Homeward Bound

The last few days have been busy ones getting Tulip ready and packed. Steve cleaned the outside of Tulip because if she arrives dirty in Halifax we will be charged $300.  I don’t want to jinx ourselves but unless someone literally tears Tulip apart, nothing should be missing. I’ll explain that after we have picked her up. And Steve removed the spare tire and roof vent because that lessened the dimensions and saved us 200 EU. He chained the bike, tire, and new chairs to the toilet.  It’s odd but we got very attached to our six day home in Zeebrugge.  Normally, after two days somewhere we can’t wait to leave but this little spot was so cozy and we loved watching the ships, the cranes, the people…………everything really. 
It turned out to be very emotional leaving Zeebrugge this morning because we made some good friends in several countries and it’s hard to think we may never see them again.  But I plan to entice them all to visit us in Manitou Springs by attempting to do a post of our town that will be irresistible.
We dropped off Tulip at 10 am today and thanks to some fantastic new friends, John Luc (Belgian) and Therese (French), all went smoothly.  They have a big American Class A motorhome and were parked across from us the past  6 days in Zeebrugge.  John Luc works for one of the shipping companies and volunteered (actually he insisted) on accompanying us to Wallenius Lines where he marched right in ahead of everyone in line and got someone to help us get processed.  Then he and Therese took us to the train station in Blankenberg, about 5 miles away.   John Luc knew to ask for a promotion fare that was 1/3 what we paid in April!  He and Therese stayed on the train platform until we pulled out. I have to say that more than one person was shedding tears.

Steve gave John Luc several cans of flammable type items that we weren’t allowed to have in the motor home.  I wanted to do a trade for their cute dog, Sheba, but it didn’t work.  However, John Luc and Therese treated us to a little going away celebration last evening with wine and other goodies. 
This isn’t a very appealing picture but it’s where we are right now. This is the view from our room right across the street from the airport. The Sheraton is the only hotel near the airport, otherwise we would have to take a taxi from somewhere else.   

Zeebrugge, Belgium

Payment for shipping Tulip was required to be in the Wallenius bank account one week prior to departure.  So we arrived here early just to go to their bank in Zeebrugge yesterday and found out we were not allowed to make the deposit unless we also had an account.  We spent almost the entire day getting an alternative solution and I won’t go into that long frustrating saga.  That incident reminds me of our renter trying to put the rent money into our Chase account a few months ago but she had misplaced our account number and the bank absolutely would not let her put the money in our account.  Our renter even pointed out that they could look on our account and see that same deposit each month.   Only after phone calls to higher headquarters did they make an exception.  It sure wasn’t this complicated in the olden days to pay people.
I was not looking forward to being in Zeebrugge for almost a week but we parked at an informal Aires last night that at first glance was not appealing at all.  ZeebruggeAires
The oddity though was seeing at least 30 other RV’s here and wondering why.  Now we know.  There’s a small park next to us and on the other side is the yacht harbor.  Straight in front of us is an enormous round deck (with seating) over the water to watch the boats being unloaded by the huge cranes.  There’s also a huge flower display in the shape of an anchor.
Since we don’t have much to do for a few days I decided to try and learn HDR (High Dynamic Range) photography and processing.  Some people dislike the looks of HDR pictures but it’s a novelty for now.  The pictures on this post were all taken within just yards of our RV using HDR.  You might notice a watermark on some of the pictures.  That is because I have a trial version of the software.



Sunday, 31 July
I took the  picture below because the lady is so dressed up to go bike riding. That’s not an unusual sight in Europe as women wear dresses often and it doesn’t matter what the occasion. People are dressed in a much more stylish way here. Even the elderly ladies are wearing the knee length leotard pants with a short over dress/long blouse.
The cranes are quiet today because it is Sunday, otherwise they are working 24 hours around the clock loading and unloading ships.
I didn’t use HDR on this picture but tried something called tone mapping.

Holland and Gone


These little trees are actually bushes of geraniums.  And there just happened to be a pretty church in the background. This is in the town of Lisse where we came just to see the tulip museum.  Pictures were strictly forbidden but when we went into the next room after the admissions desk one of the ladies came in and whispered that if we took pictures her eyes were covered. 

These pans with holes in them are how bulbs were sorted for size.  One of the curators explained that when bulbs were first introduced to Holland (from Turkey) they were so valuable that a person could have a nice house built with just three bulbs.
We had planned to stay in Holland several more days but had one heck of a string of bad luck finding a place to overnight yesterday.  The road to the first town we drove to was closed for some reason and because of all the canals we couldn’t figure out a detour to get to it.  In other countries we can usually get the gist of road signs.  Not in the Netherlands.  The only words I have learned are “De Koop” which means For Sale because of seeing Remax signs in front of some houses.
So then we drove to Gouda and that turned out to be a much bigger town, actually a city, than we expected.  The Aires was right downtown and guess what?  The whole main street was torn up and the road to the Aires was closed. It was no fun finding our way back out of Gouda either.
Okay, next place was Roosendaal and the coordinates in our Stellplatz book was incorrect and took us right to a church in the center of Oud Castle (or something like that).  It turned out Roosendaal was about five miles further down the freeway but by that time we decided to give up on Holland.
Each time we struck out we ended up having to drive through another big city.  So yesterday we drove through Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and then Antwerp.  You have to change freeways  on that long stretch about every 5 miles to a different freeway with traffic merging into where you have to get off and nobody cuts you any slack.  That was so stressful that when we finally got to a nice stopping place in Belgium the first thing Steve did was pour us some wine. 
We stayed in Lier last night where there is a big parking lot that people use to walk into the town center.  It’s an easy walk across a canal bridge and Lier turned out to be really, really nice.  I didn’t take my camera (drats!) but I enjoyed the sights in town as much as Brugges and maybe more because it was minus the tourists.

“Who Dunnit”?

Tulip herself arrived unscathed.  I had a scare in the port office when she couldn’t be found at first.  There are cameras in the office that can search all the lots but Tulip was in a spot where the cameras couldn’t reach.  However, some low-life scumbag thieves got inside and stole many things.  The Oxygenics showerhead and even the wall attachment, most of Steve’s clothes, bicycle rack, step ladder, battery tester,  voltage meter, picnic table, chairs, Corelle set of dishes,  soup spoons but not the unmatched 9th spoon or teaspoons and knives that were all part of the set,  the salad forks, about 1/4 of the pantry contents, blanket,  pillows, all the clothes hangers, the one good expensive kitchen knife we had,  and more.   I had left just one white embroidered sweater hanging in the closet that at the last minute decided not to take in my bag.  That was gone.
I believe we can exclude the Jacksonville port because what is curious is there are many 110 volt appliances in the RV and not a single one was taken.
And would thieves living on a ship need a  bicycle rack that can only be attached to a ladder, a GPS holder,  or a  Corning Ware baking dishing?  Whoever it was took everything out of the pantry and chose exactly what they wanted.  All the tea, cereal, oatmeal, nuts, salmon, but not the liquor for Margaritas.  Plus, all the cabinets were unlatched.  Our kitchen and bathroom cabinet tend to open when driving and spill all the contents on the floor.  So I don’t think the cabinets were unlatched while at sea.
As of last night I decided it was someone at the port.  But, there seemed to be a feminine touch to some of the items missing.  A pink soap dish instead of the yellow one, the red blanket instead of a new cream down comforter, and a garlic mincer and my garlic.  What dock worker steals a garlic mincer and takes instant diet raspberry tea?  Maybe there are some female dock workers that I didn’t see.
But there is one more suspect.  Parked next to us was an old US school bus sloppily painted grey and black.  The type of foods taken point to someone that is health conscious.  And the big clue:  Steve’s leather sandals that he has been wearing since I met him 17 years ago were taken.  Only an ex-hippy or a present day wannabe hippy would want them. 
Whoever it was methodically went through the RV and cherry picked exactly what they wanted or needed. 
And how did they get in when we had the front partitioned off from the back?  The Jacksonville port official refused to hold the coach keys in the event customs needed to get inside.  But he said if we didn’t leave keys in the cab and customs did need to look inside, they would break the door.  So I had to make a snap decision and tell him where the keys would be and they were found.  When we got to Tulip, the coach keys were sitting on the passenger seat.
And one of the many other awful things about yesterday was the taxi ended up being 70 EU ($105). 
We stayed last night and (and will again tonight) in a small RV parking area on a canal so that I can try and recuperate from a respiratory ailment that is one to remember.  Good thing the thieves didn’t take our supply of tissues because I’ve gone through a whole box all ready.  Those creeps also took a huge 8 roll package of Bounty paper towels.