Bring That Aston Down, Girl

Let me tell you. I am pretty damn proud of myself. No, I didn’t find a cure for cancer (i wish) and no, I didn’t figure out the answer for ridding the world of racism and terror (i really wish) BUT I did drive an amazingly kick-ass car down from Germany to Mallorca all by myself. Yep. Just lil ole me.

That car would be an Aston Martin and it costs a bit more than my old Ford Probe did (God, I loved that car – even had a sunroof). I won’t bore you too much with the drive because it can get a bit tiresome driving 8ish hours for two days straight. But I can also comment on two hotels, the ferry and some good tunes. Let’s hit the road!

First, I gotta fly to Germany. That’s Port d’Alcúdia you can see down there.

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Headed out on a rainy Saturday around 10 a.m. and took a sweet road which took me through twists and turns of a deep and dark German forest. Gosh, the forest can get dark so quick. I kept an eye out for deer that might jump in front of the car but only saw two of those majestic creatures in one of the farmland pastures: along with many cows, horses and some birds. I had to get on my phone navigation once before I hit the A44, then to the A7, then A5, then A63, then A6 and THEN A31. And then I would be getting into Dijon, France.

I made a few roadtrip CDs, a mash-up of songs that are new and old. One of my favorite new bands is Portugal. The Man. Have you heard of them? They seriously rock. Check out “Feel It Still”.

“Ooh woo, I’m a rebel just for kicks, now I been feeling it since 1966, now Might be over now, but I feel it still.” I rocked out man. The. Man.

The drive to Dijon was a lot of highway. And France has a lot of tolls. But you roll with it. When choosing a hotel I looked for a place that wasn’t too far off the highway and of course a good price. I wasn’t sure what time I would arrive and I definitely wasn’t going to be doing any sight seeing on this road trip. My hotel was in Arc-Sur-Tille, which is only 20 minutes from Dijon. And my hotel was L’Hotel D’Arc (naturally). It was super cute, good price of 95 euro for the night and the hotel dude was friendly and spoke English (thank you). The room with a view!

No restaurant at the hotel so they recommended a restaurant down the street next to the supermarket – La Table d’Arc. It was okay. There were lots of French people there eating and drinking and having a good time so it must be the place to hang out. I did find a piece of plastic wrapping in my chicken caesar salad which I did not like, they didn’t speak any English (which is okay, I AM in their country) and I had to flag down the waiter for everything after ordering my food – some water, a glass of wine, the bill. So, yeah, only okay.

Alright, it’s Sunday morning I must get myself and the car to Girona. We will be taking the A6, then the A7, then A9 and then AP-7. There was MUCHO MUCHO traffico on the roads! I had a lot of traffic jams around Lyon. And I had to drive through it, but it looked like a cool city to check out someday. Interesting architecture and the Rhone river runs through it. Also on the drive were loads of vineyards, next time defo stopping at one for some wine tasting. Starting in Narbonne and on the way down to Perpignan (I love saying all the French towns with a hard French accent). Try it – Perpignan, Montpellier, Lyon, Bordeaux. Fun, no?

I didn’t stay in the heart of Girona, remember I wanted to stay right off the highway. I stayed at Hotel Costabella. This place was a bit difficult to find (for me) and the room was really crappy, the sink wouldn’t drain and the room smelled cigarette smoke – even though they said no smoking and you would be fined if you did. I asked for a different room but they were completely booked for the night. The good things – very friendly staff, the dinner was excellent (i had gazpacho and then salmon for my entree) and I enjoyed the sauna. I always enjoy a sauna. Also, a big parking area which another thing I looked for in my hotel choices with such an expensive sports car.

Alright, finally Monday and the day to get home. Yipppeeee! I miss Felix and my kitties. I drove to the port in Barcelona in about an hour and a half from Girona. Got my Trasmediterranea boarding ticket for me and for the car (I reserved online about two weeks before), headed to the car area and we had to wait about 30 minutes before they let the cars on the ferry. Parked it here:

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Then headed upstairs for the eight hour journey from Barcelona to Palma de Mallorca. I didn’t have a seat or cabin reserved so it was a bit difficult to find a spot at first. But after about 20 minutes after boarding they opened the “restaurant” area and I dashed in for a seat next to the window with a table and set up camp. Got bored with that after an hour or so but enjoyed watching us pull out from the port and head into the open sea.

I read my book, cleaned up my desktop on my computer, read a little more and then ventured outside. They had this tiki bar area set up at the top so that was kinda fun but again you can only sit for so long before getting bored of that too. It overlooked other car parking and then finally we started to see Mallorca show up on the left hand side.

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And finally I was home.

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Christmas Butterplätzchen

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Time to make Mama N’s famous Weihnachten cookies again! These melt in your mouth cookies are so easy and everyone will love them. Make them for a party, for your family, for friends or just for yourself! Because you know what, you are worth it!

Here is the recipe in German but if you no entiendo Deutsch 🙂 then here’s the recipe in English.

Ingredients:

150 grams Flour                         75 grams sugar

1 Tablespoon Vanilla Sugar      1 egg yolk

100 grams butter (it says or margarine but REALLY?! do the butter already)

Clean off a countertop and starting at the top of the list make a pile of the ingredients. Then, when you add the butter grab a large knife and cut up all the ingredients together in a pile. Next, with clean hands (!) knead/mix the ingredients. Wrap the cookie dough in plastic wrap and set it in the fridge for one hour. Hour is up, roll the dough until it is 3 or 4 millimeters thick. Grab your cookie cutters and place the dough on a floured cookie sheet. Stick it into an oven at 180° C (350°F) for 8 – 10 minutes. Then take out to cool. Violá!

ps – I love the adorable side notes from Mama N in German. Warms my heart!

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A lovely quick white fun-filled holiday

Dec. 24:

Left Mallorca for Germany. Adieu!

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Flew over the Alps. Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

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Landed in Düsseldorf in complete fog.

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Landed safely. Whew! Ordered an extra large coffee and went upstairs to meet my boyfriend to head off to Wesel for the Christmas celebration to begin. We arrive, pour some champagne. But first, lemme take a selfie.

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Awwwww, I love it. Mama N always decorates her house so beautifully and Christmas time is no exception.

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Opened all the presents. Dr. Dre Beats headphones!! Thanks Santa! Now time for the FOOD. Meat fondue. So delicious.

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And now we are stuffed. Upstairs for some laughs and wine. Next day we did a quick trip to Xanten, Germany to visit the cathedral.

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Then drove to Detmold and went out to dinner at the Greek restaurant. Yummy. Next day was time to fly back to Mallorca. And we woke up to a white winter wonderland!

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I hope your Christmas was blessed too. OX

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This is UNTRANSLATABLE

I loved this the moment I saw it. Ever since moving to Europe nine (REALLY? NINE?!!? wow) years ago I have been in a whirlwind of languages. First German, then Spanish, sometimes French – And I have loved every moment. But more and more sometimes people ask me what does this mean in English and I have no answer. Sometimes things are just, well, untranslatable.

Enjoy and read. I love all of these but my favorites are:

1. Waldeinsamkeit – I do love that feeling of aloneness when you are in the woods. So peaceful. And sometimes frightening.

2. Sobremesa – The Spanish completely and totally love just hanging out and talking for hours upon end. Sometimes I love it and sometimes it drives me crazy.

3. Dépaysement – Oh, I know this one. Too well.

4. Mangata – I love the mangata. So very beautiful and calming.

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Brought to you by the Klapperstorch

Der Klapperstorch or the White Stork to us English speaking folks. It is called der Klapperstorch in German because of the sound it makes with its beak. The adult White Stork’s main sound is noisy bill-clattering, which has been likened to distant machine gun fire. The bird makes these sounds by rapidly opening and closing its beak so that a knocking sound is made each time its beak closes. The clattering is amplified by its throat pouch. Used in a variety of social interactions, bill-clattering generally grows louder the longer it lasts, and takes on distinctive rhythms depending on the situation—for example, slower during copulation and briefer when given as an alarm call. Like the adults, young also clatter their beaks.The up-down display is used for a number of interactions with other members of the species. Here a stork quickly throws its head backwards so that its crown rests on its back before slowly bringing its head and neck forwards again, and this is repeated several times. The display is used as a greeting between birds, post coitus, and also as a threat display. Breeding pairs use this display, as well as crouching forward with the tails cocked and wings extended.

Wouldn’t that be awesome if humans used those behaviors to show greetings, or post coitus or when threatened? Your mate throws his head back and forth showing pleasure from the moment – or when greeting his best friends? Doesn’t  matter which, it is all the same emotion.

Back to the birds. When my parents and I were leaving Poland my mom shouted (way too early in the morning), “Did you see that?!”. I flipped the car around and lo and behold there was this stork nest!! Have you ever seen a nest with storks in it? The nest was huge and these two adorable (yes, adorable) storks just hanging out.

The White Stork breeds in open farmland areas with access to marshy wetlands (this nest was next to a large pond), building a large stick nest in trees, on buildings, or on purpose-built man-made platforms. Each nest is 1–2 m (3.3–6.6 ft) in-depth, 0.8–1.5 m (2.6–4.9 ft) in diameter, and 60–250 kg (130–550 lb) in weight. Nests are built in loose colonies. Not persecuted as it is viewed as a good omen, it often nests close to human habitation; in southern Europe, nests can be seen on churches and other buildings.

I had noticed these large nest of twigs, mostly on top of homes, where the chimney was, I wondered why they would leave the nest there, because you cannot use your chimney with a stork nest on top of it. But since the storks do migrate to Africa in the winter maybe they would take the nest down when the migrated? And put it back when it was spring? Not sure, but once I first saw them, I noticed the nests everywhere.

Storks!! They bring babies, have you heard? According to northern European legend, the stork is responsible for bringing babies to new parents. The legend is very ancient, but was popularised by a 19th century Hans Christian Andersen story called The Storks. German folklore held that storks found babies in caves or marshes and brought them to households in a basket on their backs or held in their beaks. These caves contained adebarsteine or “stork stones”. The babies would then be given to the mother or dropped down the chimney. Households would notify when they wanted children by placing sweets for the stork on the window sill. From there the folklore has spread around the world to countries such as the Philippines and South America.

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EPRT II Rügen Island, Germany

I do believe this is my favorite picture from all that I took on our three week trip. I thought it was some kind of modern beach house but what little information I could find is it’s a lifeguard station. This is in Binz, Rügen Island, Germany. It was built in 1968. Isn’t it like, totally awesome dude?! I loved it.

Rügen or Rugia is Germany’s largest island, located on the Baltic Sea. It is one of the most visited holiday destinations in Germany. We traveled almost the entire island and no doubt about it, Binz was the place to be. From the gorgeous mansion hotels to the darling beach cabanas (huts?) this was the busiest area of the island. We drove through Jasmund National Park in hopes of seeing the famous chalk cliffs but sadly there isn’t a way to see them without hopping on a bus or hiking for a few miles. I wouldn’t have minded a hike but my cute parents are getting older and it probably would have been too much for them. Maybe next time!

Please enjoy the beautiful island of Rügen:

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EPRT II Stralsund, Germany

Old warehouse in the Stralsund harbor. You can see Rügen Island in the distance.

The next day we drove about six hours from Wesel to Stralsund, Germany. One of the main reasons for our road trip to the north of Germany and over to Poland was for my Mom’s family tree research. She has been really into this for many years and has made amazing strides in finding out so much of her and my ancestral background. Go MOM!

So, Stralsund. Stralsund is a Hanseatic town in northern Germany. During its history, it had to defend its independence against Lübeck (Germany), Denmark, Holland and Sweden. In the Thirty Years’ War, General Wallenstein vowed that he would take the town even if it was chained to heaven – but he failed. Subsequently, Lower Pomerania stayed under Swedish rule for 200 years until 1815, when it became Prussian. Despite its turbulent history, 811 protected buildings survived in the old town, among them some truly remarkable examples of architecture.

The town’s largest church, St. Mary’s (Marienkirche), which was built in 1383 – 1473, with an octagonal tower for seeing great views of Stralsund.

I thought this Milchbar (Milk Bar) building was super cool. I took about a bizillion pics of it.

As I mentioned above, my Mom is trying to find out more about our family tree. She has traced my Great x5 Grandparents to a tiny village called Müggenhall – we drove through it and it was one street, maximum 20 very old homes. But we went to the next town over and we were able to meet with the minister (Der Pfarrer) in the town of Franzburg. He gave us many books to look through but we couldn’t find anything that had information with the names that Mom was looking for. Nonetheless, I think Der Pfarrer was happy with Mom’s 50 Euro contribution for giving up an hour of his time to dig out these old books for us to look at.

Besides going to Müggenhall we also went to a small village about 45 minutes from Müggenhall where my Great x5 Grandparents went to work as servants at an estate. It was bigger than Müggenhall and the homes were more cared for, obviously a village with more money. We scoured the graveyard for Schulzs and actually found a few. This one was my favorite, though a bit strange because it was so small and on top of another cross. Was it a child?

And my obsession with graveyards continues…. with a new post! There was a large home with a farm and more that quite possibly could have been where my great great great great great (whew!) grandparents worked. Here was my favorite building from there, love the thatched roof!! Maybe my Gx5GP (please tell me you get that) slaved away in there making cheese or washing laundry or sneaking away for a nap.

Looks like a perfect place for a snooze. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…

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EPRT II Day One/Two

The EPRT II (European Parent Road Trip Part II) started off with us flying into Düsseldorf. Me, flying in from Mallorca, and my parents flying Phoenix – Chicago – Warsaw – Düsseldorf. Wasn’t sure about that whole extra stop for them until I looked at where dad bought his tickets – CheapO Air. Yup, that’s my Dad! Love him!

I had booked us a night at the Düsseldorf hotel Stage 47. We had the Maisonette Suite which was a lovely two-story room for the price of 170 euros. My roll away bed was about the skinniest thing you have ever seen but since I am skinny, we worked it out. A nice dinner at a Thai restaurant just down the street and then it was time to hit the sack.

The next day we headed towards Wesel, Germany. Felix’s parents have a gorgeous townhouse in the middle of the city. During World War II,as a strategic depot, Wesel became a target of Allied bombing. On the 16, 17 and 19 February 1945, the town was attacked with impact and air-burst bombs, which destroyed 97% of the city. Felix’s parents home is one of the few that survived. It is at least five stories tall with an incredible huge wooden staircase that runs through the middle of it. And his mom is such a great decorator she has made the entire place, including the backyard to the most sweetest, most comfortable home you would ever want to live in.

So, after kisses of hello, a glass of rosé champagne and a piece of strawberry cake we headed off towards Xanten.

Xanten is the only German  town whose name begins with an X. The history of Xanten goes back to the Romans, who founded the settlement of Colonia Ulpia Traiana in 15 BC. That is a reeeeeeaallly long time ago. But by 275 it was mostly destroyed by Germanic tribes. But nowadays it has been rebuilt within the Archäologischer Park to see how the town might have been. The Nühlens (Felix’s parents) said the park is an all day thing so we only went to the Römer Museum. And it had so much to see and you get (for a small fee) your own handset which tells about each area in museum, it works as a listening device but also has videos reenacting moments from that reeeaaallllyy long time ago.

Among the exhibits on display are the remains of a Roman boat, suspended from the ceiling at a height of 12 metres. Further highlights are a stunning, large mural and the oldest and best preserved Roman cannon yet discovered. Spanish oil amphorae, silver tableware, pottery and a considerable collection of Roman army weapons and equipment are also on display.

The parents at the Römer Museum in Xanten, Germany

After the museum we saw the cobblestone streets and the church in Xanten – all so very lovely. And then we headed towards the town of Kevelaer, Germany. The clouds were menacing and there was thunder in the distance but we were able to see the Chapel of the Candles and the Chapel of Grace. Two very beautiful and different things!

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The Chapel of Grace is a very small but very richly decorated hexagonal building built in 1654. Hundreds of people come to pray at the chapel every day. Even the Pope has been there! The story about the building is interesting and unusual. I am only going to give the overview but if you are dying for more, go here for the full story.

A traveling salesman, Hendrik Busman in 1641 prayed at his usual spot where he heard a mysterious voice that said, “Build me a chapel on this spot”, which he then heard three other times on this same spot. By the way, all sites that I have read about this story claim he was a very sober man for those days. Which makes me laugh, did all drunks have the same voice echoing in their heads? Anyways, soon after Busman’s wife had a dream of a postcard offered for sale to her by two soldiers. She told her husband and he made he go find the card and buy it. That card is still there today. It was such a tiny place I never realized the importance of it until now.

And only a few steps away was the Chapel of Candles which you have hopefully already seen on my last post. Felix’s dad thought there were too many candles. But Felix’s mom and I disagreed. They were beautiful! They are kind of like shoes, you can never have too many.

Stay tuned for Stralsund and Rügen Island!

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