Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Put me on a highway and show me a sign…

If you read this blog, you know we don’t stay put long: we drive all over this region of Germany and France on a pretty regular basis. Along the autobahn, I’ve always noticed brown signs heralding the next tourist stop but have typically passed them by on our way to some predetermined destination. On Sunday, we packed the kids in the Truckster, headed south on A5 and stopped after one of the first “monument” signs we saw. We ended up at a Schloss, or palace, in Rastatt, about 30 minutes south of Walldorf. For a small city most folks around here have only heard of on highway signs, Rastatt has a very impressive palace, reminiscent of the one in Schwetzingen although the garden is much, much simpler. We walked around the impressive museum filled with art and an amazing array of military hardware before taking the guided tour. I think we paid 15 Euros for all 5 of us. Not bad at all. The café outside the Schloss sells good Cuban cigars! I stocked up on some primo stogies, including some Cohiba cigarillos, something I haven’t seen in tobacco stores in Heidelberg (although I usually by my Romeo y Julietas without comparison shopping much). The variety of swords and guns in this virtually unknown museum is astonishing. They also have a big collection of military uniforms and scale ship models. The guided tour took us through some of the rooms in the palace. The conspicuous, vulgar display of wealth boggles the mind. The tour extended about 10 minutes beyond the attention span of the kids, but I’ve never seen them enjoy a museum so much.
After getting our fill of history for the day, we headed to a friend’s house and then proceeded with her and her parents-in-law to the Portuguese festival in Malshenberg, close to where we temporarily stayed when we arrived in Germany, a city called Bad Schönborn. On the way we saw a farm where you cut your own flowers so decided to take a bouquet to Andrea. Despite both Emily and Robert cutting themselves in the process of putting the bouquet together, it was an enjoyable experience. The Portuguese festival ended up not having anything discernibly Portuguese, but the kids had fun on the rides. As the organizers of this event didn’t see fit to ensure that Hefeweitzen was served (I had to drink that bilge water known as Piltz), I’ve initiated a lifelong boycott that I should have little difficulty maintaining. My favorite picture of the day was of this dancing beauty below. I’ll let you guess who was the Beast.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Searching for the lipstick on this pig…

Drafting on some of the recent manufactured notoriety regarding this often used (by me) saying, thought I’d try to share the pictures I’ve taken on this trip that reveal something akin to actual (as opposed to faux) beauty.
The Fashion Show mall, across Las Vegas Boulevard from my hotel, is a pretty nice mall adorned with a wholey superflous but eye-catching floating surf board. I spent a significant amount quality evening time there doing things I love like looking for an exruciatingly precise list of cosmetics compiled by my dear wife. If she’s reading this, I (once again) have managed to put a green check next to all the high priority items on your (extensive) wish list. I realize that your happiness is its own reward.
I took a quick stroll after lunch on Wednesday to stretch my legs and see non-flourescent light. As far as I’m concerned, the simulated sky at the Venetian doesn’t fill the bill.I passed the Bellagio prior to the start of the fountain show (which starts at 15:00 I discovered). The still water is beautiful (still).
On the way back from dinner, snapped this attractive shot of the hotel. Last evening, Thomas and I sat at the pool bar drinking $7 beers. I find the mental conversion to Euros makes the experience much more palatable. I absolutely love this vertical panarama of the pool with Fashion Show mall, the gilded Trump eyesoar and beautiful mountains in the background (in full resolution, it looks suitable for framing).
What have we learned?

Note: I'm done with my sessions at the event in Vegas so am getting caught up on a post I did before I left Germany...

For people who travel fairly often, my wife and I seem to be very bad at it. I arrived at the airport in Frankfurt at 7:30 on Sunday morning to fly to Las Vegas (already bad enough) when I found out that instead of leaving at 9:30 on Condor, I was leaving at 17:30 on United. Basically a comedy of errors with respect to the measures that usually protect me from myself, but in the end it was my fault.

Having had practice lately in turning travel lemons into lemonade, I put my luggage in storage at the airport and took the train to the Hauptwocke station in Frankfurt to kill some time. Upon arriving, I remembered that B had mentioned that she wasn’t sure what she was going to do with the kids on Sunday, so I called her and she hauled the family up to Frankfurt to meet me at the Römerberg. Before noon, the weather was incredible so I walked around taking pictures (go figure). B hit town around 11:00 so we wondered around with the kids, had lunch and then headed to the airport when it started to rain around 14:00.I’m not sure if old age has simply left me easier to entertain or if it’s a coincidence, but we saw a street performer in Frankfurt that really impressed me (I was also uncharacteristically tolerant of the entertainment in Turkey). A Chinese gentleman was balancing objects on the bridge of his nose and juggling. The highlight in my opinion was his balancing raw eggs on a stick. He managed three for a minute or two and was able to balance 4 for a few seconds. Given the high winds (a front was moving in), I’d say that’s about all one could expect.
He also did a trick involving catching a tossed wine bottle on a stick held in his teeth. One for the “something you don’t see every day" file. The highlight for the kids was his balancing a stack of glasses, trays and a bottle while he played a glass clarinet. Can’t say it’s the most impressive display I’ve ever seen, but it’s certainly one of the most original (the clarinet itself put his act in the “originality” top ten). As usual, the girls didn't require much provocation to get their groove on. If imitation is truly the sincerest form of flattery, the girls were positively fawning over this guy.Finally, I laid my camera on the bridge and snapped a shot that I think is cool. Enjoy.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Greetings from Vegas (again)...

As a longtime believer in Karma, it is at times like this, as I sit looking a this manufactured disaster (Vegas), that I wonder what I did in past life to deserve three trips in one year this glittering sore in the desert. My guess? In a not-so-distant past life I went swimming with dolphins and maced them. Maybe I loosened wheels on baby carriages. Whatever the case, here I am again; this time at the Palazzo, a swank, upscale monstrosity associated with the Venetian in ways I don't particularly care to explore.

Anyway, my wife will be no doubt gratified to know that they stuck me in a really tough (in a good way) suite with a view of the pool. I've got three flat screen TVs to keep me amused, with one being conveniently located in the loo. By the way, as an inveterate Luddite, I must admit I was blown away by the experience of seeing some shows on a large screen in high definition.I'd also have a nice view of the mountains if someone hadn't stuck some really tacky hotels in the way. That gorgeous golden aberration a bit right of center is of Donald Trump's doing.