Swapping Homes Anybody?

NOW THAT WE'VE WALKED THE WALK, WE CAN GIVE YOU THE STRAIGHT TALK ON HOME SWAPPING. (Season 6)

Downtown the world famous spa resort of Baden-Baden

Friday, July 29, 2011

Take the "in" out of Intrepid, please

Did I mention we have a second home swap planned in France near Paris? After 2 days on the road with pit stops to see two famous cathedrals, I’m beat. First we visited the big Dom in Aix La Chapelle (Aachen)  where Charlemagne was crowned in 800 A.D. and then the huge Gothic cathedrals at Reims. built a thousand years ago and where all French kings were crowned. This included a little detour from the direct route to our destination, but both were worth it. The weather Gods seem to be thinking it’s autumn already. Mostly cloudy with rain showers and 17 degrees Centigrade max. Both times we got out of the car to do our sightseeing, the sky cleared up temporarily so that we could walk to the cathedrals on dry foot and even have a bite to eat sitting outside, wrapped in a blanket, however. Restaurants in Germany provide those when the weather just wouldn't comply. We drove through the beautiful countryside of the Ardennes in Belgium, very hilly and deeply forested.Lots of battles took place here in both World Wars, Even the 120km from Reims to Paris showed us lovely, green French countryside, surprisingly devoid of populated areas.
The car’s navigation system took us right into evening rush hour Paris, a place you do not want to experience. Everything was choc-a-block and Miss Navi constantly rerouted us, sent us on U turns to avoid the “traffic problem”, as she called it only realizing when it was too late that there were more of the same in the other direction. We had an unscheduled free two-hour-long sightseeing tour of Paris, the Internal Peripherique as well as the External. Trying to get over a bridge to cross the Seine was the target to take us out of this bedlam. There may have been traffic rules in the olden days. Now everybody seems to fend for himself, the survival of the fittest. Motor bikers weaseling their way between cars in a dangerous fashion domineering the roads.Well, if some don't make it, it only proves Darwin is right; let's not forget that kidney donors are badly needed and derive form this pool of humanity. I drove while hubby tried to reconcile Miss Navi and his own GPS (mentioned before!) as well as juggling a map.
People cut in in front of me from all sides; I wasn’t the typical alpha male Parisian forging through and our foreign number plate didn’t earn us any sympathy. I had done trips from Ireland to Germany that took me through the French capital before. I wonder how I ever navigated the Paris road system on my own, without a GPS or navigation system or a hubby in the passenger seat. 
We made it to the house just before dark, found the keys and were able to disarm the alarm. We also brought in all our six Big Berthas without the skies opening again on us. We were at the “Final Destination. But sometimes it's happier to travel than to arrive…
In the meantime a little storm had been brewing back home. The change over from one family to another in one day required some careful planning on my part, i.e. to have the taxi in place at the appointed time for pick up and drop off. And the more important thing for me was to guarantee a clean house for the newcomers. For that purpose I had hired a cleaner to tidy up after the Germans and change the sheets and wash the towels. It's no fun to arrive to an unmade or dirty house after a transatlantic flight and travel time of almost 24 hours.
The cleaner sent me an email “You won’t like this, but…the Germans locked the door from the kitchen to the garage which has a deadbolt.” The cleaners couldn’t get past the garage for which they had the lock number. So the house remained uncleaned, the next, the French family couldn’t get in the way they had expected. They had to find the hidden key in the dark in the slashing rain only to face unmade beds at midnight. Why the Germans locked the door thru which they had entered themselves initially and why the cleaner didn’t call me, remains a mystery. I would have told them how to get in.
Why the French, however, weren’t fussed over the state of the house and its cleanliness is pretty clear to me now. People have different standards and concepts of what is clean.







But more tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Was it worth it?

People who are reading my blog ask me to report at the end if it was worth it.
We're only at the half-way point and I can safely say, ‘we enjoyed it’. We saw parts of Germany we would never have dreamed of visiting, as they're not considered too touristy. We stayed in a very comfortable house for 4 weeks for nothing; eh, we offered our own in exchange. If you think about the benefit of that: we were told when the sprinklers didn't work as set, we got updates about the state of the lawn--when the lawn man didn't turn up, that the newly repaired washing machine still presented with the same problem. Somebody kept an eye on the mail and watered our plants. The house is and looks lived in which gives us a good feeling although we have a house alarm. In addition, we had a car at our disposal. An outlay not to be underestimated. We stayed in a house that really had everything we needed except for the ice maker and AC which we didn't miss. Well, most Europeans have a smaller fridge than Americans. That is one thing I definitely would change if we were to live in Germany again.
We met the family we swapped homes with, a delightful family. It's a great bonus if that happens. The next family from France we'll only meet after our stay when we're back in FL and they are about to vacate our house a day later.
There was no report about anything getting thrashed. The cleaners might rectify that tomorrow... It was my son who broke a coaster in this house. As way of compensating for that our exchange partner bought one of my books. Hey, a sale was done, too!
With all these modern technologies it's easy to keep on top of things. We email almost daily, when a crisis lurks -like I couldn't switch on their TV one day we skyped. Mail is being forwarded to our current destination although with a hiccup on the part of USPS. Cheap telephone lines make communication in both places easy.
We also met their parents who may have kept an eye out without us knowing and I got two jars of my beloved quince jelly which I'll never make myself in my life again.
In comparison, the really nice flat we rented last year, lacked certain mod cons or they were not functional in spite of us paying EUR 1000 for just one week. Obviously our rental car was on top of that.
It gave me ample of time to update my impression and adjust my memory. That will keep me going when away again form my native homeland for a while. We stocked up on Rumkugeln and other goodies. Enough to see me through a few weeks, unless Hubby partakes too much. He also grew find fond of Broetchen etc.
There are many websites to choose from, but this one has a lot of members worldwide and over 1000 in Germany. Have a look for yourself It's like browsing a travel catalog.
Will we do it again? Yes, we are. going to....tomorrow. And if that experience proves anything positive like this one, we might add another month next year. If we wanted more, my American husband would run into Visa restrictions. But there is a way to deal with that. I'm very grateful he arranged his heavy work schedule around my needs of being in Germany. In France, at last, he'll be on vacation for the most part. I'm so glad.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The oldest castle fortification in Germany

After the road blocks were removed and we were able to get out of Dodge, we drove to Friedberg. The Iroman cyclists had gone thru it and the reporter mentioned that old fortification built between 1171 and 1180 by King Barbarossa. Hubby needed some fresh air after his trip back from CA and having slept for hours. Cute little town.If there was more time, I'd go back for some shopping,but hey--I'm off to Paris next.
The castle's gardens had an exhibition of unpublished photos from a private collection of the Tzar family.It commemorated the 100th anniversary of the Tzar and Tzarina coming to Friedberg in August 1910. Buddies Nick (Nikolaj of Russia and Will, Wilhelm, Emperor  of Germany, enjoyed the summer here with their children..Four years later, World War I broke out and their were arch enemies.The exhibition referred to it as an almost forgotten war here in  Germany in contrast to other countries, e.g. England who commemorates it on Poppy Day.
Fortified with an umbrella we walked the grounds and took many good pics. It got quite chilly alright.We warmed up in a local brewery and were glad we had done this little trip on the spur of the moment. See glass of beer. We didn't go to one beer garden during our stay as expected.Too wet and cold.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Men made of iron

In contrast to the prevailing heat wave in the US, the weather here is cool, mixed with the occasional rain, temperatures are hovering around 15 degrees Celsius. Almost deal for today's triathlon.The competition starts at 7 a.m.with a 3.5 km swim through the Langener Waldsee (Lake Langen) , then a 180km bike ride, twice from Frankfurt to Bad Nauheim and back.That's a similar distance of an 'etappe' of the Tour de France. A soon as that is completed, they embark on a marathon.That's right, as if the previous sport activities wouldn't be a huge achievement on their own, they run 42 km!.I knew marathon runners in Ireland, saw them train and saw them sweat. Doing a marathon after that 'etappe' de Frankfurt plus the swim, is beyond my imagination. But I couldn't run for the bus, as they say in Ireland.
We watched it a bit on local TV and went for a ride. The photo shows some neighbors who had been watching the race under the shelter of a bus stop and were still partying.


Saturday, July 23, 2011

IRONMAN is coming

The town is bracing itself for the advent of a true athletic event:Ironman.de.The European championship of  an US triathlon event :Ironman. Streets have been cordoned off and tomorrow when they race past, we have to stay put. There is no escaping between the hours of 6 a.m. and 2 p.m. Suits us- we have to pack out bags, remember? 6 "Berthas".
Hubby arrived on schedule back from CA. At the moment, he doesn't quite know where he is and what time.
Since I had no insurance, the (emergency or urgent care) charged me like a private patient:EUR 15 for consult and 10 for extensive physical. That is about the equivalent of my co-pay!
The next step of obtaining the medications also made me wildly aware of a difference between "socialized"
German Healthcare and the US system. Here you take your prescription to a Apotheke (pharmacy-most of them are privately owned. No chains like ..you know who). You hand your piece of paper to the competent pharmacists; he disappears into his storage or shelving area, comes out with my  medications, puts them in a bag, and rings up the money. The transaction is over in less than 5 minutes unless you ask him for advice. If they are out of a certain product, they will procure it within a few hours, often even deliver to your house, as my good pharmacy friend in Stuttgart always does.Their individual packaging makes it easy to tell them apart. No five bottles that look alike and could easily be mixed up.No waiting for pills to be counted. Individual leaflets of how to take them etc. are inside each package. See for yourselves. I wonder why can Germany do it and the USA can't?

Friday, July 22, 2011

Warning: Don’t trust Google Maps!

Today is hump day! In 4 weeks time we’ll be on the plane home. Due to more internal discomfort, I had to make a trip to another doctor on a Friday afternoon. The local telephone book connected me to an emergency service. Since I hadn’t visited that neighboring town, I trusted Mr. Google with my quest for the location and route: 7.4 km and 14 minutes. Big mistake, and not for the first time. We had several bad experiences over the years which caused marital disharmony when hubby totally relied on the all-knowing map provider; I knew my hometown better and would have bet the farm the searched for location was not there. Another time, He (yes, I always call him Mr. Google; a woman is better at directions…}) on the way to Yosemite Park on our honeymoon of all occasion, he made us take a road up to a mountain top which ended in a dirt track. The mountain ranger was curious what business we had up there until we explained. Then he nodded knowingly. We've now developed a system in which I drive according to my husband’s directions which he gets live from the GPS on his I-Phone. He would do both at the same time if my female persuasion skills didn’t prevent him from doing so. But he wasn’t here and I had to fend for myself.
Yesterday’s wild goose chase included my search for a local branch of Deutsche Bank which is the corresponding business partner of Bank of America. An online chat with a BOA associate had revealed that. Corresponding banks don’t charge the usual fees for ATM withdrawals and cash transactions. Besides, only Deutsche Bank is authorized to accept $100 bills and has the facility to check if they are counterfeits. Mr. Google sent me to a Sparkasse in the same location. No wonder, the locals had shaken their heads in response to my question. They didn’t know Deutsche Bank had come into town. And the town has its own Sparkasse. I needn’t have driven the 5kms. Except it tuned into 15mls when I got a little lost between villages, because I had not googled the return route….}. For my next inquiry into an insurance company I proceeded with more caution, called ahead if they were who Mr. Google claimed and if they were it said location. It turned out, the friendly representative answered my questions satisfactorily and I didn’t even have to drive there.
I’ll stop here. Enough gripe for one day. Coincidentally, the dictionary tells me the word gripe also explains my aforementioned internal discomfort.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A quiet day back on the ranch

We're getting lazier and lazier here. If the weather persists, we'll barely make it out of the house. Miraculously, it clears up in the evening so that we can get our constitutional. Not much for a strapping young man who plays American football for fun.I found a few more objects worth taking a picture. A US mail box, rather unusual here. We had one on the Irish farm, but just a simple, regular model, not as cute as this one. And this one here doesn't even go with a farm.
The other picture shows a phenomenon that I noticed last year already further south, Bavaria way. Most private houses have solar panels. How this is feasible with far less sunshine than in Florida, bamboozles me.
The fruit is a rare find:a quince tree.Makes for wonderful jelly, but a lot of work. And a tiny personal success: my son made me overcome my fear of horses by asking me to feed them carrots tonight. In spite of having lived on a farm and having horses, I have been too timid to go near them.Some bad experience that I should reserve for my Irish blog:www.Ioncehadafarminireland.blogspot.com.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

We feel quite at home here in spite of the weather

Another day of bad weather --at least no Floridian steam room-- brought the arrival of my son for a precious few days.The evening rewarded us with some sunshine and milder temperatures as well as a great sunset. We made good use of it by going on a walk around and thru the fields as I did many a time before with all my visitors.In the past 3 weeks, the blackberries and plums ripened and I eat as I go along. Like my daughter, my son headed straight for the young cows (yearlings) and ponies. Rephrasing the old family saying: You can take a boy out of a farm but you can't take a farm out of a boy. 
The other two pictures show modern German apartment architecture here in town and that Germans bring their bags when they go shopping. And not just the measly little Publix bags that I took years promoting until I saw a number of people actually bring them. No, real baskets.I had mentioned this before on my Irish blog.http://www.inandoutofireland.blogspot.com/ When we first arrived on Irish soil, I was the only one who even had or brought a basket to the shop. The shop owner looked condescendingly at me,"Why bother? We have plastic bags now". She shook her head about the incredible German government that charged their citizens a small amount for plastic bags since the 80s. She added"That wouldn't go down well in this country". It took until the year 2001/2 until European laws leveled the playing fields for European consumers.By then I had moved away from the farm and never met shop-keeper Deirdre again. Curious to know what she would have to say for herself....





Sunday, July 17, 2011

So near and yet so far

As I'm writing this blog,  the Women's Football World Cup is about to roll over the TV screens. Though near Frankfurt, I'm not in the stadium yet watching from the comfort of my nice home. The set-up of  the stadium is quite impressive with a retractable glass roof which is currently covering the grounds because of the lousy weather that kept me indoors all day. With hubby off back to the USA for a few days and my latest set of visitors gone, I had time for myself -after stripping the beds and changing the linens for the arrival of my son tomorrow. TIVO or the technology of DVR has't made it to modern Germany yet for some unknown reason, so I really better watch carefully. You cannot rewind  if you want to or stop a program if you have to..                 
Even Angela Merkel is there on her 57th birthday.She is a big football fan. There was speculation whether Mr. or Mrs. Obama would turn up. But the President couldn't make it because of the debt crisis -so rumor  has it here.  As Germany is out of the competition, I can wholeheartedly say: USA GO!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Big difference

After some proper rain yesterday and all night, there is a lovely freshness to the air:but it's supposed to warm up again. I'd like to introduce you to some typical German features/ laws that don't exist in the USA, as far as I know.
1. Recycling. Oh yes, there is some recycling in our home town in FL, mostly in suburbia and not in condo neighborhoods. Here every household has to separate their trash into different categories. Wine bottles and other glass bottles for which you haven't paid a return-pledge (" Pfand", a couple of cents), need to be taken to glass recycling containers that are placed all over town, or even each little village. Once there, you must differentiate between white, green, and brown glass. Because of the accompanying noise, it's forbidden to dispose of them after 8 P.M. and on Sundays.
Bottles that you paid this pledge amount for go back to the store; this applies especially for crates of beer or soda bottles. You separate paper and cartons from your household trash into the blue bin (trash can). Some towns insist on a Bio-bin, the brown can, meaning you gather your organic materials in there: left over foods, vegetable or fruit peels, and yard clippings etc. Here it isn't obligatory, but it is where my aunt lives up north. No garbage disposals. I don’t know whether they exist at all or are forbidding because of recycling laws.
Talking to German friends they are quite appalled by the idea of a garbage disposal. “They only feed rats in the sewerage system” is the prevailing belief. How is that avoided in the States, I wonder. Coming form an organic farm, I never liked the idea of a garbage disposal either. Left-over were ALWAYs fed to some animals.
You buy yellow plastic bags for plastic, packaging, (no paper or cartons), metal, plastic bottles that contained shampoo, household cleaners, deodorants, milk cartons. The bag itemizes what goes in and what not. (Sorry that is not too good a shot! My daughter should have taken a pic of it). It also emphasizes that everything has to be clean. I.e. people rinse their empty yoghurt cartons or aluminum cans.
And then there is a blue can for “rest” trash. I haven’t quite figured out what goes in there, honestly. We’re probably messing up royally here. If the trash collectors find things in either of the bins that shouldn’t be there, they refuse to take it and leave the full can on the curb.

The photo on the left shows a bottle return machine and some crates stacked up next to it. You put your bottles in that round hole one after another and press the green button underneath when finished. You get a receipt and your money at the check-out. This was a new system for me too!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A trip to Speyer

  I chose the hottest and muggiest day to travel to Speyer, a town in the vicinity of Heidelberg.It gained some notoriety through a GI called Elvis who allegedly lost his heart there. No, I'm not taking you there.Speyer is famous for its cathedral that was begun in 1025. Wikipedia offers its complete history if you're interested: Speyer.My mission wasn't sightseeing but visiting an old friend way back from Ireland who landed in a nursing home there. He had sold me his wine business in Dublin when he retired. The road trip also went past Schwetzingen. Yes, it has a castle which I never visited but the area is the pinnacle of growing white asparagus. You can buy early asparagus from Morocco in March. But a real German asparagus lover frowns at the idea and waits for Schwetzinger or local one to appear on our local markets.Alas, the season is over. Another place of interest which had escaped my attention so far traveling thru Germany is the Hockenheim Ring.If you're familiar with Formula I motor racing, the name means something to you.I don't want to belittle Nascar Racing or the Daytona 500, but it's just a cast-off of Formula I racing whch embraces the whole world. It also comes to Indianapolis Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Besides Monaco, Dubai, Japan, Bahrain, UK, Barcelona, The Grand Prix has two race courses in Germany, The Hockenheim Ring and the Nuerburg Ring. The town of Speyer itself resembles so many towns in Germany that have old parts of town, mostly pedestrianized with gorgeous timber framed houses, endless opportunities to sit out and have a coffee of meal. Weather permitting, of course. And it did. We're waiting for a weather front to come thru.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Another castle


Out of circulation for a few days due to tummy bug. The food, the muggy weather or is it just going round, as the doctor said.The last trip my daughter and I made was to a town called Koenigstein which I had never heard of before. It's situated in Rheingau, one of the famous wine producing areas.After some climbing up the ruin of a castle, a lot of picture taking, we deserved our lunch 'al fresco.'The area we are staying in is not exactly touristy. The trips we are making are short, an hour max to the west of the metropolis of Frankfurt. A hill (instead of mountain) range of low height covers both sides around Frankfurt and is called Taunus. The other towns I mentioned before like Eltville, or the Rheingau are considered German tourist destination for retires or old age pensioners. Hadn't expected to do this, yet--but it's lovely, relaxing and shows me a new part of my own country.
Over the weekend, a girl-friend drove up 200km to me.What joy a reunion is after some years. Hubby asked whether I missed 'home?' A bit, I had to admit. He didn't, surprisingly enough.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Another day, another blog

Getting quite busy here maintaining my Irish blog http://www.inandoutofireland.blogspot.com/ and promotion for my book going plus the blog on that one http://www.nexttimelucky.blogspot.com/ while, at the same time, my daughter is visiting. She's taking us for walks into the fields behind the neighborhood everyday. Having grown up on a farm in Ireland, she is quite the outdoor type. and enjoys tiny things in nature. She is also a good photographer and finds good shots in unexpected places. She loves the horses in the nearby fields, having had her own once and naturally pats young cows. We saw a stork land in field where grass was just cut, but it's a bit too far away. I haven't seen storks since my childhood and these were in nests up on chimneys.
 Although we're only 15 mls from Frankfurt, we have all this green countryside around is, cornfields, woods, and orchards.It's also surprisingly quiet in spite of the heavy air traffic.I was worried because I had heard a few planes then.They rotate the approach fly paths every night so that the noise is evenly distributed. The hotel owner where  we stayed on our first night also told me that they just gained permission to build a new runway and landing strip. Thus Frankfurt Airport (FRA) will DOUBLE its starts from 300,000 to 600,000 a year. The German economy is booming.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

In the Name of the Rose


On 4 July, we made a wonderful excursion to an old cistercian cloister, Eberbach, about 45 km from here near thepretty medieval town of Eltville / Rhine..It's better known from the film based on Umberto Ecco's book. One would never have guessed the film was made here. The surrounding landscape is totally different, rolling hills and woods as opposed to high bleak Alpine mountains.The cloister is in great repair, was secularized in 1806. Since then it is a working vineyard owned by the government of the Hessian State and makes lovely wines of some renown. The only room remotely resembling what I remember of the film is the so-called dormitory (for lay people). A huge empty hall where, in the film, the library was placed, with a door to the secret tower upstairs full of forbidden books. In the basement, musty as real wine cellar has to be, dozens of ancient, dark wooden barrels reminded me of the scene where they found one dead monk floating in a mixture of wine and blood. In the summer, classical concerts are played in the more than sparse, overly plain former chapel. They have a classic garden restaurant with typical fare for the weary traveler and, of course, wine and cider.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

One card down

Sunday we went into Frankfurt City to pick up my daughter. We saw the famous Roemerberg, Dom (Cathedral) but had no time to visit the birth place of Goethe which is nearby.. A lovely meal sitting by the Main when the sun eventually showed her face somewhat.
At the huge train station, waiting for her train's arrival, my husband wanted to withdraw money with our Bank of America Visa Debit card. He couldn't. He wasn't even asked for a PIN. The machine just gobbled it up. Hubby spent hours on the phone with Bank of America and chatted online with Visa. My daughter and I in the meanwhile went for a walk thru the nearby fields: sunflowers, apple trees etc. Hubby learned that we should have alerted Visa that we were going abroad .Hello? We've been doing this for years. My husband travels all around the world and never had it happen. The jewel on the crown was that we had used the same card at a different location the day before and even got our money. .Now we are down one card.
The weather picked up again and we're enjoying the outdoors.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

A Historic Spa: Bad Nauheim

We went to a neighboring town called Bad Nauheiim, 22mls north of Frankfurt.It's one of the age old spas renowned for taking "the waters'. A fashion that developed over a hundred years ago in towns that had mineral wells, hot or cold which were deemed to have remedial qualities for many an ailment. The resort is noted for its salt springs, which are used to treat heart and nerve diseases. Here's one of the public water fountains.
Elvis Presley lived here during his stint with the army and he used the gate of the castle ("Burgpforte") as the motif for a record cover in 1959.
It's also renowned for another historical factor: General Patton was assigned to command the Fifteenth Army with its headquarters in Bad Nauheim. While Frankfurt was heavily bombed, this little resort was spared because the general loved it so much that the uS headquarters were moved there. On December 9, 1945 General Patton left Bad Nauheim for a hunting trip near Mannheim, which resulted in a fatal car crash that took General Patton's life. Happy 4 July!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Cool and thunderstorms

As opposed to hot and thunderstorms, it makes for a welcome change. Whatever bit of a tan I brought from FL has dissipated already. The bottle doesn't work as well without real sun in addition! No AC in the house also means no heat if it gets any colder at night.
The other thing we take for granted in the USA is an ice maker. At least my hubby likes his sodas with ice. But we came prepared with the old-fashioned ice trays and a container to put the cubes into. Well, we don't travel lightly. We brought Splenda, Ziploc bags, Special K (the big box from Costco), a thousand adapters, cables, plugs, even Worcester Sauce."Honey, the war has been over for 60 years. We do have these things in Germany, too."
"Yes, but it's cheaper when we can bring what we have at home already since Delta brought the bags free of charge for a platinum member frequent flyer."Alas, we still had to haul them around  and up some stairs.
So a little bit of exploring is  in order for today. Maybe even a walk in between the showers. Took pics of neighborhood yesterday, But all of  a sudden my laptop doesn't recognize my camera anymore when I want to download them. Strangers in a foreign country ...

Friday, July 1, 2011

Finally there...

The big day to take over our holiday home had arrived. And maybe to face the music; see for ourselves whether the pics on the home swap website lived up to their promises. Having met the German home owners/swap partners the night before, we felt very confidant. They are really nice people who have been to the States before.
We drove the short distance from the hotel to their house to drop off our multitudinous bags and then drop off the rental car in Frankfurt’s fair city. From then on we have the use of their cars.
The house is beautiful and exactly the way I had expected it. A typical German house with blinds outside, electric in this case which is very practical. It’s in a quiet neighborhood, 5 minutes walk to a big supermarket and a quick drive to some little restaurants and the Gelateria I had been hankering for. The house has two terraces; one has sun in the morning, one in the evening.  The garden could have been designed and planted by myself with similar features on our own porch with the predominant color being blue. It has all the mod cons we need like dishwasher, dryer etc. and a gym in the huge basement where we can store our bags. In fact, it has everything, even the same flatscreen tV that we have! But it doesn't have AC which is a real draw-back for my American husband. And no fly-screens. So first thing on our shopping list beside food was a fly swatter and a net to build a fly screen.
On the first day, I cooked my white asparagus that our exchange partners had bought for me, in the afternoon an apple strudel was baking in the oven and the evening was rounded off by one of my favorite TV shows. I’m a sucker for Krimis, i.e. detective stories/thrillers. In the US, I’m taping them on a German website and download them from there onto my PC. Here, lazy and still jet-lagged on a brand-new comfy couch, I nibbled at my favorite liqueur filled chocolates watching it live. Yes, the jet-lag took a bigger toll this time not having slept on the plane.
While the first 2 days it was as hot as in Florida, the weather now has changed. It’s just below 20 degrees Celsius, the umbrella sprang into action already but that saves me watering their garden. The nights are cool;  we sleep with the window open until some noisy birds wake up and us at the same time. I just close the window. I hear the German family is enjoying our pool.