A Plumbing Museum? I Can’t Wait!

I am willing to bet the majority of you have no idea there is a plumbing museum in Germany. I KNOW! I can just hear your excitement building as you realize this may be the topic of this blog entry. Fear not, the only one who is faintly disappointed is Honey.

We left the Camping Platz with the knowledge that Chatterbox must have a cuckcoo clock before we left the Black Forest. That was the mission of the day, the Muppets were all on high alert in search of a cuckcoo clock shop. It was very important for several reason, 1> she would not stop talking about how important it was to her 2> did I mention we wanted to stop hearing about how important it was to her?

The first stop of the day was early morning around 9:00 AM. We entered into a little village called Schiltach. Charming little place that was filled with steep hills and gingerbread type cottages. We would find our way through the cobblestone streets to discover tour bus and caravan parking was a gazillion miles away from the village square. Fair enough, out we would go for a walk. The charm of the place was adorable. We came to the village water well, where we imagined women fetching water to bring home. Behind the well was an outdoor cafe! We all desired a beverage on the crisp morning. Pots of chocolate for everyone, except two elder Muppets, their beverage of choice was coffee. There was something so quaint and very European about sipping our hot beverages at a table that stood in the middle of a cobblestone square.

This was when I heard Honey exclaim, “LOOK AT THAT SIGN!”

Huh, it was a blue tourist sign that read “Hansgrohe”. What was the big deal about Hansgrohe? For those of you that don’t know, my Honey works in the plumbing industry – no he isn’t a plumber but is handy with a leaky faucet. Apparently we were at the Head Quarters for the amazing shower-head company. Not that I knew how amazing these shower heads were, because you know the old adage “the cobbler’s wife has no shoes”. Yes, that is me with not a fancy shower-head in the house. Best part of all? THERE WAS A MUSEUM! Off ran Honey and Genetic Offspring to the museum, they would meet up with us later. The rest of the Muppet Crew decided to pass on that particular adventure. To his incredible disappointment, the place was close. Awwwww. He did thrill us with tales of the size and scope of the place, then he talked about other fascinating bits but my mind wandered off at this point. I did try to listen, I really did, but I just don’t understand the inner workings of hardware. Sorry Honey.

Time to move on! We had other places to see. Yes we were still in search of a cuckcoo clock shop for Chatterbox. Next stop Vogsbauerhof the Black Forest Open Air Museum. We had no idea what an open air museum was. Fresh air was a special thing here? No, lots of it was around. Curiosity go the better of us so away we went. We saw a VW Beetle with big red balls on top. We weren’t sure what those were, I suspect cherries but if any of you know, please tell me! We found the place to be very similar to Fort Edmonton or other outdoor museums we had visited back home in Canada. It struck me that farming and pioneering efforts in the past 500 years hadn’t changed much. Not much to see here people, keep moving!

Then it happened. The Cuckcoo Clock Shop was spotted! Slamming of the brakes followed by the Muppets running across the street leaving the driver in a cloud of dust. We had found the very place that Chatterbox had desired. Honey, of course made friends with the owner Adolf Herr and invited him to visit us. Genetic Offspring was looking to buy beer-steins for all his friends but settled on hats. Honey bought a blown-glass Christmas Ornament in the very place that is famous for them. The rest of us thought we would save our cash for Paris. My mom informed me this was the very place we had been to years before when I was 10. The very shop where I had purchased my own Cockcoo Clock that had proceeded to annoy me for years to come.

Now Chatterbox owns one that annoys us all.

When we got home, I was presented with a Hansgrohe Shower-Head, and it is awesome.

European Deportation was Imminent had Duct Tape not Saved the Day

The Merry Band of Muppets arrived in Germany in one piece, barely. It had nothing to do with the speed traveling down the Autobahn, it had nothing to do with eating Ikea 5 star cuisine, nor did it have anything to do with being kidnapped by my neighbor‘s cousin’s sister.

We almost ran out of duct tape.

My dad is a genius, not the Wiley E. Coyote kind, a real honest to goodness one. Or he is just an experienced traveler. I vote for genius because Christmas is coming and I want to remind him I am his favorite daughter. (thank me later Dad!) Mom and Dad brought Mrs. Statler to Europe 2 months before the rest of the Muppets showed up. My sister arrived to travel around with them a short time later. Then our Muppet Cast showed up. The important thing to remember is, my family is filled with seasoned travelers. We each have a “just in case” case. In Dad’s is a mega roll of Duct Tape.

Duct Tape is not the prettiest form of adhesive in spite of the fashionable colours. Dad likes to think of himself as a well dressed man, just like Johnny Cash, so Black Duct Tape was his colour of choice.

When we arrived in Paris, we were greeted by my mom at the arrivals gate, we were shuffled in to the Caravan as it screeched to a halt. We quickly jumped in and sat at the table beside Mrs. Statler. I looked around the tiny space that was to be our home for the next week and I noticed black squares of duct tape placed in a random patterns all over the inside of the caravan. I didn’t ask. I didn’t need too. I knew I was traveling with the senior section of the Muppet Cast of Characters. For some unknown reason, things always run amuck.  Between you and me, I believe it has everything to do with the caravan being made of cardboard and string, and nothing that has any barring on the Senior Muppets.

By the time we reached Germany, every cupboard and drawer in that place was broken. The cargo net on the upper bunk, broken. The pull-out steps to escape the caravan, broken. The Fridge Door, broken. Dad’s Camera, broken. Main window shade, broken. Duct Tape fixed everything. Including holding the batteries inside Dad’s camera. Even Phoebe needed to be taped to the dashboard. When we arrived at Bacharat in Germany, the roll was nearly empty. We had discussions around the need to secure more, but in the end, we decided to have a little faith.

In the end we did indeed have enough. Dad went home with a very tiny piece of duct tape.

When in Doubt, Hang on Tight!

Have you ever driven you vehicle and came across a sign that made you question why you were there or what the sign meant in the first place? I did, the entire time we were in Germany. I am not talking about the language. For some unknown reason, I can read German and pick out enough words to figure out the meaning. I was either a reader of German Literature in another life, or I am a genius. I am going with genius.

After the Muppets had their fill of meatballs from Ikea, we loaded back into the Caravan and headed for the Rhineland in Germany. My Dad handed Honey the keys and said “you drive for a while”. WOW! This meant I got a break from boomerang fish, singing chickens, and Fozzy’s knock knock jokes because I could Navigate! Remember I had packed my “just in case” case before I left. In it was our trusted GPS Phoebe. We call her Phoebs for short. She isn’t too bright, she likes to think she is in control, she prefers the Autobahn and she talks too much, but mostly I liked her company and was very happy she joined us on the trip.

Let it be known I prefer country roads. It gives me a better sense of the country of origin’s culture. Motorways and Cities seem to be the same all over the world, fast, large and loud. Apparently Phoebe likes fast. She must have been in consultations with my mom earlier in the day. Mom and informed us over breakfast that this was to be a driving day. Great! I couldn’t wait to get to Germany! The route Phoebe took us on was straight and fast. But the signs were puzzling. Dad had given us some advice before his nap, he said “if you see a windsock sign, whatever you do, HANG ON TIGHT!” Sure, sure dad…whatever you say. How bad could it be? We weren’t near the Alps, we weren’t very high up. No problem, right? HA! We came to a bridge on the Autobahn that was so high up, I could not see the ground below. It span was wide and there were windscreens on the bridge itself. Phoebe was having a great time going as fast as possible, while Honey and I said, “Zoinks Scoob!” (not really but this is a family blog). We held on for dear life! Obviously we made it safely to the other side, but it was nerve racking and a very exciting! I am a prairie girl from Canada, this kind of speed and height is just not a common occurrence!

Phoebe brought us straight to Baden-Baden, showing us a few signs that were new to us:

As we were driving lightning fast down the Autobahn, we thought we were travelling in circles because all roads lead to Ausfahrt.

Of course we figured out that meant EXIT! So maybe I wasn’t a genius after all, but now I know more today then I did yesterday!

Nothing Says “Netherlands Cuisine” Quite like Meatballs!

When you think about traveling to Europe, what are the things you hope to see and do? For us, the merry band of Muppets, we had hoped to see things you only read about, try new and exciting things we had never done before, and taste the most marvelous concoctions.

We left Bruges early morning on the 4th of October. We were camping in a caravan. That complication meant packing up every morning was a wee bit complicated. This was morning two of our trip so we were starting to get the routine down. Mrs. Stadler, the senior Muppet in the group, needed to eat eggs on Tuesday. This was important to her, for the rest of the Muppet cast, we could care less what we ate for breakfast as long as there was coffee. Monday morning came, and my mom made eggs. Mom makes the most fluffiest scrambled eggs you could ever imagine. Dad made coffee laced with French dairy. I thought I had died and went to heaven. Beats toast and lemon curd any day! You would think this would be a food highlight for me but the day just kept getting better.

We quickly packed up the campsite, we became very fast and would average just under an hour and a half. This may seem like an extremely long time, but that is from the moment we opened our eyes, until we were on the road. The great thing about my family of Muppets is, we don’t waste time. Sure we cause quite the ruckus trying to complete the tasks, sure there are plenty of disasters trying to complete the tasks, but that is what increases the funny and zany quality of our family vacations!

The plan that day was to drive to Bacharach, Germany and camp along the Rhine, a 432km journey that would take us through the Netherlands. This was great news! We may get a chance to try some traditional Dutch fair, like Erwtensoep, or maybe Filosoof! We crossed the border close to lunch time, so the plan was to stop and eat lunch at a cafe or bistro then move on to find a grocery store so we could make dinner in the caravan later that night. As we approached Heerlen, we were all given instructions to peer out the window and search for a possible rest stop that included a cafe of some sort. Out the window we looked, reading signs that made no sense to us. Then my Dad found it, the very place that Mrs. Stadler had been dreaming of the entire trip. Her excitement was too much for us, and the Muppet Cast shared in her enthusiastic cheer! We had found Ikea!

Oh glorious Ikea! Home to the cheapest food on earth that didn’t come out of Styrofoam. Dad pulled in, parked, while the rest of us ran to the doors and left him in a cloud of dust. The best part was, there was a SPECIAL! Two plates of Swedish meatballs for the price of one. How lucky were we?  14 Euros later my family was full and happy.

French groceries made breakfast in Belgium, Swedish lunch was consumed in the Netherlands and for dinner, it was German Schnitzel on the Rhine. 5 countries came together to provide a very international day of feasting. It tasted like we never left Canada. I guess we are very European indeed!

Do You Know My Neighbor’s Friend’s Cousin’s Sister’s Nephew?

Have you ever traveled outside your country and met someone who asks you where you are from? Usually it is some guy who says, “My Neighbor’s Friend’s Cousin’s Sister’s Nephew lives in Alaska, do you happen to know them?” I always ask their name then politely answer, “No, I don’t think we’ve met. I don’t get out much!” In case you didn’t know, Canada is a large country. Oh you knew that? Well then, Canada has a smallish population about 32 million. Slightly less than the population of California, which sits at 36 million. The chances of me traveling to Belgium and meeting a family member of someone I know is slim to none. Or is it?

The last time we chatted about my travels to Europe was here, before that it was here.  This is the story about the time I went to Bruges.

The entire cast of the Muppet Show was slightly rested and full of chocolate by the time we reached Bruges. This was a place that my Mom dreamed of going. I am THRILLED she thought it was worthy of sharing it with my clan. We arrived after lunch and drove the streets looking for somewhere to park the caravan. Keep in mind, the streets were built at a time where donkey’s ruled the earth by pulling carts. The Urban planners in those days did not share the foresight that today’s planners have. They may have envisioned Oxen pulling carts, but never the Jules Vern version of a caravan.

Dad had the good fortune of negotiating the narrow streets with the cast of Muppets in the back. He found a spot and carefully just stopped where he felt like it and went to find the pay station deserted us. There was a knock on the door, and Honey answered it in the most polite possible way for a Canadian. The Police Officer said in a less than Canadian manner, “Can’t park here! MOVE!” Then his eyes caught the glitter of a Canadian pin on my Honey’s lapel. The Officer’s demeanor changed and he smiled, “Canadian?”

“YES!”, we all cheered the way only Muppets do. If you have ever met my Honey, the you know he has the gift of gab and can make friends with ANYONE. The two struck up a conversation and chatted about the trip, flight, cost of living, plight of the Tiger, parking, and then the question came… Where are you from because I have family in Sherwood Park. You know the sound a needle makes on a vinyl record as it stops? That was the sound in the caravan. The Muppets stopped the boomerang fish from flying, muzzled the chickens, and even Waldorf and Stadler eased up on the wisecracks.

THE MAN SAID SHERWOOD PARK!

Sherwood Park is a tiny little place east of Edmonton. The entire Muppet Cast, except Honey, was FROM Sherwood Park! What are the chances? SHERWOOD PARK! Suddenly, he was family, we became home sick and no…we didn’t know the brother, but it didn’t matter. We now had a friend and allies who would show us the way to parking! His directions were exemplary. We found caravan parking. We were now able to go out and explore Bruges, sample the best Belgium Waffles dripping in chocolate, eat frits and mayo, indulge in rich creamy coffee and enjoy the wonderful city of Bruges. The swans were beautiful, the Architecture was stunning, the cruise on the canal was enchanting. All because we knew a guy who had a brother that was the neighbor of the sister of someone we didn’t know.

If you ever get to Bruges, ask if you could speak to the Police Officer whose brother is a neighbor of the sister of someone the Edmonton Tourist doesn’t know, and say Hi!

It’s Time to Get Things Started, It’s Time to Light the Lights…

The Muppet Show
Image via Wikipedia

I have come to the conclusion that my life has become a series of Muppet Show moments, and I am Kermit the Frog trying to orchestrate all the zany characters of my life. This morning as I left for work… I need to back up to the night before.

Last night no, I need to back up further. Several nights ago I bought some anti-nausea medication for my upcoming trip. On extended flights I can become quite ill, mostly because of the recycled air in the airplane cabin. The anti-nausea meds work quite well for both Chatter Box and I, and has the added benefit of blissful unconscious sleep. My honey, in his infinite wisdom decided to try an anti-nausea meds last night to see if it would have any adverse effects on him. In the morning, he had errands to run because of the last minute detail planning I have done. We talked about the plans the night before, but before I left for work there was a “WAIT! What do I need to do?”  He made a list the night before but he was very groggy and didn’t seem to understand a thing I was saying.

Years before when we took our eldest child at the ripe old age of 7 months to Australia. This meant 27 hours of airports and airtime. I don’t recommend it with a 7 month old but hind sight is 20/20. I was quite ill on the way down under. For the trip back I decided to take an anti-nausea med in Hawaii for the last leg of the trip. I took it in the hotel. After that I do not remember a thing until my parents picked us up in Edmonton. I do not remember changing planes in Vancouver. Nothing, that part of my history is a total blank. My poor Honey dragged me, 3 pieces of luggage, 2 carry-on, a baby AND me through 3 airports. Needless to say, I was not the favorite person on that trip.

So Karma came to visit me this morning and she wasn’t very kind. I talked to my honey 3 times about the list and left for work, stopping to treat myself to a Cafe Latte. By the time I got to work, I learned that all our money that we had been saving and converting into Euros was ( insert foreboding music here) was GONE! Well, isn’t that just craptastic! The first thing out of his mouth was, where did you put it? Excuse me? I wasn’t planning this trip, yes it was hard for me but I let others take the reins. I listed several possibilities of where the money could be. We have since learned that Honey is a squirrel. Money here, money left in this place, and money other there! Back and forth went text messages and emails and a few phone calls. Work was stressful enough. Clients had called me names, and not very flattering names. So I was dealing with this and putting out fires at home. Happily my partner was back, so we were at full complement. Work moved along at a fairly smooth rate. By lunch time, I had received email from my mother telling me about some details in Europe. She explained things to me in such a way that I needed to reassure her that her bossy daughter would be there soon and together we would rule the world! Well, our portion of it anyways. I explained to her about the Muppet Show Shenanigans that had happened earlier in the morning. I could feel her laugh from around the world. The good news is our money was not lost, squirreled away. All the money is found and orders have been given in regards to packing.

I am feeling better about things because I let Bossy Boots out of the box. I am going to let her come with me, clearly she will be needed. She packed the “Just in Case” bag and is thrilled at the opportunity to go to Europe. Even if it is with the Muppets.

Here are two videos for you to watch while I am gone. Hopefully they will remind you of me. It’s okay if you miss me,because I will miss you too!