29 December 2011

Playing Tourist

"I'm going to England for Christmas." To me that sounds like a statement as normal as "I'm going next door to borrow a cup of sugar." (Actually, truth be told, the former comes more naturally than the latter for me) and yes, I know I am lucky, but this is my third or fourth Christmas in a row in England with my friend Ruth and her friends and family.... My extended British family. Much of the time is spent at home, playing with new toys (this years big hit with 4-year old Oz was the Gruffalo game from Oma), drinking tea, eating delicious foods and enjoying a moment to relax. Inevitably, a big household project begins - this year, Ruth's husband Jamie has chosen to rip apart and redo the kitchen layout. The goal: create a more efficient kitchen with more workspace. But after a few days we find it necessary to get out of the house, and not just to run to Tescos for milk.

This year Ruth and I thought we might go to the Bluebell Railway, a favorite place for Oz. when we suggested it, he said "no Mummy, I'd rather go for a walk on the beach." {who is this 4-year old and what have you done with our Oz?!?!?!??} so we headed off to Brighton to be tourists for a day. Along the way we collected Susan and Karen to join us for the day. Oz was in Auntie heaven!
Like any good tourists the first plan of action was to find affordable parking. We parked at the marina and from there we took our walk along the beach. A romantic stroll it was not, sometimes we raced (somehow Oz usually won - even when we were ahead!) other times we collected rocks and sometimes we just played a bit.
After about forty minutes of walking along the rocky shores of Brighton Beach in the cold, biting wind, we found a snack shack and stopped for a hot cup of tea. It was delightful. Then we continued on until we reached The Brighton Wheel.
The Wheel is a new attraction in Brighton, a bit like the London Eye. It is a large ferris wheel with capsules that allow you to see out into the distance, towards Brighton and out onto the English Channel. Oz was scared of the wheel, Susan and Karen did not wish to go - so Ruth and I went alone. The queue was short, yet we waited a while. During this time, Oz went into the arcade to spend "an extra 2£ that Susan just didn't need" and won a motorcycle - toy of course.

The ride along the wheel was smooth, narrated with information about what one could see. We went around three times. The capsules were designed to hold eight people, but Ruth and I had one to ourselves. We enjoyed the freedom to move about and take photos. We of course tried to take the ubiquitous "photo of ourselves holding out the camera in front of us" first with the pier in the background, and later with the wheel. All I can say is: epic fail! But we had fun doing so.

Afterwards as good tourists do, we went onwards to eat lunch out. Our favorite restaurant in Brighton is Donatellos. Great Italian food at a reasonable price. Wonderful! I had Fusilli Arabiatta, but the most loved meal was Oz and his Spaghetti Bolonaise. He ate every last bit and practically licked his plate clean!
After lunch, we joined other tourists looking around the shops. We first visited the Kath Kidston shop and the much to Oz's delight, the Lego shop. We finished up our day with cookies from Millie's Cookies and then a bus ride (top deck, front seat for Oz) back to the marina.

Being a tourist for a day was great fun, but incredibly exhausting!

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Location:Brighton, England

23 December 2011

A Mainz Minute

I have visited a number of cathedrals around the world. They are gorgeous, but they start to blend together after a while. Today I visited St. Stephan's in Mainz. It was simplistically stunning. The stain glass windows were the works of Chaguall or his students. The ones with more color at the front and back were his and the others (all blues and clear) were his students. I was told that they were so positioned, that when the sun shines through, the whole interior is bathed in a blue light. Unfortunately today was overcast, so I must take their word for it. There were however two windows that I did not think went along with the rest. They were much brighter and cut differently, they simply appeared new. Accompanying me was Y, the husband of my friend S, and he agreed that they did not appear to match the others. In fact he said he'd never seen them before, despite multiple visits to the cathedral in the past.

But there were two really unique things that caught my eye (other than the stained glass). First off the organ. Upon first glance one may think the organ stands there majestically, but on second glance one feels as if they are simply being duped.

No they are not trying to pull the wool over your eyes, a new organ is in the works, to be completed in 2012. It is being erected to the tune (pun intended) of 900,000€. That's nearly $1.2 million.
The other unique thing that caught my eye was this cloth covered object (pulpit maybe?) at first I thought it was one of those street performers who dress up like statues!

Oh yes, when you open your eyes, you might just be deceived!
But all in all I had a great short visit to Mainz, and I really do hope to go back and visit one day when the sun is shining through!

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Location:Mainz, Germany

22 December 2011

Christmas Spirit

Those who know me, know that I am not a fan of christmas. I don't hang tinsel, decorate a reindeer or wait for St. Nick. Maybe that's a result of a Jewish childhood and a current Agnostic/Atheist adulthood, but I just don't consider it the "most wonderful time of the year". (however it must be mentioned that I support the post office whole-heartedly by sending cards, and love picking out gifts for friends) especially feel the need to bah-humbug when the stores start selling trees and playing carols in August!
But Christmastime in Germany is ENCHANTING! many towns across the country are host to a Weihnachtsmarkt or a Christkindlmarkt. These Christmas markets are a mixture of traditional decorations and modern art, they are host to craftsmen (and women!) from around the world. They are also a place to meet your friends, enjoy a glass of something hot to drink and nibble on something sweet. I love the way each stall and the general area is decorated. I find that nighttime in the Weihnachtsmarkt is the best - one can see the lights and the steam rising off of your Gluhwein.
But it is not only the Christmas markets that are enchanting, German cities take the time to decorate with lights and greenery. Around every corner is something to see. The evenings are filled with warmth from winter coats and soft glowing holiday lights. It's simply beautiful ..... And sometimes one is lucky enough to have a bit of snow.
These last couple of days I have enjoyed, nae relished in this feeling in Regensburg. On any given day I find Regensburg to be positively wonderful, but right now is the time to really experience this city in Bavaria.
I admit it, being here, I begin to have a bit of excitement, dare I use the word spirit of the Holliday season. And with that I'd like to wish you a happy solstice, happy hannukkah, happy kwanza or happy whatever you wish to celebrate.

Weihnachtsmarkt on Neupfarrplatz.

Weihnachtsmarkt on Neupfarrplatz.

Greenery (lit at night) on Ludwigstrasse.

Weihnachtsbaum in front of the Altes Rathaus

Yes we even saw a bit of snow, although it didn't last long.

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18 December 2011

The joy of the hot shower

Those who travel long distances will relate....
You step off the plane and despite the fact that all you really did was sit and vegetate, you feel dirty. It's airplane-stink.
Look around an airport - you can tell who has arrived, fresh from home, ready to start their journey. You can also tell who has been traveling. They are the travel-weary.
Right now I sit and type this, and I am of the travel-weary class. I just stepped off a long-haul flight, one that I undertook with a head cold and got exactly 0 minutes of sleep. But I do not appear to be a full-fledged member of the travel weary. I was able to utilize the BA Lounge (because I flew over business class with American) and the lounge has shower facilities! The hot shower I took was one of the most refreshing showers. Despite the facts that I put back on the same clothes, I am clean, smell nice and most importantly feel good!
And now it is time for a short flight to Munich --- let the adventure begin, I am ready!

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Location:BA Executive Lounge North, Heathrow Airport, terminal 5


I seem be having trouble with the blogging app, so I am just testing it out

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