August 22, 2010 Palo Alto, CA

Now that we are back from our big trip, there is a lot of catching up to do. For the past three Sundays we’ve been visiting with the kids and grandkids. Ryan and Jon have moved into their new house. It is really nice. Although it has less square footage than their previous house, it doesn’t feel that way at all. The space they have is laid out better and more usably. Plus the rooms have really large windows which gives everything a light and airy feel. I know that Jon loves his new, much bigger kitchen. More room for making new masterpieces! Ryan has been busy hanging all their artwork. Not only do they have art that they’ve made themselves but also art from Asia which her grandmother collected. Their new house is really coming together nicely.


Ryan & Jon in new kitchen
Ryan and Jon in their new kitchen

Downstairs there is a nice guest room and a playroom for Nathan as well as the garage. He keeps many of his trucks and all his Legos down there. It’s good for him to have his private space where he can play especially with toys that have small pieces. He has his road mats on the floor for his trucks and a little castle clubhouse. It all looks like a good place for lots of imagination. There’s also a park not too far away where there are lots of kids to play with. Nathan has started 5-day a week preschool and goes for extended hours since Ryan has gone back to work. It seems to be working well for him since he is a very gregarious fellow.

Nathan, August, 2010
Nathan, August, 2010

On the middle floor is the main living area, a very large great room encompassing the living and dining areas, the kitchen and the children’s suite. Nathan and Sam are sharing a large room and have their own bathroom. Sam has lots of toys in their room and also in the great room. On the third level is the master suite.

Sam, August, 2010
Sam, August, 2010

One of the Sundays Sarah and I went to get our hair cut and colored. It is always an enjoyable outing with her. After stopping at Ryan and Jon’s, where Sarah got a lot of hugs from Sam, we went out to dinner at Zeni’s, our favorite Ethiopian restaurant. John joined us along with Sarah’s roomies, Mark and Mark.

Veg Combo
(I snagged this picture of the veggie combo off anandmirji’s flickr account.)

July 30 and 31, 2010 Althengstett, Germany

Our last big event for the trip is a visit to our friends, the Hartmanns. John has checked on our route and has in mind the way we need to go. I dial up TomTom and hit the button for Althengstett, Germany. The route TomTom is taking appears not to agree with John’s. Well, maybe there is some road that we do not know about. So off we go and we get on the highway in the opposite direction of the way we took it yesterday. This seems weird to me. So as we are driving along, I look more closely at the route. Oh no! I’ve pushed the button for Althengstett but TomTom is taking us back to Chenonceaux! Meekly I tell John. He is sooooo nice about this. We will just get off at the next exit and go back. As it turns out the next exit is about 35 miles away. So we lose an hour. There’s still plenty of time to get to Althengstett by 5 PM. But not if there is a big accident and they close down the autobahn.


Maryam and Waldemar's house
Maryam and Waldemar’s house

It seems that there is a big accident with a truck and there are ambulances and helicopters and all the vehicles have to get off the autobahn and onto local roads. But wait, there’s this road! Yes, there’s a road and it is scenic and goes through the Black Forest and, long story short, we arrive at the Maryam and Waldemar’s an hour and a half late. I do not like being late.

Maryam and Waldemar
Maryam and Waldemar

But Maryam and Waldemar are so nice and it is okay that we are late. Maryam has made a wonderful dinner of goulash and fabulous sauerkraut. We sit down with their children, Lena and Isabel, have dinner and talk late into the night.

Lena
Lena

We have known Lena since she was a toddler and Isabel since she was a newborn. Now they are lovely young ladies who can speak to us in English. I can remember Isabel as a child handing me a book once to read to her and I couldn’t read it because it was in German! She probably wondered who the illiterate adult was!

Isabel
Isabel

I have to include a picture of their “hund,” Tessa. Tessa is getting pretty creaky these days. We remember when she was just a puppy.

Tessa
Tessa

Look at the picture of this breakfast! You would think that we were in a fancy restaurant but no, it is just the lovely breakfast that Maryam has prepared. She knows we love the pretzel rolls and I have a special one presented to me in the shape of a mouse.

Fabulous breakfast
Fabulous breakfast

Rolls and pretzels
Wow, is the bread good here!

We truck off on the S-bahn to Stuttgart for the afternoon. We walk through the big downtown park and to the art museum. It is such a nice museum. There is a new section to it since we were here last time. They have some great early Rennaisance art. We also visit a toy store which is packed with quality children’s toys. We get Nathan a model of a steam roller and Sam, a wooden steam shovel.

Toy store in Stuttgart
Toy store in Stuttgart

Maryam and Waldemar prepare a fabulous barbecue which includes beef, pork, lamb and sausage. It is so good. I love talking to them. Even though we are continents apart we have the same concerns – peace in the middle East, safety and happiness for our children, global warming. Once again we talk late into the night.

Armed with a bag of pretzels, we bid a fond farewell to our friends, head up to Frankfurt, stay over at the airport and fly home the next day. What a wonderful trip we’ve had.

Waldemar and John
Waldemar and John

July 29, 2010 Beaune, France

So we get in the car and drive. Actually we were going to take an adventurous route but TomTom doesn’t know all the roads and our map is from 1992 and definitely doesn’t know all the roads plus John has a cold so we just go the straightforward way. The great excitement of the trip is stopping at the auto grill where we get a kabob plate. Neither John nor I can figure out what the meat is. Maybe chicken? This comes with French fries and salad. It is a totally uninspiring lunch eaten next to an English family on holiday. This makes us recall happy family vacations with kids arguing and refusing to eat what you’ve bought them. What is this family doing in France? Looking at castles? With three kids between twelve and four? I foresee disaster for them. The little girl is named Edith and the husband calls his wife, mother, which seems quaint. I hope they are going to see their French great-aunt who has a swimming pool, stables and a playground.

We make it to Beaune mid-afternoon and are shown to our room in the creaky old elevator.


Creaky elevator and John
Creaky elevator and john

We have a balcony and go out to look out over the rooftops. The multicolored roof is on the Hospices de Beaune, founded in 1443 by Phillip the Good. We visited there the last time we were in Beaune.

Rooftops of Beaune
Rooftops of Beaune

I say to John, “this is great having our own private balcony!” Turning around I notice that there are two doors. Huh. Well, the one on the right must be into our bedroom and the one on the left which is slightly ajar must be the one we came out of that leads back into the sitting room. So I open the one on the left which leads into a room where a woman is sitting in her bathrobe. “Eek!” we both say. I back out saying, “sorry, sorry.” Any idea of speaking French has totally escaped me.

The lady or the tiger?
The lady or the tiger?

Our plans in Beaune include taking showers and going out for a fancy dinner. The restaurant where we planned to go has gone out of business so we are trying a new one, Loiseau des Vignes. It’s supposed to be all the rage although we find it oddly empty and full of mostly tourists. There is a table of about eight Japanese who had ordered the full bore tasting menu and we watch while they soldier through looking as though they are either going to explode or fall asleep. Our first course is terrine of foie gras with toast. It is delicious, the best we’ve had the whole trip. But it is also ginormous which makes eating the rest of the dinner difficult.

Foie gras with toast
Foie gras with toast

The foie gras is followed by a quenelle of sandre with a lobster sauce. John objects to the fluffy texture. He wants it to be like a dense piece of gefilte fish. I think it is fine and the sauce is yummy although very rich.

Quenelle of sandre with lobster sauce
Quenelle of sandre with lobster sauce

Next we have an entrecote of beef (rib steak) with a bernaise sauce accompanied by whipped potatoes and some veg. I don’t care for the way many restaurants serve whipped potatoes. I like mashed potatoes that still have some resemblence to potatoes and not just an oozing pile of potato goo. But the dish is good and the local wine pairing goes nicely.

Entrecote of beef with bernaise
Entrecote of beef with bernaise sauce

And now we are about like the Japanese table, ready to explode. But there is more. There is cheese. On a private note, I just don’t get the cheese after the dinner and before dessert. I am already full. Cheese is rich and heavy. It seems like not the thing to have after a big meal. But that’s just me – not really continental. So after choking down some of the cheese, they bring dessert. It is a chocolate cassis palet. ( I just looked up palet. It means puck.) So we are having a rectangular chocolate hockey puck! I move it around the plate some, picking at the edges. There is no way I can eat this too. It’s a good thing that we are walking the two blocks back to the hotel. We need to work off this dinner!

Chocolate and cassis palet
Chocolate and cassis palet