Friday, October 26, 2007

New Friends From Ireland

Here are some friends we made in Grey Stones, Ireland

This young man won a trophy for his hard work and dedication in learning Gaelic

This is Valentin. He was our waiter at the little Italian restaurant we visited in Grey Stones. The food was delicious and the waitstaff outstanding!

And the cook from same restaurant

And this was the bride who for some reason was in her wedding dress in baggage claim at the Dublin Airport. Poor dear.

Thursday, October 25, 2007


Despite our best intentions to absorb all of the culture, history and art of a destination, our trip has sometimes devolved into a tour of the world’s ice cream. This is not a bad thing. When I took Jack and Charlie to Paris several years ago, we did a self designed “hot chocolate tour” of the city of lights. (The best is at Café’ Flore En Ille across from Notre Dame Cathedral). I think it gave them an appreciation for the culinary delights of Paris. Even for 9 and 12 year olds.

Still, there is a pressure not to waste a single second of this trip, to be constantly learning, experiencing or researching. It gets exhausting for all of us. This is why it has been so nice to have friends meet us along the way. They change the dynamics of the trip with their excitement for and knowledge of a new destination. Our friend Adrienne Granger met us in Belize for the kickoff of the trip, and now was meeting us in Prague and traveling on to Dublin for the end.

Adrienne had been to Prague many times and has friends (Kristine and David) who live there. I totally depended on her to make all of the arrangements and teach us about Prague. It was a smart decision.

Prague was a whirlwind. It is such a beautiful city, a lovely little jewel box of gorgeous buildings, bridges, statues and fountains. Kristine and David took us to a castle and on a hiking tour of the countryside our first day there. The kids got to hold a live owl and see an old local woman bundling wheat sheaves (by hand) in the field.

Kristine, a professor at the University, invited Mike to guest lecture in her business class. He loved it!

We tried Becherovka (a spicey – think cloves and cinnamon – local liquor) and Gambrinus (yummy, local beer) and thanks to Kristine and David’s talent with the language we were able to eat at local pubs and not accidentally order brain sausage.

Another friend of Adrienne’s (Jeff Jordan) also joined us for a few nights. He was lots of fun – waking Mike up with “You Say It’s Your Birthday” musical medley complete with dancing and singing early on the morning of Mike’s 43rd Birthday.

And per usual, we met a local man (Andrew) in a café and spent the night trailing him around to the best jazz club in Prague. He also bought us shots of Absinthe (that scary green liquor that is rumored to cause hallucinations and is illegal in the USA) which Mike and I successfully avoided drinking. When your real life is this interesting who needs to hallucinate?

Oh, and the Italian gelato, flavors pistachio and green apple, were the hands down favorites.

Friday, October 19, 2007

New Pictures

Click here for new pics Jules Bday, The Mankato Girls In Austria and Prague

Hairy Events in Salzburg

And so it is written:
“The three horsewomen of the apocalypse shall arrive from the East. And they shall be called Nubber Rubber and Cannon Humper and Diversion Dancer. And they shall bring laughter and merriment. And they shall have a mission. And that mission shall be hair.”
“We’re booked” she’d written. It was Michelle, my friend from Mankato, and fellow alumni of Woody’s - formerly Rose Creek Liquor Store of Rose Creek, MN. This bar, home of pickled eggs, thirsty farmers, and the funniest barroom dialogue anywhere in the world, was the watering hole of our highschool and college years. A product of the area herself, she would be bringing her outrageous humor (she calls her upper arms “the lunch ladies”afterall) and our equally outrageous friends Maureen and Katie.

I was on the six hour train ride from Koblenz to Munich to meet them at the airport and I was excited. One of the toughest parts about being on this trip is missing your friends and the loneliness that is a product of not being able to talk with your neighbors, other than to say “good morning, good afternoon, and another beer please” which seems to be met with confused stares by your neighbors.

Seeing their bright, shiny faces as they came out of the arrivals area brought it all home. WOW I’d missed my friends. And being involved in funny conversation, wrought with nuance and entandre, I’d missed that the most.

We took the train to Salzburg, Austria that night, four American women swilling warm German beer from the bottle, telling funny stories and laughing – loudly. I made excuses for my appearance. No haircut or color since the end of July, clothes are all wash and wear and had been washed MANY times. They told me I looked great – as friends do- and we were off.

Michelle had made all of the hotel arrangements and we stayed at a very cool hotel, Blau Gans, in the middle of the shopping district in Salzburg. We checked in and went to the restaurant at the Modern Art Gallery, with incredible food and lovely views of the city. My comrades were tired from their long trip and so after a few Proseccos and some Schnapps to cap off the evening we went back to the hotel.

I can’t tell you how wonderful it was to be in a hotel room by myself. After 4 months of sharing everything with Mike and the kids, from beds to dishes, to shower time. I had an entire hotel room to myself. I luxuriated in every square inch of that place, using BOTH sides of the bed, taking a LONG, hot shower, and watching ANY channel I wanted on the television.

The next day we did a tour called the “Sound of Music Tour” which included several stops as places used in the filming of the movie. Maureen, the resident musical expert knew the answers to all of the trivia questions. She was slightly disappointed (I surmise) that the tour didn’t end in a bus-wide sing-along. The rest of us weren’t.

The scenery was beautiful though and we had a great day chatting, posing for pictures (see “nubber rubber” and “Maureen as roadkill” in the picture gallery) and eating strudel. The next day we toured Salzburg, shopped, and went to a Mozart concert at the Salzburg castle. The concert was lovely though the Austrians are not particularly used to having statues of their kings called “dude” and seemed to take offense. Of course it might also have been the “cannon humper” incident. How is one to tell?

But the best was yet to come. After dinner and a quick visit back to the hotel we went to a local bar called “Maestro”. There we met Georg. Georg is an Austrian man, sort of a cross between Dudley Moore and Richard Gere. Georg was sweet, drunk and outstandingly offended by my hair.

It was an emergency he said. He must do something about it immediately. So we followed him two doors down to his salon and at 1:00 am I got a haircut. Georg was swaying slightly, assessing my overgrown, dried-out locks with one eye closed, and kissing his scissors between each snip.

We got to play beauty salon, giving each other a shampoo and head massage, using the latest conditioning treatment and styling tools. None of us were particularly fit to assess if he had done a good job on my head, but it was an incredibly fun time. Just as we were nearing the end of out beauty treatment, a very young man arrived totting 3 bottles of Champagne. He said he was Georg’s apprentice and we welcomed him gratefully. Just as the Champagne was running out this young man decided to ask us for money for the services we received. It was then that “diversion dancer” leapt to the rescue and began a seductive dance, luring the boy’s attention from us all. She herded us to the front door and said “Now! Run!” and we obediently followed.

The next morning came earlier than I had hoped, though I woke up giggling at our silly, teenage-esque shenanigans. I missed breakfast that morning, opting for some extra sleep and a prayer to the porcelain gods. Michelle, however was there. Not so bright eyed, not so bushy tailed, but entering the dining room in her jammies, face creased from the pillow and shouting “where’s the bacon?” as she scanned the room like a body guard looking for a hitman.

“How’s the hair” was the first question that Maureen whispered through my half-opened hotel room door.

“Better than the hangover” was my raspy reply.

And Georg? We never saw him again.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Julio of Coolio

My birthday rocked and so did I…

We didn’t have any formal plans, just got in the car and started to drive. We ended up climbing up to explore one of the castles that border the Mosel river (the place is lousy with ‘em) and wandering around the castle grounds in the bright, mild fall weather.

And there were goats. Small, horned, black and white goats bleated at us, followed us curiously, but remained an arms-length away. They were searching for something to eat (as goats do) and it seemed anything was a potential candidate for a snack – including shirt tails, shoe strings, and cell phones.

They finally settled on the tender, young leaves of an oak tree that Anna and Charlie were happy to requisition for them. We fed them and they entertained us by bleating intermittently and rearing up on hind legs to bash each other in the head occasionally, like fifth grade boys showing off the wrestling moves they’d learned on cable tv.

After lunch at a pretty café on the Rhine, we went to the butterfly garden in Koblenz. I love stuff like this and had a great time having brilliant blue, green, yellow and orange butterflies land on my colorful shirt.

Charlie however, got a pretty severe case of the heebie-jeebies and wanted out of there as soon as possible. He said having butterflies fluttering around his head was about a 108 on the “freakin-me-out-o-meter” and couldn’t see the charm in the experience.

We then went back to our flat for an afternoon nap (inevitable consequences of wine at lunch). After dinner Mike and I went to Café Hahn, a live music venue in Koblenz. We had tickets to the “Paul Simon Graceland Revival Concert”.

The show was very good – 5 young musicians playing and singing in English. They did all of the best from the Graceland album and introduced all of the songs in German. The German audience sat very still, not a head bobbing or toe tapping in the joint.

At break time we went back stage to thank the band. It seems that this is an unusual thing for the audience to do, and once behind the red velvet curtain the band just looked at us wide-eyed with confused/frightened smiles on their faces.

I told them how much we were enjoying the concert, and asked that since it was my birthday could they play “Me and Julio Down By the Schoolyard”. “You know that one don’t you? It goes like this…” and I sang it for them.

They asked me if I’d sing it on stage – and ba da bing – 20 minutes later there I was rockin’ on stage, in front of 150 stoic Germans, singing my brains out to “Me and Julio”. Great Birthday. Especially the goats.