Thursday, December 10, 2009

To Shave, Or Not To Shave?

That is the question.

I haven't shaved since October 31st. Ok... I've shaved my neck and my head, but I haven't shaved my face since Halloween.

Hey, what can I say? Every now and then, a guy needs to give his face a rest. Plus, I like to check on the progress of the gray whiskers every now and then. Verdict: a little more gray than the last time I had a beard (January 2007), but not too much more.

Not only have I not shaved, but I haven't even trimmed the beard. It's beginning to get a bit unruly, so if I do decide to keep it I'll have to give a bit of a once over with the scissors. Another thing for me to consider is that shaving my face reminds me to trim the ear and nose hairs, so those may be getting a bit on the wrong side of acceptable.

Ummmm... ok. I think I've answered my own question.

The beard goes before I go to Chicago.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

We'll Be Home For Christmas...

One week from now we'll be well into North American airspace on our way to Chicago for our Christmas vacation. It'll be our first time in Chicago for Christmas since 1999.

Ten years! TEN YEARS!!!

Ten. Years...

Can you believe it???

We were actually talking back in January about going to Tokyo this Christmas, but Mrs. TBF mentioned Chicago as a possibility, and Tokyo pretty much never came up as an option again.

Maybe next year.

Since we're actually going to be in Chicagoland for a full two weeks, we thought it would be nice to get out of the suburbs and head into the city for a couple of nights. We'll be doing our little part to help the U.S. economy by spending money on a hotel, Christmas shopping and eating at nice restaurants. Vienna, Rome, Paris, and London have been the recipients of our Christmas spending over the last four years. This year, we're bringing the money back home and spending it in Chi-town!!!

It still floors me that the last time we were in Chicago for Christmas, everybody was talking about Y2K. Remember that? What a bust! Just another thing - along with backyard bomb shelters, the oncoming ice age, and acid rain - collecting dust in the over-hype warehouse. I heard something about the warehouse men getting a spot ready for man made global warming. I'd ask them, but they're taking a break right now (damn Teamsters!). We'll just have to wait and see, won't we?


At this time way back in '99, we had neighbors who had bought a whole-house backup generator, people were stocking up on food and water, the end of the world was nigh, and we didn't even have an inkling of an idea that we'd be living in Switzerland less than a year later.

Here we are ten years later, and Y2K is a distant memory. Instead, I'm focused on B2A: BACK TO AMERICA!!!

How much time is left on the countdown clock???

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

The Final Word On Dieting And Hooter's Wings!

People find my blog every single day by doing a search for "hooters wings weight watchers points" or some version of those words. Why? Because I've blogged about Hooters Wings and Weight Watchers... DUH!

I've said it before, and I'll say it again...

If you're on any kind of weight loss diet - Weight Watchers or ANY other diet - you WILL NOT lose weight if you eat Hooters Wings. If you convince yourself that you will, you're just lying to yourself, and... that's not good.

Here's the proof:

This past Saturday evening, we had a long-overdue birthday dinner for the Switzerland-base, British Dr. John. Since we were the ones who introduced the Dr. John family to Hooters Wings at the Hooters in Norfolk, VA last summer - where Dr. John labeled them at the restaurant (in an embarrassingly loud voice) as being "Maaaaahhhvelous!" - we thought we would surprise him, along with Dr. Rammy, by making them some homemade Hooters wings for his belated birthday dinner.

I did a quick internet search for Hooters wings recipes, found a few suitable recipes, and picked out the one that I thought was the best.

If you look at the recipe, you'll find that not only are the wings breaded and deep fried, but...


Let's see now: deep fried wings tossed in butter before serving? Ummmm... you're not going to lose weight eating those. Nope... you're just not! But... just in case you do. You'd better head to the doctor to have your thyroid checked!

Anyway... they ARE evil! But... they sure are good!!!

There's Nothing Like A Hot Bath...

ESPECIALLY after you've been without hot water for 24 hours!!

That's right, HEAD FOR THE BOMB SHELTER!! We were without hot water for 24 hours last week from Thursday to Friday!

Is it the beginning of the complete breakdown of Swiss society as we know it??? Probably not, but THIS may have been!

Other than the fact that Mrs. TBF had to take an ice-cold shower on Friday morning before going to work (I just showered at the gym), in hindsight, being without hot running water in Switzerland proved not to be too big of an inconvenience. You see, both the washing machine and dishwasher have their own built-in heating elements, and therefore only have cold water feeds. Of course, I didn't think about this until about 20 hours into the 24 hours, so I guess... YES! It was rather inconvenient being without hot water. But next time - IF there ever is a next time - I'll be ready.

It's when things like this happen that I realize one of the major things I like about owning a home as opposed to renting: having complete control over a situation.

As a homeowner: I would have called a repairman, he/she would have shown up, and the problem would have been solved.

As a renter: I called the absolutely-no-sense-of-urgency rental office, the person told me that they would relay the message to their colleague, and then I proceeded to sit around with my thumb up my ass. Every fifteen minutes or so, I would remove said thumb from ass to walk over to the faucet to see if any hot water was coming out.

Finally, I got tired of waiting, so I went to talk to my downstairs Swiss neighbor who speaks absolutely ZERO English. Somehow, through a complicated system of semi-German words, grunts, and charades, I managed to ask her to call the management office to see if she could make any headway with them. I headed off to the next-door grocery store to buy a couple of things, and when I returned a few minutes later there was already a note from my neighbor stating that the repairmen were now working on the problem, had not yet determined what the problem was, but assured her that the hot water would be working by the end of the day.

By 3:30 on Friday afternoon, there was still no hot water, and I was getting nervous. Was there a chance that we'd have no hot water for the entire weekend??? I decided to head of to the gym for a workout, shower, and a good thumb scrubbing. When I returned home, the hot water was back on.

All was well with the world again.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Waste Not Want Not

I've read a couple of articles this past week about how much food the average American wastes. Alarmingly, the figure is something like 40%!! You can read a short article about it right here if you wish. The amount of fresh water and oil needed to produce the food that is just thrown out is staggering.

Why do Americans waste so much food? In my opinion, there are three major reasons:

1. Food is too cheap.
2. Refrigerators are too big.
3. Food being sold in too large containers (i.e. "extra-value-economy sizes").

Here in Switzerland: our food is expensive, refrigerators are small, and food is sold in small quantities. Guess what?

We rarely waste any food.

In fact, I would say I'd be overestimating if I said we throw out food more than once or twice per year. The last time? Last week: I threw out a tiny jar of cloves that had an expiration date of 2002! Other than that, I can't remember the last time.

So, here are some tips:

Buy only the food you intend on eating. If you have have leftovers - EAT THEM the next day, or stick them in the freezer! Don't buy massive containers of food. I mean, do you really need that gallon jar of pimento olives from Costco?

Oh, and here's another tip that I practiced this past Sunday night. Rather than leaving leftovers, just eat until you're ready to burst, fall into a deep coma, and become as one with the sofa in front of the TV until it's time to go to bed.

Friday, November 27, 2009

A Thanksgiving Controversy???

One of the comments from yesterday's post seems to question whether or not Brussels sprouts are traditional Thanksgiving fare. I have to say that I don't really remember ever eating them at Thanksgiving when I was growing up. But then again, we often ate a lot of of Finnish side dishes along with our turkey. I know Brussels sprouts are a traditional Christmas side dish in the U.K., and I think a lot of Americans/Canadians eat them with their Thanksgiving/Christmas meals. Oh... who knows?

How about if we just let Herman Munster settle it for us? And pay attention to what he says at the 14 second mark.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Even though it's just an ordinary Thursday in Switzerland, I'm still trying to create a little Thanksgiving spirit around here.

I know it's not quite the same as an American Thanksgiving dinner, but we ARE going to have some turkey, sweet potatoes, and Brussels sprouts.

I'd have no problem grilling a whole turkey, IF I COULD FIND ONE!!! Sure, I could have ordered a fresh one at the butcher a couple of weeks ago, but why bother just for the two of us. In a couple of weeks they'll start appearing in the grocery stores, and I'll buy a couple to stick in the freezer for later use.

In the meantime, turkey Schnitzel, sweet potatoes, and frozen Brussels sprouts will have to do. But I sure will miss eating the Pope's nose.

Can I buy a bag full of frozen ones somewhere?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Double Shot

Mrs. TBF and I had our H1N1 and seasonal flu shots yesterday evening.

As some of you already know, Mrs. TBF works for one of the world's largest pharmaceutical companies, and apparently they want to take care of their own: FREE H1N1 and seasonal flu vaccinations (both manufactured by the previously mentioned company for whom Mrs. TBF works) for all employees and their spouses/significant others/children. Figuring that I'm not as young as I used to be, and considering the fact that I would never turn down something FREE in Switzerland (free Basler Leckerli being one of the few exceptions), I decided to go for both.

Seeing how I have had two rather unpleasant bouts with flu over the past two winters, I figured it was time to start getting a seasonal flu shot. Hell, I might have already had the swine flu last December, but since I'd be getting one, why not get two for the price of one? Oh... did I mention that they were FREE? Oh... I did? Sorry about that.

Not only were the shots FREE, but we also got some FREE water (a choice of still or sparkling!) after the shots while we were sitting for ten minutes to see "if you have any kind of reaction"! We didn't.

So far so good!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Putting Down Roots...

We're back home. Actually, we came home on Monday, but it took a couple of days for me to get things back in order. So, blogging had to take a back seat.

Not only are we back home, but we're back home for an entire month before our next trip. BELIEVE IT, OR NOT! We haven't been at home for an entire month since August.

So much time on our hands. Whatever shall we do???

The trip to London/Scotland was really nice. There was a little hiccup when our brand new hotel in Glasgow where we were supposed to stay on Saturday night called us on Thursday afternoon - TWO DAYS BEFORE OUR SCHEDULED ARRIVAL - to let us know that the hotel had not yet opened and that we wouldn't be able to stay there OR eat dinner there. However, all ended up well in the end when they set us up in a nice hotel in Edinburgh, albeit an hour drive away from Glasgow.

The itinerary went like this:

Friday: Flew to London, checked in at the 51 Buckingham Gate Hotel (highly recommended by me), shopped a bit, had some lunch, took a nap, met our friends Simon and Rosemarie for dinner at Quilon (Michelin starred Indian restaurant next to our hotel), and zzzzzzzzzzzz!

Saturday: Met up with Jeanette, Mark, and Lisa at Heathrow and flew to Glasgow, rented cars at Glasgow Airport, drove to Edinburgh, checked into our hotel, high tea, shopped a bit, had a nice dinner, and zzzzzzzzz!

Sunday: Drove up to our palatial rental house outside of Inverness, got settled in, went out to stock up on supplies at Tesco, dinner/roaring fire back at house, and zzzzzzz!

Monday - Saturday: Sightseeing (Loch Ness, Inverness, Isle of Skye, Ullapool, etc., etc.), shopping, relaxing, eating well, etc.

Sunday - Jeanette, Mrs. TBF, and I drove back to Edinburgh and flew back to London. Mark and Lisa drove back to Glasgow. We said goodbye to Jeanette, and then Mrs. TBF and I spent the night at Simon and Rosemarie's house outside of London.

Monday - Early morning taxi back to Heathrow, A.M. flight back to Basel.

Enough about all that. Check out all 150+ pictures HERE.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Finn Elvis

I'm not really sure what was going on here, but... dad certainly had an Elvis thing going on at breakfast on 10/28/2009.

The Folks Are Alright!

As usual, Mrs. TBF and I stayed at Jo the mother-in-law's townhouse while we were in Chicago. Mrs. TBF flew to Chicago with me, left on business for a couple of days the following week, came back for my 25th reunion, and then flew back out on business again. That left me with some quality "alone" time with Jo Mama.

One evening, I told her that I'd take her out for dinner. Of course, a negotiation ensued which resulted in us having to go out to eat at 5 p.m. (I obviously lost the negotiation) at a place where she could eat a salad. We agreed on California Pizza Kitchen, and off we went. And... let me tell you: I earned some big-time son-in-law points parking in the spot right in front of the door instead of my normal parking spot: far away, requiring her to walk and get some exercise.

Jo Mama is doing well. Although she complains about every and all possible ailments throughout the day, she's really in very good health considering that she is nearly 80. You'd never guess it by looking at her.

Also as usual in the fall, I rendezvoused with my parents (on their way from Canada to spend the winter in Florida) at my sister's house. I only saw them for a couple of days because they didn't get down to Chicago until the tail end of my stay, but we managed to spend a decent amount of time together.

They, like Jo Mama, are also doing well. They look fit, happy, and ready to spend the winter living the good life in warm, sunny Florida. I plan on going to Florida again this winter, so I'll see them again soon. This will be my third year in a row going to there during the dead of winter.

Does that now count as an annual trip?

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

The Nieces and Nephew...

Here were my favorite pictures of the nieces and nephew from our trip.

In this first picture, we had gone to see my sister run in a 5k race. Music was blaring over the speakers, and I thought it would be a great time to torment the nieces with some public robotic dancing. Fiona tolerated Uncle TBF, Kiera was mortified, and Sinead pretty much just ignored me.

I took this picture of Finn immediately after he walked in the door after football practice. I don't think there was enough Shout in Chicagoland to get all those stains out.

Finally, my little niece Sinead whipping around the yard on her little Barbie 4-wheeler. I told her about how when her mom and I were here age, we made bowling pins and a bowling ball out of aluminum foil, and used our hallway as a bowling alley.

She didn't care.

Kids these days! Sheesh!!

The Evil Bean...

We sure drink a lot of coffee when we're in America; a lot more than we drink in Basel. Why? I'm not really sure. Maybe it's the jet lag. Or... maybe it's the fact that it's so damn cheap.


We usually get lungo and grande Americanos at Starbucks. In Basel, it costs the equivalent of about $12 or $13. In Chicago, it cost something like $5.50. Plus, in Chicago, I order them, and I have them in my hand in about 30 seconds. In Basel? It usually takes at least five minutes.

What's up with that?

We Must Be In The FRONT Row!

Ok... it was actually the fourth row, but why split hairs?

Why are we so happy in these photos? One: they were taken just after we arrived in Chicago. And... Two: they were taken just after we arrived in Chicago after flying in first class!

That's right, folks: complimentary first class upgrades yet again!

While going through security at Heathrow, the agent told Mrs. TBF that her seat had been changed. She had been upgraded to first class. Unfortunately, I hadn't been. Mrs. TBF told the agent that she wouldn't take the upgrade unless we both received them, a quick phone call was made, and... Bob's your uncle, as the Brits say.

A little while later, we got on the plane, turned LEFT, and were escorted to seats 4E and 4F.


Mrs. TBF used miles to upgrade me to first class for the return, and we're already booked for first class when we go back to Chicago for Christmas. I'm just thinking...

Can I ever fly in anything but first class again?

No Apologies...


This is the point where I should be apologizing for not blogging, but... I'm an adult, blogging is an optional activity, and... I don't have to apologize if I don't want to, DAMMIT!

So there! HA!

Rather than bore you with a long post, I'll be brief right now and then catch up with multiple mini-posts.

Chicago was great! Family, friends, shopping, eating, 25th NU reunion, etc. We were gone for 12 days, and we didn't return until last Thursday.

Last weekend was our friend Rammy's 50th birthday celebration. I called it Rammy-O-Rama! It was pretty much a 24-hour extravaganza, and we're still recuperating.

This Friday, we're off to London. We'll spend the night there, and then we'll spend the entire next week in Scotland. Who goes to Scotland in November. Well, apparently WE DO!

More posts coming up soon. I promise!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Packing... Again!

Since we last spoke, we went with a group of friends via private shuttle bus to a wine tasting about 30 minutes from here. It was a great evening, but... I unfortunately forgot to bring my camera. Sorry 'bout that. Then, last weekend, we went to Paris. No, I did NOT forget my camera this time. You can view some of the pictures by clicking... right... HERE.

Paris, as usual was great. We relaxed well, ate well, and shopped well. I came home with some new shirts and bathing suits, and Mrs. TBF came home with a new handbag, a new pair of sunglasses, and probably other things that I just can't remember at this time. We had such a good time, in fact, that we booked another trip to Paris for February while we were online in the lounge at our hotel.

Right now, I'm taking a break from packing for our next trip: Chicago. The main reason for the trip is to attend my 25th college reunion. However, I'm sure that I'll have time for family and friends too. Mrs. TBF will fly over with me, head off on a business trip next week, come back to Chicago for my reunion, and then head off on business again the following week. If all goes according to plan, she will depart for London from the East Coast around the same time I am departing for London from Chicago, and then we'll meet up in London for the flight back to Basel. But enough about that...

I still can't believe that I GRADUATED FROM COLLEGE MORE THAN 25 YEARS AGO!!! Sheesh!

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Rest In Peace...

...and style.

We received a package from Italy today containing assorted pottery we purchased while we were in Amalfi: a few plates, a vase, a couple of other odds and ends, AND...

A proper resting place for Dominique and King's ashes. Finally!

Up until now, they've been in the little white boxes in which we received their ashes from the vet. Also, they've been on a shelf right above our TV.

Not very appropriate.

Now they'll be in this beautiful "urn" we purchased last month in Amalfi. And, they'll have a new place of honor in our bedroom so they can sleep with us every night we're at home just like they did for so many years.

It was a bit of a trick getting the bag containing Dominique's ashes through the opening, but I managed. Also, I'm sure King would complain about having to spend all of eternity in the same urn as Dominique, but...

...he'll get used to it.

Wednesday Wife

I went to IKEA yesterday with my "Wednesday Wife" - Dr. Di.

On most Wednesdays, I walk our friends' two dogs, and then I walk over to my "WW's" home. We talk for a couple of hours, I drink coffee, insist on her NOT putting out any snacks, watch as she pretty much ignores me by putting out a bunch of snacks on a lazy Susan, and then proceed to happily spin the lazy Susan and... systematically devour every last crumb.

Yesterday, we mixed things up a bit.

Dr. Di picked me up at home, and we went furniture shopping. Of course, I had to wear a pair of Mephisto walking shoes I have because the leather perfectly matches the leather furniture in their living room, and Dr. Di wanted to buy some throw pillows. That was a bit weird, but... whatever.

Our first stop was IKEA. I bought a pair of scissors, and Dr. Di proceeded to buy a couple of gigantic bags of stuff - neither of which contained even one throw pillow. After going through the checkout (with my pair of scissors, and Dr. Di's two gigantic blue bags) I decided I "needed" a couple of hot dogs, as I normally do on one of my 3-4 visits to IKEA per year.

Let me just say: I don't know what you're up to, IKEA, but... I DON'T LIKE IT!! IKEA has obviously changed their hot dog recipe. The hot dogs don't look the same, they don't taste the same, and they do NOT have that nice snap when you bite into them like they always have in the past. Plus, when I bit into the wiener, the inside poked out of the casing on the back end, and it pretty much reminded me of when a male dog sits down and shows himself off in all his glory.

Um... I finished the hot dogs anyway, but... I'M ON TO YOU, IKEA!!! I'm boycotting those wieners from now on!!!

After IKEA, Dr. Di and I went to Möbel Pfister (nothing purchased other than coffee and coffee cake in the café) and then OBI (nothing purchased). Finally, at Micasa, Dr. Di found some pillows. Of course, she had to have me stand in the aisle where she repeatedly put different arrangements of throw pillows around my shoes until she found a combination she approved of.

Thankfully, there were no witnesses!

Finally, we ended up at Office World.

Let me just preface this by saying that Dr. Di's husband, Dr. Andy, often calls Dr. Di on her mobile phone on Wednesdays while he's half-way around the world on some business trip. Usually, when he finds out that I'm sitting in his dining room, talking with his wife, drinking his coffee, and eating his snacks off of his lazy Susan, I end up hearing a loud "Neeeeeesht guet!!!" (not good!) coming from Dr. Di's phone. I can pretty much predict what he'll say when he reads the following:

At one point, while at Office World, I actually accidentally called Dr. Di "hon'" (short for honey) like I call Mrs. TBF.

"Neeeeeeeeeeeeeesht guet!!!!!!!!!"

Everybody Makes Misteaks!

We paid some of our Swiss taxes this week. Unfortunately, it happens every year around this time.

There's a reason why I said "some" of our Swiss taxes. You see, for the first time ever, I actually read the footnote on the tax statement from our accountant. Here's what it says:

Cantonal taxes are payable by 30.09.2009
Community taxes are payable by 30.09.2009
Federal taxes are payable by 01.03.2010

Wait a second!

Federal taxes aren't payable until March 1, 2010?????

You mean to tell me??? Doh!!!!

I came to find out that I've been paying our federal taxes (31% of our tax liability) FIVE MONTHS EARLY EVERY YEAR FOR THE PAST FOUR YEARS!!!!!

According to our accountant, the federal tax authority pays us interest on early payments. But when I asked him how I could verify that they had actually done so, he pretty much just shrugged his shoulders. Oh well...

I won't make that mistake again.

71Nyhavn Hotel

Just a few words about our hotel in Copenhagen - 71Nyhavn.

First of all, I misread my confirmation when I booked the hotel on their website. I read CHF600/USD 582 per night, and that turned out to be the cost for our entire stay - two nights. So, while still expensive for what it was, the hotel ended up costing half the price I had originally thought it would cost. So, that was good news.

The hotel is decent, but it's not fancy by any means. I guess the best thing about it is that it's in a great location right in Nyhavn. However, if you ever plan on staying at this hotel, I have one big tip: REQUEST A ROOM IN THE NEWER PART OF THE HOTEL!!!

The old part (pictured here), is the part that faces the canal. While the view is much better, the rooms absolutely suck. They are small, and the bathrooms are tiny. In fact, the shower is just a shower head coming out of the corner with a shower curtain that hangs from the ceiling. The shower floor is pretty much the bathroom floor with a drain. If I had had to shower in there, I would have been standing there with a shower curtain stuck to my body with water pouring down on my head. Not good!

Mrs. TBF took one look at the room, said "NO WAY!", and then went down to the front desk to POLITELY voice her complaints. We ended up being switched to a room in the newer wing. Although it had a view of the street instead of the canal, the room was much better. Also, the bathroom was a real bathroom with a bathtub shower combo.

What I find interesting is that the man at the front desk told Mrs. TBF that a lot of people complain about the old wing, however "....we are not allowed to make any changes because the building is protected," which I take to mean that it has protected landmark status.

That would be fine except for the fact that the restaurant we ate at on Saturday night is in the oldest building in Copenhagen, which I'm assuming must also be protected, AND... THEY HAVE A GLEAMING, MODERN KITCHEN.

What's up with that?!?!?

Copenhagen 2009 Recap

Last weekend's visit to Copenhagen, our first in eight years, was a triumphant success!

Our friend, Dr. Andy, who lives here in Basel, actually works for a Danish company and has a studio apartment in Copenhagen where he occasionally sleeps when he's not living here in Basel OR circumnavigating the globe on one of his many business trips.

Got that? Good!

Here are a few bullet points from the trip:

Copenhagen is a really nice city, and I could definitely live there. The locals seem happy and worry-free, they probably speak the best English of any non-native English speaking country in Europe, the shopping is good, the restaurants are good, and the quality of life seems exceptional. Zürich and Geneva usually rank higher than Copenhagen on the "most livable cities" list, but I personally would probably choose Copenhagen.

Copenhagen is very expensive. We stayed at a place called 71Nyhavn Hotel which was a five minute walk from Dr. Andy's apartment. It was nice, but it wasn't fancy or luxurious, AND it cost about CHF 300/USD 290 per night - NO breakfast included. The VAT is something like 25%.

Liquor is expensive. A 50 cl/16 oz beer costs about CHF 10/USD 9.70. A glass of wine at dinner cost something like CHF 30/USD 29 PER GLASS!!

We went to Christiania (you can read about it here) on what just happened to be its 38th birthday. Lots of hippies, flea markets, people openly smoking pot, dogs roaming around without collars - cool place!

The World Cup of Archery just happened to be taking place right by our hotel. A Venezuelan woman won, and a Danish woman came in second (awwww!). We sat and watched the exciting competition, mesmerized for hours with tens of thousands of archery fans. Ok... there were only a few hundred people watching... we watched for a few minutes, and... well... archery pretty much sucks as a spectator sport.

Tuborg is better than Carlsberg!

We had a great dinner at Kong Hans Kælder. Top-notch/friendly service, the food was great (other than the minor issue of Dr. Andy biting down on buckshot while eating his wild mallard course), and we happily wined and dined for 4+ hours in the oldest building in Copenhagen!

Click HERE if you'd like to see all of the pictures from Copenhagen.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Friday Flashback: Back To Copenhagen...

We're off to Copenhagen this weekend. It'll be our first time back in a little over eight years.

What makes Copenhagen special for us is that it was our first "real" trip after moving to Switzerland in October 2000. For the first ten months, we pretty much just stuck to traveling around Switzerland by car or train, or we'd drive into the Alsace or the Black Forest (which I despised!). Having found a good kennel for Dominique, and a couple of neighbors who were willing to stop by and throw some food down for King, we decided that it was time to actually jump on a plane for a weekend getaway outside of the clean and safe confines of Switzerland and our immediate neighbors. I looked online, booked a last-minute trip, and off we went.

The highlight of that trip eight years ago was probably the canal boat cruise where I took this self-portrait. The weather was hot and sunny, a waitress served ice cold beer on the boat, and we just relaxed and watched the Danish scenery pass us by. We also visited Tivoli Garden, and enjoyed a couple of really nice meals in Nyhavn.

This time, we're going with friends who used to live in Copenhagen. Not much is planned (other than dinner at a nice restaurant on Saturday evening), but I have no problem with that.

What will we do?

You'll just have to check back next week to find out.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A New Workbench!

After 22 YEARS, we FINALLY have a new mattress!

I'm not sure if you remember or not, but I first spoke about our mattress woes in early 2007. If you like, you can refresh your memory by reading about it HERE.

So, going back to that trip to Chicago in early-2007...

We actually went to IKEA, looked at the mattress, and decided that it wasn't packaged well enough to survive trans-Atlantic transport to Basel. Sure, we could have gone about the trouble of getting extra packaging, but neither one of us felt like going to all the trouble, so we just decided to explore other options.

After returning to Basel, we went to a local furniture store to see if we could actually order a custom-made American size mattress. It turned out that we could. However, the store quoted us a price of CHF 3800 which is currently about $3,700 (How about that weak American dollar, huh?). I was all prepared to just go ahead, bite the bullet, and order the stinkin' thing, but then I made a HUGE mistake...

I went online to see how much the exact same memory foam mattress would cost in the U.S. As it turned out... $1,600!!! There was NO WAY I was going to pay more than double for the stupid thing in Switzerland. Just wasn't! Nope! NO... WAY!

Zip ahead a couple of years...

Now, it's Spring 2009, and Mrs. TBF and I are waking up every morning with stiff backs. Our mattress has developed a big lump in the middle which we have affectionately begun calling "the terp" after hearing the term during our weekend trip to Amsterdam, and something needs to be done... SOON! But what???

That's where pure luck comes into the picture...

One evening a couple of months back, while dining with friends, I began talking about our bed woes and how much the local furniture store wanted to charge us for a custom made, American queen size, memory foam mattress. Suddenly, like the voice of an angel, I heard our friend say: "Our company makes a competing product. I'm sure I could get one for you for much less. Let's see what I can do."

Oh... and by the way... in order to avoid getting in trouble at work, our friend will remain anonymous.


It turns out that he did indeed get us the proper size mattress, for about EIGHTY-FIVE PERCENT less than what the furniture store quoted us, and he delivered it to us last week. In fact, he even hauled away the cardboard.

How's that for service???

Since then...


Mrs. TBF says that she can barely wake up because she's in such a deep coma. Me? I don't even hear Mrs. TBF's alarm go off. We've been going to bed early because we can't wait to get into bed. In the morning, about a minute after waking up from my coma, I feel completely wide awake and refreshed! Our lives have been significantly changed for the better!

Anonymous friend... YOU ARE OUR HERO!!!!

I emptied and threw out all the water bed tubes last Friday. Tomorrow, I'll be going to the dump to throw out the mattress cover/etc. that's all wrapped up with duct tape in our storage area.

Good riddance!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Late Forties...

By turning 47 last weekend, I officially entered (as far as I'm concerned) my late forties. We celebrated with friends (Drs. John/Rammy/Andy/Di & kids) at Drs. John and Rammy's house.

Knowing my fierce opposition to wearing the "Over The Hill" hat - not because I object to being called "over the hill," but rather because it's really hot and makes me sweat profusely - the gang opted to place the hat on top of a large yellow balloon on which they had drawn my likeness. I've now discovered that my friends think I possess the nose of a pig.

Damn friends!

Mrs. TBF To The Rescue....


I'm happy to report that the "issues" concerning my Chicago itinerary have been resolved.

To make a long story short...

I tell Mrs. TBF that it will cost over CHF 1,000 to change my itinerary so that I can leave Chicago on October 28th instead of the 25th...

Mrs. TBF calls her special-double-secret-probabtion, Executive Club Gold/Platinum/any other precious metals phone number and speaks with a representative...

Mrs. TBF has "words" with said representative and asks to speak with her manager...

Unlike the underling, the manager THINKS OUTSIDE THE BOX and says "...let's see if there's something else we can do."

Instead of paying CHF 1,096/"nothing else we can do" to switch my return flight from Chicago, the manager says Mrs. TBF can use 25,000 miles to upgrade me from Business Class to First Class, plus no change fee.

TBF is happy he gets to stay in Chicago an extra three days, and, more importantly for British Airways...

Mrs. TBF is happy!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A Lesson Learned!

I called British Airways a little while ago to see if I could change the date of my end-of-October return flight from Chicago to Basel. When I booked the flight in August, I made the reservation so that it would coincide with one of Mrs. TBF's many business trips to the U.S. This way, we could sit together on our flights to and from the U.S.

Awwwwwwwwww... Aren't we cute??

Naturally, as often happens in the world of bidness, Mrs. TBF's itinerary has changed due to factors beyond her control. We'll still be flying to the U.S. together, but her schedule change now necessitates her remaining in the U.S. for a couple of days after my scheduled return. But, no problem, right? I just figured I'd call BA and change my ticket and stay in Chicago a few extra days. Right?


Yes, I could change my ticket. However, coming back three days later would cost an extra 1,000 bucks, and I'm just not willing to pay the extra money. So, my trip to Chicago will stay at ten nights instead of thirteen. Oh well... lesson learned.

From now on, I book my trips to Chicago based on when I want to go and return.

It Could Have Been Worse...

MUCH worse!

I walk Mrs. TBF to either the tram or the bus every morning. This morning was no exception. However, there was one notable difference this morning from the past 100+ mornings: it was 10˚C/50˚F, I could see my breath, and I had to wear a jacket. After returning home, needing a warm-up, I decided to check the weather forecast for Amalfi.

Were we lucky, or what? We had blue skies, sun, and not a drop of rain for our entire stay last week. This week in Amalfi? Rain nearly every day!

Timing is everything!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Back From Paradiso...

One last lick...

One last leap...

One last gaze...

Just like that, our trip to Amalfi is over. But no problema... Next year, we're planning on going there TWICE: at the end of May, and again in September.

We're back in Basel now. Most of the vacation laundry is done, Mrs. TBF is back at work, and I'm getting ready to go to the gym. Unlike Amalfi, everybody is speaking Swiss-German, it's cool and cloudy outside, and there's no little bowl of those beautiful Amalfi olives next to me for me to nibble on. But that's ok. We do have several other trips coming up in the near future that should help keep our minds occupied.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Mastro Lindo Returns To Amalfi...

Mrs. TBF and I are spending the week in Amalfi, Italy. This is our fourth time in Amalfi, and we're staying at the same place we always stay - Hotel Santa Caterina.

We just LOVE it.

We're not sure if they treat all repeat guests the same way, but WE certainly receive the hero's welcome. We BOTH received the double-kiss-on-the-cheek greetings from multiple members of the staff upon arrival, and gladly accepted our upgrade to a junior suite.

It wasn't long until we were in TOTAL relaxation mode.

The days have mostly been spent in a reclined position, but we do occasionally jump into the sea where I swim, and Mrs. TBF rides the noodle. The bar/pool guys (who refer to me as Mastro Lindo - the Italian version of Mr. Clean) take good care of us by delivering drinks and snacks whenever we want. Around 9 p.m., we head out for dinner at some of our favorite places, and then we come back to the hotel where we sleep like babies. Hey... you know what???

It kind of sounds like every other time we've been here!

There is one difference, however...

No Russians this year! Well, at least, not many. We've seen one Russian couple with a small child, and that's it! Last year, the hotel was just crawling with Russians. This year, it's mostly Americans, some Brits, and some Italians. But, who cares?

When we're here, it's pretty much just us and the hotel staff, as far as we're concerned.

Happy... relaxed... tan... well-fed... LIVING THE DREAM!!!

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

40 YEARS!!!!

This is my friend Carl. We were talking on Skype today about the fact that we met right around now... 40 YEARS AGO!!! And for the record: I WANT his AWESOME man-chair that you can see a little bit of in the background!!

I had just moved to Wheeling, Illinois a couple of months earlier in June 1969. My neighbor, Bob Nuenfeldt, and I were talking on walkie-talkies when all of a sudden we heard this voice cut in to our conversation...

"Who is this?"

It was Carl, who just happened to have his walkie-talkie on. See? He was even an electronic gadget guy back then!

It turned out that Bob and Carl knew each other from first grade, so Bob and I ended up walking to Carl's house which was one street over from my house. I was just shy of seven years old.

And isn't it a small world? Carl's mom is from Finland! What are the odds??

Oh, and in case you're curious... this is how we looked a couple of months later when we were well into the second grade. Carl's the guy in the fourth row/second from the right with the Colonel Sanders tie. I'm in the bottom row on the far left. If I remember correctly, I'm smiling with my mouth closed because one of my front teeth was just hanging on by a thread and I didn't fall for my dad's I-won't-pull-it-out-I-just-want-to-see-how-loose-it-is trick until the next day.

You think that's bad? A few years later, my sister actually fell for my dad's just-let-me-tie-this-piece-of-thread-around-your-tooth-and-this-doorknob-no-I-won't-do-anything...


God, she was a dork back then!!

Today, Carl told me that his father, Bruce (greetings to you, Bruce!), checks out my blog on a regular basis.

Who knew?

Well, certainly not me since Bruce has never left a comment. For that matter... neither has Carl.

Come on, guys. Leave a comment.

I dare ya!

Good To The Last Drop...

Horror of horrors, we nearly ran out of coffee!!!! Fortunately, in the nick of time, I ordered/and received my new supply of 600 Nespresso capsules!!

That should hold us for a couple of months!!

Ok... let me preface what I'm going to say next by saying: I'm not complaining, I absolutely DON'T mind, and... you DO NOT need to compensate me in any way, but...

We sure went through a lot of coffee recently while my parents were visiting. Sheesh!

I guess I shouldn't be surprised, though, seeing how we Finns tend to be rather large consumers of coffee. Plus, having to buy a little extra coffee is a small price to pay for the joy that a visit from my parents brings. In fact, it's been nearly a month since they were here... How about one more picture?

Well, what do you know? Drinking coffee! What a surprise!!!!! Not!

Hmmm... Now that I think about it...

We kind of went through a lot of gin too!

Lost And Found...

Is anybody missing a diamond?

I found this "diamond" while cleaning under the sofa last week. I'm not sure if it's real or not, but I AM sure it doesn't belong to either one of us. In any case, let me know whether or not it belongs to you. If I don't hear from anybody by October 1st...

... it's going in the garbage!

Road Warriors...

Dr. Andy, Dr. Di, and the kids came over for some grilled flesh (clearing assorted meats out of the freezer) this past Saturday evening. They come over fairly often, so no big deal... right? What made this evening different was that Dr. Andy returned from a business trip and came directly from the train station to our apartment where he met the rest of his family.

Still no big deal???

Well... then how about these facts? Dr. Andy had in the past week flown to South Africa, the plane had to make a quasi-not-quite-an-emergency landing in Rome due to a door that didn't seal up properly, had to return (flying " low altitude, but high enough to get over the Alps") to Zürich where he spent the night, flew out to South Africa the next day, then flew to South America a couple of days later, spent a few days in South America (where he might have taken another flight...not sure), had a three hour delay in Sao Paulo which resulted in him being switched to a flight to FRANKFURT, and then had to take a three hour train ride from Frankfurt to Basel.

Who says business travel is glamorous?

Even after this debacle, Dr. Andy still seemed none the worse for wear, and he and Dr. Di ("Yes, I'm wearing a down vest in August! What about it?") managed to stay at our place until 1:30 a.m.!

Yesterday morning, it was Mrs. TBF's turn to jump into a taxi and become a "junior" road warrior. I say "junior" because her flight to Munich was delayed by only one hour, and it was spared the need for any quasi-not-quite-an-emergency landings. However, she gets full road warrior credit for staying at some dinky hotel in Holzkirchen (about 30 minutes outside of Munich) in a room with a toilet that trickled all night, and construction that began right across the street at 6 a.m.!

I guess that's why they get paid the big bucks!

Friday, August 28, 2009


For a few years now, we've been buying Weight Watchers yogurt at our local Coop grocery store. The reason we bought it was because it was labeled as 1.5 points per serving, thus making it easy for us to calculate it into our point total for the day.

On a whim, a couple of weeks ago, we were at Manor and decided to try Nestle's Hirz 0.1% yogurt. The verdict? It tastes much better than the Weight Watchers stuff, and secondly, after using my handy-dandy WW point calculator, we found out that it contains only ONE POINT per serving - half a point LESS than WW!

So, it tastes better, it has fewer points, AND... I get to call it My Dick Hirz yogurt!


Thursday, August 27, 2009

Pleasant Dinner Conversation...

A couple of things relating to toilets and plumbing...

Earlier this week, I called my folks. When I told my dad that our toilet had broken, he actually thought that I had sat on it, it had pulled off the wall, and then shattered into a million pieces on the floor. I told Mrs. TBF about it at dinner, and we both laughed. But then, we kind of began wondering how often this actually happens here. You see, toilets do not rest on the floor here like they usually do in N. America - they're bolted into the wall and just hover above the floor. In fact, I don't remember EVER seeing a toilet resting on the floor in Europe. Is there some kind of weight limit I should be aware of?

Gonna have to start paying more attention to this...

Seeing how the vision of me lying on the bathroom floor on top of a pile of reading material, fecal matter, and the shattered remains of a toilet hadn't ruined our appetites, I guided the dinner conversation to a related yet equally inappropriate topic.

TBF: Do you know one of the things I'm going to miss the most about Switzerland someday when we move?

Mrs. TBF: What?

TBF: Swiss toilet paper!

Mrs. TBF: Oh yeah, it IS good! American toilet paper SUCKS!

And you know what? Mrs. TBF is right! American toilet paper DOES suck! The Swiss TP is thick, absorbent, a pleasure to use, and generally far superior to its American counterpart. Just don't buy the recycled TP. I did that once... NEVER AGAIN!

I read in an article not too long ago about how much forestland could be saved if people would just switch to using toilet paper made with recycled paper. I figured I'd do my part, and I went next door to the grocery store and bought an "experimental" eight-pack. BIG MISTAKE! That stuff is awful. Just...don'!

And finally...

Why is water pressure so much better here than in America. Toilets flush better, the water pressure in the shower is much better... I definitely prefer life in America to life in Switzerland, but I just wish the entire Swiss bathroom experience could be replicated in America.


Maybe it can.

like: the Swiss bathroom experience and Swiss toilet paper

no like: Today? nothing!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


The Swiss love to stare. If it weren't for the need to sleep, I'm guessing that staring at things (along with cleanliness and safety) could become a 24/7 pursuit.

Cleanliness, Safety, and... Curiosity*. They should put it on the Swiss flag right under the white cross.

I, as a 6'5" foreigner with no visible signs of a care in the world, am often the subject of their collective gaze.

Yesterday, I was particularly stare-worthy because I was wearing my Kerry Wood t-shirt. Every seat was taken (school had just let out) when I got on the tram to go to they gym, so I stood at the front of the tram facing the back. It wasn't long until I noticed about thirty pairs of eyes (young and old alike) staring bullets at my chest. They'd stare at my chest, confused looks would ensue, then they'd whisper amongst themselves. Stare again... confusion... whispers...


I finally had to just turn my back to the whole car. I don't mind some staring, but too much is just too much.

I was thinking of wearing this t-shirt today. I don't know... The words are in Finnish, and the print is pretty small so they'll have to strain. Perhaps it'll be too much for the locals (and me) to handle.

Maybe I'll just wear it next week instead and give us all a little break.

*That's me being nice. I'd vote for nosiness, but I don't think it would go over too well.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Home Repairs...

The weather was absolutely beautiful this past weekend. We hardly saw a cloud all weekend, it wasn't too hot, and there was a nice breeze - the way summer should be. We went out for dinner with friends on Friday night, and then we took the train to Baden (by Zürich) on Saturday night for a "Sommerfest" at our friends' house. On Sunday morning, Mrs. TBF played tennis with Dr. Rammy, then we enjoyed a nice impromptu brunch at Dr. Rammy & Dr. John's house, and finally we went home to just laze around. Shortly after returning home, a small problem stuck...

The toilet in our main bathroom wouldn't flush.

I took the panel off the wall, tinkered around with the mechanism a bit, realized that it was unlike anything I had ever seen before, and then just resigned myself to the fact that a plumber would have to be called. I called our rental office on Monday morning, relayed the problem through a combination of English and German, and then just waited for a call from a plumber.

That call (fortunately) came this morning, and the toilet is now repaired.

It's when things go wrong that I really dislike living here. If I get a non-English speaker at the rental office, I always wonder if they truly understand what I'm talking about. Plus, I often don't fully understand what they are telling me. Things usually work out in the end, but I often end up sitting around the apartment waiting for a call that I'm not sure will even be coming. If I leave the apartment, and the call comes, the repairman will often hang up after hearing our English-speaking answering machine message instead of leaving a message. Aggravating!

But... all's well that ends well.

Now, I'll just wait for the bill. You see, in Switzerland, we're responsible for all repairs up to 2% of our annual rent. Can you believe it??? We pay NYC-level rent, and we have to pay for repairs up to a certain point... even if something breaks down due to no fault of our own. For example:

About four years ago, not long after moving in and while we were out of town, a torrential rainstorm came through town, and rainwater seeped into one of the covered outdoor outlets. The circuit shorted, the power to our rooftop garden was cut off, and the outlet needed to be replaced. This ended up costing something like $100. So, to recap: we weren't home, the problem had been caused by an act of nature and/or faulty construction when the building was built ten years earlier, it was an outlet we had never even used, and...

WE HAD TO PAY FOR THE REPAIR!!! It says so right in our standard Swiss rental contract.


TBF like: our apartment!

TBF no like: standard Swiss rental contract!!!!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Sweet Relief!

Today's high is supposed to be 35˚C/95˚F. Tomorrow's high is only supposed to be 26˚C (high-70s), and on Saturday it's only supposed to get up to 23˚C (low 70s)!!

Maybe, by tomorrow, I'll even begin wearing a shirt again! Woo-HOO!!!

Yeah, it's been pretty hot this week. But this past week doesn't even come close to comparing to the summer of 2003 here in Basel. That summer was absolute hell. Temperatures regularly approached 40˚C (over 100˚F) for what seemed like three full months, and we had very little rain. Mrs. TBF has "air conditioning" at her office, but I remember her telling me that it pretty much just cooled the office down to the point where I would have been just sweating rather than sweating profusely.

Speaking of sweating profusely...

Here's a self-portrait taken after riding my bike back from the gym on August 6, 2003. I would ride my bike to the gym, change out of my soaking wet bike riding clothes, and then I'd change into fresh workout clothes. After my workout, I'd just stand under a cold shower, dry off, and then change into fresh clothes for the bike ride home. By the time I was at home, those clothes would be soaked through.

Lots of laundry that summer!

We were miserable (along with all of the neighbors), and the pets were miserable too. But hey, life goes on!

God bless "too cold" (as all the Europeans call it) American air conditioning!!!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

I Got Nothin'

There is ABSOLUTELY nothing going on right now... other than the fact that it's hot outside.

The highs this week are around 33˚C/low 90s˚F, but the humidity isn't too bad, so it's tolerable. Plus it cools down significantly at night, so sleeping is no problem at all.

Would I use air conditioning this week if we had it? Yes. Do we need air conditioning? No. But hey, sometimes life is about having more than just what you need, right? I guess it would be nice to have the option of cooling off the entire apartment with the flick of a switch.

I've heard Swiss people say many times that "...air cone-dissoneeng ees completely unnecessary becuss you only neet it for two veeks per year heer in Sveetzerlant!" To which I respond: "Oh yeah? If you lived in a warm climate where you only needed heat for two weeks of the year, would you do without a heating source in your home?"

Anyway, I'll be leaving for the gym in a few minutes. Oddly enough, that's one of the few places I go to that has air conditioning. After my workout, I always sit in the hot sauna, and then I follow that with a plunge into the ice-cold dipping pool.

After that, all is well with my boring world.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Ok, so I haven't reduced or reused anything today. But I did recycle!!

Every three months or so, we receive a couple of recycling bags in our mailbox - one for shoes, and one for clothes. I love it! It's easy, free of hassle, and the frequency of pickups encourages us to go through our wardrobes on a regular basis. I go through my wardrobes, pick out a few things I no longer want, throw them in the bag, and VOILA! Out they go to the curb on the designated day. TODAY was that day.

Mrs. TBF is pretty good about it too. At first, it was like pulling teeth to get her to go through her wardrobes. But now, she just kind of snarls a little bit and then gets it over with.

I like recycling here. It's not quite as easy as it was in Chicago where we could just put everything in one container, drag it out to the curb once per week, and that was that. Instead, we have to bring our plastic bottles, batteries, light bulbs, and Brita filters (you read that correctly) back to the grocery store. But that's really not a problem. Bottles and cans have to be brought to community recycling bins, but that's not really a problem either (for us at least) because there is a recycling area right in front of our building. Bundled newspapers and cardboard are set out on the curb and picked up once per month, and there are also regularly schedules pickup days for larger household items, metal items, and garden waste - just about everything. In fact, as is evidenced by the large list/schedule we receive from the town hall at the start of the year, it seems like just about everything can be recycled here in Switzerland.

Here are some of the things, with instructions regarding where/when/how:

medicine, used motor and cooking oil, electrical appliances, refrigerators, wine corks, stones and construction waste, mirrors and windows, tree stumps, kitty litter sand, and last but not least...

ANIMAL CADAVERS (at the main municipal services area on Monday from 13:30 - 17:00, and on Fridays from 13:30 to 16:00!).

The municipal services area is about a three minute walk from our apartment. Ummm... remind me to avoid it on Monday and Friday afternoons - especially Friday afternoons!

That would really put a damper on my Friday evening T.G.I.F. cocktail!!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Lazy Days Of Summer...

Since the kids will all be back in school soon, I figured it would be fitting if I got back to blogging on a regular basis. I guess the main reason I haven't blogged for the past few weeks is that not much has been going on.

Give me a minute, and I'm sure I can think of something.



Ok... here we go.

My parents are back in Canada now. If you'll recall, they were here back in June, then they went to Finland (where I met up with them) for several weeks, and then they came back to Basel for a few days before heading back to North America during the first week of August. We had pretty good weather, got to enjoy meals on the balcony and rooftop, and had a relaxing time. They partied with a bunch of our friends during our August 1st/Swiss National Day BBQ and also got a chance to experience Dale...

We've been cat-sitting Dale for nearly three weeks now while Canadian-Swiss and Orange-X (whom he obviously misses very much) have been on vacation. At his own home, he seems like a totally laid-back cat. Here at our apartment??? He's been...well...a challenge!!! He howls all night (had to confine him to the non-bedroom side of the apartment during the night) and sleeps all day, basically shows us no attention unless he's hungry (which is most of the time when he's not sleeping), has had several not-using-the-litter-box incidents even though I am constantly checking to make sure it is clean, and has pretty much helped us make the decision that we will be a cat-free household from here on out. After King died, we kind of talked about never having a cat again, but now???

Definitely never!

We're taking good care of him, but he's just not returning the love. What makes it worse is that Mrs. TBF is in the U.S. right now, and I'm having to deal with the beast on my own. Yaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhh!


Dear C.S. and O.X.: Please hurry home, and safe travels. We look forward to visiting the well-behaved, calm Dale AT YOUR HOUSE.

Other than that: grocery shopping, watering the garden, gym, cooking dinner, cleaning the house, etc., etc.


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

'66, '85, '02, '05, and... '09

This was my fifth time visiting the fatherland. And, therefore, my fifth time in Helsinki.

After visiting with the relatives in Kauhava for a few days, I took the train back to Helsinki. Mrs. TBF took the same 6:05 a.m. flight that morning that I had taken a few days earlier, and she met me at the train station.

Here are a few of my favorite photos:

After dropping off the bags at our hotel, we went straight to the Kauppatori (market square) for some grub. It's a beautiful location right on the waterfront with lots of food stalls and vendors selling fish, vegetables, souvenirs, etc. However, one does need to watch out for the (very aggressive) seagulls. Those beasts will just swoop down and steal your food if you're not careful. Also, a couple of times while I was walking I heard a splat right next to me and realized that I had narrowly escaped one of their seagull bombs. The tent where we ate, along with all the other tents, were covered in seagull crap. We quickly ate Baltic herring and muikkut, and got the hell outta there... unsoiled!!! The Finns have got to do something about those damn birds!

There aren't too many places in the world where one can buy salmiakki candies or ice cream. Best described as tasting like salty licorice, it is definitely an acquired taste. If you can convince yourself that your are not eating a scoop of sludge (or seagull shit) on a cone, it's really quite tasty. However, there is one nasty side effect: salmiakki tongue!

On Friday night, we had a nice meal at Ravintola Savoy. The restaurant interior was designed by Aino and Alvar Aalto, and it is protected landmark. Everything - even the chairs (although I assume they've been reupholstered) - is the same as it was when it opened in the late-1930s. I snapped the first photo when Mrs. TBF and I first sat down at 9:30 p.m. The second photo was taken at 11:15 p.m.

Overall, we had a relaxing, enjoyable weekend in Helsinki with one bit of adventure sandwiched in the middle. More about that later...