Sunday, July 31, 2011

friends in foreign places

it's a great feeling when you're traveling abroad, you're feeling a little displaced, everything is, um, "different," and then you get to see a familiar face and then, THEN you also get to meet a new friend who introduces you to a freaking cool beer bar.

our friend dan is in berlin for a couple of days with a friend of his, daniel, from rastatt. we had the good luck to cross paths, have some dinner and then move across the street to aufsturz, a dark, low-ceilinged bar in the mitte district of berlin. daniel kept apologizing for his english while expressing nuanced ideas about our american political system. he was more educated about it than us, i think. or it may have been the eisweissbier catching up to us. but i mean, come on, you can't apologize for your grasp of english while speaking at that level of proficiency and here we are, struggling to pronounce basic nouns and verbs in german. very impressive. glad to have a new friend.

we cruised through a pretty good list of beers, some we'd heard of but most we hadn't. current new favorites include rothouse hefeweizen and hopf white eisweissbier. those go down a little too easily. daniel introduced us to a smoked beer which was, well, interesting but quickly became overwhelming. still, when one is recommended something by a local one doesn't sit back and say "no thanks, i'll have a budweiser." aecht rauchbier marzen was an eye opener, like drinking a refreshing pound of smoked ham. try to wrap your head around that.

thanks dan and daniel for a good six hour hang, we really enjoyed ourselves. now it's sunday morning, head's fuzzy, coffee is setting in and the church bells around this part of berlin are ringing away.

one more note, just in case this is handy to anyone else, a lesson learned: jeans really can be worn for five days straight including a seven hour flight at the beginning. it's now been proven. we're not saying it's comfortable, we're just saying.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

berlin - herzlich willkommen!

well, thumbs up to air berlin. from jfk to tegel airport in berlin they were efficient, clean, on time and, dare i say it, pleasant. a nice airline.

landed wednesday morning, found an atm and a tourist information desk at the airport, then somehow found the taxi stand and made it to our hotel in about fifteen minutes. thankfully, hotel aida already had our room ready where we dumped our bags, took a quick shower and headed off in search of breakfast. after that, the most luxurious nap ever ensued. wow. we chose the charlottenburg area around savignyplatz for our first night because we knew the area. that allowed us to quickly find some things without having to stumble around blindly while also being sleep-deprived.

our first "aaahhh" moment came with sips of beers at the schlausenkrug beer garden on the landwerk canal near the zoo. we'd been here four years ago where we met a couple of whack-job swabians who hadn't seen each other in a while and, what was intended as a beer or two next to the river, turned into a drunkfest with these guys writing obscenities in german in the back of our guidebook. we still have that page! anyway, this time was a more quiet affair on a beautiful berlin afternoon after a nine hour flight and two weeks in the states visiting family and friends. although we've been throwing around the term "on the road" for the past couple of weeks, it REALLY hit us when we stopped moving and took that first sip of beer. holy crap, we're not going home.

our new motto? "home is where we are."

on that note, we moved over to our apartment in mitte which will serve as our home for the next five days. classic east berlin vibe. kind of grimy, kind of hip, kind of everything, really. we're right on the edge of prenzlauerberg, sort of berlin's noe valley but without all the self awareness. right outside our door we look down the street to see what was the symbol of GDR power and modernization, alexanderplatz and the east german tv tower. "suck it, west germany!" they seem to be saying. might be our bad german translation but that's gotta be the point.

did a quick grocery run to stock up for breakfast and what-not and, wow, do these people like their yogurt! what is up with that? i mean, the meat thing, we knew, but the yogurt? we're not complaining about their love of beer, though, since it costs less than a dollar for a 22oz bottle of pretty much anything. we're imbibing a dunkel erdinger right now. other than groceries, we're so far eating on the cheap without even trying to. 4 euros for a doner kebap and a bottle of beer.

tomorrow: turkenmarkt and an open air concert in the tiergarten. we're seeing tinariwen, a band chris and nan were lucky see recently in new york. we couldn't not go. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

so long new york

through security at JFK and is this place nuts! to their credit, the TSA folks were way cool in spite of the sheer number of people and the heat. so long new york, next stop berlin!

Monday, July 25, 2011

family, city, good food and piping plovers

outside penn station, nyc.
what a ride so far. we've been "on the road" for 17 days and we have already seen both coasts, a ton of family and friends, the rural backroads of georgia, the city streets of manhattan, the suburb of port washington and the beautiful coastline of the hamptons.

landing at jfk last week, we were greeted by one of the finest sights we could imagine, chris and nan. they picked  us up on a friday afternoon, no less, and took us to what seems to be our personal bed and breakfast. we haven't seen them in long time but we just picked up where we left off the last time. talk, talk, talk, hang out, hang out, hang out... fell right into rhythm.

classic, train into the city.
took the train into manhattan for the day to see even more family, including my twin sister who we don't see often enough. hi jan, jordan, jesse and will! great to connect with you guys and if we can recommend to anyone needing it, a great place to meet up with people coming into new york city through penn station would be this fine pub we found on 33rd st called "stout." considering jan's train was late, why not have a beer while we wait?

great to see jake and brandon over at "blockheads." these high school kids are spending three weeks going to art and design school, living in the dorms and skateboarding around nyc.

piping plover sanctuary in east hampton, ny. crazy/
next up, we drove to the hamptons! the storied hamptons. really great to drive out to the edge of long island and finally visit lynn and rich's house. thanks guys! there is nothing better in this world than spending time with family in an absolutely beautiful place. also learned a little bit about piping plovers and least terns. who knew? we went walking along the beach from the house to "three mile harbor" at around 5:00pm which just so happens to be the least terns' feeding time. hundreds of them swooping above the bay and harbor and then suddenly dive-bombing the water to feed. very cool. the sun came out, the breeze picked up, the birds were feeding, the boats were all returning to the marina... it's was nearly storybook.

yeah, they seem happy for a reason.
crying out for gin and tonics.
this is the last bit of the u.s. portion of our travels and we can't say enough about the people we love and how generous everyone's been with their homes, their time, their conversation and, well, all the other gushy stuff you like about your friends and family.

next stop, berlin! we'll be spending five nights in a fine apartment in mitte, east berlin, taking some time to acclimate, to drink beer (of course), do some museum walking, absorb german and eat as much currywurst as we can possibly handle. oh, and of course, combine two things and go to the currywurst museum. we've rented a car so we can take three days to drive from berlin to vienna at the beginning of august. should be a hell of a ride!

one last note, this post is dedicated to elwood, now a fifteen year old. chances are high, sadly, that she won't be around the next time we breeze through nyc.  chris and nan, not surprisingly, are doing everything, and i mean everything, in their capacity to keep her comfortable. we've known her since she was a puppy and even though we only see her every once in a while these days, we're going to miss her big time. bye ellie!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

poor ol' big dogs

well, it's not berlin or vienna or budapest or athens or istanbul (yet), but after 28 hours of travel, we made it to jesup, ga. actually, several more miles past jesup, which is itself out in the middle of nowhere, and as wonderful a place to be as any of them other places i mentioned.

we woke up monday morning at 6:00am in sacramento, ca (thanks jayne and tim!), drove jayne to work in berkeley, thereby taking advantage of the carpool lane pretty much all the way, made it to an appointment at stanford by 10:00am, had some coffee in palo alto, exchanged a backpack in san carlos, picked up mail in burlingame (thanks magda!), had lunch downtown where a good friend of ours gave us a very long list of things to consider in thailand, found some free wifi, stored the car and took a cab to the airport where we sat for five hours. whew, what a day. THEN we got on a red-eye flight (see previous ambien fueled post) to georgia.

now we're sitting comfortably in mom's den (like some poor ol' big dogs) on the farm with corn growing on one side and soybeans (pictured) in the bigger field on the other side.

peanuts have been boiled, peas have been cooked, and 'nilla wafer pudding has been eaten.

coffee on the front porch this morning in 80 degree heat was the perfect way to start the day. rush hour usually brings a couple of cars per hour down here.

next stop: new york!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

nothing says good morning like a fruit cup!

Through a deep ambien haze we wobble through Concourse A, we find the terminal train to Concourse C that takes us to what may be the finest fruit cup $5.08 can buy. Honeydew melon, meet our ambien haze.

Hello Atlanta!

Now it's time to find a horizontal position and sack out for a bit before our turbo prop flight to Brunswick, where breakfast at Cracker Barrel awaits us with mom, Tommy, Linda, Pam and Colby. Hope we don't drool.

Friday, July 15, 2011

from vacation wonderland to leisure town

wow, it's hard to top a week with great friends in a house on a river. seven days of lazing about, talking, kayaking and, truth be told, some good old drinking. today we said goodbye to mike, will and jesse and continued on to jayne and tim's house in sacramento for the next few days.

we'll be taking care of some last minute shopping needs to prepare for flying out of town on monday. one week "on the road" has made clear our need for larger day packs... i think one of the packs we left with is ten years old now and will barely survive another flight. best to take care of that kind of thing right now. hello REI.

over the last couple of days we saw the pacific ocean at low tide and explored the tide pools that were full of starfish, anemones and hermit crabs like this one with whom jesse made friends.

we made some great dinners, enjoyed the slow summer transition from day to night from the fine deck overlooking the river, played 'catchphrase' until 2:00am, played guitars, played ukulele, traded stories but, sadly, it all came to an end in monte rio, ca "vacation wonderland" here at the holey cow diner. thanks guys!

now we find ourselves heading further down...

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

one more thing off the list (so long jetta)

our list of things to do just got one line shorter.

our good friends bryan and krista were kind enough to offer up a little bit of land in front of their home so we can store our vw jetta. that's it in the background. arranging for the storage of our cars has been quite a lesson in itself. ask ten people how you should prepare your car for storage and you'll get ten different opinions. i ended up taking an average of the most reasonable suggestions and combined them with the fact that a trusted friend will be keeping an eye on the car. with the car parked under a stand of redwood trees subjected to wind and rain, what could go wrong? :)

thanks bryan and krista!

as for the travel plans coming together, we just reserved a rental car so we can drive from berlin to vienna over three days in early august. every single person i've mentioned this to has said "the autobahn sounds fun but, believe me, it's SCARY!" i reserved a two-door vw polo with a 0-60 mph time somewhere in the low three minutes. again, what could go wrong?

has anyone ever done that drive before? we'll take suggestions for routes or "must sees" along the way. we'll have three nights on the road.

we have a few more days left up on the russian river and so far our days have been filled with scenes like these... check our jesse jamming on the ukulele.

will floats along while jesse illustrates the sheer depth of the rushing river.

so yeah, we're heading out to see the world and starting with days like these confirms the fact that we have great friends, a great life and a great privilege ahead of us. what could go wrong?

Friday, July 8, 2011

and away we go...

well, we're off. cleaners came today, we put things in order, handed over the keys and left our house. we're gonna miss our tempurpedic mattress, that's for sure!

we've decided to add a page to this blog soon rating the mattresses as we travel and will be employing our friends to help us create a five tier rating system for them. maybe from feathery to rock. or, tori amos to ace frehly. i don't know, but we'll find it. suggestions welcomed!

that's us on our way out of the house. magically, our friends marc and pam (and their sons nicholas and christopher) appeared just as we were leaving. pam was kind enough to take a photo as we launched into our travels. we're gonna miss all of our great neighbors, our wonderful street, the beautiful california weather and, yes, our mattress. but then again, we're on our way to see other parts of the world.

thankfully, after all this feverish readying, packing the house, packing our bags, then re-packing our bags, then re-re-packing our bags, buying plane tickets, arranging to meet family on our way out of the country, we now get to spend seven days on the russian river with some really great friends. aaaahhh... some unfettered time to relax into the travel ahead. the drive up today, after the traffic north of the golden gate bridge subsided and we turned west off the freeway into the redwoods, was beautiful. a little neil young, a little cat stevens and a lot of grateful dead escorted us through our transition from employed home-owners to jobless wanderers.

see y'all!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

all the space we need

well, there they are, our new 21.5" Skyway Proline roller bags. along with a couple of day packs these will be the containers of our lives for the next many months. there are a ton of details to take care of when quitting one's job, vacating a home, buying tickets, arranging accommodations... hell, just choosing where to go (after visiting family and friends on both coasts for a couple of weeks, our first stop will be berlin), but the one thing that will keep you up at night? luggage.

everyone thinks backpack and, believe me, there are a lot of strong opinions out there about being a "real" traveler only if you have a backpack. seriously? well, we're in our forties, and considering michelle's size (4'11") visions of Max the Dog from the Grinch came to mind when i imagined putting a backpack on her. we did the REI thing and tried on packs, pored over 'round the world' travel blogs (of which there are a TON) and realized, since our first couple of months will be europe, and we know how to "do" europe, we're going with what we know. could be that maybe in a few months we'll regret this, as the southeast asia portion of our travels starts to approach, but right now we got us a couple of Skyway Prolines. and those there are packed already, too. Not bad.

all the space we need, right? right?