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Trip Report A Short Trip (and Report) Touching on Frankfurt, Berlin & Haddenham England

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In September I attended a conference in Berlin and took the opportunity to see a little of Berlin, visit a friend in Frankfurt, and stop off in England for the weekend and see more friends (and my goddaughter!).

I got some good input off these boards, so even though it was a very short trip, I will do a trip report as a sort of thank you and to let people know how their advice went to good use.

Saturday, September 8, Frankfurt

I landed about 6 am and my friend Sabine picked me up and spirited me to her apartment. She served me coffee and blueberry coffee cake, I took a shower, then she pulled out her vintage Spyder convertible, put the top down, we tied back our hair, and headed for the Rhine River Valley.

Schloss Vollrads http://www.schlossvollrads.com/en.html

Our first stop. The grounds are absolutely beautiful, and it is my first opportunity to look out over the Rhine valley. It's so green and lush, so many church spires and vineyards, and as we will see, so many castles! They focus purely on Reislings, but since Sabine was driving and I would probably conk out if I drank wine at this point, we did not partake, instead having my first of several pretzels I would have while in Germany. Soooo good, that nice snap of the crust, with the warm, soft bread inside, and the nice crunchy salt.

Schloss Johannisberg http://www.schloss-johannisberg.de/en/history.htm

Next stop! We spent a bit more time walking about here. Apparently Goethe used to hang out here, and there is a memorial to him at a spot where he liked to sit and look out over the valley. There was a little explanation that it is at the same latitude as Winnipeg, Canada, however, because of how it is situated they can actually grow both almonds and apricots on the estate. We saw some almond trees which was fun, and there were still many grapes on the vine.

We continued our drive up the valley. There are castles at every turn, and toll houses in the middle of the river. Each castle represented a (landowner? not sure of the right term) and to pass through their portion of the river, any boat/ship/barge had to pay a poll to the individuals representative. I can only imagine how long it must have taken to go up (or down) the Rhine river!

We passed Lorely and took a side trip following a sign for a three castle view. The three castle view did not reveal itself, but it was nevertheless a beautiful drive. Back at the river we decided to cross the river on a small ferry and drive back to Frankfurt on the other side.

This was one of those "I can't believe he did that" moments. We pulled up just as the ferry was pulling away. And he came back for us! Fabulous.

More beautiful views, but the sun was warm, I was a bit jet lagged, so I fell asleep before we hit the autobahn again.

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    Restaurant Borussia

    After a short nap on my part, Sabine's mother Meike picked us up to go out for dinner. We ate at Restaurant Borussia on the Main. I so enjoy places where there is so much outdoor dining. We sat outside, facing the river. There is a sort of pergola over the whole area, with vines of some sort growing over it, providing shade. Many people bring their dogs in with them, and tie them at the tables as they dine.

    I have my first introduction to apfelwein. Sabine suggested I have it with orange and it was a very light and refreshing drink. She also informs me that they call it ebblewoi here.

    I also have my first introduction to Frankfurt Green Sauce. Sabine orders it both nights we dine out, and as I asked about it, we had much discussion about the contents of it and how it is made.

    Later that evening we found this description on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_sauce Apparently it is made with seven fresh herbs and sieved eggs. Sabine orders hers with boiled eggs which are sliced in half and laid out on top of the sauce. It is often served with a schnitzel as well.

    I don't know quite how to describe it other than to say it is very fresh tasting. I'd love to try to make it sometime. Although you can find green sauce in other places, Sabine tells me it is best in Frankfurt.

    Meike had vitello tonnato and I had pork medallions in a cognac/peppercorn sauce, all for 41.80 Euros. Everything was delicious.

    We ended the evening back at Sabine's. Much of Frankfurt (most) is construction from after the war, when housing was scare as so much was leveled. Meike tells me of how when she was a child, because they had a big house, other residents were simply assigned to live with them. We drove through some of the different neighborhoods just so they could show me around.

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    Sunday, September 9, Frankfurt

    Sunday we got up and picked up Meike and drove to the iron pedestrian bridge, or Eisernersteg, crossing the Main to the Roemer (the town hall) area. They pointed out the curch they attend, Dreikonigs (three kings) and Sabine told me how at 5 o'clock pm on Christmas Eve all the churches in Frankfurt ring their bells at the same time. It sounds like a lovely tradition.

    From the bridge you get a great view of parts of the city and Sabine pointed out some landmark buildings. It was a beautiful day and there were lots As we climbed the stairs up and down from the bridge, I noticed off to one side a very narrow section railed off with narrow steps and a smooth metal ramp alongside. I asked about this and was informed it was for ease in taking your bikes up and down. You roll your bike on the metal ramp.

    We entered Roemer. The town hall is located here (the Roemer) on the square. Sabine tells me that eveyrone gets married in the town hall, whether they have any other sort of ceremony or not.

    This is the place with the famous row of buildings often outlined in images of Frankfurt. My very first job years ago was working for a publishing company, and they had brought me back a t-shirt from the famous Frankfurt Bookfair with the outline of those buildings on it so for me this was very cool to see.

    As it turns out, most of these buildings are simply rebuilt facades in their original style as most had been destroyed in WWII. As we walked around Frankfurt, other buildings actually would keep the old facade (which was all that had remained) and built the new buildings inside and have the newer portion extend up above the older portion. It was an interesting way of addressing the buildings.

    We walked and walked. We visited several churches, both Lutheran and Catholic. None are particularly ornate. We walked up Goethestrasse, window shopping at Prada, Hugo Boss, etc. There are blue laws here, so none of them are open today, a Sunday. We see very ornate, very non-traditional dirndls in several windows for Oktoberfest.

    We reached the old Opera house, which is quite ornate on the exterior. A race of some sort had recently ended and so there were lots of booths for different products and causes, and we sat a the edge of a fountain and people-watched for a bit.

    For there we walked back by the stock exchange where, not to be outdone, there was a statue of not only a bull, but a bear as well.

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    Frankfurt continued, Sachsenhausen area

    We went to the Sachsenhausen area for lunch. This is the area of Frankfurt known for apfelwein. You probably know this already, but it is sort of a hard cider, or apple wine. It's served in small glasses with a diamond shaped pattern, and they had pointed out to me a building in Frankfurt where the window pattern made it look like an apfelwein glass.

    The restaurant we went to was Adolf Wagner on Schwizerstrasse. (http://www.apfelwein-wagner.com/htdocs/english/index_d.htm) It is owned by a friend of Sabine's mother, and her Dad used to frequent it when he was alive.

    Her mom spoke to Sabine briefly in German (something they didn't normally do so as not to exclude me) and Sabine told me it was to remind her that it was the anniversary of her father's death. Although it was over 20 years ago, I still felt sad for them at the reminder.

    On high shelves all around the restaurant are pottery vessels, grayish with blue patterns on them. It turns out these are called bembels, and for those who are regulars, their own bembel is kept on the shelf. When they walk in, they don't even have to say anything. The bembel is filled with apfelwein and given to them.

    Meike's friend was there so she came out and sat with us for awhile. It is quite a large area, with again an outdoor patio. We sat outside as it was such a lovely day.

    Sabine wanted me to try hand cheese with music (it is called hand cheese because of the traditional way of making it by rolling with one's hands, and the music is onions dressed with vinegar and oil and caraway seeds). It was served with a dark bread and butter. I enjoyed it, but am glad it wasn't more as we were about to have a very filling lunch.

    Today Sabine had me try the apfelwein with mineral water rather than orange. This had a slightly more sour taste, but I also liked it. I had a boar stew with spaetzle, and it came with stewed apples and cranberries. The stew was incredibly deep in flavor, the meat very tender. Meike had a weiner schnitzel and Sabine the green sauce again. It was a good thing we were only essentially eating one meal a day!

    Meike then wanted us to come back to her apartment where she had made a traditional apple crumble to serve. We sat out on her rooftop patio, enjoying the sun. Meike is incredible. At 70, she does pilates every day, and rides her bike down to the river most nice days. She had gotten on the internet (her words) the night before to print off information to share with me on our walk today. I couldn't say no to the crumble, but my belly was very full by the time we were done!

    Sabine and I then walked back from her mother's, which was a very good thing. We walked back through some fields that included both private and shared vegetable gardens, and lots of green space. I always rather enjoy looking at people's gardens and seeing what they are doing!

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    Monday, September 10, Frankfurt to Berlin

    I had purchased a ticket for the ICE train from Frankfurt to Berlin on Monday morning. Meike had sent me home with apple crumble, and Sabine packed up the blueberry coffee cake for me, so I had quite a picnic lunch to take with me. Sabine took me to the train station where I fairly easily found my track and waited for my train.

    I find German a bit more confusing than French or Spanish, so made sure to have my phrase book handy. Once I figured out how the cars lined up at the platform I was in pretty good shape though.

    The ICE trains are amazing. There is no wobblng or jerking around. I stowed my rolling bag and pulled out the laptop. I was able to do some work on the appx four hour trip. However, I then fell asleep (jet lag you know) and when I woke up they were calling Berlin Spandeau.

    Being slightly disoriented, I focused on the Berlin part and proceeded to disembark. Oops. In my research I know what level I needed to go to for the subway to the area I was staying. But there were only three levels. I was very confused!

    Finally I went outside and got a taxi. The taxi ride was very long. Much longer than I thought it should be given my research on the station I thought I was going to be departing from. I recognized some street names and sign posts, but nothing made sense.

    Just to tell you how jet lagged I was, I didn't realize until the next day that I had gotten off at the wrong station! I was meant to of course get off at the Hauptbahnhof. Ah well, one of life's little adventures.

    Hotel Concorde Berlin
    The conference was at the Hotel Concorde, so that is where I stayed. The rate was 185 Euros/night. The rooms were very nice, and the beds very comfortable. We used the gym/spa area. In addition to an area with cardio equipment, there were saunas available for use and a small weight area. A nice touch was that in the gym area there were apples and water available.

    One annoying thing was the hair dryer. You had to hold down the button the entire time you were drying your hair. With masses of hair like mine, it takes awhile, and your hand gets to hurting! I felt stupid too, I couldn't figure it out myself. When they brought the ironing board they showed me how to use it.

    In any case, the hotel is also very centrally located, right off the Ku'Damm (hope I go that right) where many of the hop on off off buses are, tons of shopping, and the metro is right there.

    Kathe Wohlfahrt

    My aunt and MIL had previously brought back some Kathe Wohlfahrt Christmas ornaments from the Rothenburg store. I had wanted to look for some while in Frankfurt, but the stores were of course closed on Sunday, the only day we were around stores.

    But! Directly across the street from the hotel in Berlin was a huge KW store! I was thrilled so after checking in and unpacking my bags I headed for the store. I love Christmas ornaments and there some really beautiful ones there. I bought some for myself, and some for gifts. I could have spent much more! Here's a web site to check them out if you wish: http://www.wohlfahrt.com/index.php?clang=1

    KaDeWe

    I also knew that I wanted to visit KaDeWe--the largest department store in Europe! I headed down the Ku'damm to the store. I walked in and it was love at first sight. From the main entrance you enter this spectacular atrium. When I was there it was designed in shades of purple, with black silhouettes of trees on the columns, and tissue paper flowers dotting the trees like fruit.

    It's very hard to describe but it was gorgeous. People were taking pictures of each other standing by the columnss. There were also lots of white leather benches about, and many people resting. Tired no doubt from all the shopping.

    The first floor was cosmetics heaven. Every makeup counter you could imagine was there. I browsed through and headed for the sixth floor--the gourmet food floor. (although, the huge stand of poptarts in every flavor did throw me as I hardly think of them as gourmet!)

    It was so much fun to browse through this massive floor with just about everything you could imagine available. There are cheese areas and meat areas and fruit and veg areas. There is a cigar bar, and two (2!) different champagne bars. You can sip whisky, eat sushi, eat italian, or do as I did, and try a currywurst.

    I knew I had to try the Berlin delicacy and so had a currywurst and a beer (avoiding room service by myself later that evening back a the hotel). Currywurst is a German sausage topped with a curry ketchup. The one I had also had little bits of fried onion on top, and of course it was served with sauerkraut (possibly the best sauerkraut ever) I got a beer, Krusovice I think) a dark beer, and sat at the counter a the window looking out over the city of Berlin. Wonderful.

    I should say that when I first arrived on the sixth floor I already needed a little break, and so stopped at the Moet Chandon champagne bar and had a flute. Could anything possibly be better than a champagne break when shopping?

    The floor was just fascinating to wander, and I did buy some rolls from the bakery (German bread! OMG) and some small tomatoes from the fruit/veg area. I still had coffee cakes too, so really was not going to need breakfast from the hotel!

    I can't remember now which floor was souvenirs, but I visited that floor as well and bought a few t-shirts and some Ampelmann reflectors. More on that later :-)

    Eventually I did walk back to the hotel to get some sleep and get ready for a very big Tuesday.

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    Tuesday, September 11

    Up and out the door by nine. Had to get cash, daypasses, and a coffee. All accomplished and back at hotel by 9:30. Mike is in, and we will meet at 10:30!

    I head out and find the bank and get some more cash (too much as it turns out) and then spot a metro station so head down to get the Tageskarte. I think I am all that, but can't get it to take first my cash, and second my credit card. I finally step back and let a guy go ahead of me as I don't want to keep him waiting, then try again. It is that moment when I realize I have been trying to give it a 20 euro note when it clearly says it will take 5s or 10s only. Jet lag moment.

    Day passes in hand, I head back up the Ku'damm where I spot the Starbucks i had passed yesterday. I thinkI am all that again, but discover that SB didn't open until 10 am. What kind of SBX doesn't open until 10?! I must have had a distressed look on my face because a passerby says to me, looking for coffee? I say yes, and he gives me direction. I find the place easily enough and buy possibly the worst coffee ever.

    The Berlin Expert - Jeremy Minsberg

    Jeremy was a suggestion from a fellow fodorite, and that is why I love Fodors.

    Wow, such an incredible day. Jeremy picked us up and we headed out.

    I personally wrote many of the details of the day's tour for my own use, but, if I repeat everything here this report will get even longer than it already is (and possibly bore you). Nothing really can stand in for going out for a day with Jeremy anyway.

    Before arriving, Jeremy and I exchanged emails about what I would want to see. My primary interest in Berlin for this one day that I had was the history. Jeremy gave so much background and depth, and clearly is passionate about what he is doing and how he shared information. It goes far beyond what you will read in a guide book. Sure, we could have seen what we did on our own, but Jeremy gave us so much more.

    In addition, he paced the day really well. He seemed to know just when we needed to stop for a minute, and would find a place to sit and would bring out his iPad and show us small clips to illustrate background. He had a whole portfolio of photos as well that he would bring out. I cannot recommend him highly enough. Here is his web site: http://www.theberlinexpert.com/

    I will throw out a few highlights for you:

    Churches

    We walk in to a hexagon shaped church, and each side is completely stained glass, mostly blue. It is a really beautiful sunny day and so the light through the windows glows. Jeremy tells us a bit about the church communities here. You cannot get married in a church or buried in a church cemetary unless you belong. You must declare this with the government and they actually tax you! This money is then sent to the church. This is why most are married in civil ceremonies and church attendance goes down.

    The Hauptbhahnhof

    From there we take the metro to the Hauptbahnhof (the one I SHOULD have gotten off at).
    As we go down, we stop and look at the pillars supporting the weight of the ICE trains, pretty magnificent. The station itself really is amazing. It's a crossroads with east/west and north/south orientation, just incredible views. Jeremy also explains that the trainstation is sort of a shopping mall. Germany still has blue laws, and so stores are closed on Sunday...except at the train station.

    Transparency

    Off we go.
    We walk towards the Spree, and you can see where old and new bricks were used to create the walkways/levees. There are beach chairs and benches set up on the banks. Walked on towards the government district. Jeremy explains how so much of the design is driven by transparency. You can see Angela Murkel's office, and sometimes can even see her sitting outside having a cup of tea. By law, if there is a meeting going on the blinds must be open. Really incredible to be able to look in and see the meetings being conducted, and government workers going about their business.

    The building is split by the river and there are pedestrian bridges overhead. The shape of the split is designed like puzzle pieces to show how they work together. Looking inside the building, the round shapes basically represent the pistons of engines...the government must work together, efficiently.

    The Wall

    Throughout the day we cross a double line of bricks set into the pavement, and where ever we see it this represents the former location of the Wall. Here at the river it shows where the wall crossed the river. We sit for a bit and Jeremy shows us pictures of where the wall was, the orientation of the city, and the iron curtain. I didn't even know there actually was an iron fence built from sea to sea. Berlin was the problem, as an island in the middle of east germany. There was so much more conveyed, just too much to write here.

    But I will say that while I tend to think I am fairly well educated, there was just so much I didn't know or realize about the wall. Visiting Berlin, and spending time with Jeremy, expanded my knowledge greatly.

    Miscellaneous Moments, a by no means comprehensive report of the rest of the day

    While we sat there, we saw Angela Merkel's helicopter go overhead, and Chinese military walk by. We were also likely on TV as we passed several broadcasting groups, there at the Reichstag. Flags at half mast because of 9/11. We visited the Soviet Memorial, and Brandenburg Gate.

    We cross the street and J points out that the trees are numbered? Why? When asked, the Germans replied why not? Upon further inquiry, they replied, well, if there was something wrong with a tree, how would you know which one?

    Continuing on through the park we talked about not only Jews, but disabled and homosexual purger by Hitler. He tells how the proganda would list how much it took to keep a disabled person alive, and saying to people, this is your money too. And disabled people would be taken from their homes, and parents and family members told the person was getting retraining, or special treatment or something of that sort. Then a few days later they would be told there had been a horrible accident and now the person was dead.

    We visited a WC where we had to pay 50 cents to use the loo, and where you were also issued a receipt!

    Berlin was massively destroyed. Most of what you see are new buildings. The women of Berlin cleaned up and rebuilt much of the city, brick by brick, by hand. He shows us pictures of women, all in dresses, working through the bricks piling them in reusable-not reusable. The seven hills of Berlin are all rubbish hills. There are no natural hills in Berlin.

    We walked from there to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. It is not the Holocaust Memorial, it's actual name is the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. There was no particular meaning to the number of stele's the artist simply said it was how many fit. However, as it turns out, it was the actual number of pages in the Talmud.

    It is somber, and oddly peaceful. It is not a maze, but as you start walking you do see people passing in and out, a sort of disorienting feeling. The paths slope down as at the same time the steles get taller. It is an important remembrance.

    We visit a building that has a huge propaganda mural from the DDR, and out in front is a pixalated "photo" exactly the same size and length, which pictures of real East Germans.

    We visit the longest standing remaining segment of the wall. It is chipped, and some holes you can see through, from people taking segments. The berliners call them "woodpeckers." It is also right above the topographie of terrors, the actual torture chambers of the ss. Jeremy tells me that the rounded pipe over the top of the wall was a result of West Berlin helping East Berlin. Somehow or another, EB needed help with water. WB helps, and EB takes the hold water pipe, which is coated and round, and so cannot go over, and topped the wall with it. Asshats.

    We visit Checkpoint Charlie. it is of course not the real thing, but a facsimile, complete with actors who will charge you 4 euro for a picture. There is a tall sign, on one side a picture of a German soldier, on the other, a picture of an American soldier. This is the crossing. J has pictures to show us. A rather huge crossing, just like what you would find crossing the border to Mexico today (trying to give you a picture of what it had looked like as it was all torn down. All that remains now is really just an intersection with a small building in the middle)

    We walk down the street where Cabaret was meant to have been based, and past Fassbender and Rausch, the chocolate shop. Jeremy wants to take us inside another church, where basically he shows us again how much of Berlin is a facade that has been rebuilt, as so much was destoryed. Inside the church it is basically a shell, with braces holding it up.

    This is where Jeremy leaves us. Mike and I visit the Ampelmann store. I forgot to tell you about Ampelmann!

    Ampelmann

    Amplelman has becomse something of a symbol in Berlin, and you can find all sorts of things with the image of the slightly portly, striding traffic light symbols for walk and stop. You might think Ampelman refers to that portliness, but of course not. It is referring to the light pole upon which the walk/don't walk indicators are placed.

    But, the story gets better. After reunification, pretty much everything East Berlin related was getting tossed. In West Berlin, the walk/don't walk figures were regular, skinny sorts. In East Berlin they were the portly fellows. Of all things to finally get the East Berliners in a tizzy, it was when they started tossing Ampelmann. Politically, it caused such an uproar that now Ampelmann is everywhere and there are even whole stores dedicated to them.

    Mike and I head back

    Mike and I then catch the metro back, getting off right at KaDeWe. It's back up to the sixth floor we go where now it is time to feed Mike. Mike has the currywurst and pilsner, I have some sort of sausage with saurkraut and a dark beer. I have to revisit the Moet Chandon bar and have one of the ice champagne drinks, this time with lime.

    We visit the bakery so we have something for the jetlag middle of the night snack moments, Mike gets a pretzel and two rolls, and I follow his lead!

    We join friends for dinner. Absolutely fabulous dinner, great service, sat outside, a few rain showers, but we were covered by an umbrella. Joe and Mike had the Wurst platter, I had sauerbraten and dumplings, Kim had??

    At the minimart

    We then walked over to a minimart in hopes of some bottled water and for Kim maybe Yoghurt or something so we don't have to buy the ridiculously priced breakfast buffet at 28 euros. We look and look and look. Kim finally ends up with some cheese and bottled water and I buy a big bottle. We are clearly Americans as we laugh and joke.

    Funniest moment is a guy leaving the minimart (Esso!) he turns to us and says, Vote for Obama, Ja?! We all bust out laughing and say yes we are.

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    It's so long! It doesn't seem that long in my head and then I look at the post and it is so long!

    We are actually on vacation again right now, and keeping pretty busy, so will try to get back to this soon and finish up.

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    toucan - we can't have too much detail.

    I've so far eschewed using guides, but may change my mind after reading this.

    hope your current trip carries on being a success!

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    Wednesday September 12-Friday September 14

    The next few days were work, so just a few notes.

    Wasserwerk

    One of the vendors had an event at Wasserwerk:

    http://www.wasserwerk-berlin.de/gallery.html

    Wasserwerk is clearly an old waterworks building, repurposed as an event center. Very cool. There are two performers, completely painted in silver, including hair and bikini and trunks (one man one woman) As we enter they are doing slow performances on these massive belts that wrap around some sort of cog/wheel.

    Throughout the evening they are serving champagne, and beer and wine along with hors d'ouevres. The star of the night though is the duo, called Adagio They do a full performance.
    Wow. The incredible control of their bodies, so hard to describe. Think of the acrobats from Cirque du Soleil.

    Hop on Hop off Bus

    On Friday the conference ended at noon, and I pretty much was done by 10:30. My friend Joe and I were flying to London together about six (hard to remember at this point the exact time) and Joe had not had a chance to see any of Berlin. We beelined out to the Ku'damm where there are several of the different hop on hop off busses. Joe wanted to at least see the Berlin Wall and CheckPoint Charlie.

    Having done the tour with Jeremy earlier in the week, and armed with the bus route map, we rode along listening to some of the spiel (I was able to add a lot from my tour!) hopped off at Checkpoint Charlie, where Joe got suckered into paying 4 euros to have his picture taken. He innocently thought they were motioning us over to take a picture of us just to be nice!

    We then zipped down to the longest segment of the wall, then cut over from their to Brandeburg Tor and hopped back on a bus back to just outside the hotel. Talk about your whirlwind tour! But he at least got to see more than outside the hotel.

    The tickets are good for 24 hours, so as we got off the bus I approached what looked like a mom and daughter, and gave them our tickets. Our good deed for the day!

    Get your passport stamped!

    When Joe arrived on Tuesday night, he mentioned how weird it was that no one stamped his passport in Austria or Berlin. I said, don't worry, I am sure it will be fine! Um, no. Poor Joe. The guy at security in Berlin barely let Joe through. No tickets, no itinerary, no proof of how he arrived in the country. Finally, he got through whereupon I immediately bought him a drink.

    Joe had more work in England, but I was just stopping in to see my friend L and family. Both Joe and L used to work for me, and we have managed to get together a number of times over the years, usually at L's home in the UK. L picked us up at LHR and we were off to his new home in Haddenham.

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    Saturday September 15, Haddenham, England

    I am taking the easy way out and just copying and pasting my personal journal entry for the day!

    Hanging with the kids

    We are now in Haddenham with L's family. The children were in bed last night when we got there, and I am up first and in the kitchen to see if there might be coffee. Teddy is the first one to discover me. He is still the unique little charmer (Teddy is 4), and soon discovers Angry Birds on my iPad. It is likely I may be in trouble with the parents.

    Patrick is the next to discover me, he has grown so much and has quite a smattering of freckles across his nose.

    V makes her way down and saves me with coffee, and soon L and Joe appear. Patrick is meant to be at football practice, so must get dressed and L takes him off to drop him off.  We all clean up, then Joe and L take off to the butcher etc, and I walk with V and Teddy to the practice field. I get the chance to watch Patrick during practice, and sit with Teddy who then persuades me to read a book to him, which I do (Hercules). Vicky is chatting with parents, and one of the coaches wanders by and asks if I would come read to the group (must be the American accent)

    After practice we walk around to the Library, but first a stop at some blackberry bushes to pick and eat. It's tough to pull the boys away from this treat! A nice visit at the library where Patrick shows me books he likes, V quickly finishes a few pages of a book, and Teddy picks up a book or two himself.
    On we go, more blackberries, and a wall covered with a flowering vine buzzing with bees and masses of Red Admiral butterflies (I get a nice picture) We spot another that looks maybe like one of the questionmarks? But mostly it was tons of Red Admirals.

    A quick trip to Oxford

    Joe, L and myself head over to Oxford for the afternoon. Just really beautiful. L went to Oxford so points out tons of things of note, we walk past playing fields and watch a bit of rugby, we stop in shops such as the official Oxford shop, we visit the covered markets which are just wonderful, pass pubs, pass shops of just pens, pop in to a shop devoted just to Whisky.

    Joe and I marvel at the wood frames on the outside of the shop windows. We are fascinated by the gargoyles (or maybe it was just me) and the occasional feature you spot such as the itty bitty window high up in a wall. Why is it there?!

    I pop into a Boots (I want to stay) and we visit a massive bookstore which looks a bit too dangerous as i am sure to be able to spend far too much money here. Finally we head home.

    Dinner and the Green Dragon Pub

    The night's entertainment is myself grilling the steaks, and after dinner L, Joe and I head to the Green Dragon as we want a neighborhood pub experience. It really is just so nice. Yes it is a bar, but it is more like a big living room really. It's that everybody knows your name experience (except us of course) We have a couple of beers (XT.com? Cornwall? Locally brewed beer?) and have a nice chat.
    Love the foot paths that wind through the walls, quite dark!

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    Sunday, September 16, Haddenham

    The geek in me insisted on looking up info about Haddenham once I knew L was moving there. While wikipedia had a lot of information (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haddenham,_Buckinghamshire) my best source was a site for a self-catered cottage for hire, http://www.wychertcottage.com/. If you are of a mind, go to that site and select The Village, and What's Wychert. Pretty interesting stuff. Wychert is a building material used for much of the town. Wychert tends to be spelled in a multitude of ways as well!

    Here is my entry from that day:

    The Wychart Way

    I seem to be the early bird, but this time I know where everything is and make my own coffee and toast.
    I am soon joined by Teddy of course, followed by Patrick. Joe is being picked up at noon and we want to walk around the village so everyone gets ready and we leave around 10:15. We walk down the lanes, I am taking pictures of course, and Teddy is hanging with me. The others get ahead of us and I lose them at the Village Green. I though they went left, but didnt' see them, and Teddy insisted they went right. Oops, not so. Why did I trust the 4 year old?

    Vicky found us and we all reunited, stopped at the Duck Pond (used to breed the Aylesbury ducks there) then continued winding down past houses until we connected with a public footpath, the Wychart Way. We took a fair walk, I had to get a kiss from Teddy at the kissing gate, we saw some actual pigs in the field, then retracked our steps as quickly as possible so Joe would be on time for his car.

    A General Walk Around the Village

    Bundled Joe into the car, then had a quick lunch before Patrick and Liam took off for Patrick's very exciting day out to see Reading and Tottenham, in a suite, with his very best friend.

    I then went back out as I still wanted to see as much as I could of the village. I wandered back the way we had gone earlier that morning, but veered off on the footpath that led to another pub, the King's Head. I took a right there, then a little jog, and basically followed whatever road I felt like it. I was a typical American tourist, utterly charmed by the homes, the thatched roofs, the gardens, the timbered houses, the naming of the houses and cottages.

    The Croft, September Cottage, The Corner Cottage, Dragon Tail Cottage, and so much more. I looped around at what felt like an edge of things where there was a very busy road and houses started looking newer. I passed the Snack Express, and the Spice House, and stopped at a bench in a little green triangle and called Steve.

    I love how there are benches just sort of randomly about. Nice to have a sit just wherever. In any case, there is an old stone in the middle of the green grassy trinagle, no placard or anything. later I read that it may have been a marking for a meeting place.

    On road to a little shopping strip with McColl's and an ATM machine that cared for me not. But I stopped in at McColl's as I am still entertained by grocery stores. This is more of a minimart type, but I still wander. Things I am amused by include a box with sachets billed as having everything you need for a white coffee...the instant coffee, creamer, and sugar, all in the sachet.

    Also, the Fat Balls for your Wild Birds.

    Uncle Ben's caters to the UK clientele and has all sorts of sauces for rice such as curry etc. There are embroidery magazines with complete project kits in them. Lots and lots of cadbury, and, Santa chocolates!

    I walk further down this road and come to the roundabout that led to the library so I turned around since I had already seen that area yesterday.

    Back to the triangle, passing Victoria Cottage and LIttle Italy. I have no cash or I would have stopped for coffee. It's another beautiful walk, lots of photo ops. Soon I see a sign for the Village Museum so I stop in. It's free, so hey. They were showing a video of the village someone had put together, so it was very interesting, and good timing.

    There are examples of the Whytchart material, and an explanation of the process. There's mention of the Haddenham murder (1800s) so must look up more.

    Back out the door. Some more turns, and I find myself by the allotments. Wow, there are quite a lot! There is a sign posted from one of the local churches thanking the people who had donated much produce. All sorts of little plots, some have little mini green houses, everything from vegetables to flowers to berries and fruit trees. later I look at it on google maps and it is quite large.

    Wander along some more, finally find myself back again past the Rose and Thistle, and the Village Green. I watch the ducks, I visit St. Mary's Catholic Church and churchyard, then finally back up by the Green Dragon and the footpath home.

    All told, about two hours of exploring and walking.

    K comes home

    K, my goddaughter, has grown so much! She is still shy, but just a lovely little girl. She still likes Winnie the Pooh, and Owls. Her favorite subject at the moment is now Art, and she tells me of a project where they had to bring something from home, then draw a pattern from it and put it together. She tells me that she brought a rather complicated stuffed figure and should have brought something else instead! She does still like to read, and has read The Hobbit.

    We have a very nice long chat. I tell her that I loved The Hobbit and ask if she has read Lord of the Rings. Kate and Teddy get dinner, and then too soon it is time for bed. V asks me to read to Teddy, and I do. A very long book! Picked out by Teddy with that in mind. V then sends me up to see that her mother has taken the quilt I made for Kate and turned it into a sort of upholstery for a chair in Kate's room.
    Kate is already in bed, so we chat a few minutes. She has The Lord of The Rings out, and it looks like she might start that next.

    That's it. L and Patrick make it home, it's after 8, and I don't want to be out late as I have a car picking me up at 6:30 am. Patrick briefly gets to tell me about the match, and he has had a wonderful time which is great (although reading lost). L, Vand I have a nice supper and wine, then off to bed for us all.

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    The Wrap up

    I could have spent weeks in each of the places I visited, but didn't have the time on this trip as it was a business trip that I was tacking activities on to. I think I managed to pack in quite a lot, and at least get a taste of each place. Frankfurt, Berlin, Haddenham, all fascinating and had a great time in each place.

    I can't say enough about the day I spent with Jeremy Minsberg in Berlin. I learned so much about a city that is still constantly changing and growing, and with such an incredible history. Haddenham was a place I knew nothing about before L's move there, but I fell in love with it as well. Just 50 minutes by train to London, to Marylebone no less (one of my favorite neighborhoods), easily located to Oxford, and wonderful to walk. Add the comfy pub, and the cottage I found, and the fact that an English television series my sister likes is filmed there and she is planning to base herself there next May for a few days!

    Monday morning the taxi I booked through Falcon Taxi out of Aylesbury picked me up at 6:30 am and delivered me to LHR (http://www.falcontaxis.co.uk/contact.php). Joe took them Sunday over to his office and we were both pleased with their service.

    Naturally my flight was delayed. So I shopped. There was a Maison du Chocolat kiosk. I bought a gift. There is a decent restaurant I had eaten at before, so I had breakfast. I really needed to consolidate some stuff, so I bought a bag. Too late, I discovered there was a spa! Could have had a facial.

    The flight delay was a very bad thing for my pocketbook :-( At least there was something to do.

    I hope this report had a tidbit or two of helpful information. I'll be happy to answer any questions if I can!

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    I'm glad you enjoyed it irishface!

    I do have pictures, but I can't figure out how to get a link to them on my ipad. On my PC when I bring up the photo albums there is a link I can copy and paste. So, next time I am on a PC I will paste it in.

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    Very nice. I'm sure my relatives will approve your comments on Haddenham.

    I'm often surprised by how often the pond, church and green turn up in TV series (often "cosy" detective or period stories that need a postcard village setting).

    Cornish beer - possibly Doom Bar? You can get it quite widely these days.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doom_Bar#Doom_Bar_bitter

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    >>We visit Checkpoint Charlie. it is of course not the real thing, but a facsimile, complete with actors who will charge you 4 euro for a picture. There is a tall sign, on one side a picture of a German soldier, on the other, a picture of an American soldier. <<

    It's actually a Soviet soldier, not German. That was the border between the American and Soviet sectors of Berlin.

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    And ps (before the wifi at this hotel disconnects again!) Thank you for the correction. Hopefully anyone who reads it reads the correction too! And now I am off to double check the labels on my photos.

    Hopefully before the wifi goes again! How did we live before wifi?

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    Skinner's Cornish "Knocker" is also good.

    That's "Knocker" as in the little people who allegedly inhabit the tin mines and make random knocking sounds, often warning the miners of imminent catastrophe, not Knockers as in Betty...

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