garlic overload

So on the CBYX mailing list recently, alumni were reminiscing about German food that they missed from their CBYX experiences. Inevitably, döners came up, and the poster even linked to this site as a reference. On that page, I found a recipe for a garlic sauce, which sounded to me like the spread of garlicky goodness my pal the Malge introduced me to back in the day at the Pita House at Maple and Rochester (it has since been renamed to the Grand Chateau and I don’t know if/how its menu has changed).

Anyhoo, this almost-waxy garlic spread had the kind of flavor that let you know immediately that you were going to be best buds for the next few days at least. And heaven help those in proximity to you. I was really hoping the garlic sauce recipe there would be exactly what I remembered from the Pita House.

Alas, it is not so. I just got done following the recipe they suggest, and my tongue feels like I just had two scoops of porcupine gelato. The sauce was not creamy and white with roughly the texture of mayonnaise. It was glowingly green and oily like a Bernini salesman. I had to flood my whole mouth with milk to get the burn to subside.

I think I finally hit my too-much-garlic threshold. This boundary has existed, theoretically, since I started making my own hummous, but I had no idea it existed in nature.

France — le nez n’est pas haut!

Part of the reason France hasn’t been high on my list of places to visit since we moved to Europe two years ago was its reputation for rudeness to foreigners (I admit it — I prejudged…sorry France). We certainly haven’t seen any of that this trip. Sarah explained to me that I was confusing Paris with the rest of the country (we haven’t seen any of Paris this trip, either). Here’s where we’ve been (note that these route depictions are not necessarily the actual routes we took):

Leg 1 – Regensburg, Germany to Evian-les-Bains, France. The navigation system in our rental car rental car in Chamonix in the French Alpsmisled us a bit, until we figured out that it was trying to save us some tolls by routing us through Stuttgart. We came to the conclusion that navigation systems are great for getting to exact addresses when you’re already pretty close and just want to zero in, but for general city-to-city or inter-regional navigation, you’re probably better off just looking at the map. Driving through Switzerland was really anti-climactic. That just shows how little we know about the country’s geography. france_ascension_2006_003We’d expected glorious alpine splendor on the route between Bern and Zürich and found the drive to be pleasant, but not exciting. Not at all like what was in store for us as we approached Geneva. We stayed a delightful place called Hotel Les Cygnes — click that link to see our review of it. Sarah scored a real find here. Charming, elegant, and cheap.

Leg 2 – Evian-les-Bains to Chamonix. Lots of narrow mountain passes and switchbacks galore. france_ascension_2006_017Previous experience with the BMW 3-series made us thankful that we never got high enough to encounter any snow (Hi, Mom). But our ears popped more times that we could count, going up, down and around towns like Annemasse and Bonneville. Chamonix turned out to be a cute little ski resort town. france_ascension_2006_008Chamonix, France According to Frommer’s, it’s not recommended for beginners or timid intermediate skiers, so it may be a while before we return (by contrast, Les Houches right nearby should be great). Still, it was cute. Check out especially the pic with the flowers.

Leg 3 – Chamonix to Avignon. Have you been to the seat of the papacy? We have, sort of. france_ascension_2006_022Avignon was the HQ of the Roman Catholic church for about seventy years in the 1300s. After the papacy returned to Rome, the grounds were even used at times as military barracks! The night we arrived, we strolled around the old walled city, thankful to get away from our horrid hotel and happy to stretch our legs a bit. We happened upon a great restaurant and had a fantastic North African meal (spot the trend of Good Eats *á France*?). Note for future reference: trying to park here made us *irrité*. We had a great audio tour of the grounds before heading further south.


Leg 4 – Avignon to Marseilles. You can really tell when you’ve left the French Alps and have entered another region; in this case the Riviera. The greenery changes and the breezes are warmer. We popped down from Avignon to Marseilles just for lunch because we could. It was a nice day, we had a nice car and a tank of gas at our disposal, so we said, “why not?” — and we are sure glad we did. Frommer’s led us to a fabulous restaurant in the *Port Vieux* of Marseilles where Sarah had the best beef ever and we both really enjoyed our *sorbets maison* for dessert.

Leg 5 – Marseilles to Lyon. The next leg took us back up North a ways to France’s second largest city. We stayed in a somewhat fancier hotel one night, found dinner by strolling around and left the next morning. We weren’t quite sure if we were all travelled out, or could stand another night on the road. In the end, we decided to do a drive through the *Schwarzwald* and stayed one night in Villingen.

Leg 6 – Lyon, France to Villingen, Germany. Villingen? Cute town, but with no night life whatsoever we could detect. Seriously, this place was **dead** last Saturday night. We managed to find a couple of open restaurants. At the one we chose, we sat inside a giant beer barrel turned on its side and had a couple of Schnitzels (I had a *Zigeuner*, Sarah went with the traditional). Our hotel was just fine (nice and cheap), but I was annoyed that the WLAN connection advertised on the web wasn’t functional. That was the major reason we decided to go with that place. Still, the room was clean and the price was low, and best of all, the shower was nice and powerful.

Leg 7 – Villingen to Regensburg. Had a pretty nice drive home this morning from Villingen. There were a couple of traffic accidents (caused most likely by Bavarians returning home from a long weekend) which caused some delays, but once we got back into Bavaria, it was smooth sailing.

All in all — great trip. Great planning by Sarah, great luck on the parts we didn’t plan, and great fun being on a road trip again. A parting gem:


you know you’re getting old…

…when you buy a Paul Anka album, and you *like it*.

OK, to be fair, they’re not really Paul Anka songs. If you’ve got iTunes, try this one on for size. We first heard a few songs off this album yesterday at Exil (our favorite Kurdish restaurant, for the uninitiated), and Sarah had to hit me a couple of times to knock the lounge crescendo and vibrato out of me. Good thing we were the only ones in the restaurant.

rock swings

It’s been a difficult week…2 weeks even (sorry guys, that’s why I haven’t written much). Sarah’s been sick pretty much since we got back from Puerto Vallarta. At first, I thought it was simply jet lag and withdrawal (who could blame her?), and then perhaps her allergies making themselves known in the face of a pollen onslaught. But even on rainier days she has a terrible cough that has recently become…productive. So she went to the doctor yesterday and got herself a diagnosis and some antibiotics. We should have this thing beat within 5 days.

My membranes are all behaving themselves (like they usually do), but my projects at work are not. I’m in the extreme upper range of allowable overtime hours. You can’t accrue indefinitely, but you can at least count on getting comp time or the hours paid out up to a certain limit. Pretty soon, if I don’t take some comp time or get paid for some of those hours, the company will just refuse to acknowledge any work I do over my 8-hour per day contract. Going on vacation for 3 weeks is great — don’t get me wrong — but the hassle associated with coming back afterwards is daunting.

malge’s film pics are here

Here are just a few of my favorite pics snapped by my buddy the Malge while we were all in Puerto Vallarta together last week. He’s a film camera nut, thinking about making the jump to a digital SLR. I would have been closer to that kind of purchase, but my Medion camera went on the fritz on this trip and I needed a new point-n-shoot digital quickly for the rest of the trip. So my quest for a digital SLR has been postponed yet again.

Click on any of these thumbnails to see the whole photostream at flickr.

…and, we’re back!

Whew. We made it back last night finally around 10 p.m., GMT+1. That was a really long flight — it was “only” 10 hours and 41 minutes in reality, but it has completely messed with our internal clocks. We left Puerto Vallarta on time at 16:00 and arrived at Munich on time at 18:00 the following day. It really did feel like 26 hours in the air.

We had a great trip and are grateful to be able to visit our families and friends. Things we should have figured out, but didn’t:

  • United Airlines. They’re not very good.

    On our way to Kansas City, we had to transfer in Chicago. We had to claim our bags at O’Hare to clear Customs, but there was no easy re-check area for connecting flights (that we could find). We ended up shuffling our stuff all the way out front to the ticket windows for re-checking and the people working there were an utter embarrassment…even to United. They appeared to have no idea what was going on. And thank goodness we noticed that one of our bags lost its sticker enroute before we re-checked it on the way to K.C. — else I’m sure it would have gone missing. The United people at the ticket window surely wouldn’t have noticed.

    When we were leaving Puerto Vallarta bound for San Francisco on Friday afternoon, we got to the gate area nice and early awaiting the announcement that United 1264 to San Francisco was waiting to board. The monitors were showing a boarding time 20 minutes later than the time stamped on our boarding passes, so it looked to us like there’d been a delay since the time that our passes were printed. We noticed that there were 4 flights to San Francisco within about 35 minutes of each other. We heard them calling for flight “eleven sixty-four to San Francisco” a couple of times, but didn’t pay any attention to it until they made a final boarding call. We walked up and the gate agent was very surly with us: “weren’t you listening to the announcements?” I tried to explain to her that 11 ≠ 12, but she didn’t want to hear that from me. When we got on the bus to the plane, we heard other passengers griping about the same topic, so we knew it wasn’t just us.

  • Getting back to Regensburg is never as quick or easy as it sounds, especially after that many hours in transit.

    There was a small chance that we’d be able to snatch our bags and race for the bus to take us to the train station in time to catch a train. But it took a long time for our bags to come off the belt, and the bus was a couple minutes late, and a detour on the bus route meant that we missed our first available train and had to take the second. So of course it was after 20:00 when we finally arrived in Regensburg.

  • Holiday Weekends are great, unless you don’t have any food in the house.

    We forgot that we were coming back on a Saturday night. We forgot that we’d likely not make it back until all stores were already closed. We forgot that we’d have to wait until Tuesday to buy any groceries. We forgot to leave some non-perishable food here waiting for us.

We’ll chalk it up to “lessons learned.” I guess that means there’s some Exil and Ganesha in our future until Tuesday.

zona recreativa — el último dia en el paradiso

puerto_vallarta_2006_zona_recreativa_06It’s good to obey local customs and laws and especially road signs when you’re traveling, so that’s what we did. This was a great way to wind up our trip. Thanks to Rachel and Aaron for lots of laughs and shared new experiences (we’re still waiting on the diving photos) y muchísimas gracias a mis padres por permiten que hacemos vacaciones en un lugar tanto fantástico.

farewell breakfast

Here’s where we had breakfast yesterday; we’re doing the same thing tomorrow morning early. Look how much Aaron and Rachel enjoyed the meal and the atmosphere! The staff at la casa de los hotcakes was great: we walked in 30 minutes before they closed and they still took very good care of us even after we hung around long afterwards. So, that’s what we’ve got planned for the farewell breakfast.

¡buenos dí­as de México!

Esperamos todavía al Malge y su novia Rachel, quien llegan mañana por la tarde, pero entretanto podéis ver mis fotos del tiempo hasta ahora.

Hemos nadado todos los días despues de llegar anteayer. Me quema el sol un poquito, pero (todavía) no es peligroso. Sarah tiene las pecas muy fuertes, pero no me permite sacar fotos de ella. Quizás mañana.

puerto_vallarta_2006_006 puerto_vallarta_2006_005 puerto_vallarta_2006_004 puerto_vallarta_2006_003 puerto_vallarta_2006_002 puerto_vallarta_2006_001 puerto_vallarta_2006_011 puerto_vallarta_2006_010 puerto_vallarta_2006_009 puerto_vallarta_2006_008 puerto_vallarta_2006_007

ok, honestly, we’re not eating 100% of the time…

…but we could be.

This trip, apart from visiting our much-missed friends and family members, has so far included:

  • Smokestack BBQ (man, I love their beans)
  • The Corner restaurant (Scramblefuls and Potatofuls)
  • Susie’s grilled pork tenderloins with jalapeño jelly
  • Susie’s potatoes au gratin
  • an A&W chili dog or two and a nice cold rootbeer to boot
  • Wolferman’s English muffins (the world’s best, as far as I’m concerned)
  • Pineapple-Orange juice (love it — just can’t find it anywhere in Germany!)

And yet to come are:

And we’ve even paid a visit to Costco (thanks Brian!), from which we’ll be bringing home some America-only non-perishables for our pals Harald & Evy.

We’ve come to realize that Germans do very, very well with pork. But you better save the beef for NAFTA.

Ay-ay-ay; i.e., “ie” or “ei”?

It bugs me when English speakers get the German pronunciation of sounds made by the vowel combinations “ie” and “ei” wrong — especially those English speakers who have lots of interaction with Germans and by extension lots of opportunities to practice reading these sounds. My much more tolerant wife explained to me why this happens so often:

  1. Those sounds are not represented consistently in English (think “receive” versus “achieve”).
  2. Not everyone knows the simple rule English speakers can use to pronounce “ie” or “ei” correctly everytime.

I can’t do anything about #1, but I can help you with #2, so here goes:

The sound that the combination “ie” or “ei” will make is always the same of the English name of the 2nd letter.

Thus, the electronics conglomerate is pronounced “see-mens” and not “sigh-mens” and the intellectual, moral, and cultural climate of an era is prounounced “zyte-guy-st” and not “zeet geest”. Likewise, it really is “franken-styne” and not “franken-steen,” despite what Gene Wilder’s character proclaims.