April 1 is not only April Fool’s Day but also the anniversary of my arrival in Germany to live – nine years ago! So next year we will have a special celebration of a decade in the Land of Cake.
This month has been busy! It seems the Corona times are now behind us – although a colleague who was in the office with me for an hour went home feeling slightly rough, did a test and was positive. My Covid Warn App went red but once again I didn’t catch Corona – and the App told me it would stop reporting possible covid infections on 30 April. So I guess Coronavirus is over.
That brief risk did change one weekend plan, though, as Lara was due to come to us but had the first of her Abitur Prüfungen (kinda like A-levels) five days later. We considered it too risky as I had been theoretically exposed to Corona so she decided not to come at the weekend – a very wise decision, even though in the end I didn’t catch Corona. Oh, and her exam (Chemistry) went well. She has two more exams at the beginning of May, then later on a German oral exam, and then she is finished! She flies to Canada in September to work as an au pair for a year.
April has been a month with two holidays for us – a visit to the UK and a mini-honeymoon in The Netherlands.
Easter in the UK
As my colleagues had the week before Easter and the week after Easter booked as holiday that meant it was best if I didn’t take holiday so instead Klaus and I travelled to England on the evening of Maundy Thursday and back overnight Easter Sunday so we got home Easter Monday. This was one day shorter than our normal visit and it was noticeable that we had less time. This encouraged me to extend my 2 further visits this year by an extra day (to 3 nights in England) to make the most of it – this was OK with my boss as I had enough overtime.
We drove to the Hook of Holland with plenty of time which was good as the journey that is normally 2.5 hours ended up taking over 4 hours. This was due to volume of traffic – everyone heading off for the Easter Weekend presumably. We sat in traffic barely moving for about half an hour, but I knew we still had 3 hours in hand.
When we arrived at Hoek van Holland we checked in at the Stena window and then ended up queuing to get onto the ferry for what felt like 20 minutes. This was semi useful as I was a bit desperate for the loo and they have loos in this area – I took this shot of the sun setting over the North Sea in the direction we would be travelling soon.
The ferry was very busy which was to be expected for the Easter weekend. We stopped in the lounge for a drink – Klaus chose a pint of Murphy’s which he then struggled to digest for the next few hours while trying to sleep. I had a tea and a cookie.
Our usual schedule when visiting the UK is to drive to my Mum’s house and then go out an hour or so later to the supermarket to get our lunch etc, but this seemed a bit inefficient and I thought it would be better to go to the supermarket on the way to Mum’s. The problem is, they would not be open when we passed by, we would be about 15 minutes early, so we decided to stop in Manningtree by the river Stour (further upstream from where the ferry docks) and have a walk along the sea/river wall.
It was a lovely, clear morning.
Klaus took these photos of a very quiet Manningtree at 7:00 am:
After a good walk we headed off to Aldi in Ipswich to get our first set of shopping and then went to Morrisons to get the things we couldn’t get in Aldi.
There was big excitement in Morrisons as they had Butternut Squash which had been not available in Germany for at least a month. We use them instead of potato in roasts so I took the opportunity to re-stock, as well as the usual antihistamines, custard, pax etc:
When we got to Mum’s we sat in her Garden Room and ate hot cross buns (not a thing in Germany).
That afternoon Klaus and I decided to go out for a walk and we took our usual route to the church and then across the fields. Which were full of teazels.
We had a lovely walk and on the way back stopped at the telephone box to see if there were any interesting books – it turned out to be a blast from the past!
It turns out that the Famous Five and also the St Claire’s Boarding School series are a thing in Germany. Lara asked for “Five go off to camp” (and as there were two of them we obliged!) and I took “The Castle of Adventure” which I loved as a child. I have only read the first few chapters but let us say, don’t revisit your old heroes…
The evening’s entertainment was fish and chips. It wasn’t expected to be entertainment but it turns out that on Good Friday EVERONE in Ipswich wants fish & chips. So we ended up queuing for over an hour at the chippy on the Chantry estate (which is really good). Ipswich Football Club had just won a match so there were lots of happy supporters waiting for their fish & chips. We had a large chips between us, plus a large haddock and 12 scampi, and it was WAY more than we needed. Medium chips and a medium fish between two of us would have been fine.
The next day, Easter Saturday, was visiting my sister day. She lives an hour and a half away in Benfleet in Essex. We arrived at Anna’s and did the traditional Easter egg swaps, then we had some lunchtime soup that Anna had made for us (very tasty).
For our afternoon’s entertainment we decided to do a walk at Hadleigh Castle. I don’t suppose I had been here for 30 years and in the meantime the Olympic Mountain Bike Course had been created at the country park for the 2012 olympics. First we went to look at the castle.
I think Klaus was expecting more than a few ruined walls – German castles tend to be a bit more structurally sound.
After wandering around the castle grounds a bit we decided to do a longer walk back along the railway line (down the hill). I could see on my phone App a public footpath which we followed… until it became an impassable muddy track.
So we had to walk a bit further and into the mountain biking area, which had loads of paths but we kept to the main walking area.
We walked about 5km in total and then stopped off in the café for a drink. It was shortly before closing time so they didn’t have much food available – no normal slices of cake but I did have a doughnut, as did Anna.
I enjoy spending time chatting with my sister – as we have grown older we have learned to appreciate each other even more, I think!
We went back to Anna’s house to see the family afterwards and then headed off for the traditional curry, this time at Rayleigh Spice. It was good but the reviews made it out to be extra-special and it wasn’t that.
We drove home having enjoyed our evening. I’ll see them again in August when I visit Mum on my own, we’ll try out a different curry place again.
The next day was Sunday, Easter Day, and I wanted to go to my old church in Colchester. So we set off at 9:00am and parked near the old ruined priory.
It was lovely for me to be in church again, especially as the organist Dr Ian Ray always plays Widor’s Toccata at the end of the Easter service. It was wonderful to sit there and hear it – as well as feel the sound waves going through your body for the low notes! We had a cup of tea afterwards and spoke to several people – once again I really enjoyed seeing the church community. I still feel a part of this church (and am in fact still a Member) as it is a really good community of music and worship.
For the afternoon Klaus and I decided to go to Woodbridge for a walk around (Mum was going to a flower festival and that’s not my cup of tea). I planned a walk at Woodbridge and so we headed off there, parked and then set off on our walk alongside the river Alde.
Within a km we had to adjust the route as where we were planning to walk was underwater! So we headed along a quiet road which had some VERY posh houses along it. It was a nice walk and there were lots of other people out enjoying the sunshine.
When we reached the centre of Woodbridge we had hoped for a cake but there were no cake establishments open (it was Easter Sunday!) but there was an ice cream bar. 1 scoop of ice cream was 3.60 GBP (in Kempen 1 ball is 1.20 EUR usually) so that seemed shockingly steep but we decided to go with it anyway – two scoops for 6 pounds each. I chose chocolate and baklava (never seen baklava ice cream before!) and Klaus had liquorice and something else.
What became evident was that 1 scoop was actually 2 large scoops, so we ended up with a really big ice cream each for our 6 pounds, and it was really tasty. So overall we thought it was worth it, and the place was doing a roaring trade.
We enjoyed our walk and our time in Woodbridge and will probably go back again on a day when all the shops are not shut so we can do some browsing.
Yet another tradition in my visits to Mum is the final evening meal at the Railway Inn in Westerfield. It was Easter Sunday so we all had a roast – I had lamb, Mum and Klaus had beef – and of course the meal came with Yorkshire puddings. Yummy! Dessert was apple crumble and custard.
We left for the ferry at about 20:30 and drove to Harwich. In the queue waiting to board there was a really old car, a BMW 2002, which Klaus thought was fantastic. We chatted with the owners who said they used it as their normal car and did holidays in the South of France with it, etc.
Anyway, the ferry was much less busy today and we had a good crossing and a good sleep. What was shocking to realise was that in the entire time in England we hadn’t had a cake or cream tea!!!! SHOCKING!
When we got home we had a few English eggs (the Twirl orange one was for Lara from my sister).
The curry situation was also pretty good – look how many curry variations you can buy in Aldi in the UK!
What was also rather fab was that our local asparagus and strawberries farmer had opened his new shop so we now have fresh strawberries available all the time. He also sells vegetables, cooked meats, potatoes and more.
Cake with Ralf
The lack of cake had to be rectified pretty quickly so we arranged to meet Ralf at Landcafé Bruxhof just outside Kempen for cake.
Part of the reason for the meeting is that we are going on a trike holiday with Ralf in May and wanted to check whether all three trikes would fit in his van. So he drove to the café with his trike in the van and we opened it up and had a look and decided that yes, all three would fit in. We are also taking Klaus’s car on this holiday so we can put one trike in there anyway (this is because there isn’t room for 3 people in Ralf’s van).
This important discovery complete, we tucked in to cake and hot drinks.
We are looking forward to our triking holiday with Ralf. We have rented a holiday home in Bensheim and will do lots of rides out from there over many days. Both Ralf and I have a motor but Klaus doesn’t so we will have to find a suitable speed for us all. There are also some hills around we might attempt!
Mini Honeymoon #17
Yes, the mini honeymoons are continuing, although this is the last one until August.
This one was in The Netherlands, our first Mini Honeymoon there. I had seen that there was a boat we could sleep on which is moored off the river Waal and as we have cycled around there we thought it would be fun to go.
Klaus had been at the Hannover Messe (Trade Show) for the three days before and in fact stayed in a hotel a short distance from Hannover the night before our mini honeymoon. He got home at about 10:00am, unpacked his suitcase, repacked it for the honeymoon and off we went!
On the way we took a fairly significant detour in order to visit the Mühlencafe in Elten again where the previous lady from Büllhorsthof is now offering her fab cakes.
As you can see, it was a lovely sunny day!
The cakes were our lunch (we had not had any breakfast).
We arrived at the ship in Druten (called Aan Dek) at 15:00. The hotel and restaurant Aan Dek are the top section of the boat on the right. The one on the left was a cruise ship full of Dutch people that was moored there the whole time we were on our ship.
The rooms were small and there were just four of them, and they had different themes. We had the Baywatch room but there was also a Titanic Room and a Pirates of the Caribbean Room.
I had a photo of David Hasselhoff beside my bed and Klaus had Pammie Anderson. There was a framed swimming costume on the wall as well.
The four bedrooms were all on the top deck of the boat, which also housed the restaurant. The lower half of the boat was a completely separate thing.
We felt slightly peckish so looked to see what was available in the restaurant to have in our room – I saw some decent-looking Brownies so asked for one each. I thought she would put them in a bag for us but she said no, she would bring them to the room. OK I thought.
Two minutes later there was a knock at the door – the brownies were definitely not just put in a bag!
They were very tasty!
After our Brownie Eating it was time for a walk. It was drizzling and had been quite wet for a while so the route we took, which turned out to be across a field, wasn’t ideal. Fortunately we both have spare walking shoes in the back of Klaus’s car so we were able to put those on at least. We cut the walk short as it was getting muddier but still had a nice 3km stroll through a field of cowpats.
We then had an hour or so to relax before dinner. We had brought our posh dinner clothes with us but when we arrived on the boat it was clear it wasn’t that posh a restaurant so we ended up wearing our normal jeans.
The food was very good though, and we treated ourselves to desserts as well.
I had a sticky toffee pudding!
Klaus chose a panna cotta mousse.
He finished his before I was a third of the way through my sticky toffee pudding so I shared the remainder of my dessert with him.
After a reasonable night’s sleep we woke to much better weather. Breakfast started at 10:00am (surprisingly late!) so we had several hours to kill. Fortunately there was a kettle in the room so I could keep topped up with tea, but we thought we would go for another walk. I had plotted something that stayed on roads or pavements this time.
Here is the view down the Waal.
We enjoyed our walk, seeing lots of people with dogs and also some cyclists. After about 5k we had earned our breakfast which was also good!
After breakfast we headed home and were back by one o’clock.
Our landlord and landlady’s children were all there as their grandmother had died and the funeral was two days before (I had also attended). As the children were all returning to their separate homes we went out for an ice cream in Kempen.
It was lovely to spend more time with Nils, Lars, Lara and Rohallah as it’s not that often all four are together.
Having 3 cakes the day before and then a huge ice cream sort-of made up for having no cakes in England.
And when I returned to work the next day, my colleague had celebrated his birthday at the weekend and he bought in loads of cakes too!
Leo moves out, Priscilla arrives
Readers of my blog will remember that 2 years ago I bought a Smart Cabrio which we named Leonardo di Cabrio. I loved my Smart and even used it for a trip to the UK earlier this year (although he was not really the ideal car for that).
Two years ago Klaus bought Zuzanna the Z3 and she spent the winter in the underground garage (she is registered and insured to be driven between April and October). She has been out for one weekend so far, we don’t tend to use her if it is rainy.
A couple of weekends ago we got looking at Jaguar cars for some unknown reason. We saw a nice looking XK8 in Neuss which is not to far away and so decided to go and have a look. Klaus is the sort of person who does mega research on topics that interest him so he had already read all there is to know about the XK8, including the things that aren’t so good. We had also displayed that we are not completely over the hill by watching a few YouTube videos in German and English about buying a used Jag.
Anyway, we arrived at the garage which turned out to be a garage with lots of expensive and heritage cars (including a really old Rolls Royce and lots of American import cars). The Jaguar was about the cheapest thing in there. We sat in it and were a bit shocked to find it felt like there was no more room in there than in Zuzanna the Z3, although the Jaguar is massively larger outside. It has rear seats but these can only be used by people with no legs at all.
We turned the engine on and it had a lovely V8 sound. We checked various buttons – the electrics seemed to work. And then I decided to adjust the steering column so it was a bit closer to me. After hunting around for the manual lever the chap at the car showroom showed me that it is an electric adjustment and there was a knob beside the steering wheel. I adjusted the knob and the steering column started coming towards me… and brought the wooden fascia of the instrument binnacle with it. This was NOT supposed to happen. So we pushed it back and it clicked back into place. Jaguar build quality.
It was clear to both of us that this was not a sensible car – almost 5 metres long, also quite wide but pretty small inside. The boot was big though. So that was a clear “no”.
We then sat in a few other cars that were there – a Mercedes SL 500 (nice, but terrifyingly complex electronics – buttons for every possible seat adjustment. Great when they work, but if they go wrong…) and a Mercedes CL 500 (for me boring as it is a coupe, for Klaus the realisation of a dream) and then we went home again.
So I struck off Jaguars as a car to consider for when my Smart popped its clogs (I always like to have Plan B already researched so that if something happened to my car I would know what to replace it with immediately). I had looked at lots of cars on Autoscout24.de, using the filter “Cabrio” and “Automatic”. Loads of Smarts pop up, also lots of Minis, but most of the cars were boring colours (silver, black, white, grey).
So I then decided to add to the filter all colours except silver and black and see what popped up. There I ended up with 69 cars within 100km of my home that fulfilled those criteria (also cabrio and automatic). And scrolling down a little I saw a lovely turquoise blue car – a Mercedes SLK.
To cut a long story short, the next day we went to visit the car (at a dealer in Duisburg), did a test drive, checked the car out (it needed new tyres), agreed to buy the car with new tyres, and then I asked about a trade-in value for my Smart. We had driven to Duisburg in the Octavia so the chap couldn’t see the Smart so we showed him some photos and he offered 3,500 € for it. Bear in mind I paid 4,000 € two years ago for Leo, he was due his Tüv (MOT) which costs about 100€ at the absolute minimum but I wouldn’t need to do for a trade in, so his depreciation costs would be around the 200 € per year – plus I didn’t have the hassle of selling him. So I said yes! We shook on the deal, I emptied out my purse for a deposit (had not expected to be buying a car that day) and we went home.
Klaus needed a bit of a lie down after all this excitement – I’m not sure he’s used to someone being able to make decisions this quickly. But decision-making is always something I’ve been able to do as I tend to do all the thinking in my head before I open my mouth about anything so I have often already pretty much decided on my next course of action. Not in this case, I had no expectation at all of buying a car when I was looking on Sunday night, but it was such a good offer I couldn’t refuse!
The dealer did the Tüv and put new tyres on the car, Klaus collected the Tüv certificate on the way home on Wednesday (I needed that to register the car in Kempen), I got the car registered on Thursday morning and collected it Thursday afternoon. And said goodbye to Leo, which was sad as he has been brilliant.
Priscilla is a Mercedes SLK 230 Kompressor with AMG bodykit. She is 24 years old (was first registered August 1999) and has done only 107,000km. From the bodywork it looks as though she has been kept in a garage her entire life. For example, the headlamp plastic is as clear as anything, no sign of yellowing with age or UV degradation. The engine looks clean, all the service items were always done, the timing belt etc is new. She looks great.
Klaus took her on his own for a blat along the A40 and later along the A61 as her engine and gearbox were a bit bunged up (presumably from just having done short journeys for ages, plus the last three years she had been SORNed (Abgemeldet) in a garage so not driven). He found that first of all she wouldn’t go over 120 km/h, and the car is rated to 230. So he kept on pushing and going back and forth between junction 4 and junction 6 on the A40 and her speed gradually increased. He got her to 160 km/h and then came home. An hour later he went back out on the A61 (less traffic) and got her up to 200 km/h. She has theoretically 193 horsepower but this is probably no longer the case, but for a 24 year old car on all-weather tyres it’s fine. I won’t drive her at anywhere near those speeds anyway – that will be for Klaus alone. However, he took her up to 180 with me in her the next day and I was surprised how quiet it is in the cabin. The engine is lovely.
On the Saturday morning we took Priscilla to the car wash and Klaus did his thing. (Please note that the gallery photos are all taken by Klaus – click on the picture for it to enlarge).
We left her to dry for a few hours at home and then went out to wax her – in the meantime the bees that live in our garden had decided to poop on her quite a lot, so we had to remove a lot of bee poop first. The waxing took a while but is a good way to get to know where the stone chips are and other minor imperfections. There aren’t many but we will get a touch-up pen.
Klaus also cleaned the interior including the leather seats. He’s got all the correct cleaning kit for Zuzanna, we just had to buy a few more bits and bobs. There was a special mounting for my mobile phone, I just had to order the correct holder for the iPhone 14 – it arrived Saturday afternoon and I fitted it without any problems. The phone connects through the Alpine CD player in the car which is from 2015 but is pretty good – it has a hands free microphone which works for phone calls too.
We wanted to do some good photography but the weather wasn’t ideal on the Saturday. On the Sunday we woke up rather early but the light was great for photography, so after wiping off some more bee poo we headed out – first of all to Kengen where there are lots of open spaces and some windmills:
After this we went to Weeze airport and parked in front of an old RAF building for some shots.
We then later headed along Ceresweg in The Netherlands and took some photos in an avenue of trees.
Klaus has of course taken some wonderful photos that you can see in the galleries.
Activity this month
On the 30th April Klaus and I managed to finally do a long trike ride – well, 52km.
With just a week to go until our Trike tour holiday we thought we really ought to use the trikes for at least the second time this year. So we did a 52km trip to Bauerncafé Jacobs in Straelen and enjoyed a black forest gateau slice plus a Mandarinen Schmand.
Overall this year I have only travelled just over 1000km but that includes lots of walking and running, not just cycling. Despite the fact this is a mere shadow of what I used to do, now that I am mixing up the exercise a bit more (the running and walking) I feel healthier for it.
Other news this month
There’s not much more to add. Klaus and I went to an organ concert in Kempen which was great. My work hours changed so I now start at 08:00 and work through till 13:00 – which meant I walked to work one morning as I woke up early (if I clock in before 08:00 it doesn’t count so there’s not point in getting to work early).
Looking ahead to May
May is a busy month – we have three public holidays so less work than usual! We have our holiday in Bensheim with Ralf and the trikes to look forward to. And we will of course continue with cake eating and I will keep you updated with all the cakey goodness in this corner of Germany.