Monday, July 27, 2015

We're going back to Scotland... why we're doing another Hebridean cruise

Hebridean Princess.

I already announced this on my main blog, which tends to get more readers than this one does.  It's mainly because I am a bit rawer on my main blog than I am here, where I try to be somewhat genteel.   Today's post will be somewhat less genteel.  I'm writing it because I want to convey why I think Hebridean may be the best cruise line ever.  If you can afford it, that is.

Bill and I took our first cruise(s) on Hebridean Princess back in November 2012.  It was in honor of our 10th wedding anniversary.  Originally, I had planned to take one five night cruise, but then it occurred to me that we could take a second five night cruise with little overlap of ports.  They were the last two cruises of Hebridean's 2012 season and they were relatively inexpensive.  Each five night segment was priced at $1960 for the lowest priced cabins.  If we booked another cruise, we'd get a 5% discount.  I told Bill that if we left after the first cruise, we'd be traveling during the busy Thanksgiving rush.  Moreover, I wasn't sure when we'd ever be back to Scotland.  That was before we ever knew we'd be back in Germany.

Fortunately, Bill agreed.  We made the booking and went off to Scotland in mid November 2012, not knowing that our sweet dog, MacGregor, was suffering from cancer.  Unbeknownst to us, he had a malignant tumor in his spinal column.  We had him on prednisone because he'd been having some problems with walking.  Our vet thought it was arthritis and/or disc disease.  She had instructed us to wean him off the drug, but that coincided with our trip.  We asked the people at the boarding facility to do it for us.  

We had a wonderful trip to Scotland.  We went to Glasgow first, spent two nights there, then got on the very small vessel, which was originally a car ferry.  Hebridean Princess only handles 49 people at a time and is special enough that Queen Elizabeth II has chartered it twice.  Prior to cruising on Hebridean Princess, we had been on SeaDream I twice.  I thought that was an amazing experience.  I had no idea.  After ten nights on Hebridean, my mind was changed.  I still love SeaDream, but it is no longer #1 to me.

Anyway, our Scottish cruise was insanely awesome.  Once we boarded the ship, we were completely taken care of.  They didn't even ask us for a credit card.  The service was just impeccable.  

While we were cruising, MacGregor was having some problems.  The people at the North Carolina boarding facility where he was staying took very good care of him, but he really had trouble when he went off the prednisone.  One day, he just up and collapsed.  The folks at the kennel had to take him to our vet.  They were in constant communication with us, which was frustrating because there was nothing we could do from thousands of miles away other than worry.  At one point, the kennel manager sent us a letter from our vet advising that we put MacGregor out of his misery before we came home.  Naturally, that was devastating news to us, especially since we thought he had arthritis.

On the last night of our wonderful cruise, there was a gala event.  Bill and I were dressed to the nines, but I was very upset about the dog.  Bill had called the vet in North Carolina, who told us that MacGregor wasn't on the edge of dying or anything, but he was in pain.  We told him to keep MacGregor comfortable as best he could.  We would get back after a few nights in Edinburgh and have him checked out.  We eventually took him to NC State, where an MRI was done.  That was when we found out he had cancer-- up until that point, we had several vets arguing about what was wrong with MacGregor and we didn't know who to believe.

The Hebridean staff was wonderful as we were dealing with all of this stuff.  But what was really awesome was what happened later on the last night on the ship.  It was the last night of their season.  After throwing up when I heard about MacGregor and before the haggis, I suddenly realized that Aunt Flow had come to visit me.  Somehow, I had come onboard completely unprepared.  I had remembered everything else we needed on our trip.  But I had forgotten to pack maxi pads.


I was very upset about everything that was going on: my dog ailing in North Carolina, vomiting, and now, an unexpected visit from Aunt Flow.  So Bill, being the wonderful guy he was, grabbed the assistant purser, a lovely Latvian lady named Valeria.  He said, "I need your help."  She looked at him expectantly as he said, "Jenny just started."

That was all he needed to say.

Valeria said, "I can't promise I'll get the best selection, but I'll knock on your door..."

Ten minutes later, Valeria discreetly presented Bill with a bag of feminine hygiene products she'd collected from other staff members.  While I am sure this problem has come up before, I doubt it happens often.  On our first cruise, I was the youngest one onboard at age 40.  The second one included a couple of younger women, but for the most part, people on Princess tend to be silver haired and well past their childbearing years.  Valeria handled the situation like a champ.

I had enough supplies to get me through the night.  The next morning, the purser gave me a hug and wished us well.  I was later able to get the products I needed (and I have never made that mistake again).  We got back to North Carolina a few days later and took care of MacGregor until we sent him to the Rainbow Bridge on December 18, 2012, after we learned of what was really ailing him.

A month later, we adopted Arran.  We named him after one of the beautiful islands we visited in Scotland.  He remains a wonderful companion, though I just found out last week that he had a cancerous mast cell tumor (which was hopefully entirely removed).  I only hope when we get on Princess in March, he'll still be just fine.  

My MacGregor memorial...

Scotland video...  which is a little less emotional.

Anyway, with service like that, I knew we had to sail Hebridean Princess again, especially after mom raved about it last week.  I can hardly wait.  And I am hoping that this time, we have no sick dogs or menstrual catastrophes.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

A visit to the HendlHouse in Böblingen...

Before today's trip to Panzer, a nice walk in the woods...  the weather was perfect!  Not hot at all.

My favorite part of the trail.

Zane's favorite part of the walk is a field we have to walk through.  It never fails to get him in a playful mood.  Today was no exception.

A little film I made from footage from our walk.

Right after I took this film, we were confronted by about nine people on horseback.  Fortunately, I saw and heard them before the dogs did.  We went into the woods and waited for them to pass.  I should have filmed them cantering past.  The dogs, of course, went absolutely nuts and didn't settle down until we got home.  That was probably twenty minutes later.  I think the family walking their dogs ahead of us were happy when we turned in a different direction.  

Bill and I were hoping to have some fun today in Nagold at the Keltenfest.  I had been planning to go, owing to my Celtic heritage.  Unfortunately, we needed to go to Panzer for some Frontline for our dogs.  Then we got hungry.  I didn't want to visit our usual Sunday haunts because I wanted to try something different.  We decided to visit the HendlHouse in Böblingen, even though we knew parking could be a challenge.  There's some kind of fest going on there today.

As luck had it, there was a spot open in HendlHouse's tiny parking lot.  We pulled in, thanking heavens we brought my little Mini, which fit nicely in the small spot.

The outside of the HendlHouse, a "fast food" joint specializing in chicken.

As soon as we walked into the HendlHouse, I had a flashback to the fall of 2007, when Bill and I had just moved to Germany the first time.  We ate in this restaurant.  Only then, it was a Wienerwald.  Like HendlHouse, Wienerwald is a chain restaurant specializing in chicken.  Bill and I really enjoyed the meal we had there in 2007, but when we ate at one in Vienna back in April, we were less impressed.  Böblingen still has a Wienerwald, but it looks like it's moved to a bigger building.  

We sat down at a small table and a very kind German lady waited on us.  I ordered a helles beer, while Bill had a pils.  And, of course, we both had chicken.  HendlHouse is billed as "fast food", but I'd say it's more like a casual dining place.  They have a salad bar, a kid's menu, and besides chicken, there is ostrich, duck, and schnitzel offered.  You can even get a burger there, though I can't imagine ordering a burger over chicken at the HendlHouse.  They do chicken right...  as KFC used to claim.

I had barbecue chicken.  This was surprisingly good.  The sauce was a bit sweet and tasted a little of orange, but it was also tangy and spicy.  The chicken was juicy and flavorful.  I finished about half of this.  The rest is lunch tomorrow.

Bill loved the garlic chicken.  I was tempted by this dish, but decided Bill should get it because he loves garlic, which tends to repeat on me.  

Our bill was 24,90 euros.  Bill spoke German to our waitress.  I tried to speak a little German, too.  It came out Armenian.  I really need to practice.  As we were about to leave, I noticed a guy double parked in the tiny parking lot.  He was quick to grab our spot just as we left the restaurant.  I liked the devil's horns, tail, and pitchfork he had around the VW logo on his van.

We were thinking of going to Wurmlinger Chapel with the dogs today, but I realized it closes at 4:00pm.  I'm sure we could walk up there anyway, but why go up there if the chapel is closed?  So maybe next weekend.  I'd still like to go have some fun today, but I think we may be in for the night.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Albert Podell... A man who has seen every single country on Earth

I suppose I could write another depressing post about canine mast cell tumors or local restaurants and fests.  But today, I think it would be better to write a book review.  There was a time in my life when I wrote book reviews all the time, at least once or twice a week.  Now I write them as I finish books, which take me a lot longer to read than they used to.  I started Albert Podell's book Around the World in 50 Years: My Adventure to Every Country on Earth over a month ago, when Bill and I were in The Netherlands.  I just finished it this morning.

It didn't take such a long time to finish Mr. Podell's book because it wasn't good or interesting.  On the contrary, I found Around the World in 50 Years a fascinating and entertaining read.  Podell is one of those rare, adventurous characters who had a burning need to achieve his goals, no matter how difficult or even impossible they seem.  A lawyer and writer by trade, he has also been an editor at Playboy, as well as three national outdoor magazines.  He has also written over 250 freelance articles.  I found his writing witty, engaging, and informative, as he outlined his adventures at some of the more obscure and dangerous countries around the world.

Although Podell has the distinction of having been to every official country on the books (at this point in history, anyway), he can't write about every place he's ever seen.  Enough people have been to France, England, and Brazil that he could safely leave his experiences in those countries out of his manuscript.  He does, however, offer tales about Nauru, a little known island nation in Micronesia.  How many people have even heard of Nauru, let alone visited it?  As Podell explains, it's not exactly on the top tier of most traveler's bucket lists.  If you read about his experiences in Nauru, you might come to understand why it's a country that may not exist for much longer.  Same with Tuvalu, another little known country out there in the world.  Podell writes about these far flung places with humor, compassion, and insight.  I almost wanted to see them for myself, were it not for the extreme difficulty in even reaching them.

Aside from seeing fascinating and obscure countries, Podell has also met some amazing people.  He writes of one of his first expeditions to Africa, where he and a friend had taken along a couple of European nurses.  The nurses were seen as potential wife material by a local tribal leader, who took a particular liking to the heavier set blonde one.  Podell and his friend had to do some fancy talking and cultural finessing to avoid bartering their friends to the Africans.

Another fascinating man Podell met in Africa was a guide who called himself God.  God was quite the character and Podell's stories about him explain why meeting God was yet another enriching experience in his travels around the world.

Podell ran into danger, impossible bureaucracy and red tape, beautiful women, dangerous men, bad weather, bad food, and near death experiences.  He manages to write about all of this with a game sense of fun and enthusiasm.  I think Around the World in 50 Years is a great read for those who are adventurous and love a good story, as well as those who are less adventurous and would prefer to get their information about the world from people who don't mind doing the legwork to experience it.  Podell also went back to countries after they'd changed.  For instance, 25 years ago, the Soviet Union still existed and Podell had been there.  When it broke up, he visited all 15 former republics, some of which are more rustic and exotic than others.  I wish he'd written more about his times in those countries.  Much of this book is about Podell's visits to African countries.  South America and Europe barely get a mention.

This book may be less appealing to those who don't enjoy stories that are told in a "fish story" fashion.  Remember, Podell is a writer who used to work for Playboy and he has a colorful vocabulary.  Some of his stories may seem a bit embellished.  Some might also take offense to his rather strong inclination toward bedding younger women; again, remember, he did used to work for Playboy.  Personally, I enjoyed reading about his experiences and feel like I learned something new while I was entertained.  At the back of the book, there is a comprehensive list of all of the countries Podell has seen and the year of his visit.  I'm proud to say I went to Armenia before he did.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Results of our German veterinary surgery adventure...

I took my dogs to the vet yesterday.  Arran needed to get his stitches taken out after the surgery he had two weeks ago.  Zane was along for the ride, but also got his routine allergy shot because we were close enough to the next month.  Arran's surgical wound from his surgery has healed nicely and he even removed three of the stitches on his own.

The vet removed the remaining three stitches, then gave me the news about the pathology report.  Unfortunately, I was right to be suspicious about the growth on Arran's head.  It was a mast cell tumor.  The pathologist graded it at 1.5, which means he thinks there is a chance the cells could spread.  However, the tumor had clean margins, meaning there was no sign of cancer cells in the skin surrounding the tumor.  It was also a very small growth, maybe the size of a medium sized pea.        

The vet explained that we could put Arran through tests to see if chemo would be useful for him.  But, she said the pathologist said if Arran were his dog, he wouldn't do that.  It would likely involve a bone marrow tap, which would be stressful and painful.  Moreover, chemo has limited results with this type of cancer.  There is a chance that the surgery was curative, but unfortunately, mast cell tumors tend to recur.  I will have to watch him closely and have every new growth tested and/or removed.

I don't know if I could say Arran has cancer like I could with the two dogs that preceded him.  My old dogs, Flea and MacGregor, had prostate and neural sheath cancer respectively.  Flea was diagnosed by the same German veterinarian when we lived here back in 2009.  We brought him in because he was having trouble peeing and pooping.  She initially thought he'd gotten into something that upset his stomach until she checked his prostate and realized that it was hard and irregular and looked like a map of Russia.

Both Flea and MacGregor had their diseases for awhile before we knew what was going on, so there was little we could do for them other than keep them comfortable.  Arran, on the other hand, is very strong and healthy, and as far as I know, the cancer was removed when he had his surgery.  Or, maybe it wasn't.  Only time will tell.  But then, when it comes to life, there are never any guarantees.  Even if he'd never had a mast cell tumor, he could die in an accident at any time.  Or he could die of something totally unrelated to the growth on his head.  It does look like we caught the tumor early, though, so this news isn't nearly as horrible as it could be.

Another bright spot in this drama is that the vet bill was very low.  Yesterday, I got the comprehensive bill for the surgery, toenail clipping, a couple of allergy shots for Zane, pathologist's report, and prescription drugs.  The bill for all of that was the US equivalent of about $250 before VAT.  Since our vet accepts a VAT form, we didn't have to pay that.  Even if we had, it still was a lot cheaper than similar service in the United States.

Arran this morning.

Well, I'll just have to keep an eye on him.  Luckily he's both cute and sweet.  Anyway, let my story be a lesson to you.  If you find any weird growths on your dog or anywhere else, it's best to get them checked out before they turn into something sinister.  I am glad I didn't acquiesce when the vet said maybe we didn't need to remove that growth.  


Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Mom's visit part three...

We sort of took it easy yesterday, since Mom's knee has been giving her trouble.  At about 3:00 yesterday afternoon, we headed for Wurmlingen, where there is a chapel on a hilltop that overlooks Pfäffingen, which is where we lived when we were in Germany the first time.  I was hoping we could drive to the top because it was hot outside and Mom wasn't up to hiking.  Unfortunately, you have to either bike or walk to the chapel.  There is a large parking lot at the bottom of the road that leads up to the church.

What we managed to see before Bill turned around was promising.  Bill and I will have to go back and do the hike to the church when the weather is less fierce.  The upside to our exploration was that I discovered an open WC that was free to use and relatively clean.  Too bad the guy in the camper ahead of us didn't notice it.  He pulled off to pee in a port-a-potty and ended up backing up traffic.

Nice to have a shot of Wurmlinger Chapel from another direction...  We'll get up there soon.

I was surprised to find these toilets unlocked.

After our failed trip to Wurmlingen, we went to Nagold and visited the city museum.  Bill and I had seen it a couple of weeks ago when we visited Nagold last time, but we thought my mom would find it interesting, since it focuses on Nagold during Hitler's era.  I was able to translate a little for her, but she mostly winged it a bit.  I think she still enjoyed her visit, if only because the Steinhaus it's housed in was a bit cooler than outside.

Next, we stopped by Longwy in Nagold, which is a bar right next to the river.  Bill and mom had some iced tea, while I had my requisite beer.  While we were enjoying our drinks, it occurred to me that the dogs were going to be hungry if we didn't feed them before we enjoyed dinner at Osteria da Gino's in Nagold.  So we finished up, went home, fed the dogs, let them pee, and then came back to Nagold for our seven o'clock reservation at Gino's.

A little drinking...

We originally wanted to eat there on Monday, but they were completely booked.  I was a little concerned that Gino's style of abundant Italian hospitality might be a little too much for my mom, but she ended up really enjoying herself and the food.  As usual, it was delicious, and Gino and his wife were as delightful as always.  In fact, when Gino got a load of my mom, he could immediately tell who she was.  He smiled and said, "Your mama!" in Italian.  Of her four kids, it's true that I look the most like her.

Vorspeisen with the usual cheese, bread, olives, sausages, and grilled veggies, as well as the orange and fennel salad.  Mom had some red wine, while Bill and I had prosecco and San Pellegrino.

A little spaghetti with cherry tomatoes and black olives...  As we sat out on the sidewalk enjoying dinner, we watched many young folks passing in Fahrschule cars.  We even saw a student motorcyclist.  I guess Nagold is a good place for driving lessons.  

Bill had veal in a lemon sauce with sautéed spinach.

My mom and I each had the fish, which was a positively orgasmic John Dory filet.

And dessert was strawberries, a little coffee ice cream, panna cotta, and a sliver of cake with anise.  We skipped our coffee and grappa.  The bill was 187 euros for the three of us.  I'm happy to report that no one chastised us at Gino's place.

I'm sorry I didn't get to try a new restaurant with Mom during her visit, but the weekend awaits.  Maybe after we hike up the hill to Wurmlinger Chapel, we'll venture into a new place to eat.  I don't think it's a very strenuous walk, but I like any excuse to try new restaurants.  

Mom left this morning.  Somehow, her flight plan includes stops in Munich, Reykjavik, and Dulles before she gets to her final destination at RDU.  I say better her than me.  Apparently, the many stops were much cheaper than taking a direct flight from Stuttgart.  Since Mom has never been to Iceland, she decided she didn't mind dropping into the airport, just so she can say she's been.  My sister lives in Chapel Hill and will pick her up tonight at about 11:30pm local time for a short visit before Mom finally goes home to Hampton, Virginia.  

It was good to see my mom.  I don't know when our next visit will be because neither of us plans another trip across the pond anytime soon.  But I do have a feeling that after Mom talks to my sisters, there could be more houseguests.  God help us all.  ;-)

Monday, July 20, 2015

Mom's visit part two...

Today, we decided to go to Esslingen.  Bill and I went there around Christmas last year and thought it was cute.  I had been wanting to go back, but it's not close to where we live and traffic can be a major bitch.  I thought my mom would enjoy it, since it really is a nice little town.  

We got a bit of a late start.  It was almost one o'clock when we left the house and we knew that a lot of places that serve lunch would be closing at two.  Because of that, we decided to eat at Brauhaus Schoenbuch in Boeblingen.  I've been there a few times, so I was a little disappointed to be eating lunch there today.  I always like to go to places I haven't been so I can post a review of the food and service.  But the Brauhaus was convenient, since there's plenty of free parking and I knew we wouldn't have to worry about getting there too late for lunch.

It was a bit cloudy and looked like it might rain.  Even if it didn't rain, my mom, Bill, and I are very light skinned people and have a tendency to get sunburns.  I had forgotten sunscreen.  So we decided to eat inside instead of out in the biergarten.  My mom got a bit hot as she enjoyed the lasagne that was being offered during lunch (it was delicious, by the way).  She was fanning herself when an older German lady approached Bill and actually touched him on the face as she told him in German that it was too hot for my mother to be sitting in the dining room (even though she and her husband were sitting at the table behind us).  At first, I didn't quite understand what she was saying because, besides not speaking or understanding German very well, I could barely hear her.  But then it became clearer, especially when I saw the unmistakable look of disdain on her face.

My mom and I laughed about it, especially when the woman kindly told my mom how cute her bedazzled t-shirt was.  Bill acted like he didn't understand her, though he eventually did.  But then I turned around and noticed her scowling disapprovingly at Bill and me.  It kind of pissed me off, mainly because my mom's comfort level was none of her goddamn business.  My mom would have been hot regardless of where we sat and she is certainly no invalid.  She can tell us where she wants to sit and would have had no issue doing just that.  I was also irritated because Bill is one of the kindest, most attentive men I know and it doesn't sit well with me when some woman who doesn't know him presumes to publicly chastise him, especially in front of his wife and mother in law.

It may be a common thing among Germans for perfect strangers to publicly correct other adults, but this American thought it was very rude and strange behavior.  I usually try to go with the flow when I am abroad, but I can't help being an American.  There are some things about living here that I may never get used to.  All I have to say is, that woman is probably very lucky I didn't understand her that clearly when she was speaking to him and that I can't speak German worth a damn.  She may have very well have gotten a talking to from yours truly.  But then, I'm not necessarily known for being polite myself.  The first time we took a cruise, we left out of Norway.  I yelled at some elderly Norwegian women when they almost knocked me over trying to get on the ship.  It's probably a good thing I don't practice social work.


A pretty view of the main platz...

Mom said this looked a bit crowded...

Anyway, after lunch, during which we all ate too much, we got in the car and headed for Esslingen.  We didn't stay too long... just long enough to walk a ways through the town, near the rathaus and cathedral, and past the Kessler sekt store.  As we walked over a bridge over the Neckar River, my mom said "Okay!  Let's find some coffee or ice cream or something."  She was tired and wanted to sit for a bit.  So we ended up at Sommer, a restaurant/cafe/bar in a park in the heart of Esslingen.

Bill enjoys a cool drink, outside where it's cooler.

We sat down and watched kids play with the drinking fountain near the cafe.  Bill commented on the kids, male and female, running around with little to no clothes on.  In the United States, this would be considered weird among many people.  There, people think there are pedophiles lurking on every street corner.  Here, it's just very normal.  I think it's refreshing that children's innocence is preserved and celebrated here.  The kids were having a lot of normal kid style summer fun and no one thought anything of it.

Mom ended up ordering a macchiato, which was too hot for her.  She didn't want a schorle, ice tea, or a beer.  She also wanted to dump some of her euro coins, since they were too heavy for her to lug around.  She noticed a elderly gentleman sitting in a wheelchair, seemingly out of sorts, and said that had my father lived much longer, he probably would have been in a similar state.

After we finished our drinks, she was ready to go home.  It was just as well, since it was about 5:00 and traffic was starting to back up.  On the way out of Esslingen, we stopped at the Kessler store and picked up some sekt.  I managed to hear some strains of the organ from the cathedral.  My mom was a church organist for over fifty years, so she listened, too.  Then, as we got on the road and Bill missed the exit for the A8, I used my super sensitive human compass skills to get us there after a short detour.  Who needs a GPS?  Not me.

Near the Kessler factory...

A pretty view of the Neckar in Esslingen.

We passed a violin shop on the way into town.  

And a typically funny German ad...

As well as some interesting art.  I probably would have liked to have done some shopping in this place.

This thing actually waved...

Another pretty shot of the Neckar and Esslingen.

A few shots of the Kessler store.  Bill and I will have to go back and do some tasting. 

Love German print ads.  These were for a theater.

I almost got creamed by a biker just before I took these shots.  I didn't see or hear him until he'd almost run me over.

Goodbye, Esslingen.


Mom's visit part one...

My mom has spent the last couple of weeks aboard the Royal Crown, a river boat leased by Hebridean Island Cruises during the summer.  She decided to take that all inclusive luxury cruise last year after asking me for advice on cruising.  Originally, she had considered a Viking cruise, but she reconsidered when I told her about the amazing time Bill and I had when we were on Hebridean Princess in November 2012.  It's a very luxurious, civilized, British experience.  Once you pay your fare, you don't have to worry about anything else.  There's no tipping and the bar is open.  It's one cruise that is truly all inclusive.  I also knew my mom loves Britain, so I recommended Royal Crown.  Originally, I wanted to join her, but we had a few too many major expenses this year (including the dental work I still need).  Hebridean cruises are wonderful, but they are very expensive.

Mom's trip included two back to back cruises on Royal Crown, as well as a few days in England, where she met up with my dad's former secretary from Mildenhall Air Force Base.  Then she flew with all the rest of the folks on the first cruise to Basel, Switzerland.  The focus was on wine.  They boarded the boat and traveled to Strasbourg, France, Cologne, Germany, Bamberg, Wurzburg, Koblenz, and Nuremberg.  In Nuremberg, a new cruise started with a music focus.  They went to Regensberg, Passau, Linz, Salzburg, Vienna, Bratislava, and Budapest.  Mom didn't take any photos and says a lot of it is still a blur.  But she had a great time and made some new British friends.  She was the only American on the boat.  I expected that, since when Bill and I were on Princess, we were the only Americans on our first cruise and one of two American couples on the second.  Also, Hebridean tends to cater to older folks and single travelers.  On our first cruise, I was the youngest passenger at age 40!  Mom fit right in.

We picked up my mother on Saturday after she flew to Stuttgart from Budapest.  It was her first time in Budapest and she stayed at the Corinthia Hotel, which is where Bill and I stayed in September 2009.  We knew it's a wonderful place to stay and mom concurred.  If you like five star luxury, you can't go wrong at the Corinthia.

I hadn't seen my mom since Thanksgiving 2014, when Bill and I went to Virginia to celebrate the holiday and say goodbye to my dad, who died in July 2014.  We had a memorial service for him at Thanksgiving so more family could attend.  Last August, right after my dad died, my mom discovered that she had breast cancer.  She had a breast removed, but then seemed to bounce back effortlessly.

We took her by the Auld Rogue in Vaihingen on the way home because I was really getting hangry.  She enjoyed their pulled pork sandwich special, but had to take most of it with her.  This is sort of her first time in Germany.  Though my dad was in the Air Force, they were never stationed here, nor did they ever visit here on one of their many trips.  She had wanted to visit me the last time we lived here, but my dad became very ill with dementia and she spent the next few years taking care of him.  I think this last year has been liberating for her, even if she misses him sometimes.

She met my dogs, Zane and Arran, for the first time on Saturday...

Zane took to her right away...

My mom is a big dog lover, but hasn't had one since 2001, when our dog Ginger died.  I used to be able to share the dogs with her when we lived in Virginia, but the past few years have been pretty hectic move wise.

Yesterday, we had a nice peaceful morning and afternoon.  Mom sat out on the patio with a book and enjoyed the typically quiet German Sunday.  Then, we went to Tuebingen, where mom got to see one of our favorite medieval German college towns.  She experienced her first biergarten.

Mom tries a radler.  She is not a beer fan, but she seemed to enjoy this... And she tried my hefeweizen and said it tasted better than most beers do.  I think her problem is that my dad drank a lot of cheap mass produced Anheuser-Busch beers that tasted like crap.

While we were at the Neckarmuller, we watched people punting, swimming, and even sailing.  One group of Germans was especially entertaining...

I love a good musical interlude.  We also passed a group playing strings near the cathedral and a trio of women who were singing together as they walked.  Made me very proud to be here with my very musical mom.

After some beer and people watching, we walked through the park on the other side of the Neckarmuller.  One group of folks was barbecuing on their boat while in the river.  I love hanging out in Tuebingen, because there is never a shortage of people to watch.  And on the river, they usually put on a good show.  Especially if there's a good hen party.

Another group got caught in some low hanging branches.

The tunnel on the way back to the car.

We passed this "cloud" on the way...

There is a sister exhibit in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Cool!  Even if it did remind me a little of a loogy.

Swimmers...  might have to join them someday.

This may have been the first sailboat I've ever seen in Tuebingen.

A party boat...

I think we're going to go to Nagold today, though I'm also hoping to visit a place or two I haven't yet blogged about.  I definitely want to try a different restaurant.  Bill has taken off until Wednesday to help me entertain my mom until she flies back to the States.