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!
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.
Opt-in Christmas Letter 2018
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 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.
This morning we made French toast and poached eggs. Hilary’s kitchen is delightful, especially with the balcony open. And we’ve fallen in love with her Nespresso machine. I feel a little guilty, but she can recycle the capsules right in her normal recycling. In fact, I’m rather impressed by the recycling setup that seems to be everywhere. (mind you, people still litter. It’s not like they’re saints) One of the joys of traveling (or even weekends at home or camping) is the quality of breakfast. Michelle puts far more love in to breakfast than I do, but I love the results. During breakfast, we hammered out the plans for the day. Bonn (for Haribo gummies), Berg Elz, and back to KÃ¶ln by dinner.
Next Hilary and I took the loaner car that her mechanic had given her (a POS Golf with a litany of electrical and mechanical problems) to rent a Passat. The exchange at the rental agency was ever so delicate. They all spoke excellent English, but add to that the intricate dance of trying to sell you on an SUV, or add trip insurance, or a GPS, or whatever. We left thinking we’d gotten out OK, but you never really know. The car was a drastic improvement over the loaner, but even an upgrade in size over Hilary’s Audi wagon. I drove the POS Golf home and relished the opportunity to drive a stick/diesel again. We got back, loaded up the Passat, and made off for Bonn to visit the Haribo store.
Bonn, a name largely forgotten but somewhat familiar to Americans, used to be the capitol of West Germany. By comparison to KÃ¶ln, it’s a somewhat lame city. It did have a nice enough downtown, and we enjoyed picking from the walls of different types of gummy candy. Then we walked across the street to Lindt to get chocolates as well. As we walked back to the car, we realized we’d just bought a bunch of melty things that we were going to have to store in a black car for the rest of the day. We crammed all the chocolate in to the glove compartment where there’s an A/C vent, hoping the chocolate wouldn’t be ruined. Then we drove towards Berg Elz, winding around and feeling like maybe we were lost. There was some tension in the parking lot about the direction the trail to the castle went and the way the service road went. We wanted to take the bus/shuttle, but it appeared to not run that day. So we followed the trail further and further downhill. We were all a little concerned about the direction, but I had memories of arriving at the castle sweaty from our visit some 21 years ago. God, I’m that old already?
The Berg Elz (Castle Elz), is a picturesque castle nestled in a valley on a stone mound. By the time we arrived, we were starving, so we got lunch at the cafeteria. It was just fine. Schnitzel, salad, and spaghetti. Oh, and pomme frites, because they come with everything. But then we went upstairs to join a tour through the castle, which had a tremendous family history. It was a little odd looking at the place and knowing that the president our nation somehow elected really does live his life as if he were one of these royal families. It kind of put a sour taste on the tour for me, but I kept it to myself. The castle is just amazing and really looks like a place you could enjoy yourself. And I’m not just talking like a crazy 8 year old boy.
After the tour, we got some snacks then headed down the Mosel River valley towards Koblenz and the Rhine. We followed the Rhine north to Linz, where we felt we could find a reasonable dinner. You park out on the highway then walk in to the town. The cobble streets are small and the town is charming as all hell. And it was empty. The rain and I guess the Thursday evening meant the streets were quiet. We wandered for a while until we found a place that appealed to the adults. And it was Pfifferlinge season (chanterelle mushrooms) and Hilary is a huge fan. So all the specials included pfifferlinge. I got pork medallions with pfifferlinge sauce and pasta and it was excellent. We were thirsty enough that we sprung for 2 6 Euro bottles of still water. That’s still hard to justify coming from Bull Run water country. After dinner we wandered the charming streets and made our way back to the car for the remaining drive back to KÃ¶ln.
That evening, we packed for our trip to Bavaria, watched some more Brooklyn 99, and tended to Maddie’s dry skin. The girls slept outside again and slept right through a thunderstorm. The covered portion of the deck meant that they were well covered, but I pulled their mattress a little closer to the door. The air was wonderful.
Hilary’s apartment is on Beethoven Park and is some fancy, award winning architectural/community darling. It really was a substantial development with massive underground parking and storage, lovely courtyards with ponds, carp (er, Koi), and turtles. Her apartment itself is quite roomy with a fantastic deck/patio that looks out towards the park. It was so nice and the weather was warm enough that the girls spent the night outside. In the morning, we scrambled some eggs, bacon, and sautÃ©ed some kale from Hilary’s balcony. Breakfast included excitement about what the first day would hold, but also required some calculation about how we’d work a trip in the the mechanic. During the drive from Amsterdam to KÃ¶ln, the front right wheel wobbled during acceleration. Just a few days prior, Hilary had the vehicle in to get the tires changed and the mechanic had noticed some leakage from the from CV joint. Rather than repairing it, they just put the wheel on. So she had them look at the boot but apparently they didn’t find any issues.
Well, we were going to drive across Germany in 2 days, so we were a little less comfortable with the shape of the front wheel. So Hilary took the car back to the mechanic (who didn’t speak English, but the daughter who worked in the accounting dept did, so they texted back and forth). It was and continued to be a frustrating experience. We learned but didn’t use the phrase “am der Name eherumfÃ¼hren), which roughly translates to being jerked around (by the nose). So with no confidence in the mechanic, we decided to rent a car for our trip.
During all this, Michelle, the girls and I went to Beethoven Park and played at a playground. The girls had a good time but had some difficulty communicating with the children, some of whom were naked. The girls had a blast though as they tend to do when there’s a playground around. Afterwards, we headed to the neighborhood Rewe to get some picnic items (and beer) and we took the train to Media Park, a large city playground with nearly abandoned equipment. The kids had a blast on the gigantic slide and unique and complex swing set. We thoroughly enjoyed our lunch and watched a group of adult (men) who seemed to be walking back from lunch stop to watch one of their coworkers take the giant slide. We assumed there was beer at their lunch.
We wandered a little further along the parkway to a massive swing set that had two pivots and two swings, but both were connected by cable. So to swing, you had to cooperate with the other swinger. It was challenging and somewhat frustrating, and if you jumped from the swing, the whole motion collapsed on the other swinger. But by this time, we were all hot, and the girls needed to use a bathroom. Which there are so very few of in Europe. So we meandered in to a nearby Saturn electronics superstore. We took turns pretending to shop while the kids used the bathroom. The store was fun in that “it’s familiar but different” way, and Maddie really enjoyed pretending like we were shopping. She even went so far as to make up statements like “I was looking for one of these!” Ham.
Next we wandered through town towards der Dom. We went through the old part of the town with castle walls and gates, stopped in a comic book store, looked at fanciful dress shops (for Carnival), and found an Asian market that Hilary was thrilled about because they had tons of ingredients she hadn’t been able to find anywhere else. We continued our walk, and Hilary had gone through considerable effort to try and get us there without seeing der Dom until we were right there. And it was worth it. We turned around the corner and were caught off guard by the presence of the gothic cathedral. It is massive. We wandered around it, trying to take in the scale of the building. There was scaffolding on the north tower which made everyone sick thinking about how scary it would be to work on the suspended platform that high off the ground.
Around the cathedral was bustling with tourists. Everyone trying to find a break in the crowds for the perfect picture. We went inside and MG lit a candle for Barley. We were too late to climb the tower so we wandered over to the bridge to see the locks and a view of the Rhine river. This city is quite gorgeous and I already regret having dedicated so little time there. But the kids were starting to crash from being tired and hungry so we made double time over to Peter’s, a beerhall that served their own KÃ¶lsch. By the time our drinks arrived, the girls were spiraling and finally crashed. We had to force them to eat some food, and after some gnashing of teeth, they both perked up. I got the pork knuckle, which was massive. And it was delicious. We shared a variety of pork dishes, including schnitzel, pork medallions, wieners, and we were able to find some vegetables (doused in cream) as well. The food was great, the server prompt, and the KÃ¶lsch was delicious. This was also the girls’ first experience in Germany of having a bathroom attendant. They were confused but eventually managed to use the bathroom and leave a tip.
After dinner, we (I) waddled out on to the old town square to enjoy the active energy of the evening. The girls had rebounded and were doing piggy-back rides through the square. The grounds were being prepared for the Cologne Gay Pride festival that was happening in 2 days. The girls got some gelato and we continued to wander through the charming square until we could catch a train back to Hilary’s apartment. Once we arrived at home, the girls were nearly ready for bed and insisted that they sleep outside again. We gladly allowed them to, and Hilary introduced us to Brooklyn 99, which streamed in English with German titles on Netflix there.
On the fourth day, we woke with a hunger for some delicious breakfast. Fortunately, there was a renouned waffle place nearby. We walked north towards it and were interrupted by a route closure due to construction. As we tried to bypass it, a construction worker started yelling at us in Dutch. We apologized and when he realized we were Americans, he turned totally nice and in nearly perfect English, gave us an alternate route to get to where we were heading. The route took us through this massive housing project called Funenpark that was a mix of park/open space. It looked like project housing done well.
We had breakfast at Brunchroom, which had an amazing “build your own waffle” option which the kids loved only slightly more than Hilary. Some of the combos selected.
- Bacon, Bananas and maple syrup
- Honey, fig, pumpkin seed and goat cheese
- Strawberry, blueberry, and whipped cream
- Nutella, Banana and coconut smoothie (not a waffle)
After breakfast, we headed to an electric boat rental shop (boaty) do do a self-guided canal tour. We all wanted to do a canal tour of some sort, but the idea of being packed in with chumps didn’t thrill anyone. So we hopped tram and got off at the connector to buy groceries for a picnic lunch. The lunch options were pretty stellar, but I was suddenly sad when I found the plastic packaged hot dogs (in buns) had American flags on the labels. Forgone conclusions.
Anyway, the electric boat rental was awesome. We motored down a canal to the Amstel River, then back through some canals to get a feel for the city. The views were amazing, and the pace was perfect. It’s hard not to get some relaxation out of a float. But the amazing cruise got even better as we pulled over to one of the very view empty spots along the canal to eat lunch. Cheese, bread, cured meats, fruit, and awesome beer. It was the height of existence.
We motored back to the mooring spot after watching a young swan tear around. We then took transit back to Hilary’s parked car on the outskirts of town and somehow managed to cram all our luggage in. It took some time to get out of Amsterdam proper because of traffic, but by the time we did, I’m pretty sure 3/5 of the car were asleep. And that was despite my encouragement for everyone to take in what they saw and notice the subtle differences between here and home.
We drove on and my sister and I debated how bad the rattling of her front CV joint was as we traversed two countries to finally reach Germany. After some long chats and long naps, we arrived in KÃ¶ln (Cologne) and immediately stopped for food at Planet HÃ¼rth. It was a very traditional German spot with excellent curry wurst and frits. Oh, and they had KÃ¶lsch. Hilary explained the May pole tradition whereby young suitors attach small trees to the homes of their secret loves. If the source of the love accepts, he (though mostly she) takes the tree down. Otherwise, the tree stays up, decaying as an embarrassing sign of misplaced love.
We polished off our meals then stopped at a grocery store to grab some food for the coming days and finally arrived at Hilary’s apartment on Beethoven Park. It is an awesome complex. Obviously built to last 70 to 140 years, unlike the crap we built here. We got a quick tour then utterly crashed for the night. Windows and doors open to let the fresh air caress us to sleep.