The wedding was fantastic! My friend Sandy and I cried our way through the entire ceremony (I've turned into a real romantic in my old age) and it was just beautiful.
The wedding was a weekend affair held at a gorgeous retreat center in Sonoma. Sandy, Dorothy and I went up together, not quite sure what to expect. We knew we'd be staying in a cabin and that we were supposed to bring bug spray, but was this going to be like summer camp or like a hotel? Friday afternoon Sandy picked us up at the Dollar Rent-A-Car station at the San Jose airport (I returned my car there) and we stopped in Sunnyvale at Wendy's for a quick lunch. It took us about 35 minutes to get to San Francisco--go Sandy go! It was the weekend of the big Nascar race in Sonoma so we hit some traffic after we got off the Golden Gate Bridge but we still arrived at a good time.
When we walked in we checked out the housing list--the three of us were sharing a room in the Blue cabin. Click below for the rest of the story...
I noticed right away on the map that it showed the Bathrooms by the pool. We exchanged looks and thought are these communal? What has Hai-Nhu gotten us into? But as soon as we saw our adorable room we all breathed a sigh of relief--our own bathroom including shower.
The center, Westerbeke Ranch, was just beautiful. Lush trees, plants, and flowers everywhere, a pool and jacuzzi (no good for me, I left my suit in Germany), adorable casita, office and small gift shop (good news for Sandy who had to buy a t-shirt to use as pajamas), a massage hut, and more. All three of us went over to sign up for massages Saturday morning.
We had dinner Friday night where we got to sample Westerbeke Ranch's excellent food. Joel and Susana (IBMers) joined up with us and they all went for a hike on one of the adjacent trails. I sat alone at the table for a minute or so before Hai-Nhu's Aunt Audrey came over to talk with me. She was really sweet and made me feel very welcome.
Joel and Susana came over to our room (theirs was a different room in the same cabin) and Sandy taught us to play "Dice," a card game. Ha ha, just kidding. It's a dice game. It was so great to have some deep belly laughs and hang out with friends, not to mention speaking English. I warned them all about my night terrors ("if I wake up screaming, don't worry about it") and Sandy implored us to tell her if she snored (she didn't) and we went off to bed.
Saturday morning we had a delish breakfast and just hung out and enjoyed the sunshine. The weather was perfect--not too hot but much warmer than Hamburg (I think summer hasn't hit Hamburg yet). I did some reading and some writing and helped out a little with the wedding preparations. Hai-Nhu admitted she was nervous but as usual looked as cool as a cucumber. I had a most wonderful massage and was perfectly relaxed and ready for the ceremony.
Several guests came up just for the day on Saturday including Debbie, a retired IBMer, and Janet (my former manager) and her family. The ceremony was beautiful. I started crying the minute I saw Hai-Nhu walk down the aisle. Hai-Nhu and John's friends Paula and Mike officiated the ceremony, which included a Chinese tea ceremony to honor their relatives. They exchanged their own vows (Sandy and I boohooing the whole time) and sealed their union in this perfect outdoor setting. I was so happy for them.
We had dinner and then moved to the dance floor. I love to dance so it didn't take any convincing for me to get out there and shake my booty. Almost all of the guests joined in including Hai-Nhu's aunts. One, Aunt Frances, was totally tearing up the dance floor--it was awesome. She later told me it was the first time she'd been at a dance, but she was a total natural.
We shut the place down and then sat around talking. I chatted with Hai-Nhu's mom and her aunts and they were so nice to me. They complimented my dancing, promised to buy my book once it's published, and started teaching me Chinese. After I'd parroted a few words they exclaimed "OH--you could speak Chinese! No accent at all!" I guess my Chinese is better than my German. I returned to my cabin and all three of us collapsed into bed. No Dice for us tonight.
Sunday morning was nice as well. We had a leisurely buffet (bacon!!!) and did more chatting and relaxing. Then we packed up and headed back to the city. Sandy dropped me off at the airport and while that was really convenient, I wished I had planned more time in the bay area.
My flight home was mostly uneventful except for the medical emergency. On the SFO-Frankfurt flight I saw two flight attendants run down the aisle. Then one got on the PA and said in German and then English "Is there a doctor aboard? We urgently need a doctor. If there is a doctor aboard, please go to aisle X." The aisle was somewhere near the front of the plane and I was in the back. Shortly after that they called for the medical kit and another attendant went running back and forth with a large metal suitcase. I wondered if we would make an emergency stop, perhaps in London, but we continued on to Frankfurt so I guess they got the situation under control. Upon landing we were delayed as the paramedics boarded, and when we finally got off they had the area blocked off with blankets. I heard many people speculating as to what happened (most people thought it was a heart attack) but no one seemed to know for sure so I don't think it was anything really bad.
Anyway, I made it back to Hamburg and immediately went to sleep. I left San Francisco at 2:00 in the afternoon on Sunday and arrived home at 2:00 in the afternoon Monday. I slept all day Monday and all Monday night (except for waking up at 4 am to read a little and going back to sleep at 6). I'm feeling better now.
So that was the wedding weekend. Once again, Congratulations John and Hai-Nhu!
I'm off to San Francisco to celebrate the wedding of my good friend Hai-Nhu. I'll be back late Sunday, probably blogging Monday or Tuesday.
Okay, I couldn't stand it anymore. I had to wash my hair and get rid of that horrible style. Yes, that makes it the third time my hair has been washed today, but it was worth it to get rid of the toadstool that was my head. Once I got things wet I got all pissed off because he didn't cut my bangs the way I wanted, which is to say that he didn't cut them at ALL. My long bangs were my primary reason for getting my hair cut in the first place. They hang down into my eyes and hang over the edge of my glasses and look really stupid. He barely glanced at them with the scissors and I asked him TWICE to cut them shorter but he kept insisting that I should wait until they were dry. Well, when he dried them he curled them under which has two effects--one, it makes it impossible to cut them any more because there's no way to tell if they are straight, and two, it makes them much shorter. "See?" he says. Well yeah but I'm NEVER going to dry my hair like this you asshole and they're TOO LONG but it's too late now. I just wanted to get out of there at that point as I was tired of listening to him compliment himself. So anyway, once I got them wet they were still down past my eyebrows, so I finally had to go at them with the scissors, which pisses me off because I could have done that in the first place and saved myself the money.
I know I should probably go back and have him redo them, but I can't because there's not enough time today and I leave tomorrow morning. Plus if he fucked them up once, what makes you think he's going to get it right the second time around? Plus he doesn't speak enough English and I don't speak enough German to complain about it. So anyway, I cut them myself and now they look fine, but I'm really pissed off. I hate it when things like this happen.
I got my hair cut today at the salon in the train station. Unfortunately my experience wasn't as good as the first time there. The woman who spoke English was not there and I got a man who only spoke a little. I was able to communicate what I wanted, but he cut my hair like it was on fire. I've never seen someone cut so quickly. And he kept complimenting himself as he cut my hair, saying things like "I'm such a fast hair stylist" (uh, is there a race?) and "Wow, I'm good." It was very strange. Then he blow dried my hair exactly the way I hate to have it done--he added mousse and gave it body with a round brush. The result? My head looks like a mushroom. But I think it will be okay when I wash it myself. So we'll see. It wasn't a bad cut, but I may have to look elsewhere for my hair styling needs.
Also, I'm getting ready for a trip to San Francisco. I leave tomorrow and come back late Sunday. I'll be visiting friends and attending a wedding, which should be a lot of fun. I'm looking forward to it.
It's interesting because I do very much prefer character-driven stories to plot-driven ones.
Hat tip to Dave T.
Had a smashing weekend in Denmark, even though it was freezing and Copenhagen was in a conspiracy to piss us off.
We started out Thursday morning renting the car and dropping Scout off at the Hundehotel which is on the way out of town if you're going to Denmark. Off we went to our first stop, Odense, home of Hans Christian Andersen. We braved the rain to visit the H.C. Andersen museum. Wow, the Danes are fanatic about their Andersen. There was a multi-room display chronicalling in something like 55 stations the 70-something years of his life (in English, mercifully). Talk about a detailed blow by blow. They had everything from letters he wrote to his false teeth on display (not a pretty sight, let me tell you, and apparently they were very uncomfortable too). It was interesting because the Andersen they portrayed was a little different than the one I've read about. I mean sure, he lived his entire off of the goodwill of others, but they put it so nicely, substituting "benefactors" for "mooch." They barely gloss over his 5 weeks living with Charles Dickens, which I first read about in my Dickens and London class in college and which the Dickens family agree were some of the worst 5 weeks of their lives.
There's no doubt that in his later age, Andersen became a
creepy old man interesting guy. One of his hobbies, aside from writing sometimes gruesome fairy tales (believe me, The Little Mermaid's original ending is not so happy) was cutting things out of paper. You know how you fold paper up and cut it to make snowflakes or paper dolls? Well apparently he was quite skilled, not to mention prolific, at it. The museum displayed a number of his papercuts and they were pretty creepy in the way that manifestations of obsessive compulsive disorder tend to be.
Okay, I'm being too critical. Being a children's literature buff, I do enjoy his contribution to the field. We even bought a poster of an illustration of one of his stories (it has a gruesome ending, but we'll skip over that) for our library. It's just that the Andersen museum was a little romantic about his life.
Click the extended entry below for more reports from Denmark.
We then headed to Copenhagen. It was cold and rainy the whole time we were there, but we still had time to check out some of the sights. We went to the amusement park right in the middle of the city, Tivoli Gardens. They had a nice setup where you paid the equivalent of 9 Euro to get into the park and then to ride the rides you got ride tickets. I think a situation like that doesn't work well at a big park like Disneyland (or the yet to come Legoland) but worked well for a small park like Tivoli where you don't necessarily want to ride all of the rides.
The Danish football team had a game and it was broadcast on a giant screen in the park. I stood to watch some of it while Kevin went back to the hotel to get the camera, and then we watched the end a little later. It was fun because I got to see both of Denmark's two goals and they won the game. Although I'm far from a football fan, it's always fun to watch with a crowd and get caught up in the excitement.
We rode the oldest roller coaster in Tivoli. It was cute. The ride operator sat on a seat in the middle and he had a hand brake. Not quite sure what he would have done if he'd had to use it--push the cars up the next hill I guess. When we pulled into the station and got off, he had to push the train up to where people boarded. It's definitely not something you'd see at an American amusement park.
We went to see The Little Mermaid statue in the harbor, although it was cold and rainy. We luckily got there before two coaches full of tourists pulled up. Good timing. There were some strange people. As I climbed down on the rocks to have my picture taken in front of the statue there were others doing the same thing. The guy next to me was standing with his kid. His back was to the statue and there was a woman taking their picture. However, the entire time, he had a camcorder glued to his eye and was filming both the woman taking his picture as well as the rest of the crowd taking pictures. And believe me, there was nothing to look at in that direction. Very odd.
(actually we saw the Little Mermaid first and then Tivoli but I don't feel like rewriting this)
I am ashamed to say that we ate at the Hard Rock Cafe. I know, I know, but they had buffalo wings! Real American ones too! With blue cheese dipping sauce! They were pretty good. I also noticed on the menu that they served salads with Hidden Valley Ranch dressing. Hidden Valley Ranch. I could have cried.
The next day, it was cold and rainy. We got tickets for the hop-on, hop-off tourist bus (kind of a rip off) and went to the summer royal palace (crown jewels!) and the art museum. I liked the palace but didn't like the art museum. They were very heavy on modern art and even in the old art section there were special modern art displays. I got tired of being on my feet and searching through the bizarre art I didn't understand to find the good stuff so I went to wait in the cafe. Apparently I missed a room of Munch and one of Matisse, but whatever.
The cafe there was one of the worst dining experiences I've had in a while. Suffice to say that in a country where waiters don't work for tips (a 25% service and tax fee is included in the price) the quality of the service is very different than what we spoiled Americans are used to. And let me just take this opportunity to say that Denmark was the most expensive place I've ever visited and that includes New York City. I couldn't believe how much things cost there. The only break we got was that the garage we parked our car in turned out not to be as bad as we expected. But damn, that's one expensive country.
Early the next morning we headed back to Billund to visit the original Legoland. We didn't let the cold and rain hold us back, and we got lucky once we were in the park as it barely rained at all. Cold though. Anyway, Legoland was great. It was much better than Legoland California, although I really should qualify that as saying it was much better than Legoland California 4 years ago, since I haven't been in that long and it's supposed to have improved.
Legoland had the absolute best ride I've ever been on in my life. And believe me, I've been on rides near and far, but none was as cool as this: Power Builder. It's hard to describe and always sounds pretty lame when you try, but I'll do my best. First, you design your ride on a computer. There are varying levels of "wildness" from 1 to 5 (chicken me insisted on a 1 first, then branched all the way into level 2). You then proceed to your "robot," which is the ride itself. It's a robotic arm and on one end is two seats with over the head harnesses. You put your card into the reader and the ride goes off and does whatever you programmed it to do. It swoops you around, tilts you on your back, head, or side, whirls you around, lifts and dives you, and basically just throws you around in any of like a billion possible combinations. We tried to take some pictures but looking at it doesn't do it justice. You have to ride it to get the full experience. I really hope they get this at Legoland CA, it was so cool. We went on it twice.
We then stayed at the Legoland Hostel because the Legoland Hotel was full. It was a darned nice hostel--definitely the best one I've ever stayed in. Don't tell anyone but I'd stay there again.
This morning we braved the cold and the rain to come back to Germany, picking Scout up. On the way we stopped at Ikea to pick up a few items. There are these Ikea plastic bowls in our kitchen that we've pretty much totally ruined so we wanted to replace them. We also bought a shower curtain. And in the true Ikea style, our purchases came to less than $10.00.
I swear once we crossed the Danish/German border, the temperature rose about 10 degrees, although you'll never guess what's happening now. That's right. Rain.
I had a great birthday yesterday. And before you ask, let me tell you it feels SO much different being 31 rather than 30. I mean I'm like an entirely new person! Kidding.
The day went pretty normally, but I had a great class. We're still working on prepositional phrases, but it really clicked for me last night and I was kickin' ass and takin' names. I totally grasped the things we were practicing and was able to answer all of my questions correctly. We then broke into pairs to write dialogues and I was very relieved to be paired with Santiago, who is from Argentina. He is just at my level of German and we work well together.
After class we decided to try a new place--"Down Under"--a bar/restaurant with an Australian theme. They claim to be "Home of Chicken Wings" and I wanted to check out their wing offerings. They did have an extensive menu of wings. There were several different styles; everything from Teriyaki to Thai Peanut sauce (?!). I considered the spicy wings but they claimed to be XXX spicy and I worried that it would be too much, so I went with the BBQ. They were messy but very good and they even had blue cheese dipping sauce--the first time I've seen that in Germany.
As it turned out, there was a huge football (soccer) game between Germany and their archrivals Holland. Apparently the two countries are really competitive. We ended up getting caught up in the game and the bar served shots when Germany scored. Holland was favored to win but the game ended in a 1:1 draw. Both teams were pretty bad on offense but I thought Germany was playing some really good defense. Of course, I was the only person in the bar saying "Nice save!" and "Deeee-NIED!" Dave in Paris has a rather harsher review of the game here.
We were a little confused toward the end of the game when both teams were tied. Kevin asked "do they have overtime or something?" Consulting my vast store of soccer knowledge, I said "Well I think they have that sudden death kicking thing." Although now I think they play something like 2 regular overtimes before the sudden death thing. So here we were, expecting overtime, when all of a sudden everyone started to leave the field and people were starting to leave the bar. The timer was counting up, so it took us a second to realize that that time limit was up. But what are they doing? Aren't they going to play until someone wins? Apparently not. Kevin found out later that they get a certain number of points for a win and a smaller number for a draw. I guess that's how the tournament goes.
After two pints of beer and two shots (although they tasted very strongly of lemonade and I really suspect that they were lacking alcohol or had very minute amounts) we went home and broke out the bottle of ice wine. Mmmmmm. Unfortunately this morning I was paying the price. My first hangover in a long time.
Boy, it's a blustery day here today. It's raining on and off and the wind is blowing like crazy. When Scout and I went on our walk her ears were flapping so much I thought she was going to take flight.
I'm off to German class tonight. We're doing prepositional phrases (on the table, in the Post Office, to the bank, etc.) and they are really kicking my butt. In German they're rather complex and my brain seems to chug so slowly as I work out each step trying to decide on the correct form of the word "the." And sometimes the preposition changes. For example, if you're in the supermarket it's in the supermarket but if you're in the Post Office, you're auf the Post Office. You're in the hotel but you're auf the city hall. Most buildings use in, but some use auf. So that's just one more thing to trip me up.
After class tonight we're going out for a special birthday dinner. We've spotted an Australian restaurant that claims to have chicken wings. I may find some good buffalo wings in Germany after all!
So tonight was fun in German class. We started a chapter all about giving directions and finding things on a map and our book has a picture of a "typical" German town with buildings. Matthias, our teacher, was telling us about typical German street names and how they appear in just about every German town (the same names). We then moved to towns in America and Matthias was under the impression that all streets in the U.S. had numbers rather than names. I disabused that notion, and then he asked what they were called. "Well," I said, and thought frantically. "Many are named after trees." "Trees?" he said. "Trees," I said, reaching for my dictionary thinking I had chosen the wrong word. "You know, Pine, Maple, Oak, things like that." "Oh, trees!" he said. He still looked rather puzzled, so I explained that SOME streets are numbered. So now this poor guy is walking around with the impression that all streets in the U.S. are either numbered or named after trees. It was a complex situation.
Then later he was writing on the board and ran out of the room to wet the eraser-thing. See, in German classrooms there's a regular chalkboard but rather than use what we Americans would consider an eraser, they use what looks like a chamois cloth (in fact, I think it exactly matches the one I use on my car) and they use it wet. After having wet the chamois he returned and said that there's a problem in Germany with teachers having lung problems with chalk dust. So I piped up. "Well in the U.S., they use a...uh...dry...material--no, fabric...yeah, fabric...to...uh...repair the board." "Dry?" he asked. Again, I reached for the dictionary wondering if I'd chosen the right word. Luckily my Brazilian seatmate Marianna spoke up, "Yeah...in Brazil also...dry...without water." We looked at each other and nodded. "Without water."
"Something something something--cough" he said, which I took to mean "But what about white-lung disease, which everyone knows is caused by chalk dust." Marianna and I could only look at each other and shrug. It was our way of saying "Well, the teacher's unions have never spoken up about it so obviously it's either not a threat or a vast right-wing conspiracy is keeping poor black children in substandard educational facilities because new teachers are avoiding the profession due to the prevalent chalk-dust danger." Or something like that. Our message seemed pretty clear and we moved on to other topics.
Boy, I've really been neglecting my blog lately. Er, sorry about that.
This weekend was full on Saturday and rather empty on Sunday. Saturday was the centerpiece of EuroPride 2004--Europe's biggest gay pride festival which happened to be held in Hamburg this year. There was a giant parade on Saturday as well as a whole collection of booths and things you'd normally find at a festival here. The parade was your standard gay pride parade--elaborately dressed queens, dancing condoms, floats with booming techno and muscular men in sailor outfits. There were, however, a few things you'll NEVER see in the US. For example, the dancing condoms were sponsored by HVV--Hamburg's public transportation system. Somehow I just don't see RTD representing themselves with people in condom costumes emblazened with their logo. But here in Hamburg--anything goes. The other thing that caught our attention were the floats sponsored by the two major political parties as well as other smaller parties. Each float was trying to outdo the other in an effort to win the gay vote (I guess)--each trying to say "they may be gay friendly, but we're MORE gay friendly!" That was a nice, healthy change from America, let me tell you. Read Kevin's report on the day, and don't miss Dave's take on the event. Dave got some good pictures including the dancing condoms.
On Kevin's page you won't be able to resist the highlight of Scout's weekend, the Wonder Bone. This is her second Wonder Bone and it's one of the best dog treats we've ever purchased. The outer shell is a hard dental-type bone, and once you crack it open (if you're Scout, that would be like 2 minutes later) there's a surprise inside. The first time she got some meat sticks, but the second time she opened and scarfed so quickly we didn't see what was inside at all. Anyway, Kevin took some really cute pictures of her, especially this one where she being sly.
So here's the deal. You leave me a comment with your answers to these questions and I love you for the rest of your life. And if you have a blog, you put these up too. Please don't leave me hanging here--my very ego depends on at least someone answering these!
Who are you?
Are we friends?
When and how did we meet?
Do you have a crush on me?
Would you kiss me?
Give me a nickname and explain why you picked it.
Describe me in one word.
What was your first impression of me?
Do you still think that way about me now?
What reminds you of me?
If you could give me anything, what would it be*?
How well do you know me?
When’s the last time you saw me?
Ever wanted to tell me something but couldn’t?
What is it you like and dislike about me that makes me different from others?
Are you going to put this on your site and see what I say about you?
*you know, my birthday is next week. Consider actually buying that gift for me and making both our dreams come true.
Well, Kevin expressed concern about my lack of a blog entry since Saturday but frankly, I don't have much to say. So here's a quick summary of what's been going on.
Scout saw the vet again on Saturday and while she seems fully healed to us, she still had a bit of tenderness in the injured area on her back. So she's staying on the low dose of steroids, this time every other day, for the next 20 days. We still have the stairs and the couch in the apartment blocked off, just to be sure. The stairs here are steep and are slippery which is how we think she injured herself in the first place.
This weekend we had to make The Decision--should we stay for another 6 months or should we go back in August as originally planned. I struggled a lot with this decision as I've been having a difficult time here lately, but after exhanging long emails with my (former) therapist and thinking a lot, I finally decided I'd like to give it a go. Well as it turns out, it may be a moot point. Adobe is going to have to come through with some tax assistance and they are working on it right now to see if that's going to be possible. So we shall see.
One of my favorite bloggers has officially gone insane. She's been coming unhinged for a while now but I believe she's reached the point of no return. Still, like passing a car wreck, I skim the blog to see if she has anything interesting/sane to say. Yes, she's still on my blogroll. No guessing allowed--I'm not gonna tell who it is. She might eat me. No need to send me an email asking if it's you--if you're reading this you're not her.
German class has suddenly become very difficult. Prepositional phrases in this language are particularly hard. Still, I managed to successfully come up with "He put the body in the cellar. Then, he put the barbecue on the terrace." Weak joke, I know, but you think it's easy coming up with humor in a foreign language?
Looking forward to two upcoming trips. The first, a long weekend driving trip to Denmark. Denmark is a country I never thought I'd see but since it's only a few hours away, why not? Following that I'll be making a much-anticipated trip to the Bay Area. A good friend is getting married in Sonoma and I'll be spending a few days in the San Jose area seeing other people, eating buffalo wings, and stocking up on Ranch dressing mix.
And that's about all on this end.
Today has been exciting so far. We headed out to Monckebergstraße, a main shopping area. First we went to the post office to try to mail my Circle Journey Book to Katrina, but we failed AGAIN (we also tried yesterday) because the post office had just closed. Next we had fish and chips and then headed for Lush where I stocked up on a few essentials (essentials--ha ha ha--check out Lush's web page and see just how essential their products are). I can never pass up a trip to Lush.
After Lush we went to a small, chic housewares store. Walking through there made me wish I were getting married again just to open a registry. We had spotted a wine decanter there before and decided we wanted to buy it as a souvenir from Germany. It's a "duck" style decanter but the glass handle wraps around the neck. Hard to describe so I'll have to get Kevin to take a picture. That was our big purchase of the day. We then went to the basement of Kaufhof to pick up some groceries and selected a bottle of ice wine to try.
After all of that shopping we amassed quite a fortune in coins, enough so that we can hit the automatic stamp machine at the post office and get postage for my Circle Journey Book (note to Katrina--it's on its way!). Tonight we're going to see the new Harry Potter movie. I hope this one isn't as scary as the last one, although the book was scarier, so we'll see. Hopefully it won't give me nightmares.
Update: Harry Potter was great--I loved it! MUCH better than the last one. It wasn't as scary as the last one, but the whole theme was much darker. No surprise given that the books get darker and darker (in the next one we kill off a student!). We nearly missed the movie. As we got off the bus I spotted a Very Large Group of people. Kevin groaned and I figured out that we'd found the movie theater. Lines were long and Kevin was ready to head home. I, on the other hand, had a little more hope. I quoted Darth Vader, "I find your lack of faith disturbing." Okay, I didn't say it, but I THOUGHT it. Anyway, I picked a line and stood in it while sending Kevin inside to check things out. The cool thing about this theater is that they have little television screens that announce not only when the movies are and where, but how many seats are left. There were plenty for us (they were showing it both in German and in English and the German version was a better seller) and I amazingly picked a fast-moving line. I was also geared up for the other thing this theater has--popcorn! Unfortunately, they don't have the butter flavored oil stuff, but the experience of buying a bottle of beer and bringing it into the theater with me made up for it. Well, sort of. After getting our popcorn and beer we headed in the theater just in time for the ads and previews--perfect timing!
Anyway, liked the movie. Recommend it. Loved the new director. New Dumbledore not as good as the old one but who could be? Classic Snape. Buckbeak=Hogwart's version of a beagle. More bad acting from Daniel Radcliffe. More excellent acting from Emma and Rupert. Great score from John Williams. Go see it.
Once again we've encountered the strange European phenomenon regarding hardcover vs. paperback books. David Sedaris' latest, Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, was just released in the U.S. and is, of course, only available in hardcover. Except in Europe. We picked it up today at our local bookstore in paperback. Granted, the price of the paperback here is nearly the cost of the hardcover in the U.S. but still. Lucky us! What cracked me up is that "International Bestseller" is printed on the cover. Kevin was like "International Bestseller? It's only been out for four days!"
And speaking of books just being released, I am SO excited for the next installment of Stephen King's Dark Tower series, Song of Susannah. According to Amazon it's coming out in the U.S. on June 8th and we didn't see it in the bookstore here today, so who knows when it will make it across the pond. But at any rate, I'll be able to pick it up when I'm back in the Bay Area for a wedding at the end of the month.
I know, I know, telling Americans who complain about gas prices that other countries have it much worse is like telling a child who won't eat his vegetables that there are starving children in Africa. Still, I was pretty horrified by the cost at the pump on our weekend trip.
I have been known to comment about gas prices myself (in the US). However, I think SUV drivers who complain about gas prices are the world's biggest hypocrites. Waaahhh, I bought this big giant car that only gets 2 miles per gallon and God and President Bush OWE ME cheap gas prices. Waaaahhh! Here's an idea--buy a more fuel efficient car.
We had a lovely weekend trip this past holiday weekend. Scout was remarkably well behaved throughout the entire trip. She quickly settled into the car with only a minimum of panting and aside from a lot of leash pulling she did well in all of the towns we visited. She also got an opportunity to practice her table manners as we were able to eat with her in a restaurant and a couple cafes.
We left on Friday to visit Saint Goar, a cute little town on the Rhine. Unfortunately what should have been a 5 hour or so drive extended into an 8.5 hour drive due to unanticipated heavy traffic. It brought back horrible flashbacks from Thanksgiving trips to LA but I'm pushing it from my mind.
Our hotel in St. Goar was one we stayed at in 2001. It's absolutely darling and we got a great corner room with beautiful views out of 3 sides of the room. The hotel is situated right on the river and was just beautiful. After our staying the night in St. Goar we parked the car in a shady spot and went to explore the castle ruins there. This 13th century castle is one of my favorites due to the underground labyrinth of dark tunnels that the castle defenders used to crawl through to get around if the castle was under siege (which apparently happened a lot with this particular castle). You can buy candles and explore the caves on your own, which I really liked, although Kevin proactively brought a flashlight due to his fear of his candle expiring and being lost like Tom Sawyer.
We then moved on to a short walk through another scenic villiage of Bacharach, and proceeded to Baden Baden. Driving into Baden Baden was frustrating because the entire middle of the town is a pedestrian zone and there are only a handful of ways to get around to the other side which involve leaving the city entirely and coming in a different way. However we did manage to find our extremely cute and luxurious hotel. It was too late for shopping and the stores were all going to be closed the next day (Sunday) but we walked around a little bit. On Sunday we treated ourselves to the Roman Irish bath. I'm not sure what's Irish about this bath but can I just tell you what a wonderful experience this is? You go from station to station for prescribed amounts of time--hot dry saunas, steam rooms, mineral baths, etc. The high point is the massage. They use a body brush to thoroughly exfoliate you and then massage your muscles. There are two cold baths--one is an "exercise pool" and the other is a plunge into very cold water. I'm such a wimp I skipped those two stations. After all of that you slather yourself in lotion and go to a darkened room where you lie on a bed in a cocoon and let the lotion sink in. I of course feel right asleep but luckily the attendant woke me up in a half an hour.
After Baden Baden we headed to Rothenburg. Rothenburg is one of the most adorable citites in Germany. It still retains its medieval city walls and many original buildings. As an added bonus they were holding some kind of festival which resulted in people walking around in traditional costume and things like a craft fair. It was exactly like a Rennaisance Faire except, you know, authentic. Rothenburg is also the place to buy Everything German. If it's a popular German souvenir, you can find it here. After much debate and discussion, we decided to treat ourselves to a tasteful cuckoo clock (after my assiduous questions like "can you turn the cuckoo off?"). I also got Kevin the PERFECT Christmas present from the Christmas shop. Although now we have a few bulky, breakable items to carry home on the plane with us. We're still making arrangements for that.
After a reasonable drive home yesterday we totally just relaxed. I had class but I totally forgot about it. Scout seems happy to be at home in familiar surroundings and we're glad to be here too. All in all, it was a wonderful weekend.