Looking Back

We have been back from our European holiday for over a month now and I’d like to explore how it all worked out. Could be a great help for future escapes.

First of all, it was a wonderful holiday overall. The planning really worked. (Yeah me… not to gloat or anything!) The big unknown was the weather and it proved to be very very challenging. If you remove that problem, then it was great.

One of the Bobs in our garden

Having the cruise first allowed us to get over the jet-lag easier. It was also a good idea to arrive the day before the cruise’s departure. It gave us some freedom to explore on our own. The hotel was very accommodating in keeping our luggage before check in and after check out. I would actually reuse that hotel: much cheaper than downtown, bus stop across the street, great restaurant, friendly helpful staff. It’s good to know since I usually transit via Amsterdam!

Of course the cruise itself was a winner. So relaxing to see the world and not have to drag, pack and unpack suitcases. Every so often our floating home moved ahead of us but mostly it was near by which would have made it easy to return had I been overwhelmed…. well, too overwhelmed… cause I was a teensy weensy overwhelmed a couple of times, mostly due to the unexpected heat.

Stampede breakfast

When you visit family you are at their mercy and everyone wants a piece of you. It’s lovely to be so loved. It’s hard to make them understand that, no, you can’t go out everyday, and no, you don’t mind staying alone… would actually prefer it. My German is not up to par and hubby is not good at the subtleties. And no one gets it that yes, I look darn good, and no, I don’t feel that great.

It was nice to have our own headquarters in France though they were rather skimpy. My French is very good but I still could not convey that, yes thank you for taking us out, this is wonderful and it was costly to get in, but no, I don’t want to see everything, I want to go baaaaack…. Noooooowwww. Having my 65th birthday with friends and family was the icing on the cake.

For the Ujamaa October Bags, Babies & Beyond sale. Guess which ones are mine!

Ah well, it’s only once a year at most. This year was more than three weeks long which is a lot. What surprised me is that hubby had a tougher time than me being around people all the time. He enjoyed our quiet us-time, retreating from the world. He’s never liked the unknown which I enjoy though it sometimes stresses me. Nothing to perk me up like a discovery. I do love the road less travelled, to get lost on purpose, to come upon a new corner of the world, a new food, a new scent. It was good for the two of us to know what to expect each day: it helped to set a pace.

Leaving Amsterdam

So yes I can do that again. But I would make it shorter.

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Something different

Hello everyone

Since coming back from holidays I have been playing catch up, seen many medical types, attended meetings, designed a cabin kitchen (or tried to), and immersed myself in the BluesFest where Ujamaas will have a presence. As you can see I’m not AWAL, I have a lot of perfectly good excuses for my absence!

Just so you know I have not abandoned you, I’m sharing an article I wrote for our eNews which gives an idea or what else I’ve been up to. As soon as I have the Blues under my belt (more like a woven sash), I’ll come back with some story. Here goes:

Two of my babies!

Once upon a time, there were two ladies, K and L, who were deep in beads.

K was the jewelry custodian, keeper of the enormous Ujamaa bead stash; L was the pro, the infinitely patient teacher who could show anyone how to do a Peyote stitch. When their two worlds met as L taught a class at K’s, ideas sparked.

Inspired by the Knit-Along group, fostered by people in the know, encouraged by interest, Bead-Along was born. Its location first alternated between K and L’s houses but once we discovered L’s Aladdin cave/garage of beads and supplies there was no turning back. We can now occasionally raid the Ujamaa stash and plunder L’s “store” weekly.

Gold flecks that will be part of a pendant once of these day.

We are now a closely knit group of creators with different tastes and one goal: make beautiful pieces for the sale. L’s former dining room is our roost, complete with proper lighting and trays and those wonderful little triangular thingies that can pick up the tiniest delica bead. There is room for six and, at full capacity, it becomes a little hectic. Besides each others quirky humour, entertainment is supplied by a lovely menagerie whose leader is a colourful, at times ear-splitting, macaw. It’s fun! L is the instructor in chief but others pitch in with lessons, tips, advice, and admiration.

Someone else’s work!

Periods of intense focus and occasional mutterings and expletives alternate with stories and laughter. And create we do! We are all willing to learn new ways and tackle new techniques so we won’t become stale anytime soon. The atmosphere is so supportive that we dare go forward and sideways. Our dedication pays off: since we started a few months ago, four of us have made $1323 for the cause.

More from others.

You will have to come to the Bags, Babies, and Beyond sale to see the extent of our talents and marvel at our pieces.

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Back to the Roots

France means spending time with family, introducing hubby to them all, making sure everyone could participate in bilingual conversations. It’s exhausting but it’s also extremely nice.

Hubby had not followed me to France since 1985 I think. He understands a fair amount of my beautiful language but will not dare speak it. A few family members treat English the same way. All’s fair in the world.

With young children we went to parks and played grandparents. Hubby is so good at this and the little ones were fascinated by this Tonton (Uncle) who spoke funny. They sure entertained each other.

I loved strolling with my niece and her two girls in Jardin Lecoq, a city park with French style gardens where I spent a lot of free time till we moved out of town when I was six. Maëlys (4 1/2) and Lise (18m) where quite taken with the swans. I am not fond of them, reminding them quite agressive but the girls had no fear. Then of course they ran around chasing pigeons. The bonus was finding a mommy duck with six babies.

The next day it was the turn of the other twin with her son, Clément (21m), who took us above town on a hill replete with play grounds for all ages. So much fun to run after another fearless kid. The view up there was spectacular.

It’s nice to be back home.

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Auf Wiedersehen Germany, Bonjour France

We ended our stay with another walk up a mountain followed by another outdoor lunch and a calorie busting climb up a tower with a view.

Herzberg Tower

It was very humid again that day so the view from the Taunus is limited.

I will spare you the details of the train ticket horror which would take several volumes. We travelled by TGV (French Speed train) from Frankfurt to Lyon, up to 312km/h. Even at that speed we recognized vineyards! Well, and wheat fields, and rye fields… In Lyon more train drama as ours was delayed thirty minutes but only arrived ten minutes late. Once on the train we were told it did not go to Clermont-Ferrand as they were working on the line but that we would finish the trip by bus and it would take an hour longer, making us arrive after midnight. I was so frazzled trying to use my Canadian phone to call a French number that the controller used her own phone. She was a real sweetie. I managed to get in touch with my sister asking her to call the twin who was supposed to pick us up to forget it and that we would get a cab.

Through the train window, vineyards and Les Vosges.

Once we arrived at the last station, St-Germain-des-Fossés, two crazy women stepped on board and shouted something I could not make out. And then I realized it was the twins who drove like mad to pick us up before we boarded the bus. I was so very happy to see them. Such a gift. They took charge of our luggage as I waved goodbye to the controller who seemed so happy for us. Then we drove almost an hour in the dark to downtown Clermont. The girls found the pocky entrance of the hotel, dragging our suitcases the whole way, punched in the door code then the safe code to retrieve the keys to our Appart-Hotel, and they left like a whirlwind, laughing all the way, once they had us in a safe place.

At that point we knew we were in France!

I’ll never thank them enough for this magnificent gesture. I was quite dead by the time we got off the train and could not think straight. Finding the hotel entrance around a street corner, an elevator in an alley, would have been beyond my power. Never mind coordinating brain and fingers to punch in the codes. So nice to be taking care of.

A flower for all those who helped us.

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Hoherodskopf

Wish you luck with that word. To me it’s Rot Kopf (red head!).

Wednesday was spent with two of hubby’s siblings. We were supposed to leave early by train to Kassel and come back around dinner time. When I heard the whole plan from hubby I told him to enjoy the time and that I would rather stay behind and have a quiet day. With the heat I knew I would not be able to make it; I did not want a repeat of the panic I had two years ago in Frankfurt. They would not hear of leaving me behind though I insisted. Plan B took us to Hoherodskopf.

Up in the Vogelsberg (mountain of the birds) where cooler air prevailed we went. Among trees complete with bird concert. There a huge outdoor park full of physical activities beckoned. Brother in law (bil) and I decided to do the tree top walk on planks and ropes. The others chickened out but were quite handy for picture proof as they followed on the forest floor.

It was fun up there in the crown of trees. The cashier told us we did not have proper footwear to tackle the rope only area but, once there on the edge, I decided to give it a try and it was no big deal and bil followed. We both wore sturdy walking sandales. I find yoga training really helps for this kind of activity as I relied heavily on core muscles to keep my balance. I even managed a few time to let go of the hand rope. Yeah me! As you can see on the pictures we are quite safe no matter what. It is a great gift not to be afraid of heights and I do not take it for granted. Now I wish I had followed bil on a sled down the meadow track.

We had a great view form up there.

Of course all this hard work deserved a hearty terrace lunch complete with large Radler (aka Shanty, aka beer and pop).

Again an excellent day with time for a nap upon return to hubby’s birthplace.

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Wetzlar

On Tuesday hubby’s “girlfriend” took us to this beautiful town. After the exhausting Monday I was not in the mood to go places but they promised it was not far and would not be long. I’m glad I went.

We strolled along the old streets bordered by beautifully restored timbered houses. I can let the pictures tell the story.

Then there was the Dome aka Cathedral where I could indulge my taste in architecture and admire yet again some gorgeous arches. The place was nice and cool, very life restoring after the heat and people. I was very surprised when they told us that, yes, we could take pictures even with a flash. Normally they don’t let you do that, preferring to sell you postcards. So, one good turn deserving another, I gave a donation for the upkeep of the building.

We stopped for an alfresco lunch across the cathedral plaza. It reminds me that I forgot to include that picture in my food special edition. These are pan fried sardines a true delight after decades of not finding any. Years ago in Calgary I bought some frozen ones and cooked them with care and garlic. They tasted awful and bitter. Then I realized that the insides had not been cleaned. Then I checked the packaging. And then I discovered that they were fish bait! Another life experience I could have done without.

After lunch we took another stroll around and we looked at some shops and one with linen clothing on sale. I could not believe the prices. One white/grey blouse and a green dress later we were ready for coffee. And then it was time to go back home and have a nap. A very satisfying day.

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Of This And That

Funny cute things are happening along the way. Thought I’d share cause I’m too lazy to come up with original material!

On the ship, anglophones asked us what that word “Fahrt” meant. I did not understand their concern until I started to pronounce it in English! Duh. Now, in German, fahren is to go places so you have Shiff Fahrt (travel by ship), Zug Fahrt (by train) etc… they were very relieved and it made a funny story to tell the Germans who don’t know what “fart” means.

Sheers I bought for the cabin but might not use. Too cute to leave behind though! Too bad there were no roosters!

The following pictures were taken in a restaurant specializing in everything apple. I did not have my camera with me but my sister-in-law obliged. She’s good that way!

Talking about toilets…this might be gross to some but I find it culturally interesting. In Germany many thrones have a shelf in the bowl, so whatever business you’re up to falls there before you flush it all away. It is not a pleasant experience but there’s a good reason for it: the shelf makes it easier to examine the issue and/or to take samples easier. There, perfectly sane.

In Cologne as I was gazing up at the roof tops my eyes fell upon this marvel. What were they thinking when they built this? Memento to a beloved kaput car? Whimsy? Ad for a mechanic’s? I started investigating but our guide was way ahead and I had to run to catch up. I still think there is a story there to tell. (Hum… would google know it… too bad my tablet staunchly refuses to hook up to the net while we’re on the train.)

We are now on the train to my home town but I’m way behind in postings.

Till later.

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