18 June 2015

Back Order Hell

When did we start this master bathroom reno? February-March-April? It should have been done by now. The tile guy was willing and able. Within two weeks, I'd selected and purchased all the fittings--light fixtures, shower enclosure, mirrors, faucets, towel bars, heated towel rack, shower seat, etc.



The Quartz vanity top was ordered--a bit of a delivery and installation hassle, but delivered with sinks and faucets installed by early May.


Then everything came to an abrupt halt. The greige (Camo) subway tile was back-ordered, not to be produced until mid-June. Ugh! I considered finding another tile, but being in no real hurry decided to wait it out. There are boxes stacked along one wall in the master bedroom and also in the garage.

Actually, this is the entry before we moved everything to the master bedroom.


One 3-week European vacation later, the tile has been back-ordered again--until September! Yes, grey subway tile is a scarcity. The salesman talked several times to the rep and even checked with another tile manufacturer. Their back-order date is out even further than the company we've ordered from. (I tried several times to get that preposition away from the end of the sentence, but finally gave up.)


So, listen up! Horde any grey subway tile you find. According to the law of supply and demand, prices are sure to rise.


Or, maybe this scarcity now just means that in 20 years there will be tons of DIYers scraping grey tiles off bathroom and kitchen walls; filling up landfills. Right on top of all those granite counter tops and stainless steel appliances that are so, so in demand right now.


01 June 2015

The Week, She Flew


Unreliable Internet, save for several forays into McDonald's along the way, discouraged daily posts so this one's catch-up. We kept a comfortable routine--after I collapsed early evening Sunday and Monday before dinner and fell asleep for the entire night(s)

Zeller Sea
A sunnier day. DM and LG at Zell am See in 2009.



On Thursday we drove the short distance (@38km) to beautiful Zell am See--the drive taking about 1-1/2 hours due to road construction and one lane traffic patterns on 311. There was the dawning realization that this was the route we'd expected to drive in two days to Innsbruck, and the wavering in our will to do so.

Then, there was construction all along the shoreline access, as the Grand Hotel is being refurbished as well as a number of other sites throughout Zell am See. We did make it to the Promenade and the Zeller See is a gorgeous site. Many were taking the electric boats out on the lake, but we were content to sit and take in the beauty.


On Friday we drove the very short distance (4km) from Sankt Johann to Leichtensteinklamm (klamm being gorge), then hiked up and into, then above the klamm through dripping caves and along the rushing mountain stream, to the dramatic waterfall. Though not a long hike, the caverns can be dark and slippery, and I was ever grateful for the handrails. Caution: You will get wet. You will be chilled.

CA decided we would not miss out seeing Eagle's Nest this trip, so we headed out early Saturday for Hallein--near Salzburg--then crossed the border into Bavaria and drove to Berchtesgaden-Königssee. We spent some WiFi time at McDonald's in Hallein, arriving at the tourist office just before noon. Seems reservations are required, but we could take our chances and check back at 1:00pm--the tour goes once a day at 1:15pm. Dumb luck and happenstance allowed us to actually get to Eagle's Nest.

This is a 4-hour tour (Gilligan's was just a 3-hour cruise!) the bus tour took us up and around the mountain as our guide pointed out locations and remains of the Third Reich's glory days and Martin Bormann's idealistic plans and Alfred Speers designs for housing and agriculture for the pure race they envisioned for the Fatherland.

We also hiked through a web of bunkers (accessed from the museum)--prepared to house Hitler and his deputies if the Allies threatened bombing. Interestingly, while Bormann and Goerring's homes were across from each other, their bunkers were not connected as they didn't much like each other.

Did I mention this was a rainy day? No matter, the Bavarians are a hearty lot and expect the same from their guests, so we scurried between raindrops toward the shuttle busses that make the ascent to Eagle's Nest. Finally walking through the brick tunnel (Hitler's one-lane private drive) and into the large polished brass-lined elevator that delivers you (and 41 of your nearest and dearest) into the middle of the teahouse.

Outside the teahouse, snow is mounded. The 360° views are incredible--once the weather cleared and the clouds lifted. A very short hike above the beer garden is the actual mountaintop.

It's a well-known fact that Hitler rarely visited this teahouse 50th birthday present (14 times), conceived by Bormann and constructed by immigrant workers in over just 14 months of round-the-clock 12-hour shifts, through all kinds of inclement weather. At the same time the cliff-hugging and narrow roads were also built. The only way down the mountain was to walk, and many of the building materials were brought up in the same way until construction of a cable car was completed. That cable car was designated for the building materials and never as transport for the workers.

A very long day. And, a very wet one.

Sunday morning found us up, packed, and departing Sankt Johann by 8:00am, with a quick stop at our favorite Cafe Bauer for coffee-to-go. Our 1-1/2 hour flight from Munich to Amsterdam was a bit delayed from the scheduled 1:05pm, then at Schipol Airport we found there were no trains direct to Central Station due to weekend construction. We were instead bussed to another train station (in a very well-organized and polite manner) finalizing our journey with arrival at Central Station and a short cab ride to the Marriott, very near Leidseplein.


It was pouring rain in Amsterdam, but we were undetered and found our way (on recommendation of the Marriott desk clerk) to Castell at 252-254 Lijnbaangracht for grilled steaks and salads. This is a grotto-like space where you relax into low leather sofas, and your meal is served on lap trays. Quirky, for sure, but excellent food and very hospitable servers.


29 May 2015


Outlander Series by Diana Gabaldon


Crazy sleep patterns since arriving in Alpenland. I'm certainly getting plenty of rest, but by 5:00am I'm ready to meet the world. That's the beauty of staying in a hotel-like environment, along with daily maid service and fresh towels--the lobby is always open. And, well-lit for reading.

I brought all four of these books (@1000 pages each) in my carry-on. I know! That's what the Kindle app is all about. I just love holding a book, and didn't want all my reading "eggs" in the iPad Mini basket.


The clouds hung so low over the mountains yesterday and there was a feeling of rain all day, along with actual showers. Around lunchtime we were headed from Werfen to Zell am See, driving into masses of dark grey clouds when we realized that walking lakeside was not in the cards. Those clouds wouldn't be lifting soon and we'd best wait for a brighter day for enjoying that beautiful spot.

via: urbanghostsmedia.com


We'd spent the morning at the Hohenwerfen castle in Werfen--taking the lift up to the top, enjoying a display of falconry, touring the castle, and reveling in the breathtaking views. And, mostly keeping dry.

Today we're heading to Salzburg. Revisiting the streets familiar from two previous visits, planning on visiting a few sights, but mostly set on enjoying another day in beautiful Austria.

Basilica St. Michael, Mondsee, Austria

LG and Marielle at Basilica St. Michael in 2009


We decided to first bypass Salzburg--north and a bit east to Mondsee. JA, LG and I had visited on our Sound of Music Tour in 2009 and I remembered the beautiful church which was the site of Maria and Captain von Trapp's wedding in the movie--Basilica St. Michael. A simply gorgeous church, and a beautiful historic center at Mondsee.

A lovely day in Mirabelle Gardens. Many tour groups are enjoying Salzburg today, but it's not as crowded as during past visits. We people watch in Residenz Platz near the Dom, eventually finding a cafe for Sacher Torte and Appelstrudel with warmed Creme Anglaise (vanilla sauce).


Schloss Helbrun 2009

The Sound of Music tour 2009.
Across from villa used for terrace scenes in TSOM


As we drive out of the city we pass the entrance to the Schloss Helbrun, where the gazebo from TSOM now resides.

We'd planned to enjoy some of the fresh asparagus offerings from the hotel's Paugner Stube, but it's unexpectedly closed this evening. So, we find a very walkable and charming pub--Platzl--for dinner. CA enjoys the salmon fettuccine, while I order the mixed grill which includes steak, pork tenderloin, chicken, and a sausage! Also, mixed vegetables and, as usual, pomme frites. I make a valiant effort, but that's a LOT of meat.

25 May 2015

Sankt Johann im Pongau

CA and my separate departure itineraries came together at the airport in Munich without a hitch. Figuring out the GPS in our rental car was and is the greater challenge. We were more than relieved that the entire road trip between Munich and St. Johann im Pongau was in daylight hours.


Our hotel is in the village center, which is always something we appreciate as we can explore on foot, and there are many cafes and restaurants in close proximity.


Cafe Bauer, Sankt Johann I'm Pongau
Austrians seem very in touch with their cultural past.
In every town, folk clothing is available for purchase.


After walking about, finding an ATM and a perfect cafe for breakfast, we spent our first full day in the Austrian Alps exploring areas that JL and I had visited in 2009--with DMs family. We chose the circuitous and mountainous Route 164 toward Maria Alm--this is the same mountain road JL and I had attempted to traverse in the middle of the night in the tiny Citroen. Certainly, the scariest driving I've ever experienced as the road was totally unfamiliar, narrow and steep, with a rushing mountain stream on our left. The small car just didn't have enough power to cart two grandmas with heavy luggage.

I wasn't able to pinpoint the exact geography of the 2009 debacle, but driving the route in daylight with CA caused me to again whisper prayers of gratitude. It still amazes us that throughout that horrible, defeating experience we were kept completely safe.

Maria Alm; May 24


LG and MK in May 2009
Marielle and LG; 2009

Turns out that Monday is a Catholic holiday in Austria, so all shops and businesses are closed, except for a few cafes, restaurants, and gas stations. We've a beautiful 60° spring day, and while a great deal of our site-seeing is from a car, Austrians are out in great numbers hiking, biking, para-sailing... We stop just beyond Saalfelden to explore a cable car set-up that transports bikers and their bikes to the top of a mountain. They then mount their bikes and point them downslope for what is obviously a fast and thrilling (and dirty) descent.

YuWe drive to the other St. Johann--this one Sankt Johann im Tirol. While not deserted, because of the holiday the Zentrum is quiet today with a few families and tourists sprinkled about. We find a promising restaurant for an leisurely lunch, sitting outside in the beautiful square. We both opt for the Schnitzel--how can we not? We're in Austria.

Lovely mixed salad that accompanied my schnitzel.

The return trip along the same mountain road is punctuated by many fast motorcycles, thrilling to the curves and switchbacks. If they'd just keep to their side of this narrow route!

I'd describe the remainder of our first day and evening, but instead must confess that I succumbed to the god of jet-lag and managed to mostly sleep from mid-afternoon until 5:00am today. Hopefully, I'm all caught up and ready for a full week of the gorgeous Austrian Alps.



18 May 2015

At the Beach; Officially Summer

The Fun Kids, Cincinnati group, got a break from school and a taste of summer as we all headed for a beach vacation--Ocean Beach Club at Virginia Beach. This is our third trip together to OCB--LC's first trip was in-uetro but still, he was there!

We breakfasted at Pocahontas a few times; a tradition and it's just across Atlantic Avenue from OCB.

Tons of pool-time.

And, we chased waves both on Virginia Beach and at nearby Croatan Beach, a family favorite.

A new discovery this week is the 10th Floor Terrace with a huge fire pit--just next-door at Oceanaire and accessible to OCB guests. A great place to hangout when the sun goes down and the temperatures dip a bit.