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Catching Up, Tours

December 5, 2003


Dear Friends and Families,

Well, I've done it again. Our "diaries" have shifted to "quarterlies". Now, this may not be all that bad since we don't generally do interesting things every day, or every week, but we are in romantic Europe and maybe some of our friends would like to be reassured that we are NOT having a wonderful time every day. That's exactly the case. Most days and weeks are like two-job couples elsewhere, too many chores, too little time. Days blend, weeks blend and pretty soon it's a new season and approaching a new year.

Nevertheless, we do want to keep a record of our life, and share it.

I'll do this quickly so don't worry, here are a few tourist stories.


On the last weekend of September, we went to Solingen, Germany to but some cutlery. That was when I was still writing one diary per trip so click here and see the story.


In mid-October, we joined our friends Robin and Art on an antique excursion to Belgium. No, this was not an excursion by antiques, it was an excursion for antiques. Robin is the school nurse at Marianne's school and had heard of a weekly outdoor market in Tongeren, just over the border from Germany. Robin and Art were interested in some specific pieces of furniture and we were interested in a trip, so it was a good match.

To make sure we reached the Sunday market early, we stayed overnight in a small Gasthaus just outside of Aachen, Germany. Marianne had found the place on the internet and, once again, we found ourselves in a charming old place filled with German hospitality. After settling into our smallish rooms, we went downstairs and found ourselves in a small private dinning room where we enjoyed a very long meal of eating, talking, drinking, talking, desert, and more talking. This place is a real recommendation, but make reservations ahead, particularly for Saturday night dinner.

The next morning we drove over to Tongeren. Quite a few other people did too and we had to park several blocks away, but walking in these old towns is fun anyway. The Sunday antique market is huge and sprawls over several blocks, both inside buildings and on the sidewalks and a parking lot or two. (No wonder we had to hike!) There was everything from junque to a Picasso or two. We all looked and looked but came away only slightly encumbered. Marianne found a pair of vases from the 1930's (possibly) and, since they fit in the car, we had no excuse. Robin and Art, with a bigger car, tried but failed to find what they wanted to fill it. We resolved to try again another time!

I did not manage to take many pictures, mostly because my hands were full! It was a reminder that I really do prefer to have pictures and not just things.

Here we are at breakfast. After our three-hour dinner the nioght before, we had to "rush" this meal and run off to the Antique market.

In the Tongeren Antique Fair we saw all sorts of things that we could have used in our past house projects. This got us thinking again about what we'd do "next" time. Maybe this will be the most expensive part of our little trip?

Marianne did buy a pair of old vases. We were told they were 65 or 70 years old but who knows? They are nice in any event and now decorate our living room

For more information:

-- Our Hotel: http://www.brunnenhof-aachen.de/

-- Tongeren: http://www.tongereninfo.net/ The Antiquemarkt is explained in here but it's a chore to find it. This may be a web site where the technology overwhelms the message.

Marianne's birthday is in late October and I decided she would like (yet another) trip to a pleasant European city, one big enough to offer something cultural but small and close enough to be reachable without too much trouble. I chose Frankfurt.

Steigenberger Entrance

Our five-star hotel, The Steigenberger Frankfurter Hof, was just two stops away on our local U-Bahn so we arrived completely rested from our travels. That's a first. Our weekend-special room was not one of the 1500 euro per night suites at the Frankfurter Hof, but it was still worth the five-star rating. It made a very pleasant base for our window shopping along the nearby Fressgasse, a street full of five-star shops and restaurants.


Since we were traveling, we also had to hit a museum and we chose the Archeological Museum. Why? Why not. We've seen shards and old pottery throughout Europe and we feel kind of at home looking at this stuff. Actually, in addition to the permanent Roman-shard-pottery collection, there was an interesting display of ornate antique clothing from the Russian Steppes. This museum may not be on the pages of every tour book. In fact, we almost had it to ourselves, but it was OK.


Our five-star evening was spent at the opera. Prices were a bit above what we had last paid in Kyiv (we paid more in one night than we had paid in three years in Ukraine!) but opera is opera. In this case we enjoyed Puccini's Tosca in a modern set, fitting to the very modern Frankfurt Opera House. The singing was in Italian and the subtitles were in German so I'm not certain of the story, but it was a pleasant evening nevertheless.


On the next morning, we enjoyed a wonderful Steigenberger buffet breakfast and hung around as long as we could. It was great not worrying about autobahn traffic for a change.


Again, I seemed to have forgotten about pictures, but I have included website links where you can see some professional descriptions:

Hotel: http://www.frankfurter-hof.steigenberger.com/servlet/PB/menu/1003760_l2/index.html

Museum: http://www.archaeologisches-museum.frankfurt.de/

Frankfurt Culture: http://www.kultur.frankfurt.de/

Two weekends later, we joined friends in a forest south of Frankfurt. This time I did take some nice Fall pictures so there is a full picture diary. Click here.


Now we are into Christmas but we'll wait a bit so we can see enough to send the very best...


Stay in touch. Keep track of your own days.


John and Marianne


ps: For the really nosey, the next diary covers the same period on a more personal level. Just what ARE John and Marianne up to?



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