It’s a Small World After All…

It’s a Small World After All…

Singing the song in your head? Good. That’s you and me now. I am sitting in the airport in Düsseldorf, Germany, waiting FIVE HOURS for our connecting flight (how did I not notice this?) to Vienna and having a cappuccino. Let me tell you about our trip thus far. Even though it was just one, boring, ass-numbing, Transatlantic flight, things have already happened on this vacation.

I’m not one to talk about work on my blog any more than I am a Reference librarian at a public library in South Florida. I don’t mention bosses or coworkers. But I will tell you about two library patrons that have been regulars over the past 10 years or so. They are mother and daughter and both named Frances.

France the Elder is short, wears a lot of makeup and perfume, and loves to try and bargain her way out of trouble. She’s always complaining that things didn’t “print right” no matter how many times I’ve explained about Print Preview and demands her money back. She never gets it.

Frances the Younger is taller than her mother, wears more lipstick (if that is even conceivable) and is a champion at bickering with her mother. In short, they drive each other bonkers, and me by proxy. Every time they are in the library they sit at the computers and look up relics and shrines in Italy. They are extremely devout Catholics, but always looking for a way to worm their way out of trouble or into a better deal.

So imagine my surprise today when shortly after arriving at Miami International Airport I saw the back of Frances the Elder’s head go by in a wheelchair pushed by a Skycap. I think I gasped pretty loudly (which is probably not the best thing to do in an airport these days) and pointed furiously at the carefully coifed head of the old lady. “Oh my GOD.” I said to Kosta. “It’s Frances. F—-.”

He couldn’t see her head, but he did catch a glimpse of her pink-striped shirt, a familiar polyester mainstay of her wardrobe. We were walking a little faster, trying to catch up so we could gawk at the busybody herself. When all of a sudden a second wheelchair comes blasting past us and who should be in it but Frances the Younger.

I was flabbergasted. For you see, neither one has need of a wheelchair. They are both spryly ambulatory and I was appalled that they were having two young men push them through the crowds. What the hell?

Oh, but then? Their wheelchair status shot them directly to the front of the TSA security line. My eyes narrowed and my hands clenched into fists. Those little shits, completely fine, used the wheelchairs to get themselves bumped to priority status. Very Christian indeed.

They whipped through security and I saw the backs of them recede and I let out my breath. At least they were gone, right? Oh hell no. They were sitting at our damn gate, as happy as you please, waiting comfortably for their flight. My flight. Our flight.

And then I saw the Younger Frances in the wheelchair again, her mother standing by. And damn if they also weren’t the first two people on that airplane. I stood there, watching dumbly as they once again used a false handicap to get themselves more priority status.

I think what pissed me off the most was my grandmother spent decades in a wheelchair as a paraplegic. She needed extra help when flying and other things as well. But to fake your condition to purposely get special favors is the worst kind of despicable in my eyes.

This was when a terrible thought struck me. We were sitting in the back of the plane and would no doubt have to walk right past them during boarding. If they spotted me they’d exclaim in surprise and gush about what a small world it is and want to chat. Which was a problem since I wanted to slug both of those cheating mugs. Thankfully, they were both absorbed in something that had them both looking in their laps when I strode right on by, letting out a breath of relief as I passed them. Probably close to the last two people on earth I would want to see.

However, this was not actually so bad. It might even be a sign of good things. In the book I am trying to get published right now I used a mother/son team of patrons at the library as the comic relief in my book. I’ll tell you more about them someday. And the two Frances’? They are on deck to be the comic relief in the sequel. Perhaps this is the Universe’s way of telling me I’ll need to do close character studies in the near future?

At this end of the flight, they were the first off the plane again, I imagine. And they have disappeared. However, I just wonder if I shall be appalled to find them sitting at the gate of my connecting flight when we arrive. Stranger things have happened. Especially while traveling.

SICK

Where there was zing just a week ago, now there is the crud. I got it from my husband, who picked it up at work. I told two friends, and they told two friends, and so on and so on and so on.

rare objectsI’ve been sick enough in the past few days that I haven’t even felt like reading. I know. I’m as surprised as you are. Since my early year slump with the books I picked it up and never looked back. Right now I am trying to read Rare Objects by Kathleen Tessaro, but my head is pounding and my nose is leaking, and I really can’t keep two words together in my head. I think it’s really good though. I’ll get back to you.

Instead I’ve been watching TV. Thank heavens for Netflix. I’ve been binge-watching Anthony Bourdain’s The Layover and it makes me about as excited as a crusty-eyed, gooey-nosed person can get for a vacation that is just 23 days away. layoverAnd although he isn’t visiting any of the places I am going, I adore looking at cities I haven’t visited yet like Singapore, Hong Kong, and Montreal. I wasn’t all that enchanted with the Miami episode. I guess the party attitude of South Beach just isn’t my thing. But finding where to get a bacon butty in London? You’re singing my song, Tony.

I also watched Grease on Monday. Holy shit, I don’t think I’ve seen the unedited, un-censored version since I was at a sleepover in 6th grade. It’s one of those movies that once you catch it flipping channels you have to watch the whole thing, isn’t it?

grease album

That’s right, I played a record album, and not ironically.

Grease is one of those movies that is highly nostalgic for someone of my, ahem, years. I remember being five years-old and owning the soundtrack on vinyl. That’s right folks, because cassette tapes were’t a big enough thing yet. It was a double album set and I listened to it over and over in heavy rotation with the Sound of Music soundtrack I inherited from my Mom and Disney’s Macho Duck. It was the late 70’s, kids, and I was five and in love with Andy Gibb. I never claimed I had taste. At least not at five. Hell, I’m still not sure.

Anyway. Grease. There are so many wonderful memories in that movie. The sheen on Sandy’s cheek at the pep rally when she flirts with the quarterback, the exact bubblegum hue of Frenchie’s hair when she had “a little trouble in tinting class.” That giant cotton candy Madge whips ups at the carnival. And of course, a hickey from Kenickie is like a Hallmark card.

Say it with me folks, "When you care enough to send the very best."

Say it with me folks, “When you care enough to send the very best.”

But watching it on Netflix gave even a new dimension of enjoyment to me as I now get all the jokes that flew over my head as an eleven year-old. I won’t go into all the vulgarities here, but let’s just say there was more than a little innuendo going on and wasn’t the squeaky clean film I remember. Which made it all the more delightful.

I’ve you’ve read my blog at all, you know I have a tendency to pick up earworms. Rest assured I will be singing “Summer Nights,” “You’re the One that I Want,” and “Hand Jive” (as sung by Johnny Casino and the Gamblers played by Sha Na Na) for oh, approximately two months. At least I don’t have the desire to sing out loud and share my good fortune with others, as I am sure my husband and friends in France will appreciate.

ZING!

ZING ZING ZING went my heartstrings.

ZING ZING ZING went my heartstrings.

Vacation is 27 days away and plans are really starting to come together. Every day, every few hours or so, I get a zing of excitement surge through me. Here is what the plan is:

  • Leave 30 June for Vienna and arrive on 1 July. We will spend the 1-3 July  in the city, soaking up the atmosphere, drinking coffee and sampling pastry.
  • 4 July we will collect an rental car and drive from Vienna to Salzburg, stopping in little towns that tickle our fancies along the way.
  • 5-6 of July will be spent in Salzburg and the environs. Kosta is wildly excited about visiting Hohenwerfen where there is a medieval castle that was featured in his very favorite movie: Where Eagles Dare.
  • 7 July will take us by train to Munich where we will meet our dear friends Danielle and Sylvain, who live in France. We will spend the night in Munich, perhaps drink a little beer.
  • 8-12 July will be touring Bavaria. I booked a darling Airbnb in the little village of Bad Windsheim. We’ll be making day trips from there to places like Linderhof Palace, perhaps Oberammergau, Garmische Partenkirchen, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Wurzburg, Nuremburg and others. We haven’t made a hard plan for this and I am kind of excited to see where we go.

    Isn't Bad Windsheim adorable?

    Isn’t Bad Windsheim adorable?

  • 13 July we fly from Munich to Paris and then take the train to the Vendee where our French friends live. We will stay with them for about a week and have fun with the whole family.
  • 22 July we take the train to Paris and check into a hotel near Les Halles and a short walk to the Louvre. We plan to spend the whole next day at the museum and then fly home the next day on the 24th.

As my dear friend Danielle would say, “Roll on, June 30!”

I’ll Have What Phil’s Having

what phils having

Have you seen this show? I don’t watch a whole lot of TV but food/travel shows hook me. Anthony Bourdain rocks. I was browsing Netflix this weekend and came upon Phil Rosenthal’s show, watched one episode and was instantly addicted.

Phil Rosenthal is the creator of the show Everybody Loves Raymond. Since he has more money that he knows what to do with, he did a six episode show for PBS where he travels and eats the best that place has to offer. He starts in Tokyo where he tries food from the fanciest restaurants to the humblest of street food.

What sets this show apart from other travel/food shows is how funny it is. Phil Rosenthal didn’t get to be the creator of a hit show like Raymond without throwing a few yuks in. Especially when each episode comes complete with a Skype session with his octogenarian parents. My God I giggled straight through each epidsode and then I HAD TO EAT.

How can you not giggle at that face?

How can you not giggle at that face?

 

 

 

I did watch them out of order, simpy because there was an episode on Paris and I have to say that I have found a few places that I must visit next month. In fact, sheesh, I need to watch it again and take notes. I have to find the place that roasts chickens in BOTH goose fat and duck fat. That’s right.

I’ll Have What Phil’s Having was originally made for PBS but you can find it streaming on Netflix. Go watch it. But be warned, you’ll be as hungry Shaggy and Scooby. You’ll be positively itching to eat.

Z is for…

ZZeus at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens

I studied him in art history classes in college. He is an original bronze Greek statue that was pulled from a shipwreck. Most surviving Greek statuary is marble even though they worked extensively with the cast bronze methods of sculpture. The reason so few remain is most of them were melted down for ammunition at one point in time or another. A travesty for sure, so when one is found buried it is a huge deal.

Striding Zeus

Striding Zeus

But it goes beyond that with this particular figure. The symmetry and grace of the lines of his form are truly god-like. And amazingly, he looks like he is about to chuck a thunderbolt (now long gone) and step off his plinth, a living, breathing thing. This was a huge achievement that was lost in art until Donatello and Bernini thousands of years later. When I walked into the room where he stands I got chills running down my back and I could have stood and stared at him for hours he is so magnificent.

Ready to launch a thunderbolt

Ready to launch a thunderbolt

Y is for…

YYe Olde Trip to Jerusalem

In the city of Nottingham is a pub that claims to be the oldest in all of England. The legend goes that the public house was founded in 1189, the same year Richard the Lionheart became king and left for the Crusades. Supposedly, the king and his men had a blowout party at Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem the night before they left.

Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem

Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem

I was in Nottingham in 1995 on my study abroad tour. It wasn’t a scheduled trip. My good friends Paula and Suzanne and I went one Saturday when we didn’t have classes. We took the train up and spent the afternoon wandering the city and had lunch at the pub. It was my first introduction to the jacket potato, and it was supremely satisfying. I also remember some guy dressed as a fat friar showing people how to play old pub games. Certainly a place for the tourists, be we really enjoyed ourselves.

X is for…

XXanthi’s house

Kosta’s aunt Froso has a good friend named Xanthi, and bless her that her name starts with an X! When we were staying with Froso in Nafplio we spent an afternoon at Xanthi’s house having lunch. She used to own a restaurant with her husband and is an amazing cook. Although I have yet to meet a Greek woman who wasn’t an amazing cook. We had roasted lamb, potatoes and greens in an avgolemino sauce. When my husband took his first bite he burst into tears because it reminded him of his mother’s cooking. That of course, endeared him to them even more. He was pronounced a “good boy.”

A "good boy."

A “good boy.”

Xanthi was so sweet. Even though she didn’t speak a word of English and we only had a handful of Greek words, we had a wonderful time at her house. She each gave us gifts too– a set of komboloi (Greek worry beads) even though she doesn’t have a great deal of money. What a lovely, lovely, woman.

Froso on the left, Xanthi on the right.

Froso on the left, Xanthi on the right.

Roasted lamb and greens in avgolemino sauce.

Roasted lamb and greens in avgolemino sauce.

W is for…

WWoodstock

Just outside the spreading grounds of Blenheim Palace is the little village of Woodstock. It is one of those charming little places that seems to transcend time. Well, if there weren’t so many dang cars parked up and down the streets, that is. But the houses are old stone, the windows full of flower boxes, and the doors have adorable little fox and lion door knockers. After we exhausted ourselves at Blenheim we were revived by the charm of this little village and its loveliness.

woodstock

Charming streets of Woodstock

What knockers!

What knockers!

V is for…


V
Vendée

France is divided into regions, sort of like we have states, only less autonomous, I believe. The Vendée is where my dear friend Danielle lives in a tiny hamlet called Le Moulin des Landes, which is near the village of La Chapelle Achard. Kosta and I visited in 2013 and stayed with Danielle and her family for a couple of weeks. It was a wonderful experience. Not only do we adore the entire family, but they live in a 180 year old stone farm-house. They keep sheep and chickens and are slowly restoring the place.

That is Pan the sheep with his brother Fangus following behind.

That is Pan the sheep with his brother Fangus following behind.

The Vendée is on the Atlantic coast and Danielle and her family live just a fifteen minute ride from Les Sables-d’Olonne, which is a beautiful seaside town with spectacular beaches. I am very excited because we are going back there this summer for a week to see the family and hang out before we go on to Bavaria and Austria. I am hoping we can plan a side trip up north to Mont St. Michel in Brittany. It’s a few hours drive, but I’ve been dying to see it.

Les Sables d'Olonnes

The beach at Les Sables d’Olonnes

 

U is for…

UUpper Broadheath

This little hamlet is the birthplace of one of Britain’s most famous composers: Edward Elgar. Everyone knows Pomp and Circumstance, which is played at nearly every graduation in the world, but he was an amazing composer well beyond that lovely piece of music.

The cozy little cottage where Edward Elgar was born

The cozy little cottage where Edward Elgar was born

Elgar was born in a tiny brick house in 1857. Being one of my husbands favorite composers, we made the trip to Upper Broadheath to see the house and the small museum erected nearby. It was a lovely little spot–the house small but cozy, the garden lovely with fall flowers and apples trees heavy with fruit. The museum was well put together and had interesting displays, artifacts, and of course, listening stations to hear his music.

And the gardens in their fall splendor

And the gardens in their fall splendor