blog Blog 2020

Pandemic measures in Netherlands

May 25, 2020

The measures taken in Netherlands are comparatively mild compared to Spain and places with severe outbreaks such as NYC. Restaurants are still closed except for take out, and we have seen few of those so far. Most stores are now open with long looking lines in front of a few as they limit the number of shoppers. The people are keeping a distance as they wait so its hard to judge the lines without actually counting and finding out how long the waits are.

We have not had to wait to enter any supermarkets. The Albert Heijn requires everyone to have a large cart and limits the numbers of those. This makes it easier to keep apart but you can still pass in the aisles as they have not made the aisles one way affairs. Others allow you in with a hand basket or none at all.

The buses, trains and airports (there are just two) require masks. There is no other requirement for masks nor for gloves. Newly arrived visitors are told to self-quarantine. There is no monitoring nor provisions made for supplying visitors and most hotels are closed if for no other reason a lack of business. Kukenhof, with hundreds of acres devoted to tulips attracts tens of thousands of visitors who pay a hefty price to see the fields and eat poffertjes, small puffs of pancake served with powdered sugar, a national treat. The flowers bloom in April so there were no visitors.

Boating is allowed but with only household members on board, the same being true for cars. Sailing schools have just been allowed to reopen. The youngsters are trained in groups to sail using very small craft. Other sports activities are resuming with restrictions. We have seen no groups of bicyclists in a country whose many bike paths are especially filled on weekends. Public sanitary facilities are closed, including laundry so we are required to use our tiny machine that has no wringing capability and hope for sun to dry things.

The virus hit the southern part of the country hardest, apparently spreading during March festivals. As elsewhere nursing homes were hit hardest.

Germany has experienced a bit of a bump since reopening measures began so we do not know if they will reopen the borders on June 1. we shall saunter that way in case they do.

blog Blog 2020

Back on the boat in Netherlands

May 18, 2020

From a masked airplane ride from Madrid we proceeded to the masked train ride but not before a perfunctory interview upon debarking the KLM flight from Madrid. They did not keep the virus questionnaire at the end of the 30 second interview. That saved time helped us make a perfect connection to the train. Train schedules are much reduced here probably due to reduced ridership. We appreciated the fortuity, not just of the timing for the train but for how well the journey had gone given the uncertainty we faced. Our good forture continued even to the gate at the marina. We’d been give the wrong gate code although I’d asked a few days before. The resident harbor master saw us from his boat and opened it for us with his remote control. We could not know if anyone would be there to greet us aside from the 90+ year old who is, or was until now, the only one allowed to live aboard.

Once off the train we removed our masks. There were few people about and none masked and none close so we posed no mutual risk the entire 1.8 kilometer walk from the train station. During the next few days we had no need to get close to anyone other than chance encounters in the supermarket aisles. The public facilities at the marina are closed. No showers, toilets or laundry facilities. Their little restaurant remains shuttered.

For a few days we went about cleaning the boat deck and other exterior elements. It was a wet winter so the deck was green with algae. Then it was getting the heater to work. Nighttime temperatures were close to freezing so having a bit of heat in the morning is helpful. We do not run it at night as the heater runs off of diesel fuel so if fumes enter the living area you can suffer CO poisoning. One of the bikes would not shift gears so I had to mess with it. Then there was trying to remember where things were stored and how we did things last year. It took a few days before we left on Saturday.

By 0930 on Saturday the skies were sunny with a slight breeze. We turned the boat around to make departure easier from the narrow space and headed down the canal from Dronten towards Almere, about 40 km. Everything checked out ok as we went but then about 20 minutes later I noticed that the engine was running hot. I checked below and things were steamy so we floated in the canal while I figured out what had gone wrong.The hoses were all intact, the water pump belt was still entact, and the pump that circulates canal water through the engine’s heat exchanger was working- that’s the first thing you check before you depart. I decided to restart the engine and add coolant. The temperature came down and remained at the proper level for the rest of our journey. I concluded that the thermostat must have been stuck in the closed position. We ordered a new one and a spare belt.

Otherwise we had no issues along the way and after two days of sunshine our solar panels have kept our batteries almost fully charged the entire time. After a few days more these stopped working. I exhausted my diagnostic skills trying to find out what happened.

In Almere we had our first visitors. Our long time friends Kees and Ada, whom we met on the Eem in the village of Eemdijk in 2000, have two daughters. Marcella and Bart in turn have two daughters. They came by for drinks and snacks at 1700. It was just our second visit with anyone since March 9. On the deck we can keep a good distance. Inside it’s another matter so no one was allowed in. We joked and recounted stories for a few hours and even then, the sun showed no sign of tiring out.

Bart, Jessica and Charlotte on the deck of Viking. I gather Bart does not like photos! He’s so easy going though.

After a week in Almere and a complete change of plans, we headed back to Dronten before a stop in Hasselt and then Zwartesluis (Black Lock) to try to find help with the solar panels. After that we hope to cross into Germany to start the 600 km voyage to Berlin via canal. It’s a beautiful route that takes a few weeks if you push hard. The borders with the Netherlands are still closed in both directions.

blog Blog 2020

Traveling Through The Tomb Called Madrid

We’d been trying to catch a flight to the Netherlands from Valencia since April 21 after our Egypt plans fell victim to the Unwanted Visitor. At the end it became clear that even when flight offers resumed Ryan Air, the only one offering a flight, could not attract sufficient passengers. Too few Valencianos want to go to Amsterdam or anywhere else in Europe as long as the tourist attractions are closed, and few would want to or be able to go even if they were open. After 5 cancellations we learned that KLM was flying daily from Madrid. So could we get to Madrid?

The regulations stated that motivation for travel between provinces in Spain had to be “urgent necessities.” One of those is to return home. We were returning home for almost half the year so thought that would be sufficient reason but who do you ask for confirmation? There are no travel permits so you are subject to the discretion or whim of the enforcing agent. That made it difficult to evaluate the risks.

We went to the train station twice, the first time without finding a Policia Nacional, the police agency responsible for enforcement. We’d learned who to ask by an employee at the immigration where foreigners go to petition for residence. He just happened to be standing there when people came by for information. The agency is closed however. On our second effort we found two Policia Nacional. Peg explained our story. Both policeman said that with a ticket out of the country in hand we should not have any difficulties. They were right. Our trip to Madrid was uneventful. No one even asked why we were traveling.

We left a few days later and were not challenged by anyone until Barajas airport. There we were simply asked for our tickets and allowed to proceed. The airport was practically empty. There were perhaps 100 people on our nearly full flight, masks obligatory. I doubt we saw more than 20 people not on that flight on the way to the gate and all wore masks except one employee. It was so empty the security personnel found a way to take my backpack apart.

Check in area at Barajas. All that was missing was the flowers, 10:30, May 2020

In Madrid nearly everyone wore masks. There were gloves and antiseptic at the entrances to supermarkets just like in Valencia. Few people were out — it was an eerie quiet. It was also eerie not finding any hotels open. We learned this after we’d already booked our flights. We expected a few places. Were it not for Airbnb we would have been sleeping on the street. Madrid city government said a few hotels that were open for travelers but did not give their names and none of the sites we tried had any on offer.

Our small two bedroom place was at street level. In ordinary times we might have found it a bit noisy as the Spanish are out at all hours. Not this time.

As we sat at the gate when the plane arrived, immigration agents and Policia Nacional were there and each passenger had to produce documents. One person was detained, however we are not certain if he was deported. We heard the agent say you could not come to Spain for tourism.

Our flight was perfectly normal other than we had to sign a document listing symptoms of the Corvid19. If you had any marked ‘yes’ you could not board the plane. It said so right on the document. It asked for your last name and, I think, date of birth. Agents checked the document at arrival and told us we had to self-quarantine for 14 days. It took about 30 seconds. That’s it.

As we proceeded, we noticed few people wearing masks other than on the trains. Restaurants are not open unless they offer takeaway. No gloves are provided at the entrance to supermarkets. If you use a basket employees wipe them at the cash register. In grocery stores each person is required to have a cart even if you are together. People are keeping a safe distance. These are not southern Europeans so they probably keep a safe distance naturally a good deal of the time, being more careful to wait or go around groups. There are far fewer people going about. All stores are open but restaurants remain closed unless they offer takeaway.

  Next:  at the marina

blog Blog 2020

Days out in Valencia: the lock down lifts a bit

The Spanish government began allowing some outdoor activity as of May 2.   It is divided by age group and you can still only get close to people you live with.  Necessary activities are still subject to physical distances.  You must stay withing one kilometer of your house. We will still have to rely on the internet to “share” drinks and meals.

Spain is still showing an increase in cases, just above 1% so they will be checking the statistics before further relaxation.

On our 5th floor terrace, Peg reads. On the other hand, I must work!

Valencia is not in a danger zone so air travel is permitted within the EU without any health certificate (which I believe is just a questionnaire anyway).  But try to get a flight and see how that goes.  We have had 5 to the Netherlands canceled.    You can not get a train or bus ticket out of the country.  We might be able to fly from Madrid but are not 100% certain we will be allowed to board the train out of Valencia.  We normally give up our apartment to live on the boat in summer, probably not an urgent matter, as is required.  On the other hand, they would be getting rid of us so why not let us cease to be potential patients and just let us through? We do not know where to turn for advice on the matter.

Food supplies and essential services have been well managed in general, as near as one can tell, for which we are thankful.

blog Blog 2020

Frankenstein: The National Theater

Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller alternate as the Creature and Victor Frankenstein in the UK’s National Theater production of Frankenstein. It’s available on YouTube for a limited period so do not waste time waiting to see it.

It’s hard to believe that I have never sn Frankenstein produced, neither on film nor on stage, and never read the book, despite having watched thousands of films and dozens of plays. and read lawd knows how many books. I am glad to have had this opportunity to see this skillful production.

The beginning was not auspicious. The Creature (Cumberbatch in the version I saw) tumbles from a womb like structure, tries to stand then walk, going through a recapitulation of childhood. There are some things that by being hit over the head one would benefit, but this is sequence is not one of them. I was beginning to think about doig something else until the play went to his struggle for acceptance, given Creature’s hideous difference from the rest of us.

I did wonder why someone who reads Milton could not somehow come up with a better outfit or run over to the Phantom stage and steal a mask. Adapting to one’s shortcoming were obviously not Shelley’s chief concern but Creature was smart enough to have done more, I should think. But those double crossing normal people! And I also wondered why, if the Dr. could figure out how to produce a Creature and nearly a second before breaking his word to deliver her, couldn’t he come up with some plastic surgery and perhaps a speech therapist? Oh well, such practicalities weren’t the thing at the time I guess.

But the point is in good measure the struggle between society and the individual in the determination of identity and society’s failure to nurture the disadvantaged in the process, helping turn them into criminals. It was not just the Creature who murdered the newly wed — society also grasped the knife, guided by fear and not understanding. Notch off a “victory” for those who think government should do the least possible and leave it up to the mobs to deal with such issues.

The theater craft is exemplary. You’ll enjoy the staging and lighting in addition to the fine acting. Perhaps they should consider ole Cumby for other roles, given his rolls in this one. Perhaps a bit of Sherlock? Nah. Gotta stand upright and you do not get to scare the wits out of the public.

We watched National Theater’s production of Hamlet. A woman was cast as Hamlet and neither of us thought that worked. Romeo and Juliet was very well done in a set from the times. But with all this Shakespeare I am ready for Something Rotten.

Other things worth watching:

What have you been watching and doing?

blog Blog 2020

Loosening of restrictions

Crowd at Plaza de la Virgin, watercolor (held by a private collector)

Happier days in Spain may not be far off. Here in Valencia saw the first loosening of restrictions. Construction workers were most noticeably back to work starting yesterday, April 14. Traffic was also up, with more people were using public transport, where each passenger is provided with a mask. On buses you have to use the side entry to maintain more distance from the bus drivers.

Above our roof we have had a police helicopter looking down upon us. They said something over a loud speaker. People have been using the roof for exercise. We have heard conflicting things about roofs. There are children in our building and they play up there at times. I assume it is just one family at a time. The kids need to run around a bit. It’s awfully rough on children and their parents to be so confined. We have been doing jazzercize. Yesterday we did 40 minutes. It gets you moving.

After our plans to visit Egypt were cancelled, followed by days of efforts to arrange the refunds for air and accommodation, we booked flights to Nederlands so we can get back on the boat. Once there our rent payments in Valencia end so it is not only an enriching experience it is more economical for us. Our first three flights were cancelled. The EASA (European Union Aviation Safety Agency) maintains a list of airports with a high risk of transmission. Valencia is not on the list. Madrid, Barcelona (Catalonia), Basque Country, Castile and Leon, Castilla-La Mancha are. The Nederlands decided to use this list to determine who to allow in. We should be able to board our next flight. I am not sure if they will check passports or other documentation. Non-EU residents are prohibited from traveling within the EU. We are EU residents.

blog Blog 2020

Update Day 16

There are now 87,956 cases up from 80,110 yesterday, with 7,846 fatalities, up from 6,875 yesterday. The virus is yielding, albeit grudgingly, to harsh measures. People fleeing to second homes are being fined and turned back, for example. You must have a certificate to work or you can be fined. Spain is not getting help from the EU which constitutionally can not engage in deficit spending. The Central Bank has begun to buy bonds, both private and public, to try to keep the economies going as airlines and countless other businesses and their employees struggle to keep going. Our local bakery had 5-6 people running around like crazy to keep up with the morning crowds. Now there are 2, one baking bread and the other serving customers who are allowed in one at a time. Some additional businesses are allowed to operate under similar restrictions. Quel désastre!

The US looks worse. The caseload is mushrooming without the kinds of controls in place that Spain has. Spring breakers frolic on the beaches. The US has no national lock down in place, and some governors have not issued one on their own. Florida has the oldest population and no state wide order, as do 20 other states. Trump is finally taking the matter seriously, or so it seems. I hope he continues to listen to the pros.

Probably as a result of the reduction of activity the increase in the number of known cases is starting to level off in Spain, but there are still over 6000 new cases per day.  I think it will take until May for the numbers to start approaching  a manageable number.  

But even with this bit of good news I do not have enough tears. The ill. The dead and their families. The unemployed. My own inconveniences are nothing, nothing, nothing by comparison. I spend much of each day painting anyway, so now is not much different other than seeing friends, having coffee with my fabulous wife, going to exhibits. Still, nothing compared to what health care workers are dealing with, and all we can do in return is stay healthy and clap for them each night at 8.

Things are well ordered and calm in Valencia.  It does not have the the huge numbers of cases that Madrid and Barcelona have, at least so far.   There are about 5000 known cases in the province, about 25000 in Madrid and 16,000 in Barcelona.  The ICU’s in those two cities are at capacity.  Economically Valencia is probably no better off than the rest of the country, as the cancellation of Fallas meant that $1 billion+ in revenue did not materialize, yet much of the expense had already been incurred.  If it comes off in July it will be smaller, probably better than nothing.   

After we canceled our trip to Egypt we changed a flight from there to Berlin for one from here to Amsterdam.  Then the Netherlands closed flights from Spain until April 6 then extended that to April 12.  Our flight was for April 21. Then the airline announced it was canceling all flights in Europe.

Some areas of the Netherlands extended winter lock and bridge hours past the usual start time of April 1, mostly to April 12 but one area until June 1.  April is early for boating and it can be rather cold and gray so we are probably not missing much in that regard. Living aboard our boat saves us money so we’d like to get there for that reason as well as to pursue our journeys. This is comparatively minor issue of course, as long as our resources hold out, anyway.

blog Blog 2020

“Unorthodox” (on Netflix)

“Unorthodox” (on Netflix) is an excellent 4 part series looking at life in Williamsburg, a section of Brooklyn. The series is based on the autobiography of Deborah Feldman, b. 1986. Her mother left the faith and her father was mentally ill so her grandmother raised her. In the series Esty (Deborah) struggles to have intercourse, finding it extremely painful. After a year with no pregnancy her husband asks for a divorce. Etsy flees to Berlin with documents showing her right to German citizenship. The story evolves into the effort to find and get her to return. She struggles to find her way with little education and even less money. The trailer includes an interview with Deborah and those they employed to assure they realistically depicted the Hasidic world. I would be interested to hear how her husband and former community reacted. Garybob says check it out!

blog Blog 2020

Turron de Jijona

Turron de Jijona is Spanish soft nougat, with a wonderful almond and honey flavor. Jijona is the small town near Valencia where it is made. This turron is protected by European Union, through the IGP (Indicación Geográfica Protegida). It is made in December of each year and is a common end of the year treat. Almonds are extensively cultivated in Valencia province, dating from the Moorish era.

Your Spanish Recipes: Jijona´s turrón (Turrón de Jijona)

At first I thought it was a kind of halva. It has almost that consistency but it has more oil. I think it is sweeter too You can cut it easily with a knife, which is desirable as it comes in a block. You can see liquid inside the package. I was surprised to find it was almond oil.

El rey de la Navidad
One brand’s packaging

It is made from almonds, honey and powdered sugar. You roast the almonds and them blend into a paste while adding the honey and sugar. It is then allowed to rest for several days so that it becomes more firm. It is quite flexible when you open it but it easily breaks off too. Quite the treat!

blog Blog 2020

Day 2 of The Lockdown

We are up to around 10,000 cases in Spain with 500 deaths. Land borders are closed except to returning citizens and residents. China is sending materials and some experts. At least 19 dead in a nursing home in Madrid. Some 150 died in one day. The Health ministry says they can not test everyone that might be infected. Now there are 500 deaths.

The Spanish government expected to approve a moratorium on mortgage payments for those effected by the pandemic.   See in Spanish


Grocery stores have slightly reduced hours and limit the number of people at one time. Lidl limits entrance to one per family. In some they limit the number of identical articles you can purchase.

Starts at hour 11 eight minutes

Peg writes: The City falla was being assembled when Fallas was cancelled.  This morning it was burned.  The video is 11 hours long because no one knew when the burning would take place – the officials did not want a crowd to assemble.   Apparently, it was at about 4 a.m. this morning. 

The main part of the falla was Ayto, a woman seated in a Lotus position.  On the left side of her torso you see her head still on the pavement.  You can see that the artistas falleros added a surgical mask on the day Fallas was cancelled. 

The fire actually starts at about 11:08 on the video.  It is a pretty good representation of how they all burn on March 19, except that it took longer for the fire to start because it rained for a couple of hours before the burn. 

The burning is even sadder with the music playing, and there has been a constant stream of sad comments since the video was posted. 

Every night at 8 p.m. everyone opens their window or steps outside onto their terrace to clap for the health care workers who are working on everyone’s behalf.