Wednesday, June 28, 2006


That's my nickname for Sam, and these are two pictures that I took of Sam (Andy and Di's son) toward the end of dinner at our hotel this past Saturday night in Liverpool. I suspected he was really beginning to fade when I took the first picture. And, I was right - I took the second picture about twenty seconds later. His sister, Alie, was supposed to come along on the trip too. Unfortunately, Di had to cancel at the last minute because of a pressing work deadline, and Alie decided to stay at home and keep her mom company.
Sam, Alie, and Oliver (John & Rammy's son) are all good kids. They're well-mannered, converse well with adults, and (for the most part) are enjoyable kids to have around. Sure, I need to threaten them with a "...don't make me have to come over there and thump ya!" every now and then, will be kids.
Let me tell you something - these kids live THE LIFE! Andy and I always blurt out "THEY'RE LIVIN' THE DREAM!" everytime we're out for dinner and the kids order something like foie gras or a mille-feuille. I've actually witnessed one of the kids taking a sip of wine from their parent's glass and then commenting with a "...hmmm...oak". My God...the only "oak" I tasted as a kid was when oak splinters flew into my mouth while I was chopping it!
Now, Andy and I both had pretty darned good childhoods, but we do try to point out to the kids (every chance we get) how "cushy" they have it. I say things to Olli like: "You know, when I was fourteen - one year older than you are right now - I had a summer job working in a factory nine hours per day!" He cares not. Andy and I will point out to Sam and Alie that "...when we were kids, going out to eat was only for special occasions like birthdays, and it was something you did only a few times per year." Their response: "Were you poor?" We try to explain that we weren't poor, but it's just that times have changed... By this point, they're questioning the waiter whether or not an amuse-bouche will be served, so...why beat our heads against the wall? So, getting back to Sam...
As I pointed out before, we flew easyJet to Liverpool this past weekend. For those of you who don't know, easyJet does not pre-assign seats. Check-in opens two hours before the flight. If you check in early, you'll be assigned an "A" boarding card. If you check in at the last minute, you'll be given a "D" boarding card. When it comes time to board the plane, the boarding is in order by groups - A, B, C, D. So, Sam and Andy were just ahead of us in line (By the way, Andy got the " you have any sharp objects, etc. in your carry-on..." blah...blah...blah, to which he answered "no", and then Sam blurted out: "How does she know if you're telling the truth or not?"...the kid kills me!). After checking in, Andy turned around and lorded over us that he got "pre-boarding" so he could board first because he was traveling with a kid. I was immediately incredibly envious and took out my frustration on the loitering Sammy as I walked up to the counter by telling him to "amscray" so that I could check in. This ended up being a stroke of luck, because the check-in lady asked me, "Are you with them?" "Um...yes," I responded, and we ended up receiving "pre-boarding" even though the "Saminator" isn't our kid.
Way to go Samalamadingdongdillyofadinger! Maybe we'll rent you the next time we're flying somewhere on easyJet!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Liverpool - European Capital of Culture 2008

I can't head into eight weeks of doing pretty much nuttin' without recapping last weekend's trip to Liverpool. Liverpool has been designated the European Capital of Culture for 2008. I'm glad they have two more years to prepare - theyd better pick up the pace a bit because they really have their work cut out for themselves.
Don't get me wrong. I liked Liverpool. We had a really nice time. But (and it's a BIG but), I think the city could do so much more with their Albert Dock area. Also, I think they could play up the Beatles-thing, the pubs, the restaurants, etc. much better than they do.
Albert Dock is pretty much THE focal point of Liverpool, and it kind! I guess I was expecting it to be kind of like Navy Pier in Chicago - I was wrong. Albert Dock was kind of dead, and there were a lot of empty storefronts. I thought it would be buzzing with activity - a place to spend several hours. Instead, it seemed to me that it was just a place to walk around once, take a few pictures, and then move on. It shouldn't be like that.

The Beatles Story, featured at Albert Dock, was kind of a letdown. It wasn't bad, but it definitely wasn't as good as it could have been - or should have been. I found my A.D.D. kicking in after about twenty minutes. There's a lot of "filler" at that museum. It's almost as if they have a lot of junk set up taking space while they wait for people to donate things that are actually worthwhile seeing. A highlight for me was my friend John pointing out the date he saw the Beatles live, in concert in Nottingham (November 5, 1964). the way John, I was two years old when you saw the Beatles live.

A whole group of us flew together to Liverpool on easyJet. Unfortunately, Mrs. TBF wasn't feeling too well, so she spent a lot of the time in bed sleeping off what we think was a touch of the flu. However, we did go out and have a couple of really nice dinners together as a group. I found the food at the restaurants to be good, and the people of Liverpool to be pretty friendly. We stayed at a hotel called the Hope Street Hotel, and it was a very nice, boutique hotel (although whoever caulked their showers must have been blind!). I would definitely stay there again if we ever returned - which I don't think is very likely. Afterall, our friend Rammy went to the University of Liverpool, and this was her first time back in twenty years. Here she is in front of where she had her graduation ceremony...lo those many years ago.

And, of course, no trip to Liverpool would be complete without at least sampling Liverpool's local brew - Cains Bitter. We can buy it here in Basel, but it comes in a one-liter can. In Liverpool, one can experience the real deal pumped up from a cellar cask. Kids under eighteen aren't allowed in pubs in Liverpool, so John, Andy, and I pawned off the kids on the ladies so that we could enjoy a pint of Cains at a really great pub that was right by our hotel (sorry...I can't remember the name). After dinner, we returned to the same pub for a cigar and a couple more pints. That pub was everything I think a pub should be: dark wood, stained glass, and smoke so thick that one can barely see the ceiling. It was great.

One more thing...stay with me here!

On Sunday morning, we (sans Mrs. TBF who stayed in bed...) decided to walk to where it all pretty much began for the Beatles - the Cavern Club. We found it, posed for a picture, and then (about thirty seconds later) a man came out and threw his garbage and recycling right next to where we had just posed for the picture. I guess timing is everything!
Shortly after these last pictures were taken, we were whisked off in taxis down "The Long And Winding Road" to John Lennon Airport, and checked in with our "Ticket(s) to Ride" easyJet back to Basel. I'm not sure if we'll ever "Get Back" to Liverpool, but I'm sure we'll all "Come Together" in another city soon. I'm not sure where or when, but I'm sure "We Can Work It Out"!
"The End"!

It's Good To Be Home!

We've been traveling quite a bit lately, to say the least. In the last five weeks, we've been to Corsica, Alicante (Spain), London, and Liverpool. Plus, Mrs. TBF was in New York last week during the week, and she's currently on her way to London to connect to a flight bound for Newark. She'll be back on Friday.
Now begins a planned, long stretch of just staying at home. There might be an overnight trip to Nyon next month, but other than that there are no planned trips until the end of August when we go back to Amalfi for a ten-day vacation. We really like traveling, but we're also very much looking forward to 8+ weeks of just hanging out at home. Hopefully, the weather will be nice this summer (unlike last summer), and we'll be able to enjoy the rooftop garden to the fullest.
As an added bonus, my gym will be closed during the first two weeks of July for its annual "cleaning and repairs" shutdown (I kid you not!). That means that I'm going to be a total schlub during the first two weeks of July. I have a few things on my "things to do" list, but most of my waking hours will be spent relaxing.
I love this time of year in Basel. It seems like most of Basel goes away on vacation. Everything is uncrowded (trams, stores, etc.), the weather is usually nice, things seem to slow down for Mrs. TBF at work, it's light out past 10 p.m., Helmut the BBQ gets a good work-out,...I could go on and on.
Get ready for a lot of posts about....well...nothing!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Tale of Two Leaders...

We went for a walk on Sunday morning after our "propah" English breakfast. Mrs. TBF had spotted a packet of index cards called City Walks: London while we were in the Tate Modern museum gift shop, and decided to buy it. I just noticed that there's one for Paris - I guess we'll have to get that one too! We went through the pack of cards (billed as "50 Adventures On Foot") and decided on the Mayfair "adventure" because it was, well, pretty much the closest one to our hotel. Give me a belly was stuffed with black puddin'!
While on our little excursion, we came across a couple of familiar characters. I didn't really think much of it when we took the pictures, but now that I'm looking at them, I think they're pretty funny.
First of all, are these life-sized statues of FDR and Churchill? If so, either they were really small men, OR I'm still pretty darned big. I especially like the fact that Churchill seems to be smelling my pit, and FDR is having a good chuckle over the whole bloody thing.
In the second picture, FDR is obviously completely engrossed in everything Mrs. TBF is saying, AND Churchill is "caught in the act" of taking a little peek down Mrs. TBF's top (...the old perv!).
Adventure, indeed!

I Would Like To Nominate...

...this picture for the title of "Worst-Ever Picture of Big Ben"!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Italian Cheese Jockey...

We thought we'd make things easy on ourselves the first night in London by eating dinner at our hotel. First we had a cocktail in the bar, and then we mosied on over to the restaurant for our 9 p.m. dinner reservation. At first, I was a bit alarmed because the restaurant was about 80% empty. Was this a mistake? Does the food suck? NO! It ended up being really great. I guess most people just dined earlier, were busy watching the World Cup, or whatever...
We had a really good and relaxing dinner (after I got over the feeling that we were being watched). The service was great, friendly, and unhurried. Ahhhh...the restaurant dinner that takes place over hours - that's one thing to which I've become accustomed while living in Europe. I'll have a hard time readjusting to the "turning tables"/rushed restaurant service when (and if) we ever move back to North America.

For the main course, I ordered lamb, and Mrs. TBF ordered roast duck. There we were, digesting our starters and sipping a little wine, when two big carts appeared in front of our table. A few seconds later, two very friendly waiters began carving away.
I seem to recall that neither one of them had a British accent. I began to listen around the room, and I noticed that pretty much the entire waitstaff was non-British. The sommelier was Spanish, I heard one waiter speaking French, etc., etc. It kind of ended up being a constant theme throughout the weekend - many of the people in the service industry were foreign. As a matter of fact, the only service employees that seemed to always be British were the London taxi drivers. And, one of the taxi drivers had such a heavy Cockney accent that he ended up being the only person during the weekend whom we had trouble understanding. I kind of wish the English "hag" from my German conversation class who always feels the need to bring up how she feels Americans have "...destroyed the English language" had been in the taxi with us so that she could have translated this "perfect" English for us low-class North Americans. Then, I would have asked the taxi driver to stop, opened the door, and booted her snobby ass out the door into the gutter. There...I feel much better now. Thanks!

Anyway, I tried to convince the guy carving my lamb to just stick the whole leg on my plate, but he wasn't falling for that old line. As it turned out, the portion size was just right as it left room in "me belly" for a little cheese course. It's at times like these that I realize that my life is very, VERY good! I actually caught myself saying to the waiter (who was, by the way, one of the smallest men I've ever seen) something like "...I eat French cheese all the time. May I please have all English cheeses for a change of pace?". Good lord!
So, gettin' back to the cheese waiter... I'm telling you, this guy was smaller than Mrs. TBF (and she's only five feet tall). I referred to him as the Italian Cheese Jockey (not to his face, of course), because he was from Italy, he was serving me cheese, and he was tiny like a jockey (get it?). I mean, I think the cheese on my plate weighed more than he did. I told Mrs. TBF that I could have eaten him for my main course and still had room for some cheese or dessert. And, I have openly admitted to Mrs. TBF and others that if it was legal to eat roasted human flesh, and offered on a restaurant menu somewhere, that I'd be gnawing away at a human bicep or calf - tenets of society be damned! But hey, I'll get into that some other time.
Get in me!

Monday, June 19, 2006

Way On Downsouth...London Town!

The latest stop in our seemingly never-ending European tour - London. Mrs. TBF had some bidness going on up there last week, so I flew to Heathrow on Friday afternoon to join her for what turned out to be a "jolly good" weekend.
Now, the thing I have to point out is that I normally make the hotel reservations after we've done a little research together. However, this time Mrs. TBF ended up booking our hotel all by her lonesome while I was in Chicago to save me "the hassle" of having to do it. And...I have to give kudos where kudos are due. Mrs. TBF definitely has the skills for a backup career as a travel agent if the current gig ever goes bye-bye. We stayed at Brown's Hotel, and it was very, VERY nice! We will DEFINITELY stay there again the next time we go to London. Everything about the hotel was just great. The staff was friendly, the bar and restaurant were superb, it had a nice workout room, our room was really comfortable, the location was great...


It didn't dawn on me, until Mrs. TBF suggested shortly after my arrival on Friday afternoon that we go check out some of the shops in the area, that she had chosen this hotel specifically because of its location. Or, should I say, its convenient location/proximity to shopping? We walked about one minute away from the hotel, turned the corner, and all I saw were the signs: Channel, Burberry, Rolex, Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, etc., etc., ad infinitum. Suddenly, I heard her say something like: "Oh, look...there's an Etro store..." (as if she didn't know ahead of time). Before I knew it, I was fidgeting in the "husband-chair", with her purse on my lap, watching her try things on...and on...and on. Finally, after what seemed like at least ninety minutes, I kind of started rolling my eyes up into my head and suggested we leave. Here she was after her successful accumulation of "the style of Etro"!
I have to admit that I also tried things on in the store and that I was a bit disappointed that I came out of the store empty-handed. Nothing really "grabbed" me, and I wasn't about to buy something just for the sake of buying it. Sensing my disappointment, Mrs. TBF suggested we stop at a pub for a quick pint on the way back to the hotel.

Conveniently, our cat* owns a pub right between the Etro store and the Brown's Hotel (who knew?). Since there was no room to sit inside, we just stood outside in the street enjoying our "cask" ales on a warm Friday evening in London.

*For those of you who don't know...
Our cat's name is King. We've been doing this "thing" for years (as pet owners do) where we say that King is the head of a multinational corporation. Anytime we see a business with the name "King" in it we say that it's one of his businesses. Really, what I say is more like, "...did you know that the little Farker has a business here in London?" Then, when we go back home, we confront him about it while he "complains" to us abandoning him for yet another getaway. Did I mention that he talks with heavy Chicago accent? No? Ok...I think I'll go take my medication now.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Did I Hear Something About "The World Cup"?

When it comes to soccer...I can take it or leave it. I actually enjoy it if I make the effort to sit down and watch it. But, if I miss a game (or the entire World Cup for that matter) - no big deal!
I think my lack of interest in soccer comes from growing up in Chicago during the 70s where soccer ranked about 491st on the list of sports in which one would voluntarily participate (things have really changed in the last 30 years!). I was forced to play soccer a few times in gym class, but that was about it. Fortunately, the gym teachers always sensed our disatisfaction with "the world's most popular sport", and quickly replaced "gay" football with "real" (American) football, or dodgeball, or any number of sports which could result in one of us being wheeled to the nurse's office wearing a neck brace.
So there I was, blogging away, while Mrs. TBF watched "her people" (the Italians) playing Ghana in the World Cup. I wasn't really paying attention at all. Then suddenly, I heard the following: "Razak Pimpong will be coming in as a substitution for Ghana."
You know what? I'm gonna stop blogging and watch The World Cup. Any sport that has a guy named Razak OK by me!
Oh...the game just ended? Well, there's always tomorrow - if I'm not too busy cleaning the litterbox, or ironing, or emptying the dishwasher, or...

On The Rocks...

Even though 2006 is not quite half over, I'm going to go out on a limb right now by stating that this will be my strangest sighting of the year.
This photo was taken one week ago today while we were lounging next to our pool in Spain. As you may recall, there was a nude beach right next to our hotel.
Now, I have to say that I have nothing against nude sunbathing. As a matter of fact, I have to admit that I've exposed "the boys" to the sun a few times during my days in Europe. However, for the life of me, I can NOT figure out why any man would want to lie face down on a rocky beach.
At first I thought he was a drowning victim who had washed ashore. But then I saw him move a bit and realized that he had chosen (for whatever reason) to assume this position. It was all great entertainment for yours truly, and I couldn't stop staring.
Yes, it was pretty crazy. But...he did have a pretty nice tan!

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

I Had ALMOST Forgotten...

...about the fact that we had had a Vatican museum guide who gave "us" a tour but spent 95% of his time speaking directly to Mrs. TBF. Wow! Has it been three months already? That's right! That little, teeny, tiny bit of memory was almost gone. That was, until we ordered a bottle of wine at dinner this past Saturday night that had the guide's name plastered in LARGE letters all over the front of the bottle.
Oh well. Why should I get worked up over a little thing like that. I guess I'll just look past the bottle...and focus on something else!

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

If Every Picture Tells A Story...

...then this one certainly tells most of the story of our weekend trip to Alicante, Spain. Our hotel was GREAT! I'm kind of hesitating mentioning the name because we feel that it's a hidden gem, we'd like to return, and we don't want it to get overrun by German tourists like most other places in Spain (sorry...nothing against Germans...but, IT'S TRUE!). it goes. The name is...El Montiboli. There, I said it. It's about a 30-minute taxi ride from the Alicante airport, and it is a place I would HIGHLY recommend to anybody. The rooms were nice and comfortable, the food was definitely above average, the staff was competent...huh?..doesn't sound that great so far? Well, here's what made it so great: location, Location, LOCATION! It has one of the best seaside locations I've ever seen. The hotel pool sits atop a cliff that drops down dramatically to a beach. If you take a right at the bottom of the stairs - you're on a public beach. If you take a left - you're on a nude beach (more about that later).
Our days were pretty much as follows:

wake up

get dressed

go to breakfast

go back to the room and put on bathing suits

walk down to the pool and pick our "spot"

read, talk, listen to our iPods, jump in the pool every now and then, order a couple of drinks here and there, marvel at how sunburned British tourists get "whilst on holiday", glance down at the nude beach to see if anybody who actually looks good naked has arrived, etc.

go back to the room, shower, take a nap, watch a little of the French Open (Mrs. TBF), continue reading The Da Vinci Code (TBF), enjoy a gin and tonic in our little sitting room, get dressed for dinner

dinner at 9:00 p.m.

go to sleep right after dinner

wake up the next morning and repeat

I think we were both getting into the taxi yesterday evening for the ride back to the airport wishing we could stay another night. But, responsibilities (like the things I'm avoiding doing right now) beckoned, and we'll just have to look forward to returning again someday. It was complete, and total, rest and relaxation.

...more later!

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Quit Yer Bitchin'!

Mark Twain once said: Everybody complains about the weather, but nobody does anything about it. Wouldn't he be ticked off to know that his quote is no longer valid? That's because, SOMEBODY has done something about the weather - US!
First the complaining part -
The weather in Basel pretty much sucks about 75% of the time as far as I'm concerned. But, it has been INCREDIBLY sucky over the past week. It's June 1st for God's sake, and I doubt if the mercury climbed over 10˚C/50˚F today. And if that's not bad enough, the weather is definitely suffering from some sort of meteorological bi-polar disorder. First it's sunny and calm, then the wind picks up and you can see clouds heading your way, then it's pouring rain, then it's sunny again. And all of this takes place in about twenty minutes, and countless times per day. ENOUGH!

Here's the "doing something about it" part -
We've decided to take matters into our own hands. This Saturday morning we are ESCAPING the Basel weather by flying off on good old EasyJet to EMBRACE the weather in sunny Alicante, Spain. Our plane is scheduled to take off at 6:30 a.m. (OUCH!) on Saturday morning, we'll be in sunshine a couple of minutes later when we rise above the cloud layer, and then we plan on basking in sunshine until Monday night when we return. OK, we'll give the sun the night off. The weather forecast for Alicante right now for Saturday through Monday is for lots of sunshine, very low chance of rain, and highs of about 25˚C (77˚F).
Adios amigos. We'll talk to you next week!

Corsica - Been There, Done That!

Writing about Corsica has become very tiresome. So, I'm just going to post a few more pictures, and then - THAT'S IT!
The first two were of us soaking up the rays overlooking a beach in Ajaccio. The third picture was taken in the harbor just before boarding the boat to take us back toward our hotel.
There...I'm done! See? Told ya.