Friday, September 29, 2006

The Lazy Man's Friday Flashback

I blew my blogging wad on Stockholm, and now I'm not in the mood to do a "real" Friday Flashback. Ergo, I'm going to just do a recap of the week.

Monday: Nothing of any interest whatsoever happened. Next...

Tuesday: I drove Mrs. TBF to Basel Airport where she boarded a flight to Newark via Frankfurt. This picture was taken on the non-EasyJet side of the airport - a ghost town when compared to the EasyJet side of the airport.

Wednesday: After returning from dropping off Mrs. TBF the day before, I e-mailed Barry of The Swiss Job to see if he wanted to get together for a drink. We agreed on meeting this evening at Paddy Reilly's Irish Pub in Basel for a couple of pints of Guinness. He's a good "kid", and I've decided that I'm going to refer to him as "da Kid" from now on since I came to realize while we were talking that I was 17 years old when "da Kid" was born.

Gettin' old!

We decided to grab a bite to eat after our pints, and we ambled on over to Gifthüttli - which is one of my favorite local joints - for a little grub. I hadn't been there for awhile, and it was nice having their Basler Art (veal cordon bleu, stuffed with foie gras, dipped in egg, and pan fried) for the first time in ages. Unfortunately, I forgot about the fact that I had my camera on my belt. So, there are no pictures of the historic first meeting between TBF and "da Kid". However, I'm sure we'll get together again at some point soon when our ladies are in town.

Thursday: Tom, our old neighbor from Reinach, was in town. Tom moved back to the U.S. a couple of years ago, but he comes to Basel several times per year on business. We decided to walk over to a local restaurant that I've never been to before but had passed a zillion times in the car - Restaurant Basilicum.

Mrs. TBF and I almost went to Basilicum a couple of years ago with a group of friends. However, our neighbor (Suzanne) did a walk-by to scope it out, and "...didn't like how it looked", so we ended up going somewhere else for dinner. As far as Tom and I were concerned, the restaurant fit the bill: open and serving food. So we went...

And, the verdict? VERY GOOD. Nothing fancy, but the food was really tasty and reasonably priced. Unfortunately, the only customers in the restaurant at 8:00 were Tom and I, and then a couple came in about 20 minutes later. That was it. So, if you local Basel people want to try a good restaurant, I'd recommend Restaurant Basilicum which is across the street from the Bottmingen Coop at tram station Batteriestrasse (Line 10 & 17). They could use the business!

After dinner, we walked back home, grabbed a couple of glasses of whiskey, and went up to "the fishbowl" where we enjoyed the first rooftop fire of the fall. It was a nice, clear evening, and we talked until well past midnight.

Friday: This morning, I dropped Tom off at Basel Airport, and then returned home for an intense blogging session. It's now time to go to the gym, and then I'm going out for a dinner/wine tasting with some friends at Restaurant Bruderholz later this evening.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Stockholm: Hey då

Sunday came, and it was time to go back home. We checked out of our hotel, asked them to store our bags, asked the concierge for a restaurant recommendation for lunch, and set about enjoying our last few hours in Stockholm. It was about 10:30 a.m., and we had to be back at the hotel by 2:30 in order to grab a taxi to the airport.

The concierge recommended a couple of restaurants. One of the restaurants was close to where we had eaten lunch the day before, so we took off in that direction. Since we figured that the restaurant probably didn't open until 11:30, we stopped for a much needed coffee along the way.

11:30? Wrong!

We found out that many restaurants in Stockholm don't open for lunch until 1:00. So, we took off in the direction of the second restaurant (the first one didn't really appeal to us) and stopped for another coffee.

While enjoying our coffee, we kind of discussed our experiences during the past few days. Here's what we determined:

We could live in Stockholm. It's a pretty city, Swedes are definitely friendlier than the Swiss, but the high taxes are a bit of a turn-off. Mrs. TBF said that I'd probably have a different opinion if I had had to endure five days of dreary weather instead of brilliant sunshine.

I found Stockholm to be not as clean as I had expected. Don't get me's very clean by international city standards. However, I didn't find it to be as clean as Basel or several of the other Swiss cities I've visited.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Eating in Stockholm is VERY expensive. I guess you could swing it as a tourist on a limited budget, but you'd be eating fast food or just grabbing a sandwich at a small shop. The hotels are comparable to Switzerland...which makes them expensive when compared to other European cities.

Swedes smoke WAY less than the Swiss. You rarely smell cigarette smoke in Stockholm. You don't go home after eating at a restaurant with your clothes smelling like smoke.

Restaurants are expensive, but the bus and boat tours seem fairly reasonable. Strange.

Swedes look different than Finns. I can't describe it. They just look different. And, you can instantly tell when you're in a place that is frequented by locals. The people suddenly just look...well...Swedish.

Stockholm vs. Helsinki: I liked Stockholm's old town and the bridges. I like Helsinki's Esplanade. The service in restaurants is about the same in both cities - somewhere between unenthusiastic Swiss service and intrusive American service. Helsinki seems a bit cheaper. You don't see drunks staggering around the street in Stockholm (didn't see even one) like you do in Helsinki. It's kind of a toss up. Where would I rather live? Probably Helsinki since I speak Finnish. However, EVERYBODY in Stockholm (as well as Helsinki) speaks English. And, they speak it very well. You could easily get by living in either city without speaking the native language.

So, anyway, there you have it. We waited with a bunch of other people for Sture Hof to open. The doors opened at precisely 1:00, and the restaurant was nearly full by 1:10. We ordered our food within minutes of being seated, and then settled down to what we hoped would be a good meal.

It was.

Mrs. TBF and I both had nice starters. Mine was a herring plate that I elected to pair up with some aquavit with a beer chaser. I read in my guide book that it's a very Swedish thing to do. Plus I saw a couple of other guys order the same thing.

Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.....smooth! Warning: aquavit is STRONG stuff!

We kind of had to rush it a bit, but Mrs. TBF enjoyed her fish, and I enjoyed my brisket. Why can't we have brisket in Switzerland? I want brisket (along with a gourmet food hall and 7-Eleven) in Basel NOW!!! After settling the bill, we walked at a brisk pace back to the hotel, grabbed our bags, jumped into a taxi, and were whisked away to the airport.

Our visit to Stockholm had come to an end. Although it was a good five days, I was happy to be going home. I definitely left Stockholm with a good taste in my mouth.

Or...maybe it was the herring, aquavit, and brisket.

Stockholm: The Scream...

By Saturday evening, four solid days of sluta löpa gatlopp had turned my brain to mush. At least Mrs. TBF was alert enough to photograph my Edvard Munch (yes...I know he's Norwegian) moment.

I'm thinking of making this my new profile picture. Mrs. TBF is against it. What do you think?

Stockholm: Beauty And The Beast...

Mrs. TBF and I were walking up Slottsbacken next to the Royal Palace. It was a beautiful Saturday early afternoon - blue sky, warm sun, cool breeze...perfect! I walked a few steps in front of Mrs. TBF, got the camera ready, wheeled around...SNAP!


Mrs. TBF asked me for the camera just as a band came marching up the street. "Stand there..." she said. I stood, and waited...and waited...and waited. "What the hell's the hold up...?", I asked. "I'm waiting for the band to be in the picture...", she replied. "Just take the picture already...", I said impatiently. Snap!


Mrs. TBF thinks: Oh, oh...low blood sugar. We must find a restaurant now!

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Stockholm: T.G.I.F.

As I mentioned before, Mrs. TBF's meetings in Stockholm took place at the Sheraton. So, that's where we stayed during the week. The Sheraton is rated as a 5-star hotel, but I'd say it's more like a 3-star hotel. Neither one of us really liked it - not very clean, the service wasn't very good, the food needs some help, etc. Suffice it to say that we were very happy with the fact that we had decided in advance to switch to the Grand Hotel for the weekend.

I arrived first with the bags, and then Mrs. TBF arrived about an hour later and unpacked her stuff. Although I had enjoyed exploring Stockholm with Mark, I was looking forward to exploring more of Stockholm with Mrs. TBF. Also, unlike Mark, Mrs. TBF always carrys a large bag with her when we travel which means that I don't have to carry my own stuff (sunglasses, map, guidebook, etc.). TBF likes to travel light...

It was already past 3:00 p.m., and neither one of us had eaten yet, so we decided to grab a late lunch. I thought Mrs. TBF would like a place called Lisa Elmqvist where Mark and I had eaten at the day before and really enjoyed. After a little faulty navigation by yours truly, Mrs. TBF and I finally made it to the restaurant which is located in the Östermalms Saluhall where we stuffed ourselves full of some really nice fish. No shock was expensive, but very good. I'd recommend it. The restaurant is located in a gourmet food hall which is a little off the beaten tourist track, and we were surrounded by counters where locals where buying all sorts of great fish, meats, cheeses, etc. Why can't we have a place like this in Basel? I want a gourmet food hall and a 7-Eleven in Basel...NOW! Oh...and look who we ran into at the hall: Lisa and Mark (he had obviously spent to much time with TBF). Great minds think alike!

After our late lunch, we waddled back to the hotel where Mrs. TBF took a nap (work is exhausting), and I decided to switch on the TV - something I rarely do when we travel. One thing I really liked in Stockholm was that they have a Finnish TV channel. I just had a grand old time watching "my people" on the tube. Imagine my shock when suddenly my twin brother - Äbner's - show came on. If that wasn't amazing enough, I was absoluted stunned when I saw that he had a Japanese woman on his show who spoke perfect, unaccented Finnish. I know things are different now, but when I was growing up only people who looked Finnish spoke Finnish. This woman was a foreign exchange student who spent a year in Finland when she was in her teens. She returned to Japan, but she missed Finland and decided to return permanently. She spoke Finnish better than me for God's sake. (Note to self: I have to do something about that neck flab!)

Still feeling a bit sated, we walked over to Operakällaren for our 9:00 p.m. dinner reservation. We read about this restaurant, along with our hotel, in our 1,000 Places To See Before You Die book. We went with some pretty high expectations, and I have to admit that I ended up being ever so slightly disappointed. The room, described in the book as "...the city's most theatrical venue for an evening's repast, featuring plush Oriental rugs, carved oak wall and ceiling panels, once-risqué murals, extravagant crystal chandeliers..." was great. However, the service and food were only above average, and certainly (at least in my opinion) not reflective of the astronomically high prices. I'm not going to say what we paid for our meal, but suffice it to say that it was significantly higher than the $85 per person as referenced in our book ($85/person barely covered the wine). I'm glad we went and experienced it, but I wouldn't go back if I returned to Stockholm. I think I'm done going to these super fancy restaurants without a recommendation from somebody I know who's previously eaten there. You live and you learn.

But, least it gave me an excuse to wear a tie.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Stockholm: Tourists Beware...

I was duped.

Unbeknownst to me, and probably every other tourist in Stockholm, Sweden changed their money awhile back. If you look at the bills in the picture, you'll notice that the top bill has a silver stripe along the left border - that's the "new" bill. The old bill on the bottom did not have this stripe. My guess is that the stripe was introduced as an anti-counterfeiting measure. Whatever the reason, I came to find out that everybody had until last April to turn in their old bills for new ones at the bank.

So, guess who ended up with an old bill? Me, that's who. I found out when I was paying for some things at a 7-Eleven (Why don't we have 7-Elevens in Switzerland?) by the train station. The lady behind the counter said something to me in Swedish as I was paying, I looked at her with that I-have-no-idea-what-you-just-said look, and then she immediately switched to English. "I can not accept this bill..." she said, and the proceeded to explain why. I just handed her another bill, and I figured I'd unload it someplace else.

The next day, I went to the train station for a coffee (the coffee at the Sheraton was awful), and I tried to pay with the old bill. No dice! The coffee guy told me the background about having to turn all the old bills in at the bank last April, etc. He suggested I try Forex currency exchange, or a bank.

I went to Forex office at the train station, and I was advised by the lady that the only thing that can be done with the bill is to have it deposited in a bank account. However, the catch is that YOU HAVE TO BE A SWEDISH CITIZEN in order to do so. Foiled again! Now I was beginning to get a bit perturbed.

I went back to the Sheraton and explained the dilemma to the lady at the front desk. First, she told me that I should go back to the place that gave it to me and demand an exchange for a new bill. After telling her that I had probably spent money ten times the previous day, and that there was no way for me to know who had given me the old bill, she told me that I was pretty much stuck with a worthless bill. I even went so far as to ask her if she would exchange the bill for a new one since she was Swedish and could just deposit it into her bank account. "But...they will charge me a service fee..." was her response. It was precisely at that moment that I came up with a plan: I would pass the bill off as a tip. It would work....IT HAD TO WORK!!! The frugal Finn was percolating inside of me, and there was NO WAY I was eating 100 SEK/$10.77 U.S./13.69 Euros.

The next day (Friday), we moved to a different hotel for the last two nights of our trip. Mrs. TBF had one last meeting to attend, so I just took a taxi to the new hotel with our bags. Upon arrival at the hotel, a nice young man (who turned out to be Finnish), brought our bags up to our room. We spoke for a few minutes in Finnish, he wished me a pleasant stay, and then I unloaded that old bill...and my aggravation. I'm sure he thought it was a nice tip...until he saw that it was an old bill.

I hated doing it to a "Finnish brother", but...

Nah...who am I kidding? I didn't give a crap. It was his problem now.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Stockholm: All Aboard...

We were very lucky. The weather was great the entire time we were in Stockholm. I'm talking blue sky, low humidity, 23˚C (low 70s˚F) type of weather. Here's an example of what it was like most of the time. Pefect weather for...riding the double-decker tourist bus.

I know, I KNOW. There's nothing more touristy than riding that hop-on hop-off bus. But, I don't care. I like it, I've been on them in many cities, and I will continue to do so. I think it's the best way to get an overview of any city you're visiting.

We bought our bus tickets at 3:00 p.m., and it was fortunate that they were good for 24 hours, because the bus stopped running at 4:00 p.m. Mark and I went straight up to the upper deck, put on our headphones, and began our brainwashing.

Now, I'm all for people being proud of their country and city. I'm proud of my Finnish heritage, and lord knows I grew up hearing about how great the Finns are. But never, ever, have I been on a bus tour where I heard such proclamations of greatness.

I happened to take this picture of myself right at the moment when Mark said: "Hey...does this seem kind of...oh, I don't know...propagandish to you?" That's why I'm laughing in the picture - I was thinking it, but I didn't really want to say anything.

The recording went something like this:

"Yes, much has been said about the high taxes in Sweden. However, they've come down quite a bit in recent years. Although the taxes are somewhat higher than in other countries, the citizens of Sweden receive a lot for their tax money. Education - blah, blah, blah, blah...Sweden has the highest literacy rate in the world. Health care - blah, blah, blah, blah...Sweden has the best health care in the world. Retirement - Sweden takes care of it's elderly...and Sweden boasts the highest life expectancy of any country in the world...."

By the end of the tour, Mark and I almost had to slap each other in the face in order to snap out of our Swedish trances. We somehow fought the urge to run directly to the royal family to pledge everlasting allegiance to their peerless society.

Sluta löpa gatlopp...highest life expectancy...sluta löpa gatlopp...highest literacy rate...sluta löpa gatlopp...Abba...sluta löpa gatlopp...2006 Olympic gold medal in ice hockey...

Stockholm: Two Men Hit The Streets...

As I mentioned before, the reason we were in Stockholm was because Mrs. TBF had to be there for meetings. Since she had to be there from Monday to Friday anyway, I figured I'd tag along and take advantage of the "free" hotel room during the week.

Originally, I was going to fly to Stockholm on Thursday afternoon. However, I changed my ticket to a Tuesday departure when I found out that Mark was going to be going on Tuesday, and that I'd have somebody to hang out with during the week. Mark is Lisa's husband, and Lisa is colleague of Mrs. TBF's. The meetings were going on until midday on Friday, so we had a couple of days to fill. What to do?

Mark and I decided to just walk around and take in the sights. We ventured into Gamla Stan, which is Stockholm's old town, and wandered down narrow cobblestone streets. We were just two guys walking around town - no agenda, no hurry. Mark snapped a photo of me in front of the Finnish church, and I snapped a picture of Mark at Stortorget where we stopped at a cafe for a hot (white) chocolate. At some point, we decided we were hungry and stopped for lunch.

Eating in Stockholm was very expensive. Now, granted, we weren't eating fast food. However, the prices of the food when compared to comparable restaurants in Switzerland was much, MUCH higher - at least 50% higher. My lunch on Wednesday at Café Opera was 750 SEK which translates to 80 Euros or $100 U.S. I had one beer, one small bottle of water, a starter, a main course (reindeer meat on mashed potatoes), and coffee. It was very good, but DAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAMN! I found out later that we had just picked a very expensive place to eat because the other places Mark and I ate at (Pontus By The Sea, Lisa Elmqvist, and Fem Små Hus) weren't quite as pricey. Swedish cuisine is interesting. Sure, you have your salmon and herring, but there's also a definite French influence. Many places I read about were described as having a Swedish-French fusion. The food was very good...but expensive.

I guess it's a good thing that the hotel was "free".

Monday, September 25, 2006

Sluta Löpa Gatlopp...

I think this is Swedish for something like "stop running the gauntlet". It was on every bus in Stockholm.

After taking the train from the airport, I walked out of the main station to see a passing bus with these bright green words. I thought they looked strange, and I tried sounding them out in my head...sluta löpa gatlopp...sluta löpa gatlopp...nothing like Finnish....sluta löpa gatlopp...sluta löpa gatlopp... Now I can't get the damn phrase out of my head (just ask Mrs. TBF!). At one point, I even made up a little song with the words sung to the tune of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Lord help me!

I became obsessed with photographing Sluta. A bus would go by...Sluta would be on the other side. Another bus would go by...I wouldn't have my camera ready. The umpteenth bus would go by...the lighting would be wrong. Finally, I managed to photograph the elusive Sluta. Mission accomplished!

My mind is currently a labyrinth, my friends. I need to de-sluta-ize myself before I can begin sorting out my Stockholm thoughts and memories. Perhaps I need to run my own gauntlet by means of a strenuous workout and a sauna at the gym in order to clear my head.

I'll be back soon. Hopefully...

Monday, September 18, 2006

Forgive Me Father...

...I'm about to sin.

I'm leaving for Stockholm tomorrow morning. Mrs. TBF is already there for a week-long conference, and I'll be joining her tomorrow afternoon. And, I have to say that I'm really looking forward to this trip. Sure, it's not Finland...but it's close enough.

There's a bit of a rivalry between Finland and Sweden. Every year there is a big track and field meet between the two countries (it's possible that it's coming up soon...not really sure), and I recall my dad telling me when I was growing up about the Swedes crying when the Finns would emerge victorious in this meet year after year (not really sure what the true results were), and how the Swedes would never beat the Finns at anything (...except maybe for the gold medal in ice hockey in the Olympics this past winter). My understanding is that the Swedes stole Finnish meatballs from the Finns and renamed them Swedish meatballs, cloudberry (lakka) jam, and even tried to claim they invented the sauna. For all I know, they probably even stole IKEA from the Finns. Plus, they're jealous as hell about Nokia. Just ask any Finn...

But regardless of the Swedes' inferiority complex, I'm looking forward to spending five days in Stockholm. Mrs. TBF and I will be staying at the "formulaic business hotel" during her meetings, but then we'll move on to what we've read is the incredibly posh Grand Hotel on Friday for two nights. We have dinner reservations for one night at a restaurant called Operakällaren, and then we're just going to "wing it" for the other meals.

Yes...I'm really looking forward to it. But don't worry dad - I'm sure I won't like it as much as Helsinki.

P.S. I'm not bringing my laptop this time (The Swedes probably haven't heard of the internet yet...), so I'll update the blog with pictures when we're back at home.

Take it easy TMS and Tobias...just joking.

A Good Start To My 45th Year!

As an adult, I've never been one to really celebrate my birthday. I'm not sure why, but I've always been happy just receiving a few birthday cards in the mail, having Mrs. TBF cook me a special dinner, and that's about it. No gifts, no parties, no nuttin'.

I've changed my mind...

First of all, as she normally does, Mrs. TBF asked me what I wanted for my birthday dinner. My answer was lasagna, of course. Her lasagna is, in my opinion, WORLD CLASS! I no longer order it in Italian restaurants because it always pales by comparison. She told me that the lasagna would be no problem, and that she was thinking "...about inviting a few people over on your birthday for a birthday dinner." Yes, it was a violation of TBF birthday protocol, and yes I have to admit that I did grumble about it for a couple of seconds, but I ended up giving in to her wanting to have a little weeknight dinner party because few things in life give her more pleasure than planning and preparing for a dinner party. Jeanette, Suzanne, Corey, and Ronny came over, and we had a really nice time. I went to bed around 2 a.m. with a "happy tummy" and a "...SEE? It's not so bad celebrating your birthday with other people, is it?" comment from Mrs. TBF right before I dozed off and began the process of saturating Mrs. TBF's and my pillow with garlicky saliva for several hours.

On Friday night, we had a true "Impromptu Friday". Andy, Rammy, and John showed up just before midnight on their way home from a get-together at an Irish pub in town. They were thirsty and hungry, so I whipped up a batch of martinis, and Mrs. TBF "threw together" some pasta with some of the leftover lasagna gravy. Although this wasn't an official birthday celebration, it did kind of end up serving as a springboard into the weekend that culminated in a surprise party for me at John and Rammy's house on Sunday. More about that later...

We made our way by tram to Sean and Gina's apartment on Saturday night. Gina made some really good Ecuadorian food, Sean poured the never-ending BIG glass of wine, I loaded up on too much Ben & Jerry's ice cream for dessert, and then we took a cab home in the wee hours of Sunday morning. It was yet another night of going to bed with "happy tummy". Sorry...forgot my camera.

And, yes...earlier, I did say "surprise party".

Now, Mrs. TBF has heard me say year in and year out that surprise parties are absolutely forbidden. So a surprise party was the last thing on my mind when we were invited over to John and Rammy's house for an English lunch (roast beef, Yorkshire pudding, foie gras...ok, maybe that's not so English). I was just minding my own business, stuffing my face full of starters in the TV room, when I heard the call that lunch was served. I walked with John and Andy toward the dining room, opened the door, and nearly had a heart attack when everybody yelled surprise. There were streamers, balloons, presents... my god...I was completely stunned. Because of my strict ban on surprise parties, it was the last thing in the world that I ever expected. Even though I was the center of attention, I ended up having a great time. The food was awesome, the wine was terrific, I had a lot of fun, and I left with a bunch of nice gifts to go along with my haul from Wednesday night. And, you know what...?

I had such a great time over the past week that I now want to celebrate my birthday with friends every year from here on out. That's right Mrs. TBF, I'm a changed man. You now have my permission to arrange a birthday bash for me every year for the rest of my life.

I'm already looking forward to "TBF Birthday Week 2007"!

Friday, September 15, 2006

Friday Flashback: Twenty Years Now...

...whered they go?
Twenty years
I don't know
Sit and I wonder sometimes
Where they've gone...

-Bob Seger ("Like a Rock")

Twenty years ago this week, I asked Mrs. TBF to marry me. I made her promises of everlasting love and devotion. Somehow, I forgot to include the part about me quitting work in my 30s for the pursuit of "all about me".

This is our engagement portrait.

Twenty years...DAMN!


I received a phone call from a lady named Judith this morning. She was calling from the management office of our apartment building to advise me that my car is parked in the wrong spot in the parking garage.


She told me they had leased out parking spot number 7 (where I currently park) to somebody for three months, and that the guy had called her to say that somebody was parked in his spot. I told her that when Herr Frei at her office handed me the keys to the apartment over 18 months ago, that he had told me that there were no assigned parking spots in the garage and that I could park in any spot. However, Judith advised me that our contract clearly states "...zat you muss park een shpot zeeks".


I told her that I'd go down and move my car.

I went down to the garage, saw that my new spot was against a wall, and that there was no way in hell I was going to start making seventeen-point turns just so that I could squeeze the Jeep into a spot that's meant for a Mini-Cooper. I took the elevator back up to the apartment, and called Judith...

TBF: "Hello Judith. This is [TBF]. I'm sorry, but I have a Jeep..."

Judith: "Yes, I know...I saw eet yesterday..."

TBF: " were in the garage yesterday?"

Judith: "Yes...ven zee person told me zat somebody was een heez shpot, I came out to investigate."

TBF: "And???"

Judith: "Yes...I confirmed zat you were parked een heez shpot."

TBF: " came out just to...? Nevermind...well...since you saw my car, you can certainly understand that it would be very difficult for me to squeeze my large car into that tiny spot. Therefore, I would like to continue parking in spot number seven.

Judith: "Zat veel be no problem. Zee man said zat he will park in shpot number zeeks if you didn't want to sveetch shpots. Plus, he's only renting zee shpot for zree munts."

TBF: "OK...I appreciate your understanding...thank you."

After hanging up with Judith, I went to my trusty file cabinet and pulled out our rental contract. And...there it is in black and white:

Mietobjekt: Einstellhallenplatz Nr. 6

Huh...who knew?

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Happy Birthday TBF...

... And many more to come!
Hey all you blogger friends out is TBF's birthday so stop by and add your birthday greetings!

PS - Sorry about the old photo TBF, but I don't have too many pictures on my work laptop.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Take My Advice...

The C-BOPP diet (cigars, beers, olives, peanuts, & Pringles) is not a good weight-loss option. Trust me! I gained three kilos (6.6 lbs.) during our 10-day Amalfi vacation. I'm back to weighing my food, counting my points, and doing all the things I normally do to keep my weight under 97.5 kilos.

Yes, I'm proud of the fact that Mrs. TBF and I both worked out four times in the hotel gym during our stay. However, it was not enough (for me at least) to balance out the effects of the breakfast buffet, daytime/seaside C-BOPP diet, and the dinner offerings of wine, pasta, fried calamari, etc.

Each and every day at noon, I would walk over to the bar to place my order. I could have waited for "da Kid" (that's what we called one of the waiters) to come to us, but I figured that the 10 meter walk counted as exercise. At the bar, this daily conversation would take place:

da Kid: Prego!

TBF: One big beer [it was actually two beers poured into a large glass], and one San Pellegrino please.

da Kid: I brrring!

A couple of minutes later, "da Kid" would be would be setting BOPP down on the table and pulling his hand away quickly in order to avoid the embarrassment of me grabbing his hand and sticking it in my mouth by mistake.

You'll notice from the picture that the "midday edition" involved Mrs. TBF dropping the C and the B and sticking to the WOPP diet by substituting the water for the beer. Plus, she was kind of holding back on the PP, so she was really having more of a WO diet during the day. However, at about 2:30, I'd order BOPP round two (the C was long gone by then), and Mrs. TBF would switch from W to CAT (Cynar & Tonic). What? You've never had a Cynar & tonic? Let me tell ya, you're missing out on a refreshing summer drink.

Anyway...the long and the short of it is that Mrs. TBF did a better job of not gaining weight than I did. However, I did leave for the vacation almost three kilos under my goal weight (preemptive action against C-BOPP damage) which means that I am pretty much at my goal weight right now.

That's all well and good except for the fact that we will be in Stockholm next week where I'm sure I'll be no match for the ASS diet (Aquavit, Salmon, Smörgåsbord), not to mention the meatballs, peas with pork, cheesecake with cloudberries, cinnamon buns, etc.

I'd better stop typing and head straight for the gym!

We're Not In Italy Anymore, Mrs. TBF...

And, you know how I know? I'll tell you how I know. I know because I don't see any fountains around Basel that look like this! Not only was this fountain in Amalfi incredibly beautiful, but it was also very functional.

Our last night in Amalfi involved us picking up a few things to bring back home (Amalfi lemons, Amalfi dried chili peppers, Limoncello, etc.), debating with the store clerks over the V.A.T. refund on a purchase from a local ceramic shop that we were having shipped home (we won the debate!), and stopping for a drink in the piazza before walking over to one of our favorite restaurants in Amalfi for dinner. While we were enjoying our pre-dinner drinks in the piazza, I noticed that the locals would actually stop at the fountain for a little hydration. Seriously! I would guess that at least 25 people stopped to drink from the fountain as we sat there watching the Amalfi "walk of life". So...

"...when in Amalfi, do as the locals do..." is what I always say. Well, I actually have never said that before, but it sounds good...

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Amalfi: Mini-Bar Vs. Duty Free....

Here's what 10 Euros buys you in our Amalfi hotel mini-bar.

Here's what 10 Euros buys you in the duty-free shop at Basel Airport.

Which would you rather have for your hard-earned 10 Euros?

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Amalfi: Starting The Day Off Right!

Morning is a busy time for us here in Amalfi. The alarm goes off around 7:30, and then it's up 'n' at 'em! On alternating mornings Mrs. TBF goes down to the gym that's right by the pool and gives the treadmill a working over (I prefer to workout in the late afternoon). While she's down there, she slips over to the pool and puts a couple of books on our prime location chaises that the ("greased" by TBF) poolstaff has conveniently reserved for us with towels. The books are just for added emphasis - I'm sure the mild-mannered guys by the pool would instantly turn into junkyard dogs if anybody tried to steal our spots. After her workout, Mrs. TBF showers, and then its time to head down to breakfast.

Breakfast is quite the event here at Santa Caterina. The staff lays out a nice spread consisting of your usual juice, coffee, eggs, bacon, toast, cereal, yougurt, fruit, etc. But, there's also the stuff one normally doesn't get at home like marinated eggplant, an assortment of dried/cured Italian meats, various olives and cheeses, etc. It's a real challenge to not eat to the point of bursting - believe me!

Along with the food, another great feature of the breakfast buffet is that the staff will NOT LET YOU CARRY ANYTHING YOURSELF. Seriously. If you pour yourself an orange juice, a man in a dinner jacket is right behind you holding a silver tray. He asks to take your juice, puts in on the tray, and then follows you back to the table like a lost puppy where he sets it down on the table for you so you don't have to. After spending days trying to capture this exchange on film, I finally managed to stop eating my omelette long enough to pick up the camera yesterday as one of the staff "relieved" Mrs. TBF of the heavy burden of her fresh fruit. And, speaking of omelettes...

What the hell is with the egg white omelette crap? I've really begun to feel sorry for the omelette station guy. It seems that every American - yes, it seems to be an American-only phenomenon - feels it necessary to order an egg white omelette to go along with the pile of bacon and cheese that's on his or her plate. I mean, what the heck is this world coming to? Either eat the omelette the way it was meant to be eaten, or don't order it at all. Oh, and another thing, don't complain about how long it's taking for "Mario" to make your omelette. YOU are the cause of the back-up.

This being said, I felt the need to help out Signor Omelette Guy when I saw his bowl of egg yolks sitting beside the burner. So, you know what I did? I ordered an omelette with extra egg yolks. That's right! I told him to throw a couple of extra egg yolks in my omelette. And, you know what? It was really good - nice yellow color, extra creamy...magnifico!

I think I'll go down to breakfast right now and help him out again. Don't worry Mario, TBF is coming to the rescue!

Sunday, September 03, 2006


Take the 10:30 boat from Amalfi to Capri, get yelled at by an Italian woman when we try to "steal" her saved seats on boat...Decide to walk up the hill from the marina in Capri to the main square - BIG MISTAKE, decide to ask an Italian lady for directions who responds in Italian, TBF (not realizing Mrs. TBF is standing so close to him) accidentally "punches" Mrs. TBF in the chin while talking to Italian lady and pointing - Mrs. TBF not hurt (steel chin), TBF's hand sore and heart bruised...One-quarter of the way up hill TBF is sweating and complaining, Mrs. TBF manages to secure a taxi and saves the day...Hours spent walking around Capri shopping, Mrs. TBF buys new sandals while TBF buys a shirt and new sunglasses...Take taxi back down the hill in late afternoon to the marina to take boat back to Capri, initially wait at incorrect dock (where Mrs. TBF takes picture of TBF wearing his "manpri" pants in Capri) which results in rare TBF/Mrs. TBF sprint to other side of bay to barely catch boat back to Amalfi...determine that Capri is nice, but been-there-done-that (twice)! trip to Amalfi will probably include no trip to Capri...

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Amalfi: Nashro!

It's not all fun and games here in Amalfi. NO! Sometimes we have to take a break from all things hedonistic to do some serious research. OK...I'll give you a second to stop laughing................TIME! I'm talking about the very scientific research I did the other night: side by side taste test of Nastro Azzurro and Peroni to finally see which one is really better. AND??? Nastro a landslide!

My only slip-up was that I failed to notice when I was buying the bottles of beer that they were each 66cl bottles. That means, to all you Americans out there, that each bottle was about the equivalent of two American bottles of beer. I thought they felt a little big, but I guess the size really didn't register when I was buying them. By the time I was finishing the taste test, Mrs. TBF told me that I was slurring my speach a bit. That's when I turned the bottles around and blurted out: "HEEEEEYYYYY...sheesh bozzles are sissy sick dezzileezers eesh!"

I put the empties in the bin, relaxed on the bed for a few minutes, then we went out for dinner where we SHARED A BOTTLE OF WINE! Then, after the dinner, the waiter brought each of us a complimentary limoncello.

We slept well!

Friday, September 01, 2006


I just finished surgically removing the feed bag, it's late, and I'm tired. Therefore, I'm going to keep it short.

Yesterday, we spent the day in Positano. Getting there was easy - we hopped on a boat in Amalfi, and twenty minutes later we were in Positano. Here's a bit of advice: if you're out of shape - stay away from Positano. There's only one road that winds its way up the hill and about a zillion stairs. The only way to really explore the town is by climbing up...and up...and up, until you reach a scenic overlook. So, it's definitely not a place to visit, as I said, if you're out of shape, have to push a baby around in a stroller, or don't like to hear people complain about how many stairs there are or how much they're sweating.

I found it interesting that while Amalfi seems to be teeming with Americans, Positano seems to be overrrun with lobster-red, sunburned Brits. Hmmm, Brits...maybe that's why I heard so much complaining going on.