Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

“This is the Best Christmas Ever!”

In today’s Lectionary readings, what Christmas is all about:

1 John 4:7-16

7 Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. 10In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. 12No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.

13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14And we have seen and do testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Saviour of the world. 15God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God. 16So we have known and believe the love that God has for us.

God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.

Last night, our family arrived breathless and energetic after the Children’s Service at Christ Church (Episcopal) in Pensacola. My granddaughter was a reader at the service and had worked very hard to give a dignified delivery of the New Testament reading. We were all exhilarated at her success, and she was full of joy.

We did something different this year, a self-service buffet. AdventureMan put together two lavish charcuterie boards, We had salad makings and all sorts of garnishes, a cheese dip and chips, and many condiments. Ever-creative, our granddaughter asked if we had any salsa, and used that to dip her shrimp, rather than cocktail sauce or remoulade.

“This is the best Christmas dinner ever,” remarked our son, a rare and genuine compliment. We had agreed to simplify, and it was fun seeing how people chose, differently than we would have expected. It worked for us, for our family, giving people choices and creativity in what they ate.

As we ate, we played silly Christmas games. One was to take a phrase and go around the table with everyone taking the first letter of the next word and saying the first word which came to mind (assuming it was family-friendly). We ended up laughing so hard. It was then our grandson said “This is the best Christmas ever!” and my heart sang with joy, because there wasn’t a present in sight, this dinner was all about celebrating the great gift of a God arriving as an infant to show us what true love was all about, and that true love was flowing around the table. How often can we say “my heart is full?”

We will be rejoining them shortly, for the great gift-giving. For the first time, our grandchildren are excited about something they are giving us, something they know we will love. We haven’t a clue, but already we are feeling so blessed because they are thinking about the giving, rather than the getting. Thanks be to God! He is merciful, and he loves us more than we can ever comprehend.

December 25, 2021 Posted by | Advent, Christmas, Family Issues, Food, Generational, Holiday, Lectionary Readings, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships | Leave a comment

The Gift of Not Hurrying

Yesterday, early in the morning as I headed for the commissary, I found myself feeling relaxed. I can’t ever remember feeling so relaxed at Christmas before.

It’s been only since last Thursday that we’ve been back in our house. By Sunday, we had almost everything put away. (Today we put our last pictures back up on the walls.) But Christmas is coming, and there is a fine line. You don’t want to wait too long to do your food shopping, or everything is gone, but you also can’t buy some things, like shrimp, too early.

Today on FaceBook, I saw an entry about buying shrimp and crab at Maria’s, a local place, and everyone agreed today was the exact right day to do it, while they were still supplied and had all the add-ons. The post went on forever! I remember when I first got here, I thought if I got to the big fish dealer, Joe Patti’s, at 7:00 when they opened on Christmas Eve, I would be OK. I was SO wrong. When I got there, before 7 a.m., the line snaked all around the parking lot, and these people were serious, with food lockers and everything. Never again!

So it is unusual for me to be relaxed at this time of the year. It’s been a long time coming. My daughter-in-law has a lot to do with it, she has been eager to simplify. It’s been harder for me to let go – I was raised with a lot of shoulds. But this year we agreed we would do Christmas Eve and they would do Christmas morning and we would keep it simple.

The funny thing is, it’s really not that much more simple, but somehow, it feels more simple, more relaxed, less structured, less formal, and we all feel pretty good about it.

Once everything in the house was put away, I was able to get Christmas started. I only brought out a few things, but it was so much fun.

We have a couple small trees out on the porch, with the lights. We can’t have a tree inside because Ragnar (the problem cat) likes to chew on wires, and a little electricity does not deter him. I used to do a lot of lights inside before. Life is simpler now 🙂

I find that simpler is good. Relaxed is good. I feel so blessed by the gift of Not Hurrying.

December 23, 2021 Posted by | Advent, Aging, Arts & Handicrafts, Christmas, Cultural, Family Issues, Generational, Quality of Life Issues, Spiritual | Leave a comment

Out of Control

It gets worse. The flooring people, after one week, still have not arrived. They are in communication with us, and their crew is on another job where they found some problems that need to be fixed before they can complete the work on that job. It is taking time.

Honestly, sometimes all you can do is laugh. We had to move to the Airbnb because with all our bedrooms being re-floored, we have no place to sleep in the house; our beds are all broken down to store in the family room. Our cats are confined to the living room, which, fortunately, they like well enough, as well as cats like changes of any kind, as you who have cats will know.

We are reasonable people. We know that if it were us whose floors were problematic, we would want the company to fix the problem and finish the job, even if it meant taking longer than planned.

As people who are spending time and money to stay in an Airbnb while NOTHING is getting done, it is frustrating and chaotic, and expensive. We were so careful putting things where we could find them, except we can’t always remember those special places where we put the things.

And, of course, the unexpected struck. A funeral, for a good friend and mentor, at which I will be a reader, and for which any appropriate dress is hidden in the far back of my living room, behind bookcases and mattresses and stacked furniture.

After scrambling through different channels, trying to get to my “dressy clothes I won’t need rack” in the way-back, I discovered that I could make do with something on my accessible rack in the living room.

One last little whine. The temperatures have suddenly risen; the temperatures are tropical and laden with moisture. It is hot. It is humid. Our comfortably cool weather has disappeared, reappeared, and then disappeared again as a cold front moves back and forth over Pensacola, shifting our temperatures from cool and dry to hot and humid.

There is a bright silver lining to this cloud of December mishaps – As part of my job in the church, I co-ordinate with a delightful young woman who did the same exact thing, cleared out four bedrooms to have wooden floors put in, but she and her husband did it with children! They ran into the same problem, staying in an Airbnb, the job was delayed, and they ended up staying in a total of three Airbnb’s because the ones they had booked were booked again and there was no room for extensions due to the flooring company mishaps.

“It’s a drag,” she told me, “but you will be so happy with those beautiful floors.”

She is right. She made me laugh. She was exactly the right person in the right place to help me put perspective on all this and to laugh. Her situation was so much worse, and she survived.

The cats have adjusted well to their lives confined to one room in the house. The beta male, Uhtred, who has not realized that he is now bigger (and smarter) than the alpha male, Ragnar, has found a safe place where Ragnar can’t get him and has also figured out how to open the folding door, even with its slider to prevent being opened. He is smart, and persistent, and loves to open doors. so far, we have him contained.

The right dress will show up for the funeral. It’s not about me, anyway. There is a pin I need to wear, and I know exactly where it is, in a box at the bottom of a heap of boxes I can’t access. The hamster brain keeps running on its hamster wheel, and I have to take a breath and realize that most of what I worry about will resolve itself without my getting wrapped up in anxiety.

Limbo is never a fun place to be. We want this to be over, we want to put all our furniture back, to sleep in our own house, to have our things put away in logical places where we can find them when we need them. We trust this company and want to work with them; we believe they are doing the best that they can in troubled times. We are in a good place; no immediate vacation plans, no children, not a lot on our schedule, and our Airbnb has been very gracious about extensions. I’ve given up thinking I’ll be able to have this all done, everything put away, for Christmas.

We are not comfortable being out of control. We are experiencing the discomfort of rolling with the unknown. On some level, I believe it to be a reminder that mostly control is an illusion, and that we are often oblivious to the tumult and chaos all around us, disruption can blindside us at any time. I know there is a lesson in humility involved, and I suspect another lesson in letting go and going with the flow. Like Uhtred, I persist in trying to free myself, I keep pulling at that door.

December 10, 2021 Posted by | Advent, Adventure, Aging, Family Issues, Financial Issues, Home Improvements, Hotels, Living Conditions, Moving, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Renovations | Leave a comment

Every Monkey Gets His Turn in the Barrel (3)

It’s such a common expression in our family that when I thought to title this post with this title, I checked, and sure enough, I have used this same title twice before. I didn’t know I was allowed to do that. It’s all about days when you’ve tried to do everything right, you’ve tried to maximize your chances for success, but everything seems to go wrong. We’ve learned, as the monkeys concerned, that it’s all about loss of control, and a smart monkey will just roll with it.

There is a part of me saying “Oh woe is me.” It’s a part of me I hate, the catastrophic thinking, which is not thinking at all, but we feel what we feel.

It will always strike at the worst moment, this monkey getting a turn in the barrel phenomenon. Last time, it was Viking notifying us that a major trip was canceled, a day before we were leaving on another major trip, and big decisions and a lot of telephoning needed to be done. This time, disaster struck an hour before the book club meeting that I was to lead. While my husband worked his end, I walked away. I said I’ll deal with it after book club.

We’re not people who like drama. We had a wonderful Thanksgiving with family in Panama City. We had a condo on the beach, big enough for the six of us in the nuclear family, with sunsets and wave action and a great gathering with lots of hugs.

Thanksgiving night, we got news that one of those we had hugged tested positive for COVID. All of us are vaccinated, so we weren’t too worried. Then the next night, one of the six of us tested positive, and the next morning, another. Adventure and I tested negative, and immediately went in for our booster shots. This is not a great time to be facing an illness, even a mild one.

We bought a new-old house back early in the COVID epidemic, a smaller house, but a house we have loved for years. It’s in good condition, but we wanted to modernize critical elements, put on a new roof, fix the chimney, install tankless heating, upgrade the electricity, make it safer for aging people and more energy efficient.

The people who built the house decided, at some point, to cover their beautiful parquet floors with wall-to-wall carpeting. When my son and his wife bought the house from us, they lifted the old carpets and loved the parquet. Unfortunately, the floor was spotted with white paint, but little by little, they were working on those spots when they sold the house back to us.

We hired a company to come in and refinish, refurbish and restore the floors in four bedrooms, and scheduled it for the first week in December so we could be all moved back in and settled by Christmas. This is what my house looks like now – we have packed out almost everything from our bedrooms:

Chaos

We have a VRBO scheduled starting Saturday when the movers come to move all the furniture out of the bedrooms.

Yesterday, as careful planners often do, my husband called the flooring company to make sure everything was on track. It wasn’t. They were planning to call us to tell us that the work can’t start until Wednesday, and “likely will finish on Saturday,” which sounds way too iffy for us. AdventureMan got busy calling the movers who cannot shift the first date.

When I got home from a really good book club meeting, a meeting so good I totally stopped spinning around my hamster wheel of anxiety and forgot, for that hour, that we were facing calamity, I was ready to do my part. I got an extension on our VRBO. It’s costly, but it is convenient and will provide us with a calm, serene location while our home is in upheaval. Sigh. It’s an investment in our mental health.

I’m sad about Christmas. I’ve been working on cookies, and I put up outside lights, but inside, Christmas is lacking.

Lights

Rosettes: Swedish Christmas Cookies my mother taught me how to make

I am a woman of faith. I know that somewhere in all this are multiple blessings. When the good God shakes me out of my comfort zone, I am forced to confront my own darkness, my own failings, and sometimes my misplaced priorities.

I know all this will pass, and in the end, we will have floors we love and it will make us happy in small ways for years to come. I know that this Christmas will be very different, and less structured than before – and a part of me believes that this might be a good thing, too. Shaking things up now and then allows for change, and fresh air in stale traditions. Spending ten days in another location will be a sort of enforced retreat. It won’t be without daily obligations, but my routines are seriously disrupted, and I might learn something new.

Rolling around in that barrel from time to time might just be a good thing.

(P.S. The EPIC book club book was Code Girls by Liza Mundy, and was about World War II and its transformational effect on American women’s lives. Once consigned to babies and kitchens, they were sought after and recruited to do the tedious work of code-breaking. Their work with the Army, Navy and intelligence services was exciting, instrumental in the Allied victory over both Japan and Germany. It is an inspirational book.)

December 2, 2021 Posted by | Advent, Adventure, Aging, Arts & Handicrafts, Books, Character, Christmas, EPIC Book Club, Family Issues, Home Improvements, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Renovations, Sunsets, Thanksgiving | Leave a 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

Breakfast at Domaine de la Vitrolle

It would have been a false economy to skip breakfast at the Domaine de la Vitrolle. Yes, you can grab a cup of coffee at a local supermarket, and a croissant, and go your way for very little, but you miss the whole joy of a really good petit dejeuner.

If you’ve been reading me for long, you know I like people, I get along with people, but oh, I am such an introvert. I crave quiet time, and I love privacy. I treasure privacy.

For me, this hotel stay was restorative. All that socializing on the Viking Forseti! All that chatting and cordiality! Yes, I can do it. It takes its toll.

We have the dining room all to ourselves, and the table is beautiful and the food is beautiful. Look at this beautiful bread.  It tastes good, too!

 

See the apple juice at our plates? Pressed from apples grown on the domaine, where you can smell apples from the minute you drive in. They also have fields of grapes, and their own vintner, I understand. You can buy their juice and cider at the little store at the Domaine de la Vitrolle.

See the little plate of meats, and the separate little plate of cheeses? Lovely! Little pots of jam. Little pats of unsalted butter. Fruits. Over on a side table you can choose from cereals, and make some toast.

 

Croissants and pain au chocolat arrive in their own basket, still warm.

For me, this is what I love the most. Coffee and warm milk, served in separate pitchers. I love it that I can pour in a lot of milk and it doesn’t damage the heat of the coffee. I hate tepid coffee; but who serves warm milk anymore? Domaine de la Vitrolle won my heart with their coffee service.

We also got a bit of solid gold information before we headed out for the day. The manager tells us “there are three supermarkets in LeBugue, just turn right when you get to the bridge and they will be on your right.”

We are on the road for several days, and we like to have snacks with us, and to be able to eat local treats from the area. The supermarket format is also easy for us – mostly, a supermarket is a supermarket wherever you go, and you find what you want, go to a counter and pay for it.  This Intermarche turned out to be one of our favorite places. We went first thing in the morning, and then we went back late in the afternoon and picked up food for dinner, so we wouldn’t have to go out.

Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? You go all the way to France and you don’t want to go out for dinner? This is why I love traveling with my husband; we share some of the same oddities. We love travel, we love seeing what is available for people to buy, we love eating lunch out, but by the end of the day – we’re ready to settle in. We don’t want to wait until seven for restaurants to open, and then spend almost two hours eating a meal that is heavier than we want to eat.

We can pick up salads, pate, sandwiches, pastries, pieces of pie, macaroons with chocolate, tangerines . . . little napkins, forks, knives – it’s all so easy. We get to pick our own meals and amounts, and then, we have time to make notes at night, or read, or look at the map for the next day’s adventures, or even take a lovely hot relaxed bath in a huge bathtub. The making notes is critical; there is so much detail we forget, and when I can write some of it down, it makes for fun later on, reliving moments we had forgotten.

At the Intermarche, we also found something really fun – a Lego advent calendar for our grandchildren. It took a little doing, as there was no price on it and we had to track it down, but we are so delighted to have found it. My husband found some amazing macaroons with dark chocolate bottoms; we had one a day and they lasted the entire trip, oh how we enjoyed them! I found Prunes from Agen, famous prunes, fat and juicy, and I brought them back and used them in my Christmas fruit cakes. People were so kind and so helpful. It would not surprise me if we go back for another visit.

January 1, 2020 Posted by | Advent, Blogging, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, Food, France, Geography / Maps, Hotels, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Privacy, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Restaurant, 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

The Baden Baden Christmas Angel: Christmas Markets on the Rhine

AdventureMan is low energy, recovering from a bad cold, and I have a sore throat, so we decide to spend a day relaxing on board the Inspire, and to go into Baden Baden that evening for the opening of the Christmas Market. It is a great decision. We love traveling, and at the same time we are not in control of our schedule. There is little time for rest between tours and activities and briefings about the next days activities, and meals. Lots of meals.

It is a great decision. We feel great by the time evening arrives, and head into town for the opening of the Market. We arrive just before the arrival of the Christmas Angel. We are with a more aggressive shipboard friend who manages to be both aggressive and polite, and she “excuse me’s” our way to a very close vantage point, surrounded by Baden-Badeners who are delighted we have come to participate in this special community event. They explain that the Christmas Angel always used to arrive in a horse-drawn carriage, but now arrives in a beautiful new Mercedes. Somehow, that makes me laugh. Either way, it is an odd way for an angel to arrive!

 

Well, even though we have this great view, I have to hold my camera way up above my head to get this shot, and the Christmas angel is barely visible. She also has to make a very long obligatory speech thanking every possible Baden-Badener who made the Market possible. And many school children come on stage and sing. It is a lot of fun, and it is also very cold.

 

This is one of the loveliest Christmas markets I have ever visited. It has wide aisles, and lovely merchandise, and really cool food vendors with delicious cheeses, special wines, meats, and, of course, gluewein.

Our friend was a really good sport. AdventureMan and I are remembering our young years, and the way we loved currywurst, so we talk her into joining us for dinner at the currywurst stand. This is upscale currywurst, but of course, this is Baden Baden. It is served on a china plate, with potatoes. The currywurst we remember was really just a sausage cut into slices and then sprinkled with curry powder before ketchup was squirted on. This currywurst is a more special sausage, and  there is a lot of it. It also comes with a lot of tiny little potatoes, and a kind of garlic hollandaise sauce. A little of it went a long way.

 

Above are wooden carved creches, and all the carved figures you can put inside. These were really beautiful. I wondered where they came from; you sort of picture little wizened wood-carvers in Bavaria, but I suspect they are machine made in China.

It looks like crystal, but it is all plastic! Some of the stars were faceted plastic, and sparkled, so I bought several, even though I have a wonderful collection of glass and crystal ornaments from our earlier years. I also have two destructive cats, and anything special gets hung on high from candelabras and chandeliers, but plastic stars I can stick to the windows and not worry if the cats fiddle with them. Thus, over Christmas, I have already lost two of them to falls and being batted around.

 

Moravian stars were everywhere, most made with a heavy paper.

A beautiful collection of creches, each in it’s own container, above.

Some were very modern.

One of the speciality food stores.

 

We made it around the entire market, and now it is time to find the bus to return to the boat. I am glad; it is a very cold windy night, as beautiful as it is, clear and cold, and I have lost my voice. My throat is also very sore.

 

March 28, 2019 Posted by | Advent, Arts & Handicrafts, Cultural, Eating Out, Germany, Travel | Leave a comment

MS Inspire: Christmas Markets on the Rhine

Once we board the bus in Heidelberg, we are in new territory. The night before, we had packed all our bags and left them in our stateroom, carrying only a day-pack. This bus will take us south, into France, and to a new ship, the MS Inspire, which will carry us the rest of the way down the Rhine to Basel, where the trip will end, after hitting Baden-Baden, Strasbourg and Colmar, cities we have often visited in the past.

 

Our room is exactly the same, only with brighter colors, the colors of Klimpt, reds and golds. We have a little Christmas tree on our table.

 

 

Down the hall, in the casual restaurant, Arthur’s, is a tree totally decorated in owls, making me think of Hogwarts, and the messenger owls.

 

They have a simple breakfast buffet in the morning, and lots of hot fresh coffee. There is a much more elaborate breakfast buffet in the dining room, but this is close, and handy to our room. From afternoon on, they have a samovar full of gluewein available to all passengers, and boxes of Christmas cookies. So hospitable, LOL.

 

The ship is elaborately decorated. They must have had so much fun.

 

 

 

 

No rain, but mystical French fog and mist.

We didn’t do a lot of real “cruising” on this trip – one time it was 45 minutes!

 

The day we didn’t go to Baden Baden, I tried the hot tub. It was the hottest hot tub I have ever felt, I could hardly get in it was so hot, and couldn’t stay in. But it was beautiful!

March 27, 2019 Posted by | Advent, Adventure, France, Germany, 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