7 Tips on Grocery Shopping in Stuttgart, Germany

Operating hours

Grocery stores are open from 7:00 a.m.- 10:00 p.m.  They are closed on Sundays. We leave at 6:30 from the house and arrive in the parking lot. We wait for about ten minutes. There are about ten customers with their shopping carts lined up in front of the entry way. In order to get a parking spot, you must be there before the store opens. Parking lots are small. We first go to Kaufman to buy bread and some other items. I buy yogurt and some bananas. My hosts don’t seem to eat much fruit nor yogurt. They did have some green grapes.  We finish shopping and drive over to Aldi. According to my hosts Aldi is a better place to get fresh vegetables.

Grocery Carts

In order to use a grocery cart, you must have a token. Slip the token into the slot and unlock the cart. The cart must be returned and locked. The token pops out and you use it again. No shopping carts are stolen from the lots and they are neatly put away in their racks.

Grocery bags

Groceries are rung up by a cashier who has the luxury of sitting in a chair. She won’t greet you. You will get a strange look if you great her. Don’t ever trust the cashier. Check your receipt before leaving the store. Advice from my host. The customer puts the groceries in the cart. Everyone has carriers stored in their cars for packing the groceries. No service provided. There are no plastic bags.

Storage of milk

Milk comes in a box. It is stored on a shelf. Not in a refrigerator. Yogurt is stored in a cold place. It is not eaten by many German hosts. Eggs are also stored on shelves.

Fresh Bread

Bread is freshly baked every morning. It is the first item Germans buy in the morning. I approach the bakery’s bins of bread. Most of them are half empty. People wait around. The bins begin to fill with the fresh smell of bread. Customers the bread grab with the tongs provided and off they go to continue their shopping. Fresh bread is for breakfast.

Two Floors

The grocery store is two floors. There is an escalator for the customer and the cart to go up at the same time. The escalator is flat. It reminds me of the escalators in IKEA.

Organization

The grocery stores are organized in the same design as  in the US. The candy is in one aisle. Cold foods in the refrigerated aisle. The check out aisle includes tobacco products. There are many Germans who smoke. Most restaurants do not allow smoking inside. There are no rules on how far they have stand outside of a building to smoke. Many people smoke at the entrance. The tobacco products are locked up.

 

 

10 Important Cultural Experiences in Switzerland

 

1. No Free Restrooms known as “toiletines”

There are no “free” restrooms in Switzerland. The price depends on which gender you are. Males can piss in the toilet for 1.5 CH ($1.50). Females cannot perform this technique very well. They are charged 2CH ($2). Some places charge up to $3. This is not a place to rush. You pay to go. Stay as long as you can. The Starbucks near the Zurich main train station across from the tour buses has a code. I paid $7 for a cappuccino in order to get the code. I later found out they don’t change the code. Skip the $7 coffee and type in 5555 to get into the restroom. Hopefully, they don’t change it. It worked for four days.

The door of the restroom in Starbucks at the Zurich main train station.

There is more than one way to flush the toilet. There is one side to flush for poop and another side to flush for pee. One is bigger than the other. I couldn’t figure out which one to flush. I chose the bigger size. Do they go down a different pipe? There is plenty of toilet paper. The toilets are very clean. There is an attendant who cleans the bathroom after each use.

The bathroom in Murren. Just flip the switch here. It all goes to the same place.

2. The laundromats

I used a laundromat in Murren near our hotel. The cost for washing was $5 and the cost of drying $5. My roommate and I shared both the washer and dryer. It costs a total of $10 for the dryer. It took longer for the clothes to dry.

3. No tipping

There is no need to tip in Switzerland. Most waiters and waitresses will refuse the tip. There is not a line to add a tip when you use your credit card. Service people in Switzerland start at $50,000. They are paid very well. They stay at their jobs longer and are appreciated by their employers.

4. No AC

There is no AC in Switzerland. A fan did the job at my hotel in Zurich. It was muggy and warm. We left the windows open when possible in Murren. The windows of the hotels in Zurich have windows that can be opened.

5. Free water

Switzerland has water flowing out of fountains everywhere. People fill their water bottles with fresh cool water. The water is safe to drink.

6.The Swiss diet

The Swiss eat a lot of bread, cheese, dried meats, and yogurt. Pretzel sandwiches were the best. You have a choice of Pretzels with cheese, ham, cream cheese, tuna (I don’t think it was tuna). I had a “tuna”. Commuters stop in front of a pretzel shop on the street and order their sandwiches. Some of them stand around and eat before boarding the train. Others carry their order on board. There is no eating or drinking allowed on commuter trains. Street food is everywhere and very safe to eat.

 

The best pretzel stand in Zurich.

7. Public Transportation

The Swiss make good use of public transportation.  Roads are very narrow, it’s expensive to have a car in the city, there is no parking, and many of the narrow streets restrict car traffic during the day. Transportation is very clean and safe. I never worried about someone grabbing me, taking my purse, or being rude.  As an American, I blended in very well. Until I opened my mouth. The people are very friendly. When I was lost, they pointed me in the right direction. When I couldn’t understand, they translated for me. The trains are sometimes confusing. The only list the last station where the train stops. I became confused because I could never find the station I wanted to end up at. Everything was explained to me by a very kind young man who wanted to practice his English.

The Zurich train station is a two-floor shopping mall. It has everything. It is the only place to shop on Sunday. All shops outside of the station are closed on Sundays.

8. The Swiss are very active

The Swiss bike, swim, and hike. They have access to clean air, water, mountains, uncountable trails for hiking and biking.  There are so many lakes, creeks, and streams. The trains have designated cars for bicycles and strollers. Hikers carry backpacks with camping equipment. Switzerland is one wide open camping spot.

Swiss campsite. So clean!

Lake Zurich flows through the city. People swim and boat in it.

9. Swiss dress informally

They don’t wear t-shirts. The people on their way to work dress in appropriate wear. On the weekends they dress down.

Swiss on weekends

10. There are many outdoor cafes

The Swiss like other Europeans eat outside of the restaurants. Most restaurants are very small. They accommodate between 20-30 people. Some more. Some less. The tables spill out onto the closed streets. There are many Swiss who smoke. Smoking is prohibited inside restaurants, some bars, train stations, and places where children hang out. They are allowed to smoke anywhere outside. The butts are disposed of in a special dispenser found all around the city and right before boarding a train.

Outdoor Bar

Switzerland is a clean and safe place to visit. The people are kind and always there to help out.

Good-bye Switzerland. I will miss you!

 

 

 

 

Am I a Failure?

I stand in front of the automatic sliding doors nervously waiting for them to open. I run back and forth because I can’t find the entrance. I am so excited. I am going to the only store that allows me to enter. My feet are sliding all over the freshly mopped linoleum floor. Where’s the snack aisle? That is my favorite. My feet are moving as fast as they can. I am going nowhere. Oh, I forgot. I am attached to a leash.

A middle-aged lady with a blue apron approaches me.

“Hi, are you Chloe?” she asks

How does she know my name? I look at her with my big brown eyes and wiggle my little butt.

Her apron has the name “Petco” printed on the left -hand side.

She leads me to a large blue enclosure at the entrance of the store. I am not alone. There is another dog sitting with its owner. He is bigger than me. I try to be brave. The lady is talking to Carol, my owner. She is going over the commands that I must master. I am here to take the Canine Good Citizenship test. I have been practicing at home for almost one month. Mom didn’t think it was necessary to sign up for the classes. She knows I am naturally smart and always obey the rules. She just gets annoyed when I whine.

Sit. Sit. Stay. Stay. Come. Good Chloe. I practiced these commands every day. I feel ready. I can do this.

The nice lady gives me the commands. “Sit Chloe”. I sit. She makes a checkmark on her clipboard. She leads me around the enclosure. “Sit”. She walks away. She turns around and says “come”. I come. She makes another check mark. Mom and I go out of the enclosure. We go down my favorite aisle. The snack aisle. I smell the food. That is a bad checkmark. We get to the end and Mom tells me to “stay”. I like mom. I do what she tells me. I sit. Mom turns her back on me and walks to the end of the aisle. I don’t like it when she does that. I am scared she will leave me. I sit and wait. The lady says I must wait for two minutes. I can’t wait any longer. I run after Carol. Another checkmark in the no pass column. We try it once more. No, I can’t do it.

We return to the blue enclosure. The lady gives Mom the bad news. I didn’t pass the Canine Good Citizenship test. I feel bad. Mom reaches down and pats my head. Is she disappointed in me? Am I a failure?

We walk out. I jump in the car. Sit in my seat. I didn’t get any treats. I lay my head down on the seat. We drive home. Mom stops the car. Wait this is not home. I jump out. Mom attaches my leash. We walk a few feet. Yes, we are at the ice cream shop. I am so happy. Mom only lets me have vanilla. I have the best mom. Thanks, Mom. I lick the ice cream off the spoon. Mom tells me I am the best. I feel so good inside.

I am not a failure. Mom loves me!

 

7 Easy to Use Apps for Boomer Travelers

Traveling is sometimes very frustrating without some useful tools at our fingertips. I am a traveling boomer and find the following apps very useful and easy to use.

Keep track of your trip

Tripit was recommended to me by a fellow traveler I met at the Women in Travel Summit. Tripit will get information from your received emails about your upcoming trips. Hotels, air flights, and conference dates. It alerts you to any changes in gates, flight times, or delayed flights. It will help you find another flight if your plans change. It maps your entire flight on your iPhone. It allows you to share your itinerary with others.  Tripit Pro costs $49 per year.

Both Tripit (free) and Tripit Pro organize your plans and share with others. Tripit Pro will alert you if a better seat becomes available, track your reward programs, and save money with VIP travel benefits. No more carrying around paper copies of your hotel confirmations or your travel documents. Everything is in one place.

Book your hotel

Booking .com  Manages your booking by showing the check in and check out time. You can become a “genius” with Booking.com when you book your hotels and post reviews of hotels and restaurants. Genius status allows you to check in early, check out late, and at many of the hotels outside of the US, you can get a free drink. This status offers rates at a lower price and rewards you with points for stays at other hotels. Becoming a genius is not that hard to do. The app is very easy and convenient to use. No more useless paperwork to carry around. The app is free for iPhones.

 

Connect with your friends and family you left behind

WhatsApp Messenger is free. You don’t have to use your cell phone to make expensive phone calls from outside of the country to home. It’s available for the iPhone and other smartphones. It uses your phone’s internet connection, not your cellular plan’s voice minutes. Data charges may apply. Check with your phone service before using. All messages are saved until you access them.  Make sure that the people you plan on connecting with also have WhatsApp installed on their phones before you leave the country. This free use does not include 911 calls.

Find Culture Activities

Culture Trip app is free. It provides reviews, customer ratings, and so many possibilities of exploring the culture of the city you are visiting. Type in the name of the city and up pops “The 10 Best Day Trips from …. (the name of the city) “, “Top ten things to do and see”, “Best restaurants and coffee houses”, and a lot of pictures. Information on the app is provided by local people and includes background information on the sites to visit. No more bulky travel guides that take up space. You won’t have the appearance of a tourist.

Find your way around town

Use Google Maps for walking around town. Download the directions using the Internet connection in your hotel room. Use the walking directions. It is much easier than using a paper map. Remember those? I could never read one which caused conflict when traveling with my husband. I never knew which was east, west, north or south. No worries with Google Map. It tells me which direction to go.

Know the exchange rate

XE Currency App is free. It is very easy to use. Enter the amount of the currency for the country you are visiting. Enter the rate of the US dollar and it will be converted. You will know exactly how much money you are spending. No guesswork here. It also allows you to make international money transfers “quickly, easily and securely, 24/7”.

Your Personal Translator

Google Translate is free. It is impossible to know the languages of all the countries you visit. I speak Japanese (can’t read Kanji), Spanish and English. I will be in Switzerland for three weeks and don’t know the language. Use Google Translate by speaking or typing in the text of your native language. Click on the language to be translated to and the voice will produce the proper word. No more bilingual pocket dictionaries.

Now you are ready to travel!

 

 

 

 

5 Advantages of Traveling After Retiring

There is so much to do after retiring and traveling is one of them.

Certainly, travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.
— Miriam Beard

The freedom to travel at any time of the year

Avoid the summer vacations. This is the only time that families can travel because of school breaks. Parents arrange their vacations around their children. Everywhere you go, there are crowds. Travel in October- May. You can find deals that are not available during the peak months of vacation.

More time to do research on your travel destination

You don’t have to go where your kids want to go. No more Disney. Choose the places you want to go. Remember the museums that you really didn’t get to experience because your kids were bored. Use the computer to find places less traveled. Airfares are cheaper during off-peak times. Sign on to a site that will alert you when the airfare is cheaper. There is no hurry. Remember, you are retired.

Research hotels. Don’t stay in chain hotels. They are more expensive and add extra fees. Most chain hotels are privately owned. Not all of them are clean and well kept. I stayed in a Holiday Inn. The fee was $120. The window was cracked, the curtains and carpet were dirty. The breakfast was donuts, coffee, and cereal. The people cleaning the hotel looked like the parents of the front desk clerk. This was a hotel in the USA. Check out the reviews on Booking.com or Trip Advisor. Some hotels let you make cancellations without a penalty of up to three days before you check in.

Don’t stay in American chain hotels in other countries. They are expensive. Help the locals who privately own their hotels. Do your research. You have plenty of time.

More time to just hang out

You can take the time to sit in a cafe and observe the people. There are no children running around and rushing you to finish. Wander around the city, beach, or town. Take pictures, eat ice cream, and smile. There is no rush.

You can eat when you are hungry. Maybe you don’t want to eat dinner at 6:00. Eat at 9:00 or 3:00. Explore the places you couldn’t when you had the kids with you. Maybe you will make a new friend.

Stay longer at your destination

You are not working. You have more than a one week vacation. What’s the rush? Take a trip to the outside of the city. Walk through the forests, up a hill, or just drive around. Look for things that you would not see if you were with your kids. The flowers, clouds, birds, and other animals.

Discounts for seniors

This is the time to take advantage of the fact that we are old. Pull out that discount card whenever possible. Discounts are offered at museums, national parks, supermarkets, and theater. Many restaurants offer senior discounts. Senior discounts are not as popular countries outside of the USA. If it is important for you, check it out before you buy.

I’ve learned that the secret of growing old gracefully is never to lose your enthusiasm for meeting new people and seeing new places.

— Unknown wise person

 

 

 

 

Am I Too Attached to my Computer?

I think it’s fair to say that personal computers have become the most empowering tool we’ve ever created. They’re tools of communication, they’re tools of creativity, and they can be shaped by their user.

Bill Gates

I think I am becoming too attached to my computer. I had to buy a new modem because mine was out of date. This was discovered during an online chat session with my carrier Cox. Where do the real guys hang out? The speed was very slow and I was confronted with the rainbow circle turning it’s colors over and over.

I installed the modem following the instructions on the box. In my next life, I want to be a computer programmer. The modem was still moving at a very slow pace. I was able to get ten minutes of work done and then the dreaded colored circle began to turn the colors of a rainbow, pink, green, blue.

I contacted Cox again. Have you ever tried to call your Internet company? It’s a secret. They hide the number somewhere. I was able to get in touch with them online. We have a “chat”. I answer his questions and he takes over my computer with his magic wand. He tells me that I need to clean out my Mac.

He turns me over to some other guy who doesn’t work for Cox. I find out later that I will have to pay him $100 to clean my Mac. I am desperate. He wants permission to take over my computer

I say yes. I just want the stupid thing to work

Computers can bully us. A slow and unreliable system will bring even the toughest soul to their knees as they find themselves completely defenseless against the erratic whims of their rogue machine.

Lou Ferrigno

He begins to run a package called MacKeeper. This takes about 10-15 minutes

I can’t do any checking of email, news, Facebook, or pretend to write an article.

Am I too attached to my computer?

It can do so many things in such a short period of time. Research libraries, read other blogs, check out writing retreats, reserve hotels, find restaurants, and buy airline tickets

Am I too attached to my computer?

It makes me angry, frustrated and disconnected when it doesn’t work.

Where else can I get information? I was raised at a time when there were no computers. We used encyclopedias, magazines, maps, and libraries. It is so easy to find information with the touch of a few keys on the keyboard, a question to Siri or Google on our smartphones, and a command to take us to the places we need to navigate by car. Apps that gave exchange rates, translate languages, get us transportation, and lead us around  cities we have never been before.

I handwrite while waiting for my computer to run “package scripts”. I realize that my handwriting is unreadable, it is sloppy, and not as clean when typed. I am trapped by my computer.

I stare at my computer waiting for something magical to happen. “Install time remaining: about a minute” Can I speed it up? No, it has control over me.

I sit here waiting and waiting. The screen goes gray. The blue line stops moving.

Everything is at a standstill. Do I go exercise, scream, touch my toes or start all over again? A message appears “Do not turn off your computer”. Nothing moves now. I start clicking everywhere. The annoying rainbow circle begins to spin around again. Turn off the computer. Start over the voice in my head whispers and is now yelling at me. I do what the voice tells me.

The “chat “is over.  Where did that guy go?

He didn’t help. The rainbow circle continues to move. How do I get that guy back?

He sends me a survey asking me if I was satisfied. No, I am not satisfied

I start again. Back to page 1. How do I get that MacKeeper robot icon to come back?

I found it. Now scanning. I wait patiently.

Mac Keeper is downloaded. Waiting for someone to pop up on a chat to help me activate it.

I wish I would have studied computers instead of becoming an ESL teacher. Not really.

I am waiting for the tech to get back online. He says he will return in a minute.

He is busy helping others like me who think computers should just do their thing without all of the problems. My computer is now protected from computer fraud.

Frank, the tech, found 295 sleeping processes. They were sleeping. Frank got rid of them. Thanks, Frank. Frank just charged me $119 dollars for a 3-month warranty. I have to agree.

OK, so Frank is not finished. He must get rid of all those programs that are sleeping.

Frank needs to remotely take over my computer.

I am trapped. If I say no, he won’t fix my computer. Do I know Frank? Is he honest? I don’t know. I wish I could see him. I could tell if he is honest by looking into his eyes. He is hiding behind my computer. I say yes.

Frank has passed me on to another tech. Frank needs to eat lunch.

The next tech will have access to my computer for the next 2-3 hours. I am going shopping.

My computer now flashes before me. Bringing up files I don’t understand. The remote arrow moves around operating on my files. I no longer have control. I hope my computer is not being hijacked

I return home. Turn on my computer. Yeah, my computer is fast. No more circling rainbows.

I change my password immediately.

Now, there is no excuse to write my article.

 

 

5 Must Have Culture Experiences in Quebec City

Quebec City, Quebec is the oldest city in North America. There were an estimated one million immigrants from Europe during the years 1815-1860. Many of the first immigrants were Irish. In 1861 40% of the residents spoke English. Quebec is now a bilingual city. Businesses require their employees to speak both French and English. That was a relief. My command of French only includes the words for, thank you, please, and good morning.

St John’s Gate divides the city into two parts. Old Quebec is where the tourists stay at the hotels, visit the museums, and eat. The steps are steep, the sky is gray, and there is a chill in the air. I am in Quebec City for the second time. The first time was with my husband, this time is to attend a conference WITS, Women in Travel Summit. A meeting of 500 women who write travel blogs, travel articles, books, and travel all over the world. This is serious business. Being a Digital Nomad  is a career.  Ninety percent of the women are 20-35 years old. This is their career. This is my hobby.

I arrived three days early to explore the city. I walked up and down the streets. Crossed under the bridge and found people going to work, pushing baby buggies, and grocery shopping. A completely different world than in Old Quebec.

Marie Rollet Hotel

I open the big red wooden door and am greeted immediately with a steep flight of stairs. It’s a good thing I travel lightly. I lug my carry on up the first flight of stairs and then another flight of stairs. The room is small, and the bathroom is tiny. There is a round glass table with one comfy chair, the TV takes over 1/2 of the wall. My view is of airconditioners outside. No problem. I don’t plan on spending much time inside. All I need is a clean bathroom, shower and comfortable bed. The hotel is an old victorian style house. Marie Rollet and her husband were the first settlers who arrived in Quebec in 1649. They came from Paris. Her husband served in the positions of apothecary and farmer. They were greeted with starvation, sickness, and threats of Indian attacks. Many of the Natives were baptized and she became their godmother.

In 1632 Quebec was returned to the French after three years of English occupation. Marie stayed in Quebec after her husband passed away. They were the only French family that stayed during the occupation of the English. The first marriage solemnized in Canada was her daughter’s.

 

La Maison Smith

The house of Maison Smith was inhabited by French pioneers on the island of Orleans in 1796. The island of Orleans is about thirty minutes from Quebec City. It is known as the garden of Quebec City. It grows all of the fruits and vegetables and raises the chicken, and lamb used in the homes and restaurants of Quebec City. There is no place to farm or grow vegetables in the crowded city. Before the French pioneers showed up, the First Nations owned the land where Quebec City stands for thousands of years. In 1608 it became the property of the New France Colonies. The house of Maison Smith was destroyed by a fire in 1865 and later rebuilt with stones. The coffee shop also operates in Old Quebec. I grabbed a cup of coffee and homemade oatmeal chocolate chip muffin two mornings in a row.

Restaurant Aux Anciens Canadiens

Meat pies made with wild meat and fresh bison, meatball ragout, salt pork, baked beans, grillades, and beef stew. All naturally cooked.  The restaurant built in1675-76 and originally owned by the nuns of the Ursuline Convent. They weren’t able to financially support it so they granted it to Francois Jacquet. It is one of the oldest and largest buildings in upper town and the province of Quebec. The restaurant has an upstairs and downstairs. It is not a big restuarant. It has a very friendly and comfortable feeling.  I had dinner in this restaurant and it was very tasty. The only regret is that I should have stayed longer. I met two friends and they were both in a hurry to go to the airport or another event. I ate in less than forty minutes. Please take your time when you eat here.

J.A. Moisan Epicier (Grocery Store)

Cake in a mug, fifty different kinds of tea and coffee, cookies, candy, and chocolate. Everything you need to start your day off. J.A. Moisan was a French businessman who knew he wanted to succeed at a time when most businesses were reserved for those who spoke English. He established the store in 1871 and sold gourmet foods. He raised his children in an apartment above the store and became the owner in 1885. Quebec city experienced multiple fires in 1876 and 1881. Many of the original buildings were destroyed. His store was saved both times. He was able to attract clients from all social classes and offered rare products that were not available in other stores. The store welcomes you with a very warm atmosphere. It gives you a sense of how life was so long ago. J.A. Moisan was just another Frenchman navigating his way among the English so prominent in the city.

Fresco Wall Art in Quebec City

Boys playing hockey in the street, a mother pushing her baby,two nuns standing on the corner chatting, lovers embracing above the gate, and some very important looking men standing on the street. These murals are a must see. The murals were completed between 1999 and 2008). They have become part of telling the history of Quebec City and the people who lived there. There are a total of eleven. I was only able to find three which are located in old Quebec.  Commission de la Capitale Nationale, an organization responsible for developing and promoting the capital commissioned six murals for the city’s 400th-anniversary celebrations by the.  Old dilapidated walls now have a new face. A historical face.

 

 

A One Night Stance in Bisbee, Arizona

I almost felt like I was entering an ashram when I opened the old wooden door and heard the bells ringing, but the building quickly made
itself known as an old boarding house.
Myra

Two friends, Myra, Ruth Ann, and I arrived at our hotel in Bisbee, Arizona. Myra was the designated driver, I was in charge of reserving the hotel, and Ruth Ann sat in the back very quietly biting her lips and gesturing with her index finger the way we ahould turn as we became confused and circled a roundabout 5 times before we exited. The drive was 3.5 hours from Phoenix. It was not a straight shot. We stopped at a monastery, St. David, bought homemade prickly pear jam, walked around the meditation garden, took pictures, visited the cemetery, and entered the church. I bought a small medal and had it blessed in hopes that it will ward off any future dangers.

St. David’s Monastery

Bisbee is an old mining town inhabited by ghosts, antique shops, locally owned restaurants, bars, and hotels. The Lavender mine is located on the outskirts of town. It was one of the main employers from 1950-1974. Phelps Dodge opened the mine in 1950. The mine produced 86 million tons of ore averaging about 0.7% copper. Turquoise was also a by-product of this mining activity. Bisbee turquoise, also known as Bisbee Blue, is amongst the finest turquoise found anywhere in the world.
There aren’t many miners running around town these days. Some of them have returned as ghosts and are said to inhabit our hotel, The Inn at Castle Rock.

Lavender Mine

I chose the hotel by cruising through the listing on booking.com. The first hotel I made reservations with was the School House Inn Bed and Breakfast. It was listed as a room for three people. Four days later I went to review the reservation. There was a picture of only one king size bed. I knew we were not all going to sleep in the same bed. Those days are over. I wanted to keep these friends. I canceled the reservation and made another one at the Inn at Castle Rock. There was a room with three separate beds. Yes, we will take that one.

A delightful quirky, squeeky , old building with lots of history… Nothing fancy. Frank (Comment on booking.com)
“Kitschiest, strangest property, but really interesting and cool.” – shannon

Quirky, unique, quaint

I became nervous as we approached the hotel. We arrived about 5:00 pm. The front desk clerk, a very friendly young man, carried our luggage up a narrow steep flight of stairs to our room on the second floor. I unlocked the room and walked in. I thought it was interesting but I wasn’t sure what was going through the minds of my friends. Would they trust me to find the hotel on our next excursion or will this be the last time they ask me to make the hotel reservations? We were all very happy to see that we would have our own beds. There was a balcony outside. The balcony was decorated with very colorful “Christmas” lights, red, green, and blue. The porch had a rocker and two chairs. The location was great. We could walk everywhere. We parked the car and didn’t use it again until the next day when we went home.

We sat on the porch, chatted, and watched the people go by.  I was worried that my friends did not share my interest in the hotel. Should I ask them what they think? Maybe later.

Entry into the hotel was past what appeared to be a hitching post in days of long ago. The sign clearly stating Kiwi Parking Only mystified all of us. The door was not welcoming but gave the suggestions that one enters at their own risk. The lobby, and I use that term loosely, featured a natural spring that one could look over the edge of it and see what appeared to be water.
Ruth Ann

The owner is from New Zealand

We returned from dinner about 7:00 pm. The room didn’t have much light. There was a ceiling light which appeared to be yellow, and lamps on each bed table. Not enough light to read a book. A view of the Peace Memorial and a projection of a bat on a rock were directly across the street. A bathroom with a kitchen sink. A shower we couldn’t use because the water was too cold. We didn’t let the water run long enough. A fake wall between the bathroom and a very small private bedroom. Two beds in the main room, one double the other single. Pictures of interesting people on the walls. Strings of colored lights on the balcony, outdoor gazebos, and two fireplaces in the community rooms. A breakfast room with coffee available at all times. Breakfast included: cereal, bread, toast, bananas, and a few oranges. Help yourself. Don’t forget to wash your dishes and leave them in the sink. Everywhere we explored we found a “surprise”.

We sat on our beds and chatted until about 11:00 pm. The beds were comfortable minus the nylon sheets. There was a little noise coming from the outside. We were on the main drag. The noise died down about 11:00. We slept and no one snored.

The double bed

The picture above the bed

It was hilarious and I’m sure not too clean, but the room named Return to Paradise was way too dark to make a judgement. It had the required three beds for us. It did have a delightful porch overlooking main street, but as my feet were planted I had the feeling one might go through the very old plywood floors. We sat in rocking chairs looking out across the street at a giant boulder where the hotel had displayed the Bat call signal from the Batman television series.
Ruth Ann

Our friendly front desk young man, Alex, gave us a tour. The hotel was built over the flowing Apache Springs Well. Yes, there is a well next to the front desk. Every room has a theme: Jungle, Victorian, Cherlys, and Return to Paradise. We stayed in Return to Paradise.

Apache Springs Well

The Inn at Castle Rock was built in 1890 as a miner’s boarding house. The mine shaft is in the dining room of the bed and breakfast serving as a koi pond. The hotel has survived fires and floods including a fire in 1908

Did you sleep well last night? asks the lady at the front desk
Did you see any ghosts?
Ghosts? we asked

Little did I know we had just slept in a hotel that is haunted by some of the miners who lived there .
One miner has stayed around as a ghost. Slept in the same room we did, Return to Paradise. He is rumored to play with your toes if you sleep in his bed. He wants to disturb your sleep so he can get his room back.

One story from the early 1900’s is of a soldier cleaning his rifle on the front verandah when it went off accidentally, fatally shooting a woman walking up the other side of the road. It is said that she still searches the Inn looking for the reason. The shooting is documented in local news of the time.

The boarding house opened up as an Inn in 1980. The owner of the hotel, Chris Brown, is from New Zealand but settled in Bisbee in 2002 “because it is the nicest place in the world”. It is his vision to bring the Inn back to its former glory.

I was disappointed because I wanted to eat at Hazel’s Table 10
Hazel is from Nicaragua and a successful interior decorator. She came to the states with one of her wealthy clients. He died in Las Vegas. She tried to live in Phoenix but it was too hot for her.
She rented a room at the Inn at Castle Rock and launched Table 10. She only cooked three evenings a week. According to the reviews, her meals were a surprise to all. She no longer lives in Bisbee. She moved to Tucson.

Were there bugs in the room? Was the carpet clean? Were the sheets clean? I don’t know. It didn’t matter. There was no strange smell and the bathroom was clean. Ruth Ann brought a nightlife for the bathroom. That helped.
Were there ghosts? If there were, they didn’t bother us. We just ignored them.
Would I stay here again? Sure, it was a unique experience. Would my friends stay there again? I am not so sure.

We had breakfast at the Market and Cafe.  It is a five-minute walk from the Inn at Castle Rock. We sat outside on red plastic chairs with brightly colored red and blue umbrellas.  The store sold homemade cookies, honey, biscuits, and juices. Pottery, odds, and ends, and quirky items. The food was tasty. A great way to end our one night stance. Would I do it again? Yes, I would. Would my friends? I hope that would.

Welcome to Historic Old Bisbee’s High Desert Market and Café
Come enjoy our gourmet food and gifts market, our delicious café offerings,
and our new smoothie, juice and espresso bar.
Open 7am to 7pm, 7 Days a Week!

 

 

Malahide Castle: A Gift From a Friend

Malahide Castle: A Gift From a Friend

Malahide was not on my list of places to see in Ireland. I heard about it from one of the walking tours in Dublin. I was on my fifth day in Dublin and decided to explore the small town by myself. It is really easy to travel around the Dublin area. I walked everyplace and scoped out the bars and coffee shops. I think there are about as many coffee shops as there are bars. I took the opportunity to take a train to Malahide and it was worth the experience

Malahide Castle

Malahide Castle is located in Malahide, Dublin County, Ireland. Take the Irish Rail at the Dublin/Connaly station. The train leaves the station every 25 minutes. The time from Dublin to Malahide is about 30–35 minutes long.

This squirrel is in front of the Irish Rail and the Dublin/Connaly station

When you arrive in the town of Malahide, you can take a train or walk. You must pay a fee and many times it is reserved for groups. The walk is about 20 minutes to the castle.

The train from the station to the castle

The castle grounds include the courtyards, a place to have coffee or a quick lunch, the garden with plants from all over the world, and a playground for young children.

A visual map of the castle and courtyard

Admission to Malahide Castle and the Gardens is $14.97.

Castle admission entrance

Malahide Castle is one of the oldest castles in Ireland. Malahide “Mullach Ide” means the “the hill of Ide” or “Ide’s sandhill” in Gaelic. The Vikings settled in Malahide in 795. King Henry II built the castle and gifted it to his friend Sir Richard Talbot. Sir Talbot provided his support and protected the King during the Battle of Hastings in 1066.

The Talbots came to Ireland as a Norman family originally from France. They lived in the castle from 1185–1976. They were considered one of the most prominent and powerful Irish Catholic families in Dublin. When the Battle of the Boyne took place, fourteen members of the Talbot family sat down to have breakfast. They were killed before evening.

The dining room where the fourteen family members were killed

It is said that the little girl’s eyes will follow you all of the way up the stairs

Coat of arms “Hound and Wolf”

Rose Talbot, the last living relative, sold the castle to the State of Ireland to help pay the inheritance taxes.

Study room

Fireplace in Living Room

Remains of the Abbey. It was also used as a cemetary.

Talbot Botanical Gardens

The Talbot Botanical Gardens is a walled garden. It has seven greenhouses and a Victorian Conservatory. Plants from the Southern Hemisphere, Chile, and Australia, grow in the garden.

Victorian Conservatory

Plants from the Southern Hemisphere

Public areas and picnic grounds

The City Malahide

Malahide is an affluent coastal suburban town. One thousand people lived in Malahide in the early 19th century. The local industry was salt harvesting and other commercial operations importing coal and construction materials.

The population increased to 15,846 in 2011. It is now a seaside resort for wealthy Dublin city dwellers.

Malahide neighbourhood home

Mermaid by the sea

Malahide is a small town with a great personality. The people are friendly, the food is fresh, and not inundated with tourists. A car is not necessary to get around. It is easier to walk because there isn’t much parking available.

Malahide might not be on your list of places to visit in Ireland, but it should be.

7 things to know about the Ireland Writing Retreat in Donegal

My first writing retreat took place in Donegal Ireland. My life as a travel writer is in the incubation period. I am grabbing at every straw I can to become a better writer.  There wasn’t much information describing the workshop. I took my chances. It was not disappointing. I made friends with other writers. Two of them were Irish and one was from the US.

Many new and experienced writers are looking for places to help them perfect the art of travel writing. I hope to help anyone who is thinking about attending this retreat and is looking for facts.

7 things to know about the Ireland Writing Retreat in Donegal
Venue

The Ireland Writing Retreat is held and organized at Teac Jack in Donegal, Ireland. I spent six days in Dublin before heading to Donegal. I flew from Dublin to Donegal. The second most scenic approach in the world. I thought we were going to land in the ocean. Others took the bus from Dublin.

Teac Jack is a B&B located in Gweedore in Donegal. It has a bar, restaurant, and a beautiful view out the front door. Breakfast is served every morning from 8:00-10:00.  A full Irish breakfast includes fried ham (bacon), eggs, sausage, and a warm tomato. The eggs can be ordered as sunny-side up, boiled, poached, scrambled, and over easy. Orange juice, milk, apple juice, and coffee are available for drinks. There is a table that includes yogurt, cheerios, rice cereal, and oatmeal. Types of bread include wheat, white, and dark brown. Bread can be toasted in a toaster oven. There are no pancakes or waffles. Scones are not served for breakfast, but you can ask and you shall receive.

I went for the full breakfast on the first day. The second day, no bacon. The third day, no mushrooms. The fourth and fifth day, one egg, yogurt, and a warm tomato. The last day, ordered the whole breakfast for the last time.

Disadvantages: Teac Jack is isolated. The only place to walk is the beach. There are no other shops, bars, or restaurants nearby. I began to get cabin fever. We were also blessed with rain for two days.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Irish breakfast

A house nearby. One of the Irish writers and I took a hike.

Activities

The program description includes the following activities.

Boat trips to the island of Gola:

The boat to Gola

There was one trip to Gola. The island was once inhabited by families. We were greeted by a couple who prepared lunch for us. Lunch included sandwiches, scones, cupcakes, and drinks.

Hiking in Gola

Cemetary for Catholic babies not yet baptized

Gola countryside

Leisurely walks and a tour of Glenveagh National Park and Castle:

The history of the Glenveagh castle is a tragic one. Unfortunately, on the day we visited the castle it was raining. The gardens are beautiful. I couldn’t get many pictures of the garden. There is a little café that serves, scones, cakes, tea, and coffee. We stopped in to have tea and dry off.

Irish language and dance classes and lively, heart-warming, foot-tapping traditional music concerts:

There were no dance classes. Every Tuesday night Tech Jack hosts the residents and their friends to a Ceili (Kaylee), Irish traditional music. I attended with some of my classmates. Two of my classmates were Irish and one of them was an avid Ceili dancer. Most of the dancers were women. They told me that they leave their husbands at home because they are boors.

The dancing starts at 8:30 and continues until 11:00. Most of these women never stop dancing. These are not young chicks. The ages ranged from 60-82. I was dragged out to the floor a few times. I didn’t know any of the steps. I tried to follow and ended up stepping on a few toes. I wish I would have had a few lessons before we attended.

There were no traditional music “concerts”. An accordion was the only instrument used. There was a performance by one dancer and a fiddler for about two minutes. A singer sang one Irish song. This is not a concert and should not be promoted as a concert. I was disappointed.

There was one leisurely walk that took us down to the beach. We picked wild raspberries. They were sweet.

A visit to Teac Mhuiris introduced us to the life that once was in Donegal, Ireland. After the lecture, our host, Maggie, brought out bread, cakes, scones, and tea. A Gaelic teacher taught us a few Gaelic phrases most commonly used in everyday language. Many people in Donegal speak Gaelic as their native language. The pronunciation is complicated. I was never able to get the words to come out of my mouth in an understandable way.

WIFI

WIFI was available in “Jack’s Bar” and the room where the classes were held.  It was not available in the hotel rooms. This was a disadvantage because we had to sit in the bar with our computers to do our work. The heat in the classroom was shut off when we were not using it. The bar was noisy and there wasn’t much space to work.

Classes

The writing classes took place from 10:00 -1:00 every day.

Tea time/Story time/Language classes

The information on the site includes the following information:

Hands-on teaching techniques including one-on-one, sentence-by-sentence, paragraph-by-paragraph, critiques of participant’s own work completed before and during the week-long writing retreat. 

We were given an assignment and it was due within 24 hours. There was no offer of one on one in person critiques. The critiques came in the form of feedback online. The critiques did help. They were not profound critiques. The critiques were given by Sean Hillen the instructor/author.

A workshop presented by Emily DeDakis, a dramaturg, had us do various writing activities including putting our ideas into various groups. She gave us the assignment to write about something that we would never tell anyone. I didn’t do the assignment. She wasn’t going to give any feedback and I didn’t understand what the purpose was. Why should I tell her a secret when I don’t even know her?

Another workshop was presented by Laurence McKeown, a play writer. Laurence had a very interesting story about being held in prison for 17 years. He was on a hunger strike for almost seventy days. We found his story fascinating. He gave us intensive feedback on an assignment. The assignment was to write a story that included 50% dialog. It was misunderstood by all the class participants. He corrected them in a way that made them bleed. So much red ink!

Farewell Dinner

The agenda listed the Farewell Dinner as an “evening filled with wine snacks, and lively conversation”.  We had sandwiches that were hastily made and not tasty and lots of wine. The “lively conversation” included a local guitarist whose voice gave me a headache. He told us that he doesn’t write music, he just sings from memory. Another local tried to sing a traditional Irish song but had a very bad cold. We had some lively music from one of the participant’s husbands who played country western music and she had a beautiful voice. The lively conversation switched to Irish politics.

Welcome Dinner

A magical mystery welcome was the title of the welcome dinner.  The owner of Cafe Kitty gave a presentation on potatoes and how they can be cooked. She brought a sampling of her mashed potatoes for us to try. They were good. Later in the week, we went to her restaurant for lunch. Sancho entertained us with a few Irish fairy tales.

Transportation

There is no public transportation. Cabs were available and expensive. This is a problem if you want to go to another town to go shopping or eat. The cost of transportation by cab to the airport is 25 euros.

Meals

Lunch and dinner are not included. You could spend between $30-40 for food and drink per day.  Breakfast is included everyday.

Everyone has different expectations when trying something for the first. The overall experience was good. New friends, good food, rainy weather, new places, and a different language. It was an experience. I feel that the people who were running the workshop did not put enough effort into the program. They were trying to save money at the participants expense. I  admit that this is my first experience and I can’t compare this program to another.

 

New Irish friends