Sunday, June 29, 2014

Never Again

"Work Will Set You Free"  The Ironic Words on the Dachau Concentration Camp Gate

Dachau, Bergen-Belsen, and Auschwitz are words that send chills of horror for anyone of David's and my generation, but evidently that's not true for everyone.

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Saturday, June 28, 2014

Gourmet Dining on a McDonald's Budget

If you become a Tightwad Traveler, renting apartments wherever you vacation,  I guarantee you will enjoy food fit for a gourmet!

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Come Visit Our Rothenburg Studio

Go to Rothenburg ob der Tauber, the best preserved medieval walled town in Germany just 410 kilometers north of Fussen, Bavaria, and find the main square.  Just half a block away, on the street you see above, is our studio.  Look for the climbing roses by our windows...
I'm sitting at the table by the single window.
...and look for our red front door. 

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Friday, June 27, 2014

Luging in Bavaria!

Call Germany fickle, if you like, but it's been doing its best to woo me with soaring mountains tickling a blue sky, emerald green valleys with millions of Christmas trees suitable for the White House, and charming castles that were created by a madman or a poet, depending on whom you ask.

Bavaria has succeeded.  I am smitten.

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Thursday, June 26, 2014

Castles of an Insane King?

Hohenschwangau Castle It's fairly easy to walk to this castle.
This romantic king loved the legend of the star-crossed lovers, "Tristan and Isolde," adored the opera and supported the composer Wagner, and tucked fairy tale castles that were more whimsy than substance into clefts in the Alps.  But the people of Bavaria accused King Ludwig II of insanity, and, according to our guide, "He went for a walk with the psychiatrist sent to evaluate him and both men were found dead in the lake of mysterious circumstances later that day.  The next week, his castles were opened to the public as museums."

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Germany and I Are Getting Along!

I thought Germany had taken an instant dislike to me, but I'm beginning to realize first impressions are often misleading.  With the delicious food David and I have discovered (I'll tell you later about these crescent pastries covered in slivered almonds.), the kind people we've met, and the striking scenery we've enjoyed, Germany is getting friendlier on an hourly basis!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Sleeping in the Palace at Versailles--Really!

We talked to our host this morning who told us the wall panels truly are from a palace in Versailles.  Not The Palace, but another one--in Versailles. He paid a small fortune for these beautiful walls, and he still has a door panel that he's willing to sell.  Let him know if you're interested!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Sleeping in the Palace at Versailles!

Forggensee Lake
David and I left the Black Forest behind and came to Bavaria in the southeastern corner of Germany, home of sparkling lakes guarded by soaring Alps.  But the very best part of being in Fussen is that we get to sleep in a palace.

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If You Like Pine, You'll Love the Kuckucknest

This old building houses two businesses and three tourist rooms plus lounge.
The nicest people in the Black Forest (Schwarzwald) operate the guesthouse and cuckoo clock business called the Kuckucknest in Triberg, Germany.  But if you rent a room here, you've got to love pine.  It's everywhere.

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Monday, June 23, 2014

Germany Hates Me

If it's true that every country has a personality just as every person does, then I'd label Germany quarrelsome. Or maybe the country just took an instant dislike to me. We certainly are not getting along. But I swear it's not my fault. You be the judge.
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Friday, June 20, 2014

Last Night in Colmar

The view of "our restaurant" from our apartment window.
It's our last night in Colmar so we returned to the place we started--the restaurant up the street where we made the phone call to our apartment hostess last Saturday.

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Colmar to Freiburg im Breisgau

This is for all the people who cannot find information about public transportation from Colmar to Freiburg, Germany, on the Internet.

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Sick in France? No Problem!

We survived the train strike, but David was felled by the common cold.  He got sick almost as soon as we set foot in Colmar; luckily, the French pharmacy has the answers to all physical ailments.

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Colmar's Claims to Fame

"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

                      - Emma Lazarus

What has become the symbol of freedom in America, the Statue of Liberty, was built by a Frenchman named Bartholdi who grew up in this house, now a museum, in Colmar. 

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Thursday, June 19, 2014

Farmers' Market Day

The market in Colmar has been in existence since 1863, with part of it permanently housed in a building called Les Halles, while the rest is open air.  It was sited here, near the canals, so farmers could deliver their produce using  flat-bottomed boats.

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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Best Kind of Neighbor

That's our building with the pale green paint and white shutters, and here's the Karcher Winery!
David has been sick with a cold and the trains are still on strike, so we've been sticking close to home.  But, oh, how sweet home is when there's a winery right across the street!

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La Petite Venise

Italy is not the only town with canals.  Colmar has its share of waterways where you can ride in a boat, stroll along the banks, or dine in a riverside cafe.

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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Cheap (Delicious) Eats in France

One of the strategies that keeps travel costs low for the Tightwad Traveler is relying on grocery stores and markets for food shopping.  Gourmets can still enjoy the finest treats a region has to offer, but they will find them in carry-out shops, delis, specialty stores, and even the supermarket.

Being waited on while sitting at a table enjoying the passing scene does have merit, and David and I do indulge in that occasionally, but, for the most part, we enjoy exploring markets and discovering food on our own.  We'd rather try four new deli dinner entrees for the same price as one restaurant meal.

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Come on in to our Colmar Apartment!

Just a block from the quaint shopping/restaurant area is our apartment.  Open the door to the entry and climb one flight of stairs to our flat.
 The living/dining room and kitchen are one space with three high casement double windows flooding the room with light and fresh air.  (You can see in the mirror that  I'm busy taking photos while David is still exploring.)

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Monday, June 16, 2014

STRIKE! the conclusion

Because of the train strike, a lot of unhappy people were stranded at the station staring up at the departure/arrival screens that never changed.

 Every seat in the lounge was taken and most of the floor space occupied.  David and I finally crowded on to a wooden seat that encircled one of the structural poles, but we were jostled by someone trying to squeeze in every few seconds.  We propped our feet against our suitcases to keep our balance on the wooden circle and discussed our options.

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A rare sight -- an empty train platform in Paris.
Philippe came to collect the apartment keys, to say goodbye, and to hail us a taxi, but, instead of the smile we expected, he looked unhappy.   There is a greve, a train strike, he said, and we may not be going anywhere today.  His son had made it from Marseille, but the news reporter said no trains would be heading east toward Colmar today.  If he hadn't had another reservation for the apartment, he would insist we stay another night.

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Sunday, June 15, 2014

Musee du Louvre Musings

Pyramids and triangles are a repeated theme in every substance imaginable.  Not only does the pyramid throw golden replicas of itself on other buildings in the museum, but water features, green swaths, and even the tourists seem to align themselves in this geometric forms.
Depending on which source you consult,  it can take weeks, months or years to see everything in the Louvre, so why not concentrate on just a few areas?  Of course you'll want to see the Venus de Milo and the Mona Lisa, but you may enjoy other works that don't require fighting crowds for a view.  You'll see what I mean in the next photo. 
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Easy Tickets for the Musee du Louvre

The inverted pyramid below the Louvre splashes rainbows all over the floor!
The best way to get your ticket to this world-famous museum is to buy the Paris Museum Pass which entitles you to entry at more than sixty-some places.  But that costs €42 for a two-day pass, and, if you're planning to see only one museum as David and I were, then that is not financially advantageous.

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Sainte Chapelle and the Batobus

The lower chapel of Sainte Chapelle is lovely and old, having been built in 1248, but David and I couldn't help but wonder why we'd waited twenty minutes in line to see this place that didn't seem particularly special.  Why was it ranked almost as high on tourist lists as Notre Dame?

Then we climbed the spiral staircase.  When we got to the top, we understood.

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Friday, June 13, 2014

Guess Who's French

                                                             Is this woman French? 
                                                        Or how about these two?

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Thursday, June 12, 2014

Best Bargain in Paris

I bought this hot-from-the-oven baguette for  €.79 or about $1.07.  There cannot be a more delicious bargain in the world!

Meandering in Paris

The last time we were in Paris a few years ago, David and I jammed our days with museums, seeing all the famous ones and many no one has ever heard of, and, while we enjoyed our ten days, we needed a week of bed rest afterward.  So this time we decided to take Paris a little more slowly, savoring a bit each day instead of gulping huge chunks all at once. Not quite as relaxed as this man who set up his bed on the sidewalk, but almost.

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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Our Place in Paris

After one of the world's most beautiful weddings, when David and I were thrilled to welcome Melissa into our family, we flew to rain-drenched Paris.  Philippe met us at the front door and welcomed us to this city we love.  David and I were too tired to do much but sit on the couch last night, but the pain au chocolate (chocolate croissants), room to breathe (American Airlines seems to have reached a new low in stuffing people into its planes), and comfortable seating made us happy.
Living room corner with fireplace.
You will be astonished when you hear the price of our centrally located, one-bedroom apartment.

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Monday, June 9, 2014

Looking Back: May

May, my favorite month, came and left like a whirlwind. It started and ended with a run in the Marin Headlands just the way I like a month to start and end! I have to admit, I was a little worried, as April was not a prime running month for me. April consisted of 45 miles, including the 26.2 of the Boston Marathon. Needless to say, I was NOT ready for the race schedule I had lined up for May. Also, with the new job and the studying, my schedule in general was a bit off. May was a little weird  really.

Study:  Approximately 60 - 80 hours of May were spent studying. I have to be honest; I was never a big fan of studying. In High School, I never really had to study and in college I definitely did not study enough. This time though, I am trying to make up for it. However, it is not easy. But my job is on the line, so I am trying to buckle down.

Reading: Ha! Can we say....zilch, zip, nil, nul, zero? I read about a quarter of the book Quiet (which is good so far), I read half of an America's Test Kitchen magazine and I read a few news articles on Flipboard. Other than that, it's been all business.

Running: 181 miles, including one 100k race (62 miles) and one 50 mile race, bringing non race miles to a grand total of  69. A lot better than April, that's for sure! However, most of them have not been quality miles. However, the majority of them have been with friends, which is not a normal occurrence for me, so that is a nice change!

Final stretch of Miwok 100k: Stinson Beach at Sunset

Travel: Add two race weekends to a holiday weekend and May is just about done! But wait, the fourth and final weekend of May was my cousin's graduation party/Mother's Day/my birthday, which was spent in Sacramento with family and friends, and my mother! Memorial Day weekend was spent at Off The Grid with my friend and her family, including new baby, eating fun food truck foods like chicken and waffle bites, falafel, and creme brulee. The next day I spent at the beach near Bodega Bay with broski and the in-laws, running with the dogs, eating clam chowder and enjoying the beautiful sunshine.

Birthday dinner with the girls

Doran beach run with broski's dog.

Other that that, I rode about 20 miles on the ol' bike, went to a Giants game, weeded and planted a garden, and even took the dog for a walk (everyone needs fresh air sometimes)!

What did you do for Memorial Day?  Has the food truck craze made it to your area? What is your favorite time of year/month?

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

France and Germany on $54 a Day (so far)

The front door leading to our Paris apartment.  This is our second visit so it'll feel almost like home.
I think the world would be a far better place if it didn't have numbers, but David does not share my philosophy.  He actually enjoys creating spreadsheets, relishes the opportunity to force figures into compliant columns, and basks in the glow of bank statements that balance to the penny.

In some ways his penchant for particulars is helpful because he is the one who keeps us on track, financially speaking, when we travel.  While I keep a daily  guesstimate in mind that's usually in the ballpark, David tracks the exact euro amounts in black and white.

That's how I know that, so far, we are spending only $54 a day per person for our trip to France and Germany.

But I'll bet you don't believe me.   I didn't either when David first gave me the figures. 

Not when a Women Traveling Together tour of Amsterdam, Belgium and Paris costs $491 a day.  When the man who shares much of my travel philosophy, Rick Steves, charges $323 per day for a tour of Eastern France, the area we'll be seeing. When even Untours, the non-tour company that arranges an apartment and transportation but leaves you to your own devices, charges $284 a day for a week's apartment rental in France and in Germany. 

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Monday, June 2, 2014

A Day In The Life

It annoys me when people who have not posted in a while start of a post by saying, "I know I haven't posted in a while, but..." or "it's been so long since my last post". It should be obvious if people are paying attention, but most likely, not as many people noticed as you hoped/thought. So I am not going to do that.

Having said that, I feel like every time I think about writing a post, the enormity of what has happened since my last post makes me hesitant. What do I even talk about? A lot has happened. Do I recap it? Do I just skip it and jump to the present? Where do I even start? I feel like in the past few months, a lot of other things have taken over my life, and now posting does not seem as important. Don't get me wrong; I WANT to post. I want to have things to post about. To be honest though, although I am busy, I am not very interesting lately, and my brain is pretty much useless. Therefore, that is why I am going to do a quick "day in the life" post, so years later when I look back, I can remember what a busy/trying/exciting/crazy time this was.

4:21 am: The alarm goes off. Sometimes I hit snooze and am reminded again in 5 minutes how tired I am and how much I do not want to get out of bed.  Usually I just get up. Why prolong the inevitable?

4:22 am - 5:10 am: Shower, eat a bowl of cereal, down a cup of coffee, and put on a pair of black pants and some sort of top. Study for about 15 - 25 minutes. **FYI, I got a new job which requires me to be licensed and there is a lot of studying involved. More on that in a bit.

5:11 am - 5:59 am: Walk to the bus, commute, study some more, walk from the bus stop to work.

6:00 am - 3 (or 4) pm: Work. I started this new job about 5 weeks ago and it has been a lot of learning new things, new terms, new processes and procedures, new software and new rules. I am also the "new guy" again, the one who people wonder about when I am roaming the halls. A typical work day involves a lot of spreadsheets and computer work, some phones, some handwriting orders (I know; who does that anymore) and some operations/organization items.

4:00 pm - 5:30 pm: Go to the gym, work out for about an hour, walk to the bus. I injured myself (Achilles) a couple of months ago, so have been doing more elliptical, bike and weights instead of running as much. **However, I do have three races to recap, including Boston, a 100k race and a 50 mile race that kicked my butt in a big way.

5:30 pm - 6:15 pm: Commute, more studying, walk home.

6:15 pm - 7:30 pm: Shower, water the garden (the tomatoes are looking great!), make/eat dinner.

7:30 pm - 8:30 (or 9) pm: Study. Try not to fall asleep.

9 pm: Bedtime. Hopefully.

You can't really get much more boring than that, can you? In fact, as I read over this post, I am falling asleep... So, yeah. The days are pretty packed right now, and not really with very fun stuff. I average about 2 hours of studying a day plus about 6 - 12 hours on the weekends. My exam is on July 7th and then if when I pass the first one, I have to take another one, which is as of yet unscheduled. Basically my summer is shot.

Hopefully soon I will post a couple of race recaps, as well as some opinions on micromanaging, tips on how to achieve having a successful garden and a dirt loving dog at the same time and some funny stories about my roommate's dating life. Until then, happy June!

What have you been up to in the last month? What is your average day like? Do you remember what it was like to be the "new guy"?