We are just back to Curacao after our epic European tour of two months and we feel like worn out (and old) rock stars. We returned with an extra-large suitcase of boat spares – what else do you expect us to being back ? There is so much boat stuff in The Netherlands and so easily available, it is a shame not to take advantage of the situation. However, summer has turned to autumn, they days are getting cold and so it is really time to return to the warmth of the Caribbean.
The boat is nicely re-painted below the water line and ready to be re-launched, only there is no space in the water at present ! Our Deva is looking a little dusty and needs a good clean, but this is only a day’s work. Meanwhile we wait for a launching date …… and every day we wait, we create more work for ourselves.
Our trip to Europe was well planned and organised some time in advance, but life got in the way and all those plans of “Mice and Men” got a serious disruption. Due to our pro-active approach to health, we scheduled a series of check-ups during our recent visit to Colombia. Surprisingly, Ingrid’s blood test results caused quite a stir in their laboratory and health care backup department. There were indications of a recent heart attack (we did not notice anything out of the ordinary) and we were recommended to seek further medical analysis as a "minor" heart bypass was considered to be required. We were out hiking at 2,500m at the time and not noticing any side effects like dizzyness or shortness of breath, so we were wondering what this was all about. Further blood tests confirmed the same risk and we were becoming a little concerned, so Ingrid re-booked flights for an early trip back to Europe for further testing and analysis in Portugal. The end result was a new handbag and visit to the hair salon as a celebration to a “false positive” and a confirmation that Ingrid is perfectly healthy and not requiring a heart bypass. Our guardian angel is still with us.
The original planning (pre-medical “emergency”) was already quite ambitious with a desire to see as many friends and family as possible. I also needed to mix in a little work on the way with some European Client Visits, as I have the need to earn some money to keep both my Devas in the comfort and life style they are used to. Most travel agents would shy away from taking on a program like ours that in the end consisted of 10 flights, 20 different places to sleep and visiting 7 different countries. However, my personal travel agent, who probably has a little Swiss blood mixed in with her Dutch genes, managed with almost perfect timing to accomplished our goals; we never missed a connection, saw lots of friends, family and a number of key clients. Not everything was plain sailing, but with flexibility and adaptation we managed it all.
At the very beginning one of the main objectives was to visit my sister on her 60th birthday – then at the last minute, in a flurry of wanting to get away from UK weather (no surprises there) and a desire to do something memorable for her birthday in question, she booked a 2-week holiday in Greece. With panache and an organised mind, intercontinental flights were again re-booked and new schedules were made by my favourite travel agent to fit in with the new requirements of my favourite sister.
Three times “keys to the house” were left for us as our hosts could not always be available for the duration of our planned stay as they had other commitments. It is nice to be trusted – or did they just not have the courage to kick us out on the street ? I like to think it was the former.
The planning for our visit to Hungary was the most complicated, as there was no family available for the originally proposed schedule (They were all “away” when we wanted to visit - somebody was trying to tell us something ?). However, an inversion of our schedule resulted in everyone being available at the expected times of arrival, so success was achieved.
The worst was a planned inspection in Abu Dhabi for work with one of my favourite clients. This date kept slipping from the end of September to the middle of October as a consequence of typhoons in Shanghai. Everything kept having to be re-arranged and modified to fit in on the grand scheme. We even re-booked our flights back to Curacao at least 3 times, thank goodness for a flexible KLM and my longsuffering travel agent who will not take NO for an answer.
In addition to “visiting family” a part of the objectives for this trip was to introduce Ingrid to Newcastle, where I was born and brought up, a visit to the beautiful wilds of the Northumbrian country side and then a further extension to discover the Highlands of Scotland, Aberdeen and Edinburgh. This included a visit with Chris my oldest school friend of 50 years and Alex, a colleague and friend from our days in Oman.
Though our trip “Up North” was beautiful, varied, interesting and an enjoyable trip down memory lane, I think that Ingrid may have seen a s side of The North that was particularly unusual. We had (in September) blistering hot and sunny days of 28 – 30 degrees and a need to eat ice cream in Aviemore. Our weather window was perfect !
As the inspection date in Abu Dhabi kept slipping, we decided that a visit to Hungary was a good extension to Ingrid’s exposure to my roots and a good use of our time, rather than sitting around in an ever-cooling Netherlands whilst the days were moving from September to October.
On the way, we managed to pack in a significant amount of cultural heritage with visits to Vermeer in Den Haag where we were able to compare the Original “Girl with the Earring” to some modern versions of the same. (Thanks Luis for the introduction to the photos of Jenny Boot)
The Klimt Collection in Vienna that was followed by some modern art in the Belvedere (some dark, some scary, some depressing and yet thought provoking, as art is meant to be). One exhibition was by a Robert Gabris – interesting what can be done by a man with the same surname. Though the image that remains with me, more than all the exquisite and well known Klimts is one of a vagina that is lined with scalpel blades. There is a serious message there to ponder and shudder over – but the art is having the positive effect of making me think and talk about it. (No image is included, you will have to check this one out for yourselves in Vienne’s Belvedere Palace).
We did enjoy the forays into the art world and were interested to learn how much effort is made to return stolen art from museums to their points of origin – where there is a good and legal claim. It was also interesting to read that The Netherlands makes no claims outside the Netherlands for their art that has been stolen – simply they have enough art in the country and don’t want to chase art that is displayed elsewhere.
We did castles, palaces and churches/cathedrals galore – some say that once you have seen one, you have seen them all. In. way yes, but we had fun discovering the history of Europe – we never cease to learn. One of my favourite adverts for the Vienna War Museum was that “Wars only belong in Museums”. I truly wish that was the only place to find them.
What came through to me, especially from Scotland, was how many young men died for the ambitions of governments, kings and countries. The objectives were always to increase wealth, power and influence. Wealth for a few from death of many – how sad.
We loved seeing our friends and family during our trip, my apologies for those who we missed. We were touched by the welcomes that we received and a little surprised to hear how many of you share and follow our journey by reading our blogs. We hope that we can continue to inspire, inform and entertain as we continue with our voyages of discovery. Though we have worked hard to achieve this, we still feel blessed and humbled that we can actually make such an amazing journey.
Our plan for the season ahead is to remain in the Caribbean. We still have our overall boat power requirements (solar, batteries, hydro) to balance and upgrade for our expected needs, so this seems to be the best area to remain in until this is done.
The hydro generator has been retrofitted by the manufacturers and ready now to re-install. We have new advice on our solar panels and battery banks, so we will try and upgrade accordingly. I only wish that we had all the information at the beginning, it would have saved us a lot of time and money ! But we continue to learn, which is positive.
Our season ahead will (probably) take us to Cuba, The Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, The Virgin Islands and Jamaica. I think we can safely pass the next 6 months around these Islands and not get bored.
Remember, you are welcome to join our adventure, should you have the time and courage to do so. We promise nothing more than a very warm welcome and a level of adventure that will not take you beyond your comfort zone.
To discover where we go and what we will do, either join us or continue following us on our blog.
See you soon !