Monday, July 27, 2009

Geburtstag Frühstück

I was able to have the traditional Brunson Birthday Breakfast despite being abroad!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Public Toilets: Germany vs. US

Another ExPat blog (Heidelbergerin) has a description of Public Toilets: US vs. Germany . I can't show the picture so click on the link.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Ireland, Day 2: Walking Tour of Dublin

Day 1: Adventures with Ryanair

Day 2:

To get some of the history of Ireland, we took a Historical Walking Tour of Dublin.
Our guide was Lisa.
For a brief history of Ireland, see here:
Go ahead, take a look. I'll wait......Really, it's no problem....
First we ran in to Molly Malone...little did we know we would see her on the "Hop on Hop off bus" about 300 more times...Molly is commemorated in a statue designed by Jeanne Rynhart, erected to celebrate the city's first millennium in 1987. Placed at the top of Grafton Street in Dublin, this statue is known colloquially as "The Tart With The Cart," "The Dish With The Fish," and "The Trollop With The Scallops."

The first stop on our tour was the former parliament building (when the Irish were still under British Rule) but is now a bank.

Dublin Tourist tells us:
The prestigious offices of Ireland's national bank began life as the first purpose-built parliament house in Europe. Completed in 1739 it served as Ireland's Parliament until the Act Of Union in 1801 this imposed direct rule on Ireland from London. Today attendants lead tours that point out the coffered ceiling and oak panelling. There are also huge tapestries of the Battle of the Boyne and the siege of Derry, and a splendid 1,233-piece crystal chandelier dating from 1788.

The former room used for upper house of the parliament is still open to the public.

Next stop was City Hall:

Erected between 1769 and 1779, and formerly the Royal Exchange. It is a square building in Corinthian style, with three fronts of Portland stone. Since 1852, however it has been the centre of the municipal government. The interior is designed as a circle within a square, with fluted columns supporting a dome shaped roof over the central hall. The building contains many items of interest, including 102 royal charters and the mace and sword of the city.

View looking up in the lobby:

View looking down:

Next stop was Dublin Castle:

Built between 1208 and 1220, this complex represents some of the oldest surviving architecture in the city, and was the centre of English power in Ireland for over seven centuries until it was taken of by the Irish Free State in 1922. Highlights include the 13th-century record tower, the largest visible fragment of the original Norman castle and the State Apartments, once the residence of English viceroys and now the focal point for government ceremonial functions, including the inauguration of Ireland's presidents. The newest developments for visitors are the Undercroft, and excavates site on the grounds where an early Viking fortress stood, and the treasury, built between 1712 and 1715, believed to be the oldest surviving purpose-built office building in Ireland.

I'll show you the most castley-looking part of Dublin Castle:

After the tour we walked down O'Connell Street in the heart of Dublin:

Wikipedia tells us:

On the site of the Pillar (blown up in 1966), a new monument was erected in January 2003. Officially named the Spire of Dublin, this tall needle-like structure has already received a number of nicknames including The Spike, The Binge Syringe, The Stiletto in the Ghetto, The Nail in the Pale (see the Pale), The Pin in the Bin, The Stiffy at the Liffey, and The Erection in the Intersection.


Trade Union Leader James Larkin:

"The great appear great because we are on our knees: Let us rise."

Friday, July 17, 2009

Éire: Day 1

In which we go to Ireland...

Day 1: Adventures with Ryanair

You may have heard of Ryanair...they're the one's that supposedly were going to charge for toilet use? Their model is to fly out of minor airports, charge a nominally small fare (but taxes and fees and luggage fees and would you like to get on first fee and how about flight insurance and would you like to buy a soda? are added) but generally be a NO FRILLS low cost airline.

In fact, I can say the flight was just fine. I had low expectations. They are quite firm that your 1 and only 1 carry on can only weigh so much, as can your checked bags. I dutifully weighed mine ahead of time and we were well under the weight limit.

The airport (Memmingen) was 2.5 hours away. It is a relatively new airport ( From 1959 to 2003, it was the home base of German Air Force fighter wing 34 „Allgäu“.) and as such was not in my Navigation system! Oh NOES! After a short delay (reboot the computer back up, find out where it is), we had an uneventful drive since it was a nice day.

Now the Ryanair planes are definitely no frills...there are no pockets in the back of the seats (less to clean out), if you want food you have to buy it (they have a menu), and if you can buy a charity scratch off lotto ticket if you would like! At one point the little one's tray table would not come down and I told her "you have to put a euro in if you want to use it" :-) I think she half believed me.

Anyway, after an uneventful flight we touched down in Dublin. There was a few ways to get to the hotel...taxis, airport bus and city bus. City bus was the cheapest and was easy to find and we were in no hurry so we went with that. I knew which bus stop to get off at and I had a map from there. What I DID NOT KNOW is that unlike every other bus/public transportation I had been on, there was no way to know what stop was next. No map, no announcements. Even the map at the airport just showed like 7 major stops and mentioned that oh, yeah, this could take up to 90 minutes to get to the end. You could barely read the signs at the bus stops to see what stop they were. So I thought I would ask the Bus Driver: "How do I know when we are at Camden Street stop?" "I'll give you a shout."

There was no shout. But thanks to the eagle eyes of the eldest, we saw clues about where we were and got off at the right stop. A short walk to our hotel and we check in.

Now normally the avg. daily temperatures in Dublin are 11-20 degrees Celsius (52-68F) but it was 23 degrees. Not really so hot, but you can tell they are not prepared for heat as our room feels like it is 400 degrees. We ask for and eventually get a fan. A tiny fan.

The first night we do a lot of shopping as the girls love them some shopping and I was not sure how much time was allotted for that. We were near Grafton Street which is a major pedestrian shopping street.
We notice a BOOK Store. As we go in, we notice there are books, lots and lots of Books, in ENGLISH! WOOT! German book stores have a little English section usually but it is limited to best sellers and the classics. The girl's want some teen-type books and there are a bunch. We all get a book or two and are happy as clams (as happy as clams with books can be, I suppose).

After shopping we get a bite to eat at a Thai restaurant. We have now had American Thai, German Thai and Irish Thai. All pretty similar (unlike Mexican!). We sit down and the waiter puts a giant pitcher of ice water in front of us. Did you hear me? A Giant Pitcher of (FREE! FREE!) Ice water (WITH ACTUAL ICE CUBES!!) in front of us. Now maybe to you in the U.S. this is perfectly normal! Not in Germany. In Germany they don't do tap water and the beer and the water are about the same price. Ice? Never heard of it. The girls order their customary coke/sprite but I am revelling in the ice water.
Of course we are in "I am visiting in a Foreign Land" mode but are being careful not to say "Danke!" (German for Thanks!) to all the shop keepers.
We get back to the hotel and it is only 350 degrees in the room...but what is that noise? Is it coming from the hallway or the window? I try the hallway. It seems the people next door are having a party with the door open. They do not mind closing it (I don't think I was too scary in my Piglet pajamas, but it worked). I still hear more party noise. I am pretty sure they would keep it down for at least 5 minutes, so I check out the window. Why there is a night club right out back!(Note to self: as this is the second hotel that I have gone to with an attached night club, always ask before booking. Also the fact that the hotel provides free earplugs in the nightstand drawer should have been a clue).
I try to go to sleep. I put my ear plugs in. Still doesn't work. But remember it is 350 degrees in our room and I face a choice of : AIR or QUIET. If I close the windows, it is quieter, but hotter. At midnight I feel I should not have to make this choice. I feel greedy that both should be possible. I try calling down to the front desk, but the phone isn't working.
Please sirs, help me. I came to this hotel to sleep as that is what I believe they are there for: Sleeping while away. They offer another room...that is down the street in another building. Sorry, don't really want to wake up the kids at this point. Then they say How about we take this giant floor fan that is keeping the poor dude at the front desk from melting? Oh, no.....
But they say "He's used to it!"
With two fans, earplugs, and some sort of unit outside our window that hums, we go to sleep.
Next: Day 2, a walking tour of Dublin.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Summer plans

My Sister-in-law (SIL) is a teacher + loves to travel+ has a son who lives in Germany (in the U.S. Air Force) along with us, of course + summers off = A Grand Tour of Europe.

2 girls + no school + no camp + no job = sitting on Facebook all summer.

So as I pondered what the girl's would do this summer, along comes wonderful SIL who invites them on the trip along with her daughter.

They will visit:

  • Ireland

  • Trier, Germany where Nephew lives,

  • Hamburg, Germany (where SIL's former exchange student lives)

  • Berlin, Germany

  • Erlangen, Germany

  • London, England

I joined them in Ireland (with Hubby catching up with us) and we will also join them for part of London.

Of course for the past few days the girls are travleling and the hubby is travelling and I am here holding up the fort by myself. I am trying to teach Hubby that weekends are not for working.
Sneak Preview of Ireland:

Did you know there are about 4 million people in Ireland and about 3.2 million sheep?

Potatoes, anyone?

So I was working (sans laptop as it decided to die when I came back from vacation) and I hear the doorbell ring. Hmmm, who could that be? A little old lady in a flowered smock talking to me in German. "Ich spreche keine Deutsch!" (My attempt at "I don't speak any German") She looked at me incredulously. She continued on and said something about "kartoffel" (potatoes) and beckoned me to come out. What the heck, I said. I think at first I only caught the "kar" part and I was wondering if had something to do with my or her car? Nope! She was selling potatoes out of the back of her car. Since the girls are in North Germany and the hubby is away at training it is only me (Day 4 and counting) here at home, I do not have a great need for potatoes right now. I did see the neighbor bring out her potato bag and get some, though.