Provence July 2009

Today Sarah and I drove my parents to their airport for their departure after three action-packed weeks bopping around Europe. You already saw our pictures from the Italian leg of the trip, right? (If not, see the next most recent post.) Here’s a very brief run-down of the Provence leg of the trip, which was a solid week in Remoulins with day trips out pretty much every day to explore local stuff.

  • We flew into Marseille on a Lufthansa flight from Munich.  We very nearly missed the flight thanks to the rail system (not sure if it was ALX or DB’s fault…but it sure was stressful).
  • We picked up our rental car, a Fiat Punto (pretty small for four adults and light luggage) at the airport in Marseille and drove out to Remoulins, where a rental cottage on the grounds of a Chambre d’Hôte awaited us.  We loved the location of our lodging, but it was pretty cramped for four adults and rather poorly equipped.  More on that later, perhaps.
  • Every day we planned to do something new and even when we were too tired, sweaty, or hungry to follow through on our plans, something easier and more local kept us interested.
  • We ate a ton of fresh fruit, stuff right off the vine, tree, etc.  I’ve never had white nectarines before, but I’ll be looking for them now.  Sadly, I doubt they’ll taste as good as ones from the road-side stands in Provence, but I’ll try them anyway.  Most of that fruit goes great with goat cheese and another local product, wine.  Yum!
  • We planned to visit l’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, Aix-en-Provence, and Avignon and were pleased with all of those.  Smaller places, like Uzès and Gordes and Castillon-du-Gard were complete (and welcome) surprises – cute places we just stumbled upon in search for WiFi (not every McDonald’s offers it) or a landromat open through lunch.

Here’s the map, to give you a rough idea:

View Provence July 2009 in a larger map

Here are my favorite pictures from the past three weeks (below). You can see all the pictures we took here.

Bozen / Bologna July 2009

Day One — Regensburg to Bozen

We took an early, early train to Munich: 7:30 a.m. departure from Munich to Bozen, arrival in Bozen four hours later. At least we had an easy walk to Hotel Feichter, featuring

  • nice, friendly, helpful staff
  • clean, pleasant, comfortable rooms, if a bit cramped
  • good location just through a passage from Waltherplatz

Then we took the Rittner Seilbahn up to Oberbozen (Soprabolzano) to check out the Hoodoos (Erdpyramide) after a 20-30 minute hike on marked trails from the top of the gondola route. The weather was kind of eerie, just barely avoiding the rain.

We came back down and ate at the Speckstube for an early dinner and it seemed like they were unprepared. It took FOREVER for the food to arrive. When it did finally arrive, it was just OK. NOT worth the wait.

Day Two — Bozen to Bologna

We checked out of the hotel after breafasting there and left our bags in the luggage room at Hotel Feichter. We walked outside of town into the vineyards along a pedestrian path up to Castel di Roncolo (Schloß Runkelstein) – known as “the illustrated castle” for its many secular frescoes. As a bonus there was an exhibit devoted to Tiroler Tracht (traditional clothing from the region). We walked back down into town and got lunch at Hopfen & Co. – very nice dunkles to be had there. Marched over to the train station right on time onto to find our train had been cancelled due to an Italian train workers’ strike. So we played Rummikub for a few hours outside the train station on the steps of a government building near some flatulent homeless/drunk guy. We took another train four hours later instead, but that, with delays along the way, put us into Bologna Centrale after 01:00 the next day. We got reservations for that rebooked ticket, but they weren’t valid until Verona and there was some stress about the seats we’d chosen for the meantime. It was CROWDED, probably everyone else who’d wanted the 16:31 to Bologna Centrale also chose to take the late one, rather than wait until the next day. Fortunately, our hotel had 24-hour reception and dragging our luggage through the streets of downtown Bologna at a wee hour was not a problem. Our hand-held GPS didn’t steer us wrong and the airconditioned (and beatifully decorated) hotel room was a very welcome change of scenery.

Slideshow from Bozen:

Day Three (“My Bologna has a first name, it’s ‘M-O-R-T-A'”)

[c76phickr id=3725302295 float=right] We got moving a little slower than originally planned (not really a surprise, given our arrival time) and had a leisurely breakfast. We decided to take a hop-on hop-off bus tour of the city with audio guide. But the sound quality was lacking and we didn’t feel much like moving under our own power yet, so we stayed on the bus for a whole circuit to gather inspiration. There was a lot to be gathered. We wandered down the Strada Maggiore and back.

Dinner at that little place we stumbled upon that couldn’t give me the primo piatto from the daily specials menu, so instead I had homemade pasta with porcini and truffle oil. YUM. The waiter was friendly and forgiving of our lousy Italian. Figured out about the “coperto” charge of 2€ a head if you don’t order antipasti, primi, and secondi. Hmph. Didn’t like that too much, even though everything else was good.

Dessert was gelato on the Piazza Nettuno in front of a screen commemorating 100 years of Bolognese soccer.

Day Four (“My Bologna has a second name, it’s ‘D-E-L-L-A'”)

Got up later than planned…again. Wandered down the Via Santo Stefano toward a park at Southern edge of the city and decided to come back and get lunch, keeping an eye on where the grocery and wine stores were to prepare for the following day’s train journey home to Regensburg. Lunch happened at nearly the same spot as yesterday, somewhere outside near the Piazza Maggiore. It wasn’t as good as the first place and definitely more expensive. But the bologna sandwich I had (Mortadella) was pretty good. I can see why that became so widespread.

Dinner was at a place called Ristorante Nicola’s Pizzeria and we arrived just in time to snap up one of the few remaining tables for four. Just after we got there, it was mobbed with pizza-eaters. Unfortunately, we didn’t see all the pizza traffic coming out of the kitchen before we ordered. But still, it was a nice meal, and not as expensive as I’d feared, either. We apparently finally managed to break out of the touristy restaurant area — seemed like all the rest of the patrons were locals (or at least Italians).

Day Five (“Ciao, Bella!”)

Woke up on time, checked out of our hotel, and hit the neighborhood grocery stores for some supplies for the train trip back (about 9 hours, all told, from 11:17 departure in Bologna until we got back to Regensburg) and some wines we knew we’d miss at home.

We got to the train station right on time, but our train didn’t. It was delayed 15 minutes. This was not critical, since we had no Umstiege planned between Bologna Centrale and Munich, and reservations for the whole trip. But when we got on the proper car after the train finally arrived, chaos ensued as the passengers all separately discovered that the car contained no numbered seats. Or rather, apparently two compartments in the middle of the car with seats in the 80s and 70s. Surprisingly, only one old lady grumped at us about her reservation (for some seats in the 50s) but couldn’t prove we were in the wrong spot. So we just resolved, together with our cabin mates, to stay put and enjoyed the scenery.

Bologna Slideshow:

We’ve been back in Regensburg for two days now, recovering from the long travel day and gearing up for a week in Provence. Stay tuned!

Ow. Thai chilis hurt a long time.

I was trying to emulate the recipe for Skhug at using locally-available materials. We can get fresh green Thai chilis, but not jalapeños or serranos as recommended by the recipe there. Anyhow, the recipe there is off by a mile regarding salt. Don’t trust it. But I’m not throwing in the towel on my quest for Skhug yet.

This continued effort will give me another opportunity to not in any way touch my eyes or other mucus membranes with any body part in direct contact with the peppers from the chopping/seeding phase of preparation. I washed repeatedly, but my fingers are still tingling and I’ve had to stop everything at least twice tonight to give my eyes a chance to water the capsicum oils off of them.


Easy multi-platform file sharing with Dropbox

You know what a big pain it is to send a bunch of pictures or other files via email?  You can zip ’em up to together, but that doesn’t really shrink the file size if you’re sending media content like movies or images or sound files (they’re most likely already compressed, and zipping them doesn’t compress them further).  And if your email provider limits the total message size, you have to decide whether to resize your pictures (boo!) or send multiple emails.  Plus, there’s the tarbomb issue – unzipped files lying around in your nice clean folders all willy-nilly.

Or maybe these are files you don’t want to publish on your webpage or via flickr or picasa or whatever and you don’t have a file server hooked up to the internet at your disposal.

Try Dropbox.  You can drag and drop files through your operating systems’ native file management programs (i.e., Finder on Mac OS X, your file manager of choice on Linux, or even Windows Explorer on Windows) and they magically appear on remote users’ computers.  You define which files and which remote users.  Even your parents can do it (provided they can get the picures off of their camera). 

Here are the details:

  • It works on Macs, PCs, and Linux (more about the Linux version below).
  • You need a login (an email address) and password, which you set up at  You also need to know the email addresses of the people with whom you want to share files.
  • You set up folders containing files and then set the permissions on a per-folder basis.  This way, you’re not sharing all your content with everyone all the time.  Example:  you and your siblings can collaborate on a birthday present for a parent by keeping the files you want to share in the Planning Mom’s Birthday folder without Mom getting wind of it.  And Mom can still share files with you via other folders.
  • You don’t really have to install any of the software, since it’s all doable via the website, but the easiest way to do it is after installing the software.
  • It’s free – for up to a couple GB of storage.  If you need more, you can pay for it.

I’ve been using it for about a year I guess on our Mac and it works really well.  Thanks to Carrie Jo for suggesting it to me originally.

Now, more about that Linux stuff I mentioned above:

  • There are packages available for Fedora Core and Ubuntu and, of course, souce.
  • Wait, the Ubuntu packages require Nautilus and/or other GNOMEy stuff?  What about Kubuntu or KDE users in general?
  • Google is your friend.  I found the following advice, which worked great:Dropbox without Gnome : Sounds From The Dungeon

Those instructions work, but here are a few more details. 

  • In step #2, “$HOME” means your home directory; probably /home/yourusernamehere
  • In step #3, I had to start the daemon from the command line with an ‘&’ at the end of the command.  The wizard didn’t seem to want to work otherwise.

After that, it was cake.