Sunday, July 23, 2006

Ironing is very European

Several months ago I ran out of spray starch so when I was at the market, I headed towards the laundry detergent isle in pursuit of a new can. I scanned the shelves for spray starch and found the usual 50,000 different kinds of detergents, fabric softeners and bleach, but no spray starch!

This can't be, I thought. People still iron here don't they? I admit that in the past ironing has been one of the chores that I did on an "as needed only" basis, and only after all other wrinkle removing remedies had failed. Thus, my depleted can of spray starch was a tad on the old side.

Since my husband's promotion however, ironing was back on my weekly task list as he was now expected to show up in more presentable attire than the casual cool & crazy clothing that was the norm in his prior position. Which puts me back in the detergent isle, searching for the darn can of spray starch.

After about 10 minutes of reading every product name on the shelves, I happened to glance at the very bottom shelf. There I spied the familiar cylindrical cans of spray starch, looking rather bland and unassuming in the midst of all the brightly colored rainbow boxes of new and improved miracle powders, liquids and gels. Spray Starch! They even carried it in two types: Original and Heavy! (I bought a can of each).
German Laundry Starch
Fast forward to my vacation in Germany this summer when I was in a German grocery store looking for detergent for our RV. The very first thing I saw, right at eye level, was an entire shelf dedicated to ironing and starch!German Liquid Starch They had far more than just two kinds, too!German Spray Starch They had liquid starch, and spray starch in at least 4 different strengths, and starch to put in the wash, and starch for silks, starch for rainy days and starch for when you get the blues....(for a stiff upper lip??).

What does this mean? Are Americans running around wrinkled and creased? If they are, I had never noticed...Germans do seem to look well pressed, and my mother-in-law did seem to have a slight obsession with me ironing her son's shirts (or not ironing them to be exact)...But bottom shelf treatment in the US compared to the coveted eye level shelf placement in Germany?

Talk about cultural differences!

Friday, July 21, 2006

There's No Place Like Home

It has been a great vacation this year and we visited many beautiful places, ate great food and had adventures with the different languages. Still, I can't wait to get home! Just finished packing for tonight and tomorrow we will get up early and drive to the airport.

See you back in the States!


Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Yes, Venice Is Worth The Trip

Just wanted to add a quick note before they come and toss us out of our hotel room! It's just me and the kids now, hubby had to get back to work and we are staying a few days longer in Germany (We are going to go to a spa!! but more on that later).

Venice was absolutely magnifico! I took pictures but they don't come close to doing it justice. Here is a picture taken from the ferry boat on the Grand Canal:Gran Canale in Venezia, Italia!

And here is a picture of St. Marks Square:

There is no other place like this in the world. Make the trip if you can.


PS...I am off to nab some great spa secrets which I will share on RH. I am a beginning spa goer so you'll have to be patient!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Where to Park an RV in Venice, Italy

Aren't I just full of useful tips? So, when I left off we were headed to Venice proper in our 5 meter long, almost 3 meter tall RV that we rented in Munich. The RV we rented in Munich GermanyIt is sweltering hot and I am wondering if Venice is really all it is cracked up to be, and wouldn't we be better off heading toward some nice beach somewhere? So we wind up at the central bus station right next to the first canal. There are a few public parking spaces, but most of them are earmarked for civil servants of some sort and have ominous looking signs showing your car being towed away.
We actually considered taking a calculated risk and parking our gigantasaur in one of them with the rationale that they would have to go to considerable effort to tow the RV, and would most likely have to move other cars to get at it. We were pretty sure that no Italian would be in the mood to take on such a project since they were still in the throes of winning the 2006 World Cup the night before, an event so large that time stood still in Italy for a bit, enemies became friends and just about everybody stopped what they were doing to drive their cars through the streets honking and waiving the Italian flag. I can't even think of a comparison for the US. Moon landing maybe?
Anyway, our good sense got the better of us and we decided against it. Then I saw a mechanic with a garage that would clear our RV and had the bright idea that maybe it was time to have the oil changed on our new rolling home. I think I am not the first one to try this, however, because he was on to me right away and was in no mood to do any work. Italy was the world champion after all.
He did give me directions to a place where he claimed that "Tuto Wohnmobile" (Italian/German meaning "All the RVs") could park. Since I speak not a word of Italian, I just tried to decipher his enthusiastic arm movements and we set off in the general direction that he seemed to be the most excited about.
After driving in the same circle 3 times, and unsuccessfully trying to fit ourselves in to one of the big parking garages (parking for normal sized vehicles seemed to be plentiful), we headed back to the big long bridge and decided to see if there were any more exits past the one on our circular tour. All of a sudden the flaw in our plan became obvious. We were not thinking like a bus! I mean, what place in the world has more tour buses rolling in than Venice, Italy? So there we had our answer and we just followed the line of buses into a roofless parking paradise the size of several football fields and were directed to our very own parking spot. The end.

PS, if you should happen to try this, answer "Yes" when the attendant asks you if you are going to take a boat ride. You have to decide yourself what your answer will be to the second question, but the first one is a definite "Yes".

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Europe American Style

We all know that Americans love their RVs, and that there is a formidable army of RVEAs (Recreational Vehicle Enabled Americans) in the US ready and able to hit the road at the drop of a hat, but did you know that it is quite a comfortable and economical way to see a bit of Europe?

It never occurred to me before this trip as the thought of trying to maneuver a 20 foot long vehicle through the streets of Europe gave me nightmares. When my husband suggested it, I smiled politely and gave him my best "Sure, let's look into it" (which really meant: I would rather chew sand). But look into it we did, and after his assurances that I wouldn't have to drive the thing, my enthusiasm grew. When I asked Ernst, our friendly German RV rental agent, whether he lost many of his RVs to unmarked, medieval tunnels or Parisian drivers he assured me that RVs can go everywhere with no problem.

OK, Fine. So we rented one, and off we drove, out of Germany, through Austria and into Northern Italy. Destination: Venice! Yup, that's right, the city with no streets. Perfect place for an oversized, bulky vehicle.
View of Venice, Italy from Camping Fusina
Stop snickering! It turned out to be great! See, we rolled into a camp site across the water from Venice around midnight, plugged in and got a good night's rest. There is a ferry that will take you directly from the camp site to Venice proper, which is the sensible thing to do. So we got into our RV and drove to Venice. TBC

European Survival Note!

Hello All!

I am writing this from my hotel room in Frankfurt, Germany. Sounds a bit glamorous, doesn't it? Before you get too envious, I guess I should rephrase. I am holed up in a hotel room, waiting for the portable air conditioner to bring the temperature down to a reasonable level. We had to change rooms and pay 20 Euros more per day to get this little wonder so that we would be able to sleep at night.
The Portable air conditioner

It is 90+ degrees here, and very humid and since this is a place that is normally geared towards keeping warm, hot weather can be unbearable. Air conditioning is almost nonexistent and since the Germans are perpetually afraid of drafts, air circulation is not that great. When I read the hotel had a sauna, I didn't count on it being the elevator!

Last night was spent with the hotel windows wide open, which let in a little cooler night air, but also gave us an up close an personal audio of the Frankfurt night life, which seems to slow down around 3:00 in the morning. This morning we packed up all of our travel guides, souvenirs and accumulated junk and
switched rooms. (Did I say portable air conditioner?).

We switched on the box, only to find that nothing got any colder. The fan, on top speed, created a little breeze, but there was only enough room for one of us to huddle in front of it. Then we noticed a small, red light flashing on the control panel. A HA! We then deduced that our little air conditioner was trying ever so hard to speak to us, to tell us that it had been sorely neglected and would really like to cool us off if only we could fix what ails it!

The little water drop next to the blinking red light was our clue, and we decided that it either needed water, or had too much of it somewhere. Since we have never had a thirsty air conditioner at home, we chose the latter.

After a few minutes of pulling and tugging on this panel or that, we indeed found a drainage container that was overflowing with greenish water. We dumped it down the toilet and then I gave it a thorough scrubbing to remove the fancy, European algae and we slid it back into place.

Magically, the little blinking red light was gone, and cool air was pouring out the front! Freude schöner Götterfunken, Tochter aus Elysium!!

Here is a picture from our hotel room before the night life starts hopping..