Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Festive Pensacola Lights

When the weather gets cold, come late afternoon, I shed my clothes and put on a cocoon of warm nightgown and purple hooded floor length fleece robe, just around sunset.

Yesterday, around lunch time (AdventureMan was finishing off a leftover crepe from Christmas morning), AdventureMan asked if I could forestall my cozy couture for an early evening date – going out to look at the Christmas lights of Pensacola.

We drove from East Pensacola to East Hill to North Hill, and into downtown Pensacola, then circled back through the southern part of East Pensacola. In truth, far fewer lights than we had expected. If people are feeling festive, they are keeping it low key this year.

One house decorates year after year in a joyful excess, each year adding more and more:

I don’t even have it all in this one photo. The details are endless, and the time it must take to set this up is a gift to the community.

AdventureMan is already thinking ahead to next year. He knows what I want – a simple creche. Here is one at a nearby church, much bigger than I want, but the idea. I want the Nativity, with Jesus, Mary and Joseph, a couple angels, a couple sheep, the three Wise Men and a camel, in honor of our time living in the Middle East. You know, keeping it simple.

In East Pensacola, we saw several groups of people out walking, looking at the lights. In North hill, there was one house with a beautiful tree on a lit balcony, which made me long to be in the Garden District of New Orleans where the houses decorate so lushly and tastefully.

Downtown Pensacola usually lights up all the trees, top to bottom, a magical sight, but this year only Palafox south of Garden is fully lit:

We love La Rua, and almost bought a house there when we first arrived in Pensacola. On La Rua, there is a grand house, beautifully decorated, and this was the last stop we made before heading home.

December 27, 2020 Posted by | Aging, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Christmas, Cultural, Entertainment, Pensacola | | Leave a comment

The Feast of St. Stephen, 26 Dec 2020

An indulgent morning on the Feast of St. Stephen. Poor kitties, I slept in until 8, but it is such a cold morning, they were also slow to get up and didn’t chide me for my lateness in providing their breakfast. Emile, the outdoor cat, was happy and secure on his heated pad, and did not look miserable, as he has on other cold days.

My breakfast is my normal oat cereal, but with an abundance of strawberries, left over from yesterday’s French roll-ups, and my coffee is topped with leftover creme chantilly, the slightly sweetened whipped cream that accompanies the roll-ups.

It is a gorgeous day, crisp and clear and dry. Ragnar and Uhtred, the indoor cats, are snuggled up with AdventureMan, who snoozes on. He had a great afternoon, Christmas Day, with his new slide viewer and decades of slides from our earliest years, including the month we courted before marrying, LOL. and our brand new baby boy, three years later. They brought back such sweet memories.

I tend to be obsessive about getting things done. From Thanksgiving to Christmas, I have to force myself to slow down and think about the spiritual side of the season, what it’s really all about. I learn that very possibly productivity, getting it done, can become my idol. Lists become my litany. I value myself by how much I can get done. Enough! I need Advent in my life to help me see the quiet, contemplative way.

Christmas Eve, is, for me, the spiritual high point of the year, the culmination of all hopefulness. Today, the day after Christmas, is a day for taking it easy, and that is really, really hard for me. My mind scurries to tasks; the dishwasher needs emptying, I should pack up extra food my my son and his family, maybe today I should paint the spot behind the toilet in the hall bathroom where the old paint shows around the slim modern new toilet.

I calm my mind, I tell myself “not so fast,” there is nothing that needs be done right now, this morning, and besides, the clatter of emptying the dishwasher or painting a spot in the bathroom will only disturb the blissful sleep of AdventureMan and his snuggled, comatose cats. It is a morning to sip my whipped creamy coffee, freshly brewed, to give thanks for this glorious morning, and to write a little here, on a blog which is a gift to myself, a place where I can learn what I am thinking, behind the flurry of compulsive thoughts about doing.

Peace on Earth, Good Will toward all mankind.

December 26, 2020 Posted by | Biography, Blogging, Christmas, Cultural, Hot drinks, Living Conditions, Pets, Quality of Life Issues, Random Musings, Spiritual, Weather | | 3 Comments

After the Storm: Christmas 2020

It rained and the wind blew, knocking over the Christmas trees on my front porch a couple times until AdventureMan grabbed a few stray bricks from our back yard and anchored them firmly. Then, around one in the afternoon, the rain stopped, the wind lessened, and the skies lightened, just in time for us to meet up with our son and his family for a masked and socially distanced service at 2:00.

It was a very odd Christmas – we had to sign up in advance, and each service was limited to 70 people. They allowed family groups to sit together, but each group was separated by at least one pew from any other people. No singing. If someone showed up who had not signed up, they were turned away, unless there was space.

In our church, the policy has always been that there is always space, and you are welcome. We could see that it was tearing the rector apart to have to enforce the policy strictly, but adhering to masking and social distancing has kept us all well and allowed us to continue with attending services in person, as well as on FaceBook and YouTube.

It was wonderful just to be there. It felt awful not to be able to welcome the stranger, nor to greet one another with Christmas hugs and kisses. It’s been that kind of year.

We had a family dinner at our house, our first year using the French china and silver with the kids, but they are ready for it. We all had so much fun.

Christmas morning dawned with clear, cold skies and lots of sunshine. The family came over, we opened gifts and spent the day together, laughing, telling stories, eating French strawberry roll-ups with whipped cream, and just hanging out. Two of us took a long walk with the dog, while the rest engaged in warfare over some game with elaborate rules.

When everyone left, we cleaned up, put the furniture back where it belonged, and AdventureMan got out the bin of old sheets to cover some of our more vulnerable plants against the plunging temperatures to come tonight.

We’ve done everything we can to try to make sure our outdoor cat, Emile, will be warm and protected, which is harder than you might think when we have never been able to get closer than three feet from him. He will occasionally shelter in the covered litter box we have set up for him, with reflective blankets, and he quite loves the heated pad on the bench. We know the cold temperatures are hard on him. We’d love to get immunizations for him, get him fixed, bring him inside, but for now, none of that is possible, and he is so feral we are not sure it will ever be possible.

The sun is going down on one of the loveliest Christmas Days we have ever spent in Pensacola. We are so thankful we made the decision to downsize, and move to this house.

I couldn’t stop; I wanted to get everything in place before I collapsed. AdventureMan, busy with his new toy, a slide viewer, calls out “is there anything I can do to help you?”

I surprised him. I drink little. I called back “In about an hour, when the sun is setting, how about fixing me a Santa’s Helper?” (Champagne and Chambord) and he laughed and said that once the champagne is opened, you have to drink the whole bottle because you can’t really re-cork champagne, and I said I didn’t care, I just wanted one glass.

It has been a most excellent day. My daughter in law and I, on our long walk, discussed how while in many ways 2020 has been cataclysmic, for us, it has also carried many blessings. She said she thinks 2021 will be just another year, full of challenges and full of blessings. She has deep insights, deep wisdom and it is always worth listening to what she has to say.

I hope you have had a satisfying Christmas. I hope it ends a year full of challenges – and blessings. I wish you the same in the coming year, eyes to see, ears to hear, the wisdom to know when to act; when you can make things better and when you can only make things worse by acting. I wish upon us all the wisdom to know the difference.

December 25, 2020 Posted by | Biography, Birds, Christmas, Cold Drinks, Cultural, Family Issues, Quality of Life Issues, Random Musings, Relationships, Sunsets | | 1 Comment

Stormy Christmas Eve in Pensacola

Around two in the morning last night the wind started blowing and one of our wind shutters came loose and banged. It banged once, not too loudly, so I didn’t even get up to see if I could fix it. This morning, Christmas Eve morning, dawned with sheets of rain.

I’m not complaining. We have had weeks of beautiful weather – other than when the storms blew in. This early day squall is just that – a small thing. The forecast is that it will usher in freezing temperatures for tonight. The rain should quit by 2, when Pensacola folk start heading toward church services and family gatherings, and tonight and Christmas Day should be unseasonably cold.

I’m sure there has been a Christmas in Pensacola when it hasn’t rained, but I can’t remember it. I am thankful for rain on Christmas Eve; it makes it so much easier to wrap those last presents and cook up a couple more dishes for tonight and tomorrow.

We’ve been introducing our grandchildren to family traditions. They were over for breakfast, and then my granddaughter (7) and I decorated sugar cookies and gingerbread men, while our grandson (10) and AdventureMan made baked beans – learning chefly knife skills in the process. As the icing dried on the cookies my granddaughter and I took a walk to the playground; it was like a summer day in Alaska, around 70 degrees F. Pizza for lunch, and then watching Elf, which they had never seen, and we all howled with laughter.

That night was clear and beautiful, and just after sunset, I went out to see if I could see the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn. I could! It was clearly visible with the naked eye! I quickly ran inside to call to AdventureMan to join me, and together we relished the awe inspiring event. In my photo, I see you can even see Jupiter’s moons:

Yeh, it’s a little squiggly; I was using my zoom on my camera, and just breathing made it less clear.

From our house to your house, we wish you a Merry Christmas, full of peace and good will, love of family and neighbors, and comfort and joy.

December 24, 2020 Posted by | Advent, Arts & Handicrafts, Christmas, Cooking, Cultural, Family Issues, Holiday, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Weather | Leave a comment

Grown-Up Holiday Interlude

Mostly when we go to New Orleans, we have our grandchildren with us. We go to a family friendly hotel, we go to the Zoo, the Aquarium, maybe the Insectarium, we ride the cable cars, we eat food the kids like – pizza, sushi, crepes. Fortunately for us, they have developed a taste for French food, so we can take them to some places with decent food that we like, too.

But this time, we took a Grown-ups Getaway!

We had so many agendas, and we accomplished the most important – we had a wonderful time.

Our first stop was the Cafe Abyssinia, (3511 Magazine Street) for a combination of several vegetable dishes and lamb tips with injera, the fermented pancake-bread you use to eat the food with your fingers. It was so delicious, and so satisfying, and on the day after Christmas in New Orleans, it was easy to find a parking place.

After lunch, we needed a good walk, and what better place to walk – and shop – than Magazine Street, full of quirky shops with unique items. The funniest part was my husband wanting to visit a shop, Mayan Imports, which turned out to be a cigar shop (not his thing at all.) As we left, we noticed all the signs that said “Cigars” and it’s like we didn’t even see them as we were walking in. They were hard to miss.

Late in the afternoon we checked in to our hotel, and as soon as darkness fell, we went out to City Park to see the lights.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I wish I could have caught all the dinosaurs at the front entrance for you. They were magnificent. We had no idea that City Park lights was such a big deal. There was a huge crowd, and for $28 you could buy tickets to ride all the rides all night. (Just admission was $10.) We had learned about City Park Lights as we waited to pick up our Christmas Eve dinner in a crowded restaurant, talking with another person who had preordered and was also waiting. Some pieces of information are pure gold!

An article I found online about the hottest restaurants to open in New Orleans in 2019 led us to Costera, a Spanish restaurant in the same space where we had once had Thai food, (4938 Prytania) near our favorite ice-cream place.

 

We got there early. It filled up fast, and no wonder. The food was fabulous. We had rapini, a broccoli-like vegetable, a beet salad, bread with a tomato smear and aioli lashings (out of this world good), duck in a rosemary sauce with mushrooms, and scallops on fideo, fideo being thin noodles with a tangy flavor. Each dish was mind-blowingly delicious. I loved the rapini, and I loved my scallops, but we shared everything and my husband’s duck was also as good as any duck we have ever eaten in France (sort of our standard for measuring) or anywhere else.

 

 

 

The food was light enough – we loved having tasty vegetables – that when we finished we walked over to Creole Creamery, just a couple doors down, where I had a small ball of bittersweet chocolate (intense and lovely) and my husband had a bittersweet chocolate fudge sundae.

 

I couldn’t resist taking a photo of our hotel as we returned; it is beautiful and elegant, The Park View.

Once inside, my husband had a glass of port before we went up to our room. The downstairs rooms are gorgeous; lavishly decorated for Christmas.

 

I shouldn’t show you this photo of our room; I should only let you see it all made up, but something about the morning light in this room compelled me to take the photo of the room in dishevelment, It’s beautiful anyway!

 

On! On! To our friend Henri, and Zito’s Plating and Polishing Works, where we have a nice visit and leave some treasures to his excellent magic.

 

We hit the mall in Metairie, a mall I really like because there are so many great seating areas. We often split up to shop, and when one finishes before the other, there are a lot of good, comfy places to sit and watch people while you are waiting.

And then, to finish our visit in a grand way, a visit to Drago’s, the original Drago’s, for their incomparable grilled oysters. Yes!

 

We are happy! We head home, content, satisfied, making conversation, falling silent, making more conversation. We have our best conversations when we are on long road trips together.

And one final photo, looking out over Mobile Bay before entering Florida:

I promise I will return to the trip, just getting ready to leave Bordeaux for the Dordogne and Auvergne. Meanwhile, I hope you enjoyed this short interlude.

December 27, 2019 Posted by | Adventure, Chocolate, Christmas, Civility, Cultural, Eating Out, Food, Hotels, Pensacola, Relationships, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Christmas Interlude

Starting to post my trip through the Bordeaux and Dordogne was ambitious, overly ambitious. Usually, I say I’m going to do something, and I do it. This time, no matter how well intentioned I was, life just got in the way. I knew I could continue to blog the trip, and do a half-good job, or I could devote the time and attention my real life needed.

We had a truly lovely Christmas, and for that, it takes care and attention. There are things that are not so necessary, but help to set the stage – decorating the house, preparing special meals, buying presents and wrapping packages, and then, best of all, spending time with the family you love.

 

The angels – I think they are Rosenthal – are from an earlier life in Germany. I don’t bring them out every year, I sort of rotate things so they don’t get stale.

The Christmas plates came from the old East Germany. Good friends took us to “the other side” in Berlin, as Christmas neared and I found these in a market. We only use them for Christmas breakfast, and we hand wash them, as I don’t know for sure how sturdy or dishwasher proof they might be.

 

This Christmas tree made of cinnamon rolls is always a big hit, and so easy. I use the little cans that make croissants, just use the dough, put in candied cherries and cinnamon sugar and melted butter and roll it up, cut into slices, and bake as you see above. More candied cherries for decoration, icing made of powdered sugar, milk and food coloring. It looks complicated, but it is easy.

 

I used to use thousands of lights in my house at Christmas, and now I use none, thanks to two wire-chewing cats who have turned my rational life upside down.

 

Thanks be to God for the great gift of caffein, in the form of coffee, which powers me through it all.

 

 

And the highlight of our Christmas – the Christmas pageant at Christ Church, Pensacola, as the children tell, and act out the story of Christmas, and we sing songs to punctuate the different movements – Away in a Manger, We Three Kings, Hark the Heralds – and more. It is both light, often funny, and enormously moving.

Happy Christmas to all!

December 27, 2019 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Biography, Blogging, Christmas, Community, Cooking, ExPat Life, Faith, Family Issues, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Spiritual, Values | Leave a comment

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