Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Amazing Women Visiting Pensacola

When I first came to Pensacola, a woman at our church who is very welcoming and kind to newcomers told me she “wanted to find just the right place for me to plug in.” A couple of her suggestions were not exactly what I wanted, but then she introduced me to Jena Melancon, the founder and director of the Gulf Coast Citizens Diplomacy Council, and I found my niche.

Jena is an amazing woman. She has created this organization. She has a data base of resources that allow her to tailor visits for foreign delegates so that they can meet the needs of their missions – Election Transparency, Entrepreneurship, Environmental Protection, Leading an NGO, Military and Civilian Community Cooperation, Domestic Violence, Creating Fair Policies, Programs for Enriching Disadvantaged Children – you name it, Jena can create a program that will enrich their understanding from an American perspective.

At the same time, Pensacolians who come into contact with the delegates sent by the Department of State find that their lives are also enriched. Many times they, too, learn something new and unexpected. Both groups benefit.

Jena also has a group in GCCDC that studies Great Decisions, and creates events throughout the year for membership participation. Members of the Gulf Coast Citizens Diplomacy Council can volunteer in Jena’s office, can host dinners for delegates and have some one-on-one time learning about customs in another part of the world, can sponsor a Pensacola child in an international exchange, can host teenagers here on an international exchange, or attend the famous Mint Julep party in Spring. Many in the GCCDC are also resources; the exchange of ideas bringing inspiration to both sides.

This week, I was honored to be able to work with a group of Women in Leadership, women from Chad, Iraq, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the Sudan. Each and every one of the women was a hero in her own right, making life better in their communities by stepping into leadership roles. Rehab, above, from the Sudan, works to empower women and to make the laws show greater equality in the treatment of men and women.

 

CPT Aseel is a police chief in Iraq.

Maki, from Chad, works to prohibit child marriages and female genital mutilation.

Mariam, from Saudi Arabia, is a high level journalist in the Saudi media industry, accepting honorary citizenship from the City of Pensacola city council chair Sherri Myers.

Wasfiya is a minister of parliament in Iraq.

Ola is the delegate from Jordan.

I was honored to spend three days of my life with these women, and with Jena, and with other inspirational women of Pensacola at the Women in Leadership conference at UWF.

Here is most of the group with Judy Bense, President Emeritus of UWF, at the closing of the Women in Leadership conference, 2020. Life can be amazing when so many women of talent and confidence gather together to inspire one another.

March 3, 2020 Posted by | Adventure, Character, Community, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Gulf Coast Citizen Diplomacy Council, Interconnected, Leadership, Political Issues, Social Issues, Women's Issues | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 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

Viking Forseti: The Captivating Citadel of Bleye

I keep telling my husband, this is the hardest trip I have ever written up. We wake up in one place, end up in another. We may or may not tour the second place in the same day. We may arrive, tour one place, then board a bus and head for another. It is very hard for me to keep my days straight.

For me, Bleye was a welcome relief.

My husband was eager, from the beginning, to tour Bleye, with it’s 17th century citadel high above the river. It was built by Louis XIV to protect Bordeaux, upstream. Legends are that Roland, knight of Charlemagne, is buried here, along with Charibert II, an early King of Aquitaine. So much history, and so beautiful!

I have my own agenda. I need some quiet, I need to be away from the groups. I need to walk at my own pace, and be able to stop and ponder where I will. Bleye, for me, is an opportunity to explore, on my own, in quiet. Yep. I’m an introvert. 🙂

I had a lovely adventure. I started with the group, then headed off in a different direction, heading straight up the hill of the main street after entering Bleye. I toured the entire citadel, loved my time, went around the groups when I came upon them, and ended up at a small museum with a delightful woman who loved it that I was an American who spoke French. She spoke no English, and gave me a private tour of the museum. She made it come alive! It had been a prison, and I could see the prisoners trying to sleep in the cold stone courtyard, trying to bake their meager bread in the large oven, It was a brutal life. In the basement of the museum were models of the Bleye Citadel and various artifacts, going back to earliest man in that area.

I was both stimulated and refreshed! I also found a shop with lovely hand painted silk scarves, just what I love!

When AdventureMan and I met up again, we had a lot to share 🙂

Arrival in Bleye, view from the river:

 

 

It looks like a grim day in the photos, but I was wearing a short sleeved dress and a hoodie, and I had to take the hoodie off and tie it around my shoulders, it was so warm and humid. I remember sunshine, but I don’t see any sunshine in the photos. I must just have sunny memories of Bleye.

 

 

 

 

This is the main street, where, when my group went left, I went straight ahead. There are all kinds of artisan shops along this street, including an artisan ice cream shop (No, I didn’t, but I was tempted by the blueberry ice!)

 

I don’t know what this was, but I loved the feeling of it. Maybe a farmhouse? Maybe a barracks?

 

 

 

This was my favorite area. It is all overgrown, all green and mysterious.

I purposely included people in this shot so you could see the relationship of citadel to river, and see the strategic value of Bleye. You can spot any ship entering from the Atlantic headed toward Bordeaux. Also, I think this is one of those iconic photo places where tour brochures are shot, wedding photos, “I was there” shots – I think I’ve seen that overlook from different vantages a hundred times.

 

I shot this watchman’s tower because it evoked in me a feeling of isolation and loneliness; I could imagine being the guard on a cold, windy night, no fire, and hours of watching before me. You always hope for nothing to happen, and at the same time, watching and waiting is boring and monotonous.

 

Lots of happy meals available in Bleye citadel. The menu of the day, tuna tartine (a savory upside down pie?), slab of salmon with creamy risotto and chocolate cake with a pear sauce and chocolate wafer all for around $25, really, not bad for a tourist location.

Don’t you like to see what’s for lunch or dinner?  🙂

 

 

 

The Viking Forseti waiting for us at the landing below the citadel.

In the small museum, such treasures from antiquity!

 

This is my dear friend, who made my trip into Bleye so delightful, meaningful and unforgettable. It was a lovely moment of connection. (And that’s the old bread oven)

Model of the old citadel:

 

 

I love this rendition of the entrance, especially because later, when we visit the Museum of the Aquitaine, there is a print of people at the gate of a similar castle, surrendering to an army who probably starved the castle into submission. Such were the realities of a pre-nation.

 

I loved this door; it reminded me of Tunisia. My friend the museum docent, explained to me that the studs, while artistic, also ruined any axe which was trying to break down the door. Oh! I guess it should have been obvious, but I was so taken with the artistry that the utility escaped me.

 

 

Finally! A photo with a little pale blue sky!

We spent the night, and the next morning in Bleye,

This was one of the funniest nights of our trip. We couldn’t get into the Aquavit Terrace, the only place where you can find a table for two. We anchored a table for six (the smallest table available) in the dining room, and were approached by four very beautiful and a little bit tipsy women, asking if they could join us. I said “Of course! You are welcome!” because that is the custom of the boat, you share tables, you get to know one another. But they are all looking at my husband, whose face looks like a deer in the headlights. He does not want to appear horrified, but he is overwhelmed by these laughing, beautiful ladies and for an instant, is unable to hide his feelings.

Thankfully, they joined us, and as we chatted, we enjoyed them very much. Lucky for me, I got to sit next to another introvert, who lives a very different life from mine, in a very different context, but listening to one another, we had a lot in common and a lot to share. Each woman at the table was unique and talented. They were all celebrating their 70th year on earth and more than 55 years of friendship. They had met in school, and kept up the friendship all these years, traveling to get together, and planning a trip now and then together. They were delightful, and we all ended up laughing for the next two or three hours. At some point, we were close to being the last party left in the dining room, and we broke it up. From an awkward beginning came one of the best evenings of our trip.

December 17, 2019 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Civility, Cultural, Customer Service, ExPat Life, France, Friends & Friendship, Living Conditions, Restaurant, Shopping, Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Viking Forseti: Bordeaux Panorama and off to Libourne

When you think of cruising, you think of people sunning in lounge chairs on the sundeck, don’t you? I always did. That is not the way things work on a Viking cruise. Viking cruises like to keep people busy and entertained!

In truth, even while we are on the trips, it is easy to get confused about what day it is, where we will be and what we will be doing at what time.

“How do you write these trips up in such detail?” you ask.

First, as the ship cruises the river, I keep notes. The days get all jumbled together in our minds. If I write things down, we know where we were there and when we were there and what we did there and a little about what we were thinking.

“Why don’t you just do it on your computer?” asks AdventureMan, my love and travel companion.

I’ve tried. When I keep notes on the computer, I forget to look at them. A notebook might be slower, bulkier, but when a random thought strikes or I want to make a quick addition, I just grab my notebook and jot it down, without having to start up the laptop.

This also is a great help, both on the trip and after the trip – Viking publishes a daily news, which tells us where we need to be during the day, at what time and later reminds us the same:

AdventureMan started saving them from the first day, and I was so grateful to him! Honestly, with jet lag, and with the pace of the trips, you just can’t keep it all in mind. I take pride in my ability to organize, but on these trips, I am just not in control. I have to roll with it. I need the Daily News! Even then, sometimes I feel overwhelmed with all the information.

Today, we will start our day with a Panoramic tour of Bordeaux (we have learned that on all the cruises, panoramic means a bus tour, and you don’t get off a lot; you have to take photos through the bus windows. It gives you a good overview, and ideas for what you want to see when you come back.) which ends up downtown with a walking tour and then some free time. (Woo HOOO, we love free time!) But not TOO much free time, as we have to be back aboard the Viking Forseti by 11:15 for an 11:30 departure for Libourne.

 

Google Maps won’t give me boat routes, but they will give me bike routes, which I can maneuver to give me a simile of the route the Forseti travels to Libourne.

But first, downtown Bordeaux. We can’t wait to go back to Bordeaux. From our first day in Bordeaux, we felt comfortable and happy in Bordeaux. They have a world-class tram system, which intersects with the bus routes. You can buy special passes, good for varying amounts of days, and go anywhere with minimum hassle.

Above is The Bourse, the heart of mercantile Bordeaux. Bordeaux has a long history of being both French and English, a major trading town even in the time of the Romans.

Bordeaux is famous for it’s Grand-Theatre.

I love this gate to the city.

 

 

Below is the Grosse Cloche, or big bell, the only remainder of the former Saint Eloi gate to the city.

We had such lovely weather for this day tour! The sun gleamed off the churches and monuments. This is a tower at St. Andrew’s, one of the most beautiful churches I have ever seen. Eleanor of Aquitaine married the future king of France in this church, at, I believe 13 years old. If you read any histories of Eleanor, she knew what she was doing, even at 13. She was a woman who negotiated much of her own destiny.

Below is one of the muses atop the Grand-Theatre.

This statue below tops the famous Girondins monument, so graceful!

What there are not a lot of, in France, are tourist restrooms. As we got off the bus for our Walking tour, I told AdventureMan to go ahead, I had spotted a McDonalds, and I know that the McDonalds always has a restroom. I even know where it is, because this McDonalds in downtown Bordeaux is just like the one in Metz, France, near where we used to live. So I quickly went up to the third floor, only to discover the door to the restroom was locked. An interesting woman asked what I needed, and I said “to use the restroom” (yes! I can speak French when I need to!) and she unlocked it for me. I thanked her, used the restroom and zipped out to catch up with my group. Did not see the group, but AdventureMan was waiting at a corner saying “hurry! hurry!” and got me quickly back into the group.

We had a really good guide. She showed us some places where she shops, and where she and her family like to eat, and later in the trip AdventureMan and I came back close to here and ate at a restaurant she recommended. During free time, we also located the hotel where we will stay at the end of our cruise, before we pick up the rental car. It’s all easily walkable.

 

We were also able to go to the Tourist Center where we picked up City Passes so that when we came back to Bordeaux, we could take all the trams and buses and go into all the museums at free or reduced costs. It was a great deal for us.

We are astounded that the French have adopted Hallowe’en in such a big way.

We’re back aboard the Forseti, now, have eaten lunch and are en route to Libourne.

 

Another view of the Museum of Wine.

 

 

We had time for a good hike around the city when we arrived in Libourne. We scouted out the location of the local market (world famous) so we can head out tomorrow on our own. We don’t like being part of a crowd in market cities. Well, or just about anywhere.

December 16, 2019 Posted by | Adventure, Cultural, ExPat Life, France, Geography / Maps, Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Viking Forseti: Dawn Cruise to Cadillac

(The map above shows the land time to Cadillac; I couldn’t make it show boat time. We were not on land, we were on the river 🙂  )

 

It’s Sunday morning, and a whole new world for us. We gave in to jet lag the night before, so at four a.m. when we can no longer sleep, we have the whole ship to ourselves. The ship will sail at 6:30 a.m., en route down the Garonne River to Cadillac, home of the famous Sauternes. We feel like a great adventure has begun.

Above is a view of the lounge (LOL around 5 a.m., not a creature is stirring) from the wrap around bar.

 

More lounge, and where the night time entertainment takes place. The entertainment is wasted on us; after a long day, and a dinner that stretches a couple hours, we are in our cabin making notes, reading, or crashing 🙂

 

The dining room, above, with a variety of tables for six or more people at each meal.

 

Breakfast is semi-buffet style. The wait staff are there to bring us coffee, tea, hot chocolate or anything we want off the extensive special order menu, which includes French Toast and Eggs Benedict, as well as eggs to order, etc. The buffet is enough for us, and more than enough. There are many kinds of rolls, and at least two home made jams, in addition to butter, and other spreads.

 

 

The chef will do omelets to order, scrambled eggs, whatever you wish.

 

For me, I am delighted every day to find smoked salmon or herring, just thrills my little Scandinavian heart. People always ask “Don’t you gain weight on these cruises?” and I say “No” because there is a secret. Many of the portions are tiny, just a taste, to prevent waste. Usually the small taste is enough for me. With all the walking we do, I actually lose weight on these trips, in spite of some truly fine eating.

 

The tables are beautifully set, even at breakfast. Our attendant this morning, Roxana told us that one of her favorite stops on this ship is Bordeaux. “Better than Paris?” we asked her, and she just laughed and said “Paris is full of rats! Have you ever seen rats bigger than cats? Paris has rats the size of DOGS!”

 

As we finish breakfast, the Forseti moves away from the dock, headed in the direction of downtown Bordeaux.

 

 

Sunrise from our bedroom window.

 

Along the route are fishing camps, and these nets when lower down right into the river to catch fish. The Gironde flows into the Atlantic Ocean, and the Atlantic Ocean sends tides up the rivers, a tide called the Mascaret. The Mascaret can cause a huge lift, enough to make going under bridges difficult for ships, and, alternatively, can cause very low water, making it possible for ships to go aground, so the ship captains have to be very aware of the tidal forecasts on these associated rivers.

 

We are told that this is the first ship in months able to go as far as Cadillac.

 

We have a fire drill, put on our life vests, show up at our emergency posts, then go back to the cabins to stow the life vest and get ready to go ashore in Cadillac.

This is the interior of one of the Viking buses. It is roomy and comfortable, and has it’s own toilet  aboard. We aren’t on the buses long, but they take us to the various vineyards and wineries for educating us on wine production and tasting the wares. And selling the wines, of course. We are warned that this is a very good time to buy French wines before the new Trump French wine tariffs go into effect, pushing up the prices and limiting the availabilities of the finest wines.

 

Today is Sauternes.

 

 

 

We arrive shortly at Domaine de Rayne, where we tour the wine storage area, and sip dry, semi-sweet and sweet Sauternes. I am not a fan of sweet wines, but I could understand how these could enhance the right pate’ or dessert. They were good, just not my favorite.

 

 

The late harvest is still continuing, and I loved that there were still grapes on this vine and at its foot.

 

 

 

 

 

The tasting began. It is sad to see civilized people elbowing others aside.

 

 

We headed back outside where a rainbow appeared and brightened the day.

 

We are told that roses are planted with the vines so that if a fungus or disease shows up, it hits the roses first and most visibly, sort of like a canary in a mine can indicate when air flow is low.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the bus, on the way back into Cadillac, our guide, whom we really liked, told us a cross cultural story we could really relate to. She and her husband had a good French friend, and they were invited to their house for dinner. The non-French couple wanted to make a really good impression; they really liked these people They didn’t know much about wine, so they bought a bottle with a beautiful picture on it and hoped it was a good one. She baked her famous chocolate cake to take with them and give to her, and they bought chrysanthemums from the florist. When they arrived for the dinner, and presented their gifts, they could see that the gifts did not have the intended results.

They later learned that the gifts were all wrong – the home made chocolate cake implied that the hostess wouldn’t have a dessert of that quality, the chrysanthemums are a flower used on graves in that part of France, and the wine implied their hosts did not know how to choose a wine. Fortunately, the hosts were not insulted, and over time, explained the local customs. They looked at the gifts with their hearts, and perceived that the intentions were for good. The two couples are fast friends to this day.

How often we’ve been in that position, and how easy it is to offend, when you don’t know what the customs and traditions are! We are so thankful for all the tolerance we have received, being welcomed as ignorant strangers into strange lands, welcomed into homes where we might unwittingly insult our hosts and hostesses. Thank God for their kind, forgiving hearts, and for their willingness to patiently educate us into the ways of their countries.

 


 

 

Back in Cadillac, we look for a good restaurant. Part of the reason we are on this trip is because we miss French food.

 

 

L’Entree Jardin is recommended by Viking, which says “Owner and chef Didier Bergey and his wife Helene Bergey welcome you to their little haven foreign of Cadillac’s finest gastronomic experiences. Centrally located in the heart of town, this quaint restaurant offers traditional regional cuisine with a modern flair – all made with fresh, seasonal ingredients. The delicious, tastefully plated dishes are served in a cozy setting. . . . Address 27 Avenue du Pont, 34410 Cadillac. ”

 

We did not have reservations, but they had one table left. They were very kind, very patient with my French. There was one other small group from the ship also eating there; we had to ask them about tipping as we knew the US practice of 20%+ is not the practice in France, but we didn’t know what a proper tip would be. They gave us their opinion, which seemed low. We opted for somewhere in-between.

Our guide to the Domaine de Rayne had eaten there on the previous Sunday, and told us about the scallops and little pumpkins, which we ordered for the first course. This was my favorite part of the meal. I love scallops. I love pumpkin. What a fabulous combination.

 

We both ordered fish; I had tuna and my husband had Maigre, which we looked up and it came back a fish called Croaker (U.S.) We found it later in the markets of Liborne and Bordeaux. I believe this is my husband’s main course; I think I ate mine without remembering to take a picture.

 

The desserts were all about the presentation. They were wrapped in caccoons of caramelized sugar strands. My husband had a Tarte Tatin (an apple pie that is cooked upside down)

I had a chocolate ganache with a raspberry coulis – delicious. We were both very happy with our first totally French meal in France. I saw that because although we are in France, all the people working on the Forseti are from somewhere else, not France. The cruise director, Jorge, is from Portugal, others are from Romania, Spain, Bulgaria, Austria – from anywhere but France. No one speaks French on board!

 

After lunch, we take a walk around Cadillac. Here, in the old tower, is a chart of where the river has risen during winter and spring storms. We have the same kinds of charts in Pensacola, thanks to hurricanes and water surges, so we understand, but this one measures over centuries. We are greatly impressed.

 

 

I am a total sucker for old walls and watch towers. You will see a lot of different walls and towers from this trip 🙂

 

 

This is the Chateau de Cadillac, home to the Dukes of Epernon:

We were just strolling along feeling pretty good when we saw a Viking tour group doing a walking tour, but sort of hurrying. One of the group said to another “we have to be back by 3:45 because the ship is leaving to go back to Bordeaux” and we noticed a lot of different people sort of scurrying in the direction of the ship. So we scurried, too, and made it back. What we do not want is the walk of shame, the whole ship waiting and watching for the last ones to board.

 

From our balcony, we enjoy the sunny skies on the way back.

 

 

 

 

 

This is the Museum of Wine in Bordeaux, just northwest of where the ship is docked.

 

We had a lovely experience at dinner. We preferred to eat at the Aquavit Terrace, where they have TWO tables for two people, the only two person tables on the ship (there may be more when the outside terrace is open, but it is not warm enough in November). The tables were all taken. It is a more casual restaurant, few tables, very popular.

 

The head waiter, Anton, put us at a nearby table in the lounge, and made sure we had a good dinner. After the fabulous lunch we had, all I wanted was soup and the appetizer crab cakes. Anton made sure I got a huge bowl of soup and two crab cakes, so it was more like a full dinner. They were all so caring, and didn’t want to see us under eat. My husband had salad and scallops, which were also supposed to be an appetizer, but the portion was very generous. Anton was chastised for allowing us to eat in the lounge, but he stood his ground and we were very grateful to him for his kindness, wanting to make sure we had a good dinner and were happy.

 

We go on cruises, but we are introverts. We pay more for a cabin because we know we will spend a lot of time in the cabin, so it is good if it has a balcony and some space. It makes us happy. We usually prefer to eat by ourselves; we’ve been married for 46 years and we have good conversations. The Forseti is not equipped for room service.

We DO like other people, but until we’ve met someone we choose to eat with, we eat alone. On this cruise, we actually found people we liked eating with, and one group we actually adored, but that will come.

After our quiet dinner, we left the Forseti and walked into Bordeaux, just a short distance. We had a lot of fun just walking around, and then it started sprinkling, so we walked back. We were able to stay up until 10 this night, our second night in Bordeaux, so we feel pretty good.

December 16, 2019 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, ExPat Life, France, Geography / Maps, Local Lore, Restaurant, Travel | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Treasures in Heaven

Matthew 6:19-24

19 ‘Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust* consume and where thieves break in and steal; 20but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust* consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

 

Today’s Lectionary Readings contain this reading which has personal resonance from a time when we returned to the United States for a mere ten months, an interlude between time in the Middle East and time in Germany.

 

While we were living in the Middle East, Tunisia (you could argue that is Africa, not the Middle East, and I would respond “it is both”) and Jordan, we often heard from family members and friends how afraid they were for us, with all the violence in the Middle East. Yes, we were robbed a couple times in the Middle East, but I mostly felt safe. When we were robbed, it was by people who were desperately poor. That they stole was stuff that could be converted to cash to feed their families. I didn’t fear personal violence, except, of course, for terrorism, of being targeted randomly, as an American.

 

It was when we moved to Fort Leavenworth that I found myself awakening at night when I would hear things and nudge AdventureMan and say “I hear something!”  He was always patient with me, getting up, grabbing a baseball bat and checking (so brave!) only to come back and say “there was nothing, all is well.”

 

Mostly, I worried about the carpets. We had acquired an addiction, a love of woven and flat woven carpets. We bought regularly in Damascus, where Iranians departing after the overthrow of the Shah were selling them to raise enough money to establish residence elsewhere. Each piece was unique, and lovely, except for one. AdventureMan was so careful about the carpets that he didn’t want to put one in the dining room, so I bought one that was beautiful but not special and said “this is MY carpet, and it is for the dining room.”

 

I still love this carpet; I love it in spite of the 5″ by 5″ repair which was carefully concealed by magic marker ink and only showed up years later when we had the carpet cleaned. It’s a Mashad, not so finely woven, but still beautiful and unique, and it is perfect under the dining room table except we don’t even use our dining room table but rarely; the dining room is now our study hall and home work room. The carpet below is not my carpet, it is like my carpet but not my carpet. It represents my carpet 🙂

 

 

But I worried about thieves coming and stealing our beautiful carpets, until this scripture appeared one Sunday morning in the Fort Leavenworth chapel and my ears were open to its relevance to me.

 

Especially the part about thieves. And moths. Could it be any more pointed, any more aimed directly at me and at my worries?

 

I started sleeping a lot better.

 

As much as we love them, they are only carpets, only things in the greater scheme of things. We find that in the summer time, we don’t even keep them on the floors, we have them stacked in closets, or on chairs, so that the cool tile floors can be cleaned without picking them up all the time. So much for earthly treasures.

September 28, 2019 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Biography, ExPat Life, Faith, Lectionary Readings, Quality of Life Issues, Travel, Values | Leave a comment

Not Normal

We’ve been in the nineties almost every day of August and September. September is always the hardest month for me, because I am so ready for Fall, and temperatures continue hot – like normally, in the eighties. Not cool, but not ninety, either.

 

Even the heat lovers are ready for the break. I know that usually around October 4th, a short cool spell Normally comes. The morning air is cool and welcoming. It usually only lasts one day, maybe only one morning before the heat comes back in, but oh, I wait for that day. That day, I do my major Christmas shopping. Army wife, old habits die hard. We used to have to have our gifts bought, wrapped and sent from Germany early enough to guarantee they would arrive before Christmas. The feel of the early morning cool air gives me energy; I feel I can accomplish anything!

Living in Germany so many years on a military income, we spread out the Christmas shopping all year long, and finished up at the annual Christmas Bazaar in Rammstein – no matter where we were stationed, the Ramstein Bazaar was not to be missed. Two – sometimes three – full hangers of vendors selling the specialities and luxuries of Europe . . . Italian gloves, Middle Eastern marquetry boxes, crystal chandeliers, Nuremberg angels, paintings, exquisite Christmas ornaments and decorations, furniture, Loden coats, hand carved wooden plaques and toys, French and English china, French and German crystal, luxuries of all kinds.

 

Christmas is a lot simpler now, we have all moved toward greater simplicity and sharing more of what we have with those who are in need. We have what we need, and we are so thankful.

 

Right now, I would be very thankful for a break in the temperatures.

September 28, 2019 Posted by | ExPat Life, Family Issues, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Weather | Leave a comment

Happy Thirteen Years of Blogging to Me! Have Some Cake!

I found some incredibly elaborate cakes to serve you this year to celebrate becoming a teen-age blogger (which is to say, I’ve been doing this for thirteen years.)

 

For several years, I considered closing down this blog. I’m so glad I never acted on it. I still get so much joy on my trips taking photos of our hotels, sights, adventures and sharing maps and travel ideas with you.

 

There are actually trips I’ve forgotten I’ve taken. When my husband reads my travel tales, he says “Oh! You have so much fun, you and that guy you travel with. I wish it were me!”

 

It IS him. He just forgets. He loves reading about our trips as much as I do.

 

 

I’m not very good at being settled down. Part of growing up – I guess – is learning to accept the inevitable. I still yearn for unexpected challenges of living in foreign locations, other ways of thinking, and the smells and sights and sounds of places I have never been before.

 

 

We have a great trip coming up. We’ve been reading Martin Walker’s Bruno: Chief of Police series. We are going to Bordeaux for a week of exploring some of our favorite wines, and then drive to the Dordogne and Auvergne for some great Autumn eats. My husband wants to explore some defenses for castles along the Dordogne and Vezere, I want to explore the land of Eleanor of Aquitaine (an amazing woman) and we both want to visit and honor the sites where some of the bravest men and women of the Resistance in WWII took great personal risks to expel the Germans and secure France for the French many died for France in their efforts.

 

 

Thus the elaborate cakes, to celebrate thirteen years, and to celebrate life and all we have yet to experience.

 

 

If you’ll hold out your glass, we will pour you something special 🙂

 

 

Thank you for hanging in there all these years.

 

More to follow 🙂

September 23, 2019 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Blogging, Cooking, Crime, Cultural, ExPat Life, France, Relationships, Road Trips, Travel | , | 2 Comments

We Left Our Hearts in Heidelberg: Christmas Markets on the Rhine

Going back to Heidelberg was one reason we chose this trip. We met in Heidelberg, AdventureMan and I. We married, and lived in Heidelberg our early married years, AdventureMan a dashing young lieutenant in the Army. I had gone to Heidelberg American High School – we knew how lucky we were. We had our proms in the Heidelberg castle. I had my high school graduation in the Heidelberg Castle. We were in and out of the Heidelberg Castle more than ten years of my life. If anyplace is home for me, Heidelberg comes close.

Before we left the ship, I approached the guides and told them we knew the city and wanted to leave the group at the castle – we had our own agenda. Here is what I really like about Tauck – it was no big deal. They just said to be sure to be at the Rathaus by four, and we knew right where that was.

We started out at the Heidelberg Castle:

I love this courtyard in November. There are tourists, but not the hoards of summer time.

 

We had photos taken here when we were newlyweds, from the little cupola on the right:

We were the Heidelberg Lions in high school 🙂

 

 

Down along the main street, the Hauptstrasse, I sat a few minutes in the quiet serenity of the Heiligegeist church, a famous landmark in Heidelberg.

Carousel between Heiligegeist Kirche and the Rathaus.

 

The Christmas Market is going strong on the Market square. When our son was in second grade, he went to a Christmas Market with his school and bought us these beautiful beeswax candles. In a total misunderstanding, after we received them, we lit them, and our son was devastated that we would burn a Christmas gift that he had given us. It has lived forever in our family lore. We bought him a beautiful beeswax candle.

 

 

We had some sentimental inspirations for our day, and we walked down to the Neckar river, to the Marestall, and walked along the river for a while, the way we used to.

 

This is the Hotel Ritter. When I was in high school, my parents would eat there, with friends, and on special occasions. On very rare occasions, I ate there, like before proms. AdventureMan and I can’t remember eating there when we were early marrieds; we were too busy saving for our month-long trip to Kenya and Tanzania. The Ritter was a very historic, very special place to eat, and with great delight, we decided to eat there today, and have some of their famous winter food.


View from our table to the Heiligegeistkirche, across the street.

Interior front dining room of Zum Ritter:

AdventureMan had duck breast and vegetables:

 

I had Ganzenkeule, a goose leg, with huge dumplings I didn’t eat. Also, roasted chestnuts which always sound so good in that old song, but taste mushy and pasty to me, just not my favorite thing, and I revel in being a grown-up who doesn’t have to eat everything on my plate.

A view of the castle from the University platz:

 

Late in the day, I started to have a sore throat, and here was an old pharmacy which had even been there when I was a student here. I went in, and spoke with the pharmacist, who checked that the saline spray I wanted didn’t have anything but water and saline, and then she asked a few more questions and offered me a mild . . . something . . .it wasn’t an antibiotic, and it wasn’t something sold in the United States, but we have often found that cough and cold and respiratory medications have stuff not allowed in the USA that can be very effective. She said it would stop my throat from hurting.

Even though I had a sore throat, I danced for joy. I could still speak German, in a survival situation.

This is the Rathaus, where we all met up at the end of the day.


March 27, 2019 Posted by | Advent, Cultural, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Germany, Health Issues, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, 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