Happy Cadaver 2022, Italy!

Hey look, another vacation!

“Happy Cadaver” is how my host dad used to refer to Fronleichnam — the Corpus Christi holiday on the Catholic calendar — because literal translations are hysterical. We used it for a long-weekend escape to Northern Italy with some first-timers.

See full screen

We rented a car (for some extra leg and headroom, and got an unexpected free upgrade!) and took it to some of our favorite spots, and a couple new ones. We did a return to Mantova (it had been over ten years). We explored Castelfranco Veneto again. Some more. And of course we returned to Ca’ de Memi, who are always so gracious and helpful and just downright charming. Love that place!

Some impressions of Mantova

  • It’s cuter than it looks at first glance. Give it some time after arrival to grow on you.
  • We had a great location for the two rooms we rented there fore the two nights, but parking was not ideal — that’s frequently the trade-off.
  • It’s pretty easy to get from there to other neat places in the area, like Modena, Parma, or Vincenza.

We had lunch one day at La Smorfia, which, besides the cool-sounding name1 , had really cool pizza varieties on offer.

Dipping a toe into Vicenza

We’ve driven past it for years on the way to Piombino Dese and Venice and whatnot, but we’d never stopped in for a look. It’s a beautiful city. We ate at a cafeteria-style restaurant called Righetti: You gather all the stuff you’re going to need/eat and pay at the end. It was good and fast and cheap2. I didn’t detect any other tourists there; it appeared to me to be all people on their lunch breaks from businesses in the area.

Castelfranco Veneto

Our whole trip kind of centered around a grocery haul from the iPer La Grande i in this town. We brought back the usual goods:

  • cheese
  • pasta
  • rice
  • olive oil

But the town is cool by itself, even without the draw of the big supermarket. We had a nice stroll inside and outside the gates of the old town. We stopped for drinks and snacks on a city square in the shade. We had a nice meal with great ambience as the sun started to set.

Wine shopping

Check out the selection at Ferrowine! Rest assured, some of these made it home with us.

This was a nice retail experience, but we had plans to sample the bubbly goods directly at the manufacturer recommended by our hostess at Ca’ de Memi. She did not steer us wrong!

We drove towards the “Prosecco Road,” finding dal Fabbro in Valdobbiadene after a little navigational confusion. It sure was a beautiful drive getting there!

We did a visit to Bassano del Grappa, hit the Grappa Museum and marveled at the scenes on and near the Ponte Vecchio…including this very shiny rhinoceros sculpture:

Lunch was a delicious and quite priceworthy stop at Nuovo Borgo, where we took refuge from the heat in the shade of their garden. It was close to a large, free municipal parking lot, so that was a big plus. We got in there in the nick of time, right around last call for hot food before their kitchen stopped preparing lunch.

Arrivederci!

It was a great trip. The drive back was quite a bit longer than expected due to the G7 summit happening in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, and all the extra police presence around the border to Austria and in the region in general. We were all exhausted by the time we made it home, safe and sound, and definitely earned a bottle or two of that prosecco.

  1. Google Translate says it means “grimace” — is that appetizing? []
  2. Those magical mutually exclusive properties in software development don’t appear to apply, which is great for the hungry traveler. []

¡Vivan las Vacaciones! Parte Dos

Mexico City

Feeling refreshed and unstressed after those two weeks in PV, we steeled our nerves and got on a plane to Mexico City for our very first visit there. Sarah had meticulously researched the area and decided on Coyoacán as our first dip into the most populous city in North America. She found a great place for us to stay five nights in Casa Tamayo in the heart of the borough.

See full screen

Our first night was basically just the arrival; we were exhausted by the airport and taxi activity (even though we started the day unstressed and refreshed!). Casa Tamayo recommended taking a taxi from the airport, which we did, but we waited in line over an hour for our turn to get a ride. The drive itself was less than half an hour with kind of dense traffic, but at least it kept moving. We had the opposite of that on some bus routes back towards our home base from the anthropology museum…an hour bus ride (due to traffic) for something that would have been 15 minutes at most under moving traffic conditions.

Mexico City is a big place. This is not a surprise. We tried various modes of transportation:

Continue reading ¡Vivan las Vacaciones! Parte Dos

¡Vivan las Vacaciones! Parte Uno

After Corona largely reined our intercontinental travel plans over most of the last two years, we had kind of a glut there at the end of the 2021. We spent some time in November with Sarah’s family in KCMO (she longer than I, due to work BS), and then with my parents in Puerto Vallarta and some (kinda) new friends in Mexico City in December. So yeah, two trips to North America inside of two months. Under pandemic conditions. Couple of brain swabs. Plenty of document collection. Lots of umpteen-hour FFP2 mask sessions. It all went smoothly — it was just at the beginning of the Great Omicron Flight Cancellation Crisis of 2021-22.

Our theater of operations (neglecting the overnight stay in Newark on the way down to Puerto Vallarta, because hey, it’s just Newark):

See full screen

Continue reading ¡Vivan las Vacaciones! Parte Uno

PSA: Beware Raj Mahal in Regensburg

TL;DR: I am not impressed with Raj Mahal and it’s going to be a long time before I try ordering from them again. They smell good on the street, but their customer service stinks.

I placed a carry-out order for dinner through their website today around 14:00. It was slick; I (generally) like a restaurant that has ordering processing built into their own website instead of farming it out to an order processor and delivery service.

I ordered a couple main dishes, paid through PayPal (another plus) and made a note of the pick-up time.

4.5 hours later, I showed up, parked my bike, and walked in, cooler in tow, enjoying the smells from the street on my way in. The young man behind the counter seemed flabbergasted. “But we are closed the WHOLE DAY! You can order for another day, OK?”

“No, it’s NOT OK!” I responded. “I have a confirmation email from your website, and a confirmation of payment through PayPal and now you are telling me you don’t have the food I ordered. Why do you permit orders to come in on days you are not in business?” He said it’s automatic through the website and they have no power over that.

He called someone to talk to me in German (my skillz are stronger than his in that language, apparently) and we went another couple of rounds on the clerk’s phone. When I told him I was angry that his company took my money and didn’t honor the transaction, he told me to get my money back through PayPal. When I asked what I should do with my dinner plans, he said I could do whatever I want.

After I cancelled the payment through PayPal, this blogpost is what I want to do.

Part 2 of the LONG AWAITED TRAVEL

Perhaps you saw our exuberance on the first of this two-parter.

After finishing up Mittagessen in…um…Essen1, we got back in the car and drove for like seven hours across most of the country to Berlin. We’ve visited Berlin many times, but we always try to do a mix of new and old stuff. Here are the bullet points:

And, then on our way home to Regensburg, A BONUS VISIT with three Leipziger pals!

  1. More delicious Indian food (and OMG, they were not kidding about the spiciness levels on that Paneer Jalfrezi) at https://www.safran-leipzig.de.

  2. Scored some post-dinner drinks at a Späti to enjoy on a stroll and in a park (by the way, duck into the university library there in Leipzig — what a cool place!).

  3. Even snagged a couple night shots on our way back to the hotel.

After that, it was a completely uneventful drive back home. Just what you want!

  1. Forgive me. []
  2. It is embarrassing how long it took us to get the pun on the name. []
  3. Note to future me: don’t get more than a “medium” anything. []

OMG TRAVEL AGAIN FINALLY

It felt really good. So good, that I can’t cover it all in one post. Part II will follow.

Wiesbaden

It was just a stop-over point for us because we departed Friday after work and didn’t want to undertake a big ol’ drive after a full week of anticipation. Plus, our long-term pal and host Matt K. wouldn’t even be there until Saturday afternoon. So we got to Wiesbaden after work (traffic was not as bad as I’d feared) and expected to crash out at the hotel.

But it’s much a cooler town than I’d thought. And it has a Five Guys. Note to self: don’t get a large ANYTHING.

Brussels

  • We arrived on late Saturday morning, and met Matt G. at Place du Chatelain in the Ixelles neighborhood. He gave us a lovely impromptu tour and we got a delicious lunch on the street at Pizza Mamma Roma.

  • That afternoon we got back in the car, headed out to the Zaventem airport, picked up our ol’ pal Matt K. and the merriment continued.

  • He showed us his favorite parts of the city on foot, including a stop for a snack at the legendary Maison Dandoy for some Liège Waffles and espresso that blew our minds.

  • Sunday, we visited the Horta Museum. If you like Jugendstil design, this will be your joint. As opposed to the Mucha Museum in Prague, the Horta Museum is a less of a gallery and more of a snapshot in time from the turn of the (previous) century of an idealized socialist paradise domicile.

  • We walked around a bit more and then circled back to La Chatelaine Du Liban for a lovely dinner.

  • Monday morning, we dropped Matt K. off at work on our way to meet Pam M. at her home for coffee. She baked us a delicious surprise zucchini cake! The airliners passing overhead reminded me very much of the first ten years of my life near Selfridge ANG.

It was so cool to catch up with Matt K. again before geography makes that impractical again, and meet Matt G. and Pam M. in person after only having interacted with them online before.

Essen

After departing from Pam’s, we hit the road for Essen to meet up with Aileen and Justin for…Essen.1 It was almost directly on our way, and we have had a lot of fun with them online, so why not see if they are just as cool in person?2 That was a nice way to break up the seven-hour drive to Berlin. If you ever get a hankering for a BIG SLABBA TOAST, I vouch for Miamamia.

  1. I bet they’ve never heard that joke before. []
  2. Spoiler: they are! []

November Impressions

Back in June I had to define all my vacation plans for the rest of the year. Despite Corona foiling our plans at a road trip into various near-by countries, we managed to explore some parts of Germany new to us. But that was only about half of my vacation contingent; in November I had to take more. We stuck around Regensburg, watching the infection numbers rise to our dismay.

I took a few pictures: Continue reading November Impressions

PSA: “Siemens SIWAMAT xlm 147f family” beeping

I had a heckuva time getting this question answered on my own; here’s hoping this post is useful to future owners of the same product.

Our Siemens washing machine started beeping at the end of every cycle. As far as we know, it never did that before a few weeks ago (and we’ve had this machine for 16 years at this point). Continue reading PSA: “Siemens SIWAMAT xlm 147f family” beeping