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So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, good night

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I hate to go and leave this pretty sight. I cannot tell a lie- it was a wonderful trip but I am glad to be home, sweet home. There is nothing better than sleeping in your own comfy bed.

We left Karlsruhe on Sunday morning the 9th driving through a small blizzard on the autobahn to Frankfurt’s airport. Whoever said the autobahn never slows down? It does when you can’t see the road. We made through check-in, baggage check, and security to board our plane at 1:50pm only to sit in the plane for 4 hours waiting in line for our plane to get de-iced. Our flight crew went illegal for six minutes but since they wanted to go home also the decision was made to fly anyway. Thank goodness, because otherwise we would have had to wait until Monday for another flight. After a non-eventful but extremely long time on the plane, we arrived in Houston at 12:30am. Remember, there is a seven hour time difference so naturally our internal time clocks were a bit skewed. Kris and I still haven’t returned to normal if we ever were. This morning we were up at 3:30am again. Slowly but surely these old bodies will adjust.

Anyway, I want to go back a bit to our last two days in Germany and show you a few pictures. None of the pictures from our last night in Karlsruhe came out- I used the wrong camera setting for night. Kris, Eric, Lee, and I decide to go one last time to the Christmas market. Shopped a bit, drank a final gluewein, and froze our fannies off since the temperature was steadily plummeting. Afterwards, we said our good bye’s to Eric since he was driving back home to Terneuzen in the Netherlands. Eric is a lovely man with a dry sense of humor. He has worked with Kris for a few years. He is also the man that clarified our pink cows (Amsterdam) were actually from a yogurt commercial shown in Europe. Remembering  the expression on Eric’s face as we told him about our quest for these pink critters always makes us laugh.

Lee is the Siemens contact from the USA and lives in the Houston area. She is also lots of fun and it was nice having a fellow Texan in the group. Lee’s departure flight was the same as ours on Sunday so we made plans to explore Baden-Baden and Strasbourg on Saturday. We did the spa thing, had lunch, and walked around the market in Baden-Baden. A few pics from the markets in Baden-Baden and Strasbourg, France follow.

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Another gorgeous church. This is what we saw as we walked up out of the parking garage in Baden-Baden.

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A river runs through it.

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Business as usual with candy everywhere.

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Regional produce. This one served roasted cauliflower. Yum!

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The Frenchman that sells nougat. He let us sample a bit of the candy before we bought a small hunk. Scary knife, huh?

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Check out all the dried sausages.

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Incredible fur coats. Fortunately, no PETA people were there…

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A fairy tale princess bride being helped through the slush by her attendants.

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The getaway car. Just kidding- this car had a bobble-head Elvis on the dashboard, a rebel flag, and this gorgeous bouquet of pink anthuriums on the hood. We decided that maybe a rebel flag means something else in Germany?

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Since Baden-Baden is only about 65 km from Strasbourg, we drove to France and checked out the festivities at one of the largest Christmas markets in Europe.

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I was unable to get a complete picture of the Strasbourg Cathedral de Notre-Dame. This is just a small fraction of the great building.

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Like I said before, wrong setting on my camera but this gives you an idea of its beauty.

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Pretzel extravaganza.

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Christmas ornaments galore.

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One of my favorite things was the window displays in the high end fashion stores. Creativity reigns…

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And last but not least- our dining room table filled with a suitcase full of items purchased in our travels!

Well, my dear friends and family- it’s time to say “So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, goodbye!”

Till next time,

Karen and Kris

Salad plus snow. No, thank you!

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I’ll admit, I love flowers. Just not in my salad. When it arrived, I thought how pretty and removed the flowers that were laid so delicately on my salad. Then I began to eat the salad, bite by bite. Something tasted odd and when I removed it from my mouth, I realized my salad was literally a garden. Of pansies and little white daisies. There were lots of herbs that I recognized and a nice variety of spring greens but also lots of flowers. Not my cup of tea. Maybe I’ll just stick to meat and veggies till we get home.

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I went to the local Karstdat (visualize large department store) this morning to shop for a suitcase. One of the suitcases that we brought didn’t hold up too well with the baggage handlers this time around. No problem. But it is because I haven’t bought a decent suitcase in years and was quite overwhelmed. Imagine my dilemma when confronted with an incredible selection to choose from and my confusion as to which brand and style might be best. I decided to just take some notes to bring back to the hotel with me so I can confer with Kris when she gets finished today. Oh- and I explored the store because I was there. Fabulous German knife selection for the kitchen. Finally, I leave the store and walk out into a winter wonderland. I was completely unprepared because I, like the optimist I am, assumed the shopping trip would only take me an hour or so and I would beat the snowstorm. Oops. I didn’t bring a hat, gloves, nor did I layer enough. Needless to say, I hurried myself back along the ten blocks or so to the hotel.
Brrrrr- this is what Karlsruhe looks like from the hotel window. Yeah- I know….

 

 

 

 

 

A post for you Foodies

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Love and sausages are alike. Can never have enough of either.” ~ Quote from Trixie Koontz ~

And this, my friends, is the truth.

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http://www.vogelbraeu.de/karlsruhe/2_1_1.html
The link is for those of you interested in their website. It is fairly amusing when translated to English. German humor has an odd edge to it.

I had lunch today at The Vogelbrau Karlsruhe and yes, it was as good as I remember back at the end of August. Stefan and Pamela tolerated the American today. Actually, Stefan said he remembered me from my visit before. I don’t know if that is a good thing or bad thing but I didn’t ask him to clarify. Stefan speaks English very well and helped me to order off the daily menu instead of the menu translated into English. I have found there is a much larger selection of local foods on the chalkboards and I haven’t found anything yet that I don’t like.

The dish in the picture above is Grünkohl mit Pinkel, Kassler und Salzkartoffen and it cost 7,90 euro. My Nikolaus bier’s were only 2,30 euro each for a 1/2 liter. Figured it was too early to have two of the liter size. As it was, I left some in my last glass which is a sacrilege in Germany.

Let me translate what lunch consisted of since it easier for me to tell you than to have to use Google translate. Grünkohl is green kale- a lot like the greens some of eat in the South but a bit different  since it has a touch of nutmeg, white pepper, and beef broth as its base plus the bacon fat and onions. I know greens are an acquired taste but Stefan let me sample it first because he didn’t know the English for kale. I told him it was similar to turnip or mustard greens that we fix in the states. He said he knew what turnip greens were but when he worked on a sheep farm in Scotland they gave the green part only to the animals back then. He informed me that the green part is becoming quite popular now.

The second part of the dish “mit Pinkel” is a sausage made mostly from bacon, lard, oats, etc. that is specific to this dish. I like sausage like Miss Trixie does in the quote above. BIG YUM.

The “Kassler” is part smoked pork chop, sometimes a pork rib meat part but in this case if you look closely, it is a nice slice of ham. No problem here.

And lastly, the boiled potatoes. I swear, almost everything is served with noodles or potatoes. Just means I have to do a lot more walking today to burn off the carbs.

Stefan also gave me a small dish with samples of different mustard’s- spicy hot, a regular one, and my favorite- a sweet and semi-spicy sticky glaze that reminded me of Kris’ ham loaf glaze.

It was a really nice way to spend two hours. And of course, I added another bier mug to my collection. A girls gotta do what a girls gotta do!

Be back soon,

Karen

These boots are made for walking

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And that’s just what they’ll do. Or not. I noticed my boots were starting to tear at the Karlsruhe Zoo today. Maybe that’s what happens when you buy inexpensive boots. I guess I should have waited to purchase a pair of good European boots here when we arrived. Oh well- I think I got my moneys worth of walking out of them. And it gives me a good excuse to shopping.

Last night (Tuesday the 4th), I tagged along with Kris and her work buddies to the Vogelbraeu in Ettlingen. Don’t worry- I was actually invited. The German contact (Hartmut) for Siemens that Kris and her cohorts are collaborating with made a point of asking that I go to dinner with them.  He and I had discussed the infamous local bier and the silly bird house logo’s that are part of their charm the other night at the Christmas Market. I had told Hartmut about visiting  Der Vogelbräu Karlsruhe’s location. He said that I had good taste in bier. We all had a great dinner and good company. I plan on going to the Karlsruhe location again tomorrow to pick another bier stein or two to take home. Let me clarify- beer mugs. Don’t need a cap on mine.

I think this is the infamous Rudi. He really didn't want me to take his picture!
The guy in front is one of the brewers. They stay real busy.
Nikolaus is the bier I drank. It is a dark and slightly sweet one. Everyone else ordered the Pils.
Nikolaus is the bier I ordered. It is only available this month- something to do with St. Nicholas Day (tomorrow).  A dark and slightly sweet tasting bier. Everyone else ordered the Pils. It was a nice ending to a great day.
Today I checked out the Zoo and saw lions, and tigers, and one bear. Lots of pink Flamingo’s, some monkeys, three giraffes eating their lunch, and two camels gnawing on some landscape timbers that I don’t think they were supposed to be eating. It was very quiet as I am probably the only crazy person in the city that decided to go to the Zoo in 30 degree weather with snow in the forecast. I rather liked it.
After I finished up there I headed over to the Christmas market again to do some window shopping. I am on the hunt for a special item or two and haven’t had any luck. After I enjoyed a glass of gluhwein and a bratwurst I was tempted to have another slice of Black Forest Cherry Cake at the Cafe Bockeler like I the one I had for lunch yesterday but my belly was quite full. Tomorrow is another day…
Karlsruhe Christmas Market
Karlsruhe Christmas Market
My glass of gluhwein with cherry kirschwasser in it!
My glass of gluhwein with cherry kirschwasser in it!
My lunch yesterday. A slice of heaven...
My lunch yesterday. A slice of heaven…I know a few of you back home that would have loved this place.
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Ice skating for those that are brave.
A nice cheese maker from Austria at the market today.
I also visited with a nice cheese maker from Austria at the market today.
Well folks, that’s all for today.
Till tomorrow,
Karen

Raindrops keep fallin’ on my head

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And sometimes it is frozen. In the form of snow. But that’s okay because today I am going to be prepared with an umbrella and hat. First, I will bring you up to date on our travels.

Today is Tuesday, November 4th and we have been back in Karlsruhe for almost two days now. Sunday morning we hopped a train back from a weekend spent in Paris. Our visit was nice but to be honest about our experience, I have to confess that there were too many folks there for my taste.

From what I gather, Paris is always busy. The weather is no surprise because at this time of year, especially on the Texas coast where we live, we are accustomed to rainy weather, just not the cold wintery part. Anyway, enough rambling about the weather.

Impressions  of Paris: Friday the 30th- November

After we departed the train in Paris, we made sure we were bundled back into our warm clothes, and walked outside to the front of the station. The first thing I noticed were the police dressed in full riot gear. And guns. Let me elaborate. Machine guns, batons, and shields. Big, scary guns that made my stomach lurch for a moment. Apparently it is a common sight due to the various political protests, demonstrations and civil unrest that is becoming more frequent in France. These police were actually the Compagnie Républicaine de la Sécurité ( CRS). The regular police dress differently from the riot police but still carry guns and tasers on their belts. After I decided that I had nothing to fear from these guys, my stomach returned to its regular state of looking forward to the local cuisine.

Kris and I didn’t really have a plan for Paris since it wasn’t on our serious bucket-list. We decided to find the kiosk for tourist information and price our options for a Hop-On/ Hop-Off bus tour. We decided on the two-day ticket since the weather might make walking around Paris miserable. The nice thing about the HO/HO bus is that it gives you an idea of where all the historical places are that you might want to tour. The bad thing about the HO/HO bus is that it can take hours to get to each destination and when you only have two days to see your priority spots, it can take up too much of your time.

A problem with Paris is that the streets are crazy with traffic and folks. Many of the large cities we have visited in Europe are like this and learning to access the subway trains is a time-saver. The subway trains also are much less than a taxi. It seems that no matter where you are you must stay alert and watch out for the pick-pockets, beggers, and occasional local youth that is up to no good. This is especially pertinent when you are speaking to one another in English. These people will zero in on you and ask for euro’s, cigarettes, etc. You have become a magnet. I’ve noticed it most everywhere lately so you just put on your best “Leave me alone” face and ignore them as nicely as possible.

Back to the tour- we knew we’d be unable to check in to our hotel so we left the HO-HO bus at the Notre Dame Cathedral stop after riding for a couple of hours. Realizing we were pretty hungry, we scanned the numerous cafes along the River Seine for one that looked inviting. Wouldn’t you know it but the cafe we decided on was right across the street from an ongoing protest and the Compagnie Républicaine de la Sécurité ( CRS) were standing across the street at attention.

Regardless, we found the entrance, sat at a table, and ordered the best hot drink we could find on the menu. The name of this delightful beverage that we ordered is called a “French coffee” and what makes it so tasty is the combination of a shot of  brandy, brown sugar, fresh cream, and coffee. It did the trick to warm us to our toes as we’d steadily got more chilled as the hours on the bus went by. I decided that a bowl of onion soup would suffice for my lunch and Kris had a crepe. That old adage “When in Rome”…

After we finished our meal, we walked across the bridge to Notre Dame Cathedral and went inside to view the beautiful architecture of the church. Pictures are allowed (no flash) but Kris and I came to the conclusion awhile back that it feels odd taking photographs inside these incredible places of worship. Besides, there is no way one is able to capture the awe and beauty of any of these churches. I did get a few pics of the outside and will post them at the end of this long-winded ramble.

We eventually made our way back to the train station by subway where we had stored our overnight bags and caught a taxi to the hotel in the Montmarte section of town. Quaint and much quieter than the rest of Paris. Kris had chosen well. After settling in, we headed out to knock about the neighborhood. The desk clerk gave us a suggestion for dinner at a typical French restaurant with several courses of local cuisine but we ended up at a small Italian cafe that was lovely and authentic.

Afterwards, we headed up the steep hilly streets towards the Sacré-Cœur Basilica built in the late 19th and early 20th century’s. The Sacré-Cœur is inspired by eastern Byzantine architecture and is a picture of contrast to the Gothic look of Notre Dame. I found it to be one of the most beautiful churches I have ever seen. It is built of  Château-Landon stones so when it rains, the stones react to the water and secrete calcite, which acts like a bleaching agent. Hence the stark white beauty of the cathedral so many years later. Gorgeous in the light of a full moon.

We verified that people were going in and out of the church so we went in to stand in quiet awe of our surroundings. One thing that bothers me about some people is that many have no regard for the rules that state politely “No pictures- Quiet please,” etc., etc., etc. These rules are given in many languages so there is no excuse to ignore the obvious. Big sigh…

At this point of the evening, it was getting late so we decided to take the funicular down the other side of the steep hill and caught a cab to our hotel to rest up for our last day in Paris.

Saturday the 1st of December:

It is well known that Kris and I love to cook and bake. I had researched the internet for any specialty type stores in Paris that would have certain items that Kris and I are fond of using in the kitchen. I found a store called La Grande Epicerie Paris that I decided we needed to explore. I believe we spent about three hours in this place once our taxi dropped us off. It is a combination of Whole Foods, Eatzi’s (for those of you that remember), Central Market, Spec’s (downtown location in Houston), and Trader Joe’s with a definitive French flair. Can you ask for more? I sampled my first fois gras blended with a tapenade, expensive olive oils with crusty breads, interesting juice, and chocolate. I think we got out there with a bare minimum of two bags with some carefully chosen items. Kris was joyful when we finally exited…

After that, we meandered down a few streets ducking into a cafe to have some more of that wonderful “French coffee” before we made our way to the HO-HO bus stop. At this point, it had begun to drizzle rain steadily and get noticeably colder.

I have to inform you about Kris and the cold. Though she is from Pennsylvania where one must be accustomed to freezing temperatures, she has been in Texas far too long and cannot abide the cold anymore. She has remained wrapped up in at least 4 layers of clothing the entire trip. I, on the other hand, cannot handle the extra layers and feel trapped. Claustrophobic. But- I will admit that I concede to her point of view that you cannot have too many clothes on when riding on top of a HO-HO bus. Enough said.

We knew that it would be impossible to visit the Louvre because of our time limitations but we did get to see it and the glass pyramid in front. One day we will come back to visit the museum. The bus drove down the Avenue des ChampsÉlysées and into the Paris Christmas Market madness. It took forever to get through the traffic and I now have a new respect for the drivers that venture into the crazy business of tourism.

One really funny thing about the HO-HO bus tour on Saturday afternoon and evening was that there was a group of ten women from somewhere in eastern Europe judging from their accents. They were a hoot- drinking out of small flasks then eventually just pulling out fifths of booze to share amongst themselves. I’m sure they stayed warmer than the rest of us. They were loud and boisterous but not obnoxious and quite entertaining. Occasionally they’d break out into a song that sounded like an anthem. The women eventually explained to us that they were from Moscow and only had one holiday a year to vacation so they had chosen Paris. Those Russians know how to party but it made me awful tired watching them.

The bus finally made it to the Eiffel Tower and we marveled at how pretty it was at night but chose  not to go to the top. I figured that it had to be unbearably cold up there and Kris agreed. We did get a few nice pictures though.

We finally made it back to the last drop off bus stop that evening and had a very late light dinner with our favorite Parisienne beverage to warm us up. Paris night life is quite festive but we were tired and called it a night. While waiting for a taxi, I people watched. Interesting and if we hadn’t had to get on our train to Karlsruhe so early, we might have sat in a cafe to check out the night scene. ‘Au revoir, Paris!  It was fun.

Artisan pannetone in La Grande Epicerie Paris

Artisan pannetone in La Grande Epicerie Paris

Notre Dame Cathedral

Notre Dame Cathedral

Funny candy packaging

Funny candy packaging

Major funghi display.

Major funghi display.

Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris, or the Sacré-Cœur Basilica in Montemarte

Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris, or the Sacré-Cœur Basilica in Montemarte

Driving under the Eiffel Tower

Driving under the Eiffel Tower

Passing the Louvre on our bus tour

Passing the Louvre on our bus tour

Check back soon for more commentary and pics. I’m off to go find something to do today before it starts snowing again. As the Stones would say “gimme shelter or I’m gonna fade away.”

Till then,

Karen