Sunday, 24 August 2014

Gentlemen on the Road, Part 1: The Truth about Stonehenge

Every few years Roland and his two long-time buddies embark on a Gentlemen tour. After a fantastic visit of the Montreal Jazz Festival four years ago the plan for this year was a trip to the Southwestern part of England. Frank (right) and myself met in Germany for a very very early flight from Dusseldorf to Heathrow (the cab driver bringing us to the airport was almost complaining), while we had to pick up Stephan who arrived from Sweden at Gatwick, of course after picking up a rental car at Heatrow first.

This was in fact quite a difficult task, as I had decide to go with a cheap option that did not have an office right at the airport, but a bit outside in one of the Holiday Inn Hotels that are scattered around Heathrow. We had to take a Shuttle Bus for 5£ per person that took quite a while to get there as our tour even included a change of drivers. Then our customer service representative was obviously not used to having foreign clients, as she did not manage to open her mouth while communicating. The car was not at the expected spot, and when we found it the tank was dryer than a sandbag in the desert. So we had to get used to the wrong side of the road, find a gas station, get to Gatwick, find Stephan at one of the Hilton Hotels, and then we were on our way. We thought...
Picking up Stephan at Gatwick
Eating healthy stuff
But unfortunately we had not taken the English weekend traffic on a bank holiday weekend in account. The destination of the day was Torquay, with stops in Winchester and Stonehenge; but we stumbled from one traffic jam into the next, quickly cancelled Winchester, and continued crawling towards Stonehenge. At some point traffic improved on the two lane highway, and so did our moods, until a one mile before Stonehenge an English traffic planer had the fantastic idea to merge two lanes into one, which caused another one hour delay. But to our surprise traffic did not get better after the merge, until we suddenly realized the reason: we were able to see Stonehenge from the road! And so were all the other drivers and their families, which meant that each and every car stopped for a minute or so, people took their photographs and then continued on their ways. So when it was our turn we stopped for a minute or so, took our photographs, and then we were on our way again. So all the romantic photos of Stonehenge, with fantastic skies and setting suns, they all are fake.

Stonehenge looks like this:
But obviously - when for once there is no car in the way - you can make it look a bit better:
In consideration of the crowds at Stonehenge and our growing feeling of hunger we changed plans again and settled for a nice American diner just a few miles further, where we finally had our breakfast at 2 pm.

From there it was a rather event less ride to Torquay where the weather had improved tremendously. We strolled around the harbour for a bit, enjoyed the sun and the scenery and settled for some English pub food in a freehouse right adjacent to our B&B where we let the day fade out with some good (albeit warm) British beer.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Busy Summertime

The weather could have been a bit better (as in warmer), but we made due with what we got. And we were out riding (be it bicycling, scootering or motorcycling) a lot. Related posts can be found on Sonja's blog.

Alpine Roads in Switzerland
Somewhere in France

We had another visitor, too. Andrea, who swapped the draught in California against the occasional torrential rainfalls in Germany.

Castle Hohengeroldseck, Blackforest, Germany

And now Roland is about to embark on a trip to Southern England with his buddies, while Sonja is mentally preparing for another exciting trip towards Italy. We are really getting good at life, aren't we?

Monday, 28 July 2014

Harvest Time

We had rented a cycle for Mom to be able to show her our backyard and our favourite place by the river Kinzig. She did a great job pedalling through the valley. And of course, we had to dip our feet into the refreshing water. The river level was quite high, so Roland made sure that Mom wouldn't be accidentally torn away by the strong current. (He was counting on dinner after all...)

Mom became quite excited when she discovered all the low hanging fruit. There were apples, peas, yellow plums and purple plums. And before we could say stop, she was already in the orchard harvesting, or better "collecting samples" (well, scrumping isn't exactly legal but widely tolerated by the farmers).

Caught red-handed!
Another fruit, another stop.
Mom's pickings

Saturday, 26 July 2014

One Mum and All Saints

It's summertime. And living is easy. Especially this week, because Sonja's Mum has arrived. And while others tend to spend their vacation expecting us to entertain and feed them, Mum has made it her mission to spoil us rotten. No cooking, no cleaning for us. We come home from the job and all the housework is done and dinner's on the table.

In return we showed her our most favourite places, one of them being Castle Staufenberg, located on top of a hill, surrounded by vineyards, and overlooking the Rhine area. Roland was successful in acquiring a local white wine, and together we enjoyed the view.

At your service
View getting blurry already?
Mum & daughter
A view from castle Staufenberg

The following day we went to the waterfalls and the ruins of All Saints (Allerheiligen Wasserfälle). Mum had no problem to ascent the 221 steps leading on top of the falls, and was willing to follow us further even to the ruins.

The abbey ruins are always worth a visit, and we are still marvelling at the mystic and beauty of this place.

Photographing a dog owner photographing his dog. What a beautiful border collie, such a friendly, disciplined and active breed. Roland wanted to adopt him in an instant but for some reason the owner wouldn't agree.

Our descent was an easy one downhill and down the 221 stairs again. Shortly after it started to rain cats and dogs and did cut short our little road trip but there sure will be another time for small adventures. So we were heading back home were Mom would whip up another wonderful supper.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Another Summer Evening

Even after a year in the Southwestern part of Germany we are still amazed about the fantastic weather in this region. Being used to rainy and humid summers in the area around Cologne (the so-called 'Rhineland') we enjoy the warm and relatively dry climate down here a lot. So - between two World Cup quarter finale matches - we strolled around with our bicycles again, mesmerized by the beauty of our surroundings.

At the Kinzig river

Like holidays!

We love the noise the water makes at these small rapids

The branches of the apple trees need support already, because the apples are too heavy for quite young trees already.

A few more weeks, and these beauties are going to be ripe and juicy!!

Less juicy, but at a ripe old age...