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Bill's Travels

Discussion in 'General Chat' started by BillB, Jan 27, 2009.

  1. BillB

    BillB Type 2 · Well-Known Member

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    Thank you, Keesha. It was a time of great cruelty and it is sad that the sacrifices of so many were necessary to put an end to such abominations. What I cannot understand is why so many children had to be murdered. I’ve always thought that the absolute duty of any human being was to protect the young, no matter their age, their race or religion. When we were in Jerusalem some years ago we went to the Children’s Memorial which I was dreading because I become enraged about cruelty to children. But it was an uplifting experience, almost ethereal, with a candle burning for each child who died in the Holocaust. But to see so many small flames, thousands upon thousands of them, will break your heart.

    The tour continued and we set off walking while our guide gave us a stream of information about the areas we were walking through. Then at one point he stopped on a small square and started talking about Hitler’s rise to power. We stood and listened but I was taken somewhat aback as he began with Hitler’s election as Chancellor of Germany in 1933 with the assistance of the German president Hindenberg, who thought that rather than battling the emerging Nazi Party Hitler could be controlled.

    Let me interrupt here and state that as you get older, legs, knees, hips, and muscles become rather rebellious. Walking isn’t so bad if you keep to a steady pace, but standing still for a long period becomes a painful experience. I could see from Jackie’s face that standing there was hurting her badly. She won’t complain, simply tolerate the discomfort, but when I saw her sit down at a pavement cafe’s table and was shortly joined by several others from our group I knew I had to speak up.

    I walked up to our guide and explained that I had no wish to be rude but I felt I should point out that we were all of a similar age and that the events leading to Hitler becoming Chancellor and the reign of terror that ensued were familiar to us. I also explained that standing still for long periods led to discomfort and outright pain. Moreover, the owners of the cafe where many of our group were sitting were going to get pretty irate if they occupied the facilities without buying so much as a coffee.

    He took the messsage in and we moved on as he explained more about Heydrich himself. I saw a film just before we departed on our cruise called “The Man with the Iron Heart”, with Rosamond Pike as Heydrich’s wife, Lina, who was responsible for his joining the Nazis and his subsequent rise within the Party, until he became commander of the SS and the Gestapo and Reich Protektor, (protector of the Reich). The film is made from part of a novelized biography of Heydrich.

    We visited several areas where events in the lead up to the attack happened, where memorials to those who had taken part are situated and finished the tour at the church where the Czech agents had taken refuge from the Nazi pursuers.

    It is possible to visit the crypt where Gabcik and Kubis died. There is still evidence from the siege as hordes of Nazi troops gathered outside. There is a small window in the crypt looking out onto the street and it was here that the Nazis began their attempts to wipe out the Czechs. They concentrated their fire on the window and you can still see the bullet holes in the brick that surround the window. In the crypt there are many more, as the gunfire poured in and ricocheted around the interior. Clearly this didn’t work so the fire brigade was called in to flood the crypt, another tactic that didn’t work. Eventually the Czech freedom fighters realised that they had no hope of escaping. When the Nazis finally blasted their way into the crypt using high explosive charges they found the Czechs had shot themselves rather than fall into the hands of one of history’s cruellest regimes.

    The crypt is now a memorial with bronze busts of Gabcik and Kubis. There were fresh flowers in front of the busts and poppies and wreaths were laid around.

    In the previous post I said that Gabcik and Kubis moved down to the crypt, but I have discovered that Kubis had been killed in the prayer loft in the initial battle and Gabcik and three others took refuge in the crypt. However, one thing is certain - these men’s bravery and sacrifices will never be forgotten.

    We spent the rest of the evening in a somewhat sober mood, but our whole time spent cruising the Rhine and the Danube as well as our visit to Prague would have been impossible without the determination of these people, and many, many more like them. My life and Jackie’s would have been vastly different without them, and the free and open Europe that we enjoy today would not be possible. We owe every person who fought the Nazis a debt that we can never repay. Every male in my family who was old enough served in the British armed services. I’m sure that many people on this site can say the same thing.

    The next day we flew from Prague airport to Luxembourg, the final flight on what had been at times an exhilarating and fun experience. It also gave us food for thought with the hatred and racism that Brexit seems to have unleashed, the takeover by the extreme right wing of the Conservative Party and the emergence of right wing parties all over the world.
     
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    #301 BillB, Sep 20, 2018 at 5:33 PM
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  2. Keesha

    Keesha Type 2 · Well-Known Member

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    Bill,

    Just so you know your write up on the heroic acts of people especially the duo Gabcik and Kubis during the Holocaust really put a tear in my eye. You gave a very descriptive and moving account of what happened. This kind of barbaric acts are still happening unfortunaly. Just see what is happening in the Middle East, and conflicts between Jerusalem and the Palestines. Cannot believe it is still happening as if lessons have not been learned after all these years.

    With regards to Brexit, can you tell me if you will lose all your health benefits and pension if you decide to choose to live abroad long term? Are you able to own properties, businesses and continue as if you are still a British citizen or regarded as second class?
     
  3. BillB

    BillB Type 2 · Well-Known Member

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    Hi there, Keesha. Many thanks for your comments. Like you, I cannot believe how far to the right GB is moving, and the racial hatred that is rising in so many places. I have read of tourists speaking to each other in their mother tongues and being harangued by British people shouting at them to speak English, you're in England. Jackie and I have been expats since 1964 and in all that time nobody has ever treated us like that.
    As for Brexit, I look at what is happening in these negotiations with horror. Nobody in the government seems to understand the ramifications of leaving the EU. The government is still shouting about how the EU should treat them with respect, while ever since Britain joined the EEC as it then was, the EU has been subjected to a barrage of lies and abuse that would have Josef Goebbels green with envy.
    And the answer to your question about how Brexit will affect us our son, who has recently opened his own business in France has been a Luxembourg citizen for a good few years and we were granted Luxembourg nationality on 20 November last year. We are no longer May's bargaining chips, a designation she gave people like us which shows how little understanding she has of the people she allegedly serves.
    Oh, Goodness, I must stop ranting. The basic fact is that whatever she and her bunch of wealthy but incompetent conspirators do they cannot harm Jackie and me. If we had to choose one nationality, I have to say with a heavy heart that it would be Luxembourg.
    Anyway, onwards, ever onwards.
    Jackie and I were feeling restless after having been more or less housebound since we got back from Maastricht in July. I attended regular appointments with the dental surgeon who was taking care of my dental implants. The growth of bone around the implants was proceeding normally, so that’s a relief. (The whole saga should be over by the middle of October).

    Having a hiatus in my dental pilgrimages, I suggested a week in the Black Forest, a place we hadn’t visited in a number of years. We decided on mid-September as children were back in school, the traffic was much reduced and prices drop a little. There are certain advantages to being a senior citizen.

    I went on to the internet to look for a region or a hotel that grabbed our fancy. I hit on the little village of Biederbach which was deep in the Black Forest and not really close to any large towns. The hotel looked attractive, built in rustic German style, the price was amazingly good and included breakfast into the bargain. Online I booked a double room with a balcony. We even had the privilege of cancelling our booking without penalty up to the last day before our arrival.

    When I entered our destination into the GPS it told me the journey would be less than 300 kilometres and take just on 3 hours. Our check in time was 2 p.m. so if we left around 10 a.m. we had plenty of time for a lunch stop.

    The GPS was pretty accurate as after stopping for lunch while in France we crossed the border into Germany just north of Strasbourg and after a stretch on the German Autobahn we took the side roads for a while. We passed villages and hamlets, all the while passing through stretches of dense forest and open pastures.

    We finally arrived at a village called Biederbach and I started looking for the Gasthof Hirschen-Dorfmühle. Than I glanced at the GPS and it was telling me that we still had 6 kms to drive. We then came to Upper Biederbach, followed quickly by Lower Biederbach. Still no sign of the hotel and the GPS was telling me we still had 3 kms to drive. Jackie’s hobby is arguing with the GPS system, so she was getting frustrated at the number of villages called Biederbach. I haven’t told her yet that these are arguments she’s never going to win, so she still continues this little pastime of hers. It keeps her happy and stops her passing comments on my driving.

    I just followed the instructions I was being given (by the GPS, naturally) and sure enough, after 3 kms it announced that we had reached our destination. And there we were, outside a pleasant looking hotel, its facade painted red, its exterior woodwork freshly varnished and the whole impression very favourable.

    I slipped the car into one of the slots across the road (a small road) and we went to check in. We were welcomed warmly and the owner, hearing our British accents when we spoke to her in German, began speaking to us in very good English. She showed us upstairs and gave us a choice of two rooms. We took the second as it was larger, airier, more comfortable and had a balcony overlooking a pasture where sheep were grazing.

    After unpacking we went down to the terrace where drinks were served and we sat in the shade of a tree whose leaves were just beginning to turn. It was a warm, sunny day and the shady table was a pleasant place to enjoy the beers we ordered. Jackie rarely drinks beer and I’m not really a beer person, but those glasses really hit the spot. The only drawback for us is that beer makes us sleepy so when we returned to the room it was tempting to lie back and relax. Neither of us wanted to sleep in the afternoon so after freshening up we went for a walk around the village.

    We had chosen by chance and luck had been kind to us. It was a pretty farming village, surrounded by emerald green meadows which were in turn surrounded by forest. The Black Forest is not the wealthiest area in Germany by a long shot but it seems to be a German trait that their houses are always kept freshly painted and the surrounding gardens, gates and fences are always kept neat and maintained. There weren’t many shops - an artisan bakers whose cakes looked delicious, a bank, our hotel which was the local restaurant and pub and the town hall offices. A stream, whose water was always crystal clear, ran through the middle of the village.

    We made our way slowly back to the Gasthof (our hotel, as its called in German, a word that denotes a cross between a pub, a hotel and a restaurant). Our experience over the years has been that these places are wonderful, welcoming hostelries when you are travelling, even with children.

    We had dinner in the hotel that evening and another pleasant surprise awaited us. The menu contained many local specialities, specifically game and wild mushrooms, as well as pork, beef and lamb. For some odd reason Jackie’s favourite drink, gin and tonic, is hard to come by in Germany and she doesn’t even bother asking for it any more. It’s a strange omission when you can order a g&t in the surrounding countries without a problem. You can get them anywhere in Luxembour, Belgium, France and the Netherlands but Germany is a black hole for gin and tonic lovers. She ordered an Aperol Spritz instead while I, as a whisky drinker, have never had problems in any country I’ve been to, except for most Islamic countries.

    For dinner we each settled on a Wiener Schnitzel, one of those dishes which sounds simple to prepare but are fairly difficult to produce successfully. I know, I’ve turned out some Schnitzels where the breadcrumb coating fell off before I’d even finished cooking it. These, on the other hand, were cooked to perfection, the crumb coating adhered to the thinly sliced veal in a golden brown glory. The vegetables were a medley of flavours and the dry white wine we ordered complemented the meal to perfection.

    We made our way to our room in a haze of well being. We got into bed, read our Kindles for a while then fell asleep. I woke some hours later to a thunder storm which crackled and banged around the sky for a long time. I dropped off to sleep again, only to waken later to the thunderstorm, still banging and flashing. Typical, I thought sleepily, we have a lovely day to drive down and in true BillB style, the good weather ends and we are inundated on our first night.

    Next morning, however, the skies were clearing and by breakfast time we had a fine autumn day with gentle sunshine and leaves beginning to turn to gold. The weather had corrected itself to our satisfaction.
     
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  4. BillB

    BillB Type 2 · Well-Known Member

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    Hello, Keesha. Jackie pointed out to me that I hadn’t completely answered your questions about how Brexit will affect us so I thought while we’re spending a quiet Sunday I should get on and do the job properly.

    If we hadn’t become citizens of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg our situation would have been quite different. I worked for the European Commission and as such I was not regarded as being part of the Luxembourg workforce. My status was covered by the Treaty of Accession and subsequent treaties, signed by the UK government and my taxes were withheld from my salary by the European Commission, as were my health insurance payments. I was not a member of the Luxembourg national health insurance scheme. I am still insured by the original scheme set up by the EEC, as it then was, although I go to the same doctors and dentists as Jackie does, the difference is that I pay their bills directly and then claim a percentage back from my health insurers.

    Jackie worked for a private school here in Luxembourg and thus was covered by Luxembourg’s national health system. She paid her health contributions within the Luxembourg national system along with her income tax and state pension contributions.

    I receive my pension from the EU and Jackie receives hers from the Luxembourg national pension scheme. We both pay taxes and we both make contributions into our respective health insurance schemes.

    Now the problem could arise if we only had UK citizenship, although the Luxembourg prime minister has promised that all UK citizens currently resident in Luxembourg can stay for the rest of their lives. Similarly, the Commission has said that UK citizens employed as established civil servants will not lose their positions. There are many people, though, who work on contract for a limited period who have no idea what their future holds.

    For us none of this will apply as we are both Luxembourg citizens now, but there are many UK citizens who are resident and work in Luxembourg for private companies who don’t know what their long-term future will look like. Theresa Mayhem, who seems to have no ability to empathise with her fellow human beings, has said and done nothing about this situation, other than to saythat we are bargaining chips in the negotiations.

    Come the end of March next year the UK will find itself in a state of limbo. It makes me sad to see what a government can do to wreck a country and the lives of so many of its citizens.

    No more politics, I promise.
     
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  5. Keesha

    Keesha Type 2 · Well-Known Member

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    Bill, thanks to a you and Jackie, I now have a better understanding of how Brexit will affect different people of all ages. We will have to wait and see on March 29, 2019 what the economic impact would be. Keeping our fingers crossed everything is going to go smoothly without a hitch.

    If we look back at our roots, we are in fact all immigrants. Some arrived earlier, settled down for several decades, and now they resent it when new immigrants arrive. They were given a chance so why not give the new immigrants a chance too?

    How long has your dental work been going on? Dental implants are very expensive, time consuming, and painful. Not everyone can afford it so they go for the alternative - dentures. Good luck and I hope it will be over very soon so you will be able to enjoy your steak, etc.

    My regards to Jackie for being such an angel.
     
  6. BillB

    BillB Type 2 · Well-Known Member

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    Hello again, Keesha. I hope I've been able to explain how Brexit will affect people in the same situation as myself (and Jackie, of course ;-)) I totally agree about "immigrants". When Chinese people first came to Europe in fairly high numbers British food was in the dark ages. My parents used to regard me as faddy about food, but when faced with a plate of cabbage that's been boiled for three weeks (I'm exaggerating, of course) there didn't seem to be much option but to push it away. I still don't understand how anyone could put it in their mouths when it smells like that. When I first went for dinner in a Chinese restaurant - believe or not it was in 1958 - I was overwhelmed. Here was a meal that looked so colourful, whose aroma made your mouth water and when you ate it it was utterly delicious. Suddenly I realised that mealtimes were to be enjoyed, they were no longer punishments! When I told my friends and colleagues that I had been to a Chinese restaurant at the weekend they regarded me as insane. Now, of course, there's almost a Chinese restaurant in every street, and it's the same in Luxembourg.
    Then immigrants from the Indian sub-continent began to arrive and soon there were Indian restaurants springing up all over the place. Then came more people from the West Indies and they spread their cuisine on top of the British palate.
    Now, with the growth of foreign travel since Britain joined the EU, British tastes have widened and matured, in most cases, that is. Jackie and I once saw a UK family in Calais order a pizza and chips, and in Spain it seemed quite common to see my compatriates order a Chinese dish with chips. They would pour the Chinese food over the chips. Call me a snob, but I was horrified.
    Anyway, that is only one aspect of life in the UK that they have influenced. The West Indies people also brought their own music, which found an enthusiastic audience all over Europe. I'm firmly convinced that while immigrants take something out of their host countries (that's why they came in the first place) they also add immeasurably to their chosen new homes.
    As to the implants it has been going on since February, when my top teeth were removed and implants inserted in one marathon five hour session. It takes about eight months for the bone to grow around them and they become in effect part of your body. I have had checkups every 6 to 8 weeks since then and I'm on the last stretch of the downward slope. On Thursday I will have the final checkup and a preliminary impression made for the new teeth which are going be attached to the implants. After that it will take about two and a half weeks and then I can throw away the denture plate and eat whatever I fancy. The countdown has begun!!!
     
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    #306 BillB, Oct 1, 2018 at 7:07 PM
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  7. Keesha

    Keesha Type 2 · Well-Known Member

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    Yes, Bill. You did accomplish the explanation about Brexit to my satisfaction and understanding and I thank you for it.

    Variety is the spice of life as the saying goes. If not for immigration, life would be boring and we will be stuck with eating the same food, listen to the same music and the list goes on. These days, most people travel to see the world. It is to experience different cultures, food, entertainment , sceneries and see with your own eyes how people of different cultures live. We have to widen our scopes in life and not get stuck in a coconut shell. I, for one embrace variety and I believe you too.

    Keep travelling Bill and do whatever you are doing with Jacke. Enjoy life to the fullest.
     
  8. BillB

    BillB Type 2 · Well-Known Member

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    Absolutely, Keesha. Variety, for me, is truly the spice of life. Think of my life here in Luxembourg. Within a short drive of our home (10 minutes) there is a suburb of Luxembourg City called Alzingen. There are three restaurants within 100 yards of each other - one specialises in Luxembourg style food, one is a Nepali restaurant which serves food from the Indian sub-continent, and the third is a Chinese restaurant which specialises in Chinese, Thai and Japanese food. We are regular customers at all three.
    When we took our first long-haul trip, back in 1986 we went to Bangkok, Hong Kong, and Bali. We were absolutely enchanted with the culture, the food and the people in all three destinations. We subsequently visited Singapore, Malaysia, Borneo which included Sarawak and Sabah. In Sarawak we went up the Skrang River and stayed in a Dayak village. Again we were enchanted, especially by the Dayak people (even though they had human heads hanging from the ceiling), who we found to be humorous, resourceful, gentle and welcoming. (You will find my report on this journey in my blog a while back.) It had never occurred to me to cook plantains for breakfast, but that's what our driver prepared for us among other things for breakfast, and they were delicious.
    Another time, we hired a car and drove from Singapore to Penang, taking in Malacca, Kuala Lumpur, the Cameron Highlands and finally Penang. We got on famously with the people we met along the way, talking to them about their lives, their work, their families, and were greeted with friendliness, just as we greeted them. Later on, in Hanoi, we were in a hotel where we were regularly served by a young lady named Hang. She was not only beautiful but so sweet natured that Jackie and I were quite taken with her. When it came time to leave the memory is still plain in my mind - she looked quite sad and said, in a small, sad voice "Bye bye Bill. Bye bye Jackie." And we could have scooped her up and adopted her there and then.
    Which is all a long way round of saying that we always treat people the way we would wish to be treated. And it always works. I love the variety of people, the variety of food, the distinctive styles of dress, of religions and of cultures. There is nowhere we wouldn't go back to. The world is our oyster.
    Best wishes to you and yours.
     
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    #308 BillB, Oct 4, 2018 at 6:49 PM
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  9. BillB

    BillB Type 2 · Well-Known Member

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    The first breakfast in our hotel turned out to be an unexpected treat. Everything was fresh, from the bread, to the cheese and ham and on to the eggs. We got into conversation with a French couple from Metz, which is a short drive from Luxembourg. They also spoke German so that was the language we used between us.

    Less than 30 km away from Biederbach the highest waterfall in Germany could be found. There is some disagreement whether the Triberg falls is a true waterfall or a series of cascades, as they are not one big drop but a series of drops. My opinion is that they are really cascades, but even so they are the highest cascades in Germany.

    As we sat enjoying breakfast the chef stopped at our table and chatted to us for a while about excursions in the local area. He also told us more about the scheme that gives free transport to visitors and where to catch the trains and buses. After breakfast and a quick glance at Triberg in Google Earth we set the car’s GPS and set off for today’s excursion. It was a very pleasant drive through pastures and forest. The pastures were sometimes so large and the colour an absolute emerald green that their smoothness made them look like snooker tables. This came as a surprise as when we had left Luxembourg the preceding weeks had been so dry that the fields were still brown.

    We arrived in Triberg and followed the signs to the cascades. After parking the car in the upper car park (the one nearest to the higher point of the waterfall, we then found that the walk was a fairly long one and quite hard going.

    Jackie’s knee and hip being as they were we decided against this point and drove downhill to the Bergsee, a small round lake at the lower entrance. We parked the car and stopped off for a coffee before starting our trek to the cascades.

    When we got to the entrance, and used our card to get a reduced admission each, the lady selling tickets advised us which path was the easiest to take. We thanked her and set off on what proved to be a comfortable walk through the forest. When we reached the first cascade there was a bridge over the tumbling water from which visitors had a good view both upstream and down. The water curled over rocks and gullies, into pools and then overflowed them, creating a foaming downward torrent.

    The path tracked close to the roiled flow, offering photo opportunities at every turn. In places trees overhung the torrent, casting sun dappled shade. At others, the sunlight created areas of sparkling foam.

    When we reached the bottom it was only a short walk to the exit gate where we were faced with a wide choice of cafés to restore flagging muscles. It didn’t take us long to select one and we each ordered an iced coffee and then, casting all cares to the wind, ordered a slice of Black Forest gateau each. I know, I know!

    From there we took a taxi back to the car park, where I came upon a sign that explained the history of the Bergsee. Apart from its curiosity value as a geological anomaly, it served as a substitute ice skating rink for the championships in, I think, 1926, because the official rink in Berlin hadn’t frozen, due to a warmer than normal period of weather.

    We took a leisurely drive back to the hotel where we relaxed reading our Kindles and intermittently watching the leisurely lifestyle of the village.

    Dinner that evening was, if anything, even better than the evening before. I settled on venison with wild mushrooms, home fried potatoes and vegetables, the same dry white wine as the evening before and followed it with coffee.

    As the restaurant quietened down the chef stopped by our table and we had another chat. I complimented him on the venison, which is locally sourced. We went back to our room and read for a while but the exertions of the day cut that short and we were quickly in the land of Nod.
     
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  10. BillB

    BillB Type 2 · Well-Known Member

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    Thank you for the likes I have received. You know who you are and I would just like to express my thanks for your thoughtfulness.

    We thought that today we would take the train to Freiburg, taking advantage of the free travel scheme for visitors. At breakfast the cook came to our table to wish us a good morning and we took advantage to ascertain the best station to use from Biederbach. He suggested Oberwinden, a village not far away, as there was ample free parking right next to the station and from the car park to the departure platform was only a couple of yards. He also told us that the trains left Oberwinden at 15 minutes past the hour. We thanked him for breakfast and for the information and were shortly driving to Oberwinden.

    Sure enough, the information he had given us was spot on. After a comparatively short drive we found the station car park, parked the car and walked the couple of yards to the platform. We had about five minutes to wait and the train, a fairly short one with only two carriages, pulled in on time. We boarded, found two seats and settled back for the 40 minute ride.

    The train began to fill up, mostly with students and schoolkids. There were a few older people, but the scenery we were passing through kept us entranced. From the regular pastures, like billiard tables, to steep forested hills and the picturesque villages - we were glued to the windows next to our seats.

    The train stopped regularly and people got on and off. It was a regular domestic route we were following, and apart from those who were on their way to their studies the rest of the passengers were largely farming people. Then about half an hour after we had climbed aboard we began to pass through what was obviously a cityscape - mostly suburban houses at first but then we came to industrial estates and factories. We were clearly passing through the outskirts of Freiburg, which is not particularly large, but is one of the principal cities of the Black Forest area. Another is Baden-Baden but that was a bit further than we wanted to go for a day.

    40 minutes after we boarded the train pulled into its final stop and we climbed out among the jostling throng who all headed off busily to their classes or their shopping. We waited until the platform was clear and then began taking stock. The first thing was to study the departures board so that we knew what time to be back at the station for the return journey. Next was to discover which direction to take to get us to the old town.

    Practically everybody had headed off towards a set of steps which were situated just outside what looked like the main entrance. We made for the same steps and found that at the base of them there was a passenger lift. Give your legs a break whenever possible is one of our mottos, so we took the lift and in a few seconds found ourselves facing a street with a sign saying Altstadt (Old Town). We set off at a gentle stroll, taking in the shops, the cafés, the bars, and all the other varieties of retail trade.

    A while later we arrived at a square which had an impressive church surrounded by market stalls. Around the perimeter of the square, wherever a café or restaurant was situated outdoor tables had been set up. We made our way to the church which has the only Gothic church tower in Germany, constructed in the 14th century. It survived the bombing raid in November 1944, which says a great deal about the construction methods used 700 years ago.

    The interior was extremely dark and though we had a little time to take photos of the stained glass windows there was some kind of ceremony in preparation so we left as the ushers seemed to be getting somewhat agitated.

    Outside we stopped at a table and ordered iced coffee as the day was getting warmer. That was a pleasant way to enjoy the sunshine, the bustle of the square and the delicious coffee. We lingered over the coffees, savouring them as long as possible but, finally finishing them, we toured the stalls. A great many cuckoo clocks were on offer, but they’re items that both of us find easy to resist. Candles were also to be found in abundance as was honey and beeswax potions and ointments.

    I always like to look over the cheese stalls as I’m forever open to new types that I’ve never tried before and there were a couple with not only locally produced cheeses but a nice variety from just across the border in France. Fish was another staple on offer and we looked over the variety on display. Back in the 1960s when we lived in Central Germany very few Germans ate fish. I think this was a hangover from the days when refrigeration was largely unknown and any fish arriving in Central and Southern Germany spent a week or two in transit so they didn’t smell very nice once they arrived, and anybody eating them was usually violently ill. However, things are looking up now and Germans seem to enjoy their fish nowadays as much as people in their neighbouring countries.

    A butcher’s stand was prominent and we spent some time studying their offerings. Germany, as is well known, is famous for the quantity and quality of their sausages, and every butcher has a variety on sale. This stand was no exception. Let me try to list a few of the different types - salami is Italian in origin, but most countries make their own nowadays and there’s an enormous variety to be found. German products, and this list is nowhere near exhaustve, are: Bierwurst, Schinkenwurst, Bratwurst, Weisswurst, Thuringerwurst, Knockwurst, Bockwurst, Blutwurst. There are between 1200 and 1400 different varieties, depending on which source you trust. If you haven’t already guessed, Wurst is the German for sausage.

    After studying some of the varieties on sale we were feeling rather peckish so we looked at a couple of the restaurants and, choosing one, took a table outside its traditional looking premises. A waiter duly appeared with menus and we ordered a couple of glasses of white wine to be going on with. As we knew we would be eating at the hotel that evening we decided that a light meal was what we needed. German portion control errs on the side of the large appetite. Finally I chose Bratwurst (they’re ususally grilled) and potato salad.

    We waited so long that I called the waiter over and asked what the delay was. He said he’d go and check. And duly returned with our Bratwurst. If you like the standard English sausage you’ll almost certainly enjoy a Bratty with a serving of German mustard, which is different from English mustard and the French variety. They were delicious and we wasted no time in polishing them off. They go well with a glass of beer, but the white Burgundy we had ordered complemented them equally well.

    After paying we explored the streets around the square for a while, then passing the cafe where we’d had the iced coffee earlier we fell into temptation and stopped for another. Then it was an amble back to the station. I was bemoaning the fact that the streets and pavements of Freiburg were all cobbled, which is rather hard on the feet when you’re walking all day. We’d noticed in most of the towns we had visited during our Rhine/Danube cruise that cobblestones were used profusely to surface the roads and the sidewalks. I didn’t know there were that many cobblestones in the world. Without that little complaint on my part I might well not have been paying so much attention to the surface I was walking on because suddenly I noticed that there were groups of cobblestones here and there that had been coated in brass and there was a text on each one. I stopped to read the first one and found that it mentioned the name of a lady who had lived on that spot prior to WW2. It noted that she had died in Auschwitz and gave the date of her death. I read some of the others and they were all victims of the Nazis. This is all part of the modern German’s way of facing up to the horrors of the Nazi years and making atonement.

    We reached the station in good time for the homeward bound train and found it standing at the station with its doors open. We took our seats and once again were able to enjoy the scenery we were traversing.

    For dinner that evening I chose filet mignon and once again I found the meal wonderful. This is a modest, rustic hotel, off the beaten track, yet it produced some of the finest food I have had the pleasure of enjoying. I said to Jackie that we’d have to come back to this village soon.
     
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  11. Keesha

    Keesha Type 2 · Well-Known Member

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    Bill, just so you know, I enjoy all your write ups with details and accounts of what you experience and food you sample. What a joy in life to be able to enjoy it at leisure. Nothing to hold you back. Keep going....... and I will keep on reading and enjoying it. I will try not to forget to give you a thumbs up every time.

    Btw, your trip to Asia which included many places was decades ago and don't you think it is time to revisit those places to see with your own eyes and compare the differences from then and now. You will be surprised at how much all the places have changed over the many years since you last visited. The WOW factor is how I would describe it. The transformation is pretty amazing. More traffic, buildings, and people, etc. From my own experience,I couldn't believe how much China has changed especially Shanghai and Beijing. Skyscrapers has crept up every corner and businesses are booming. Singapore is pretty amazing too and much of it has to do with the late Mr. Lee Kuan Yew who was the brain child behind the amazing transformation. He was someone I will truly admire for his great vision to make Singapore a better place for all. I hope Malaysia will follow suit now that they have a new government to put things right. I don't know much about Vietnam or Cambodia because I have not been to those places but imagine it would be just as developed.

    All the best and keep traveling........
     
  12. BillB

    BillB Type 2 · Well-Known Member

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    Thank you, Keesha. Jackie and I have always adored Singapore, ever since our first visit. We were staying in a hotel close to Newton Circus, which has now been demolished and replaced by another hotel. We were suffering from jet lag and the first morning we overslept. The first I knew was that Jackie was shaking me and saying, "Bill, wake up, it's 10.15 and we're in Singapore." We both leapt out of bed, raced through the shower and hurtled down to the restaurant for breakfast. We then left the hotel, after asking where the nearest bank was to change some money. We turned left as instructed, found the bank and got some Singapore dollars. We then turned left and walked for a while in the heat and the humidity before it slowly dawned on us that we seemed to be walking in the wrong direction. We found a large map, studied it, found the bit that said "You are here" (isn't it amazing that these maps always know where you are) lol, and promptly reversed our course. Before long we came to Orchard Road with its small shops, large stores, malls, Plazas, restaurants and cafés. We had a great time and I ended up buying Jackie beautiful ruby ring. I figured she deserved it for putting up with me for so long without a single word of complaint.
    A couple of days later we flew to Sarawak, landing in the capital, Kuching. After a couple of days there we took a people carrier and then a canoe up the Skrang River and spent several days with a tribe of Dayaks. They used to be headhunters, but they gave up that practice when the Japanese occupation ended in 1945. The heads they collected were all Japanese. We loved the Dayak people and their way of life. They even got me up dancing with them. Not a pretty sight, I confess.
     
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    #312 BillB, Oct 18, 2018 at 5:08 PM
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  13. BillB

    BillB Type 2 · Well-Known Member

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    I had mentioned to Jackie that there was a crystal museum not too far away and it sounded like the kind of exhibit that we both enjoy, she agreed with me, so that was our destination for the day. The drive to Dietingen, the town where the museum is to be found, took longer than I expected due to the winding, twisty nature of the road, but the scenery was magnificent so the drive was not really a hardship.

    When we arrived at the museum it was to find that it was next to a parking area for mobile homes.We cast a quick eye over the couple of motor homes that were in place, but there was nothing of great interest. We went into the museum to find that seniors get a reduced entrance, which I accepted with alacrity. Even before we had paid we were struck by a couple of exhibits that were placed in the entrance area - large pieces of crystal 2 or 3 feet high still in their original state, with another crystal that had been polished into a globe.

    Photography was permitted as long as it was not for profit. Professionals had to pay a fee, but as far as I could tell it was not excessive.

    Geodes are hollow rocks that can be split open to reveal a nest of crystals inside. There were dozens of them as we walked in, small, large and enormous. They held the most beautifully coloured crystals from purple to lavender to yellow to clear, and whichever way you turned your head you would see another shade of the principal colours.

    Apart from the geodes there were samples of petrified wood, cross cut from tree trunks that were millions of years old. The cross section had been highly polished and the myriad tints and shades of the original colours had been brought out to perfection. I had seen petrified trees when we were in Namibia and when we visited Monument Valley in Arizona. Up close they look like beautiful abstract paintings, the colours being influenced by the minerals in the surrounding sand or gravel.

    There was another section that displayed fossils, beautiful examples of shellfish and aquatic animals filled the display cases, fascinating

    We spent several hours wandering around, entranced by these works of nature, so beautiful and so natural. When we felt that we had seen all that the museum had to offer we got back in the car and set off to find somewhere for lunch.

    We began by driving roughly in the direction of Biederbach. The German road building programme seems to have been created to bypass the country villages, leaving them to be quiet, peaceful oases, removing them from the bustle and noise of heavy traffic. After about 30 minutes driving we saw a sign for a village called Schiltach so we turned off for no reason whatsoever, not knowing a thing about this place except that it probably had a Gasthaus that served food.

    After a short drive we came out into a small valley where we found Schiltach, an incredibly beautiful little village with a small river rippling over rocks through the centre. The side of the valley nearest to Schiltach wasn’t steep and was covered in trees, mostly pines. The village itself made us feel that we had been carried back in time due to the many timbered houses that all appeared to have been built in medieval times.

    We pulled up outside a Gasthaus called the Gasthof zur alten Brücke (The Inn by the Old Bridge) and went in to see if they were still serving food. We were the only customers and we were soon ensconced with menus and glasses of wine. Not wanting a large meal we ordered Bratwurst (neither of us can resist them) and they went extremely well with the excellent local white wine we had been brought. After we had finished eating we began chatting with the waiter, who also seemed to double as the barman, cook and, I suspected, owner. We spent a pleasant half hour or so and then paid the bill and set off to explore this little gem we had discovered. A couple of fishermen were dangling worms in the river and a woman was walking along the river bank with a toddler. All the houses were freshly painted, there was no rubbish or litter anywhere to be seen. We enjoyed this unexpected little beauty so much that we had spent almost an hour wandering its streets and along both sides of the river.

    Better get on, I suggested and we returned to the car for the drive back to the hotel, where we relaxed for a while before freshening up and descending to the restaurant. After our traditional aperitifs and another look at the menu I settled on wild boar stew with the traditional accompaniments of red cabbage and Spätzle, strings of mashed potato that are rolled by hand into something resembling rounded spaghetti. I asked for a small portion of that as it was quite high carb. The meal itself was delicious and we were both once more astounded at the quality of the meals served in this rustic hotel.
     
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  14. BillB

    BillB Type 2 · Well-Known Member

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    There’s been a bit of a hiatus in completing this trip report but there are sound reasons. One is that my implant treatment is now almost finished. I have an appointment next Thursday for the permanent teeth to be installed and then the whole treatment will be finished. Cheering all round in the BillB household.

    Secondly, a couple of years ago I tracked down one of the fellows I did my National Service with after a long period of intermittent searching. I was confining the search to the UK but when I went further afield I found him straightaway. He is living in the Netherlands. I wrote to him, he replied and he and his wife spent some days in Luxembourg a couple of years ago and we have been in contact ever since. But there was another fellow airman who was a good friend in those years and we lost contact after we moved to Germany. Believe it or not, this fellow’s son-in-law contacted the other ex-airman in the Netherlands and they started corresponding. He then passed the contact details over to me and I contacted him as well. So we are having an online reunion.

    Anyway, on with the Black Forest trip. Once again, the chef came to our rescue at breakfast as we pondered a map of the entire area, trying to decide which would be our destination for the day. The chef stopped by to wish us good morning and we began talking about possible destinations. He told us about a town called Staufen which has been undergoing a crisis ever since an environmental project went disastrously wrong. Despite their woes, he told us, the town is still worth visiting so after collecting our cameras, jackets and other odds and ends seen as necessary we entered the town of Staufen into the GPS and set off.

    The drive turned out to be another one of those winding routes that takes longer than expected, but the Black Forest scenery is so beautiful at this time of year that the drive wasn’t exactly a hardship. When we arrived at the town of Staufen we were pleasantly surprised to discover that there was ample parking within a short distance of the town centre. We followed the signs toward the town square and found ourselves in a beautiful little area of timbered houses and attractive streets. We ambled around, reading the information boards that had been installed for people like us.

    The environmental project that went badly wrong was explained on these boards. It seems that the town council decided to use geothermal energy deep below ground to heat the town hall. Subsequently, drilling began and there was a layer of anhydride below the surface. Below that was a layer of water which the drillers hoped could be drilled into without the water, which was under pressure, escaping into the anhydride. This proved to be a forlorn hope as the water rapidly moved upwards and joined the anhydride, which in turn began to swell because when anhydride comes into contact with water it turns into gypsum which expands by about 50 per cent. This swelling began to push upwards, lifting the surface, at first by milliimetres. Cracks began to appear in the walls of the town hall and in nearby buildings. The lifting continued until it had reached half a metre, while more and more buildings began to develop cracks.

    Now it is not clear if there is a solution to this catastrophic event and how far it will continue to lift.

    Signs reading “Staufen darf nicht zerbrechen” can be seen all over the town, stuck to walls, on bumper stickers, handwritten on the sides of buildings adjacent to the cracks which can be plainly seen as the cracks are widening. The phrase means Satufen must not break apart, and is a sad reminder that no solution is yet in sight, despite the original drilling having begun in 2008.

    It’s thought-provoking, too, as a perfect illustration of the saying that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

    It is, cracks apart, a very pretty town, which suffered a previous catastrophic air raid which caused much damage and loss of life in the latter months of WW2. The town was lovingly restored and rebuilt over the years and would have been regarded as a lovely place to live.

    We took lunch on the town square, just across from the town hall. We took a table on the square itself as the weather was warm and sunny and our table had a sunshade so we weren’t sitting in the direct sunlight. We ordered Flammeküchen, a dish bearing a close resemblance to pizza, a speciality of the Alsace region which has spread across the border into southern Germany. It was accompanied by a glass apiece of an excellent dry white wine.

    Later in the afternoon we drove slowly back to Biederbach, taking a couple of side excursions to satisfy our curiosity about the place names of some of the villages we passed. We arrived back at our hotel where the mild, sunny weather induced us to sit on the terrace and have another glass of white wine. It’s moments like this that make us ask why it’s been so long since we last visited this area? And this prompts a second thought - we’ve got to return.
     
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  15. BillB

    BillB Type 2 · Well-Known Member

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    For our last full day we already knew where we were headed without the help of our chef - a place which had been one of the highlights of my school trip to Germany - Schauinsland. Now that sounds like a weird name which can be literally translated as Look into the Country, or View of the Land, depending how you are feeling. This is a high point for the region and to reach the summit the visitor has to use the cable car, the longest in Germany at 3.6 kilometres, and runs continuously, capable of carrying 700 people an hour.

    The view from the top does literally give you a look into the country as you can see for miles. When the weather is clear and without haze it’s possible to see the Swiss Alps and the Vosges mountains in Alsace.

    The views from the summit are amazing, and if you feel like a walk you can make it from the upper cable car station up to the summit where you will have a 360° view.

    We walked along some of the trails, then stopped for a coffee and something to eat at the Berghaus, a combined café, restaurant and gift shop. After our light lunch we followed a couple of trails, being rewarded by coming upon vast views whenever there was a break in the trees.

    Around 2 in the afternoon we took the cable car back down, luckily finding we had the car to ourselves, thus allowing us to move about and aim our cameras in any direction we pleased without inconveniencing other people.

    Once down we began the drive back towards Biederbach, though it seemed a little early to return. Then a stroke of luck: as we drove along we saw signs to a place called Kandel, which the owner of the hotel had mentioned as a possible destination when we were out and about. Jackie suggested we follow the signs and have a look so I turned off the highway at the next sign.

    The road soon began to climb through dense pines, twisting and turning as it followed the contours of the hills. The road began to get narrower and narrower, and we came face to face with descending vehicles on several occasions. However, with goodwill and friendly waves to each other we negotiated these mobile chicanes, finally coming out of the forest just below the highest ridge, which we followed for a couple of kilometres through open meadows with the land falling away on either side.

    There didn’t seem to be much to Kandel when we arrived as it couldn’t even be called a hamlet. There was little more than a hotel and a couple of chalets selling snacks and refreshments. We ordered a coffee and something to eat then sat ourselves at a wooden bench to enjoy the views, only to find that we were in the midst of a hang gliding and paragliding club excursion. We watched in fascination as the pilots spread out the canopies on the grass, then strapped themselves into the harnesses before doing a quick about turn and moving forwards until the canopy began to fill with air and they could start running. At this point they began to get a good deal of lift and their feet left the ground and they were off and ascending.

    They all followed the same route once they were airborne - turn right, where we lost sight of them for a few moments behind a stand of trees, at which point they must have found a thermal as each pilot would begin a spiralling ascent. Once their desired altitude had been reached they headed off and we lost sight of them.

    We spent a couple of hours watching them before we set off for the hotel. We followed the same road down again and reached the hotel and the job of packing in short order.

    For dinner that evening I chose venison and an excellent meal it was to finish up a week of outstanding dining.

    We bade farewell to the owner and the chef, though I suspect they may have been husband and wife, before climbing into the car for the journey home. Traffic was not heavy and we rolled along, crossing into France where speed limits on the motorways are enforced as opposed to Germany where speed limits on the Autobahn are largely non-existent. There are speed limits in places, of course, where heavy traffic is always found or where the lie of the land forces the roads to be built with kinks and sharp bends.

    We arrived home in the early afternoon, unpacked quickly and fell into our usual routine. Our next planned trip is to visit son and d-i-l in France at Christmas, and maybe a trip to the UK to see our grandson whose regiment is about to be deployed overseas, but we’re not sure where he will be going at this time. After that I bought Jackie tickets for an André Rieu concert in Vienna at the beginning of May. We have also booked a river cruise in the Ukraine for the end of May. We don’t have any long haul trips booked at the moment.
     
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  16. BillB

    BillB Type 2 · Well-Known Member

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    Living the expat life has an awful lot going for it, mostly it’s fun, often interesting, but there are times when it’s definitely odd. And right nowI seem to be going through one of the odd phases. As I remarked to Jackie when I got home the other day after my morning walk that I am totally convinced there are certain times of the year when they give the mentally challenged a car and tell them to go out and create havoc. It know it’s true because I keep encountering them

    My first example this season was a couple of weeks ago. I had taken my car in to have the winter tyres fitted. I waited in the showroom while the work was carried out, then paid and got into my car. The dealer’s parking area is accessed and left via a barrier, and you are given a token to operate it when you pay your bill.

    I got into my car and drove towards the barrier. In front of me was a brand new Mercedes A Class just arriving at the barrier. I stopped behind it and waited my turn. Nothing happened for a few moments, then the driver’s window rolled down and an arm came out with the token. There was another few moment’s fumbling, then finally the token was inserted and the barrier went up.

    The car didn’t move. I watched in disbelief as, the A Class not having budged, the barrier came down again.

    The driver’s door began to open when one of the showroom’s staff who was walking by saw the driver’s dilemma, got out a key and indicated that he would open the barrier for the driver, who I could now see was a young lady. The barrier went up and he waved to the driver and continued walking.

    Again nothing happened and the barrier duly came down again. The staff member looked back, took in that the barrier was again in the down position and came walking back with his key in his hand. Once more he opened the barrier, smiled at the driver and walked off. And once again the car stayed put and the barrier lowered itself.

    I put the auto gear box into Park, switched off the engine, got out and walked down to the car in front. The young lady was frenziedly hitting every switch and button within view, all to no effect.

    I tapped on the window and indicated that the should roll down the window. She looked around the interior of the car, finally hitting a switch. The rear window lowered itself. She hit a few more switches and the window rolled itself upwards.

    After a few more switches were hit the window beside her lowered itself. I smiled, tightly, and explained politely that when the barrier goes up, her car should be driven forward, and then the barrier lowers itself. That is the normal order of things. She looked at me piteously and said, in English with an accent, “Don’t be angry, I’m a new driver.” I sighed and, remaining polite, told her that I was a very old driver, and as such I didn’t want to spend the rest of my remaining time waiting for her to go through the barrier.

    Once again the man with the key saw what was happening and came over, brandishing the key and smiling. He was probably killing himself with laughter and the smile was the only outward display he was allowed. I went back to my car, having thought better of offering to drive the car through the exit as soon as we could get the barrier up again.

    This time the key gentleman paused at the car’s window and must have been telling the driver how to put the car in gear, holding the clutch down while doing so. He then used his magic key and the barrier went up. He waved the driver forward and the car began to move, in a stuttering manner until it was clear of the barrier, which then came down. I, and the 4 drivers now waiting behind me heaved a sigh of relief. I drove forward, noting which way the A Class had turned when it reached the street. It turned right. I dropped my token into the slot and moved forward. I turned left. I didn’t really want to go left, but I didn’t want to be anywhere near a young lady who had been let loose on the roads without even knowing how to use the clutch and gears or even the electric windows. We have driving tests in Luxembourg and they are as stringent as any other country’s. How she managed to get through her test will be one of those mysteries my thoughts turn to in subsequent years from time to time and can never come up with an answer.

    Not long after this little exhibition of the necessity for driving tests, I drove down to the Moselle for my brisk walk as demanded by my Type 2. Having started with my usual coffee stop I stepped out, looking across the river at Germany, as the border between the two countries runs down the centre.

    The weather was mild and when I got into my car to drive home I decided I would take a small road that runs throught he vineyards, thus avoiding the road running from Germany into Luxembourg. As I drove along I saw some cars stopped ahead of me. As I approached I saw that some workmen were digging a trench in the verge at the right hand side of the road. (Remember I’m driving on the right here.)

    There were two cars ahead of me and several cars facing us waiting to come through. A man in a high viz jacket stood in the middle of the road directing traffic. The ditch digging machine was one of those with a bucket at the end of an articulated arm. The main body of the digger was on the left hand side while the arm, using its articulations to form an arch while the bucket rested on our side of the road, under which the cars facing us were waved on by high viz man.

    When they had gone he waved us on and the first car duly passed under the arch. The car in front of me, a German-registered vehicle, stayed still. High viz man waved him on. The car stayed put but the window went down and an arm emerged, making a series of gestures at the driver of the ditch digger. The said driver just stared back while the German-registered driver’s arm made even more imperious gestures. Quite what he was trying to indicate was anybody’s guess.

    I glanced in my mirror and saw that three more cars had pulled up behind me. High viz man’s onward waves became even more imperious, but all to no avail. The driver’s gestures continued.

    Growing fed up I tooted the horn. It had no effect. Finally losing all patience I pulled out and drove around the gesticulating German. I glared at him as I passed but it had no effect on him.

    Once I had passed under the arm I stopped and watched the further action in my mirror. He was still gesticulating with his left arm out of the window. I gathered that he wanted the workmen to swing the arm totally out of the way. Now, he and I had seen 4 or 5 cars pass under the arm on the way down and the vehicle in front of him pass under it on the way. Then, after an interval, he had seen me perform the same act. And still he was gesticulating to get the arm out of the way.

    Shaking my head in disbelief I drove off up the hill and when I reached the summit I glanced in my mirror to see that he was still gesticulating. What does it take to make an idiot see sense? After these two episodes I am as puzzled as I ever was.


    To be continued as and when. We’re off to France to spend Christmas with our son and his wife on Monday so we’ve got some packing to do yet.
     
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  17. BillB

    BillB Type 2 · Well-Known Member

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    Two more weird experiences, both of them involving car washes. The first occurred in Spain during the three year period we resided there. We lived just outside a small town called Coin and Spain, being a terribly dusty country, we had to use the local high pressure car wash frequently.

    This particular day we both drove our cars into the town to the car wash with Jackie driving behind me. As we arrived we could see that one of the two car washes was occupied so I waved Jackie towards the free one and pulled up behind the occupied one in which a small RV with UK number plates was just finishing up. Within a short while the driver hung up the pressure nozzle, got into his vehicle and began to pull away. I started up my engine and began to move forward. At that moment a car turned in off the road, hurtled past me pulled over into the space I was about to occupy, but driving too fast as he was he overshot the space. I carried on forwards, gettng indignant over such blatant queue jumping. The other driver jammed his car into reverse and began backing up until we collided.

    He promptly jumped out and came towards me, clearly furious, shouting and waving his arms about. I waved him away as I was first there and wasn’t going to be browbeaten by a loud mouth. He came up close to my window, with his hand inside his coat. When nobody else could see what he was doing he brought out his hand to reveal a knife.

    Now I was prepared to stand my ground, but faced with someone who was clearly deranged if he thought threatening me with a knife just because I wouldn’t stand for him jumping the queue was normal I decided discretion was the better part of valour and stayed inside my car with the doors locked. I thought it would annoy him so I smiled at him and waved him away. He began to walk back to his car, signalling that I should leave.

    By this time Jackie had finished her car and came round to see why my car hadn’t moved. I got out and told her that this idiot was threatening me with a knife and that she should get back in her car and drive off the forecourt. When she did I saw that there was nobody behind her so I backed my car up and drove into her slot. I washed my car and left. The lunatic had also left but he apparently hadn’t washed his car, so what his problem was I have no idea. Unless he was totally insane.

    This incident played its part when we decided to sell our finca and return to Luxembourg. It wasn’t the main reason but it joined a long list of things I didn’t like about Spain.


    The second occurrence happened a few weeks before last Christmas. The car was filthy so I decided on the next visit to the supermarket to take it through the carwash. It was one of those that you drive into, place a front wheel onto a track where a little roller pops up and moves along to the back of a tyre and trundles the car along while the big brushes whirl around, removing the mud and grime, ejecting your car at the end in pristine condition.

    I told the man in charge which programme I wanted and he entered it into the control panel. He waved me forward until I felt the front left tyre enter the track, he made a cutting motion and I put the drive into neutral, feeling the little roller start moving the car forward.

    I was about halfway through when everything ground to a stop - the brushes stopped whirling, the water stopped spraying and we sat there in absolute silence. Now these little hiccups happen from time to time so we sat and waited while it was sorted. Then I glanced in the mirror and saw to my horror that the car behind was about one inch away from my boot. Totally puzzled I wondered how it could have got so close, but then the man in charge came down the side of the washway and started shouting at the driver of the car behind. I saw that it was a woman who was winding down her window. There were more raised voices and then he started gesturing to her to reverse. I watched in total fascination as she began to move backwards. And then I got the gist of what the man had been saying. This foolish driver, clearly in a car wash for the first time ever, had been driving through it until she reached the tail end of my car.

    I have no idea what she would have done next. Clearly there was no room to overtake me so the only course she could have driven was to drive over the top of me. I wouldn’t have put it past her to try that, either. She clearly had no idea that the car was propelled through the car wash gently and at the optimum speed that would allow the brushes to do their job.

    After a short wait everything started up again and we began to move forwards. We finished the wash area, passed through powerful fans that dry the excess moisture, then the drying cloths that remove any water still remaining from the car and then we emerged into the open air.

    Close to the exit there is a very large roll of paper which you can use to clear any water still on the paintwork. I usually stop there and give it a final drying off. The next car to emerge was not the one that had tailgated me through the wash, nor was the one behind that. It looked to me as if she had been sent off with a flea in her ear and told never to darken his doorstep again.

    When I got back in a thought occurred to me. I remarked to Jackie that if she had hit us I would have had a hard time explaining to my insurers the circumstances of the accident. After all, would you believe someone who told you that he had been rear-ended in the car wash because the car behind had been driving too fast? No, neither would I.
     
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  18. BillB

    BillB Type 2 · Well-Known Member

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    Our son and daughter-in-law had invited us for Christmas, letting us occupy one of their rental properties for the month, with us just paying for the utilities. We had planned on staying for two weeks but they insisted we spend a month so we agreed, with a degree of reluctance. We know that most of the restaurants and attractions close during the winter months and only open at the beginning of April, so we weren’t expecting to have the wildest of times.

    A week before Christmas we left home just before 10 a.m. We had a good drive with reasonable traffic conditions so we made good time. We stopped at Verdun service station for coffee, but this was the most dismal cafe I've ever been in - so much construction going on, the cafe was closed so we had to climb the staircaseto the bridge that crosses the motorway to the cafe on the other side. That was grubby, dark and generally uncared for. We each had a coffee as that was about the only thing that would be clean as it came in paper cups.

    We drove on towards Reims, the largest city in the Champagne region. We passed that and carried on towards Paris. and decided to stop for lunch before we reached the capital and stopped at another service station - one that was considerably cleaner and much more pleasant. Had a nice roll and another coffee before setting off to tackle the outer Peripherique which takes one south around the city and the traffic is considerably less than on the inner road..

    Managed to join the A10 motorway without going astray and carried on at a good speed towards Chartres where we had booked a hotel for the night. The Mercure where we stayed didn't have a restaurant but they recommended a nearby hotel where they reserved a table for us. What a lucky break we had as this restaurant served superb food. After our aperitifs we both decided on Pate en croute, which is simply pate with a pastry crust, except that this was Pate de Chartres and was quite simply the best pate either of us had ever tasted. The main course we both ordered was venison tournedos, served with grilled vegetables. Again, simply delicious. This was accompanied by a Chablis, which is the wrong choice if you believe the old adage of red meat with red wine, white wine with white meat or fish. We don't as we are firm believers in the "if you like it, drink it" school of thought.

    We finished up with a pear and apple compote for Jackie and I settled for Poire Belle Helene. I added a coffee after that and we felt supremely satisfied. When we received the bill we were surprised at how reasonable such a delicious meal was. This is one of the great things about travelling in France outside of the big cities such as Paris, Lyon, Marseilles, etc. The food, usually local specialities, is always of a high standard and surprisingly reasonably priced.

    We set off next morning and found that the GPS was taking us south on ordinary roads and not back to the Autoroute we had arrived on. When we had a some spare moments I looked it up on Google Earth and discovered that I had misread the map and we didn’t need to stop at Chartres at all and I had added about 50 miles to our drive. The journey to the Ile d’Oléron was longer than we anticipated but we arrived at around 4 p.m. For a great reunion with our son and his wife (and their mad dog). After a reunion glass we drove out to the house we will be occupying for the next month to unload our cases and do a bit of unpacking before returning to their home for dinner.

    The next day it was raining when we awoke but it wouldn’t spoil our morning as we had a supermarket visit to make before we could start living our normal life. The idea was that our son and d-i-l would concentrate on running their rental business while we were there so we didn’t need to live in each others’ pockets, but would join them for outings or meals out when they were free.

    There are several major hypermarkets on the island, E. Leclerc, Intermarché and SuperU being the principal ones. My favourite has long been E. Leclerc as I once found they were selling a 16 year old Bowmore malt whisky for €20. Both Leclerc and Intermarché were situated fairly near to us so we alternated between the two. Jackie’s favourite tipple is Hendrick’s gin and Fever-Tree tonic so we had brought a bottle of Hendrick’s and a 10 year old Laphroiag for me. We hadn’t brought any wine as that’s a clear case of carrying coals to Newcastle. Wine in France is reasonably priced and extremely good so we intended to buy it as and when needed.

    So having filled up the pantry we settled down for lunch accompanied by a glass of wine.

    The weather hadn’t improved much after lunch so we settled down with our Kindles for a while and then watched a DVD until time for me to start cooking.

    The next day it rained on and off for the whole day, and the day after and the day after until a week had passed. Most of the visitors’ attractions were closed for the winter so time passed slowly. We would have family visits from time to time, visit the supermarkets and at weekends we would drive with our family to the local markets. I’m always taken by surprise at the prices of food at these markets. And it doesn’t take long to get accustomed to the delights on sale. Locally grown vegetables mushrooms and melons abound, as do local oysters, shellfish and fish, to say nothing of local meats and sausages.
     
  19. BillB

    BillB Type 2 · Well-Known Member

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    Christmas we spent with son and wife, and on Boxing Day we invited them for dinner. I cooked up a Boeuf Bourgignon that I gave a lot of loving care to. The French don’t give any special significance to Boxing Day, so all the stores were open, allowing me to pick up fresh ingredients for the salad and other accompaniments. We had a good time, as we always do with them and the dog.

    For New Year’s Eve we took them out to dinner. As they each had their own home before they met and married there is very little we could buy them that they don’t have already - doubled - so we’ve found the most welcome gift is to take them out to dinner to a good restaurant. They chose the restaurant, we paid the bill. And had a great time and a great meal that was worth every penny.

    After New Year’s Day I began to feel a bit down. in fact, I was beginning to feel a little bored. When I mentioned this to Jackie she said she had never heard me say that before, and I admit it’s true - I find so much of interest in daily life, reading books or just surfing the internet. The problem this time was that all of the attractions were closed and most of the restaurants as well. Fortunately for my sanity, there were some pretty good restaurants still open but the majority close for the winter months.

    The nearest big towns were La Rochelle and Rochefort and we went to La Rochelle one day with our family. We had a nice lunch in a small, intimate restaurant then took a turn around the harbour. The problem was that La Rochelle was a good hour’s drive there and a little more to get back home as the traffic builds up. Rochefort took even longer

    On other days we went out for drives, parked the car and walked but so many of the island’s coastal towns were like ghost towns that our spirits began to droop. We walked one afternoon to the coastal harbour of La Cotiniere, close to the house we were staying in but we saw 3 teenagers and that was it. Every shop, every restaurant, every bar except one were closed.

    This isn’t helped by the French fondness for erecting high walls or high hedges in front of their properties, thus preventing passersby from glimpsing even a small area of the garden or their house’s frontage.

    On our first visit in April of last year everything was opening up for the season so there was lots to do, places to eat, places of interest to visit. Within a day Jackie confessed she felt the same and we tried to think of a way to tell our son that we intended to return home earlier than planned. He took it philosophically, understanding that Oléron in the winter, for us, lacked the amenities we were accustomed to in Luxembourg. The year previously when we had suggested coming for a visit in February he told us to wait until April as that is when things begin to open up.

    So we packed our bags, went out for a family dinner and left the next morning. I had booked an overnight en route at Chambord where one of our favourite hotels is situated within a couple of hundred metres of the Chateau, of multi-chimney fame. The hotel had recently undergone a huge renovation and we were curious to see what it was like in its new clothes.

    It turned out to be a delight. Subtle modernisation had improved the facilities without losing the vintage air that added so much charm.

    We went for a walk in the grounds of the chateau, then stopped in the hotel’s bar for a drink. We took it easy for a while in our room before descending to the restaurant for dinner. This had been one of the hotel’s great attractions on previous visits and we weren’t disappointed this time.

    After we had finished dinner and adjourned to the bar for a nightcap we returned to our room, where I got my camera gear ready for a shoot. Jackie decided this time to relax with a book, so after mounting the camera on the tripod and then setting the camera controls for night shooting, I set off.

    The chateau, bathed in gentle blue floodlighting with illuminated trees in front, the whole scene reflected in the artificial lake, looked magical. I was so pleased with the photo that I uploaded it to the thread called The Art of Night Photography on Facebook. I was delighted when I got a lot of approval from other photographers.

    We left fairly early the next morning as we had the major part of the drive home to be done today. Fortunately, it was a Sunday and most trucks are barred from the Autoroutes from 10 p.m. on Saturday to 10 p.m. on Sunday so we had a mostly relaxed journey. The busiest area began as we approached Paris, but once we had left the outer periphérique behind the traffic quietened down considerably and the rest of the trip was about as relaxed as driving in France can be.

    We stopped for a sandwich and coffee, which wasn’t bad, and arrived home just after mid afternoon. We both felt somewhat flat and let down - which is not something that happens to us normally.
     
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    #319 BillB, Mar 19, 2019 at 4:34 PM
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  20. BillB

    BillB Type 2 · Well-Known Member

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    We had all the ingredients for a big family reunion in February with our son and his wife coming over from California to meet up with his son (our grandson, naturally) before he leaves on his first foreign posting - to Estonia. This would be a good opportunity to meet up with our two nieces from my late brother’s first marriage who we had been in contact with on Facebook after many years without contact. So we arranged a meetup with everyone concerned at Brighton, booked our hotel and tickets on the Channel Tunnel and began the drive to Calais.

    We had given some thought whether it would be better to take the ferry or the train, but our last crossing had found us bobbing about on a wild sea outside Calais for long hours while a tug was summoned to pull off a ferry that had run aground while leaving the berth that we were due to occupy. We were there from around midday to 7.30 pm.

    We had a good drive to Calais with only moderate traffic, arriving at the Eurostar terminus ahead of schedule. Luckily, they give ticket-holders a time window to allow for either holdups or early arrivals, so we boarded almost immediately.

    From the Ashford terminus our GPS took us onto the M20 and then onto the M26 which led us to the M25, the M23 and then onto the A23, taking us right outside the Grand Hotel.

    Check in was fast and easy and we were soon in our room with our luggage coming along a few moments later. We were due to meet up with our son and d-i-l in the bar later as they were out scouting possible locations for their planned move back to the UK from Palm Springs, so we were able to relax for a while after a long and somewhat tiring drive.

    We went down to the lobby bar in good time to meet our son and had time to enjoy a drink before they arrived. We had a long chat, catching up with each others’ doings and enjoying another drink. We subsequently adjourned to a restaurant called The Salt Room, almost next door to our hotel. From the menu it appeared that we had made a good choice and I ordered fish and chips (upmarket fish and chips I hasten to add). I’ve got my Type 2 pretty well under control at the moment so I felt I could afford a treat.

    I have to say that I was disappointed, as was Jackie, who had ordered turbot. The portions were small considering the prices they were charging, and when my fish arrived there were no chips. I waited a short while then I reminded the waiter who, it would seem, had delivered my chips to another table, so I had to wait for another portion. When it was finally delivered my fish had cooled considerably. And so had my patience. On balance I thought the food was overpriced, served in small portions, no matter how much the plates had been tarted up to give a Michelin impression, with indifferent service. We didn’t return during our stay in Brighton and I wouldn’t recommend it.

    Next day Jackie and I decided that as our son and d-i-l were going to be off prospecting a possible future home, or at least the area they would like to live, we would visit the Royal Pavilion as neither of us had ever been inside and it’s so exotic looking that it promises to be an intriguing place to visit.

    We took breakfast in the hotel and after ascertaining with the concierge the most direct route to walk, we set off. The walk was pleasant and not at all cold as we strolled through the area known as The Laynes. We indulged in some window shopping but Jackie started experiencing pain in her knee which slowed her down considerably. Checking that she had some strong painkillers first, I dived down a narrow alley to buy a bottle of water to take her pills. By the time the painkillers had kicked in we were close to the Royal Pavilion’s main entrance.

    Approaching the Pavilion one sees a riot of domes and minarets as it was designed to look Indian while the interior has a Chinese look. However, this was a westerner’s idea of Indian and Chinese so it’s not authentic in this regard.

    Finding the ticket office was easy enough and after getting a reduction as pensioners we started the tour. One of the oddities that was immediately apparent was that there was a celebration of two (I think) society milliners so strange headware was displayed in the weirdest places - on the tables, set up for dinner in their historical perspective, in the bedrooms and, I suspect, even in the bathrooms. Hats aside, and the hat display might well be ended by now, the Royal Pavilion is well preserved and is worth a visit. The Banqueting Room is still spectacular and worth the price of admission alone.

    Our departure from the Pavilion brought us to lunchtime so we had a look around for somewhere to get a light lunch which we found in The Laynes - a little place which served sandwiches and wraps. After this we made our way back to the hotel as our grandson was due to arrive with his parents at the hotel in the afternoon.

    This didn’t occur quite as we had planned as instead of turning up in the early to mid-afternoon they arrived in the late afternoon. It seems that our grandson had come off duty and having showered had then decided to go for a haircut. In the meantime we had been sitting in the lobby bar, waiting and using our iPads to catch up on emails and Facebook contacts.

    By the time they finally walked in it was almost time for our nieces to arrive. We barely had time to catch up on our grandson’s impressions of army life (he loves it) before our nieces came through the door. Now bear in mind that we hadn’t seen them since the youngest was a baby it was quite a surprise that we recognised them as soon as they walked in.

    It was quite an emotional reunion but we soon had them seated and had ordered drinks for them. We had arranged with them that we would bring all the photos we had of them when they were children. They had missed out on these as when my brother was divorced from their mother he cut all contact with his ex-wife and his children. We were upset at this, as were our parents, as we were robbed of contact with our nieces and a nephew, our boys were robbed of their cousins and my parents were robbed of contact with three of their grandchildren. When my parents died we found stacks of photographs which my brother didn’t even want to see, so we kept them.

    Once we had sorted out which photos they wanted time was getting on so we returned the photos to our room and left to find somewhere for dinner.

    Once again we found ourselves wandering through The Laynes looking for a suitable restaurant. One of us spotted an Indian restaurant called Indian Summers so we gathered round to study the menu. It seemed promising so we went inside to see if they had a table for 7. They didn’t, but they put several tables together and lo, a table for 7 appeared before our eyes.

    I have to admit that the menu looked a little difficult to navigate, but a couple of seconds’ perseverence made it clear. We had, completely by chance, stumbled on a restaurant run by an owner who wanted to expand the menu into regional Indian cooking. It was a great change from the tandoori, vindaloo, biryani style which most Indian eateries serve up. We ordered a variety of dishes and each was wonderful, with a subtle blending of spices and herbs. Afterwards Jackie and I were convinced that if we lived in Brighton we would be pretty regular diners here.

    Of course, we were also occupied with catching up with our nieces’ and our grandson’s activities. Sadly, our nephew had sustained a head injury as a child while playing on bunk beds and developed epilepsy as a result. He died in his early 20s while suffering a sustained epileptic fit. In addition, our youngest niece has just come through a bout with cancer and as a safety measure had breasts, ovaries and uterus removed. Despite this she has a cheerful, bouncy, funny character and is really likeable. Her older sister is more restrained yet also comes across as sincere and likeable. They are planning to come over to stay with us in the autumn so we’re deciding which would be the best places to visit with them when they arrive.
     
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