February 24th, 2017

Adventure, food, Just things, Scotty Hilander, Uncategorized

Last night I made a pilgrimage to the area I am moving to. I wanted to get here so I could get up and hit it early to search for a new place to live. I wanted to get something as soon as possible so I got a room for both days in case it was necessary. I also did not want to fight any weekend traffic. And there is that relaxing thing.

It ended up both days were not even necessary.

After some breakfast I went riding around to look at one property that I had the address of to see where it was located. I contacted the owner and it ended up being the second one I looked at. I had an appointment to see a cabin mid-morning so I got an appointment to see this one afterwards.

I wasn’t sure about the cabin until I walked in it and it was pretty nice. I went and looked at the other one and it was very nice as well. It was a basement that has been converted and they did a fantastic job with their remodel. Very comfy and bright.

It was a difficult decision to choose; one has more privacy and has a place to park the Scotty and securely keep my canoe. One has a great location in town and was something I really would have liked and wanted – walking distance to a pub, groceries, and a fantastic bakery. Both are still too small for all the things I have in storage though.

It was very difficult to choose between them but I decided to go with the first one I looked at. It is a small cabin but has a lot of amenities – laundry, really nice kitchen and even a little fenced-in area I can sit and relax in privately. Keeping my trailer there is definitely going to be handy and cheaper (no storage lot fees!) and when I want to go someplace I can easily load it up and have it ready to roll quickly. The neighbors are supposed to be really nice, the beach is close, and so are groceries. It has several windows all around and even a skylight. It is also bigger than the second one and even a little cheaper.

To celebrate, I went to the aforementioned awesome bakery and grabbed myself two croissants for breakfast tomorrow (went and picked up sliced prosciutto and gouda too!). I also am finishing up my lunch leftovers from a new Thai place I tried for lunch. Really good place to eat and a friendly and fun staff.

I’ll be moving over here over the next few weekends. At least I can leave stuff in storage over there for now so I am not rushed. With my apartment being so small I don’t have a lot of stuff in my apartment and I think it should all fit in the cabin. It will be a few trips though. Problem is it’s also going to be tough because even though I don’t have much in my apartment – I use nearly all of it constantly. I cannot get it all in one load so I guess I’ll move my bed earlier and use my airbed in my apartment.

Another cool thing is I won’t need to rent another hotel room when I come over since I will have both places for a month. It will save some money and make moving much easier and less hectic.

It looks like I’ll be trying to get rid of some stuff out of my storage unit. There is stuff in there I might not need but most everything in there I can use – it’s not that I just want to keep stuff. If you have followed my blog you know about my downsizing efforts. I want to get a smaller storage unit so getting my canoe at the cabin will help with that and it will save even more money.

I’ll be working where I now am until I start the new gig. No more breaks or vacations until probably the Fall so my work season is going to be long this year. It’s going to be an exciting one too.

The Next Chapter

Adventure, Just things, Uncategorized

One closes and another begins…

Today I was offered (and accepted) a new job in a different area in Washington so it looks like I’ll be moving in the not-too-distant future.

It’s always a mixed feeling when you decide to make that change. First, it is strange to leave a place you like working at and the people you work with. Then there’s the moving, starting over in a new place, learning a new job, meeting new people…the pain-in-the-ass list goes on. Usually we change places we work for bad reasons – the boss is an asshole, better pay, etc. Not the case this time though.

I will certainly miss working with and seeing my current co-workers. My supervisor and the people in charge are good people and a pleasure to work for. They are all some of the best at what they do and it makes it a little harder to leave. This is probably the biggest drawback of seasonal work.

It is a strange concept speaking so freely to your bosses about going someplace else to work but it is the nature of the business I am in and it is quite nice to have that kind of relationship with an employer. You are probably wondering “But, Shawn, why leave?”.

I need to look at the future. I work with some fantastic people in a great place but this new opportunity could really have some bigger and better opportunities down the road for me so it positions me pretty well for that possibility.

The opportunities it opens up are one big plus. It is in an area I want to live in (but they all have been; I won’t move someplace that sucks for ANY job). I am not really looking forward to hunting down another place to live, but have already begun the search (last week!). I am definitely finding more options than the last time I moved so that is reassuring.

So here we go…another new address, another new position in another new place. It’s really not the kind of lifestyle for everyone but it works for me. It is very exciting and challenging and it gives me freedom. Perhaps this is the last place I will work and live and that would be okay – but I cannot say that for sure and that is okay too. Being fully retired is not that far off one way or another and that’s a nice feeling to have, and living my life on MY terms doing something I enjoy in a place that I enjoy living is a pretty nice feeling to have as well.

European Tour 2018 – Wrap-up

Adventure, food, Just things, Travel, Uncategorized

We came crashing back down to Earth pretty hard after we got back to Seattle. We got to our hotel and barely made it to 8:30 PM. We had to run out to get a bite to eat but couldn’t muster up the energy for anything more than that before falling asleep. After being up for about 20 hours straight flying home, the Sandman dumped a bucketful on us and we were out.

Jim got on the plane and went back home Wednesday morning; I got to my apartment and have been taking care of some personal business needing my attention. I did not want to do that necessarily but it could not wait and needed to be handled. I started back to work today and it was good to have things taken care of before I went back.

I wanted to post our experiences in different places we went, mentioning some names and give some businesses their due while we were out and about. I would have rather added these places into the posts as we travelled, but trying to do it on my phone was tedious; it is much easier on a desktop.

I won’t get into comparisons, differences and politics between our experiences in these different countries and the US; I do have my opinions on these things but they won’t be published on here. Everyone we ran into everywhere we went were extremely helpful and friendly to us without regard to our nationality. People from all sorts of religions and ethnicity ate together in the same restaurants and sat next to each other on the buses and trains without rude comments or slurs. A few people wanted to ask questions – out of simple curiosity – about what is happening in the States, which we did respond to truthfully and without hesitation.

Language – Western Europe is more “English-speaking” than it was the farther east we went but we did fine. I tried to order my food in the local language if I could wherever we were (which was obviously not a problem in the U.K.!), and the people were helpful and smiled when I tried to pronounce something and couldn’t quite nail it – at least I attempted it. I tried to use local words for everything I could since you cannot (and shouldn’t) take for granted everyone knows English. Some people here in the US expect (actually demand) English to be spoken when here so it works both ways when visiting another country. Most people we met could speak multiple languages and with the different countries so close it is a necessity. They are taught multiple languages in schools from an early age. For example, it was either Belgium or Luxembourg (cannot remember for sure) who used Dutch, French and German languages. Notice that English was not mentioned.

Most everywhere we went there is serious consideration given to real energy conservation. The hotels all had LED lighting, and you had to use your room keycard to turn on the electricity in your room. You take it out to leave and the lights shut off. Sometimes the steam heat doesn’t come on until it gets to be a certain temperature in the office downstairs.

Every city in Europe was very clean pretty much everywhere we visited. They run sweepers and people pick up trash daily. There are trash receptacles and ash trays all over so there is no excuse to litter (there is no excuse anyway – you had room to bring it so you take it back). Even the train stations were clean and felt safe.

I have been asked about my “favorite part” of the trip or “favorite city” we visited. It was all my favorite as each experience was unique. We are really all the same on this planet and I think that everyone should do a trip like this to see what it is like in the rest of the world. It is good to experience other cultures and talk with the people. I really had no idea about what to expect or have any real preconceived notions about what we would see on the trip. It was ALL a life-changing experience for me and it ALL was amazing and eye-opening. I took several things away from this trip personally. I cannot wait to go back again in the Fall, and would love to go stay for a few months at some point to really immerse in it.

Now for some other thoughts on various things we did, places we stayed and ate at. This list is not a comprehensive one.

AIRLINES

Icelandair – inexpensive and great service, friendly staff

KLM – great service and friendly; they gave us free food on-board even in the cheap seats!

Aer Lingus – very friendly staff and great service

easyJet – gate personnel were not very organized; late leaving Edinburgh

All of our flights were smooth, planes were clean, flight crew were friendly. We did have to load and unload on the tarmac on most of our flights so be prepared for that! There are so many budget carriers and easyJet was one of those that we were on. With only a carry-on bag we had no problems. I would fly them again in spite of the disorganized gate personnel.

TRAINS

Eurostar – high-speed between London and the Continent; f-a-s-t, smooth and quiet

Eurail – Eurail is NOT a rail line; it is a pass that you can use on almost all of the many, many trains around Europe (NOT the UK, though). It is a pretty good bargain given the flexibility even though it may seem steep at first glance.

The public transit in Europe is amazing. You can get pretty much anyplace you want to go and several options to do so reasonably. Do not rent a car unless you really need it; parking is OMG expensive WHEN you can find it and London has a “Congestion Charge” for about 35 Euro a DAY!

HOTELS

Hotel d’Amsterdam – guess where

Sheldon Park Hotel – Dublin

Travelodge – Edinburgh

Point A Hotel – London

Comfort Inn – Brussels

Hotel Bristol in Luxembourg

Ibis Hotel – Köln, Germany

Ambassador Suites – Antwerp

Hotel CC – Amsterdam

Van der Valk Hotel Schiphol A4 – Amsterdam

Just a blanket statement for these: I would easily stay at any of these hotels again and I actually plan to when I go back. Clean, quiet, and decent rooms for a decent price and a few even had breakfast included. Rooms are much different than here in the States so it may test your comfort zone. Americans are not used to rooms like these so expect beds right next to each other in small rooms and probably steam heat. No washcloths in Europe either!

FOOD and PINTS

Costa Coffee – across Europe; their version of that unmentionable US brand but has good coffee unlike that US brand

Co-op markets in London

Au Pains de Papy bakery in London

le Chambord in Brussels

Casa Mamma in London

The Albanach in Edinburgh

The Scotsman in Edinburgh

MISCELLANEOUS

I bought two books by Rick Steves, which I mentioned previously in an earlier post. I found his books to be very helpful for the “real” traveler – one who wants to see the real Europe and not just the touristy hot spots and attractions. From my previous travels I knew many of his tips already (packing, no checked baggage, etc.), but I think his books are very good for everyone to read and I definitely learned a few things from reading them.

We used backpack luggage to do our trip – one apiece. We had plenty of room and the only problem with it was the weight restrictions of the airlines. Our bags alone weighed 2.3 kg, and the total limit was 10 kg so there was no bringing back souvenirs on this trip (except for a 500g package of smoked cheese!). Following guidelines in the book we packed the same amount of clothes recommended and did laundry once along with washing and drying a few items in our hotel rooms. The more you pack, the more you have to carry. Next time I hope to use an airline that will allow more weight carried in luggage. I do plan on being more stationary and can ship items home.

There were so many good places across Europe to eat. We saw American fast food restaurants everywhere and that is a horrible thing to do to a society with such an amazing centuries-old food culture. The foods we ate tasted fresher and more delicious than similar things we have eaten in the States. The bakery items are indescribably good and the selection is huge.

All told since Jim arrived in Seattle we walked 103.15 miles in 16 days including Seattle and Europe. One day was over 10 miles alone. Our average over the entire time we were together was somewhere around 6.4 miles a day. Not a bad amount of exercise!

MAPS

Here are some simple maps to show our route. It may appear we did nothing but go, and I guess that’s true, but it was not at all hectic. The planes and trains were only an hour or two apart between cities we went to; much like it would be getting around in the northeastern US. We found we had time to see and do things and get a good taste of the places we went but not get too run down in the process. When I go back again I will break it up and do continental Europe in one trip and the U.K. in a separate one to save time and travel expenses. It would also give you more time to get a car and get away from the cities to see the countryside.

If you have any questions about our adventure feel free to send me a message and I will respond.

Europe – Day 13 – February 6th, 2018: The Long Trip Home…

Adventure, Just things, Travel, Uncategorized

Today it’s back in the air and back to the States. What an adventure it has been and I could stay for months and see and do more. We have seen and done so many things; it’s been just amazing. And, of course, our last day was was looking to be nothing but sunshine and we have to leave. Cold (frost on the cars), but sunshine.

We haven’t seen the sun much over the last two weeks. Doesn’t bother me too much since it’s quite a bit like Seattle in terms of weather and I’m used to it. Don’t get me wrong…it IS nice to see the sun!

It’s the same flying routine as on the way here – a very long journey; we have two planes and 11 hours of flying (first leg back to Reykjavik is 3 ½ hours, the second leg to Seattle is 7 ½ hours) to get through,  then Jim even has another 3-4 to get home on Wednesday. Plus the time spent in airports.

Even though the time change was 8-9 hours ahead we seem to have adjusted well on the way over. Perhaps it was the excitement of doing this trip that kept us from jet lagging too badly. When we get back to Seattle it may be another story though. We will catch up to ourselves somewhat on the flight back but I am not sure how we will feel.

I guess we will know in short order…

 

Europe – Day 12 – February 5th, 2018: One Last Time…Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Adventure, food, Outdoors, pictures, Travel, Uncategorized

This sign actually sums the city up very well

Unfortunately our Winter European Tour 2018 is winding down. We have just one more night before we head back across the pond tomorrow afternoon. I know Jim is anxious to get back home to his family; as for me, I would like to stay longer. As it is working out, though, not long after my return I start back to work again. I’ll be working on setting some money aside into savings and also for the next trip later this year.

We got to our final hotel and we’re fortunately able to check in early; we can freshen up and leave our bags and hike light. It is close to the airport with a free shuttle so we took the train out of Amsterdam Centraal to the airport, the shuttle from there to the hotel, then went back to the city to take one more walk around, sightsee and eat.

It got pretty cool and windy, then it got outright cold (30s) and rush hour was starting so we decided to go back to the hotel. One last train ride for this trip gets us back and we are getting into travel mode for two flights tomorrow to get back to Seattle.

Our hotel is a really nice one. The room has a nice view across fields that are used to grow tulips in season.

img_0598

Van der Valk Hotel A4, Schiophol Airport – Amsterdam, The Netherlands

I’ll be posting a wrap-up later of our trip with some more details, comments, observations and reviews of some of the places we stayed and ate at.

What a trip it has been.