Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

An Unexpected Day

When I printed out my boarding pass, I got a bad surprise. I had only forty-one minutes from my landing time to the departure of my next flight, and no idea how close the gates would be. I had already committed to trying this trip with one carry on bag – not an easy decision for a person who plans for all contingencies, and packs to meet them.

AdventureMan got me to the airport early, and as no one was waiting at the baggage counter, I asked if there were any seats on the flight leaving earlier. “Check at the gate” she told me.

I got on the flight. Problem solved. Plenty of bin space, my other perennial concern. Even got an aisle seat. All is well.

In Atlanta, I am so glad I made this decision, both the carry-on and the earlier flight. I have to change areas, from A to T, and it would not have been possible. As I walked to the T gate, my mind was fully blown.

The Atlanta airport often has wonderful art exhibits in the underground walkways between different wings of the airport. This time – oh WOW, it is a Zimbabwean exhibit of stone sculptors.

If you have the capability, go in close to these sculptures and look at the fine texture incised in the stone. This twenty minutes made my day.

 

 

 

This one above is called The Conversation 🙂

Look at her hair! It is frothy, and there are holes you can see through. Stone made liquid and light!

 

 

 

Who Will Care for the Child? A comment on the AIDS epidemic and the loss of family and care-taking.

 

Take a minute to look at the textures!

 

 

 

 

These masks and motifs may be African, but they also remind me very much of the Alaskan First Nation art and costumes.

 

LOL, I couldn’t help but laugh. The artist truly captured the eccentric quality of the Secretary Bird.

Air travel can be so dehumanizing, herded from arrivals to departures, herded on the plane, cramped into tinier and tinier seats, using tinier restrooms. And then, all of a sudden, a gift of beauty to make you stop and catch your breath and divert your thoughts from the negative to the positive. Woo HOOO on you, Atlanta Airport.

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August 1, 2019 Posted by | Africa, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Customer Service, Public Art, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips | , , , | 2 Comments

“Do You Have a Heartbeat?”

This morning in Pensacola the temperature was a cool 71 degrees F. and the humidity was low. It makes all the difference in the world.

“How’s your day?” I asked my friend in the pool at the YMCA, and she grimaced. “I’m off to a bad start,” she said, “I hung my suit and towel and shoes on the line outside, and after the rain last night, everything was soaked this morning.

(We really needed the rain, and we got a soaker of a storm. Today, everything is blossoming in our yard and happy, moonflowers, African Irises, Ginger, plumbago, roses – they respond to a good soaking by blooming in delight.)

I grinned at her. “Did you wake up this morning? Do you have a heartbeat? Are you breathing? Are you here at the YMCA?” I was heartless, and persistent. She laughed.

I talked about the countries I’ve lived in; how in my first African country, Tunisia, back in the day, people competed for our garbage. My cleaning lady asked permission to take glass jars with lids, to take tuna cans. She asked that I give her any clothes I didn’t want. In the Middle East, there were restaurants where people waited near parked cars to beg for the leftovers we carried. Anything. Anything would do.

Some people didn’t have a towel, much less a swim suit, or shoes to hang on a line.

We live in the midst of plenty. Even Tunisia, when we went back twenty five years later, didn’t have the poverty we saw when we lived there. We didn’t see clubbed feet, we didn’t see hunched backs, we didn’t see crossed eyes. The little villa we had lived in had a second floor. There were signs everywhere of prosperity. We didn’t see any beggars, not one.

When I get all wrapped around the axel about the state of civility in my country, about our abuses at the border, about our increasing bureaucratic hardness-of-heart toward the least of these, I need to stop and take a deep breath and spend time acknowledging how very blessed we are. It gives me strength to go on fighting.

July 24, 2019 Posted by | Africa, Aging, Beauty, Biography, Bureaucracy, Character, Charity, Civility, Community, Cultural, Exercise, Gardens, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Middle East, Pensacola, Political Issues, Quality of Life Issues, Social Issues, Spiritual, Tunisia | Leave a comment

Glacier National Park: Many Glacier

We have to take the long way around to get up to the Many Glacier entrance, back through East Glacier Village to Browning, then up to Saint Mary, but no problem, because we’ve rented a cabin in the Saint Mary area. Going through Browning, we see tee-pees, just alongside the road:

 

 

 

 

 

 

This ride is just gorgeous, but it is not a great road. It isn’t a terrible road, but it is not paved, and from time to time there are serious potholes. There isn’t a lot of traffic, so we are not inconvenienced, it’s just we haven’t been on a road like this since maybe Africa.

 

Along the way, we see something we haven’t seen before, a Mama Black Bear but with only one cub. The cub looks older, maybe one year old, and life must be easier for the Mama than if she were trying to feed two cubs.

It was just us and one other couple. This was heaven.

 

 

Now I want to show you how the same scene looked in Hayden Valley, in Yellowstone:

It’s horrible. This was the Mama Bear and her two cubs trying to feed while people are scrambling to get their attention and photograph them.

Bear watching on the way to Many Glacier was relaxed – for her and for us.

 

Many Glacier Lodge

 

 

 

We want to come back and stay here. (Many Glacier Lodge is not open until around Mid-June) What joy, to wake up in the morning to all this beauty.

June 28, 2019 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Hotels, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips, Spiritual, Travel, Wildlife | , | Leave a comment

Yellowstone; The North Entrance and Gardiner, MT

This is all the same day, still, the day we left Canyon Valley early in the morning and it is only about 10 a.m. and we’ve had all these adventures.

But AdventureMan and I also love to eat good food, and we are (ahem) fed up with the Yellowstone offerings. We know Gardiner is just across the border, in Montana, mere minutes away. I haven’t had my coffee this morning (not a good thing if you are traveling with me) and we can’t get into our cabin until later.

Gardiner is FUN. We spent time in Gardiner three times. This time, we discovered the Wonderland Cafe and Lodge, where I had coffee and AdventureMan had hot chocolate. The Wonderland Cafe has all the things we love; high ceilings, lots of light, wood, comfy furniture – it has a great feel.

 

 

 

 

 

The view from Gardiner is purely grand:

 

 

 

And here is the famed Roosevelt Gate at the North Entrance:

We decided to head back out to Lamar Valley, our happy place, but first, we needed to have a good lunch. We found Rosie’s Bistro, loved the look, and had a great meal.

You know we are careful eaters. We have fruits with us, and crackers and peanut butter. We drink a lot of water. If you are that kind of people – stop reading now.

At Rosie’s, we went off the rails.

We could smell wonderful smells.

AdventureMan ordered a BBQ Pork sandwich, and did not bother ordering a salad. The french fries were fantastic. I ordered the not-on-the-menu ribs, which were so tender I only needed a fork. I ate them all. I barely even pecked at my salad. We did not order dessert.

 

View from Rosies Bistro:

 

 

I took this picture because of the picture. I thought I had a cool photo of the bison in the steam, but this one, oh WOW.

 

 

 

June 24, 2019 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Food, Hotels, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Yellowstone Grand Canyon and Canyon Village

We first drove the South Rim of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, getting out and taking photos, then hiking down to the brink of the falls on the North Rim side. We had to wait and go back later to hike the North Rim side because the parking lots were full, and cars were blocking the road, parking wherever they could create a space. It was chaotic, and it was unsafe.

These are the vistas that attracted and astonished the Park’s earliest visitors.

Honestly, too many people, I took the shots and got out so the next person could step up.

 

 

 

 

I think it is only fair to tell you that Canyon Village is the part of Yellowstone I like the very least. It is high on the tour bus schedule, because they have lots of services there to deal with high volumes of people. They have lots of space.

Some of those high volumes of people kind of don’t know park etiquette, like if you are on a narrow trail with a steep drop off, you don’t go barreling down on people, passing, and putting them at risk.

Some of the people on the trails were older than I am, making a valiant effort to get down and back up. There were children. There were a lot of people. The worst offenders seemed to be large groups of men traveling together, and oblivious to the needs and vulnerabilities of others, running over the weak and less capable.

Then again, world round, you put too many people in a small space and things happen. People run over other people, and people get hurt. Mostly, I just try to stay out of the way, and keep my eyes open, watching out for the heedless. AdventureMan and I are strategists – we find ways to avoid the crowds, as much as possible. Fortunately, our body time is an hour earlier than this time zone, and getting up early isn’t hard, and so totally worth it to avoid the frantic short-on-time visitors.

Our room was beautiful. Canyon Village is central to many different places. Canyon Village has stores, food places, a gas station, a post office, an outfitter, camping grounds, cabins. There are good and valid reasons to stay there, but we will never stay there again.

This was our Lodge; do you see all the snow? Parking was great, and although there was a large hiking group here, they were quiet and well mannered, no problem.

 

I loved having shutters on the windows instead of curtains. We had a patio, which I stepped out on from time to time, but it was too cold to sit outside.

 

We both liked that the bathroom had a sink area in addition to this vanity area having its own sink. The hairdryer was tiny, but strong.

 

All the lodges had little Teddy Bear soaps, which I loved. The Lodge was nice enough. No fridge, no microwave. Here’s the thing. The same people that run the lodges run the food places, so they want you to eat in their food places. I wouldn’t mind, if the food were good. It’s not.

Remember I told you we picked up foods for the road in Bozeman, at the Walmart, at the beginning of the trip? It was a God-send.

We had just hiked down 11 switchbacks to the brink of the lower falls and then  – 11 switchbacks coming back up, and we were hungry, so we decided to go to the food area for dinner. It was still early, maybe 5:30, so we had time to figure out what we wanted, and get in line. The line wasn’t that long.

The not-that-long line took us 45 minutes. One  woman ordered several meals, each on a separate tray; it took forever. Many foreign men ordered two or three meals, one to eat and two to take with, probably for the next day (?) I can only speculate, because I don’t really know. The line inched forward. A lot of people didn’t understand how the ordering system worked. Others didn’t speak English, and had problems making themselves understood. When we got to the front of the line, several things were already out, and many of the condiments that go with the meals were not yet in stock. It was a nightmare, worse than a college dormitory. Here is my order:

Intlx:  I’d like the noodles, please, with peanut sauce

Counter person: These noodles are cold! More are coming

(wait) (wait) (wait) (More noodles show up)

Counter person: No more peanut sauce! All gone!

Intlx:  I’ll have Teriyaki

Counter person squirts large amount on, then looks up in horror and says “Oh no! I just put hoisin sauce on!”

Intlx: (thinks “get me out of here”) Hoisin is fine. Green onions and chopped peanuts on top, please.

Counter person: Oh! We’ve run out of the chopped peanuts!

At least in a dormitory, once you have your food you can go sit down, but here, you have to go to the centralized cashier stand and – yep – stand in line. Once again, there are problems with currency, problems with communication, people letting others in line, it is a disaster, it is chaos.

After you pay, you try to find a table that has been cleaned off and that no one else is waiting for.

We were really lucky – we had gotten there early. Things only got worse as more and more people came in trying to get fed. We couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

For the rest of our stay, we never ate in Canyon Village again. We spent our days out and away, mostly in Lamar Valley. We discovered good food in Cooke City, just outside the northwest gate. We discovered that the Grab-and-Go sandwiches in the General Store were not bad: tuna, chicken and cranberry, turkey and apple, all kinds of meats for those who like ham and roast beef. We had our own favorite snacks already, apples, oranges, chocolate, and would refill our water bottles from our faucets in our room. The water was cold and delicious. From time to time, we would buy pie. We did fine. We just hate to see food service done so ineptly, with so little care for delighting the customer.

Our other thought was “and this is just the beginning of the season. What is it going to be like when the real crowds hit?”

June 23, 2019 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Civility, Customer Service, Food, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , | Leave a comment

Yellowstone National Park: Old Faithful and Old Faithful Inn

I love this photo, which I owe to my husband. we were out for a walk after dinner and he spied this old bison in front of the steaming geyser, just walking along, not at all concerned about the dangerous ground.

 

Forty two years ago, (we were so young) my husband and I spent six weeks driving across the USA in our Volkswagon Bus with our six month old baby and our cat, Big Nick. Mostly we camped; one time Big Nick, who was dog-like and usually came when we called, didn’t come. We had to cool our heels for a couple hours before he sauntered out of the meadow and rejoined us. We stopped in Yellowstone, and stayed at the Old Faithful Inn. Big Nick had to stay in the car.

So when we started planning this trip, we knew we had to stay in the Old Faithful Inn. This time, we wanted a bathroom, in our room, not down the hall.

We loved our room. It is so quaint and cabin-ish. It even had a radiator, and because it is very cold, the radiator feels good. For a while.

This is the view from our room:

 

 

 

I loved this old time bathroom with it’s clawfoot tub and octagon-tiled floor.

 

We watched Old Faithful erupt, and quickly went to the Bear Pit so we could grab something to eat. We had looked at the dining room, which is grand and atmospheric, but even the staff told us it was too expensive for the unreliable quality of the food.

The Bear Pit Lounge is a bar that serves food. It seemed odd to me – it was a large space, with few tables, mostly for six people. Not much food, a few items. We thought we would try the bison burger, in honor of being in Yellowstone. It took a loooonnngggg time to get there. The fries were cold. The bison burger was ok.

 

 

I took a couple photos of the Old Faithful Inn Dining Room. Normally I love lodge dining rooms. Not so much this one.

 

 

After dinner, we take a walk over to the Old Hamilton Store – remember, you saw a photo of it from the Museum of the Rockies? On our way back, we were far enough away that when Old Faithful erupted, I could capture the whole thing. The firs time, I was too close.

 

 

 

 


So I can be a little wonky about old lodges, but we were so delighted to be at Old Faithful Inn . . . until we went to bed. I had taken a bath in the claw foot tub, fighting my guilt about using all that water, but the room was hot – all that radiant heat. We had the window wide open because we couldn’t get the radiator to stop radiating. We were also in a bed that called itself a Queen, but hmmm. . . . we used to sleep in a double bed, and this bed was very small, like a double bed.

We could hear every conversation, from the outside, from the rooms on either side of us, from the hallway. Any time, all night, someone went in our out of their room, we could hear it. It was very atmospheric, and it was the worst nights sleep of our entire trip.

I wouldn’t recommend skipping the Old Faithful Inn. You can visit. You can sit in the galleries and drink coffee or have ice cream and listen to the cellist. You can make reservations and eat at the Dining Room. You can do all that. You can take a tour of the historical parts of the hotel. We are actually going back next year, we already have reservations, but we will stay in the newer part of the hotel . . . with bathrooms.

Why stay at Old Faithful Inn? Early early the next morning, before any of the tour buses or day-trippers arrive, you can have Old Faithful all to yourself, to give you a private eruption with the sun gleaming off the steam in the icy cold morning.

(Thinking of all my old Kuwaiti friends and the Kuwaiti sunrise series I used to run)

June 22, 2019 Posted by | Food, Geography / Maps, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, sunrise series, Travel, Wildlife | , , , , | Leave a comment

Great Adventure: Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks, Begins with Bad Omens

 

“If you want to stay at Old Faithful Inn, you need to reserve NOW,” my friend from Wyoming told me in the locker room of the YMCA.

It was only September, I wasn’t planning to go until late May.

“No really, you have to reserve far in advance if you want to stay in the Inn; my daughter warned me,” she counseled me.

So I checked online. Holy Smokes. The kind of room I wanted was not available. Several kinds of rooms were already sold out. My friend was right. We started researching, and making reservations. September was almost too late.

And then, as we got closer to departure, what to pack? How much to pack? My friend was not around to ask, but we were watching the weather reports. We each took larger suitcases than we normally do, because we knew we needed heavy clothing. I took a light jacket, a heavier wool coat and a rain slicker. Coats take up a lot of room. It’s hard to imagine needing a coat when you live in Pensacola and the temperatures are hitting in the 90’s this May.

The day of departure comes, and we have it all together. We are ready.

The taxi doesn’t show. We always give ourselves plenty of time, but this has never happened. AdventureMan gets on the phone, he is barely civil. I’m afraid the taxi isn’t going to come at all. The wait seemed like it took forever, but it was really only 45 minutes, during which I had to strictly discipline myself not to think that this might be a bad omen for the trip to come.

We were quickly through check-in and to our gate. Our flight goes smoothly. We have to stay overnight in Dallas/Fort Worth to catch the one flight a day out to Bozeman.

We land in Dallas/Fort Worth and the second half of travel hell begins. I have read the instructions, I have to call the hotel and they will send a shuttle. I call the hotel – five times. There is a screeching and static that makes it almost impossible to hear, but eventually I hear the receptionist confirm that she will send the shuttle.

We wait an hour. Then we see the shuttle! But he is in the wrong lane, he is in the fast lane, far away from the pick up lane. We jump up and wave, and jump and wave. He drives by, very fast, not even a glance in our direction.

I call the hotel again, and tell the receptionist what happened. She said the driver said we weren’t there. I’m not going to argue. We were there. I ask her to send the shuttle, that it’s already been over an hour we’ve been waiting. AdventureMan is getting hungry and cross. I am feeling responsible – I do the trip planning. I do everything I can to insure success, but sadly, I am not in control of everything.

Another half hour goes by, it is getting dark, and the shuttle shows up, already having seven people. We take our seats, and the driver picks up two more people, who have to stuff themselves in between people who are tired and hungry and hot and not as gracious as they might be. The driver radios in, “Yes, now every seat is filled,” and maintains constant radio contact with the dispatcher, driving erratically, at one point scraping the side of the van as we go through the toll gate. I am buckled up. If there is a terrible accident, I want to survive.

The passengers are from several hotels; the hotels have gone together to have a joint shuttle. We are first off. Check in goes smoothly, but we opt for a very early shuttle, not knowing if it will really arrive as it is scheduled, not wanting to face another wait like today.

We ask about nearby restaurants. There is a Whataburger in a nearby gas station. Or we can order delivery. Only one restaurant is in the folder upstairs, and when we call to place the order, we get the same screeching and static; they must have the same low-budget phone system as the hotel. We give up. We go downstairs, find frozen entrees we can microwave and eat in our room. We are eager to get our clothes off, get bathed, and get to bed. We have an early start the next morning.

Our room, by the way, is beautiful. It has a sitting area, and good beds with nice linens. It is quiet, and serene and comfortable. I’m not even going to tell you the name, because I have told the manager my concerns about the shared shuttle and the phone system, and told him that his hotel is lovely but he has those two systemic problems. A wise manager will deal with those issues.

The next morning we are up and out in minutes, and the shuttle, with an older, quieter driver is waiting for us, even though we are early. The trip to the airport is efficient and uneventful. We catch a breakfast at a Friday’s near our gate, and our flight to Bozeman goes smoothly. All is well.

June 21, 2019 Posted by | Adventure, Civility, Customer Service, Hotels, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips, Travel | | 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

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

Arriving on the MS Grace for Christmas Markets on the Rhine

Late in the afternoon, we board a bus for a very short drive to our ship, the MS Grace. We are greeted with enthusiasm and shown into the Lounge, where drinks and hors d’oeuvres are waiting for us.

 

The ship as all decorated for Christmas.

 

It doesn’t take long to get to our room, which we like a lot. It doesn’t have a balcony, just doors that open, I think they call it a French balcony. You can’t go out, but you can stick your head out and watch the world go by.

 

The bathroom is spacious, which is really nice when you are going to be sharing with someone, like AdventureMan. It really mattered to me, especially later in the trip, that the water in the shower was really hot and they never ran out of hot water.

Lovely closet! Room for us both to put all our things away, and hang up hanging clothes, store our luggage and even dress when the other person is still sleeping and one of us really needs some coffee 🙂

 

The dining room is not intimidating. There is always room. There are only maybe 100 passengers on board, so by the end of the trip we have favorite people we like to see and talk with at meals. The food was pretty good, too. I can’t drink a lot of wine any more, but they had a Sancerre that was cool and crisp and dry and went perfectly with fish. They had a good number of options at every meal, soups, salads, main courses and desserts. One person I saw even ordered two main courses; I’ve not seen that before, but it seems that Tauck really takes good care of demanding customers.

This is what it looks like out our window. It’s a good thing we spent so many years in Germany; we know what late November is going to look like (this looks pretty good for late November) and we are prepared for the grim greys and the cold. Even better – it’s what we came for. Winter!

For months, we have been following a thread on CruiseCritic; a thread about which cruises were going and which were not because the levels of the Rhine River have been so low, historically low. Some cruise lines cancelled, some made elaborate changes and ended up with unhappy customers. Tauck told us up front what our options were – we could opt for a later trip or do this trip with a mid-trip “ship swap.”

On the day we went to Heidelberg, we left our packed bags in our rooms, boarded our bus with our day packs, spent the day in Heidelberg, boarded our bus with our day packs and ended up in a little French town near Baden Baden on the Inspire, in the same exact room with our bags where we had left them on the Grace. Totally class act. Yes, it was a little disruptive having to pack and unpack – once – during the trip, but no hotel overnights, no packing and unpacking all the time, in fact as little disruption as possible, considering near the Lorelei the river was impassable for the 130m boats. They took a difficult situation, and did a good job making the best of it.

This is what our trip looked like, except that the last night was in Colmar, not Kembs. I think they changed for 2019.

What we liked a lot about going with Tauck is that they really do things beautifully. Presentation isn’t everything, but attention to detail really does make a difference. The ship was immaculately clean, and we lacked for nothing. Another thing we like is that we are very private, and very independent travelers. We don’t stick with the tour groups, we go off on our own and meet up with the group later. We like to find our own places to eat, go back to old familiar haunts, etc. What was really fun was that we met a lot of people like us who also took off on their own and went to fun places. On nights when we didn’t care to go to the dining room, we could get a perfectly delicious little dinner just down the hall from us, or even have it in our room. We like that.

They also gave a lot of cultural information, and not just information, but after a day exploring, there would be some local specialty the guides would be sharing on the bus; a special gingerbread, a special cookie, a chocolate candy, LOL at one place we even got a bottle of whiskey to put in our coffee, and a special coffee cup to put it in. OK, OK, I hear you, yes, we paid for it in the cost of the trip, but those little extras make a customer feel good, and it’s a competitive market. I admire their strategy.

 

March 18, 2019 Posted by | Germany, Hotels, Quality of Life Issues, Travel | , , , | Leave a comment