Monday, July 26, 2010

Castles, Concert, Church & Coffee

It's a good thing that Leslie and I have a lot of similar tastes, like castles and Starbucks coffee for instance. On Day 2 of her visit, I took her to one of my favorite castles in the area, Schloss Ludwigsburg. We did the English tour and learned about the royalty that used to live in this area (and the antics they got up too).
On Saturday, Day 3 of Leslie's visit, we drove down to Schloss Hohenzoellern, which Leslie aptly described as looking like "Hogwarts" from Harry Potter. It is your typical castle-on-a-mountain with a curvy, winding driveway and lots of turrets and pinnacles. I like this castle a lot too. Actually, I haven't met a castle I don't like....
Later that evening, Zev and I took Leslie to go see Crosy, Stills & Nash play a concert at out local mini-castle/ fortress.
We were definitely on the "younger" side amongst the crowd and it was cute to see a lot of bald heads ahead of us!
We were able to sing along to some of the well known songs.
On Sunday we went to Church and listened to a great sermon by our Pastor (who has a connection to Leslie's hometown of Shreveport; his wife grew up there and he helped plant a church there). Leslie and I then visited the Weissenhof Museum near downtown Stuttgart, which is known for it's modern, distinctive architecture, revolutionary for it's time (late 1920s).
We then had a coffee in downtown Stuttgart, and sat in the Schlossplatz gardens and wrote in our journals. I didn't take a picture of us writing in our journals, so I'll leave you with some pictures of our flower boxes, which I think look so pretty. ;-)
I feel so blessed to have such wonderful friends. I am praying that you, reading this blog, are doing well too. Love and peace, Fiona xoxo

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Leslie is here!

My sweet friend, Leslie from Louisiana arrived today! I have been looking forward to this visit for so long; it has been TWO years since we saw each other. Needless to say, we let out a little shriek when we saw each other in the airport. Ha!
After we came home and freshened up, we walked downtown and explored our medieval town before heading out to lunch at one of my favorite places that makes awesome salads.
We then headed to another favorite place- STARBUCKS!!! Isn't it lovely that some things are the same no matter where you travel to?! Tomorrow we are heading to Ludwigsburg Castle for a tour of this fabulous castle. Bye for now!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Stella & Dot

This month, two of my friends are hosting some awesome giveaways on their blogs.
Laura, on is giving away a blog makeover on her blog! I love her blog and love the way that she has designed it. She is incredibly talented and has a good eye for design.

Lindsey, on, is hosting a "Stella & Dot" jewelry giveaway. I just checked out their website, and there are some really cute pieces out there!

Good luck, girls! 

Lisa & Jim's Visit!

Lisa & Jim arrived on Sunday afternoon to visit us and to catch up with Kristen while she was also visiting from Paris. It felt like we had just seen each other a few weeks ago, and we almost forgot that each of us live in different countries!
We explored the vineyards behind our house as well as the historic "Kapelle" which is a chapel built by a German king for his young wife, a Russian princess, who died prematurely.
The folks around here call it the "Taj Mahal" of Esslingen. It really is a lovely love story, and one can see a beautiful 360 view of the area from the top.
We then headed down into beautiful Esslingen, where we sat down for a bite to eat at a local, typically Schwaebisch German restaurant. It was fun to hear the church bells on our local "Rathaus". 
After lunch, we came home and hung out a little before heading out to dinner at our local "Burg" or fortress. We tried some more typical German specialities.
Monday morning we got up and I cooked our guests an "Egg Bake" which we enjoyed on our balcony (currently looking lovely with our flower boxes blossoming!!) Zev had to pop into work for a bit, so I took our guests to one of my favorite destinations in this area- the Ludwigsburg Castle. The English tour did not disappoint. Note: you can tell you have frequented Ludwigsburg Castle a little too often when the tour guide points and says "I've seen you here before!" Yes, indeed.
After our castle tour, we headed to the store for Lisa to stock up on another local product: Ritter Sport chocolate! I am planning to take Leslie on the Chocolate Factory tour!!
I am now working hard to get as much work done on my business before Leslie arrives. I am praying for a good visit and safe traveling mercies.

Have a good week and God Bless,
Love Fifi xoxo

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Kristen's visit!

One of my oldest friends, Kristen, is visiting us this weekend, from her home in Paris. Kristen and I met on our very first day as 17 year old Navy Midshipman, on our way to the Australian Defence Force Academy. We have been firm friends ever since. We traveled to Peru and Uruguay together when we were 18; we went to the same law school in Sydney (she was the year ahead of me); and it turns out that not only do we both live (and love) living in Europe, but we will both be beginning our Masters of Laws degrees in our respective countries (Kristen in France- in French! and me in Germany- in German!) We are obviously very alike with our interests and pursuits.
So, in honor of Kristen's visit, I wanted to do something fun with her, that would show her the sights and sounds of the sweet town we live in. I booked us to do a canoe ride through the canals of our town. Now, I must add that for the last two weeks, we have been having wonderfully warm, some would say hot, weather here in Germany. The day Kristen arrives, the weather turns and we get an overcast sky and rain. Not to worry, we are ex-military girls; we decided to power through the rain and still go canoeing!
After a short explanation of how to use the paddles, we hopped into one of these canoes and set off. I had actually never done of these canoe trips through town before, so I thought it might be a lovely little trip through the old town and past the flower boxes and so forth- it turned out to be a little longer!!
It was a good thing that the canoe leaders had some disposable rain ponchos for us to wear. Don't we look so stylish in these ponchos?
I asked Kristen whether these Crocs were all the rage in elegant Paris...
Although it sprinkled for most of the canoe ride, it was still enjoyable and interesting to see how the river ran through our town and explore sights that one would not normally see from the road. We had some "interactive" events, such as getting out of the canoe at one point, so that the leader could navigate it through this lock:
We also had to duck our heads and "make ourselves really small" at the "guillotine." I translated what the leader wanted us to do, to Kristen, and I said "I don't know what this guillotine is that he is talking about." Sure enough, it looked like a giant guillotine and seriously, if we hadn't of ducked really low, it probably would have hurt us- chopped our heads off? I don't know. I obviously didn't risk the latter by attempting a picture. Sorry ;-) After we went "through" the guillotine (with our heads still intact- seriously, what would happen if someone didn't duck there heads? I shudder to think), anyway, we ended up in the main river, the Neckar River. By this stage, I was getting a decent arm workout from the paddling. So I swapped with Kristen at the halfway point ;-) Here we are waiting for another set of locks to open and close:
Check out these massive "doors"!
It really was quite cool, to see the water gush in once the doors were closed, in order to equalize the water in our "holding area" with the rest of the river that we were going to paddle into. (Side note: by this stage, the hood on my cheapo poncho won't stay up and my hair is plastered to my face. It was a funny sight.) Here you can see the water gushing in.
We paddled through one more "mini-guillotine" before the tour ended. I was able to get my camera out quickly and then duck before this one. It wasn't as low/ as scary as the first one! (The first one had a metal edge that looked like a knife blade; this one, as you can see is only made of wood).
We then headed home to meet sweet Zev for a homecooked dinner on our balcony. Our flowers have blossomed in time for our visitors. Today, our friends Lisa and Jim (also friends with Kristen) arrive from Australia. The are only staying one night. And then on Thursday (I am SO excited!), the lovely Leslie arrives from Louisiana!
Until the next "installment" on Zev and Fi! Have a good week, God bless and be safe.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

France for the Fourth and Thank God for our Blessings

We ventured two and a half hours to Colmar, France for the 4th of July, and really enjoyed exploring this quaint and beautiful part of France. The drive out there and back was half the fun; we passed some cute villages and enjoyed seeing houses such as the one above and below. As Zev would say, "so French!" The French do have style!
Every day, we thank God for His blessings. Living in Germany has helped me be more grateful and humbled for the gift of life. Europeans like to stop and enjoy life (French like to REALLY savour it!), so I like to say thanks and hope that we can share our experiences and joys with you, our family and friends. We are also thankful for the little things, like our TomTom. That little gadget has gotten us around Europe- even the tiny, one way cobblestoned streets. Amazing.
Colmar is in the Alsace region of France, a region renowned for excellent food and wine. Colmar is in fact considered the capital of the Alsatian wine-region, and the little villages along the wine trail are too beautiful for just pictures; you really have to experience this magical region to believe it.

Colmar is also special to Zev and I, because one of our dear friends here in Germany, Romain, the husband of sweet Adele, originally comes from Colmar.
We drove out to Colmar on Sunday, July 4th, which was quite appropriate really, considering that this town is also the birthplace of Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi, the sculptor who designed the Statue of Liberty. Because we visited his museum on Independence Day, entry was free into this interesting collection of Bartholdi's works.
Colmar is a wonderful town to enjoy on foot. It reminded me a lot of the town we live in here in Germany, because of the medieval buildings and cobblestoned streets. Do you like this life-size replica of Miss Statue of Liberty's ear?
It was cool to see the many casts and moulds that the sculptor went through, in preparation for the final model which stands in New York today. I would love to visit New York city some day. Yes, although Zev is from NY, I haven't had a chance to visit the city yet. No rush though- I know when the time comes, we will really enjoy it! 
Summer time is a lovely time to visit little European villages, because all the flowers are in bloom and one can sit and dine al fresco and the days are light until late at night. Very romantic actually ;-))
We took a short "cruise" on a small boat through the "Little Venice" part of Colmar, which ran along some gorgeous old restaurants and hotels.
It was fun going under the little bridges and looking at the pretty Alsatian houses along the canal.
The canal cruise made me think of our previous home of Louisiana. The swampy parts of the canal and the architecture of some of the houses really reminded me of New Orleans. Must be that French influence, huh!
We even saw boudin sausages in the store!! And storks- the "state" bird of the Alsace region. They reminded me of Louisiana pelicans. I know they are not the same thing....but they do look awfully alike from a distance! A shout out to all our darling Louisiana friends reading this blog! We miss you and love you!!
Of course, when in France, one must try the local specialities! We visited a couple of places actually- had an appetizer of warm Camembert at one place and then (more cheese!), a gratin dish with a side salad and some Pinot Gris. I had the chevre, tomato and onion gratin (very delicious, very rich but very enjoyable!) and Zev had the "Colmarian" gratin which included ham.
The next day, we headed home via the "Route du Vin" where all the wineries and vineyards were located and the Alsatian pottery towns. We do get a kick out of the importance placed on regions here in Europe. For instance, if you want to buy pottery from Alsace, you go to the little tows where all the potters are located house after house on a street called Potters Lane (Rue du Pottiers). In the pottery town of Betschdorf for instance, although there were many potters on this one road, they all had the same last name- Schmitter! Guess pottery is the family business in this town! Likewise, if you would like to try a special wine or cheese, you go to that region where they stock their particular speciality (in Alsace, the regional cheese is the Munster cheese).
Although we didn't end up buying Alsatian pottery, we did enjoy checking out these storks nesting on a roof in the pottery town of Betschdorf. Their nests are HUGE! The cool thing about these storks is that they traditionally symbolize pregnancy/ upcoming motherhood. (The image of a stork carrying a baby in a bag).
In honor of Romain's Alsatian heritage, a family relative even dressed up as a stork at their wedding last year!
Zev was happy with his little afternoon treat- Chocolate Eclair!
Hope that you had a lovely weekend and a fun Fourth of July if you are reading from the US!
"Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer." Romans 12:12.