Sunday, January 31, 2016

Our first trip to Daily Burger...

About a month ago, Bill and I heard about how good the burgers are at Daily Burger, a small restaurant near the Schwaben Galerie in Vaihingen.  Since we definitely like our burgers, we decided we needed to try it.  Today was the big day.

Outside of the restaurant.  I often get a kick out of trying German versions of "American" food.

The weather was pretty miserable today.  It was cold and rainy.  Daily Burger opens at 3:00pm on Sundays.  I figured it wouldn't be that busy because it was the middle of the day.  I was mistaken.  The dining room at Daily Burger is very small and no frills and every seat inside was taken.  They have a tent heated by propane heaters and the gentleman ahead of us requested to sit out there with his daughter.  Bill and I decided to join them, since there was nowhere else to sit.  But first, we had to make an order.

Daily Burger has a small menu.  You can get a beef burger, a chicken burger, or a veggie burger.  They also offer chicken wings.  You have a choice of three buns: sesame, hell, or koerner.  Bill tried the koerner bun, while I had the sesame bun.  There are several available free toppings which include tomatoes, raw onions,  roasted onions or pickles.  You can also pay extra for an egg, cheese, bacon, rucola, an extra patty, or jalapeno peppers.  Mustard, ketchup, and mayonnaise are free, while barbecue sauce is extra.

Bill and I both got combos, which include pommes and a drink.  I had a Coke and Bill had a Mezzo Mix; they came in small bottles  The lady who helped us spoke perfect English and was efficient as she took our orders.  She handed us a beeper and we went outside to wait.

On a nicer day, it wouldn't have been bad at all to sit in the tent.  The heater was somewhat effective in warming the space.  I could still see my breath, though, and my hands were freezing during the short wait for our order to be prepared.

Obligatory shot of Bill.

Nice tables outside.  I sat right under the heater.  Bill insisted.  On a nice day, this might even be preferable to the indoor seating, since it's very no frills.  Today, it was very bitter cold.

My cheeseburger.  It had mustard, ketchup, pickles, and lettuce.  The patty was very thin and tasted like it might be beef and pork mixed.  It was piping hot when I got it and the bun tasted very fresh, like it had been made on the premises.  I really liked the bun.  The fries were also delicious, but there were a whole lot of them.  Bill and I each only managed half.  Next time, we'll order one combo and a burger and share the fries.  I don't mind having extras, though... they were really good.

Bill's sandwich.  He had barbecue sauce, pickles, cheese, and lettuce.  His sandwich seemed bigger than mine.  Both had a lot of condiments on them, to the point at which they were pretty messy.  I could have used another napkin.

Total damage for this lunch was about eighteen euros.  We both liked the food well enough, though it was definitely not Five Guys.  Next time, I may try the chicken or the wings.  I think I might like that better than the burgers.

I was so chilled after eating outside that I decided we needed to visit The Auld Rogue for a pint and maybe a little nip of scotch.  After dropping off our leftover fries, we walked over there and came in just in time for some live music.  A group was playing Irish music.  The first thing I did when I got there, though, was to hit the ladies room because I didn't see one at Daily Burger.  To be fair, I didn't look for one in the crowded restaurant.  It was too awkward.

A young girl standing in the hallway was playing with a tablet and said something to me.  At first I didn't hear her.  She repeated herself in German.  I didn't understand and said so.  She asked me if I'd been crying!  No... I was just looking a little like a drowned rat with too much eyeliner and a strong urge to pee.

The view from our table.  Bill ordered us a round of Guinness...

Another obligatory shot of Bill right before he ordered me a large Ardbeg to help ward off the chill.

I had to have a shot of the Irish True flag.

The band was decent, though I think they could have used another singer.  One lady sang and wasn't bad, but they seemed more into playing than singing.  I heard a few harmonies and one guy was a decent singer, but I couldn't hear him as well over the jamming.  Never mind, though... it was entertaining.  I especially liked it when they sang "Always Look On The Bright Side of Life".  I noticed a couple of Christy Moore songs, too.  Later, after the broke up, it became clear that they were Germans doing a pretty good job of playing Irish music.

We talked to the proprietor, Nick, about a trip to Ireland The Auld Rogue is planning for Memorial Day weekend.  That may be a trip I'll have to do...  Nick said it would include some stops at distilleries and a craft beer festival...  A boozer like me is all over that.  We asked him to send us the info and we'll see if we can make it happen.

I was surprisingly warm on the walk back to the car.  I suppose a couple of large drams of scotch will do that to a person.  We stopped at the commissary for a few necessary items, since Bill has to go away again soon.

When Bill goes away...

I run out of things to say...

Sorry the travel blog has been slow this week.

Bill got home yesterday from his latest business trip, but he leaves again next Sunday.  I'm hoping we might venture out today, but it's kind of rainy and Bill doesn't feel well.  He's very tired and has a cough.  He no doubt picked something up in Africa that he will pass to me, though he claims the air quality just sucked in Burkina Faso.

I will admit that his picture of a public toilet in Burkina Faso was funny.  It was basically a hole in a slab of concrete.

Anyway, with some luck, we may go to a restaurant for lunch or something.  Or maybe not.  I think I'll be glad when the winter is over and I feel less like I need to hibernate.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Sailing with Sea Cloud cruises...

Last week, I was hanging out on SeaDream Yacht Club's messageboards on Cruise Critic and someone mentioned the Sea Cloud cruise line.  I think I had heard of Sea Cloud before, but never really explored it.  Since I have loads of time on my hands and enjoy luxury cruising on small ships, I thought I'd take a look.

When you sail with Sea Cloud, you're actually sailing.  Both of these vessels have masts and actual sails on them, making them very unique in the cruising world.  The original Sea Cloud has a long and celebrated history dating from 1931, while Sea Cloud II is a much younger and more modern ship built in 2001.  

I requested information from Sea Cloud cruises, which is based in Hamburg.  I just received a package special delivery.  I was expecting an envelope with a brochure that maybe included a DVD or something.  What I received what a box of stuff.  And it's all in German!

My German skills are still evolving, so it may be hard to understand all of this...  I may have to use Google Translate.  Fortunately, I can look at their Web site, which does offer English translation. 

From what I can see, it looks like a lovely, albeit expensive, vacation possibility.  It's also not all inclusive, though beer and wine is included at lunch and dinner.  Of course, if I'm going to be spending four or five figures on a cruise, I prefer not to have to worry about signing chits.  On the other hand, it looks like this line would offer a very unique and exciting experience.  I have heard that onboard, both German and English are spoken.

Sea Cloud also gets very good reviews, both from the professional reviewer and regular folks who have sailed with them.  I may have to get Bill to check this out with me and see what he thinks...    

For now, I think I will just be tickled by the box of information they sent me and the opportunity to practice my German as I plow through it.  I see on Cruise Critic, Sea Cloud is sometimes chartered by Lindblad cruises, too.  

Flying with the rich and famous...

Every once in awhile, I read a travel related book.  I review most of the books I read.  The travel books get reviewed on my travel blog.  The music books get reviewed on my music blog and everything else ends up on my original blog.  Since I'm alone this week, I anticipate doing a lot of reading.   

I just finished Patricia Reid's book, Flying with the Rich and Famous: True Stories from the Flight Attendant Who Flew with them.  Reid is a very experienced corporate flight attendant.  A corporate flight attendant works for charter airlines and on private planes.  Though I have never experienced flying that way, I gather that it's a totally different experience than your usual flight on a regular mass market airline.  Reid was responsible for making sure her passengers and the pilots were safe and comfortable.  According to Reid's book, sometimes, that proved to be a formidable job.

I generally enjoy books about what it's like to work in certain unusual occupations.  Having done my share of service oriented jobs, I can definitely appreciate tell all anecdotes, even if it could be argued that they're in poor taste.  Patricia Reid's book is, at times, entertaining enough.  The writing is mostly passable, though somewhat amateur.  However, I didn't find Reid to be a particularly likable narrator.  For one thing, she comes across as a bit of a braggart.  At the very beginning of the book, she basically tells her readers that her job is very rare and implies that it's "special".  She may be right about that.  The fact that she blatantly states it is more than a little off putting.  

For another thing, Reid's tone is rather gushy, which makes her seem vapid and shallow.  Sometimes her writing reminded me of something I'd read from a lovesick teenaged girl.  At times, Reid comes across as immature and starstruck rather than professional.  I was left thinking that she totally lucked into her job and didn't get it because she has superior skills in the friendly skies.  

Most of Reid's stories about celebrities are very brief and somewhat generic.  A lot of the stars she writes about are also long dead, which makes me think she's been in the business for a lot longer than 25 years.  She writes about serving Dean Martin, Johnny Carson, Michael Landon, Esther Williams, and Elizabeth Taylor, among other very famous people who haven't drawn a breath in decades.  With all of those years of experience, you'd think she'd explain exactly when she got in the business, but I got the sense that she didn't want to come off as old as she very likely is.  It's not that I think she should be hiding her age; on the contrary, I enjoy reading about how air travel has changed.  Someone who has been in the business as long as Reid has would be able to offer a great perspective on that.  Unfortunately, she doesn't really delve into that aspect of aviation.  

For someone in the service industry, Reid seems very fake, self-centered, and immature.  Granted, having worked in the service industry myself, I know that it's not unusual for service industry professionals to be fake toward the more difficult people and smile at them when they feel more like wringing their necks.  Sometimes, being fake is a survival mechanism.  However, flight attendants are not just servers in the sky; they are responsible for their passengers' safety.  For that reason, it's a little concerning that the author seemed so insincere and unpleasant.  I'm not sure I'd voluntarily trust her with my life.

I see that a lot of reviewers on gave this book a single star.  I would probably be a little more generous.  To me, a one star book would be barely readable or extremely offensive.  I don't think Flying with the Rich and Famous is barely readable or extremely offensive.  To me, the author simply comes across as narcissistic and lacking in empathy.  That doesn't mean she can't write a book, but it does make the book less compelling and interesting, at least in my opinion.  Reading this book was kind of like having a conversation with someone I find unlikable.  I just wanted to get through it and put it in the past. 

I think I would award Flying with the Rich and Famous two-and-a-half stars.  Some of the stories are somewhat interesting and, perhaps with some editing, this book could have even been pretty good.  However, I do think Reid could have used the services of an editor and maybe an honest friend who would tell her how her boasting comes across to the masses.  Patricia Reid may very well be great at her job as well as a genuinely nice person, but I sure didn't get that impression when I read her book.

If you're interested in reading it for yourself...


Saturday, January 23, 2016

Slow night in Entringen...

Last night, Bill and I decided to go to Entringen and see our old friend The Mad Scientist at Agais.  The last time we saw him and his wife, it was Halloween night.  I had been meaning to get down there sooner than the New Year, but life got in the way.  When Bill asked me what I wanted to do for dinner, I said I wanted to see our old friend.  Bill cleared some of the snow that hadn't melted from my car and we headed down to Ammerbuch-Entringen, which is very close to where we lived the first time we were in Germany.

We noticed the parking lot where Bill usually parks was full of construction materials.  Looks like they're putting up a new building of some sort.  It didn't matter, though, since there was still plenty of street parking last night.

When we went into the restaurant, The Mad Scientist and his wife were in the side dining room, watching TV.  They greeted us as we took our favorite table.  There was no one else in the restaurant. Bill decided to have lamb and I had swordfish, two of the pricier dishes on the menu.  I think our old friend was happy about that.

We enjoyed a leisurely dinner.

A photo of Bill in his favorite winter shirt...  I may need to get him another one if this cold weather keeps up.

Fresh salads.  Our old friend remembered that Bill is not a fan of onions and I am not a raw tomato fan.  

Swordfish steak with oven baked potatoes and t'zatziki.  It was pretty good, though the portion was a little small.

Bill really enjoyed his lamb.  I am not a fan of lamb.

It felt good to see The Mad Scientist and his wife again.  Their college aged son also visited; we saw him in the kitchen.  Bill later told me that he confided to him that business had been very slow.  He blamed it on the weather.  At one point, Bill said he almost looked teary eyed.  I felt badly for him, though he was as charming as usual.  I just remember that only a few years ago, he was healthier and spoke English so well.  He talked about politics and sports.  Now he speaks German to us, which is not such a bad thing.  At least I get to practice.  I don't know when we'll get down there again, but I'm going to make a point of visiting whenever we get the chance.   One of these days, I'll have to ask him what his name is.  He knows our names.

Bill is going away this week so I will probably be pretty bored.  Hopefully, we'll get out tonight and try a new place before he takes off for Africa.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Late lunch at Positano in Stuttgart...

Today, Bill and I visited Dr. Blair in Stuttgart to get my stitches removed after last week's procedure.  I was happy to see him because the stitches were annoying and all too secure.  He removed them, gave me a quick once over, and told me the next procedure will be four months from now.  Apparently, that's sooner than the standard six months.  I guess I healed up nicely.

I asked Dr. Blair to tell me what exactly happened during last week's surgery.  He gave me a layman's description of what he did.  I said, "So you just did the sinus lift?"  He answered affirmatively.  All he really needed to do was tell me he'd done the sinus lift because I'd already Googled the hell out of it.  The next operation will be to place the screw for the implant and it supposedly will not be as involved or potentially traumatic as the sinus lift was.  He even said I might not need Ativan, though I will probably request it anyway.  It was nice not being nervous before he did his thing.

After setting up the next procedure appointment for May, Bill and I went to the Markthalle to pick up a few Italian goodies.  I have gotten hooked on Italian tuna since our trip to Vicenza and I wanted to get some more pasta and wine.  I probably could have spent more money on chocolate, but decided not to.  I don't need any more temptations in the house.

Though it was three o'clock and a lot of places were shut down for a pause, we did manage to find a table at Positano, a pizzeria and restaurant near Dr. Blair's office in downtown Stuttgart.  The place was dimly lit and almost empty when we arrived.  We got there at the same time as another party did.  There are several small dining rooms in what appears to be an old building overlooking Calwer Strasse.  Cell phone reception is poor in there.

The restaurant has an extensive menu that offers a broad range of dishes.  I was tempted to try one of their Italian pasta dishes but opted for the zander filet special instead.  Bill went for a penne pasta with spinach and gorgonzola cheese sauce dish.  We both had a glass of Chianti and shared a bottle of San Pellegrino.

Obligatory shot of Bill.  Nice generous pour of wine.

Zander filet special with white wine sauce.  I was afraid it would come with mushrooms and it did.  The vegetables were supposed to be fresh, but weren't really.  Bill took the mushrooms from me, sparing me from angst.  This dish was 9,30 euros.  

Bill's pasta with spinach and gorgonzola.  I would have probably enjoyed that, though the protein was more what I needed.  The bread was nice, fresh, and crusty.

And two generously sized salads also came with our orders.  They were splashed with balsamic vinegar.  I didn't notice the oil and vinegar the waiter placed on the table next to us.  I would have liked some oil with my salad to cut some of the acid in the vinegar.

I couldn't help but notice the very passionate French pop music that played over the sound system.  At first, I thought we were listening to vintage Celine Dion, but it turned out to be Lara Fabian.  I had never heard of her before.  She has great pipes, though it's not the kind of music I'd necessarily choose to listen to left to my own devices.  

To be honest, I wasn't that impressed by Positano.  The food was fine, but it wasn't anything special.  What you get there is reasonably priced and they don't shut down the kitchen at 2:00pm; so if you find yourself in Stuttgart after lunch hours, you can always go there for something to eat.  But I probably would pick another restaurant over that one, given a choice.  The waiter was competent and basically pleasant.  I don't think he spoke English.  We finished our late lunch with a round of espresso.

You have to go up a flight of stairs to get to the dining room.

They cater to the after lunch crowd.

Not bad.  Not great.

The total bill before tip was 37 euros.  If you're hungry after 2:00pm and want something reasonably priced, it's a good bet.  I've had better Italian food elsewhere, though. 

Monday, January 18, 2016

Potential vacation idea...

I must thank my German friend, Susanne, for inspiring today's travel blog post.  She posted the following video in a Facebook group I run.

This video is basically about meditation, albeit expressed in a profane way...

After watching the video, I had a sudden flashback.  Several years ago, I read a very interesting book by John Parkin entitled F*ck It: The Ultimate Spiritual Way.  The book, which was published in 2008, was about learning to let go of petty bullshit and enjoy your life.  I remember being very amused by the book and intrigued when I read that the author, and his Italian wife, Gaia, run weeklong retreats in Italy (and occasionally shorter retreats in London or Ireland).  The retreat they owned when I read the book has apparently been sold.  Now they do weeklong seminars on the island of Stromboli and at a retreat in Urbino.

I had looked into this retreat a few years ago, when we were still stateside.  At the time, it didn't seem feasible.  Now that we're in Germany, it's looking a lot more like Bill and I could do it if we wanted to.  Indeed, Bill and I both could stand to say "fuck it" more often, though I have less of a problem saying it than he does.

I see John and Gaia have a similar video...

As well as one starring their sons...

These retreats are pretty much for adults only.  The mornings include "fuck it" sessions, then after lunch, you're free to do what you want...  That sounds like my kind of vacation, actually.  Left to my own devices, I tend to want to sit around and people watch.  It's good when I do things that have some structure.

Looking at the seminar calendar, it appears that John and Gaia only have two retreats scheduled soon.  One is in London next weekend and the other is a long weekend in Ireland next month.  Since we are headed to Scotland in March, neither of these dates will work for us.  If we weren't going to Scotland, the Ireland retreat might be a possibility. 

Even if we don't do a retreat, I am now intrigued by the Island of Stromboli, where cars are not allowed.  To get there, you go to Naples and catch a ferry.  Sounds like an ideal place to unplug.

It looks like my kind of place.

I usually hate January because it's kind of a blah time of year.  You're recovering from the holidays and the year is so new that you forget that it's changed.  The weather generally sucks.  The only thing good about January and February are the odd long weekends.  As I watch the Fuck It videos, I feel inspired to make some plans.  I don't know if we'll get to do one of these retreats later in 2016.. but if we do, I have a feeling it could be a life changing experience for Bill and me.  Aside from that, I relish the idea of getting to tell people I've been on a "Fuck It" retreat.  It's like permission to be profane.

For those who need an app...

Here's a link to John C. Parkin's classic book...  he's also written a few others that I may have to check out.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Adventures in German drugs...

No, not THOSE kind of drugs.  I have limited my personal recreational drug use to the few days I spent in Haarlem for my birthday last year.  That's where I tried space cakes/marijuana for the first time.  Unless you count all the beer and wine I drink, I live a fairly drug free lifestyle.

Today's post is about my experience taking German prescription drugs.  I think this is a notable occasion because, prior to this week, I hadn't taken prescription drugs of any kind since 2004.  I have been very healthy over the last twelve years. Also, I never visit doctors unless I'm about to die.  Last time I saw a regular doctor was in 2010 and Bill had to drag me there, more or less, by my hair.

Anyway, because I just had dental surgery, I did end up being prescribed some medications by Dr. Blair, the wonder dentist.  And because of my ordeal on Tuesday and the fact that I needed to sleep off the meds that I took in his office, Bill ended up having to visit the apotheke for me.  Last night over dinner, he finally told me about his first experience buying prescription drugs on the economy.

We have just one apotheke in Jettingen and at the time Bill wanted to fill the prescription, they were closed for their three hour lunch break (12:30-3:30).  That seems like an extreme lunch break, but they also stay open until the relatively late hour of 8:00.  Because our local druggist was closed, Bill ended up going to Nagold, which is only a few miles from where we live.

Bill walked into what looked like a cosmetics store.  Someone immediately figured he was looking for drugs and pointed him in the right direction.  He handed over the prescriptions and waited.  Then he saw the drugs come down some kind of chute, where they were picked up by one of the clerks who waited on Bill.  I guess the pharmacist was in a back room dispensing the medications instead of hanging out in front.

The two ladies behind the counter then started speaking rapid fire German to Bill, who asked them in German if they could speak English.  One of the ladies said, "I speak a little." with a bashful smile.  Naturally, her English turned out to be excellent.

She held up the two boxes, both of which looked pretty similar.  One was amoxicillin and the other was high powered ibuprofen.  There was also a bottle of prescription mouthwash called chlorhexamed.  That's supposed to help clean the area where I had surgery, since I can't really brush or floss vigorously there.

The clerk verbally explained to Bill how and when I should take my meds and then put little stickers on the boxes that showed when and how many pills I should take.  This is different from what I've experienced in the United States.  There, you get a well labeled pill bottle that has a lot more information on it.  It usually tells you who prescribed the meds and includes warning labels.  Not so in Germany, at least not this time.  I also noticed that my pills look very similar to one another.  In the United States, when you get amoxicillin, it's usually a bright pink "horse pill".  American prescription strength ibuprofen looks more or less like the white horse pill pictured below.

Very simple labels on my drugs.  It just tells me when to take them.  I'm expected to figure the rest out by myself!

Sorry about the blurriness of this picture.  I was using my iPad instead of a camera.  I took this photo to show something I find interesting about drugs in Germany.  These two pills look almost identical, but they are two different drugs.  One is amoxicillin and the other is ibuprofen.  The only difference in how they look is that one is very slightly fatter than the other.  

After she explained the medications and how to take them, she packed them into the bag pictured below.  And then she threw in a little something extra...

Two packages of facial tissues and samples of cough drops!  Total cost for all of this, 35 euros.  And that was before insurance.  I'm not sure Bill will even bother to make a claim for the drugs, since our limit for dental is only $2000 and my implant will cost way more than that.  

The goodies from the pharmacy were unexpected.  I have never had an American pharmacy give me free samples.  However, when I see American dentists, they usually give out "goodie bags" with floss, toothpaste, and a new toothbrush.  Dr. Blair doesn't do that.

I'm excited about the extra facial tissues.  They really come in handy, especially when you find yourself in a public restroom that has no toilet paper.  And thanks to the much larger purse I bought myself for Christmas, I have plenty of room to carry them!

As for my recovery from Tuesday's sinus lift surgery, I am happy to report that I'm feeling mostly fine.  It's a little annoying to have stitches in my mouth, but I haven't had a lot of pain, swelling, or bleeding and haven't even really needed the ibuprofen that much.  I'm mostly eating what I want, too.  I can't say the surgery was a lot of fun, but it wasn't nearly as painful or traumatic as I expected it would be.  I get the stitches out on Tuesday.  I don't even really notice them unless I happen to touch them with my tongue. 

Maybe this doesn't seem like something most people would blog about, but given my educational background, healthcare stuff interests me.  I also like how in Europe, people expect you to have common sense.   

A year ago, we spent MLK weekend in Hamburg.  Maybe I would have liked to have traveled today, except that it's snowing pretty hard...  I plan to stay in my nightgown all day and only venture out to shovel part of my driveway so no one sues me.

Happy holiday weekend!

Click here to find out how the next phase of my dental implant saga went...

Thursday, January 14, 2016

On being a young American kid in Europe...

My very first passport photo before we moved to England.  I was about three years old and two feet ten inches tall.   I was born in Hampton, Virginia and my parents moved us back to that area when I was eight.  I grew up in Virginia and it's now "home", but I don't miss it that much. 

As I was watching the dogs outside this morning, I had a sudden thought about being an American kid in Europe.  I spent part of my early childhood in England at Mildenhall Air Force Base.  We lived on the base, but I went to a British school instead of the American school.  My sisters went to the American schools.  At the time, living in England was perfectly normal to me.

I didn't know I was in a foreign country, although I do remember my mom and sisters explaining to me that we were Americans living in England and that it was a "different country" than where we came from.  At that time, I didn't have a concept of countries, though.  England was simply "home".  I still have vivid memories of the primary school where I attended kindergarten with British and a few other American kids.  My mom told me she sent me there because the school day was longer and it kept me out of her hair.

Our backyard in England on Mildenhall Air Force Base bordered a big field with cows in it.  I was fascinated by them.  To this day, I still hate wearing shoes... and I love livestock.

We moved back to the States in 1978, when I was six years old.  At that point, I had spent half my life in England and it was really the only place I remembered.  I have only the vaguest of memories of our time at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio.

Even though I'm American and was finally back in the United States after three years abroad, it didn't really feel like my home.  It felt like a foreign country.  The time I spent as a small child in England changed me somehow, even though I am very much an American.  I guess living in England made me more aware of the world around me.  It definitely gave me a perspective that a lot of my peers didn't have, although quite a lot of my peers were also military brats and a few of them had also lived abroad.

Me and my mom going to high tea at the Swan Hotel in Lavenham, England.  This photo was so fascinating to me that I used Google Earth to figure out where we were.  This hotel is still open and there's a chance Bill and I might book a room there in March.  It depends on how nervous he is about getting us to the airport on Easter morning.

For some reason, I was thinking about kids who are born abroad and spend their formative years in another country.  They go to school with host country nationals, probably learn to speak the local language.  It's "home" to them.  Then they move back to the country where they're really from and it somehow feels "foreign" to them.  Even though they are among their people, they are different.  They were different when they were abroad, too.  They weren't locals and weren't likely to stay there longer than a few years, but they were mingling among the locals and got to see things through their eyes.    

I think sometimes the first place you remember as a child is a place that really leaves an imprint.  I have always been kind of fascinated by England, though I haven't spent a lot of time there since we moved back to the States in 1978.  We went to London in 2009 and I remember being questioned by the customs people.  They wanted to know if I'd ever been there before.  I told them I used to live in England.  That piqued their interest, until I told them I lived there as a young child in the 1970s.  Then it was okay.  I suspect there are a lot of Americans like me, people who lived abroad when they were kids and kind of feel like their childhood home is actually "home".  I think my mom thought of England as home, too.  She said she cried all the way back to the States when we had to move.  

My parents kept in touch with my dad's British secretary from when we lived in England.  Before my dad died in 2014, they went back to visit her a few times.  She visited them, too, and even became friends with my Granny.  In fact, I saw her right before Bill and I got married.  I remember her fondly.  Before we left England, she asked me when I'd be back to visit.  I told her I wasn't coming back until they built a bridge across the Atlantic Ocean.  She reminded me of that when I saw her last.  I've lost count of how many times I've flown across the Atlantic Ocean since 1978... or really, 1995.  I never took another trip abroad until I joined the Peace Corps.

My sisters cautioned me against marrying a military guy.  They saw my mom's life as an Air Force wife and how it didn't make her very happy.  I mostly enjoyed being an Army wife until Bill retired in 2014.  The lifestyle took me in a direction I wasn't expecting, but I've been around the military my whole life.  It's kind of second nature to me.  I didn't have the globe trotting experience my sisters had because my dad retired from the Air Force when I was six years old.  But I definitely made up for that as an Army wife.  I eventually had roots when my dad retired, but now I'm not sure if I'll root anywhere else.       

Hebridean Princess in November 2012.  We'll be back aboard in March.

In March, Bill and I will be going to Glasgow, Scotland to catch a cruise through the Hebrides.  We have decided that after the cruise, we will visit my old childhood stomping grounds, possibly with a stop in Stoke On Trent so we can catch a performance of Avenue Q.  If we do make it to Suffolk, Bill will probably have to acquaint himself with British driving.  I know it makes him nervous, but I feel confident he can do it.  If my parents could do it, he certainly can.  And who knows?  We may even move to England at some point.  The expat life definitely suits us.  

I spotted this sign in Edinburgh.  My maiden name is Tolley.  My married name is Crossen.  Seems like a clue from the past.

I always thought I'd put down roots somewhere and raise a family.  That lifestyle is apparently not in the cards for me.  My expat career started with my being a very little kid in England and mingling among Brits.  Then I went to Armenia as a young woman and worked with others who also later became expats.  Seriously, a lot of my old Peace Corps friends are living abroad.  Now I'm on a second Germany tour.  I have no burning desire to move back to the United States anytime soon.  If I could, I think I'd stay abroad for the rest of my life.  We'll see what happens.

For now, I'm really looking forward to going back to England and seeing somewhere other than London.  London is amazing; don't get me wrong.  But it's not what I remember about the first childhood home I actually remember.  Besides, England, Ireland, Scotland, and even Germany is where my people were from in the first place.  

We lived in England when this happened...  

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

I survived the first big dental procedure... Dental implants in Germany

For my adventures in German style tooth extraction, click here.

I got up early this morning, as usual, and did my regular Tuesday morning cleaning.  Bill heard the shower running and wondered if something was wrong.  I told him I was cleaning it, which is my usual Tuesday chore.  I added that I needed to do something to be useful.

Bill said, "You don't have to do that."

"If I don't do it, who will?" I asked.  "It won't get done if I don't do it."

Bill said, "I can do it."

I said, "No, I have to do something useful.  You don't have to earn all the money AND do the housework."

So he went downstairs and made me a nice breakfast.  I told him I wanted something substantial because I didn't know when I'd be up to eating once the procedure was finished.  We had eggs, biscuits, bacon, and grits, along with juice and coffee.

Then we went to the dentist, where I was given two Ativan tablets about an hour before the procedure started.  They were glad I'd had breakfast because the Ativan supposedly causes upset if it's taken on an empty stomach.  I had been expecting Valium, but I guess Ativan was considered a better drug for this particular procedure.

The Ativan made me feel very calm.  Not high or silly, but just very even keeled and calm.  Dr. Blair took an x-ray of my mouth, then led me into an exam room, where he started shooting me up with numbing agents.  That was a rather uncomfortable part of the experience, because a couple of the shots were in my palate and they hurt.  Once I was numb, the assistant put a large blue drape with a hole in it over my face, positioning it so my nose and mouth were exposed.  They offered me a blanket if I wanted it.  They also offered to make the hole in the drape larger so I could see more.  I kept my eyes closed for most of the procedure, which took about an hour or so.

Because the tooth being replaced was in an upper area near my sinus, Dr. Blair had to do a sinus lift, which involves, cutting into the gum and raising the bottom of the sinus so that the implant post has more room.  Since no bone was taken from my body, my guess is that Dr. Blair used some kind of bone graft material to build up the bone in the area where the implant is going.  I was thinking he was going to place the implant today, but I honestly don't know if he did.  He did use a drill, which was very noisy and rather unpleasant as it made a hole in my bone.  There were a couple of times when it felt like he was screwing something in, but I didn't ask him what he did.  I'm sure he'll tell me what's next when we get the stitches taken out.

At one point, I had some trouble managing all the crap in my mouth and I had to sit up and catch my breath.  I had started gagging and was afraid I was going to be sick.  Dr. Blair said it was because my nose was partially numb and couldn't feel the air coming through it.  He and his assistant kept telling me to breathe through my nose.  I had to sit up and spit out some blood, despite the assistant's attempts at suction.

There was a little more drilling and then I could feel Dr. Blair placing sutures.  This was the first time I've ever had stitches of any kind, so that was a strange experience.  I could feel the thread against my nose, but not him placing them in my gum tissue.  Finally, he was finished and I had another panoramic x-ray taken.   He asked how the Ativan was for me.  I said it made me feel fine.  Very calm and not nervous at all, yet not euphoric or anything.  He indicated that he doesn't use it very often in his practice.  I guess many Germans are more stoic than we Americans are.

Bill and I went into his office and Dr. Blair gave us detailed post op instructions, along with prescriptions for 600 milligram ibuprofen, antibiotics, and a mouth rinse.  He advised me to use cold packs and look out for excessive swelling and bleeding.  I go back next week to have the stitches removed.

Bill had the car prepared with a pillow.  He helped me into the car, ignoring all the people lurking for our spot, strapped me in, and drove me home.  I went to bed and slept for a good portion of the afternoon after waking up for some soup and water.  The dogs slept with me.

I'm now up and feeling a little groggy and there's minimal discomfort where the work was done.  Otherwise, I'm feeling pretty functional.  I'm glad I had Bill with me, but I have a feeling that if I'd had to, I could have made it most of the way home via train.  The worst part about today's procedure was the noise of the drill and the feeling that I was going to gag.  Dr. Blair and his assistant handled it well, though.  I'm feeling somewhat better than I expected.

I like Dr. Blair.  He's a very nice man and treated me with a lot of kindness, concern, and compassion.  When he mails us the bill, maybe I'll feel less magnanimous.


I'm closing comments on this post because it seems to be attracting spammers.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Tapas in Nagold!

For months, I've been curious about a certain Spanish restaurant in Nagold.  I noticed that Tapinos, a tapas place, got lots of good reviews.  However, they are only open in the evenings and not on Sundays or Mondays.  I'd think of Tapinos on a Sunday, realizing that they are closed then.  I'd vow to make a reservation for a night when they are open.  Then I'd forget to make one and end up doing something different.

Well, this morning, I was reminded of Tapinos and I told Bill he should give them a call and see if we could get a table for tonight.  Bill was worried that no one would be there, since they don't open until 6:00.  I told him that just because a restaurant isn't open for customers, that doesn't mean no one is there.  So he called, used his elementary German, and got us a table for seven o'clock this evening.  We arrived a few minutes early.  The guy Bill talked to was waiting for us.  There were three other guys there, finishing up their drinks.  They left before we ordered, so we had the small place to ourselves for awhile.

The outside.  Sorry, it was dark outside.  It's located next to the river in Nagold and there's a lot of free parking nearby.  

The front door.  Inside, it's very cozy, quaint, and romantic.

Bill spoke German to the waiter, who I also think was doing the kitchen work.  At first, I didn't think he spoke English, but while Bill was in the bathroom, he asked me in English if we wanted water.  I said we did.  

Bill ordered a lovely bottle of Spanish wine, which went well with the guitar music.

A few shots of the interior.

Loved their wine display.

Small dining room, but very charming.

We checked out the a la carte items on the menu, but the waiter explained that he could offer us a tapas menu for 22 euros per person.  Basically, it was five different tapas-- typical Spanish fare.  I was a little worried because I'm not as adventurous as Bill is when it comes to some things.  But it turned out my worry was unjustified.  We had a delightful tapas meal and nothing was overly offensive to either of us.  Next time we visit-- and there will be a next time-- we will have to order from the menu.

We started with olives, olive oil soaked bread, and a nice spread...

Then we progressed to Spanish style tortillas...  remember Spain's tortillas are not like Mexico's tortillas...

Basically potatoes, eggs, vegetables, and a very pungent cheese that was almost beyond my limits.  I was proud of myself for enjoying this. 

Next came a platter of sausages, ham, cheeses, and in the center of the platter, red tuna on a baguette. The waiter explained in German that this is very typical Spanish food.  He even showed us the parts of the pig the meat came from.  He was careful to tell us that they were free range pigs.  The Iberian ham was especially good.  Bill loved the cheese-- one was a sharp goat cheese and the other was a milder sheep cheese.  I skipped it.

The wine tonight.  It was lovely.

Slices of eggplant with sheep cheese melted on top.  I am not a big cheese fan.  Bill loved it, though, and remarked how the eggplant had a sweetness that counteracted the cheese's sharpness.

I think we'd lost count of the tapas at that point and figured we were finished.  We weren't, though.  After a short intermission, more food came out.  We were also joined by two more couples who came in for dinner.

Fried potatoes and housemade sausage with a very interesting sauce that tasted of herbs, mustard, and vinegar.  This was very satisfying, but we were getting close to being full...

And finally, calamari served on a bed of zucchini.  Bill doesn't usually like calamari, but he enjoyed this.

The guy who took care of us was very friendly and spoke fine English, though he mostly spoke German as he brought us our food.  In a way, it was kind of refreshing.  I was excited because I understood a lot of what he was saying.  A couple of times, I even understood more than Bill did.  I also noticed a sign on the wall advertising tequila.  Tequila isn't all that Spanish, but it does happen to be my favorite liquor.  We didn't have any tonight, though. 

Bill was really getting into the meal and he said more than once that he'd like to visit Spain again.  Funny, but two years ago, we were in Portugal and Spain on a "hop".  We lived in Texas and had no idea a return to Germany was on the horizon.  We had so much fun in Spain and Portugal, not knowing if we'd ever have the chance to visit again.  Now that we're back in Europe, I think we'll plan another trip!  Our host said he had been in Rota recently and we told him about our trip out of there two years ago.  

Bill got a kick out of the sign reminding guys to sit when they pee.  If I know Bill, he obliged.

We finished up with a digestive.  The guy who took care of us said we could have either a dry or sweet one.  We chose dry, so he brought out what was basically Spanish grappa.

The total bill came to 74 euros before tip, but we got a lot for our money.  Our host seemed delighted that we stopped in and was happy when I said we'd be back.  His focus seems to be on natural foods, though I think I heard a microwave beeping in the back.  

Anyway, we had a very nice time there and it was a real treat to have something other than German, Italian, or Greek food.  I would recommend Tapinos. Want to make a reservation?  Call 01631600229.  They are open Tuesday through Saturday from 6:00pm.  

This weather makes me want to hibernate...

I was in the mood to go out last night, but we didn't feel like going far.  It was so dark outside and cold.  We ended up at Taverne beim Griechen, the Greek place in a sportsplatz near where we live.  We have another Greek restaurant we could walk to, but when it's really cold and dark outside, I can't be bothered to walk.  Besides, we really like the food at Taverne beim Griechen.  I wanted dorade in the worst way.

We were greeted by the Greek lady who always waits on us.  She speaks no English, but our German is slowly improving.  In fact, just this week, I finished Duolingo's German tree again.  I can still practice all the lessons, since I am far from fluent, but I'm not acquiring new lessons until they add to them.  I suppose I should just sign up for a class, but that would require me to go out and mingle.  As I said, this cold, foggy, dark weather makes me want to hibernate and be antisocial.

Anyway, we had a nice meal last night.  I had the dorade and Bill went with salmon steaks.  I have had the dorade at Taverne beim Griechen before, but I think this might have been the first time either of us ordered salmon at Taverne beim Griechen.

We had a bottle of Greek wine, along with our usual water.  

This fish was delicious!  One thing I love about living in Europe is getting to eat dorade a lot.  I'm sure it's available in the States somewhere, but I have never eaten it there.  Here in Germany, I get it fairly often.  Taverne Beim Griechen does a good job with it!  They serve it with a garlic sauce that isn't too potent.

Bill's salmon steaks.  He said these were good.  The skin was pleasantly charred and the flesh was not too dry.  

Service and food, as usual, were great!  It was nice to go back after the new year.  I noticed a lot of people were enjoying a Friday night dinner there along with us.  Someone brought what looked like an adorable bichon frise with them.  I wish our dogs were well behaved enough to go into restaurants!

The weather is rather schlecht looking this morning.  Maybe later, we'll venture out, though.  In a few days, I will be having dental implant surgery and a sinus lift, so I may not be up to any restaurant visits next weekend.