Friday, June 22, 2012

Happy Gang

I've really enjoyed this week. Marcel visited each day after his language school lessons. We get on very well and he has a good humour. Heike is keeping an eye on him while I am in England next week.

The week started well with a 'Treffening Breakfast' hosted by Johanna. Every few months we have such meetings so we can catch up on news of what each is doing. Jutta and Gerald were there, as was Werner B. and his lady.

Two days later I met Werner B. again. He invited me to talk to my old 'Happy Gang'. They meet  twice a month to socialise and practice their English, but I noticed more German creeping into their conversations! Here are some photos taken at the event so you can see how nice they are!

We started with a meat ball and potato salad breakfast before I gave them a presentation about Florida. I made it conversational by eleciting answers to questions about what was on the wall screen. I used my laptop and projector. Lots of 'Ooohs' and 'Aaahs' as they saw images of the sun, sea, sand and beaches I visited.  A very pleasant morning!

In a couple of hours I shall make my way to Schönefeld Airport for a flight to Liverpool. I've packed winter clothes!  Barry and Pam will meet me there - presumably with their two little dogs. Then to find some Fish 'n Chips! Germany is playing in the European Games this evening so I may be able to catch the second half. I support them and not the English team :-)

On Sunday we are driving to Silsden to stay with Fran and Geoff. Later in the week I am going to Cas to stay with Alan and Lynne and meet son Daniel who is visiting all the way from Australia. Looking forward to seeing him after so long. I also got news a few days ago that his brother Paul became a father for the first time. A little boy! Pleased to report that he and his mother are well and healthy.

No post to this blog until the start of July. Have fun!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Proud Me

I was very happy to welcome Marcel and his family to my 'humble abode'. We toasted each other with a glass of 'sekt' and then exchanged news. At the end we all looked at the photos I had taken in Florida. Thanks again Shirley!

 We then went to a very good restaurant near my flat and known for the quality of its German cooking. Everyone was very happy with what they ordered, and I also took a few photos. Mainly of Marcel enjoying a Wernesgrüner Bier and some 'Deftiges Essen'/solid food. He finished it all and enjoyed it.

Later we returned to my flat and sat in the garden and chatted. I took some more photos to add to those of Marcel with beer and food. I think that Jan just might have some competition for enjoying a glass of beer!

They later left to see the centre of Berlin. The family are returning to Hungary tomorrow and Marcel starts his German course.

 What a really memorable day this was. The young lady in one photo is his sister. She is called Bianca and came with her boyfriend.

We agreed to meet up in Hungary next summer. I shall be there and look forward to reporting on my blog about my adventures in the north of Hungary. Watch this space!

Proud Parents

Today was a special day. Marcel visited me. Who is he, can I hear you asking? He is the last of my 'godsons/Paterkind'.

Eighteen years and two days before my birthday he arrived smiling and laughing into the world. His parents asked me to be 'Godfather'. I know the family through Jan's mother.

I happily agreed for I have no children of my own, and am happy to add myself to those of others. It follows the motto of nice to be a grandparent, for after playing with them all day you can give them back to their parents, and head home!

His parents headed home some time later when they returned to Miscolc in the north of Hungary. We kept in contact by mail and birthday/Christmas presents

. I did a tour of Hungary about twelve years ago and saw him then. Time just went by - as it does -  until today when he and family arrived on my doorstep. See the first photo.

He is starting a German course at Humboldt University tomorrow and is living in student accommodation about ten minutes from my flat. Ideal to keep an eye on him for his parents. And that is what I shall do until the middle of August when he returns home.

Here are some nice shots of him with his parents. As always, you ask yourself where the time went to! But I only asked this question as I worked on the photos for this blog. During the day I was just happy to enjoy the time with the family. 

Saturday, June 16, 2012


Yesterday I met my Oldie Photoshop Gang. Meeting place was Familie Schröder's garden house south of  Berlin. It was great to see them again. They said I looked very well and still had a good tan after my holiday in Florida. Thanks for the comments!

We settled into seats around a long table in the garden. Being traditional, we started with 'Kaffe und Kuchen', lots of talk and then I showed them the photos of my adventures in Florida. I used my laptop. Viewing conditions were not ideal but they enjoyed me talking them through my travels - and it was good for me to do it all in German!

We then returned to our chairs and table for the main event. This was 'Grillen'. Herr Schröder is a Meister and soon had our plates full of grilled sausage and meatballs. They were consumed with a potato and gurkin salad, and washed down with a good German beer. Of course!

A really great afternoon. I found it rather surreal to jump from Florida to a comfortable afternoon in a garden in Berlin. Some commented that I was rather withdrawn and not as talkative as usual. Perhaps so.  I also missed the sun:-)


From my last post to this blog you know I safely arrived in Berlin Tegel Airport to be met by Heike's happy face. She drove me home and the start of settling into Berlin routine.

I have now settled into life here but memories of my time in Florida are always with me - just as my walk on the Great Wall of China, last September, is imprinted on my brain/memory. I started teaching again and learning German with Frau Fox each Tuesday, plus contact to all my 'Oldie' Gangs.

When I met my Oldie Wednesday class they bought me a bunch and flowers and card for my birthday, even thought it was a few weeks ago. I was very pleasantly surprised. The flowers bloomed for over a week and greeted my when I entered my flat!

In addition to all my appointments, and watching the UEFA Football matches on TV, I met Max and Joachim. We worked together on a library project seven years ago. Even with an age difference, we have kept in touch, and meet a couple of times a year in an Italian resturant. Max is a great fan of Italian food - as you can see from this photo!

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Goodbye Florida

My last day in St. Augustine. It started with tea by the pool, sun and then my last swimming practice in the pool. Shirley had left early to help Modesta in the school, which she does each Wednesday. As planned, Judy  arrived at 11:30 am to pick me up.

 Judy is now retired but was also a teacher. Like Modesta, she comes from New York. She is very interested in politics and events outside the USA. She enjoyed the opportunity to talk to me and ask questions. I enjoyed being with someone so intelligent and interested in such human matters, and debating in my first language!

We drove to the centre of St. Augustine and boarded a ship for a trip around the harbour up to the Atlantic. I took some photographs including some of the bridge opening to let high masted boats through. We had lunch at an excellent Mexican Restaurant recommended by Judy. Talk over lunch was also very interesting! In the evening we got back to Shirley's house in time to relax in the Pavilion by the pool and wait for Modesta to arrive.

Modesta had bought me a very special bottle of Chardonnay wine from California for my birthday. I said I would only open it on my final evening, and in the company of such wonderful ladies. That was the deal and all agree, so we met up to open the wine.

It was delicious! Shirley had prepared a light meal and I had bought a lighter wine to start the evening. It all combined to making a perfect last evening in St. Augustine. How I enjoy looking at these photographs again!

I went to bed late for I didn't feel tired. The excitement of the day/evening, and the thought of my flights next day, kept me awake. I finally hit the land of nod and emerged into Thursday 24 May to take me back to Berlin.

Shirley woke me, drank tea, showered, packed my bags and hit the road at 7:10am. Shirley decided to take some of the back roads to miss the morning rush hour traffic. All went well at the beginning, then she noticed she had taken a wrong turn. A quick change of route and hit the 'gas' pedal.

I arrived 45 minutes before my plane was due to leave, so Shirley dropped me off at the Departure Gate. Just time for a hug and big grateful kiss before I rushed into the check in/security and boarding. I made it all just in time. Then we all sat in the plane for nearly an hour waiting for permission to take off! I could have spent that time better with Shirley enjoying a coffee over a longer goodbye chat. Typical!

I flew north to Newark Airport, which is north of New York. I had a three hour wait. Finally got into the plane for Berlin, and then we had to wait fifty minutes for permission to leave. Flight made bearable by a nice lady next to me, and a new film on my screen. I can't sleep in an aircraft, so I waste the hours by watching a film of listening to my MP3 Player.

Was I pleased when we landed (late) in Berlin Tegel Airport on Friday 25 May. All went smoothly and quickly into the passport check. I asked for, and got, a stamp in my passport for that airport was due to close a few weeks after my arrival.

I emerged into the airport to see the happy, smiling face of Heike. Was I glad to see her! She organised everything including packing me and my bags into her car and heading into Berlin. We stopped for cakes at my local bakers, had coffee and chatted about my adventures.

And so I returned to Berlin and the adjustment to life here. I have made the adjustment but I still miss life in St. Augustine, my travels through half of the state and those wonderful women who shared my last evening. Most of all to Shirley, without whom I could never have had such a life experience.  Thanks Shirley!

Water Babe

Tuesday 22 May. Nearing the end of a wonderful time. I was feeling very reflective as I entered my last but one day. Shirley had a number of appointments, so I decided to have a day just for me.  It began with sipping tea in the sun at the pool. and shaking sleep out of my eyes.

I spent all morning enjoying the sun and water. I knew it was my last chance so I took time to practice my breast stroke - with my 'Noodles' of course! When I remember all this now I can hear the sound of the wind in the trees behind/above me and the chirping of the birds. It is imprinted in/onto my brain! I shall never forget it.

Noon, I showered, dressed and got on my bicycle for my last tour along the beaches. I picked the simple pleasures for this day, but ones that meant a lot to me. I hit the beach and slowly headed south. I went slowly for I didn't want to rush the experience and memories I would create. The weather was pleasant with clouds and sunny spells. I enjoyed the feel of the sun on my skin as I cycled on the beach. I hit the furthest point where the river hits the Atlantic coast and slowly turned back.

I met Shirley on my return and we went to a restaurant we had tried to get into before, but couldn't for it was booked up. This time we were lucky and got a table in the top storey with a view onto the beach and ocean. This time Shirley was reflective, and talked a lot about the past. I found it interesting just to listen and learn more about life in the north of Florida. A quiet, reflective day, but a very special one because of that.

Silver Springs

Monday 21 May. I woke to congratulate cousin Barbara on her birthday. Unfortunately she couldn't hear me, but we shall meet in two weeks when I arrive in the UK. I thought of her as I wondered to the pool and settled into the sun before testing the water and practicing my new water skills!

I got ready then Shirley took me to the post office to post the last of my postcards. We then hit the road south-west to got to Silver Springs. It lies inland and to the south of Orlando. It is famous for being the place where all the Tarzan films were made as well as many TV series about life in/on/near/ the ocean and jungle.

Silver Springs is an interesting natural phenomenon. About 60 feet under the ground, a fully developed river emerges out of the rocks. Apparently it is only one of two in the world. I have no idea where the other is. I didn't ask the guide! The river forms a lake before eventually flowing into the St. John River. (No Silke, it is not named after me, and thanks for your comment :-) )

We went on two tours in boats with glass bottoms. Fascinating to see things under the boat including the source of the river. In the photographs it is the one with the blue colours.  I noticed the eyes of crocodiles following me/us as we sailed along. One followed - I think it spotted me as a potential dinner!!

I took a number of shots of this watery/green environment and really enjoyed the experience. We had to leave early for Shirley had an appointment back home. As a result, I had a first time American experience. We quickly bought a snack from Denny's and ate it in the car as we sped to St. Augustine. Just like real Americans do! Wow - a first for me!

DB and CC

Sunday 20 May. I woke at 9:00 am. I was very surprised at that late hour. It clearly indicated my bodily response to the end of the tour and return to settled life in St. Augustine.

I made some tea and wandered to the pool. I finished writing the last batch of photographs then celebrated by sunbathing before it got too hot and relaxing in the water. I practiced my breast stroke with the help of the 'noodles' and noted I was getting better.

I then got ready and left for the south with Shirley. It felt strange to be in the passenger seat after so long driving. We set off for Daytona Beach. When we finally arrived Shirley noted all the new buildings and developments on the beach side of the centre.

It was all new for me so I just stared and listened as she described the changes since her last visit. It is famous for its racing track/circuit. I learnt that it is also famous as a family holiday centre/resort.

We drove on and arrived in Titusville. I saw a sign for a 'Family Owned Fish Restaurant'. I was feeling hungry so I suggested we have a late lunch there. Shirley agreed and it was a delicious meal of haddock.

Feeling full and relaxed we hit the road south and finally arrived at Cape Canaveral. An exciting time exploring the site and posing with different craft. The day after I was there, a rocket was launched to take supplies to the space station.

We headed north back to St. Augustine. Shirley then told me that on the day of my return, a local sculptor had died and would I be interested in seeing some of his work.

I said, "Yes", so that is where we headed when we got back. He donated many statues and they are in a park, just there for the pleasure of the public. What a nice person to do this, and nice that they are on display for everyone to enjoy.

Cars and concert

My first day back in St. Augustine started with tiredness and a pain in my back. I had slept badly. Even so I got into the day with an hour in the sun, and pool, before I took the car back to the hire company.

Shirley followed then we went to an 'Oldie Car' event. I mentioned this in an earlier post but here are some more photos of old cars kept in pristine condition by their owners. Here are some more.

My favourite was the old red Ford. It looks to be a development of the famous Model-T. There is also a photo of Elvis Presley reclining in a Cadillac. He was visiting us from the moon where he lives with Michael Jackson, according to a few 'newspapers' in Europe. Thanks for the visit, Elvis!

I had a long talk with the owner of the black Essex car. Very interesting and I didn't know about this car before. In fact, the owners of all the cars we talked too were more than happy to tell us about their 'passion'.   We both enjoyed the event. We had a light tasty lunch of soup in the 'Spanish Bakery', which Shirley had told me about before.

We then drove to a park which commemorates the landing of the Spanish. I just had to pose in front of the official images! That evening we went to a concert called 'Viva Espana'. It was very good. Both singers and dancers got well deserved applause. The perfect end of the day marking my return to St. Augustine.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

On Tour - 6/7/8/9

I'm going to compact the rest of my tour into one post. I think you have got a clear view of my tour so far and the wonderful bays, beaches, and people I met.

From Panama Beach I drove down the Gulf Coast roads. I skirted a large State Park and then came back to the coast road with its wonderful bays and beaches. I stopped at Mexico Beach and Apalachicola Beach before heading for Bald Point. These days were a mix of lazing on white beaches in the sun, paddling in the Gulf and driving to more beaches and small towns.

That evening I stopped at the most luxurious motel I had stayed at. It was late on day 6 and I was tired, so I booked into the place. It was at Crawfordville in a Best Western Plus motel. Very nice! I ordered a meal to be delivered and enjoyed it with a glass of wine. I had a good internet connection so got my 'Baby-Laptop' into action and caught up with news.

I woke up next day to find rain and grey skies outside my window. After a good breakfast at the motel I hit the road and headed south. Most of Day 7 was driving south in the rain with stops at interesting beaches, and small towns, until I arrived at a DayInn in Port Richey. Very nice man at reception and got a good room at a discount, plus a recommendation for a good Italian restaurant. He was right and I enjoyed a pleasant evening, including talking to people in the restaurant as if I had know them all my life. Not possible in German culture!

Day 8: I got to the coast north of St. Petersburg then into the city. Very nice beaches and bays and interesting city. Time was moving on and I only had one day to get back to St. Augustine. I turned the car around and headed north. An interesting route into the middle of the state and with very different scenery than on the coast. Very late I landed at a Holiday Inn Motel opposite a Denny's Restaurant. Both were surprisingly good and not very expensive. Able to relax at the end of a long day. Nice!

Day 9: My last day on the road. I started it with a tasty cooked breakfast at the hotel which gave me the power to hit the road. Found H19 North and set off. I had a lot of stops at parks, lakes and springs and even managed to relax in the sun in a few places. I finally arrived in St. Augustine at 5:00 pm and met Shirley at her house.

 We chatted for some time before I suggested I drive her somewhere before I had to return the car next day. She agreed so we jumped into my nice red Ford and drove south to Flagallar Beach. We walked along a pier and talked to the anglers at the end of the pier. I drove her back and we ended up in a nice restaurant not far from her house. A pleasant meal, drink and talk ended a very interesting day for me!

On Tour - 4/5

I ate breakfast in the motel while willing the sun to push the clouds and rain away. It listened to me! I drove to downtown Pensacola, parked the car and wandered around. Later I drove to Main Street almost on the water and harbour. I walked along taking in the local sights. The sun got stronger and the skies lost the grey clouds. It was Mother's Day!

I was surprised to see a very large ship not far from Main Street with an amazing set of crane structures and shovels for dredging at the front. I had to take a photograph and thought about Jan as I did. He is discovering different ship designs as he gets more experience in his job. I am sure he will be able to tell me all about it the next time we meet.

I got talking to an elderly black lady on the sea-front. She was surrounded by old, young, tall, small members of her family. She just wanted a new face to talk to. Perhaps the family had heard it all before for they just stared at me and said nothing. The lady spoke for them all. I enjoyed talking to her and listening to how proud she was of her family on that sunny Mother's Day in Pensacola. How very different from German culture and language with its Du and Sie culture and distance, but then I noticed this on many occasions.  

Following Judy's notes, I got into the car and set out to explore the area. I saw more of the centre before going along the coast to see the sun shining in Gulf Beach and Perdido Key. Great! I wanted to stay longer than I did, but returned to Pensacola and finally headed for Avalon Beach over an incredible, long bridge. I then went to Pensacola Bay and took H98 to Navarre. Perfect holiday resorts with white, fine sand, almost empty beaches.

After taking this all in I moved on to Destin. This is a popular holiday resort and you can see why very quickly. The number of yachts in the harbour clearly indicated how popular it was with the 'sailing classes'!  I walked around, ate a snack and moved down the coast to Panama City Beach. This is larger and clearly designed for the 'classes without yachts'.

I decided it was for me and booked into a very reasonably priced motel built right on the beach. They didn't have single room so for the same price they gave me a two-double-bed room with small dining area, all mod-cons and a balcony overlooking the beach/sea/swimming pool. I took that offer immediately and decided to have a two day break there. A good decision!

That evening I drove to a restaurant and was pleased to be served by an American lady who had lived in Berlin for nearly twenty years. She thought I spoke English with a German accent and so only spoke German with me all evening. I enjoyed it - and the meal!

Back at the hotel I discovered that the w-lan connection was very bad, so I dozed off reading my book on the balcony before 'hitting the sack'.  Next day was perfect. I walked along the beach after breakfast, sat in the sun, paddled in the sea, read again, dozed, showered and shaved before going shopping. Took me all of three minutes to walk to some shops.

 Later I went to a restaurant for a light fish and salad dish, returned to my motel and spent the rest of the day reading, dozing and sipping a light white wine in the evening. In my notes I wrote: "A nice lazy day in Panama City Beach". It really was!

On Tour - 3

I had the standard motel 'continental breakfast a la America', then returned to the government centre to see all the museums and interesting buildings. The best was the 'Old Parliament Building', now a large museum showing the history of Florida. The presentation is excellent. I spent longer than planned so walked quickly around the others.

What struck me was information about Florida in prehistoric times. Then came settlement by different Indian tribes and how they lived. Later the Spanish arrived and how that changed their lives.

There is a section covering post-Spanish settlement, transfer of the state to France, back to Spain, then to England, back to Spain and finally absorbed into the creation of the USA. The history of Florida reminded me of a football being kicked around by European powers reflecting power shifts in Europe. I had not known this so clearly.

I hit the road west and stopped at Quincy. Classic American town with wonderful old houses and architecture. I also discovered it was the home of more Coca-Cola millionaires than any other place in the USA. I prefer diet Pepsi :-)

Down the road again to the small town of Marianne. My info told me about an important battle there in the Civil War. I stopped at the Civic Centre to ask where it was. Baffled looks on the faces of all. Finally advised to go round the corner to the police station. A lady was hanging out of a door smoking a cigarette. My polite request was met by a polite answer that she didn't know --- in a nice accent from Glasgow! We had a long chat and she asked other people in the station and they didn't know. Finally, someone said I should go to the local church and look at the graves. I did and found a plaque commemorating the battle and war dead. Success! It was interesting how many local people apologised for not knowing their local history!

I drove on to Pensacola, the largest city in the west of Florida and home to a huge navy base on the Gulf Coast. Judy had given me information about the area and I followed her advice. I got lost a few times on the small roads I took to get to the city, and noticed the weather was looking stormy and temperature was falling. The gadgets you have in new cars these days! It started to rain as I got to the outskirts of Pensacola so I hit the brakes when I saw a Motel 6. Nice place and the price was right. I booked in and drove over the road to a restaurant.

Reasonable meal eaten as the storm gathered. I paid the bill and got back to my room as the storm broke. The last time I experienced anything like this was when the monsoon struck New Delhi when I lived there years ago. Black sky, sheet lightening, high winds and even balls of ice falling as big as eggs. I stayed in and occasionally peeped out of the curtain to check the storm. Next morning I woke to post-storm grey skies and heavy rain, then suddenly during breakfast it changed into blue sky and sunshine. Just in time for me to see Pensacola!