Monday, November 7, 2011

Weekend Shenanigans

Our search for my husband's touring bike has been in vain. We've completed our own thorough research and visited several shops off the beaten path in the Netherlands. Saturday we ended up in Heerlen, a nice city with a very active shopping district. Our luck with driving in the Netherlands has been the same. While trying to park we drove down a one-way street. Twice.
My husband was making a left turn onto a tiny side street when he suddenly braked and said, "Oh wait! This has a Do Not Enter sign!"
"It's not a Do Not Enter sign," I replied. "It's a No Stopping... or Restricted No Stopping. Either way, you can drive down the street in this direction. Just don't stop."
He stopped and made a 3-point U-Turn Austin-Powers-style.
We eventually found a parking spot but we couldn't figure out how to add more than a half hour to the meter so we made a note of our time limit and set off to the bike shop.

The shop ended up being in a large shopping mall. It took a long time for us to find the actual store because we were confused by the information panel. Finally we found it but we were disappointed with the selection. Most of these bikes were of mediocre-quality and came without a lengthy warranty.

We decided to try one more shop in Heerlen. Once we got in the car, Blanche (our GPS) advised that the next shop was within walking distance of where we were. By that point we'd already left our parking spot and since we were having problems distinguishing one-way streets, we just continued forward. We approached a roundabout (no surprise there) and entered the circle. It is our understanding that once in the roundabout, you have right-of-way. Out of nowhere, a Playmobil-sized car zoomed into the circle in front of us. My husband slammed on the brakes as the other driver cheerfully waved.

After regaining composure, we proceeded to our exit. Another problem with being unseasoned drivers in the Netherlands is that we don't understand all of the rules well enough to know if someone else has broken them. At different intervals throughout the rest of the day we said, "I wonder... did that guy have right-of-way?" Perplexing.

We arrived to the location of the next shop and it was apparently located in another shopping mall. We walked around the mall for 10 minutes searching for the store with no luck. It was past lunchtime and we were hungry and confused so we decided to go to Sittard and try to locate a bike shop we've heard about there.

Having a Grimbergen in Sittard
Once we walked into the square, we realized that the day was beautiful and sunny and it would be a shame to continue our fruitless search. We plopped down at the nearest cafe and proceeded to people-watch for the next few hours. The pace here is so relaxing. Everyone seems to enjoy their food, drink, and socializing. I can definitely get accustomed to Saturdays like this.

We have also been searching for two desks. We were originally thinking of going to IKEA but we decided we'd rather have something less modern. I combed through the base's version of Craigslist and came across two perfect desks listed by the same seller. We had been playing cat-and-mouse all weekend but I finally touched base with her yesterday afternoon and she invited us over to take a look.

Their house was huge and filled with wonderful antique furniture they have collected throughout their time here and also when they were stationed in Italy. The age of these items was mind-blowing. They had some pieces from the 18th century! Also of note was their extensive scotch and wine collection. We all ended up in their basement cellar where we eventually ate dinner together and sampled some of the libations.

This enchanting couple offered us lots of invaluable advice about living in Europe and military life in general. Having been in the military for over twenty years, they have certainly experienced ups and downs but I think they are un-jaded and I find that very refreshing.

Toward the end of our 7-hour sojourn, I asked them to impart some advice for the newlyweds. Without hesitation, the husband said, "Don't ever think you're the one always giving in. When it gets to the point that you believe you're always the one settling, making a concession, indulging your partner; well, that's probably when you're giving in the right amount. You might think the grass is greener somewhere else but it isn't. Stick together."

I think that's solid advice from a couple who has been married thirty-one years.

Needless to say, we bought the desks and she will be delivering them at the end of the week!

I love finding treasures (people and desks) in unexpected places.


  1. You always make me smile, when you write about riding your car in Holland :D
    The rules are pretty much the same, like in Germany. I always stop for the bikes, no matter if they are suppossed to give you way, it is likley that they won't.
    If you are in a roundabout and the peak of the triangle is in your direction, you have to give way, but as I said, I always stop...
    If you are in Heerlen again, we could meet, during the week I study here and I am only home in Geilenkirchen on the weekends.
    I think it is pretty impressive how you two handle everything here!

  2. Thank you for the driving tips! Sometimes I think we should have been given a guide to driving in Holland, in addition to taking the German test.

    I would love to meet with you in Heerlen sometime! We will be moving to our house on Friday and then I imagine we'll be spending a lot of time in Sittard and Heerlen.

    I sent a message on Facebook!