Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Strassbourg and Colmar: Christmas Markets on the Rhine

The medication that made my throat not hurt also made my heart run fast and beat loudly, and made me not sleep. I remember there are some cold medications that do that to me and stopped taking it, but after a really bad night, I had to tell AdventureMan I really could not go into Strasbourg for the day, I was really sick.

He was shocked. We have been in and out of Strasbourg and Colmar all our grown-up lives. We would stay at the Officers Circle in Strasbourg, just a short walk from downtown. We had so looked forward to this part of the trip, so . . . he knows I am really SICK.

I spend the day sitting up, sleeping. I couldn’t breathe. Remember how thankful I was for the constant supply of really hot water in the showers? I was so sick, I took a 15 minute shower every hour or so, so the steam could help me breathe. I think I ate something in the casual restaurant, or brought some soup back to my room, but I didn’t want to be around people and expose them to me.

By late afternoon I was better. Having stopped taking the pills for my sore throat, I discovered my throat wasn’t that sore any more and that mostly it was all in my chest. I was also able to sleep, well, as long as I was sitting upright, which helped me recover.

So this is what I have to remember Strasbourg by:

 

AdventureMan said he had a rotten day in Strasbourg. It was drizzly, and I wasn’t with him. He ate some Persian food, and found some cookies to bring back as gifts, but his heart wasn’t in it. He brought me this wonderful mug from the Strasbourg Starbucks. Remember, I am a Seattle girl, as well as an Alaska girl. I love the mug.

So. The next day is Colmar, and I am feeling so much better and I am really happy to be feeling better but I know I have a long flight coming up to get us back to Pensacola, and I don’t think I am better enough to risk a relapse by going into Colmar for a whole day. AdventureMan takes off, and this time, he eats mussels in wine for lunch, simple, but one of our favorite French dishes. I spend the day on the boat, but I do eat, and run into one of our friends and we take a walk in the area where the ship is docked. So here is what I saw of Colmar:

You do remember that the French designed and gifted us with our beautiful Statue of Liberty? I believe the sculptor came from Colmar, anyway, this Statue of Liberty parody stood in front of a motorcycle shop we could see from the ship. It was a great walk, maybe a mile round trip, to get a good shot of it, because there were gates and walls we could’t get past on the docks to get there directly, so we had to walk around.

 

 

I felt well enough to attend the ships gala dinner farewell that night, eight courses and I can only remember the dessert, which was flamed, and it took forever to flame the top of the creme caramel for every guest. One of the really good things about Tauck’s river cruises is the small size of the group guarantees you will get to know at least a few people with common interests during the trip. We found many who were independent in nature, as we are.

One thing we don’t understand is why the cruise lines don’t mention some of the more cultural experiences to their groups. I remember when we took the “Empires of the Mediterranean” tour with Viking, and we found the tour in Kotor very slow. We had a book and a map and took off on our own, finishing up at a fabulous archaeology museum. We sat on the steps outside, afterwards, people watching in the place, and several later Viking tours went right by, the guides never mentioning this fabulous museum was even there.

Yes, we like history and archaeology, and learning about how ways of doing thing evolved, and also, I find some of my best gifts in museums, unique items, not available in catalogs, many of them handmade, and lovely jewelry and scarves, authentic and hand crafted. I can only speculate that these attractions cannot be monetized, and are therefore ignored. You could say that it is the travelers responsibility to seek this information for him/herself, but it would be a courtesy to your shipboard guests and an enhancement of the port experience to mention some of these better museums, especially when they are very well done. We had the same experience in Seville; we found two museums that were totally fabulous, a lot of thought and creativity had gone into preparing the exhibits, and there were exquisite pieces on display, if only one knew to look.

I had told one of the women we had met of the Unter den Linden museum in Colmar, and its fabulous Isenheim triptych by Matthias Grunewald, housed in an old convent. They came back to the ship thanking us for the experience. None of the guides had ever mentioned it. Wow.

OK, enough of my travel editorial. Sorry! Sorry! Oh, wait. It’s my blog. I get to say what I want 🙂

Because of our large, roomy closet, packing was a snap, and the next morning we awoke in Basel. Our bags were already collected, we just had our day packs and handbags with us. We chose to have breakfast served in our room, which was lovely, and headed to the airport with plenty of time.

This is what Basel looked like as we prepared to depart the ship:

 

 

It began to rain, more like sleet, and as we headed to the airport, it got heavier and heavier. It was a great time to leave. My staying aboard through Strasbourg and Colmar had enabled me to shake most of whatever it was I had caught, and the trip home was comfortable, except for the normal hellish trek through Charles de Gaulle. We found the lounge in our terminal; LOL, trust the French to have chocolate mousse in their airport lounge, don’t you love it?

We are still talking about this trip. We think we might do it again some year, and maybe with our grandchildren, to show them some of the places we’ve known and loved in a low tourist season.

March 28, 2019 Posted by | Advent, Adventure, Christmas, Cultural, France, Quality of Life Issues, Travel | , | Leave a comment

Return to Rudesheim: Christmas Markets Along the Rhine

After spending the night on board the Grace, we head out the next morning, not by boat, but by bus, for Rudesheim.

Rudesheim, as I was in high school in Germany, and later as a military wife, was a place we avoided for one simple reason. We were residents, and Rudesheim was full of tourists. Occasionally, when we had house guests who wanted to visit a quaint town, we might take them to Rudesheim, or to Bingen, across the river, but rarely – there are so many wonderful, less visited villages with fabulous wines we could visit. When we lived in Wiesbaden, we were up and down the Rhine all the time.

Now, we are relaxed and decide to just sink into the tourist role. We are also not bus tour people, but the buses are due to the historic low water levels on the Rhine. You can’t fault a cruise company for the water levels in the river after an unusually dry summer and fall. While we had some drizzle, even some small sprinkles, we never saw a heavy rain, even during this trip.

Driving along, we were shocked by what we saw:

This is what is left of the mighty Rhine near the Lorelei.


 

Arriving in Rudesheim, I took a quick shot across the river to Bingen, where we have visited many times, drinking wonderful Rhine wines, back in the day when we drank a lot of German wines :-). Now, I wish I could go visit Bingen for the honor of Hildegard of Bingen, a great musician of the church.

 

We started out in Rudesheim at the Music Museum, a collection from all over Europe of mechanical music machines gathered carefully together. What a magnificent obsession! The collector would hear a rumor of a machine, and travel to Prague, or to some small village in Germany, or wherever the rumor took him, buying old, broken machines at a good price, freighting them back to his home, restoring and repairing them until they were back in prime condition.

 

 

 

 

 

 

After the music museum, it was time for lunch. We have to give Tauck Tours a lot of credit. Most tourist companies contract for a “good enough” meal, and when we heard “a typical German meal” we had thought we might go off on our own, as we often do, but the idea of lunch at The Rudisheim Schloss (Castle) intrigued us. We were glad we chose to join the group; the meal was done well, starting with a carrot soup and a good traditional German salad, then a schnitzel made with good meat, accompanied by potatoes (I think) and bottles of very nice wine. At each place was also a cup, a gift of the house, in which we could have infinite refills of the Christmas gluewein, spiced wine, all day long.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We aren’t used to eating so heavily, so we skipped dessert (a gorgeous apple strudel with warm vanilla sauce) and headed for the funicular which would take us up to the Denkmal, a memorial built to honor the German dead from (a war?) (wars in general?) They gave us warm blankets to keep us warm in the little bucket we rode up in. It took about ten minutes.

Views from the flying bucket, down into Rudesheim:

 

View up the hill to the Denkmal – sorry for the flat cloudy sky.

 

We bought a few small Christmas gifts to bring back, and the shop owner asked us if we had come on a ship, and we explained “yes” – and “no.”  They were concerned with the low levels, that it would affect the crowds that normally come to the famous Christmas markets.  Fortunately, just as our trip was ending in Basel, the heavens opened, the rains fell, and the waters rose to their normal levels – and more.


 

 

In the shop below, the Poste, I found a map of the Rhine River all the way from its beginning in the mountains in Switzerland all the way to its outlet near Amsterdam. I hid it from AdventureMan, knowing it would fit in his stocking. When it came time to wrap, I couldn’t find it and figured I had already wrapped it, but it didn’t show up. It was only months later I thought to check my suitcase, and there it was. It was fun for him to get it, even so late, and he is still having fun with it.

So after wandering around, we decide to go back to the Rudisheimer Schloss and have some kaffee und kuchen, and the waitress tells us “it’s happy hour” for the desserts. She brings us this one lovely Cherry waffle, and oh, it is so yummy, we share it happily. The whipped cream is tinted green, and has pistachios sprinkled on it. We eat it all.

Then, she cheerfully puts another at our place. It would be rude, and wasteful, not to eat it, don’t you think?

We just laughed. We don’t often eat dessert, and we’ve more than walked it off already. It was totally yummy, even the second time around.

This is one of my favorite pictures. The sun is starting to set, it’s getting time to meet up with the bus taking us back to the ship, and the locals are gathering to drink a cup of gluewein and swap news. It feels like a village again.

 

 


When you take a tour, there are just things you don’t know until they happen. This time, as we leave, we board a ferry which takes us across to Bingen. Maybe Google Earth has told them that the autobahn on the Bingen side can get us back to Koln faster than the one on the Rudesheim side, down which we came in the morning.

 

I loved ending my day this way. On a darkened, quiet bus full of happy tourists who had experienced a very good day, this little Seattle girl saw this on the way back to the ship:

I was an early Amazon addict; it was just so handy. I remember the first year I was a member, they sent us all Amazon.com coffee mugs. Just once. It never happened again. I treasured that mug, until it went the way of all mugs . . .

March 27, 2019 Posted by | Advent, Arts & Handicrafts, Christmas, Cultural, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Germany, GoogleEarth, Restaurant, Travel | , , | Leave a comment

A Walking Tour of Old Cologne

We were spoiled, two whole days to explore Cologne on our own, but we couldn’t pass up a chance to see Cologne through the eyes of an expert. Our guide was hilarious, full of insights and funny stories, and his English was excellent.

We walked down through the oldest part of town, first, to the Rathaus, the City Hall. Inside, there is this wonderful layout of the city and the river, made to scale, with all the buildings of Cologne.

Outside view of Rathaus

I wish I could remember why this statue was significant . . . I think it has to do with their standing on the backs of the people, an unflattering statement.

From the Rathaus, we headed to the Cathedral. I really liked our time at the Rathaus, but I think it was really thrown in to kill time until our group was scheduled to tour the Cathedral of the Three Kings.

Below is a very famous statue of St. Christopher, carrying the Christ Child across a river, and now he is the patron saint of travelers.

I think this was a floor . . .

I loved this triptych.

We had a few minutes, a very few, to shop, and this is when I found two tiny bottles of 4711 cologne, and some small Christmas ornaments of the Cologne cathedral to bring back for little gifts for students AdventureMan mentors, and our grandchildren.

Although the name of the tour is Christmas Markets on the Rhine, it was the destinations that the tour was hitting that attracted us, places we have been and loved. We have years worth of German Christmas decorations and ornaments, enough to lavish our house, just at a time when we decorate more sparingly, and I can’t even use lights indoors because Ragnar (the Absynnian cat) chews the wires through.

We board the bus, head back to the boat for lunch and a quick rest before we head out once again for Aachen.

March 18, 2019 Posted by | Advent, Christmas, Germany, Travel | | Leave a comment

Wandering the Christmas Markets in Cologne

We slept well at the Hotel Ernst, and wakened early, early enough that we could make the first service in the Koln Cathedral. We had checked times the day before, and as the cathedral is just across the street, all we had to do was to roll out of bed, get dressed and out the door.

 

I truly love cathedrals, and I love them best of all, churches, cathedrals, holy places, when they are quiet and empty and serene. The cathedral at zero-seven-hundred (as military types might say) was spectacularly beautiful, full of shadows and light, and a very few people, I would guess all local, heading toward a side chapel where mass was held.

We are Episcopalian, a liturgical bent of the Christian religion, and once you know the liturgy, you can follow it in any Catholic church in the world, no matter what the language. My heart was thankful just to sit and worship. I had visited The Three Kings (Drei Konigen) cathedral first on Epiphany in 1989, when the relics were carried around the church and children acted the parts of the three kings. It was powerfully moving. Sitting in worship, knowing it was a dream come true, my heart was full of uncontainable happiness.

We were bundled up, as was everyone else. There was heat, but the cold pervaded. People kept their heavy coats on during the mass, even their gloves, which made it hard to turn pages in the missal. We left just before communion, playing by their rules.

This casket contains relics of The Three Kings.

We headed back to the Hotel Ernst for a gorgeous buffet breakfast in their famous Excelsior restaurant.

 

 

 

Forgive me, I was HUNGRY! I didn’t take photos of the restaurant or the buffet. I will tell you that I particularly loved their coffee, strong and rich, served from an individual silver pot on our table, with fresh cream in another little pitcher. The breakfast was delicious, included a huge variety on the buffet, and you could order special things you wanted, eggs to order, etc. I found smoked salmon on the buffet, with all the trimmings, and my little Scandinavian heart was content with that.

We went back to the room, packed quickly, cleaned up and headed back out to explore the Christmas Markets early in the morning before the crowds arrived – and before they opened. We had the city to ourselves, early on Sunday morning.

Yes, I look very elegant until you get to my shoes. The surfaces vary. One minute you might be in the middle of the road, as in this photo, and the next, you will be on ancient cobblestones, or steps. When I was young, I heedlessly wore high heels everywhere. I no longer can do that, and it is misty and slick, so I am glad I have my faithful walking shoes. So faithful in fact, that we noticed that they are falling apart, and we threw them in the trash as we left Basel.

More early morning Christmas Market photos in Cologne:

 

 

 

 

 

The original Cologne water, everyone was buying 4711.

We had lunch at Peter’s Bauhaus. It looked so inviting, all decorated, and people were waiting in groups outside to be allowed in. It paid, in this instance, to be just two people; they took us right away and sat us at a table with another couple. We chatted a little – and then just had our own quiet conversations, sharing space but enjoying our own company.

 

 

 

 

AdventureMan had a schnitzel and house fries, with a salad and a beer. Kolsch, of course.

 

 

 

I ordered a salad with trimmed with bacon, but what I got was bacon with a little salad, and the dressing was very bacon fat. I’m sure it was delicious, but I can’t eat that much fat. AdventureMan was kind and gave me a couple bites of his schnitzel.

March 17, 2019 Posted by | Advent, Christmas, Germany, Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Christmas Markets on the Rhein

Horrors! I haven’t written since pre-Thanksgiving?? That’s the way my life is going, and I just have to take a minute when I can find it and keep up.

 

You may all think of aging, retiring grandparents as people sitting in rocking chairs on their porches, just waiting to die. The truth is very different. Retirement, at least early retirement, can be one of your most active times of life.

 

It is in our case 🙂

 

We made a choice. We have our grandchildren every day after school. It is delightful, and it is hard work. For me, it means having to carve out time for the things I want to do early in the day. AdventureMan picks up the grandchildren, brings them to our house, makes a healthy snack, supervises their homework and manages their time and experiences. I support AdventureMan, and specialize in hugs, intensely personal discussions, and rough-housing. I can make them laugh uncontrollably. I can cry with them when the world is dark and incomprehensible. I can help them have faith in themselves. I can encourage them to try, try again.

So, from time to time we run away and play, AdventureMan and I.

 

One of our favorite things we get in the mail are travel brochures. Most of the time, we don’t care, but the really good thing is that from time to time we get one that ignites our imagination, and we are both all in.

“Here’s what I want to do,” I said to AdventureMan, thrusting a Tauck tours brochure into his hands. “I want winter food. I want to wear winter clothes. I want to see the Three Kings Cathedral in Cologne again, and that glorious candelabra in Aachen. And look! It goes to Heidelberg! Strassbourg! Colmar!”

Here’s why we are still married after all these years. AdventureMan reads through and his eyes light up and he looks at me and says “You want to do this?” and I say “Yes!” and minutes later he is on the phone and we are committed. And we are dancing for joy.

Although we tend to be frugal by nature, history and habit, we are also pragmatic. If the flights are domestic, under four hours, we go economy. When we go overseas, we go business, and we make sure the seats go flat so we can sleep.

Our flights go smoothly, and we arrive relatively rested and excited. AdventureMan sends me off to change money while it is convenient, and I come back to discover I’ve kept a growing group waiting for me. Yikes. I apologize profusely and then just keep a low profile. Tauck is a little plusher than our Viking trips; we have a limo that we share with one other couple from Dusseldorf to Koln. The trip is quick, and we arrive at the Hotel Ernst efficiently. Our baggage is already there.

 

People check in, and we discover that everyone has a room except for us and one other group, and as things happen on these trips, the other group and us had a special relationship for the rest of the trip. We were both independent travelers. Our room was unlikely to be ready for a couple hours.

I’d like to tell you that I was a good sport, but I was not. I wanted a shower. They offered me to shower in the spa and I was not happy with that. They were really trying to please me, and I was trying, but I was not happy.

 

AdventureMan, who knows me well, said “I think we need a walk,” so I gave the hotel people the number of my brand new International-equipped iPhone, specially bought for times like this, and out the door we went. Out the door of the Ernst looks like this:

This is the magnificent Cologne Cathedral. The Hotel Ernst faces the Cathedral. 

 

The world looks new and fresh. I take a deep breath and smile again, it smells like home. We find our German comes back as if once again, we lived here and spoke it regularly. We walk, I take pictures, and when we find the Fruh, we know it is time to have our first meal back in Germany.

 

There is a method to our madness, when we choose a travel destination. This, for us, isn’t about Christmas Markets, although those are beautiful and fun. This is about feeding a need deep in our souls, a need for winter, a need for winter food and walking in the cold air wrapped in our heavy German coats. No, it isn’t rational. Yes, it’s the way it is.

Walking into Fruh is like walking back in time. We could be in Heidelberg, or Mannheim, or Wiesbaden, or Kaiserslautern, or any of the German towns where we have been so blessed to live.

Cologne is very proud to have it’s own beer, and you find it everywhere. It is served in tall thin glasses. I don’t drink a lot of beer, but I can drink a small glass of Kolsch. AdventureMan says the Bavarians call the glass a “test tube” because of its long, thin shape.

At first, we didn’t know. When AdventureMan tried to order a Pils, the waiter said in a loud, brusque voice “Kolsch! Kolsch! We only serve Kolsch!”

Cologne is not so much a tourist town. The tolerated u with grace; we speak German, but they treated us as outsiders. We know the difference. We didn’t mind so much; we are outsiders now.

I wanted you to see the menu, also known as Tageskarte, or daily menu. I also like to look at it and sigh; these are not foods you find in Pensacola. They are not foods you find, for the main part, at restaurants in the United States that call themselves German. Brusque loud voice and all, we are delighted to be at Fruh. They are all the winter foods I was hungering for so nostalgically, deer medallions, goose, heavy winter cauliflower soup . . . ahhhhhhh. . . .

We know we are in the right place. The locals fill in, with their shopping bags, meeting up with friends, we feel at home.

I had Hirschmedallions for my first meal, little deer steaks, with broccoli. This is new to me. I don’t remember food being served with broccoli before.

AdventureMan had Schweinesteak, pork steak, and a big bowl of home made potato fries. This is more the heavy, vegetable free cooking I remember.

As we ate, the hotel called to say our room was ready. On our way from the Fruh to the Hotel Ernst, the Weinachtsmarkt, the Christmas Market by the Cologne Cathedral, was beginning to open, and I saw my first vendor of roasted chestnuts.

We all sing nostalgically about “chestnuts roasting on an open fire” but the truth is, no matter how much my French and German friends rave about roasted chestnuts, I don’t like them. I don’t like their texture. I am sort of intellectually delighted to see my first chestnut vendor, but not really excited to eat any of them.

March 16, 2019 Posted by | Advent, Adventure, Christmas, Germany, Quality of Life Issues, Travel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Accidental Early Adaptor

iPhoneXR

Yesterday was a stressful day. It happens every now and then. The last one was when Ragnar-the-street-cat ate the cord to the foot pedal on my Pfaff and I had to get it fixed. While I was in the store, I bought a new Bernina (the price was right and it was the machine I had always wanted, very quiet.) The problem with new technology is that you have to learn new ways of doing things. The old ways don’t work. It stretches you and it stresses you.

AdventureMan has been after me to update my iPhone. We are about to travel again, and he wants us to be accessible. He is right; it is my turn to upgrade. I’ve had my iPhone since 2011, and it works wonderfully. I am happy. It does everything I need it to do . . . except it doesn’t work overseas.

I’ve dragged my feet. To me, a phone is a tool and the tool I have does everything I want it to do, including . . . making me not too accessible. But (audible sigh) I know he is right. What if there is an emergency and they need to contact us?

I am also skeptical. When we upgraded AdventureMan’s phone, we went on the Viking Ocean Cruises Wake of the Vikings trip (which was awesome) and his new phone didn’t work, didn’t get texts, didn’t get phone calls, while my old phone occasionally got texts (I believe it was a Wi-Fi thing for me).

But I also know that AdventureMan is wise; things happen. We often take off from the group, and if our connection changes, if the shuttle back to the ship changes departure time and we are not on it, it causes all kinds of complications.

So Thursday night, AdventureMan said “Our travel time is getting close, and what are you going to do about your phone?”

He is a smart man. He knows how to ask me in an open-mannered way so I don’t go all defensive and nasty because I am feeling cornered and inconvenienced and wary of having to master a new technology when I have a lot of other things going on right now.

“I’m going to do it tomorrow,” I tell him. He is satisfied. He knows that when I say I will do something, he can count on me to do it. I didn’t sleep well; I was full of dread.

So I am working at my computer when AdventureMan gets up and says “So when are you going?” and I know that the day has a limited number of hours and some of them are already committed and I really need to do this, so I do.

When I arrive at the store, the door says the store opens at 10:00, but it is 9:30 and the door is unlocked and people are waiting inside for customers, and tell me to come in, it is a special sale day. I get a really great guy, Mark, and tell him what I need. 

He was astonished. “You’re not here for the NEW iPhoneXR?” he asks, like he cannot believe what he is hearing. I tell him what I need, and he says “You need the new iPhoneXR.” He tells me all the things it will do, and then starts showing me how it will work. I tell him what I need is a phone that will work in these countries, and he shows me two ways it can work, both of which I feel comfortable I can do.

And the phone is beautiful. And handy. Within five minutes, I have said “yes” to the phone, have picked out chargers and phone case and protectors, and he is transferring all my phone stuff from the Cloud to my new phone. Of all the things that delight me, at the time, one is that I found a sturdy pink phone case that sparkles; my granddaughter will love it and think I am very cool. It makes me laugh; I am not a woman who would ever have carried a pink sparkly phone in my professional life.

The phone “recognizes” me. I no longer have to put in a code, but I have a back up code for when I need it, like I guess if I’ve been on a four day binge and it doesn’t recognize me, or . . . if I’ve been on an all night flight, which can have the same physical impact as a four day binge (those of you who know me know I am totally joking about the four day binge; I barely drink a whole glass of wine now.)

What I love, having played with it for a day, is that it is so easy. My eyes are really good, except for reading, and the screen of this phone is large and the writing is very readable. There are Tips! They tell me all the things I can do, whether I want to do them or not. There is Siri, whom I don’t intend to use, but I set it up because you never know, I might. 

(Big internal debate – who? whom? Siri is not a real person, but I would say “I don’t intend to use her” which means “whom” but who even uses “whom” anymore?)

So I just tried Siri, “Siri, open Google Maps and take me to Cologne, Germany?” and it took a couple steps, but . . . it’s a miracle! It worked!

“Siri, what is the water level of the Rhine River in Cologne, Germany?” (Blah blah blah blah “take a look!”) and the German website, one among many that she found, showed the water level in Koln to be . . . 74 cm. Hmmm. Not really enough to float a ship.

Our trip no longer shows on the company website. We have heard nothing. I am guessing they are both praying for an extended rain and scurrying to arrange alternatives should the water levels not rise high enough to float the boat along some of the narrower passages of the Rhine, which is experiencing historical lows following one of the driest, hottest summers ever in Europe.

AdventureMan and I avoid bus travel like a plague. It is too restricting on people who like to move, it is claustrophobic and not-private. On the other hand, you see a lot more on the road, and since we are really going because we miss the winter in France and Germany, on a bus (or two) we will have more actual time on the ground, eating winter food, wearing our winter clothes, more time to walk, God willing.

And . . . I have a new iPhoneXR, and I actually love it.

October 27, 2018 Posted by | Advent, Adventure, Christmas, Customer Service, ExPat Life, France, Geography / Maps, Germany, GoogleEarth, iPhone, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Technical Issue, Travel | , | Leave a comment

End of 2017 Wrap Up Photos

Thanksgiving Sunset at Panama City Beach:

The weather was mild and beautiful. It was a sad and happy Thanksgiving; sad for those not with us any longer, happy to be with those who love the departed.

Pelicans at PCB:

Finally, a year when both grandchildren could make it through the entire Nutcracker Ballet in Pensacola, and were utterly rapt. We want them to have this joyous experience!

For the first time, they were checking bags, and almost didn’t let me take my camera in. One person said “no photos” but the other said “you can take photos but no video and no flash” which is fine by me; my little Lumix does great in low light.

 

 

Maybe I’m not a kid anymore, but I have always loved the arrival of the pirate ship!

My favorite dance:

Hmmm  .  . . . well, maybe Nutcracker isn’t just for the grandchildren 🙂

We had the most wonderful Christmas day, family in the morning and afternoon, friends in the evening. We also decided not to go to New Orleans during the week between Christmas and New Years as we often do, and to go in February, after Lent starts on February 14 (what a dismal day for Lent to start! Valentine’s Day for Ash Wednesday!)  I have some more items for our friends at Zito’s to clean and polish for me. The work they do gives us so much pleasure.

Christmas was also a little odd, because I was energetic and got the first step up – lights and greenery going up the staircase, and a thousand or so little silver stars – only to discover that our two new rescue cats, well, new since February, thought this was all for their delight. Ragnar, especially, loved untying the strings that tied up the greenery, and then – horrors! – chewed through the wires on the lights, in several places! I completely re-did the lights, twice, and just as quickly, he chewed through the strings and the lights. I finally figured out that green ribbon worked to keep the greenery up, but we had to forego the lights. We didn’t want a fire hazard, and we didn’t want the cats to be electrocuted. Uhtred pulled a star or two off every day, but they were easily replaced.

We have been hitting our favorite restaurants, and one new one we weren’t crazy about. At our absolute favorite restaurant, a Cajun/beach style restaurant, when we went to pay the bill, they told us as “frequent and highly valued customers,” our meal was on them. Wow. What is so funny is that we had just been talking about our Christmas experiences in Germany, where those restaurants you frequented would give you some small gift, like an Italian restaurant had gift Pannetones, and a German restaurant might gift you with a small schnapps. The Chinese restaurants would give you a small Plum wine. We were missing that, and then, we were stunned when they told us thank you for being such good customers and that it was their treat this time. It totally made my day, another small kindness, but even the smallest kindness packs a punch.

This morning, the last day of 2017, we hit the early service at Christ Church, visited with our friends and neighbors, then had breakfast at C.J.’s, as I needed to make a trip to the commissary and CJ’s is on the way. I like the one-egg breakfast, but today I also ordered a side of one beignet, and the waitress said that the order of 3 was a better deal; you pay $2 for one, and you get 3 for $3. Makes sense to me; I ordered the 3 and AdventureMan helped me out by eating one and we have one to warm up and split tomorrow on New Year’s morning. These beignets were so fresh and so good! We’ve had a little bit of New Orleans without going to New Orleans.

Mardi Gras starts here on January 5 with an all-Krewe party and parade downtown, big party. When all the partying is over, we’ll head back to New Orleans.

December 31, 2017 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Christmas, Community, Customer Service, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Lent, Local Lore, Lumix, Mardi Gras, New Orleans, Pensacola | Leave a comment

Christmas Getaway to New Orleans

A long time ago, AdventureMan was talking with my father, and my father told him that they were no longer in the acquisition stage of their marriage, that he and my mother really had everything they needed and didn’t buy much, other than food and replacing something when it needed replacing like a car. Since we were deeply into our acquisition phase, this was a stunning revelation to us.

We totally understand now what he was getting at. When you are young, and setting up a household, and when children come along, it’s like you are always needing something . . . it can be as basic as pots and pans or as specialized as a car seat. It’s all about trying to set priorities, with great needs, a whole list of wants, and a need to set priorities because resources are limited.

And it is one of life’s ironies, it seems to me, that when you begin to have the money to buy what you need, you need so much less, LOL. We learned a lot living in the Middle East, and from our Mormon friends, and from families we got to know – we learned the joy of giving to your children while they need it and can enjoy it.

Meanwhile, Christmas has been perplexing. Neither of us really needs anything. When we need – or want – something, we tend to pick it out and get it, so there is no great need at Christmas for big gifts. We have a lot of fun with stocking stuffers, but we’ve learned to tell each other very exactly what we like, so we get what we like.

AdventureMan asked what I might like for Christmas, and I told him my beautiful pots and pans from Damascus have lost their tinning, and I can’t use them until we have them re-tinned, and I can’t find anyplace to have them retinned. “Leave it to me!” he pronounced! I will find how we can get this done.

He found some places in Colorado, in Pittsburgh, other places, and I said “isn’t there anyplace nearer? What about New Orleans?” so he checked New Orleans, and sure enough, there is a wonderful metal finishing shop. He talked to the owner and made a date we could bring in our pots. Meanwhile, I visited the website and discovered they could also fix broken metal things. I have another beautiful pot that the handle had broken off in the last move, so I asked if that could also be included in our Christmas present to ourselves 🙂

Early in the morning, shortly after Christmas, we loaded up the car for the drive to New Orleans, arriving at Zito’s exactly at ten.

ZitoSign

 

Z Ext

 

Zito’s is in Mid-Town, a part of New Orleans we have never explored. It isn’t hard, it was just out of our comfort zone. Inside Zito’s is a big friendly rescue dog and some fine craftsmen metal workers. We know our pots are in good hands. I loved the way he handled the pots, and we loved looking at some of his recent repairs and polishings. You can see some of the work they have done, including for church vessels, by clicking here:

Zito’s Plating and Polishing Works

4421 Banks Street

New Orleans, Louisiana 70119

Opening Hours:

MONDAY – THURSDAY:

6:00 AM – 6:00 PM

​FRIDAY:

6:00 AM – NOON​

Across the street is the Wakin’ Bakin’ Cafe, and down the street is one of New Orleans cemeteries with little houses above ground, above the water level:

MidTownCemetary

P1110708

We are in luck. I don’t know if you’ve been following the weather down here, but we are as rainy as the Pacific Northwest. We normally have winter; Christmas was 79 degrees. Today is cool, and while the skies are not cloudless, the sun is breaking through, and even better, no rain. We are having a wonderful day.

 

January 1, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Christmas, Cultural, Customer Service, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Living Conditions, Money Management, Quality of Life Issues, Travel, Weather | , , | Leave a comment

My Christmas Day 2014

It’s been a great day.

Like every great day, there have been a glitch or two.

I did something very funny, I gave AdventureMan a FitBit for Christmas. He is setting it up now. He loves medals and badges, and I know he will love looking at what the FitBit tells him about how many steps he is taking and how he is sleeping at night. I know he is going to have fun with this, and it makes me smile. Oddly, the FitBit site was down most of the day for scheduled maintenance. Wouldn’t you think that a lot of people would be getting FitBits for Christmas and would want to get started? They are back up now, though.

One of the glitches for me today was that I was scrambling a little this morning to get Christmas dinner prepared in advance so I could just have it all in the oven ready for when we were going to eat. I had five minutes while the dinner rolls cooked, so I ran upstairs to dress and comb my hair, ran down the stairs again and only hours later – like five hours – discovered I had forgotten to move the FitBit so I DIDN’T GET CREDIT FOR ALL THOSE STEPS! Oh aaarrgh.

Small potatoes in the larger scheme of things.

We had a wonderful day, all in all, a day of peace and joy and delight in family. All our years of living overseas have made us grateful for the comfort of time spent together.

I see on WeatherUnderground that Kuwait and Qatar are having wonderful weather; I always loved the winters there:

Screen shot 2014-12-25 at 9.24.12 PM

Tomorrow I have a job, a painting job, painting my adorable little granddaughters bedroom a color called Bubble. Just the thought makes me smile.

Screen shot 2014-12-25 at 9.43.05 PM

December 25, 2014 Posted by | Christmas, Family Issues | , , | Leave a comment

My Favorite Christmas Photo 2014

Great-Grandmother sent this lamb. As soon as she walked in, Baby N went straight for it, calling “Baaaaaaaa!” She hugged the lamb, climbed on and gave the lamb hugs throughout the morning. Great gift, Great Grandmother GiGi!

00NaomiAndBaaaaa

December 25, 2014 Posted by | Christmas | Leave a comment