Bremen, Germany – Day 2

Today we started the morning off with a hearty breakfast then we prepared to go to church at Matthaus in Stuhr. As we approached the church in the car you could hear the bells ringing, calling everyone to church. The building dates from the 1960’s (I believe) and is currently being added to due to the size of the growing church. Even as a 60’s building it is still quite stylish and very functional. There was no need to worry about not understanding the service as headphones were available with translators on hand for english, turkish and I am not sure what other languages. This was incredibly useful however it was obvious at times that the minister was getting really excited and speaking so fast that sometimes the translator couldn’t keep up. They do a wonderful job and you get the general feel for what is being said so that is fine. It must be a very difficult job to do. The sermon was on Pauls advice on a good life based around Thess 5 14-24.

After church we had a cup of coffee and meet some members of the congregation including someone who knew Steve’s dad at school. One couple we meet lived in Taunton near to us in Bristol and have provided the name of church we might like to look at. They were all very friendly and helpful people here.

We then headed home and while Ulla prepared lunch Friedhelm took us for a bicycle tour of the area to one of his swimming spots. North Germany is very flat and cycle paths dot the roadsides in abundance. It was a great way to exercise without having to worry about cars, pollution, dogs or bored children welding baseball bats such as we have here in Bristol. We were quite hungry by the time we got back so we had a delicious lunch before a driving tour of Bremen. The plan was on Monday for Steve and I to take the tram into Bremen by ourselves so Friedhelm and Ulla showed us where the tram stops where etc. They drove us into Bremen and we had a look at some key areas as an overview. We were quite glad of this as the next day we would not have managed to get to everything we wanted to see.

A very interesting spot we visited was a street with many art houses and handicraft shops (Bottcherstrasse). We took in the statute of the Bremen Musicians, Roland Statue, Rathaus (Town Hall), St Peters Dome, the market place, places where Friedhelm and Ulla lived in the city, where Friedhelm had worked and finally another walk along the bank of the Weser. Thankfully the weather held off from raining while we wandered the streets.

Bottcherstrasse is a magnificent street to look at. We learnt a lot from Ulla and Friedhelm about its history and in particular Ludwig Roselius who had his company Kaffee HAG there (founder of decaf coffee). The street also has a glockenspiel that plays a stunning melody on its thirty Meissen porcelain bells. You can hear the magnificent tune at this link.

Also on this street look out for the house and fountain of the 7 lazy brothers based on a fable. If you are after art deco design, elaborate designer handicrafts, paintings, antiques etc this area is for you.

So much we have seen and it is only day 2!

Germany – Day 1

Friday we left Bristol and headed for London Stansted. At the time of booking it had seemed easier and cheaper to fly out from Stansted via RyanAir. When I realised that the flight departed at 6.25am on the Saturday morning I had to take stock of my idea again. An overnight stay plus 9 days car parking later it probably didn’t turn out to be any cheaper doing it from London. However, we did have the benefit of staying in the Raddisson SAS hotel which is not only a deluxe looking hotel with car parking included in the package, it is also connected to the airport so it was only a 2 minute walk across to the terminal in the morning.

The Raddisson has a unique wine tower as its center piece and “Wine Angels” that are suspended by wire inside the tower. The put on an acrobatic display as well as have the dual use of collecting your (in my opinion) overpriced wine bottles.

Saturday morning we were up early and hitting the tarmac via RyanAir direct to Bremen. Thankfully it was only just over 1 hour flying time as the seats are very cramped and we managed to get two very obnoxious 20+ year old Australians sitting behind us. All they could talk about was how much beer they were going to drink in Germany and when they could buy beer on the flight. Having then purchased their 2 cans each they proceeded to burp their way to Germany. They only needed to start scratching and farting and they would have been snapped up by a museum looking for neanderthal examples.

When we arrived in Bremen we quickly exited the plane before the (now intoxicated) Australians managed to get off. Strangely we never saw them again queuing to collect baggage so we only hope that the stern looking german passport controller took them away somewhere to sober up.

Friedhelm and Ulla were waiting to collect us and since having arrived at their home we have been treated to fabulous cooking, comfortable surroundings with a huge bedroom and bathroom to ourselves and a friendly home to stay in. How are we ever going to go home to shared house accommodation and England after this? Fabulous.

After having a hearty breakfast we went on a driving tour of the area with Friedhelm in search of a book binder or restorer. Steve has a lovely old book that he would like to investigate getting restored. The first lady was a bookbinder and incredibly helpful yet honest in saying that she could make the book useable again but it would not be as pleasing as restoration. Friedhelm did some more research and found a book restorator about an hour from Stuhr. We visited her in a little gallery hidden off the side of the road. She was wonderful in her knowledge, expertise and helpful in the choices available to us. However, as she is a very well known and talented restorer we can only get Steve’s book in for restoration by January next year. The “master” she studied under that taught her the art of restoration was Henrik Petersen and she is displaying his private collection of books that he produced over many years that document the changing styles of book binding through the ages. The collection and all his tools were passed to her when he passed away in the late nineties. We were fortunate to get to see some of the 16th century books she is currently restoring for a bibliotek. On our driving tour to get there we noticed many windmills (that we found out that they are all over the countryside and off the coast). They look fantastic!

Finally for the day, we also had the priviledge of attending a german wedding at Friedhelm and Ulla’s church. For us, traditionally the bride is always late (well all the weddings I have been to including my own) however at 1.30pm the wedding had already started, on time, when we arrived. The bride and groom in their spare time are both in different choirs so we were treated to a number of songs by each choir and a joint song as the finale. After the ceremony everyone queued to congratulate the bridge and groom then we all sat down for some cake and coffee. There was a huge number of cakes and they all looked magnificent. I thought they had all been bought at a bakery or store but this was not correct. The majority were made by all the ladies and friends of the church. I have never seen such incredible home made cakes before. Magnificent. It was a pity that we forgot to take a photo. We even met a lady in the church who went to school with Steve’s dad.

So, a very full and exciting day at the start of our holiday in Germany filled with sights and experiences new to us.

Wedding Anniversary

To mum and dad, happy wedding anniversary to you for the 20th of August. We were thinking of you both especially as it is a nice reminder that ours is on the 21st.

As we head to Germany this weekend we are just going out for a quiet Italian meal tonight at our favourite local restaurant in Queens Square. We don’t go there often as it is for special occassions.

To Megs, Nic, Phil and Rochelle, thanks so much for contributing to such a wonderful day. We had a ball and so much more fun to have shared it with you guys.

Love Carls & Steve

Book review: Fearless Fourteen

I first started reading Janet Evanovich’s novels while in Australia. Each year I always anticipated a new release. Nothing has changed. Based around the main character, Stephanie Plum, she is a bond enforcement agent (bounty hunter) that just can’t seem to get it right. The novels are a great light read with loads of witty humour and a storyline that will keep you up all night in order to get to find out whats going to happen. The latest instalment had me laughing like a mad women on the train to London. Thankfully I just blend in with all the other weirdos on the train during the school holidays. Love these books. Highly recommend starting at the beginning with "One for the Money" and just watch Stephanie bumble her way through figuring out how to be a bounty hunter.

Summer in Bristol

So far this year summer has been a real wash out. I can count on 2 hands the number of sunny summer days we have had. It makes it quite disasterous for event organisers. The Bristol Balloon Festival was rained out and numbers were significantly down on last year. A major air show was cancelled due to bad weather and even today we decided to have a look at a well known boot sale out at Trench Lane but this was closed as well.

With bad weather about it makes you look for other options. Last weekend we gave indoor skiing a go at the Snowdome located at Tamworth. Situated just under 2 hours from Bristol it is an easy drive on the motorway all the way there. For only 21 quid this gives you 2 hours skiing including boots, poles and skis. Should you get bored of skiing then you can always go swimming, ice skating, spend some time in the gym or go for a facial or massage. Covering 170 metres there is enough of a run to get some speed on and they have ensured that the run isn’t clogged up with horizontal bodies by not letting anyone up the slope unless they are of a passable ski standard. If not, then you join a ski school at the bottom. This way it keeps everyone safe and the slopes moving more efficiently. As your skills improve then you can move up the slope. By the end of the 2 hours I was getting my ski groove back on again, able to ski without poles and really starting to enjoy it (although I still lack in confidence the coaching by Steve was very valuable in getting me to the “no poles” point).

The Bristol Harbour Festival was on a couple of weekends ago. This too was also getting rained on but we had to go and have a look at the french markets. Hooray for fine french food. I must say though the bread truly was a let down this year. Mind you we had only been in Paris 3 days prior to the festival and had stuffed ourselves silly with bread from there. The memory of it was still lingering so there was no bread that was going to meet the high standard we recalled. I did however pick up some more cheese, Steve found his Croque Monsieur and I indulged in a sausage and vege sandwich. Yum.

This weekend Steve heard about the Hard Rock Festival in Devon so we drove down for the day.  Rock climbing, slacklining and the South West Film Festival were some of the key drawcards here. There was great doco called Dying for Everest regarding the media furor surrounding a double leg amputee climber called Mark Ingles. He and a number of other climbers attempting to summit Everest came across a climber (David Sharp) that at first appeared dead, but upon closer inspection proved to be alive at the time. The choice was made to leave David there and continue on. Sir Edmund Hillary even came out to condemn Mark Ingles. I am not sure why the media chose to focus on Mark specifically considering 30+ climbers also took the same decision. It was a really interesting doco and posed a number of different questions for consideration. Although I have never been in extreme conditions such as Everest I do understand and have experienced what happens to your body, your thinking, decision making skills, basic tasks such as eating or speaking when affected by the cold. Also we recently experienced the debilitating affects of altitude sickness when we were in Chamonix (Aigulle du Midi – 13847 feet). If anything it taught me to appreciate the fragility of our bodies and what it means to be out of control of it. A very scary experience I don’t wish to revisit.

When we arrived at the Hard Rock Festival I found a frog. My first frog! Ever!!!! Not counting frogs at a pet shop or zoo, this was the first real, live, wild frog I have ever seen. It was gorgeous. I probably shouldn’t have picked it up as I have no idea what type of frog (or maybe its a toad, I don’t know).  Tiny, tiny frog, coloured green with black/brown markings. Just wonderful to see.

Finally, as it was still raining the next day we decided to take another ride in the car for a Sunday arvo drive. We found yet another gem of a town. Malmesbury in the county of Wiltshire. The abbey here is a real gem, very accessible and has the most amazing collection of bibles and antiquities in the Parvise (steps leading up to a tower above the porch. This one can be found to the right of the doors as you enter). Just outside the abbey are the abbey gardens, home of the naked gardeners. Yes, that’s right – naked gardeners. We were rather surprised to, especially to read that it was a “clothes optional day”. At 6.90 each for entry it proved a bit pricey for us. Maybe on a sunnier day and possibly when it is a “clothes preferable” day 😉

Movie: The Mummy 3 – Tomb of the Dragon Emperor

Thoroughly loved 1 and 2 in this series and you have to figure that at some point it is going to fall flat. Well this was the one.

Look you can’t dislike the acting, CGI or storyline as they were fine but it just didn’t have the fresh wit or cheeky humour of the last two. It just seemed to rehash the same old things or put forward the obvious one liners. The cheesy bad humour (which was so funny in the last movies) just didn’t come off well in this one. I’m quite left flat by it and can’t even be bothered to finish this review.

1.5 out of 5.

Movie: The Dark Knight

Rated PG12 they have got to be kidding. I so wouldn’t let my kids go to see this. I was terrified of Heath Ledgers role as the Joker. It truly was far more violent than I was expecting. However, he did deliver on the role and came off brilliantly as an extreme and dangerous character. He managed to put his own fingerprint on this role taking it to another level from Jack Nicholsons previous take on it.

One thing to be incredibly thankful for is that they replaced Katie Holmes with Maggie Gyllenhaal as Rachel Dawes.

Michael Caine, Christian Bale, Morgan Freeman and Gary Oldman all return to take up their previous characters. All are fabulous in continuing the efforts from the last movie, the story moving on from where it left off last time – Batman finally capturing the Scarecrow then facing the next villian, the Joker.

It is quite a long movie but at no point was I bored or wanting it to end. I won’t give any of it away as the twists and turns are great but pretty obvious. Go along for the ride and don’t overthink it. 4.5 out of 5.

Movie: The X Files – I want to believe

This movie crept up on us. We have been fans of the X Files and clearly remember where I was the first episode that played in NZ. We then followed it for the next 9 seasons. Even in Australia it was our regular Wednesday get together for X Files and Mancini Pizza night.

So the second movie titled “I want to believe”, how was it? Gillian Anderson’s reprised role of Scully was like watching the series. She dropped back into character seamlessly. Mulder played by David Duchovny just didn’t have the witty lines to deliver that were always a riot in the series. Billy Connolly was superb (as always) and it was great to see Mitch Pilleggi do a short return at the crucial moments as Assistant Director Skinner.

The plot was interesting and although not a big screen blockbuster style movie it held its own. It came off more as an extended series version which in my opinion worked well. You can only get so much CGI in movies before it all starts to get old hat and the art of story telling is lost. I enjoyed this however a little bit less relationship angst between Scully and Mulder would have served better and more subtle humour substituted instead.

There were inhouse jokes or memories for keen X-Philes (those obsessed with the show as they were called) such as the pencils stuck into the roof, a jibe regarding GW Bush as a possible alien or abductee etc. Look out for more as I am sure they are in there.

Anway, I would give it 4 out of 5.

Last week in France

Our last week in France just flew. Monday we were heading for Chartres for the day but really didn’t make it in time so we canned that idea and decided to wander around Montparnasse area. After finding that there wasn’t a lot there we headed from my favourite park, Jardin du Luxembourg. The flowers were spectacular and it was nice and peaceful sitting in my favourite part of the garden at the Medici Fountain. It would have been nice to sit on the grass but you are not allowed to do that here. We saw a nice green grassy area that had a number of people sitting on it but no sooner than the thought had crossed our mind a security officer (gendarme or whatever he was) turned up with his whistle blowing merrily away and shooing people off the grass. They love their whistles!

After the gardens Steve and I wandered into the Latin Quartier to the area we stayed on the very first trip to Paris. Rue Mouffetard is a superb area for shopping and dining and at a cost that is far more reasonable than where we were currently staying. Steve found a lovely bakery and we managed to polish off a huge piece of Souffle Normand. We felt very ill afterwards but is was fabulous and surprisingly only 2,55. We also purchased some macaroons for everyone for dessert that night. We brought Paul and Sharon back here in the evening for dinner in this area. For 15 euro we got a 3 course meal each of which Sharon and Steve decided to do the escargot. The meal was spectacular.

Tuesday we realised that the Louvre was closed so that sunk any places for that day. However it turned out rather good as we spent it shopping instead. Time to get gifts for mates in Bristol (note this was the first time we had even thought about Bristol at this stage!).

Wandering through the back streets parallel to Rue Rivoli you avoid the throngs of tourists and more often than not find the most interesting shops. We found a fabulous shop selling all manner of teas that you could dream up. It is within the shops located at Place Des Voges (another spectacular spot for shopping and people watching). Seriously this tea shop was an “experience”.  I wanted green tea for a gift so you pick one, then he gets you to smell it, then he selects some more that get gradually stronger. You smell each of them until you get to the pungency that doesn’t suit your nose, this becomes your stopping point then you know the range in which to choose from. Who knew there were so many to choose from. Finally he packages it up neatly topped off with a fab bag. Presentation is everything in France. Next we found a confectionary store with all manner of amazing items from chocolate tennis balls to a nicoise salad made entirely from marzipan.

The final destination was Galleries Lafayette. I had heard that this was a spectacular building inside. It truly was. I would probably take this building and the shopping experience over Harrods any time. Basically it is one huge department store with individual brand names selling within the building. The crowds of people were overwhelming. Tour buses were lined up outside, tourists were running around loaded down with bags and bags of shopping. Thankfully we were there to take in the ambience and building itself rather than shop. It was mad!

In general we have found over the last 2 weeks that prices have definately increased in France since we were last here. Also, that prices are generally the same as in England so really no deals to be had except on some electronics. The range/style of clothing and shoes are far more beautiful but again the prices are the same and I would probably stand out (in a bad way) in Bristol if I was to buy some of the things on offer here. For example I loved this stunning bright red coat with incredible detailing on the collar. It fits perfectly into the Paris environment but really would have stood out far too much walking around Bristol. What a pity.

Finally, Wednesday was our last morning so we all went out for breakfast. Steve and I had found the place we went to with Kerryn and Tony when we were last in Paris. It is in La Marais district right across the road from BVH. They do a great brekkie for 10 euro. You sit there and watch the world go by as you sip on coffee and OJ while eating your bread, crossiant and omlette. The waiter was great and even took a photo for us.

I can’t remember if I told you that while in Paris we were staying on Rue Beautrellis right across from where Jim Morrison (The Doors) lived and tragically died in the 70’s. We found out that our apartment looked straight across to his.

Anyway, next blog will be our stay in London where we caught up with Anne-Line and Shehan.