Wednesday, 18 September 2013

A link to my Facebook account

Well, you can see I don't maintain my blog anymore - but I have kept pace with Facebook fairly regularly.  It may work - an experiment to see if you can read my many posts - hope you can :)

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Seven months later...

Well, home about an hour from taking my second driving exam and I this time passed.  The whole process will have taken seven months. I will still have to wait for another week, but I will then have my very own permission to drive here.

I have already driven here for four months, but last August 6 was the last time I could legally drive here as my 185 days since registering to live here were expired.

I began in July finding a driving school and a good instructor.  I had two attempts at passing the theory (very difficult indeed) then applied for the formal driving test.  I failed the first one, even though I have driven for 42 years without an accident, but passed the second one this afternoon.

Here you cannot drive as a learner with a registered driver beside you - you can only practice with a driving instructor (at 45 euro an hour).  Once my Australian licence was no longer valid, I needed instruction for learning road rules etc, especially dealing with bikes and narrow roads, so I had five lessons before the first exam then another couple before the next one; then there was the cost of the on line time and resource book for learning the theory (examined in a room full of tables, computers and young people) plus after today I have to go again to a local government office with a passport photo and euro 45.50 then wait five working days for the driver's licence to be available for picking up.

Theory book and 15 hours online tuition       70
9 hours @ 45/hr                                      405
Theory exam (x2)                                    120
Practical test (x2)                                    369
Licence issued                                          45

Total cost                                             1009       (That's  A$1296)  

Rene and I are going out tonight to celebrate with a delicious dinner.  I have four more days of midterm vacation to go, so I intend enjoying them since this test was hanging over my head like a dagger all week and was spoiling my days off.


Friday, 28 December 2012

More from the 28th of December post.

I've had to put this new post here because the pictures were all over the place in the first post towards the end.  One of the reasons I don't post often - my patience levels are reduced after a very long post.  My fault - anyway, to continue...
Work Christmas parties and drinks have featured lately - most enjoyable.  Here we were playing a similar pass the present game where we all got to be active and quite vocal - this one was in a pub.  Great fun!

We went to Amsterdam a couple of weeks ago for the Christmas lights canal parade - also lots of buildings illuminated beautifully and carol singing groups on the humpback bridges - seriously Christmas!

Many bands plus impressive 'showy' barges.

Dutch Masters featured on this boat.
Me on duty last day of school - yippee!

Brussels hotel foyer on Monday morning this week - gorgeous! We left from The Hague on Saturday morning to enjoy two nights in Brussels enjoying a comfortable hotel in the Centre plus the Christmas Markets.  Objective - relaxation!  Objective achieved!
Atomium, from Expo 1958.  Well worth the visit.
The wheel above the Christmas markets in St Catherine's Square, Brussels.
Not the best picture but a very clever and original merry go round with all sorts of different things to ride on.
Our hotel was adjacent to La Grand Place where a light and sound show was on every night.
Shoe shine, slippers, weather five star hotels.
We checked out of Hotel Amigo and walked to where we had left our car, in a public car park.  On the Saturday afternoon our updated Tom Tom failed to guide us to the hotel's own car park - the road system had changed twice since March.  Oh well, these things happen.  As it was, it was just 2h9m from car park in Central Brussels to home in Den Haag - great!
Had so much chocolate from parents that I didn't buy any chocolate in Brussles, but it didn't stop me from staring at fabulous displays of the chocolatier's art.
More, more...

Amsterdam Centraal Station was also colourfully decorated for Christmas.

One of my schools on the last day - a short concert of carols and music
with the primary school orchestra and choir. 
The two storey tree was also impressive.

View from the top of Atomium - the distant building is an exhibition building
not from Expo 58 but in fact from 1913.

The restaurant features furniture that is very 1950's.  Comfortable too.

OK, confession...I love food!  No surprise there, but this is the home of Nutella, the famous chocolate hazelnut spread.  You could buy a sweet crepe covered in the stuff but we chose to have a savoury one (Forestiere) with jambon, cheese, mushrooms and dried onions...stunning!  From the markets in Brussels.

Here in The Hague we have construction commenced on Armadeus - a three storey Irish Primark department store with seven floors of apartments above, right in the centre of the city. Ready in 2014.

Marks and Spencer returns to The Hague in 2014 after an absence of ten years in a brand new building currently under construction.  It is diagonally opposite De Bienkorf and promises an infusion of better retail in the city.

Can't wait for the arrival of the 100m Euro new trams to our lines here - also 2014.


We've only had one lot of snow so far, in early December, and it was quite light.  There is sure to be more, but currently it is very mild and occasionally wet - although in the UK they've been having floods.

Looks lovely.  Can't wait for more to come.  It's wonderfully warm and insulated in our apartment where, even after three days away, the temperature was still 17C.  We usually have it on during the day at 21.5C
Well, enough for now.  This Sunday we go to Rotterdam for our third wedding anniversary, coincides with the 10th anniversary of when we met.  We will have a night on the former Holland America flagship SS Rotterdam, now a floating hotel.  We have a package including dinner, breakfast, deluxe suite plus a tour of the ship.  Should be fun!  Wishing you all a very happy and healthy 2013.


Suddenly it's nearly New Year.

I realise it has been a while but I have an excuse...I've been working five days a week for the past term, and quite frankly keeping up to date on Facebook has been all I've been able to achieve.  Coming home tired, having a social life out of school, and generally keeping everything together has kept me well and truly occupied. I haven't even mentioned the emails that I respond to almost daily...therefore I hope you understand.

I'm going to post some pictures and use them to fill in the past two months or so - when you see what's been happening you'll soon agree that a blog update would have been the least important thing on my mind (not that I don't love all my readers).

Kitchen extension finally finished so furniture was rearranged and placed appropriately around the apartment.  The CD collection plus vinyl albums at last in their correct places.

Office finished with two comfortable chairs.

Even now we have to finish the tiling of splashbacks and the dining table lights.  The tiles were selected yesterday (27/12/12) and will arrive soon (we hope).  I want to pick the light/s for the dining room by the end of next week ready for our Australia Day party.

Office is very comfortable and is where I spend a lot of time at home.

At the end of October the family came for Rene's birthday.  Sister in law Svetlana's mother (beside my niece Anneke) was visiting from Belarus. As usual, they come with their dogs, so in the late afternoon we all went to walk the beach - twelve people and three dogs.  That evening we had dinner in Kijkduin after walking from home (3km along the beach).  Great family!

Apartment swallows up visitors easily.

Rene received lots of beers from the Brabant region...and they were all delicious!

Alkmaar - we visited for the day by train. This 16thC building has had many uses in it's life and in the summer it features famous cheese sales in the square.  Plan on going there with our Australian visitors next spring.

Only beer museum in the country - and entry was free with our Museum Card.

Many hofjes are found in The Netherlands. This one was open to visitors during certain hours.  Had a lovely chat with two ladies taking tea in the beautiful garden.  One had lived there for nine years, the other fifteen.A hofje is a Dutch word for a courtyard with almshouses around it. They have existed since the Middle Ages.
A hofje provided housing for elderly people (mostly women). They were privately funded, and served as a form of social security. In the Netherlands there are still a number of hofjes in use.
Hofjes are usually built in a U-shape with a yard or garden in the middle, and a gate as entrance.

This is the view that greets you walking through the main gate.  This is in Alkmaar, but the most are found in Utrecht.

Autumn was colourful, and this Alkmaar windmill shows off this seasonal phenomenon.

That day, after returning from the day in Alkmaar, we met up with Utrecht friends who work in Den Haag for drinks and dinner. Rene has many friends from his university days. Sonje is a charming and energetic mother of two boys and has just changed jobs (still with the government).  Lots to chat about.

Wouter, Sonje's husband, was also at uni with Rene.  He works with an aid agency and is often overseas as well as in The Netherlands. I think I'm looking a bit tired, but my excuse is that it was late, had been a big day and was several drinks into the night.
One Sunday we visited the tram museum, met a Dutchman - an ex Brisbane tram driver (he left in 1969) - and among the old transport items saw the mock up of the new narrow trams coming from Siemens in 2014.  The low floor trams will replace old rolling stock on our #11 and #17 tram routes from middle of 2014.  This will enhance the city's already impressive transport network.
One Sunday we were in the south visiting the Family Dings and after snacks and drinks we walked in the forst with the dogs and when we returned the cafe had food and drinks for us plus bowls of fresh water for the dogs and their own sealed fresh containers of dog biscuits for the hunds.  Nice thoughtful touch - although we are talking about a nation serious about their love of dogs.

Recently took this photo of the low sun streaming across the house.  This 'cruel' sun also shows up any lapses in house cleaning, but luckily the sun rarely stays all day so once the dull grey skies reappear all is forgotten - although the worst dustball culprits get short shrift from the 'Swiffer'.
Sint arrives at one of my schools astride a white horse.  He had arrievd from Spain earlier on a steamboat at the harbour.
A huge assembly for Sint's arrival - lots of community singing and speeches.
Rene's youngest brother, Jack, turned 50.  This was in his garden near Eindhoven.  Family decorated it with pictures of significant events in Jack's life.
Claartje and Jan hang up decorations in the freezing cold.  Luckily we weren't out there for very long.
Jack's main gift/s were sewn into this giant fish (he adores fishing).
Following more snacks the family played the annual Sint game of passing around and opening presents which we had all brought along - you roll a die and according to the number you move , swap or select presents until 30 minutes is up.  Rene and I have been showering with our Nivea Mens Pack toiletries for a while now and we've enjoyed the litre stone bottle of spiced liquor from Brabant (delicious over ice).  It's only 13%.
Late November saw Sinterklaas appear and so we participated in all sorts of fun things to keep the excitement just below boiling point - this Monday morning He had visited over the weekend and his offsider Zwarte Piet had exhibited his mischievious side by messing up the room whilst Sint had placed a mandarine and chocolate Sinterklaas in each and every shoe left by the children.
This was my version of shepherd's pie made with Dutch minced lamb and leeks in the potato on top - it was really delicious and illustrates the fact that I can cook, but prefer not to. 
Piet Gym features every year in Dutch schools and is a training course set up to practice scrambling across rooftops.  Cute!
From another angle.
You also have to clamber up the slope - the kids absolutely loved it.
Excited children scrambling for their shoe.