to visit my grandmother and grandfather.  

We headed out to some places in NL, like Giethoorn, Blokzijl, Zandvoort, and Haarlem.  We didn’t have much time to do a lot of touring, so we just picked a few “touristy” places to visit.  But before they left to go back to Canada, Isabella and I headed over to Croatia and Italy for 2 weeks.  I was able to see my grandparents again, it has been over 10 years since I saw them last. 

Isabella and I flew to Zagreb and then it was an hour and a bit drive to Gospic (for an English site click here).  We stayed with my grandmother and grandfather in their house and had a great time.  It was so nice to have Isabella meet both her great grandparents.  Especially since we never knew if she would get the chance to meet the ones in Croatia.   My grandmother’s house is small and only two bedrooms so we tried to spend as much time as we could touring the area and my dad showing me some of his old stomping grounds.  Unfortunately because of the war, there are a ton of blown out houses and areas that are unsafe because of landmines.  So there was no way we could just “go for a walk” out in the land by the mountains.  Two of the villiages my dad once lived in are completely abandoned and all around the area are the landmine signs.  The street my grandmother lives on still has houses that have been blown up and the former owners have not claimed them so they can’t be “touched” according to the government.  So everyday you wake up the a sick reminder of what happened.   Some of these houses were huge and they looked to be quite grand, now they are just a pile of rubble.   The city shows scars also of the war, bullet riddled buildings, destroyed churches, empty pieces of land where something once stood.   Regardless of what the reason was for this war and I’m not going to argue who was right or wrong (and don’t make a comment on here either about it – this isn’t a debate), people suffered, they died and they lost years of their life.   I just wish they’d clean up the houses that have been destroyed so people can get on with it and not have to look at it all the time. 

Since I was on that side of Europe my dad drove Isabella and I to Italy.  We took the seaside drive up to Italy, it was a beautiful day and the Adriatic had a gorgeous blue hue to it.  The drive along the coast of Croatia is just amazing, the seaside towns, the landscape, the water, the sun, really it was just amazing to see it all.  Isabella only got a few glimpses since she slept most of the way.  You just want to jump out of the car and run into the water.  That is of course until you feel the temperature of the water!   Talk about chilly!!  Isabella and I braved it for a short period when we took her to the beach for her first dip in the Adriatic.   Once we arrived in Slovania, the landscape changed drastically.  I felt like we were driving up north, rolling hills, lush forests and grasslands.  It was still beautiful.  

Soon we were arriving at the Italian/Slovanian border and only an hour or so until I reached my mom’s hometown Morsano al Tagliamento.  The last time I was in Morsano, I was 17!   We were only going to be here for a week, but it was going to be a busy one!

More to come in Part 3 of this crazy busy year!

Let’s start from the very beginning…(yes that’s from the Sound of Music)

8 09 2010

Well after taking a few weeks (ok months) off from blogging, which was unplanned by the way, I’m back.   I’ll start from the beginning, which means from the beginning of when Isabella arrived and just give a quick update on things.  So even though it will be a “quickie” blog it will probably be fairly long and have a lot to do with Isabella … you have been warned!

My darling bug was born December 29, 2009 and my mom made it over the same day from Canada to be here for the birth.  Mom had bought her ticket back in August and since my due date was Jan 6th we thought that it was plenty of time for her to get here.  But since I ended up with gestational diabetes, I was induced on the 29th and sitting in the hospital in labour while Frank when to the airport to get her.  So in the end there was a slight panic that they wouldn’t be here, more importantly Frank wouldn’t be there when I gave birth.  After a few hours of labour and no progress, I had a c-section done and Isabella Lina was born at 11:06pm.  My mom stayed and helped out until the middle of February with a small side trip to Italy to visit family there.  I know winter isn’t the best time to visit the Netherlands, but we still managed to take her out a bit.  Isabella’s first trip out of country was to Germany to the big mall in Oberhausen.   It was interesting walking around with a month old baby trying to keep her happy and fed while keeping up with the shoppers.  Our next trip with mom and Isabella was to Volendam.  A quaint little fishing village in North Holland.  It was cute but considering the snow and cold weather it was a bit on the chilly side for us to spend too much time out there.  We did go for lunch at a very nice restaurant and then wandered the streets for a bit.  But with Isabella and the biting cold weather we couldn’t spend the amount of time we would have liked to.  I’d like to go back there one day in the summer to see the harbour and wander through the streets.   So after my mom’s 2 month stay, she headed back to Canada and then it was mine and Isabella’s turn to visit.

In March Isabella and I left to go to Canada for a while, it was a great flight over as she pretty much slept the whole way there.  Not a bad little traveller for only being 3 months old.  When we arrived in at the Detroit Airport (jackasses) the customs line was just ridiculous!!  Thinking she was helping, this one agent pulled me out of  line so I could stand in the “special” line with other people who had kids.  After 20 minutes of NOT moving and watching 15 other people cut in front of me, I finally went back to the original line and was through in no time.   Once we passed the second security control we were greeted with the sight of my baby brother!  This of course being his first time seeing his niece in person.  He was a proud Zio!!!  If you notice, Isabella seems less impressed since I actually woke her up from yet another nap so that I could take this picture.  Once we got the car packed and her buckled in, we headed back to Canada!!   Our first stop…. Isabella’s Great Grandmother!

My nonna is 84 and this is her first great-grandchild, it is also where Isabella got her middle name.  I know my grandmother must have been twitching just waiting for us.  She wasn’t expecting us to show up the same day we landed, but I figured it was on the way home so why not.  Besides I wanted to show off Isabella to her.  How could I not?? Have you seen those cheeks??  The best part about bringing Isabella to her Bisnonna is that I got her to smile, Nonna that is!!  My family will get this one!  Isabella was good with her and gave her a few shy smiles, but she didn’t cry once while she was being held.  During my visit I tried to get to nonna’s at least every other day.  The funny part is that every time we went no matter what time, Isabella would either be asleep or need to take a nap!  So I would take her into my mom and aunt’s old room and put her down for a nap.  But at least Nonna got to hold her for a little while each time we went over.  We also had another special visitor, my brother’s (now fiancée) girlfriend Mary, who funny enough only lives a few blocks from my grandmother!!  She was so excited to meet Isabella, and it was nice to meet the girl my brother is gaga over!  Yes he’s going to kill me for that comment.   Isabella was good for Auntie Mary, and sat quietly for a few minutes.   But I think with all the travelling she finally had enough and it was time to head to Nonna’s house so we  could get ourselves on schedule, considering we had a lot more visiting to do over the next few weeks.   

It was so nice pulling on to my old street, made me realize how much I actually miss Canada, and heck even Windsor.  Coming from the Netherlands and cramped quarters, it was great to see LAWNS and TREES and SPACE!!!  Oh and no damn bicycles trying to run you over!   It was even great seeing my mom’s yappy little dog Kelsey again!  

My first official meal back in Canada was the A&W Mary bought for me! LOL!  Gotta love me some good ole cheeseburgers and onion rings!!  I should have saved the wrapper to frame and hang up here.  My friend Jen lent me all her old baby stuff so Isabella had a bed to sleep in and stroller and all the other cool gadgets to keep her busy on our visit.  Plus Auntie Jen spoiled her rotten with gifts!  I’m not sure who was more excited about Isabella… my family or my friends!  

Next on our “Tour-de-Windsor” was my dad, first time Grandpa!!  Ya ya .. I know.. everyone is a first time thing since Isabella is the first for many things but let me live my moment ok??   Dad met us at the car and carried her inside, then sat there talking to her while she was in her car seat for a good 10 minutes before finally taking her out.  I’ve never seen my dad smile like that before.  He was just as proud and happy as anything.  Isabella went to him without any problems and he just sat and talked and enjoyed the moment.  He also figured out how to put her to sleep by rubbing her temple and side of her face while in the easy chair.   Both he and Leigh Ann were so excited to see her.  Isabella managed to wrap both of them around her finger, she’d whine and there was dad walking around with her.  If she whined even harder Leigh Ann would put her feet under the running taps.  I think my kid is part fish. 

My aunt and uncle also stopped by to see their great-niece!  Uncle Adam did the airplane game with her, apparently he did the same to me when I was a little tyke.  Zia just cuddle and cooed her and Isabella just soaking up all the attention!  I have to say she did pretty good considering the traveling and time difference.

Then with neighbours and friends and family stopping by we had a busy first week in Canada.  It had only just begun!

There were car trips to the States, family get-togethers, play dates with her potential boyfriends!!  There were 5 births from end of August to Mid January between myself and friends,  Isabella being the only girl out of the mix!  My friends Milan and Nikki had the first boy on August 29th, Max.  Then on December 3rd my highschool friend Melissa had Colin, on December 28th the day before Isabella another highschool friend Kim had Charlie, and last but not least my old grade school friend Rosanne has her boy on January 19th!  So as you can see Isabella has her choice of suitors.   It would have been nice to be in Canada while I was pregnant, I felt sort of alone here with no one else to share the experience with.   Since we were all so close I could do the “girly” things with them and even after the fact have the mommy and baby time with my friends and their kids.  

I was able to get some “me” time since my mom would watch Isabella for me and my dad was there also to so it.  I had a great time meeting up with friends and going out for coffee and double troubles!!  My best friend Jen and I spend some good quality time together, shopping in the states and going out for dinner.  My other best friend Michelle came down from North Bay and it was like old times (except for the early curfew) of driving around the city and enjoying a Timmies together.   Sherry and I met up for coffee and dinner and Melissa and I had “playdates”.   I tried to spread myself out as best as possible and I’m sure I missed a few people here and there.  As much as it was fun to see some old friends and old work buddies, the time was just too short.  I was happy I managed to squeeze in a visit with my dad’s side of the family.  It had been a long time since I had seen them all last!  

I was able to celebrate Isabella’s first Easter with my family and we had a great time at the Fogolar.  She also got to meet her Great Great aunt Ada.  She looked adorable in her white dress with purple flowers.  My mom’s neighbour Ana bought her the dress and pretty much spoiled her rotten with gifts.   I was also able to celebrate my first Mother’s day in Canada with Isabella and my family.  Who knows when I’ll be able to do that again. 

Even though I was able to extend my trip (thank you volcano!!) it wasn’t nearly enough time  for me there.   I realize now how much I miss Canada.  The hardest part for me is my grandmother who is getting up in age and not doing well.   I know my entire family misses Isabella and she misses them too.   One bonus we were able to get a 4 generation shot of me, Isabella, mom and nonna.  And we also got one of my aunt in there too.   So after 6 glorious weeks in a beautiful country I had to leave.   Trying to figure out how to stuff all of Isabella’s toys and clothes into one suitcase was a bit challenging and I ended up leaving some behind for my brother to bring for me. 

It was a wonderful trip home. 

**I’ll update the rest of the months in a bit!**

Mini Vacation (part two)

29 09 2009

I’m back!  With the second part of our mini vacation to the UK for a wedding.

On the Saturday of the wedding, we had some time to go to the local shopping mall in Telford… aaaaaaahhhhh a real mall!!  There aren’t any malls where I live and I can honestly say I miss it!  Normally I wasn’t a mall person living in Canada, but after nearly a year of not having one right next door, I miss it.  I had a great time wandering around looking at different things I can’t get in NL, or going into the department stores and *sigh* getting all I need in one stop.  Oh sure we have the V&Dhere in, but it still doesn’t add up to Sears or the Bay, or even (yes I’m going to say it) Walmart.  i enjoyed walking from store to store without being run over by bikes or getting rained on!  Soon though we had to leave so that we could get ready for the wedding.

We arrived at the school a bit early and saw Jonathan, his family and best man taking the official photos.  So I was able to give him his Toronto Maple Leaf gift.  This was my version of something old, something new, and the blue part.  But as I mentioned to Jon, it’s to bad they suck!   [ this part here is for Jonathan – yes I know they beat Detroit the other day –  but  1) it wasn’t a regulation game and 2) Detroit just felt sorry for them losing all the time and threw them a bone].   We then went into the church to wait for the ceremony to start. 

Unfortunately we weren’t allowed to take pictures during the service so I wasn’t able to get Sarah walking down the aisle, or a picture of Jonathan looking like he was going to pass out,  but we did get some nice ones after the service.  The service was lovely, they chose wonderful music and great readings to go along with the day.  I had one reading to do Corinthians 13, and as much as I like to talk, I hate public speaking.  My nerves didn’t get the best of me though and I didn’t rush through according to those to said I did a good job…I think Frank paid them.    Following the service, they had drinks and hor d’ourves on the grass, it was really nice and for the most part I was able to enjoy some of the treats but man I wish I could have had more since the seafood ones looked so yummy!!   While we drank and ate, Jonathan and Sarah did pictures.  Frank was able to get in there and take a few for our books.  J and S The only complaint I had (and it’s not their fault) was the weather…HOLY MAMMA it was cold!!!  I knew I should have brought a sweater with me but of course forgot as I walked out the door.   I’m not sure how Sarah managed to walk around in her sleeveless dress all day but she did!  

Soon after we headed inside for a really nice dinner and some great JAZZ (in caps for a reason – SOMEONE will know why) music.  Then afterwards Jonathan got on stage and played a few diddies for us, I’d show you the video of it but for some reason it won’t up load… grrrrrr…There was dancing, cake cutting, drinks, laughter and all in all good fun.  Unfortunately since my sleep schedule was a ruined thanks to the Calais hotel I couldn’t keep up.  So we left around 11 and headed back to the hotel.  I don’t remember my head hitting the pillow!   All in all it was a great day. 

The next day Frank and I headed to Shrewsbury to do some shopping.  They have a Toysrus and of course I had to go!!  We don’t have one here so I wanted to take advantage of a little shopping!  I bought the baby’s swing and the bumbo from there since it was so much cheaper then buying it here in NL.   After we headed right into the town.

Our first stop was the Shrewsbury Abbey,  for the price of one pound you are able to buy your permit to take pictures.  This was a great thing, I would rather pay the money then be told no you can’t take pictures inside then I have to sneak them.  I love taking pictures of old churches, especially the stain glass.  But on this trip, Frank was the photographer in Shrewsbury so all the pictures you see on either here or Flickr is from him.  I would be great if we could get him a professional camera instead of my crappy little Fuji.  Abbeyalter abbeyabbey

We then decided to go into the main city part to see the castle.  We were going to walk there until we realized we were a little ways out, luckily we were able to find parking!  The town was pretty busy considering it was a Sunday and most lots were full.  We lucked out and found one right next to the Tourist Info center

We managed to get our bearings and headed towards the centre of town where some of the shops were open.  But we didn’t stop there we continued up the hill and went to the castle.  I was excited to see a castle hoping it would be as well preserved with old furniture and the rooms set up like they were back in the day; but this castle had been turned into a military museum.  I wasn’t too keen on going, but Frank wanted to so we ventured inside.  I have to say they did a wonderful job setting it up.  The displays were informative.  But I can only look at guns and flags for so long. Frank wandered I sat.   After the museum there was another area to visit, up to the tower.  Frank ventured up and I tried to figure out what to do next.   castle150I have to say I really enjoyed visiting the birthplace of Charles Darwin.   I found that they had a great selection of stores and restaurants, plus just enough touristy stuff to keep you busy for the day.  Plus on the Sunday they had all these open air acts for either the adults or for the kids.  It is one place I would love to visit again and spend a little more time. 

We left Shrewsbury to head back to Telford again, since we were going to go for dinner with Jonathan, Sarah and Jon’s best friend/man Jim.  We just went to a little pub nearby and had a great laugh.  It wasn’t a long night, I think the weekend caught up with everyone and the call of the bed was too much.  It was still nice to see everyone one last time before we left the next morning.

On the Monday it was going to be a straight through drive,  we arrived at the tunnel early so we were able to get on a different train.  We were 2 hours ahead of schedule.  The drive home was pretty painless, well for me anyways since Frank drove the whole time.   I don’t think we hit traffic until we actually got back into the Netherlands and that was because it was rush hour.  

I have to say it was a great trip, it was nice for us to get away and have some time alone. 

Now to plan another trip to the UK this time I would like to bring the kids and Stoney.

A mini vacation (Part one)

16 09 2009

A few weekends back, Frank and I took of the UK for a wedding of a very good college friend Jonathan and his now wife Sarah.  I’ve known Jonathan since the first day of college when he made some smart-ass remark about me playing the flute (no band camp jokes please) and I gave him an evil look.  Since then we’ve remained friends and he still has most of his limbs attached.  

The wedding was wonderful, the trip there was great minus the nasty, skanky ass hotel that we stayed in in Calais.  Yes Erwin I still plan on beating the snot out of you for recommending the hotel.  Here let me give a mini version of the play by play weekend vacay!!

We left on Thursday and unfortunately we didn’t really leave on time.  As we were packing the car up, Stoney bolted out of the house and jumped into the car into the front seat with a look like ” I’m ready to go!”  I felt so bad for taking him out and putting him back in the house, he really does love his car rides.   But before I could turn around, he was back in the car, this time when I went to get him he jumped in to the back seat, then jumped into the front on to the floor and did the wet noodle so I couldn’t pick him up.  Now I would have brought him with us, especially since Frank’s ex mother in law (stupid @#$%$) cancelled on us 3 days before we were suppose to leave.   But Stoney didn’t meet all the requirements to get over the UK border.   So we left him at home and had Michelle watch him.   Soon we were on the road, until we realized that we forgot the suit and my dress for the wedding; so back we go.

OK finally on the road… the weather was pretty crap out and it stayed that way all through the Netherlands (there’s a surprise), but at least a beautiful rainbow showed up just as we were getting close to the Belgium border.

RainbowSo it was a nice treat to see.  We drove straight through to Calais stopping twice, once for food (Had a craving for MacDonald’s) and once for gas.  But eventually after about 4 hours we arrived at the hotel. 

Now I didn’t take any pictures of this lovely sh*thole (don’t let the pretty website fool you), I think I was in shock more than anything.  The first thing that got me was the outside of the hotel, ugh really?  Nasty as.  But the kickers didn’t come until we got to our room… or cell… first off, NO TOILET OR SHOWER IN THE ROOM.  I may sound like a hotel snob when I say I need a shower and a toilet in my room, well ok.. I am then.   I have issues lining up to go pee at 2 am!  So that set me in a right mood right there.  Next, we asked for a NON smoking room and what do we get? MMMMMMmmmmm cuddling down in to a nice smoke smelling mattress when you are pregnant is so lovely!   But lets not forget the fact that the bed looked like it was a cheap version of Ikea put it together yourself crap that was low to the floor and hard as concrete.   But the best part of this great adventure was the security guard’s dog that he kept locked in his car outside our window all night!  Why was this the best part??? Because the damn thing didn’t shut up!  It barked all night long, even after I went downstairs to complain it stopped for oh an hour then started up again.  So besides not being able to breath, can’t get comfortable, and the dog, we had a GREAT night and approximately 1 hour of sleep.   The only bonus was the breakfast that had fresh baguettes.  We tried to complain to the receptionist, but her only reply was that the non smoking rooms were full (no excuse) and that we had to write a letter.  So we are in the letter writing process now. 

driving to the trainSo after leaving the hotel of hell, we started towards the Euro Tunnel to take us to the UK.   We arrived fairly early, almost an hour before our scheduled train, so we headed into the duty free shop to mosey around and waste some time.  Normally I would be game for shopping, but surviving on one hour of sleep just doesn’t agree with me.   Eventually our letter was called and we headed towards customs, goodbye France and not more than 300 feet customs for the UK, hello UK.  So now I have two new stamps in my passport and the baby has already travelled through 4 countries and she’s not even born yet.   We followed the signs to take us to the train and at 8:20 am it really wasn’t that busy.  Once you get to the train you are instructed to turn your lights on and follow the cars in front of you,  after driving through a few cars we got to the end and stopped.  Put the car in first gear, emergency brake on, windows down and enjoy the 30 minute ride to England.  I personally slept.  The ride is quite smooth and after a while you forget you are on a train.  I have to say, I really don’t think I would travel by ferry again to the UK or vice versa.  I enjoyed the ferry travel but this was so much faster! 

Now it was time to drive on the other side of the street!  I have to say, Frank did pretty darn good with this.  He got the hang of it right away; except for one little oopsy in a gas station but heck no one was coming the other way so he got the freebie.   I think the part that helped was that as soon as we exited the train we pretty much ended up on the motorway, so you didn’t have the cars coming at you from the other side of the street at a close proximity.   As for myself I was a bit out of sorts with it for a little while but soon it didn’t bother me either.   We barreled towards Telford,  on the other side of Birmingham.   It was a nice drive and the weather got a little better the further north we went.  We stopped for gas and some treats  at a Welcome Break and I think I acted like a 2 year old when I saw Glamour and Cosmo … IN ENGLISH!!!!   Plus I had to get some Salt and Vinegar chips…mmmmmmmmm…

After a 4 hour drive to Telford and a bit of running around the city since the GPS didn’t know where she was going, we finally arrived at our hotel.   Oh a real hotel!!   I mean with real people and real beds and toilet and shower INSIDE the room!!  Not to mention a great breakfast the next morning that would run from 6 – 11 !!  Not those dumb ass hours from 5-7… really who the hell wants to get up at 5 am to eat breakfast when they are on vacation???    I was able to shower and then take a nap before heading to Wrekin College for the rehearsal at the church.

After the rehearsal, Frank and I went out of Indian at this great restaurant in Wellington.  The Dhaka Tandoori restaurant, had wonderful butter chicken… granted I was too full from eating the appetizers.  But either way it was delicious.  Then after rolling back to the car we decided to just go to the hotel and relax for the night,  since the wedding was the next day and we knew it was going to be a long day. 

This is the short version of the first two days, I’ll continue soon with the wedding details and our day out in Shrewsbury.

Employed again!!

15 02 2009

Well I’m now employed again!  Thank goodness!  Don’t get me wrong I enjoyed being home and taking time off from the rat race, but to be honest  I miss the race.  OK and my own earned money.  

The domFor the last month and a half I have been running around the Netherlands by train, bike, and foot.  Going to intakes with agencies and on two major job interviews, both of which offered me a position.  But the one that I accepted is  in Utrecht.  Utrecht is a city of about 300,000 and is the capital of the province of Utrecht.  As for distance, it will take me an hour and a bit one way to get to work.  I have a 15 minute bike ride to the station, then 30 minutes by train to Utrecht, then 20-25 minutes to the office.  Once I get to the last stop on the run, I have to hoof it for 5 minutes to get to the building.   It sounds like a lot to do to get to work, but I’d rather be 30 minutes by train away from home then an hour and a bit by train. 

The job in Utercht will be with a consultant company, which is American owned and deals with English for all of its business transactions.  In one way it is good, I don’t have to strain my brain for the limited Dutch that I do know, but on the other hand I won’t have the practice that I need so I can pass the tests.  I will be in Accounts Payables again, which is fine even though I do prefer Receivables.   The company has a very International accounting department.  Actually the entire company is very mixed and if you are Dutch and working there you are the minority.  The accounts payable department currently has 5 people in it, but I believe they are all part time and all leaving with in the next 6 months.   I will be the only full time person there besides my boss.   The A/P is divided by countries and I will be responsible for certain countries from start to finish.   For the first 3 months I will work under contract with the job agency “The Undutchables”, then hopefully if all goes well I will be hired on by the company with a one year contract (very common to work contract here ).   I am currently entitle to 26 vacation days because it is the Netherlands (yes that is one bonus from this country), then once I’m hired on full time, I will get another 4 days to give me 30 vacation days a year.   Plus of course any public holidays.   But since I’m already using up 15 days I think this year is pretty much a write off for time off.   Also like most companies here in the Netherlands, they will pay 100% of my travel expenses.  Which is an added bonus since the train and bus would cost me about € 220, 00 a month.

I’m looking forward to going to work tomorrow, I just need to get use to getting up EARLY so that I can be at the station by 7:30am… yes…. 7:30….. this coming from the girl that used to get up at 8 to be at work at 8:30!!  I will now be the first one out the door and the last one home.   One nice bonus,  dinner will now be ready before I get home!! hee hee. 

Oh for anyone wondering about the other job, it was for adidas in Amsterdam.  Accounts Payables too, but I would be doing mainly expenses for the first few months and then once things were caught up it sounded more  like I would end up being the “do all the other crappy ass jobs no one wants to do” girl.  The building was gorgeous and the atmosphere was very casual.  The hours were extremely flexible so that as long as you put in your 40 hours a week you could come to work anywhere between 7-10.  Sounds perfect right?  Well it was tempting, but after considering the travel time, one hour plus by train and I had to change trains in Utrecht, that was one damper.  Yes the trains are great in the Netherlands, but it seemed that anytime I stepped foot on a train my original one hour trip turned into an hour and a half.  Therefore, having to take two trains it just increases the chances of my trips becoming longer then the original hour.  The slightest thing can throw the trains off schedule,  winds, freezing switches, some idiot pulling the emergency brake (yes that happened with ME on the damn train), a leaf on the track (you think I joke) or the conductor having a bad day and doesn’t feel like going any faster then snail’s pace.  My commute home end up being twice as long.  Plus the idea of becoming the office “go girl” didn’t appeal to me either.  Also no mention of travel expenses being paid, but I would get a 10% bonus.  The bonus even if it were monthly wouldn’t cover the costs of the train travel!!   I get I’m coming in to a new company but I’m too old to be the photocopy person.   So I declined and took the job closer to home. 

So now that I’m going to work full time, I had to change my hours at the school.  Now instead of going 3 times a week from 11-1pm I’ll go once a week for the time being 6:30-8:30 on Tuesdays.  I might increase the time to twice a week later on. 

This is why I haven’t been able to update the blog lately, I’ve been seeing the Dutch country side by train.   

viewNow to back track a bit, a few weeks ago I went to Utrecht for the intake with Undutchables and took advantage of the beautiful sunny day and hiked up the 465 steps to the top of the Dom.    I was able to get some great shots of the city from the top of the tower, once the ass cramp let up a bit and walking was an option again.  I’ve posted more pictures on my flickr site.  The tour was an hour long and the tour guide spoke English for the few English speakers in the group.  The price wasn’t horrible, it was € 7,50 and really I think it was worth it.  The only thing I would change would be the bratty ass teenagers that did the tour with us.  I know kids can be kids, but I don’t recall my friends and I acting like that on our band trips.  They would talk when the bellstour guide was speaking,  spit on the stairs of the tower, oh don’t get me freaking started about  people spitting in this country!!  Actually I’m not even going to bother blogging it, just go to my friend Tammy’s blog and read her entry, she says it all!!!!  If I could have,  I would have gladly thrown them off the top of the tower just to watch them bounce when they hit the street!  But besides that, the Tower is an amazing thing to visit, full of history and wonder architecture.  I would recommend it to anyone that wants to hoof  it up the 465 steps! 

And for anyone from Saxco reading this… Stoney is doing great!  He’s made this house his and he barks when someone rings the doorbell and enjoys the huge grassy field near the house.  Granted now that I’m going back to work, he’s going to be home alone all day (well the cat will be home but they don’t get along).  He’s still my suck though and will wedge his way in between Frank and I on the couch. 

Well I hope I made up for some lost time on here.  I hope to be able to keep up with the blog a little better then what I had in the past, but sometimes life just keeps you busy!!