Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Summer comes to Holland!

Yes, I think I can take credit, at least Thelma thinks so....Summer was late in arriving this year, but as soon as I got to Holland, the weather turned. We had beautifully sunny days, some cool, but mostly fairly warm. We went everywhere we wanted and had only a couple of showers wandering in. Loved it!

I have carried a Dutch passport since the 1970s when I got married. It has been a nice relationship and I want to keep it that way. The Netherlands is a country of open-minded people that, yes, can be a little too liberal sometimes, but is fair and caring in many ways. Not everyone sees it that way, but experience has taught me that you can trust the Dutch, most of the time, to do the right thing. That is not to say I don't despair sometimes because I cannot see their point. Some can be downright stubborn, tight with money, judgemental and rude. On the other hand, I have met people like that everywhere. So, despite my ethnic and cultural background, I am very proud to be Dutch. Intent to be for the rest of my life...if possible!

Back to my recent trip. I had planned this reunion with Thelma for years. She was in Curaçao when I arrived in the early 1980s, left a few months later, came back twice and finally left 15 years ago. We have kept in touch all through those years: from the Salomon Islands to Jakarta, from Malaysia to The Netherlands. She always found a way to contact me...even in the middle of the night with 14 hours difference in time! So, I just knew we had to meet again.

Tried a couple of years ago, but the winter storms that hit Europe kept me in the UK where I was spending Christmas with Camille. Trips to Panama to see my mother were priority, so it got postponed again and again. Until this year: I was going...period! What a great decision it was.

I know Holland, visited several times, so this was not a touristy trip. Most important was to see Thelma, spend time together, reminisce. The weather had been awful she kept telling me, we might have to spend all our time inside. Who cares, I said.....but I brought Summer! It's great to think that, believe me. It sort of a boost to your ego....Mercedes brought the good weather!

Lunch with friends in a sunny garden or a Chinese restaurant, tapas under the bright night sky and delicious dinners at home (Thelma is a fabulous cook) added to the pleasure of my visit. We took walks in small, quaint cities steep in history, visited Amsterdam and the Hague, with side trips to look into the Summer sales for Thelma's retail therapy.

A week past so quickly. We talked ourselves hoarse and still haven't caught up with our lives. Another visit is needed soon. Hopefully, Thelma will come to Miami or we'll meet in Curacao. That would be the best. In the meantime, emails, Skype and...finally....Facebook. I spent an afternoon getting that set-up. It was about time, you don't spill your life on your Facebook wall, but it's a great way to keep up with things. Her daughters approved.

When the day came, I got ready, had breakfast, then Thelma insisted on a light lunch. We took the bus to the train station and I boarded the train for Schiphol. Thelma stayed there at the station waving good bye. Felt sad, but concentrated on the next days with Camille. Enjoy what you have, move forward, it's best. Hard to do, but best......

At the airport, I had a conversation with an attendant at the KLM counter. My Dutch passport always brings on a puzzled look, rapid Dutch questions and a surprised look when they see I can understand and answer their queries. This time, I could say, truthfully, that I am learning to speak the language and will be able to speak it next time....I hope!!! Schiphol was busy and interesting, had a couple of hours to browse about and have a drink. As soon as my plane took off, the skies opened, apparently, and it's still raining. Summer left with me!

Friday, July 22, 2011

My English share of Summer

A long time ago, I read this book about life in India under British Rule. The author had been born and raised there, this was her autobiography of sorts. At the beginning she quotes this short poem, author unknown, that talks about "my share of Summer". Loved the book, the story and kept the phrase. It comes so handy now...

My first week in London had everything: warm sunny days, a couple of rainy and cooler days and all the fun that this city can offer. Bridesmaids was a hilarious as we expected, with more than a hint of truth in the story. The theater lived up to expectations: reclining chairs, drinks and munchies, mostly ladies and a few brave guys. Loved it!

Then we went to visit Tim's mother....well, the day was cooler and we knew rain was coming, but never expected so much! No wonder the train ride to Wendover, in Buckinghamshire went through some of the greenest landscapes I have ever seen. Thatched-roofed cottages, tranquil sheep, gardens everywhere. Rained non stop and got cooler as the day progressed. Had lunch at a pub, went to an antique shop, had tea at Anne's home. She has a cozy cottage, with a beautiful garden. Going back, Camille and I had a grey ride and arrived home in the dark. I thought we have had our "share of Summer" by then. How wrong can one be?

The rest of the week was lovely and gave us time to just enjoy the city, dinner with some friends, drinks with others, some shopping for good measure. We had afternoon tea, inspired by London's fashion Week, it was so unique. Some pampering at Jo Malone and then it was the weekend again. A picnic in the park on Saturday started with sunny skies and warm temperatures, ended with a cooling breeze, dropping temperatures and great memories. A couple friends of Camille organize this picnic every year, first weekend in July in Hyde Park. There is a music festival at this time, so it is a festive atmosphere, really enjoyed it. Took for ever to get home since there were so many people coming out of the concert! Sunday was lovely again, sunny and warm and perfect for a brunch outdoors.

Soon it was Monday, fourth of July, so Camille and I had lunch at the Brown. Then dinner at the pub near the flat and it was Tuesday. Time had gone so fast! It was time to go and see Thelma. A reunion so many years in the making, we didn't dare talk about it too much, just in case it didn't happen!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Back from holiday recount: London first.....

Indeed I made it! The three weeks I spent in Europe were fabulous. First of all, the weather cooperated. It rained for weeks before I arrived in London, same in Holland. Camille and Thelma kept me informed of the nasty developments, but as soon as I arrived, the sun came out!

All was packed and I was as ready as I can be when flying. For days before that, I got things organized at home, did as much as I could before I left. Was exhausted when I boarded the plane with my usual nervousness. Fortunately, I got a great seat where I like to sit, had the seat next to me empty. Had dinner. I had ordered an Asian vegetarian meal, better than expected. Settled to watch "Harry Potter and the Deadly Hallows: Part I"....didn't even finished it! Slept most of the way. Great flight across the Atlantic for a change.

Arriving in London, got through Immigration quickly: thanks to my Dutch passport; the taxi driver Camille had sent was there waiting and in no time I was at her place. So wonderful to see her! It was a bit cool and after a long shower, we just went off to explore the neighborhood. I never sleep right away when I travel to Europe. Ran errands and met Tim for dinner a famous pub off Regents Street. Just the thing! Went home and slept like a baby until late the next morning: no sign of jet lag....

London always offers something new when I visit. I just love this city. This time, it was Camille's new neighborhood South of the river. It is full of quaint shops, little restaurants and galleries, quiet streets and parks. It is not really a part of London I would consider, but have to admit it has its charms. You take the National Rail train to get to Victoria Station, and from there....anywhere! Camille was working, so I went to the supermarket and the bank before going home to cook dinner. It felt just right.

One more day of exploring and I met Camille after work. Tim joined us for excellent sushi at a restaurant just off Berkeley Square. It rained cats and dogs. I was not very happy: had the Summer gone? Oh, well, what to do. At least it was night time and we went home with great plans for the next day. Saturday dawned cool, sunny and beautiful. We left the flat to go to Kingston, small town with big shopping malls right on the Thames, close to Hampton Court.

It was a fabulous idea. After completing some errands, we settled for a lovely lunch overlooking the river, watching people go by, enjoying the sun and the water. The food was food, the company even better. Stayed out until late at night....with the sun still bright. Exhausted, but happy, we got back. Camille and I had plans for Sunday, since Tim was working.

Off to Portobello Road, we went. One of my favorite parts of the city, this is a place I go back over and over. It's better on Saturday, but this Sunday was perfect. It was hot, sunny and the place was full. After a light lunch in a secluded terrace, we walked up and down, watching, looking, shopping and enjoying the atmosphere. As I knew, there have been changes. The Council is determined to make the place over, not always with the blessings of the residents. Still, big developers are pushing their way through and the area will suffer. Looking at it, I remembered sadly what happened to Covent Garden a few years back. Before we left, we purchased tickets to watch "Bridesmaids" at the Electric Theater.....it was to be an experience.