We spent 2 weeks on a sailboat in the Sea of Cortez with our dear friends over Christmas break. It was amazing. We mostly camped out around Isla Espiritu Santo & Isla Partida due to the northerlies, but the swimming, snorkeling, eating, dishwashing, fishing, and overall time was amazing. Just wanted to share an update.
Or Quatorze, if you will. Imagine being so lucky to be in France for La fete nationale, or Bastille day as we call it. It was our last day so we packed in quite a bit. The crew was growing weary of our all out pace, but we only had one more day. We got up early, skipped breakfast, and headed to Notre Dame. We arrived early enough that there were no lines. We toured the cathedral with it’s eerie quietness. I struggled with enjoying the history while also being mortified by the history of the church. I’m not sure the kids had quite the same experience, and I didn’t want to be a downer. Afterwards, we had breakfast at a cafe across the street that was incredibly disappointing.
Next, we took a train to Versailles and ventured around the grounds. It was too busy to do a tour of the inside, but the grounds themselves were impressive. While we were strolling, we saw a group of big helicopters with military escorts. Turns out our great orange one was also in the country getting a military tour. I’m sure he thought all the festivities were for him. Sorry France.
After the gardens, we stopped in town nearby and had Chinese food at a street cafe. It was excellent, and a fun break. We left recharged and headed back to Paris proper. We needed to pack and prepare for our departure the following morning. The kids were exhausted, and I really wanted to get them out later, so the downtime was welcome.
We stepped out for dinner and wandered the neighborhood around Centre Pompidou, which was fun, but no one could really agree on what we wanted to eat. Looked at lots of menus, stomachs grumbled, feed started to hurt, tensions started to rise, and we defaulted to an Italian restaurant. The restaurant appears to cater to a primarily gay clientele, and the waiter was very outgoing and friendly despite, as he called out, the most embarrassing and vile american also being in town. But he said he wouldn’t hold that against us. The food was mediocre at best, and things listed as filet were actually flank steak. The kids enjoyed the cat who wandered around though.
Since we were disappointed in the food, we skipped dessert and headed back to our neighborhood and got dinner at the one of the local restaurants. We indulged in cheesecake, tiramisu and a creme brulee. All were fantastic.
Later that evening, Hilary and I forced the kids to get up and head out to a vantage point near us where we could watch the fireworks show on the Eiffel tower. We weren’t alone. Any place with a view had people, and we found a few utility sheds that we stood on for a while (so the kids could see) and tried standing in the street for a bit. The kids were very tired (and kinda whiny) but the view was excellent and the crowd was fun.
After the show, which included lasers and fireworks, we headed back to the apartment and crashed hard. Happy La fete!
Today we are going to visit the catacombs. They’re close enough that we walked over to get in line. Sadly, because of the late night last night, everyone was dragging this morning, so our place in the line was grim. The line was long and we had no idea how long it would take. We waited for 3 hours and took turns going to get food from nearby restaurants. Hilary and MG went to get Sushi, while Ella, Michelle and I went to a nearby cafe and got a bad Caesar salad and split a burger.
When we were all back in line, we started to get the sense that it could still be several more hours until we got to the catacombs. Michelle, Hilary and Ella decided that it wasn’t worth it, so after 3 and a half hours, they bailed and went to look at other things in Paris, starting with macaron.
MG and I stuck it out for another 2 hours (picking up a little sunburn) and finally got to the front of the line. I think climbing the stairs underground, the smell, and the darkness finally made it clear to MG what we were doing. She started to get a little nervous and a little scared in the dark tunnels, but also excited. We explored the tunnels, enjoying the immense set of tunnels, the stacks of bones and skulls, and the ornate patterns made in the walls using bones. I think because of the spooky factor, (remember, MG was only 7) we moved through the catacombs fairly quickly. We were out in less than 30 minutes but did get to enjoy the bizarre and unique attraction. Was it worth 6 hours in a city of infinite options? Depends on who you ask. I thought it was amazing but would like to have a few more of those hours back in retrospect.
While we were underground, Hilly, Michelle and Ella went to Montmarte to see Moulin Rouge and explore the hill. They enjoyed a lovely afternoon snack of oak honey, salt and potatoes under chicken and a cheese plate. MG and I caught up to them just as they were finishing their snack.
Then we climbed to see the view from SacrÃ© CÅ“ur, which is an amazing vantage point. It’s also bustling with locals and tourists alike. Hilary had hoped we could see the amazing footballer/trickster who does amazing feats of balance and ball handling, but it was his day off.
After exploring the alleyways around Montmarte, we wandered until we found a small restaurant that was open (early) so we could have a nice meal. We found one, too. It was a small place and everyone was thrilled with their meals. I don’t remember all of them, but I had an amazing roast duck dish, we got a terrine, someone got a ratatouille, and Michelle got a poached egg with mushroom cream.
We all agreed that while the neighborhood was amazing, we were zonked and needed a little down time. Plus, it was already 7pm and we had one last full day before we had to head back. So we retired to the apartment where Hilary showed us YouTube videos of the football magician.
We started day twelve with a hearty breakfast of potatoes, eggs and avocados. (and coffee) We wound our way towards Rue Cler, which is supposed to be a bustling street market, but it was nearly deserted. Likely due to the rain or maybe the day, but there were only a few stalls open. So much for our well made plan of grabbing lunch fixings. We were able to find a lovely deli and picked a few types of charcuterie. Then we found a wonderful fromage shop that smelled amazing. We left with a nearly lethal collection of cheeses and preserves. We were able to find a few baguettes and walked the rest of the way to the park below the Eiffel Tower. We spread out on the lawn and luxuriated in our lunch. The combination of bread, cheeses, fruits, meats, wine and sour ale made for a nearly perfect lunch.
The one unusual aspect of the lunch is that we were quickly surrounded by a mormon youth choir all wearing “Musical Ambassador” shirts. They were loud, teen-agery, and prone to breaking in to song.
The kids and Michelle rode the carousel and deemed it “lame.”
Next we headed to St. Chapelle, where we managed to sneak a corkscrew (for the wine) through the security checkpoint. The church was amazing and the restoration work top notch. The colors, murals, glasswork, stonework, etc. were all amazing.
However, by the time we finished the church tour, the amount of walking and “boring” things took a toll on the kids, so we did a crepe break to recharge. We were across from the Hotel DeVille, so Michelle and Ella went to check it out before we headed back to the apartment.
We stayed in the neighborhood for dinner and everyone enjoyed their meals at the Italian restaurant. Michelle made some note about all the different pasta dishes we got, but her writing is so bad I can’t tell what it says here. Something about the Penne, ravioli that the kids vacuumed up, and something about Maddie doing an Austin Powers and falling down the stairs.
After dinner, we attempted to catch an Uber to our river cruise, but got kicked out for having 1 too many passengers. So we took the bus. The river cruise was amazing. The Seine River was so active at night, and we did a several mile cruise that included getting to see the Eiffel Tower twinkle at night.
After the cruise, we wandered over to the Louvre to explore the pyramid and just take in the city. It was a lot of fun, but the night was getting late, so we ended up taking 2 separate Ubers to the nearest train station, then took the train back to the apartment. Maddie fell asleep and I ended up carrying her back to the apartment. We arrived at midnight and everyone crashed.
This year is quickly drawing to a close and I’m sitting in the living room surrounded by family, smelling breakfast, and getting nuzzled by the dog who seems to want something. While so much happened in our world, it is lovely to take a moment to slow down and remember what has happened within our own clan. Reflecting on the past year, there’s one event that seems to dwarf all others. We moved. Our wonderful neighborhood started to unravel this year as houses sold to developers. We new the change was coming, but it happened quickly and slowly at the same time. Suffice to say, after four months on the market, we are now in a new home and quickly adjusting.
After accounting for the move, the next biggest event was our family trip to La Paz, Baja California Sur (Mexico). It was a wonderful trip that was nearly long enough to get the kids withdrawn from school. Desert, beaches, pools, whale sharks, great food, sea lions, sun, birds, fish, pesos, broken dishwashers, bottled water, and pumpkin flan. Yes, we did Thanksgiving in Mexico and it was fantastic.
Madeline, who is assembling legos on the floor, is growing like a weed. She’s gotten so tall and that we sometimes forget she’s just a fourth grader. MG broke her wrist at the playground a week before summer started. She was quite the monster on ketamine and kicked the nurses and Michelle. She doesn’t really remember it that way though. Fortunately, the cast didn’t really slow her down much.
Over labor day weekend, Ella, Maddie, Kona, my dad, sister and I all went on a backpacking trip near Mt. Rainier. It was a fantastic trip with some great views. The kids have been wanting another backpacking trip and we all had a blast.
Ella is in seventh grade. This year Ella bought a bass guitar and has started lessons. Papa is proud. Ella has had a series of shortening haircuts and now has hair nearly as short as mine. It looks good, and was also great for all the snorkeling we did in Mexico. Ella got booped in the face by a sea lion while we explored Isla Espiritu Santo. And while pre-teen is in full effect, Ella remains ever so helpful, thoughtful and kind. Ella is now taking Tri-met to school and seems to love the autonomy. This may be Ella’s last season playing soccer, which is a bit of a shame since it was also the best so far for defensive work. We’ll see what comes in spring.
Michelle survived hip surgery at the end of March after suffering through all the protocol to get there. She lived on the first floor for a while and really disliked the lack of mobility. She’s recovering fairly well, though the healing process is a year long process. I think she’s especially glad to be in the new home. Cleaning up after your kids every day to have the house show ready for three months is exhausting and put both of us on edge each morning. But now she’s loving the new kitchen and space even though we’re still adjusting. When we think about all the friends and family we moved away from (or also moved away), we have to remind ourselves that it took time to meet the neighbors and build a community. I’m sure the former president of the neighborhood will adapt.
I’ve had a good year as well, all things aside. I turned 40 in September but still don’t really believe that I’m that old. I still slide down railings on stairs and routinely feel like the least mature person in the room. Work is challenging, rewarding, and there is never a dull moment.
For my 40th, we headed over to the Deschutes to camp with friends and float and fish (and eat and drink). It was wetter than usual but still was fun to be on the river with friends.
I managed to fish in Washington, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas and Mexico this year by taking my fly rod(s) with me when I traveled. The Great Smokeys were charming and I had the place to myself to walk up small, steep trout streams through lovely deciduous forest. I think the most exciting moment was catching a rooster fish in Mexico. It was the most aggressive thing I’ve ever had on, and it certainly lives up to the mythology.
We hope you made it through this tumultuous year and have a wonderful 2019. We hope for wonderful experiences, time with family and friends, and personal growth in the new year.
Today we woke up and had our usual coffee and headed downtown to climb Der Dom. We stashed our luggage at the train station in a machine that takes your bags and stores them somewhere below ground. It was a confusing ordeal considering how savvy we consider ourselves.
The climb up Der Dom was fun. Sweaty, even early in the day, but so very rewarding. I’m not sure Michelle, who dislikes heights, enjoyed it nearly as much, but she made the climb anyway. The view was excellent, and some of the graffiti on the walls was superb. It’s hard to capture the view through the security fencing, but still, the view of the Rhine and the city were great.
After Der Dom, we toured more of downtown looking for souvenirs. We managed to buy a coconut from a street vendor (yum, despite the work) and eventually made it to the KÃ¶ln FC team store. We picked up a few gems before realizing it was time to go. The goat mascot is adorable. And while Hilary lived very close to the training grounds, we were there during the off season.
Eventually, we had to go. We had a train to Paris. So we made our way back to the train station to get our suitcases out of the ground. And we waited for our train.
The train ride was fun. Cozy, quick, and quiet. We watched the landscapes of Germany, Belgium, and France glide by. There were observable differences, but that’s more than I want to get to since I’m a year behind.
We arrived in Paris and transferred from Rail to Metro. It was confusing at first. There’s that rush at each transfer where you worry about the mistakes you may be making direction-wise. We got to see a lot of Paris from the metro. It’s a view in to a multi-cultural city, even if there are still major rifts in to the racial-socio-economic splits.Â
We arrived in our adopted neighborhood and took in the offerings. There were lots of businesses around. We found our apartment nestled behind an unassuming door.
It was cluttered and fairly dirty; something we’d not experienced from other AirBnBs. It was clearly lived-in with family memorabilia everywhere even though the info said that they lived elsewhere. The feeling ranged from charming to gross depending on what you were trying to do. But overall, it was a base camp with a decent living room, kitchen, and sleeping quarters. The kids loved it because there were toys to play with.
We fetched groceries for breakfast at the market down the street then headed out for dinner at an cafe at the end of the block. It was cute as all get-out and the server was charming. WE had warm goat cheese salad, baked ravioli, charcuterie, caesar salad, and most notably – table water!
The apartment got surprisingly hot at night, partly due to the plastic mattress pad, but also partly due to the stormy weather, that prevented us from opening windows. Regardless, sitting on the balcony with a cup of coffee (we brought Hilary’s Nespresso machine with us) was just marvelous. Too bad we had to leave.
We hit the road early enough and headed for Heidelberg where we were going to meet Michelle’s cousin Angie. We hit 200km/h on the drive, and for the first time, the Autobahn felt legit. We met Angie in the center of Heidelberg for lunch at an Italian restaurant in the plaza. The ladies caught up while we waited for food and it was fun to watch cousins catch up and talk in a way they couldn’t at home.
Heidelberg was that classic mix of dirty/aged but also pretty. Maybe the gray weather accentuated the look, but it very much felt like the city that all the pictures from my Langenscheid books from highschool were taken. We spent a good 3 hours in Heidelberg before having to say goodbye. But we had a short jog to the Miramar bath and waterslides. The girls were bonkers once they saw the slides as we approached. And they continued to have a blast as on the various slides and pools for the next 2 hours. However, I was a little overzealous and did a swinging leap into a slide and the speed caused me to slam into the walls during an s-curve and I felt like a broke my hip. Michelle managed to get herself stuck in a tub slide ride that spins in to a giant whirlpool. The kids loved it, but we had to continue our drive to KÃ¶ln.
Once back in KÃ¶ln, we headed to dinner at KÃ¶lsch Kultur. Parking is a challenge in KÃ¶ln, but we squeezed in to a spot and walked to the restaurant. The restaurant, the beer, and the meal was easily the best in Germany. I was forbidden from getting the saurbraten made with Pferd (horse), but the cordon bleu, the savory crepes, the kartofeln, the schnitzel, and the beer were just fantastic. Ella ate the bacon out of the crepes once she was done with the crepe itself.
I probably don’t need to explain how KÃ¶lsch is served, but the local beer is served in small glasses, and the server comes buy and replaces them frequently and marks a coaster with the total number of refills. This KÃ¶lsch was delicious and we enjoyed quite a few. The server was gregarious, helpful, and teased the girls in a playful way. It was the perfect meal for the last day in Germany.
When we returned to the car, several other cars had pulled around ours and had parked on the sidewalks, against bike racks, and up against the buildings. It was amazing and made me nervous for the future of our neighborhood. Still, I found that I loved KÃ¶ln and wish we could have spent more time there.
We were exhausted and slept in a bit today (except Hilary, who got up early to take photos). The apartment was great except that the bathroom ceiling sloped down to such an awkward angle that I had to shave on my knees to see the mirror. Also, there were some idiosyncrasies in the bathroom wiring. What better place for unusual wiring?
Unusual side note: Both Ludwig II and Van Gogh were institutionalized before their eventual deaths in 1886 and 1890 respectively. And they were about the same age.
We had originally skipped getting insurance for traveling in to other countries, but tried to get a hold of the rental agency before venturing south in to Austria. No luck. We’ll just have to avoid crashes. Insurance be damned! We crossed in to Austria after crossing the Lech River. We refueled and continued on past Reutte (more traffic) to our first stop, the Highline 179, a 1/4 mile long, 364 foot high suspension bridge. Michelle, not a fan of heights, rushed across the bridge thinking that our goal was somewhere across the bridge. She was not impressed when she learned that the bridge itself was the destination. But she conquered (or temporarily ignored) her fears.
The bridge was really cool. I didn’t sway much considering the length and height, and we were able to see the autobahn traffic below and get great views of valley. Some of us really enjoyed the crossing. Some didn’t. After crossing, we climbed up to the castle ruins above. The view was spectacular, and there’s still enough freedom in these places that kids (and adults) can climb around a bit without having to fill out disclaimers. But I digress. We explored the ruins for a bit, caught our breath, then worked our way back towards the car to find some lunch. We found lunch in Lermoos on a patio with a great view of the Zugspitze. The girls found some nettles on the playground, cried a bit, then recovered.
After lunch, we took the tram to the top of Zugspitze. Michelle had done enough with heights for the day and stayed in town to explore. She visited a church, walked the villa, and read a book in an outside plaza. Hilary, the girls and I took the tram to the top of the Zugspitze, then walked out to the actual summit. The ride up was super fast and my ears popped 8 times! From the top of the tram, you have to scramble another 100yds (and maybe 30yds vertical climb) to reach the the summit. We had to wait our turn for a picture with the standard gold cross atop the summit (a strange adornment on most German peaks). Strangest of all was a woman who clung to the ground but insisted on taking no fewer than 50 selfies while the rest of the climbers grew annoyed or mocked her. Some of the climbers had actually hike/climbed the whole way.
My girls got their picture with the summit mark. That, with the scrambling they did to get there (and their comfort) made my heart swell with pride. I’m pretty sure I teared up at work telling coworkers about it. They were so confident, comfortable, and adventurous. After we summited, we grabbed hot cocoa and beers to enjoy on the summit. Though as we sipped, the clouds and rough weather came in. So we headed for the tram to get back down to the valley. The wind and weather reared up, and we had to stop on our descent several times as the wind rocked the the tram car side to side. We managed not to collide with the towers, but it was an adventure.
When we hit the ground, we drove around to find Michelle. We’d forgotten to get a sticker from Austria so we drove around trying to find a place open that had stickers. No luck. So we headed back to FÃ¼ssen for Dinner. We went to a medieval themed restaurant for dinner in the old town. We were made to wear bibs, drink from crockwear, and I was finally able to order a 1 liter stein of wonderful Bavarian lager. For dinner, I had the schweinbraten and Michelle had these horrible sauerkraut cakes that everyone agreed were horrible.
After dinner we wandered the town some more, took in a band playing in the city center, then headed back to the apartment to start packing for the drive back in the AM. Plus, everyone agreed that some alone time would be welcomed. Hilary and I walked around the villa of Halblech and stuck our noses in some farms and just took in the local flavor. I even found a decoy traffic sign that was made from random parts to trick people in to slowing down. We explored until the impending thunderstorm arrived and we retired to the apartment and went to bed early.
We woke around 7am in our Bavarian lodge and made breakfast of eggs, toast, coffee, and a few of the Emmental Pringles that we picked up from the store. Our mission was to tour Neuschwanstein Castle before the masses. We already had tickets, so it was a matter of driving over, getting the printed tickets, and hiking up. We had to stop several times to take pictures because the view was amazing as the light climbed over the alps and lit the castles. While waiting for tickets, I was able to snag some places from Ukraine, Andora, and Lichtenstein. (yes, dork alert)
We completed the tour through the castle, which is incredibly ornate. The girls seemed to be impressed as well. I think the king’s cave retreat was best, but so much of the castle just displays a level of craftsmanship and opulence that you can only find in castles or the homes of megalomaniacs. But it sure is fun to enjoy it as an onlooker. At least when it’s done well. Oh, no photos in the castle. Because they want to sell books and postcards and stuff. So I took some from outside.
(more from Alpsee later)
After the tour, we walked up to MarienbrÃ¼cke (Mary’s bridge) for an even better view of the castle. It was packed compared to our visit 21 years ago. In fact, tour busses were letting off throngs of tourists with the expectation that they walk down towards the castle. But something was lost in translation because as I crossed the bridge an started climbing the somewhat challenging trail up the steep ridge, I ran in to a big group of Chinese tourists, aged 40-80, none of whom were wearing appropriate shoes. Also, they were standing on a cliff edge while taking pictures with full-sized tablets. I eventually ran in to someone who spoke English. They were asking if this was the trail to the castle (which it should have been obvious that it wasn’t). After that, a whole platoon of tourists turned around and headed back in the right (safe) direction. The view is stellar, and worth the hike. Though you may have to fight for a spot to take pictures.
Afterwards, we headed back to FÃ¼ssen and had lunch at a small cafe named Via. Salad, antipasta, burger, and sweet, sweet Bavarian beer. Then we wandered around town shopping and exploring the lovely village. I was tempted to get some used lederhosen, but chickened out. Hilary did find a dirndle for her trip to MÃ¼nchen in September. And while wandering the streets, I heard singing and we followed it to a church where we were able to take in a concert.
We headed back to our rental and discussed our plans. We wanted to swim somewhere and Fritz suggested we go to Alpsee instead of Obensee (we were able to reuse our parking pass from earlier). While it was threatening rain, we shed our clothes and dove in. The water felt great, and we ended up swimming near swans. MG made friends with a girl who had previously lived in the US (and spoke english) but now lived in MÃ¼nchen. We enjoyed ourselves for some time until it started to pour rain. We changed clothes in the parking lot before heading to SchloÃŸbrauhaus for dinner. The rain persisted, but we were able to sit under an awning with a great view of the castles and have dinner. The women ordered Wienerschnitzel with Allgau sauce, and Andy misread the menu/specials and ended up with liver and onions. The kids got kartoflen and weiÃŸwurst (which Andy stole bites of).
Afterwards we headed home and crashed. Hard. after watching a lovely, cloudy sunset.
Woke today to a loud bird outside Hilary’s apartment. We did a simpler breakfast of cereal and MG lost her phone privileges because she failed to put her socks away for the umpteenth time (and insubordination). We loaded up the rental and moved the loaner Golf in to the garage then struck out for Rothenburg ob der Tauber. Michelle put on her headphones as the rest of us finished the Masterminds audio book. Traffic easily added another hour of travel just to our first destination. We adjusted routes and ended up on the Romantischer Road, which was pretty, small, and windy.
When we got to Rothenburg (ob der Tauber), we were all hungry. We parked outside the city walls and walked through a gate. It’s a medieval walled city that is incredibly charming. I think Hilary described it as “looking like Germany threw up all over the place.” It had all the “German” charm you could hope for and not have it be Christmas. We ended up having lunch in the street outside an Italian restaurant. It was a mix of pastas and pizza, which thanks to our hunger, really hit the spot.
After lunch, the girls and I went to climb the tower at city hall while Hilary and Michelle went to visit the Museum of Crime & Punishment (a.k.a. the torture museum). We climbed some very rustic stairs and ladders to eventually peak out of the top of the tower from a small walkway. The view of the town was excellent and I think the girls have a knack for climbing and being up high. By the time we got down, Hilary and Michelle still hadn’t gone to the museum because they had been enchanted by the streets of the town itself. So we split up again. The girls and I walked along the wall, looking out through the archer holes, and stopping to visit shops. We did our best to look with our eyes, not our hands.
Once the ladies had finished the Crime & Punishment museum, we got some Eis (gelato) and stopped at some ATMs to get some more walking around money (geld). Then we exited the charming walled town and got back in the car (next to a Russian Federation license plate) and continued on towards FÃ¼ssen. There was more traffic, and I learned that Waze really doesn’t work very well in Germany. Plus, it had totally eaten up a bunch of my data plan trying to load things because it doesn’t let you pre-download street data for places you know you’ll be.
Anyway, several hours later, we watched as the flat lands turned in to rolling hills and then we could see the Alps jutting up on the horizon. We continued past rich green pastures with forested hills and eventually saw signs directing us to either FÃ¼ssen or to Reutte, Austria. We had arrived.
We stopped in town at a grocer to pick up food (and Bier!) for our stay. I have no idea what the food shopping was like because I was overwhelmed at the options for beer. We were in Bavaria now and there were so many delicious looking options. I had to pick things we couldn’t get elsewhere, but also wanted a wide swath of options to see what was best. We checked out, bagged our food (having to purchase an extra bag for all the heavy, heavy beer), and drove towards Halblech. We passed Hoenschwangau and Neuschwanstein castles in the setting sun and the girls were appropriately impressed at the beauty and whimsey of the situation. The light was excellent as we approached Gasthaus Fritz, our AirBnB.
We were given a tour by Herr Fritz to the apartment above their home. It was a spacious loft with 3 bedrooms, 1 bathroom, a kitchenette (well equipped), and a living room with a small deck overlooking the alps. Fritz showed us all the idiosyncrasies of the home (don’t turn the key left, the stove stays hot, this part of the fridge freezes, here’s the heater because sometimes it snows in July) then wandered a few blocks down by large dairy cows to a restaurant that served local faire. I had the suckling pig (excellent), Michelle the local schnitzel (which she didn’t care for, sauce-wise) and we all had spatzel.
On the walk back home (or piggyback rides for the girls), we wandered past and spoke with the dairy cows as an amazing thunderstorm rolled in to town. The thunder lasted all night, but the rain was relatively minimal.