Feeling of being overrun

Bitter medicine never comes in small doses, I sighed. To my chagrin, I discovered that our old washer drier had packed up finally Sunday morning with a pool of water on the floor. 

That morning, Bella and I were supposed to be attending Bella’s doggie friend’s first birthday party at Kensington Gardens, and I was rather looking forward to it because of the recent unpleasant incidents. Oh well, I am annoyed but what can I do? Because I seem to have very little control of anything recently. 

Instead of heading towards Chelsea, I trekked to Oxford Circus with Hubbie in tow. And at John Lewis, we ordered an washer drier by Bosch. 

After coming home, I took Bella to Regents Park…

The ground was a full of weekend footballers. 

Because of the remnant of Storm Brian, it was very windy and I had to be extra careful when I threw a frisbee for Bella…

It kept on amazing me that she was very good at anticipating where the frisbee would land. 

Then, she lost it…

Literally, the frisbee disappeared! I combed and combed piles of the fallen leaves but never managed to find the frisbee. How weird, it just vanished into thin air!

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Exploring Strasbourg

When we took Petit Train Touristique de Strasbourg during the previous visit, it took us towards southwest and went around the old city centre clockwise…

The tour showed us all the musts of historic area of Strasbourg, and it also gave us a comprehensive overview of the city. However, the route did not include the area north of Place Gutenberg, and we wanted to explore what they offered there.

We felt a little peckish, so we bought some pastries at local boulangerie, an almond croissant for mum and a brioche for me, and munched on them as we sauntered along Rue des Grandes Arcades. Unlike small side streets around the cathedral, Rue des Grandes Arcades was wide and lined with major high street stores, such as Mango, Adidas, Promod, Levi’s store, etc. Because it was Saturday, there were numerous clusters of people, the locals and the tourists alike, milling around and moving slowly on the pedestrianized grand thoroughfare.

‘Mmm, it’s a bit boring, isn’t it?’, mum and I agreed.

Nowadays, all the high streets in the major cities seemed to sport all the same cookie-cutter façades. It wouldn’t matter where we went, we would end up running into those ubiquitous corporate giant brands. Oh, how depressing.

We just carried on walking along the street and arrived at Place Kléber. The sun was beating down brightly, and it was becoming scorching hot…

I wanted to sit mum down for a break but there was no bench available in the shade.

At the northwest end of the square, we saw a few police cars…

The policemen appeared to be there to keep their eyes on things around the square and to give assurance to the general public.

Then on our right, we saw a tram station.

Hey, shall we hitch a ride on a tram?

Yes! Yes! Yes!

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Bonjour encore, Strasbourg!

Despite the pandemonium experienced during the final leg of our German road trip, we managed to travel to Strasbourg in three hours.

‘We are like an old pro now, aren’t we?’ I chatted to mum as we strode towards Hotel Cathédrale from La place Gutenberg. We were there a mere seven days ago and acquainted ourselves with the area already.

Bonjour, our one night nest!

Last time we were in the city, we only had a few hours to explore the place in reality. It was in a late Saturday afternoon when we arrived and had to leave for Würzburg next morning.

This time, we reach the city by lunchtime, therefore, we had ample time to explore the place further. Mum and I dumped our luggage in our hotel room and went out to see what Strasbourg’s Saturday was really like.

Saturday was market day, and there were stalls laden with antiques and crafts all around La place Gutenberg…

At one stall which specialized in vintage and second-hand books, I asked in my basic French if they had any book of Caroline et ses amis by Pierre Probst. An old vendor in a director’s chair with a Panama hat on looked very surprised and asked me why I knew about the books. I answered him in my basic French again that the series was my childhood favourite.

Caroline and her friends on summer vacation in original French…

Then, the Japanese version with which I grew up…

I loved all the characters in the series…

and especially Youpi, I loved the most because he was the naughtiest…

And I named my aunt’s Yorkshire terrier as Youpi as well!

It was before we had a family dog, and Caroline and her friends really made me fantasised about the life with furry friends…

The old man apologised that he didn’t have any Caroline book in stock and I had to walk away from the stall empty-handed.

It would have been wonderful if I could read the book with mum again…

Some years back, I did managed to buy a few copies of the vintage Caroline series at one of the antique bookshops in Passage Jouffroy, Paris. The books smelt rather musty, but they brought back all the memories of my early childhood.

‘Now, let’s stretch our leg further, mum!’ We turned northward and walked towards Rue des Grandes Arcades…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Schloss Linderhof

Schloss Linderhof in Ettal was another famous creation by Ludwig II of Bavaria. This gem was the only building which was completed while the king was still alive. As a consequence, Ludwig spent most of his later life at this palace.

We arrived at the palace’s car park just before noon.

A sign board on the wall of the public restroom in the car park, displaying the Tyrolean summits in German…

The sun was already high and its glare was beating down on the Tarmac mercilessly. It was going to be another scorching day, we groaned as we stepped out of the car.

What a pretty house! There was a house in the Tyrolean fashion standing by a path leading towards the ticketing office…

Before Ludwig transformed the place to Linderhof Palace, it used to be a hunting lodge favoured by his father, Maximilian II. The exterior of the hunting lodge was clad with timber in the tradition of Tyrolean. I wondered if the lodge looked like the house we walked past.

After buying tickets, we followed a gravelled walkway through parkland. The path was dotted trees which offered a welcome shade here and there.

There was a pond with a lone swan…

A few tourists were looking on the swan from the edge of the pond and the swan appeared to be very tame. The swan glided across the water and looked up at the spectators, expecting to be fed.

After having a short breather, we pressed on towards the palace. The place was surrounded by beautiful woods and pastures…

The place was like an Alpine paradise. Birds were chirping, the blades of pastures gently trembling in the travelling breeze and the blue sky was dotted with fluffy white clouds. I could easily imagine why Ludwig wanted to retreat into this place of tranquility away from the political intrigues of Mucich.

When we arrived at the entrance of the palace, we still had another 10 minutes to spare…

While mum rested at the bench in the shade, I walked around a landscape garden in front of the palace…

Same as Neuschwanstein Castle, the interior of the palace was accessible only by joining a guided tour and photographing it was not permitted. Our group was around twenty people and most of them were Canadians who were touring Bavaria with their Harley Davidsons!

Our tour commenced from the entrance hall with a small golden statue of Louis XIV, Ludwig’s idol. If I was to summarize my impression of the palace in one word, it would be “small”. Everything in Linderhof was exquisitely made but very small. Unlike Neuschwanstein, the place was not made to impress the king’s visitors but to allow the king to retreat into his world of fantasy.

At the bedroom, we were greeted with an enormous stately bed which was inspired by the Sun King’s at Château de Versailles. However, Ludwig never had the “getting up” ceremony, the Levee, like Louis XIV. According to our guide, Ludwig ordered his clothes to be laid out on a table next door and changed himself alone, instead of a team of courtiers helping him to dress every morning.

Another well-known anecdote regarding the reclusive Bavarian king was his peculiar dining habit. His dining room at Linderhof was not stately in scale but regally opulent. It was decorated in the late Rococo style and a priceless Meissen porcelain vase with hand painted porcelain flowers graced as a centrepiece. However, what made this room famous was not the decor but a dining table which the king used to eat his meal. “Tischlein deck dich”, a disappearing dining table was installed for the solitary king, therefore, his servamts wouldn’t have to bother him. It may sound like Ludwig was painfully alone yet he did have dining companions. Well, at least in his imagination. He invited fantasy guests who he considered to have equal clout to him, such as Louis XV, Mme de Pompadour or Marie Antoinette, and asked his cooks to prepare extra feast for them. The kitchen below the dining room would duly laid out the foods, sometimes including Ludwig’s favourite roasted peacock, and hoisted the table up for him and his guests.

Another impression I had about the palace was that it was like the inside of a kaleidoscope. The epitome of it was Ludwig’s favourite room, Hall of Mirrors. It was said that the king loved to spend the nights in this room, reading books and gazing unlimited reflections in the mirrors. No one would ever know what he saw beyond his own faces and the gold gildings shimmering under the candle lights other than imagining his pessimism about his dimishing status and yearning towards the past.

The tour lasted about 30 minutes and we walked out of the palace and into the sunshine and the garden…

What shall we have for lunch? There was a restaurant near the car park and we sat at one of their tables on the terrace and studied menu…

We didn’t fancy what they offered and decided to buy some sandwiches and drinks at a gift shop next to the ticketing office…

Mum had the one with mozzarella and tomato with basil, and I had the one with chicken Schnitzel. They were pretty moreish.

I also bought these adoringly kitsch postcards…

Hubbie, who was a through and through modernist, sniggered when I showed them to him. Oh well, I think they are really retro and cute and I am gonna keep them for myself…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Maximilianstaße, Augsburg

So, Augsburg was founded by Emperor Augustus. It was where the name came from! I chirped to mum while I googled about the statue in Rathausplatz.

From our bench, we could see people sitting on the rims of the fountain and enjoying the late afternoon sunshine. We wondered how scorching hot the square could be when the sun was high during the summer.

It will be very very hot…

The cloud above the square was remnants of the rain we experienced earlier that day.

While we were driving from Rothenburg to the city, we were met with a torrential downpour on A7. The beating of the rain drops was so ferocious that my dusty VW looked like if it went through a car wash once the rain was over. I must say that it was rather a hairy drive because the spray of the water produced by the lorries’ wheels blinded us momentarily every time we passed by them. When the downpour came down its hardest, the only thing we could see through the window screen was tail lamps of the cars in front of us in the shape of very blurry red dots.

‘Shall we get some fruits at a supermarket?’ We walked down Maximilianstraße. The thoroughfare looked like a major high street of Augsburg and both sides of it were lined with large stores.

Let’s try here, we spotted a supermarket. Mum was very curious about German groceries, especially tinned vegetables. In Japan, the people used much less tinned foods for everyday cooking, therefore, she was fascinated by the wide variety of them lining the shelves in Germany. After inspecting every single aisle, mum’s curiosity was satisfied and we left the shop with a box of strawberries, a few flat peaches and a bag of dried apple slices.

Then, I spotted a pharmacy. ‘Can I check if they stock the sunscreen I am after?’

I had been looking for a particular sunscreen by La Roche-Posay, called UVIDEA XL Ultra-light Mist SPF50. I asked about it at every chemist in France but couldn’t find it. And I was wondering if I had any luck in Germany. The pharmacy was large and did stock La Roche-Posay. However, they didn’t have the specific one I was looking for and I had to leave empty-handed. Oh, c’estla vie!

We continued our stroll down Maximilianstraße and arrived at a junction with Moritzplatz…

A multiple tramway tracks merged and forked at the junction…

Drum roll, please! We will ride a tram in my next blog entry (at last)…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

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