24 May 2019

Our Human is restless



Our BBF gets restless if he has to stay in one spot for long. Since birth and until we settled in Mönchgladbach he moved on average every two years. Sailing round the World didn’t help only made the restlessness more acute. Hanna fully realised this problem and so she always organised an adventure somewhere exotic every six months. Immediately after she died his first instinct was to “up sticks” and move on. He walked the first Camino instead and that changed much of his life. Since then we have walked two more Caminos and had a knee operation before going on a cycle pilgrimage to Trier! And then there were our fabulous trips to America and Canada!

This year, because he had promised his two daughters he would be there for their birthdays, followed shortly after by Christopher’s first communion he was stuck in one place for far longer than he liked. 

The answer he told us was to “get on my bike and bugger off”! So this is what he did, naturally taking us with him. 

There was no real plan just a general idea of cycling south via Aachen, on into Luxemburg and perhaps back via the Mosel river. Nothing was booked so we were free to cycle as we pleased and the mood took us.




We got to Aachen around lunchtime and our human had thought we would stay in the youth hostel. However, he decided to cycle on and chose a small town in Belgium to stop in.



We rang ahead having found a place with the “Bett und Bike” App and so this friendly place in Raeren is where we ended up the first night after a ride of some 72 Kms. 











This monument is to the fallen of the First World War, and though we are in Belgium it is all inscribed in the German language! 






The first day had started out grey and cold but in the morning of the second the sun shone and it lasted all day! 
  
Our BBF had selected Sankt Vith as our next destination but with a detour to Malmedy on the way. He has no paper maps or guide books only a number of Apps on his mobile phone. We used Komoot for the first two days! It generally worked well but we were never sure if it selected the best cycle route. To Malmedy it was up and down. Down at a rush of 50kmh is real fun, but the steady climb back up was hard work even with the motor. A thought always in the back of Alan‘s mind is will we get there with the power we have! 

After Malmedy we found ourselves on the Vennbahn. This is an old railway line turned into a cycle track and runs from Aachen to Troisverges some 125 kms with only a 2% gradient in parts! Had we known about it before hand we might have selected to travel all the way on it. 









This dam surprised us as it’s a Weser Dam! We had no idea Belgium had a Weser River too! 





Occasionally we would pass through a town and Alan stopped to look at this Cathedral! 



On the Vennbahn there are few places to stop and so we cycled on till we found our next place to stay in Sankt Vith which was the Youth Hostel! 





Fortunately we had the four bed room to ourselves though there were lots of junior school children in the hostel too! 

Another sunny start took us up hill and down dale again. 







An historic site with a hut to rest in. The boundary stone dates from the 17 century! 



Then we found ourselves back on the Vennbahn! 



But not for long as the railway tunnel on the route had been taken over by bats and was now closed to humans and bears! 





It was up hill into Luxemburg! 



The countryside is really beautiful and there is a constant smell of new mown hay in the air! 





A monument to an American pilot in the middle of nowhere.  

The route went through small villages and towns and had it been Spain then the odd little bar or cafe would have been open, but not so here! 



We had a fine view of Clervaux and an exhilarating ride down the hill to get into it. 



A well earned isotonic drink was called for with a wee bite to eat while our human scanned the Internet for a place to stay. As luck would have it, it was only 25 meters from where we were sitting! Now all we had to do was bridge the two hours until we could check in!







We did this by visiting the Battle of the Bulge museum in the castle.



The yellow building is our hotel.




The hotel has underground parking which includes a bike lockup with electric outlets! 

Alan showered and did his laundry! 






This is the view from our window! 
We wonder what our BBF has got planned for tomorrow?




7 November 2018

Farewell America

It is our final day in America and we know that many of our followers are wondering what we have been doing since returning to Connecticut from Canada. Terry and Jürgen, sometimes called George by us, for example are just to mention two friends who are the first to enquire how we are when we have not written a blog for awhile! Neither is on Facebook so they miss out on much of what happens to us on a daily basis.  It is our intention therefore, to try and recap the most interesting things we have done while here in Connecticut, for our non Facebook followers. These events we now mention will not always be in chronological order, but more as they reoccur to us.

Even before going to Canada Brec and Sandy took us on a days sail and lunch on a 19th century Mystic Whaler. This vessel was a schooner and though it had an engine all the sails were handled by pulling on hemp rope by human muscle power. We were blessed with a beautiful and warm autumn day with just enough wind to make the boat move slowly through the water.












We got on the boat in New London and sailed out on to Long Island Sound. It was a great day out with good food, good friends, for Brec's brother John and his wife Barbara came too and good conversation.

One of the other things our BBF likes is shopping, and so Sandy and he did a fair bit of that. A new department store opened in the Connecticut Post Mall and the prices were crazy with 30-70% reductions on the normal price tag. Mind you Alan gets confused about the prices for he always forgets that the price tag does not include the 6.35% sales tax which gets put on at the checkout!! Even so a couple of days of retail therapy and shop till you drop were much enjoyed. He also justified it to himself that what he was really doing was early Christmas shopping.

Before going off to Canada he had already posted a parcel to himself, but now he discovered that paying for an extra suitcase would be cheaper than sending another parcel. Sandy kindly gave him one too. This he has now packed, and it was touch and go to see if it all went in.

Cooking is another of Alan's passions and Sandy and he had great fun planning meals and dinner parties. She is kind enough to let Alan have complete run of her kitchen and so he enjoyed cooking for us all.

Brec and Sandy held two very successful dinner parties for us and invited to the first sailing friends. One couple we had met last time we were here, Scott and Kitty. They had done two circumnavigations many years ago, one without children and one with. Scott has a wicked sense of humour and is always fun to have at a party.      Ginny was a lady who had once had her own boat and had done the Atlantic circuit in it. The other couple who came to this "sailors party" were Gwen and Scott B. They were not only sailors themselves, but had a son out there circumnavigating as we speak and had transited the Panama Canal with him. As you can imagine the talk was of sailing and how the Panama canal has changed over the years. Alan was required to talk about his Camino experiences as every one was interested and some are considering doing one. Well we all know humans like talking about themselves and their experiences, but we Bears also got a mention and so all enjoyed the evening. Scott and Kitty have since said, "let us know, when the man with the bears is in town again, so that we can have him round to dinner too!"

Another party to talk about the Camino was held this time with the Pastor Kristina and her wife Lesley. They had walked the Camino in April this year, but we were very impressed to hear that they had also hiked the whole of the Appalachian Trail. Stories of hiking were exchanged and Camino experiences shared. Alan had made a Torta de Santiago for both these dinners.

Other less formal dinners were held with other friends and Bill the tennant too, so there was never a dull moment to be had.

Alan took us to New York a couple of times. We went back to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. This time we hoped to climb to the top of the statue, but sadly it was all booked up till December, however, we were able to book to get up to the top of the plynth.




It was another lovely day and the views on the ferry over were spectacular.







The Vikings were out hoisting sail, though as you can see these modern Vikings were not sailors as they hoisted the sail head to wind. Without the engine they would have been blown backwards!



But then we also saw a British aircraft carrier moored in the harbour. It has no aircraft, though that was, we thought the reason they were here - to get some!







The arm as seen from the inside.






Americans were given the statue by France and in these times with TRUMP as President they seem to have forgotten, that an American is either an Indigenous person, a relative of an immigrant or the relative of a slave! That the poor, homeless and persecuted of the world found a home in the USA and that they still seek to come here to escape persecution or poverty.



We moved on to the famous Ellis Island which was the reception station for  many of the immigrants. In the summer as you know we had been with Christopher in the emigration museum in Bremerhaven, which documented the many Europeans who had left those shores to find a better life in the Americas.



Now we saw where and how they had arrived in the USA.






We also saw that like now Americans had tried to deter immigrants from coming, as the cartoon shows they had attempted to pull away the bridge that had carried them and their fathers to these shores.



This cartoon showed in very graphic form what makes up an American. We particularly liked that his brain is made up of predominantly English and German folk!

Having had our fill of history and museums we returned to the shores of Manhattan and sought out a suitable hostilary for an early evening meal as we had missed lunch.





This monument is to the first Special Forces Soldiers that had been sent to Afghanistan immediately after the 9/11 attack to confront the Taliban. This has now been made into a film called 12 Strong.



We found a great Italian restaurant in the new World Trade Centre and had a seat which looked out onto the new One World Trade Centre Tower.



As the evening drew on Alan decided to take us for a walk over the Brooklyn Bridge. It seemed that every one else had the same idea for it was crowded.






But the walk gave us great views of Manhattan. We returned then to Milford, where Brec collected us from the station.



On another day we drove the truck Hartford to visit  the house of Samuel Clemens Longhorne otherwise known as Mark Twain. This was another of Brec's excellent ideas, for we would not have known he had lived so close.






Samuel had married a rich woman and so the house he lived in was paid for by his father-in-law. Only guided tours are offered and sadly one is not permitted to take photos inside the house. We learnt though that Samuel was very fond of cats and always had them about him, going to the extent of hiring some while away from home!



Some light refreshment was in order after this tour and then we discovered that a neighbour of Samuel's was Harriet Beecher Stowe the author of Uncle Tom's Cabin! Now this was the first book that our BBF had read at aged 14 or 15 that had moved him to tears!



This tour allowed us to take photos in the house, but first we had to have an intellectual discussion about the power of the written word.











These bound books are a copy of a petition from English women sent by Queen Victoria to Harriet to abolish slavery.




Brec took us on a couple of short hikes, one was above West Haven so we had some fine views of Yale Campus and the harbour. On another walk we went to the West Woods  by Guilford and this time he took his grandson Lucas with us.
























Alan then took us on a visit to Vincent's grandmother's cousin who lives up in Croton on Hudson in New York State. We had not met them before, but were given a very warm welcome coupled with very generous hospitality. By the end of our overnight stay we had increased our patchwork family by two lovely humans called Birgit and Jason.

On our way back to Milford we met Brec in Grand Central Terminal New York and he then took us to the New York Yacht Club. This is the New World's version of the Royal Yacht Squadron in Cowes on the Isle of Wight and is the mecca of sailing on this side of the pond.





Note the windows to the left of the door look like the stern of a Sailing Ship. These are the windows to the famous model room.



This is the entrance to the model room in which we were not permitted to take photos!



They at least have a sense of humour as this is the door to the men's loo!



We were given keys to the library and spent some time looking at the many old books they had on sailing.









We then had tea in the Blue room of the Algonquin Hotel before returning to Milford.



Pumpkin carving was a big family event and Tyson and his son Lucas came to carve pumpkins.



Alan carved two, too!






A number of trick or treaters came, but most were tiny tots and looked too sweet to frighten anyone.



Another of Brec's great ideas for us was that we should go visit West Point Military Academy. Again we took the truck on a two hour drive North up the Hudson to West Point.



On crossing the Hudson we discovered a Fort so pulled off to visit it as we had lots of time.



The fort had an information centre which was closed, but when the head discovered we were British he opened it just for us and gave us a personal guided tour. Now to our surprise we learnt that the 57th Foot (Middlesex Regiment) fought here and took the fort. This Regiment was the one Alan was commissioned into!



Washington, after loosing Fort Montgomery and Clinton further down the Hudson, decided that the bend in the river at West Point offered a better place for defence and so started the military presence at West Point which has become the oldest military base in the USA which has been in continuous use.



One can only do a guided tour of the grounds of West Point and so we registered for the two hour one






West Point is also a university for the 47 month course turns out Officers with a Bachelor of Science degree. The very first officers trained here were Engineer Officers.



The largest chapel on the campus was a Lutheran one.



We visited the cemetery which has an old part too, which contained many famous graves.



Mickey Marcus was the Colonel who formed and started the Israeli Army.



This man was the Staff Officer who planned the D-Day landings! Just say his name and initial of his second name, how odd is that!!



Stormin Norman's father, also a graduate of West Point is buried nearby.



This was the General that planned and commanded the Berlin Airlift!



And the citizens of Berlin added their gratitude to his memorial.



George Washington Goethals, another graduate of West Point was the man charged with the administration and the supervision of the building of the Panama Canal.






At first Custer was buried at Little Bighorn, but his wife made such a fuss that his body was brought back to West Point.




At Trophy Point there are canons from some of the wars that formed the USA. The Revolutionary War (1775-1783), War of 1812 (1812-1815) when we Brits burnt down the White House! The Mexican War (1846-1848) and the American Civil War (1861-1865).



There are great views across the Hudson from here.



Constitution Island which is where there was also a fort and to where the great chain went which the Revolutionaries  put across the river to prevent the English from sailing up river.




One of those cannons, smile he said you are on Candid Camera!



Part of the great chain which went across the river.



After the tour we spent a good couple of hours in the West point museum, which was very interesting to those interested in Military History. In the basement they had weapon exhibits and here you see us by a mockup of "Fat Boy" the first Atomic Bomb!!






Before making the two hour journey back, as we had missed lunch we stopped for a burger and were served by a very pregnant lady in a Pooh Bear costume as it was Halloween. What is scary about Pooh Bear?




On one lovely autumn day Sandy took us to a place up in North Connecticut for a lunch. She had heard that Hopkins Inn was an Austrian Restaurant and that they served a Wiener Schnitzel, which is one of her favourites.



The drive gave us fine views of the foliage and the views from the restaurant which was on a hill were fabulous and made the hour and a half journey more than worth while.



The humans had a great lunch and then drove home again, this time on a slightly different route thanks to Google Earth, so enjoyed the ride back too.




Brec interrupted his hard work preparing for his Open Studios next weekend 10/11 November to take us to the Yale Museum of British Art.






Father time telling us we have little enough so we must carpe diem!



We first were in the main galleries and saw Turners and Constables as well as Hogarths but then Brec took us into the library where as he is an artist and a member of the American Society of Marine Artists asked to view some Turner 1775-1851 original sketches.








Now we felt very privileged as you can see we were able to look at 200 year old original sketches by a master without a screen of glass.



Tea and scones were consumed in a bookstore cafe next door before returning for the day.



One evening Sandy took us to the opening in the Connecticut Post Mall of a new Dave and Buster's Place. This is a cocktail and sports bar. We had some free drinks and eats and were able to play a number of games for free. Christopher would be interested to know that there was a Mario Rio 2016 game which he has played on the computer, there.



It was a noisy place, so not really a place to stay too long for our human who is hearing challenged. 



Just the other day we had another wonderful Autumn day so Alan went for a last walk along the beach which is only at the end of the road.





Being by water, particularly the sea has a calming effect on our human and so he enjoyed a calm moment before the hectic of the return journey.

It will be a wrench leaving here. From constantly being together with two people who are the closest humans we know, more like brother and sister, and suddenly being alone again, will be hard for our BBF. If you have ever seen the TV series "the Waltons", you may remember that at the end of the program they talk to each other while in bed, saying "good night John Boy" at the end. Well if Alan sneezes in his bedroom upstairs, Sandy says " Bless you" from down stairs. These wooden houses have just very thin internal walls. There will be no one now responding to sneezes!! But we know that there are plans for Sandy and Brec to come to Europe and to visit us early next Spring, so we will hold on to that. It has been a great time here in America and God willing, we will return.