Off to Another Adventure… 

…in Ireland! Yes, October 15 through 30th, Harold and I will be in Dublin, Limerick, and Galway. Keep your eye on this space for exciting posts! I will be working (Bridgett) and Harold will be “helping”…me drink hard cider. 

Besides this, what are we planning, you may ask…? Dublin will be filled with time on the literary pub crawl, visiting The Book of Kells, finding Oscar Wilde, and enjoying the city. Limerick will offer me some work time, local exploration of pubs, coffee houses, if any… A  weeklong Halloween carnival, And hopefully not being drenched by downpours. Galway has a Halloween giant puppet event, And the local pretty countryside   to offer us. I’m not sure of what else we will be doing there… Sheep seeing? 

Anyhow, look for updates and photos… You can see the Instagram feed of the latest photo… So you can follow there as well. Okay, I must get some packing done… Harold is pacing already… Sheesh!

  

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Harold Loves Art!

IMG_8881Harold recently helped me out at the WestEnd Celebration in Sand City. He’s a good helper at my booth. He loves to talk to folks who stop by and he gives good hugs… and this year, he bought some art from artist of fabulousness, Murphy Adams… take a chance, it says.

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Officially home

After a long train ride from Strasbourg to Paris and an even longer flight from Paris to S an Francisco, after our faithful taxi man Gilberto drove our exhausted selves back into town, and after three loads of laundry and a dinner of what was in the freezer, we are officially home.
It is warmer…70 degrees rather than 30. It is light longer, and the grass and most trees are green. It is, in a word, California. It is the winter I have known all my life. But I can’t help missing the cold and snow….just a little.

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Our last full day…..sigh…

Well, we catch a train tomorrow evening for Paris, where we catch the plane…home. Do not be mistaken, I love my home, my family, even my job, but…..this has been such a magical, snowy, Christmas-flavored vacation, that going home feels like going back to reality after a lovely dream. Not bad, but, well, ordinary. The suburbs of California have a hard time matching the most beautiful cities in Europe, and that’s a fact.
Today we wandered, maybe for miles. We walked to the Museum of Illustration and enjoyed the sweet, simple, lovely Ilustrations of Tomi Ungerer and the biting 1960’s political satire of Bosc. Ungerer’s tales, “The Three Robbers” and “Jean de la Lune” were illustrated, and are lovely, even if one does not understand the French. Bosc’s wordless, one- panel comics said a lot in 6 square Inches…that is powerful
Stuff.
After re-fueling at Le Stub (The Stork) we visited The Strasbourg Cathedral. Smaller than Cologne ( because everything is) and simpler than St. Bavo’s in Ghent, this cathedral is RIGHT in the middle of town. You turn a corner and it just loooooms above you. And when the bells begin to peal, hold onto something. it’s like listening to a church roll downhill.. bongbongbongadabong!!!!!!
But what this church has that the others don’t is the 16th century, state of the art, astronomical clock. This puppy shows time, season, phase of the moon, exact position of planets, feast days, astronomical signs, all in a context of “Hey you! This is how much time you have left! Don’t mess about!” this was not a clock to get you to the dentist on time..lthis clock let you know, in paintings, sculpture and location ( the building has been standing and in use for 1,000 years) that you, sir or madam, are but a blink of an eye. It does sort of put one in perspective.
I guess this is one of the things I love and cherish about my time in Europe. I feel connected to a longer line of civilization than we find in the States. Where a few centuries is a blink, not the whole country. Europe is more like swimming in the deep end of the pool.

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Onto the crossroads: Strasbourg

We had an early train out of Koln for a connection in Kolsruhe for our trip to Strasbourg, France. I love taking trains in Europe. They are on time, clean (except for the bathrooms, which can be a tad on the gross side,) in good repair, and full to the gills of people…all kinds of people. We like to travel 2nd class, as 1st is too quiet and boring. In 2nd class there are toddlers, kids playing cards, old ladies gossiping, businessmen chatting…in many, many languages. Bridgett sketches for hours and I just watch.
And when you get tired of people watching, there is scenery! Lovely farms and rivers, industrial centers, suburbs…and all much closer together that in the States, sort of like Neverland.
Our Hotel in Strasbourg is right in the middle of the pedestrian exclusive area of Downtown. We are surrounded by shops, bakeries, and the magically cute Christmas windows of the Galleries Lafayette…little kittens and monsters pulled on strings, like marrionettes.
During the afternoon and evening, we got to talk to folks and do business in French, walk and see the well preserved old town area, and meet the lovely food and people of Les Armes du Strasbourg, a local brasserie. Besides teaching us joys of onion pie and saurkraut, this establishment introduced us to yet another European treat: cafe Alsatian, which is (surprise!) coffee and the local alcohol, which is an incredibly potent eau de vie called marc.
Today, Sunday, we woke up late and spent an hour or so doing laundry, then went for a long walk around the city. The canals of Le Petite France, church of St. Paul’s reflected in the River ill, the lovely public sculptures and outstanding architecture of this city showed us why it has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site for its unique beauty and history. We had to keep stopping to refuel…hot chestnuts, coffee, and other tasty snacks held us until we returned to Les Armes du Strasbourg for dinner. We have now soaked in a hot tub and are jello-y and ready for bed. Goodnight! (wave good-night, Harold…nope, he’s asleep).

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Koln (put an umlout over that O)

We spell it Cologne, but the Germans spell it Koln. I will respect their way and you will have to imagine the umlout ( those two little dots) over the O, because I don’t have an international keyboard.
The train station in Koln literally let’s out onto the plaza in front of the cathedral. I mean, it’s RIGHT THERE…the biggest church in Europe, the biggest church facade In the world…it is HUGE. We vowed to visit it properly..which meant we had to eat first. Passing an elaborate statue dedicated to the “heinzelmannchenbrunnen” ( a tailor’s wife who ruined a good thing for the city of Cologne when she angered the little gnomes who were doing everyone’s work for them) we found a family style, loud, beer-full restaurant called Fruh and ate some good German hack steak, bratwurst, potatoes, a huge pretzel, and drank beer, schnapps, and some good red wine. Our waiter, as it turns out, was from Spain, so we had a good conversation, in Spanish, in Germany. The world keeps getting smaller.
After a bit of wandering to let dinner settle, off to the church! Dedicated to St. Peter but full of lots of other folks, the church has lovely statues of St. Christopher carrying a child to safety, the oldest crucifix north of the Alps, bones of the Magi in a huge, rather gaudy shrine, and some odd tombs. One of these was to the only non-saint and non-bishop in the place, Count Gottfried, who, in life, had given his entire estate to the church. That gets you buried in the catherdral. Odd is the iron cage over his effigy…looks like a very dangerous dead person, but turns out it was the style of the time.
The church as a whole was huge and wonderful, but dark….winter is dark here, but it seems a couple dozen well-placed incandenscents could make a huge difference.
Leaving the church feeling inspired but in need of sweets, we found Cafe Riecherd, which fed us a milk shake, appelpannekokken, coffee and a Benedictine. What a day!
I must confess, growing up on the history of World War II and watching every war movie ever made, I was not initially crazy about coming to Germany. Most of the German I have heard was a language of anger, power, and interrogation. It is delightful to hear mothers coo their babies to sleep, or children ask for a sweet, or couples exchange endearments, in this language. I love allowing myself to be a citizen of the world, if only for a little while.

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New Years Day in Amsterdam

We survived a raucous night of fireworks… I mean, the most fireworks I’ve ever seen! On every street, people shot off big time fireworks out over the canals and from bridges… The streets echoed with kaboomies and firework noise… There were yells and clapping and craziness. The sky was full of lights … It honestly felt like a war zone … Controlled by happy drunk people. I was concerned that these same people may not know how to properly set off fireworks … And after awhile, we retreated to our apartment to watch the chaos from our large window.

Prior to this scene, we were enjoying some Jazz at the Alto Cafe… The Greenfield Quintet provided some lively jazz to help ring in the new year. Harold and his traveling companions wish you all a happy new year!

Today, Judy felt under the weather; she and I have caught a bug, but she caught a bigger and meaner one… Harold stayed in so she wouldn’t feel lonely (although she slept most the day) and Nelson & I went out to do walkies through the park and a trip through the contemporary art museum … Not much else was open today. The world didn’t seem to wake up and get going before noon. Understandably so.

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New Years Eve

Amsterdam seems to like fireworks… Starting at 12 pm noon, the Ka-booms have been ongoing … Startling pigeons & tourists & setting off alarms. It gets dark early and stays dark until 9am ish. So right now it feels much later than seven pm. We have walked all around Amsterdam today… Up to Dam Square and the Nine Streets… Ducking into shops & charming boutiques. We fell into a kaas shop (cheese) & came out with a local goat kaas, salami and a baguette… Dinner! Mmmmm. Now we are waiting around for a jazz club to entertain us tonight. Jazz is popular here… And it seems that they like American disco & oldies & Johnny Cash … Vinyl record shops are all over!

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Van Gogh Museum

We people have been doing a lot of talking….here is Harold in his own words.

Harold’s Haiku from a Window Sill

I see a lot from here

Bikes, raindrops, ducks, clouds and sun

Life of a city

 

 

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Travel Day!

Travel Days always have the hint of anticipation, and to tell the truth, a bit of anxiety. Packing to not forget anything, giving ourselves time to get to the station, catching trains, making connections. Today was no different.

We packed up early and had breakfast at the hotel, meeting a hostess wo had been in Salinas three weeks ao, visiting her sister! The world keeps getting smaller. We caught the local tram to the train station, then onto the train, giving ourselves several hours for our layover in Antwerp. We had the option, why not see something of a different town? In Antwerp, we got off the train and walked up the Meirstraad, a very busy shopping street, full of busy, corporate stores: Forever 21, H &M, 4 McDonalds in 5 blocks, Nike… Not to our tastes, really.

We had some coffee and pastry and then headed back to the station to catch our train to continue to Amsterdam….but look! there’s a cathedral, and look! there’s a string trio playing classical music on the sidewalk. We looked, we listened. We had lots of time. Or so we thought.

When we got back to the station, we had missed the train by minutes…instead of leaving at 13:30, (1:30), it had left without us at 12:30. A small panic attack and some euros later, we were re-scheduled on the next train, with Bridgett and I getting the ‘jump seats’ in the baggage area, since the rest of the train was full. They were great! Cushy and warm with huge windows on either side….and we had the whole compartment to ourselves! I recommend them.

We got a taxi from the Amsterdam station to our apartment. A short while later, up three steep winding flights of Dutch stairs, and we were in our spacious, airy Amsterdam apartment with a view of canals, streets and ducks. Time to rest up and out for dinner at “in de Buurt”, a local hangout with good food and drinks for good prices. Great folks, too!

Oh, a word about prices. If you want to feel good about how much your dinners out are costing you on vacation, start in Paris. After that, everyplace else feels very reasonable.

Looking forward to the Van Gogh Museum !

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