.

Home. What a word. A longed-for place, a mood, an enfolding by waves of security.

But also a return to normal days. Routines. Chores. Pet hair.

The transition is proving hard this time. It doesn’t help that we had 4 weeks of spring and the feeling of burgeoning freedom and energy that brings, but returned to 5cm of freshly fallen winter.

We’re ready for summer vacation, but yet cognizant that there is limited time left in high school to cover all the things we want to, need to. Torn between wanting to chuck it all and buckle down even harder.

At least I’ve managed to avoid RTDLS this time. That’s Re-Entry To Do List Syndrome. I usually hit home with a list of lists, like a New Year’s Resolution gone madly overboard. This time I’m taking it day by day, task by task, trusting myself to do the right things without a list. Without the pressure of a list. Without the ambition of a list.

In that moment-by-moment living, I have carried the holiday home with me.

Hiking from Manderscheid to Wittlich

On Tuesday we hiked from Mandersheid to Rainer’s parents’ house, about 25km in total. These two evocative ruins come to life in the summer with a medieval fair, but on this day they were quiet. Two castles? Yes, there were two brothers who didn’t get along.

Hiking from Manderscheid to Wittlich

The first half of the hike is full of ups and downs, and moss-covered outcroppings. As a prairie girl, I find this part of the hike most thrilling. After a while it levels out, and the trail follows the side of the hills rather than crossing them.

Hiking from Manderscheid to Wittlich

We ate lunch at the top of a nice steep section, happy for a rest. Rainer’s knee still isn’t happy after the surgery to fix one of his problems, so he kept us going so that his muscles wouldn’t start to seize up. It made the hike more strenuous for sure!

Hiking from Manderscheid to Wittlich

It felt a lot like fall – with brown, dry leaves scattered everywhere and open views. The buds were beginning to open, but hadn’t yet burst forth in their growth.

Sandra had her camera out for most of the trip. It was a Christmas gift, and she’s working hard to master her first non-point-and-shoot. Next year my father (a photographer of real talent) is going to take her through a mentorship. We’re going to call it a Fine Arts credit for her transcript.

Hiking from Manderscheid to Wittlich

The trails are well-marked here, often with multiple trails overlapping and then breaking away. We followed the black arrow as our guide.

Hiking from Manderscheid to Wittlich

The landscape varies over the hike – deciduous then evergreen, mossy then leafy, steep then meadows, small fields and then little streams cutting new valleys into the sides of hills.

Hiking from Manderscheid to Wittlich

At this point on the trip I put my foot down and insisted on a bit more of a rest. Rainer, Sandra, and I had done a 1 hour 45 minute run on Saturday, and a 60 minute tempo run with hill repeats on Sunday. My body was happy, but fading. We ate some nuts and raisins – called Studentenfutter (Student Feed, lol) here. Putting my feet up always makes me happy.

Hiking from Manderscheid to Wittlich

Our reward at the end? A Doener. (Donair in English?) Absolutely one of my favourite foods. We only eat them in Germany. They’re everywhere here, but nowhere to be found where we live. Sitting on a bench in a setting of cobblestones and German voices while eating one of these is a highlight of every trip for me. I remember eating my first one, Christmas 1993. The first time I came to Germany with Rainer. I was 17 and in my first year of university.

Four for three days? Yes. We did a lot, and I hope to get a few more things down before I forget them.

Misc:

We walked a lot. A lot. We think that on our only full day there (Wednesday) we walked 18-20 km. It was an incredible city to be a pedestrian in. And what a city for confusing me! I’ve never had myself turned around so frequently, so easily. I was lost.

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About one-half of the streets and side walks were lined with metal fencing, like a marathon was about to start. Is this normal for Paris?

Paris

Later on the second day we were surrounded by police – cars, trucks, motorcycles, rollerbladers, on foot. Police everywhere we went for about 2 hours. And they shut down half of the Champs Elysees and made it even more likely I was about to get lost as we tried to find our way around the blockades. Turn left? Yes, but there’s another blockade so left again should mean that…nope, ok, map out again, what?! How can we be heading away from the river? We’ve only turned twice!

Paris

The arrival of these well-armed fellows was very surreal. They were so well protected (ankle, shin, and knee gaurds, among much else) and yet totally calm and unintimidating. We wondered: were we in fact on the set of The Fifth Element, II? The crazy cops, the touch of festive atmosphere, the citizens settling in to satisfy their curiousity…

Paris

Given the news about the presence of the Chinese prime minister (or president, or both?), and the lamp posts gaily fluttering with French and Chinese flags, we sadly decided that the reworking of The Fifth Element was not about to play out before our eyes.

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For a city renowned for cafes and coffee, we found both lacking. The coffees were tiny and expensive. The cafes, well, we couldn’t put our finger on it for a while, but Rainer realized that we had been hoping for (expecting) a downtown like Budapest or the German downtowns with their pedestrian zones. We wanted to sit under trees or umbrellas, sip coffees to warm up, and watch the life of the city.

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The Orangerie, with its two oval rooms with gigantic water lily paintings by Monet, was extraordinary. Huge paintings wrapping around you, inviting you to think beyond the spaces. The water lilies floated on the surface of reflections. What caused the reflections? What made that dark shadow? That patch of yellow? How tall were those trees to cast that shade?

Paris
This is part of my ongoing series of pictures of my kids looking at art. I’m not certain what draws me, but I love freezing the moment of my family looking at art. (This is also Tias just about to tell me I’m not allowed to photograph in the room.)

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Budget tip: find a Metro station. The food and coffee there are really tasty and cheap.

Paris

You can, of course, carry them back into the sunlight and eat them while bemusedly watching one of the hundreds of cops argue with a jogger about his choice to run too close to where the Chinese have apparently marked their no-go zone.

Paris

Also, the salty crepes (think cheese and ham), are much more filling than the sweet ones, so are good value for money.

Paris

(If you can bring yourself to order something salty when you’re cold and the scent of melting chocolate is wafting around the cart promising to fill you and sustain you. I couldn’t resist the chocolate-banana crepes, but mooched some gloriously cheesy crepe from Matthias and have regretted my order ever since.)

Paris

We all agree that the Eiffel Tower is, frankly, a perfect piece of fabrication. Mighty yet delicate. Lace made of iron. Beautiful to look at. Easy to photograph. And it also gives beautiful views of a city worth looking at.

Paris

Paris

The wind blew up shortly before we got to the Eiffel Tower, and it was cold up there. Climbing the stairs to the second level was a welcome chance to heat up a bit before taking the elevator to the top. Second level was best, though, with the city spread out before you rather than below you. (My thoughts on this might have been different if the smog and haze hadn’t hampered the view from the top.)

Paris

Despite the huge amount of walking we did that day, we found that a rest back at the tiny apartment gave us enough rejuvenation to walk back after the sun went down.

We were not fans of ‘the twinkle’, though. At night, on the hour, it pulses with hundreds of white lights. It’s frenetic and garish. Happily, it only lasts a few minutes before the Tower returns to a gorgeous gold and black tracery.

Paris

Paris

Paris

We took the train from Wittlich to Paris early Tuesday morning, arriving at 10:30. Then there was a ride on the Metro to near where our rented flat was located.

The ride on the Metro made me smile a little: Rainer loves to imagine his vacations in advance and all year on our long runs he would ask Sandra and I what we wanted to do or see. Sandra’s answer was nearly always: “I want to go somewhere big enough that there’s a subway.” When asked why, she responded that subways = art galleries, at least in her experience.

We dumped our stuff at the apartment – a tiny one room affair that was tidy and bright and perfect in terms of both location and budget. We were just down the avenue from Napoleon’s Tomb – the golden dome glinted dully but promisingly in the rainy skies.

Paris
Invalides, not on the rainy Tuesday

Our first stop was Musee d’Orsay. In truth, the reason we were in France was the Orsay. Sandra loves Impressionism, and noticed in the video course she took a few years ago that nearly every painting mentioned was housed there. She’s been on a 6-year campaign to wrangle us there, even going so far as to research marathons and triathlons to increase Rainer’s likelihood of going.

Orsay was crowded – most other museums were closed on Tuesdays. But it didn’t really matter. We all really enjoyed it. The ratio of painting to enjoyment was probably the highest of any gallery we’d been to. We went through every room once, and then a few rooms a second time, even a third time. I think Sandra could have stayed there til closing. We almost did, but wanted to beat the rush to the bookstore that would happen at end of the day.

That night we just crashed into bed. Up since 4:30, walking all over the city, minds stuffed full of the sights of Paris and hundreds of paintings.

We try to make a bigger city part of our travels when we come to Europe. Museums, galleries, cafes, traffic, river-side strolling…all things we love.

This time we managed 3 days (2 nights) in Paris.

Paris

Like Brugge, it is a city all of a piece. It fits together. You can’t imagine it other than it is. We were in Vienna last time, and it also had the high white buildings; but it seemed some how sterile or alienating. Paris, on the other hand, looks magnificent and yet organic. Similar buildings, but not regimented. I loved the feeling of wholeness the city posessed.

We decided to see little in terms of particular places, but to walk and walk and walk between them. We carefully chose a few highlights for each day, and set off.

Paris
Saint Chapelle

Paris
Saint Chapelle

Paris
view from Ille de la Citi

Paris
gardens in the Louvre

Paris
gardens in the Louvre

Paris
Notre Dame

Paris
Notre Dame

Before the match on Monday evening, we took a behind-the-scenes tour of the stadium. The player areas were off-limits to us, but we still saw a lot and learned a lot. Glimpses of a whole little world behind the 90 minutes on the grass.

Fußball!

The press conference area:
Fußball!

The VIP dining area. Buffet before/during the game, comfortable seats on the south side of the stands, and some of the players come around after the game for a little casual chatting before they head to a section where they have a team supper.

Fußball!

The tunnel:
Fußball!

The grass. As in The Grass. We were not allowed on it, but near it.

Fußball!

The team bench. Heated in cold weather. The away bench is not heated. We loved that.

Fußball!

We are avid soccer fans, not only playing/coaching locally, but watching internationally. Rainer’s club in the Bundesliga is Kaiserslautern, and we watch online. (Thank goodness for the internet! Being a fan is far better these days.)

Fußball!

Yesterday evening we were at a match. What follows is Sandra’s account of our night:

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Fußball!

Thump-thump….. Thump-thump…..
You hear a pounding but whether it is the sound of your heart or the sound of drums you don’t know anymore. You look across the field at an arch that only hours before you walked through on a tour…

Thump-thump… Thump-thump…

In that arch you see the players and as they walk out onto the field you think about the number of times you’ve sat at home and seen exactly this. You realize that though you’ve seen it you’ve never heard it. The sound on your left is deafening. A chant rises as the fans see their team, many voices forming the heart of the Betze. The chants soon turn to whistles as the curve realizes that their team will start on the other side of the field, and they hate that. In the moment before the ref starts the game you look around you at over 41 thousand people. You look at the small contingent of fans on your right cheering for the other team. You look behind you at all the people who sport scarves each with a devil on them. Next you look across and see that all the rich people have left their buffet and have filled in their seating block. Then you look at the West Curve….

Fußball!

Thump-thump.. Thump- thump…

Looking at the West Curve you know that half the people in the stadium are there, scarves raised in salute. It’s a Monday night… The fans hate Monday nights. They will all have to be at work in ten hours. But they are here now in support of their team. Each wearing their own armor, something that has formed around them during the hundreds of games they’ve seen. You think about how badly the team has done lately as you hear the song rising over the stands, sung by people who would sing it in pouring rain. As you look back at the ball at the half and take a deep breath, only one thought crosses your mind: “F$ck, they’d better win….”

Thump-thump-Thump-thump

Your team comes out strong. Within moments comes a shot from right in front of you and you think it’s in…

Th-….

Half the crowd is on their feet… You need this, you need this! But it’s off by only a foot.

..-P…

Then the first foul comes. It’s a dirty one by the other team and your player stays down…

And you stop breathing. You had forgotten what’s about to happen…. Never… Never have you felt hate like this: it’s not just a sound but a feeling that hits your whole body. The whistles are worst and they come from everywhere…loud and shrill, you can’t get away from them. And it’s not just whistles. All around you people yell things at the ref. In that moment you ask yourself, “How can anyone play badly in front of this?…. Why would you make this beast angry?”

Fußball!

Over the course of the next hour they play like you want them to, like you need them to. They fight when they lose the ball, and they take shots…. No shots go in, but they are fighting! You don’t want to lose but even if they do it would be ok so long as they keep going like this. The Curve likes it when they fight. Never silent, the cheers reach new heights every time a forward runs for a through-ball, even one they can’t possibly get to. But here’s the thing: sometimes they do get there… And your heart stops as the cross comes in, this time only to be deflected by a defender.

Only once you truly think you’re going to lose. In a moment that seems to take forever the striker runs at the goaltender. From where you’re sitting you can see that there is no defender in the way… The shot comes… But the goaltender gets his leg there in time.

When it’s all over, it’s 0-0. You know you were clearly the better team and should have won. But you didn’t lose.

You realize just how much you love watching soccer. First off, the game is faster live. The ball seems to bounce more than it does in your usual zoomed-out view. It looks and feels more like the sport you know and love. The chanting of the fans is a thing of awe, both beautiful and terrifying.

Your choice is made… Season tickets and biweekly flights is too much… So you’ll just live in Germany, the Betze is in your blood.

on the balcony

Shot through the window to the balcony, overlooking Wittlich, Germany.

Snow? Yes.

Flurry of activity? Yes.

So close to diving into spring in Germany. So many last minute details.

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