Sunday, June 28, 2015

New improved fish n' chips at The Auld Rogue...

Bill and I visited The Auld Rogue for the first time in ages this afternoon.  In fact, today we also went to the PX and Patch commissary for the first time in ages.  I like The Auld Rogue because I like Irish pubs, but I wasn't in the mood for a sandwich today.  So I ordered the fish n' chips.

Last time I had fish n' chips at The Auld Rogue, they were okay, but the breading seemed like it was made of crumbs rather than batter.

Old style fish n' chips from a few months ago...

I like my fish n' chips made with batter, so I didn't order them again at The Auld Rogue-- until today.  I got a bee in my bonnet and decided I just didn't want a cheeseburger because even though The Auld Rogue has okay cheeseburgers, they aren't cooked the way I really like them.  Bill was okay with a cheeseburger, so that's what he had, along with a Guinness.


Superior fish n' chips, the way my ancestors would have made 'em...

As you can see, the fish and chips looks different now...  It seems to have been made with a batter instead of crumbs.  It was much to my liking!  I am proud to say I ate the whole thing, except for the salad.  I'm not one for being healthy.

Bill digs in...

He's not watching the game... 

After we had lunch, I decided I wanted some whisky.  I ordered a large dram of ten year old Arran scotch.  I let Bill try it.

Down the hatch!

And this was his reaction, though I thought it was so funny I had to ask for a caption...

I really like the way fish n' chips are being done at The Auld Rogue now.  I'm probably late to the party, though, because I think the last time we visited was a few months ago.  We got out of the habit of going shopping on Sundays sometime during the spring.  

We just missed the concert that was going to start at 2:00.  I would have liked to have stuck around for awhile, but we needed to get some food and get home to Zane and Arran, our two troublemakers.  I bought them new toys today.  One was a Kong puzzle that has to be tipped over to dispense food.  Zane got the concept right away, but Arran didn't.  He was still trying to chew on it a little while ago.  I may try feeding Zane with it when he's being picky about food.  You wouldn't think a beagle would be choosy about dinner, but Zane is.

We had beautiful weather today.  I was finally able to put the top down on the Mini and annoy people with my music.  

Saturday, June 27, 2015

knotty's big trip to the mall...

I usually like to do new things on Saturdays.  That's the one day of the week when my husband is home and things are open.  Bill is trying to write a paper for one of his cybersecurity classes, so he wasn't all that keen to go on a long outing today.  Since it was getting a bit late when I finally convinced him we needed to get out for a bit, this afternoon we visited the Mercaden Mall in Böblingen for the very first time.

The Mercaden is a new mall.  It didn't exist the last time we lived here.  Last time we were here, the only decent mall was Breunigerland in Sindelfingen (There is also Schwaben Galerie in Vaihingen, but that mall doesn't thrill me much).  Breunigerland is terminally crowded and offers a lot of European shops and eateries.  We were last there at Christmas, when we rejoined ADAC (the German auto club).

ADAC, by the way, is well worth joining.  We were members last time we lived here and our membership paid for itself when our car's battery died on us while parked long term in a garage.  We called ADAC and some guy came out, tested the car, found out what was wrong, and sold us a battery on the spot.  That German battery lasted a good five years before it needed replacing.  Aside from ADAC, Breunigerland also has upscale shopping.  It kind of reminds me of Tyson's II in the Washington, DC area.  

By contrast, Mercaden doesn't seem quite as upscale, even though it's a lot newer and more pristine.  The stores and eateries are more American.  For instance, there's a McDonald's in the Mercaden Mall, while Breunigerland only has a freestanding McDonald's in the parking lot.  The Mercaden also has a nice Edeka grocery store and a Dunkin' Donuts, which I know really gets Americans excited.  We did stop by there today and picked up some donut holes.  I am here to tell you that they aren't really the same, though they aren't bad, either.

Not quite like home, but satisfying enough...  They aren't as sweet as American ones.  There is also a Dunkin' Donuts in Tuebingen.

The Mercaden has plenty of parking in a garage, which you have to pay for.  Breunigerland's parking is free.  Mercaden is right next to the Bahnhof in Böblingen, so you don't have to fool with parking if you don't want to.  The first hour of parking at Mercaden is free, anyway.

I think-- but am not positive-- that the toilets at Breunigerland are also free, while they cost 70 cents at Mercaden.  The price to pee has gone up.  It used to be universally pretty much 50 cents everywhere, but now they have a fancy machine that takes the money that has to be paid for.  On the plus side, the Mercaden's toilets are very clean and modern.  Someone was actually attending them, so I didn't mind paying.

We ended up buying food today.  First, we had lunch at an Italian pizza and pasta place situated right in the middle of the corridor.  It made for good people watching.  I got to watch a guy walk his well-behaved labrador retriever around as Bill and I ate pasta washed down with beer.

Bill tells it like it is...

The menu.  On the other side, there was a pizza menu.  I probably should have gone for the pizza instead of pasta.

Sushi?  It also looked good.  And so did the doner kebab place next to it.

But I had spaghetti with tomato sauce and bacon...

And Bill had spaghetti with a light cream sauce and basil pesto...

And local suds...  I love that a restaurant can be in the middle of a mall corridor and have a full bar.

After lunch, we bought some cheese, wine, deer salami, and Italian butter at an Italian deli.  Then we bought a loaf of bread and a pretzel at a bakery.  Finally, we got our Dunkin' Donuts... or donut holes, as it turned out.  I actually wanted donuts, but then when I saw them, I decided the holes would be better for my ass.  Since they are European Dunkin' Donuts, they aren't as sweet anyway.  Winning.

One other thing I noticed about Mercaden is that it was not really crowded today.  In fact, it seems to be a very pleasant place to shop.  Enclosed malls are disappearing in the United States, but they are still pretty popular in Europe, probably because the weather can really suck much of the time.  But since today was relatively nice after the rain stopped, there weren't so many people in the mall.  If I'd wanted to, I could have spent a few hours there, but we were home within a couple of hours.  After we picked up our stuff, it didn't seem necessary to stay longer.  There was a time in my life when I would have made up a reason to hang out at the mall.  I guess I have evolved.

I could go back there again, though I really like shopping online now.  The Italian deli might be enough of a reason to go back... and the bakeries, which were very impressive indeed and offered some enticing looking cakes.  There were also a lot of ice cream stops... more than I would have expected, really.  

Getting out of the garage was an adventure.  Bill made a wrong turn and had to circle back around the way he came in so we could leave.  But once we were out of the garage, it was very easy to get back on the autobahn and go home.  In fact, even though Breunigerland has free parking, Mercaden is an easier mall to navigate into and out of.  I give it a thumbs up.  

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Ten things I learned in The Netherlands...

I usually like to sum up my trips with a list of things I learned while traveling.  The trip Bill and I took to The Netherlands was our first time really visiting Holland, though we had been to Belgium and Luxembourg, which are the Be and Lux parts of Benelux.  I thoroughly enjoyed the week in The Netherlands, despite missing my dogs.  So here it is... ten things I learned in The Netherlands.

1.  Bikes are EVERYWHERE.  Seriously, everyone in The Netherlands seems to enjoy riding bikes.  If you visit, you can rent them with ease.  I didn't rent a bike during this trip because I spent enough time riding them as a kid.  But it really did appear to be a great way to get around.  I saw a lot of happy looking families riding together.  It was pretty cool.

2.  Pot is not everywhere.  A lot of people think there are coffeeshops on every corner in The Netherlands.  I didn't see any in Apeldoorn, though for all I know, I was looking in the wrong places. I only saw one in Haarlem, though I know for a fact there are more there.   In Amsterdam, pot is everywhere.  It is quite the tourist attraction, along with sex.  Buying marijuana in cities with coffeeshops is no big deal at all.  It's totally legal.  And space cakes can be fun, as long as you don't overdo it.

3.  Beer comes in smaller bottles and glasses than it does in Germany.  In a way, I kind of liked this because it made it easier to try different ones.  I did discover Jopen beer in The Netherlands, which I will be looking for here.  It's good stuff.

4.  Many Dutch people are very tall.  I say this as a woman who is only 5'2" tall.  I would have thought no one would think of me as a local simply because I am so short, but quite a few people spoke Dutch to me before realizing I am American.  That, in and of itself, is kind of cool.

5.  A lot of Dutch words resemble German words.  A lot resemble English words.  And a lot are totally unrecognizable to the uninitiated.  Fortunately, many people in The Netherlands speak English beautifully.

6.  Free WiFi is widely available, much more so than it is in Germany.  I also found that it's easier to watch YouTube videos in The Netherlands.  They aren't as strict as Germany is about copyrights.

7.  If you want tap water in a restaurant, you can get it.  You don't have to buy bottled water.  It's totally fine and even offered.  Bill and I actually prefer German style bubbly water, which not everyone had.  I was surprised about that.

8.  Stores aren't necessarily closed on Sundays like they are in Germany.  Some are closed.  Some have shorter hours.  You won't have to sit on your can on Sunday, though.

9. Sex is no big deal.  Prostitution is legal and you can see women selling their wares in the Red Light district of Amsterdam.  Don't take pictures of them, though.  I didn't try to because I had been warned by Samantha Brown.

10.  If you are in Amsterdam on a Saturday, you may see some rather raunchy hen and stag parties in progress.  For that reason, I think it would be funny if one of the Duggars honeymooned in Amsterdam.  I think it would cause Ma and Pa Duggar to have a stroke.  I almost had a stroke when I saw the huge masses of people walking away from the train station.  It was crazy.

Pretty tulips!  I think these were made of wood, though.

Bird takes off in Haarlem.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Our trip to The Netherlands via Luxembourg... part 13

So this morning, we got up early to come home to Germany.  We were checked out of the hotel by 7:40am.  Bill had a heck of a time negotiating the streets leaving Haarlem, thanks to a wonky GPS.  We finally found our way out and I saw a shot I regretted missing during our walks around Haarlem.  Now I have another reason to go back there.

I am really happy I took Rick Steves' advice and stayed in Haarlem instead of Amsterdam.  Don't get me wrong.  Amsterdam is pretty and full of excitement and things to do.  I just preferred the smaller, quainter, less overwhelming and crazy atmosphere of Haarlem.  It was also a lot cheaper to stay there and it's only two stops by train to Amsterdam.  Haarlem is also very convenient to the airport.   So if we go back, we'll probably stay in Haarlem again.  Indeed, I would book the Carlton Square Hotel again too.  We liked the location, the rain shower, comfortable bed, and the very generous free minibar.  The service was great, too.  It's not a hotel I would necessarily recommend to the price conscious or really young folks-- it's a bit old fashioned and not so cheap.  I liked it, though.  I'm getting old.

This was our third stay in a Carlton hotel.  We've enjoyed all three in different cities.  Not all offer the free minibar, though.  We stayed at The Dominican in Brussels and the only free drinks we got came from the Nespresso machine.

Today's lone photo... lunch at a German truck stop.  I washed it down with Coke for once.

I ate a third and final space cake on the way out of Haarlem and it made the drive back more relaxing and less boring.  I should emphasize that I didn't do any driving on the way home.  Bill generally does all the driving on our trips and operates on a strict no marijuana basis.  He's also very careful about not drinking alcohol when he drives.     

The only time I got slightly grumpy was when we stopped at a truck stop for a pee and some lunch.  Several tour buses full of elderly people got there at the same time we did.  The rain was pouring down and I just wanted a whiz, but they were all in line for the potty.  I knew it would take awhile and we had to pay 70 cents for the privilege.  

Bill was annoyed when I said we should go to the next truck stop.  But he obliged me and fortunately it wasn't long before we came upon it.  There was a crowd there too, but it wasn't as populated as the first place was.  I was able to pee and enjoy my burger in peace.

We got home at about 3:40pm.  We unloaded everything and I started a load of laundry.  Bill went to get the dogs, who were delighted to come home.  Apparently, there were no fights between them during our trip, which is a good thing.   

I don't know when our next trip will be.  My mom is going to visit next month, so I'm sure we will be entertaining her with the local sights.  I'll get back to looking for local gems.

Our trip to The Netherlands via Luxembourg... part 12

Yesterday, we decided to take things very easy.  Neither Bill nor I felt much like going back to Amsterdam, though we didn't get to see much of the city.  I hope we'll have another chance to visit before we leave Germany and I'll be more in the mood to look around and see more than the Red Light district, sex shops, and coffee shops.  It's a great city and there's a lot to see and do there.

Bill enjoys coffee...

Sunday morning in Haarlem was very peaceful and quiet.  After breakfast, we took a walk over by the Basilica and watched people play with their dogs.  I saw one mom ride her bike past us with one child sitting on the handlebars and one standing up behind her.  None of them were wearing helmets, which I thought was kind of refreshing.  It's the kind of thing my generation did.  Of course, if I were a mom, maybe I'd be horrified at the lack of safety consciousness.  I think I was just enjoying being in a really cute town in another country.

The basilica...

Electric cars are all the rage...  This is a Tesla.

I was tempted to go in here...

At about noon, we went to the Napoli Restaurant, which was very close to our hotel.  It was a really nice place for lunch.  We had a table right by the window, so I could people watch while we waited for our food.  Napoli has a pretty extensive menu and it was hard to choose a dish.  I ended up with cannelloni served Bolognese style.  Bill had ravioli made with truffles.  We started with a shared salad and finished with a piece of tiramisu and a "shake" made with lemon ice cream, vodka, and prosecco.  One thing that was really cool about this restaurant is that a lot of stuff is done table side.  We watched the waiter mix pasta in a giant wheel of cheese for the people next to us.  We watched him make my dessert, too.

Montepulciano for lunch...

Salad dressed tableside.

Cannelloni and ravioli...

The makings of my dessert.

Finished product...  the tiramisu was killer!

We picked up two more space cakes from a different guy at Willie Wortel's Sinsemilla cannabis shop.  He was a lot crankier than the first guy was, but we were emboldened.  I noticed a whole lot of young folks in there smoking and watching car racing on TV.  The air was thick with pot smoke and we had to get out of there quickly.

We went back to the hotel because Bill had some school work to do.  I ate a second cake and basically spent the day relaxing.  The second space cake wasn't all that powerful and did nothing but make me doze.

But after awhile, I was ready to scarf down a steak and fries.  I think it's safe to say that marijuana makes me want to eat... even more than I regularly do.
Part 13.

Our trip to The Netherlands via Luxembourg... part 11

I already blogged about my experiences with my first space cake.  Overall, I'll just say that it was a fun experience.  I basically got very relaxed, although the cake seemed to really kick in once we went to dinner at a Croatian restaurant in Haarlem.

I picked up some Cannabis chocolate in Amsterdam.  It's very good chocolate made with hemp seeds.  It doesn't get you high... just makes you fat.  

Bill indulged me with a foot massage before I tried my first space cake...

This is it... I pictured it in my post about eating it, but I thought I'd put it here, too.

Ironically, after seeing all the rubber butts, dicks, and boobs in Amsterdam, I found a Jack Chick tract in Dutch.  It was not far from where a couple of JWs had set up to proselytize.

JWs at work...

I had noticed the Croatian restaurant to and from the train station.  I figured it would offer a nice change from all the stuff we had been eating this week.  I had never had Croatian food and Croatia is on the list for a future trip.  So off we went... Bill ordered a bottle of dry red wine and the waiter brought this one from Macedonia.  It was pretty good.

Macedonian wine... perhaps another country we could see?

Bill tastes it...

I had a giggle fit over this piece of buttered French bread.  The space cake was at its peak at that point, since my laughing fit went on for several minutes.  

This restaurant had little plate warmers generated by candles.  Made for easily keeping things warm.

I had salmon and Bill had grilled meat with mashed potatoes and gravy...

I had fries...

And for dessert, I had Irish coffee and Bill had Croatian coffee, which was made with a pear liqueur.  

If you want to try Croatian food in Haarlem, Dubrovnik is a good bet.  

On the way back to the hotel, I shot some more scenes around Haarlem.  It really is a cute town and a great alternative to Amsterdam.

Even the McDonald's is cute.

Part 12.