Saturday, July 30, 2011

If you’re not Dutch you’re not Much!

Angela writes:

If our visit to France was about us being tourists, and our visit to Germany was about visiting friends, than Holland was all about enjoying the company of our dear family!  Although no trip to The Netherlands could be complete without a quick trip to Amsterdam.
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We arrived via train to Den Bosch where my dad’s cousin Maria and her husband Hans greeted us with open arms and the customary triple kisses on the cheek.  I last saw Hans and Maria in Ontario during the summer of 2009 but it was as if no time had passed at all.  I guess that’s a luxury of being with family. After stopping off at their beautifully renovated heritage home in Erp, and meeting their 7 month old puppy Yarah, we were whisked away to the Uden fair for food and laughs and more family.  We met my dad’s other cousin Hariet and her daughter’s Louisa and Simone a few days later.
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We tried oliebollen (a deep fried dutch donut covered in icing sugar) and dubblesaut dropes (double salted black licorice) and washed it all down with some lovely port.  I even ran into another cousin Barry who was also at the fair who didn’t know that I was in the country yet. I’m glad we recognized each other after 19 years!  I’d like to think we haven’t changed much.  I met another cousin of my dad’s, Maria’s brother Martin and his girlfriend Herma.  We have now nick-named him “Juke-box Marty” after I asked him if he had learned to speak English after singing English songs.
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In between the showers of rain we took a field trip to Kinderdyke for a lovely walk among the windmills. We also received a personalized tour of the mill that Hans works at that produces pig and chicken feed.  A very high tech process all managed by machine and computers.

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It was with a heavy heart that we parted company with Hans and Maria with promises of seeing each other in Canada soon.  Daryll and I were warmly welcomed into our second home with Willy and Jose who I had last seen in Ontario in the fall of 2008.  They had arranged to have their sons and their families home for a joyous Sunday night dinner.  We laughed, told stories and shared photos well into the evening.
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Willy & Jose, and dogs Triksy and Torsca
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Barry, Karin & baby Minke                   Roel, Lizet & baby Teun
Next time we visit Holland we will have to make sure it coincides with a performance from my cousin Roel’s Metallica tribute band “The Unforgiven” who plays throughout Europe. 
We had a wonderful visit over a couple days and tried more yummy new foods like raw herring and bitterballen as we strolled through the quaint little city of Oss.
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Willy and Jose kindly drove us to the airport in Eindhoven for our flight to London.  It was a tearful good bye with promises of seeing each other in Canada soon.
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“The Hills are Alive….”

Angela writes:

Our visit with Paul made Daryll’s BWM dreams come true and on our final weekend with him, Paul made my dreams of visiting Salzburg, Austria come true. Not only did I want to see the beautiful Alps but I wanted to wander the streets of the city where my favourite movie “The Sound of Music” was filmed.  I suspected that there would be hordes of tourists trying to invoke Maria while strolling through the city, like I secretly was, but  the presence of the famous musical was subtle and only the bike tours offered through the country side really focused specifically on the Sound of Music sites.
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The Alps “Climb Ev’ry Mountain”

The fountain Maria and the von Trappe children danced around singing the “Do-Re-Mi” song.
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The garden where Maria and Captin von Trapp dance face-to-face, Schloss Mirabell Gardens.

 The roads through the alps were every motorcyclist’s dream come true and next time we are there we vowed to be on two wheels!  Although riding in Paul’s luxurious BWM was a close second in great experiences.
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Thursday, July 14, 2011

BMW Welt

Daryll writes:

We’ve spent the last few days with Paul and his lovely wife Kathy and they have been absolutely incredible with their hospitality – another one of our extended families.  Even though just returning from a weekend trip to Berlin, Paul has made the time to show us around Munich and some of the smaller towns in the area to see the sights.  Germany is such a beautiful country and each day as we travel around by car, I wish I had our bikes with us as the roads are amazing, especially the smaller country roads.  No potholes insight and some nice twisties.  Well next time!  The country side is lush with trees and agriculture and there are quaint little villages as far as the eye can see.  There is so much history in this country that a few weeks isn’t enough to see everything and we would have to come back.  The people we have met are just so nice and if I could only speak the language, would definitely rank high on somewhere were I’d settle.  Spanish was so much easier to pick up listening to other’s, but German is another story all together.


No trip to Munich is completed without a tour of the BMW Museum, BMW World and the BMW Munich plant.  Paul used to work for BMW and arranged everything for us.  I was like a kid leading up to Christmas for a few days prior to us visiting BMW World and boy was it impressive.


We started in the Museum and even though the motorcycle part of the museum was closed due to some flood damage a few days prior, it was impressive.  From seeing the Art Car’s painted by world famous artists to some of the cars from yester-year to the Hydrogen Car, it was impressive.

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Our next stop was a tour of part of the Munich Manufacturing Plant to see how the cars are built.  It was incredible to see all those robots moving around in such close quarters and handing parts to other robots to perform the tasks that they are programmed to do.  As you would expect, no photography was permitted.  As we walked through each of the different stages in the manufacturing process, I didn’t imagine the scale of production and the output of such plants.  Even Angela enjoyed the 2 hour tour.  It’s something that I won’t forget – thanks Paul!  We were also fortunate to meet Paul’s and Kathy’s children (Claudia & Tobias) for dinner.  Tobias has in my opinion the best job in the world – he is an engineer and developer for the motorcycle division with BMW.  Part of his job is to test out the parts that he has designed and every so often will get new bikes to ride.  He is leaving on a 3 week trip to the UK in about a weeks time on a 1200RT – tough life.  I hope that some day the entire family travels to Canada so that we can show them part of our country.

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An Extended Family in Germany

Daryll writes:

I think I may have brought this up previously, but motorcycle travelers that meet on the road share a bond that is indescribable and exceptionally hard to explain.  I think it is due mainly because only they understand the difficulties, the challenges, the hardships that one endures by being on the road for an extended period of time.  It is this bond that brings fellow travelers together and regardless of how much time you may have spent with them, they become automatic family.  It is this family that spurred our travel to Germany.

We left Paris on an overnight train to Berlin.  We thought we were wise to choose the seat option cabin, but maybe we should have gone with the sleeper cabin as it wasn’t very comfortable sleeping sitting upright in a 6 seat cabin with 5 other people.  There was one guy who tried to sleep and slipped completely off his seat.  He later left and decided to lay down in the bicycle storage compartment.  I’m sure he had a better sleep than us. 
We were going to visit our friend Wolfgang in Potsdam, a town on the outskirts of Berlin.  We had met him on our last day in Buenos Aires.  He had arrived the night before to the hostel we were at so only spent the morning chatting about our different experiences and swapped contact details.  Wolfgang was kind enough to meet us at the Berlin Hbf. train station as it would have been a confusing few hours for us to figure out the trains and subways to get to his place in Potsdam which used to be in East Germany till the unification.  He works as a chef and worked a night shift the night before and hadn’t slept and had to wait an hour for us as our train was delayed and he even took the next 2 days off so that we could spend together.  What an amazing guy.


The afternoon that we arrived, Wolfgang picked up his bike (a Honda Transalp) after having some work done on it in preparation for his next trip.  He is hoping to leave in October to ride to India – what a lucky guy.  He has his panniers already packed and gear ready to take off.  It made us extremely envious as we don’t have our bikes with us anymore.  Wolfgang explained the transport system to us and we managed to pick up a tourist map of the city and set out the next day to see the sights of Berlin.

Our first stop was the Reichstag, which now houses the German Parliament followed by the iconic symbol of East and West Germany, the Brandenburg Gate.  Thousands of East Germans flocked over to the West in November 1989 when the Berlin Wall started to come down.


After visiting the National Holocaust Museum in the centre of Berlin which was a sombering experience to say the least.  That afternoon, we took another train towards the East Side Gallery – a stretch of the former Berlin Wall where artists were given a section to express themselves.

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That evening Wolfgang invited some friends over together with is son and prepared a lovely meal for all of us and we spent the evening going through his photos of his South America trip with lots of German beer.  Seeing his photos brought back a lot of good memories.


From Potsdam, we booked a train to take us to Erfurt (in the country) to visit another friend of ours Lutz who spent a few weeks with us in Vancouver before heading south as well.  We had last seen Lutz in Ensenada, Mexico for a day and had always known that we would visit him wherever he was in Germany.  It was by pure coincidence that the weekend we had arranged to spend with him was also his birthday and he had some of his friends from his home town visiting to celebrate as well.  So it was a filled house with lots of German/English translating going on together with German beer while we watched the women's world cup game between Germany & Japan.  Germany unfortunately didn’t make it through to the semi’s.  No riots in Germany though!


While somewhat planning what we wanted to do in Germany and the family we wanted to visit, we had arranged with another biker friend of our’s Paul who we had first met in Quito, Ecuador to pick us up from Erfurt so that we could spend a few days with him and his wife Kathy in Munich.  It was our first experience on the autobahn and cruising at a comfortable 160 km/hr didn’t seem that fast after all.


More Germany photos added to my facebook page.
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Monday, July 4, 2011

J’adore Paris!!

Angela writes:

As we flew to France via Dubai on Wednesday and looked out the window at the harsh desert terrain below us, we were thankful not to be riding our motorcycles in the unforgiving heat.  Arriving in Paris we were welcomed by lush green fields and sweet smelling summer breezes as we walked off the airplane – can’t believe it didn’t get dark until 11 pm – j’adore summer!  J’adore Pareeee!!!!

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We have spent the last five days walking the streets of Paris, strolling along the Seine River, crossing over ancient bridges, visiting churches, palaces and entertainment districts while drinking in all the history and architecture of this incredible city. We have dodged Romanian pickpockets, have navigated miles and miles of underground subway and have gorged ourselves on baguettes and fine wine!

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We visited the Eiffel Tower both day and night, but decided not to go up it as the line ups were several hours long.  I did stand in line for an hour waiting for the Louve Museum to open and then I immediately made my way to the salon where the infamous Mona Lisa was on display.  I was one of five people standing in front of her two minutes after the museum opened it’s doors and I had the liberty to see her from each angle, as her smirking eyes followed me in all directions right – center – left – center, up and down.
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On Sunday we made our way to the Pere Lachaise Cemetery where a security guard handed us a map of all the famous grave sites.  We started by visiting Oscar Wilde whose tomb was decorated in thousands of lip-sticked kiss prints from his fans.

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We then made our way to the grave site of Jim Morrison, lead singer of the Doors where we discovered that it was the 40th anniversary to the day of his death!  We squeezed our way through the crowd to the front of the barracked headstone where there were flowers, cards and lit candles on his grave.  A group of guys were wearing black memorial t-shirts and most people stood there smoking an honourary cigarette.  There were some police officers present trying to get people from sitting or standing on the graves surrounding Jim Morrison but for the most part it seemed to be a peaceful and sharing atmosphere.  

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