Welcome to March, Spring seems to be arriving!
Mini Honeymoon to Saarland
This month’s Mini Honeymoon was to Mettlach in Saarland and it had the added bonus that we were taking Lara with us and she would spend the weekend with her friend Nastya.
So we set off at 8:30 on the Saturday morning, collecting Lara on the way. We arrived in Merzig where Nastya lives at midday, had a cup of tea with her parents Andreas and Simone and then Klaus and I headed off.
As we couldn’t check in until 2pm we decided to go and find some lunch cake. Andreas and Simone said there weren’t any mega good cafes around but they did suggest one in Merzig so we went there and tried it.
They had a good selection of cakes and they looked pretty cool. I chose the Almond Caramel cake.
Klaus went for the Eierlikör (Advocaat) cake.
They were OK but not up to the standard of the Niederrhein cakes we occasionally have.
We then headed off by car the 15 minute journey from Merzig to Mettlach, where we were staying in the old Boch house (as in Villeroy & Boch).
Schloss Saareck is directly opposite the town of Mettlach – I suppose the Boch family could look out of their windows and check the workers, the other side of the narrow Saar river, were working hard!
The interior was wonderfully old-fashioned with hunting trophies.
We went for a walk around the grounds of the castle after we had checked in. Our room was on the fourth floor and we had to walk up stairs the whole way so this made us fit!
The castle was set in its own parkland and we watched a wedding photographer taking pictures of a bride outside the castle, although she didn’t have the wedding reception there – I guess it was just a good photo spot. They had a drone to take aerial shots but the light actually didn’t seem so good where they were standing.
After our walk we had a bit of a relax and then went down for our evening meal in the hotel.
Klaus had a martini while we chilled out in the lounge first.
Then we had our meal which was good but not outstanding. On our last honeymoon we were spoiled by the Michelin Starred restaurant. However the service was good and we had a very pleasant evening.
The next morning I enjoyed a traditional German buffet breakfast (loads of carbs) and Klaus was very good and kept his carbs to a minimum. We then checked out and headed off to Simone and Andreas’s house to see Lara.
We decided to go with them to a local vantage spot where you can see a hairpin in the Saar river, the Baumwipfelpfad Saarschleife (Treetop Walk Saarschleife). This is a woodland walk on a raised platform which goes through the wood above ground (Baumwipfelpfad). It was surprisingly expensive though, at 11,50 € per person.
The Wiki entry explains:
A series of four information stations along the path inform the visitor about quartzite, the beechwood forest, the Saarschleife, and wood debris, while children have access to a specially designed bridge and slide.
What is notable here is the “beechwood forest”. What’s weird about that, you ask? Well, as I was walking along the path I saw the sign “Lebensraum Buchenwald” on an information board. I think most English speakers know these two words from WW2 history and not as normal words in use (“beech forest habitat”), so I did a double-take when I saw them. A reminder that we have some loan words in English from German but many of these are for a very sad reason.
The view from the viewing platform at the end was pretty good though!
We were going to head straight off home so thought we ought to tank with a bit of cake before our three and a half hour journey. So we found a café and had some very large, but rather cold, slices of cake.
Lara had a great time seeing Nastya again and we enjoyed our peaceful and relaxing stay at the castle.
A visit from a Colchester friend
When Poppy was a puppy I got to know a lady Katy and her husband and children as they were thinking of getting a cockapoo and wanted to meet one – so they met Poppy. Their own cockapoo Lola came to join their family a few months later (she is six months younger than Poppy) and we kept in touch, having doggy playdates together until I moved to Germany.
Katy got in touch with me a month or so ago to say she would be travelling in Germany and would like to pop in and say hello if it was convenient. Of course it would be! She was now divorced from her husband and had a new chap, Graham, and her children were now almost grown up, so we had a lot of catching up to do.
Of course no-one can visit us without being offered cake so I drove Katy and Graham to Bauerncafe Bullhorsthof where we met Klaus (he had cycled there) and enjoyed the cake Etagere.
Graham had made some online orders of things he likes from Germany (he has links here) which were delivered to my house so he filled up his car boot with special German bread and special German rum.
In the evening we went out for a meal in Kempen with Lara also with us. We went to Traberklause in Kempen which does traditional German food – Graham wanted Katy to try a German steak. We had a lovely evening and it was good to get to know Graham. We will repay the visit in a month’s time when we visit England just before Christmas – we wanted to see Lola the cockapoo. It was interesting to note that Poppy definitely remembered Katy although she had not seen her for at least eight years!
This month and next month we would be having new flooring in our Office/Büro and bedroom. Which also required painting the walls and buying new wardrobes as the old ones were getting a bit manky.
This involved first of all dismantling the old wardrobes which we did with the help of Rohallah who helped carry the wardrobe doors downstairs (they were mega heavy with mirrors on). Every two weeks we have a day for “Sperrmüll”, special rubbish, where you can register to have old furniture taken away. So I had registered two wardrobes and we put all the bits of the old wardrobe outside, with the help of Rohallah. When I came home from work the next day it was gone.
I had to go to IKEA to collect the new wardrobe and gubbins although not everything was in stock. This coincided with Gudula and Frank also needing an IKEA trip so we went together and Frank borrowed a Transit from work which meant we could bring everything home with us rather than paying over 100 EUR for transport.
These were my purchases, over 1.200 € worth
We put everything into the garage as we didn’t have enough space upstairs. We didn’t need some of the furniture for five weeks as we had bought the items for our bedroom renovation as well, which would happen in April.
It ended up being very complicated getting the missing items (sliding wardrobe doors for the office, metal runners for the metal baskets and some desk legs for Gudula) but eventually they became available and I paid for delivery – which was excellent value at 39 EUR as the chaps put the heavy boxes into the garage for me.
It was time to clear out the office and start painting. Firstly of course I had to remove the wardrobe contents which were various odds and ends (tent, computer bits, walking boots etc) so this was all put in a couple of large plastic tubs under the piano. We had to disassemble our computers, take the desk out, relocate the filing cabinets and folders to the lounge, remove the sofa bed and make sure the room was empty. So everything ended up in the lounge.
Our lounge ended up with rather a lot of chairs! We would have to live like this for several weeks so I spent a lot of time tidying up as things got moved. One issue was we had blocked off the cabinet with the bike supplies and I needed to get a few things out of there from time to time, which meant moving the sofa bed. Rather an effort!
Klaus removed all the old skirting boards which were rather bad quality. Then it was time to hoover away some of the cobwebs before painting.
I used Gudula’s tickling stick to remove some more cobwebs, then started painting. the carpet would be thrown away so we could just paint without any plastic or newspaper on the floor. I did most of the ceiling, Klaus did a small section whilst I was cooking dinner.
We then painted the walls in two colours from the brand Alpina – the main wall colour was a light cream colour called “Sanftes Cashmere” and there was a darker colour called “Tea Time” which we did on the far wall and under the eaves.
The paint was very good quality and had excellent coverage but I did a second coat to be sure. I then had to wash out all the rollers and brushes and hung them in the shower – Klaus decided this made a good photograph!
The chap from the flooring company delivered the vinyl roll the evening before so that there was a strong man (Rohallah!) to help him get it up the stairs.
I had the next day off work when the floor was fitted. Firstly the flooring chap took up the old carpet – there were individual tiles underneath whose adhesive had largely gone. He was able to lift them easily.
Then he rolled out the new vinyl.
It was cut to size and then he rolled half pack, put glue down and waited 15 minutes for it to cure. He was just sitting on the glue pot waiting for it to go off.
After this side was glued down he lifted the other side, got the glue ready, let it go off and then laid down the flooring. Poppy was shut out of the flat for this bit (so she didn’t get gluey feet) and was rather put out.
He then went off to lunch for just over an hour and I went for a walk.
I had prepared for the tradesman’s visit by checking with Klaus what kind of coffee I should supply. Klaus said you don’t supply German workmen with tea or biscuits, they fend for themselves. This felt very much against the grain but Klaus was right, I had bought some chocolate chip shortbread and offered them to the chap but he refused. He took no food or drink and didn’t even use the loo.
He arrived at 9:30 in the morning and had said he would probably work until about 4pm. He actually finished at 16:02 so his timing was very good! We were told to let the skirting boards dry in place that evening but that we could move the paint pots the next day.
It was all looking really good!
We had two weeks until the bedroom would be done so had a bit of time to do our second round of decorating. But first we had to put the furniture back into the room, and we had to build the wardrobes that would be in the Office. We had taken out a 1 metre wide wardrobe and were replacing it with a 2 metre wide wardrobe to provide more storage space and also somewhere for Lara to keep some things as she is so often with us now.
All the wardrobe bits were in the garage and as the Pax Corpuses (wardrobe shells) were in the garage, and each box weighed 38kg, I wisely used some local muscle to carry the two wardrobe frames up for me – the landlords’ daughter Lara and their son Rohallah
They carried the two heavy boxes up, plus the three smaller boxes for the sliding doors.
As they were warmed up they said they would carry up the remaining two heavy boxes (the Pax frames for our bedroom) and these would be stored in the lounge for two weeks. This saved me the headache of working out how to carry them up in two weeks’ time (when Lara would be back in Berlin).
I started building the first of the two wardrobes and Klaus came to help me when it was time to put the two big halves together. We had ordered lighting for inside the wardrobe and had been pleased to discover, when removing the old wardrobe, that there was an electric socket behind it. So we cut out a section from the back wall so that we could access the electric socket.
Whilst we were building the wardrobes we laid a rug on the vinyl so not to damage it with sharp edges of the furniture.
Once the first wardrobe carcass was complete, the second one went much faster, although it still took us quite a while. We screwed both together, added the electrics and then it was time to do the sliding doors. We had collected Lara by this time and it took the three of us an amazingly long time to work out how to build the doors – and they weren’t 100% successful. We finally hung them at about 8pm, so had been working on the two wardrobes for nearly 12 hours with just a couple of breaks for food.
The wardrobe looked good if large in the small room! We temporarily hung two clothing rails in there so that we could transfer our clothes from our bedroom wardrobe to this wardrobe (as we would be dismantling the bedroom wardrobes next). And then I set off our new Best Friend, Hermann the Hoover, a robot vacuum cleaner, to do his thing in the room after all the building work.
We returned the sofa bed to the room so Lara had somewhere to sleep!
The next morning we put the desk back and started shifting all our electronics back. I also replaced the narrow bookcases that had been full of CDs and DVDs – but I had a radical clearout of my media and sent loads of CDs and a few DVDs off to a second hand shop. After all, I don’t have a CD player anymore and I listen to all my music on the iPhone or iPad. I sent off about 80 CDs/DVDs and received about 100 EUR for them which is a tiny fraction of what I paid but involved some decluttering. It was sad to say goodbye to CDs that I had had since University but they really aren’t necessary items in the modern world of streaming.
We also changed the old dangly lightbulb for a smart LED ceiling light which is lovely and bright and also has different whites (warm, bright etc) and various brightness settings. It is such a big improvement we decided to buy one for our bedroom (which would also work with Alexa).
We got our lounge back for a few days and then I started preparing the bedroom for its new flooring (same design) and wall painting (same colours). I managed to complete most of the painting before the end of the month, the new floor would be laid on 4 April. So you will have to wait for next month’s blog for a progress update!
Whilst Lara was with us on the final weekend she came down with a cold which we all suspected was Covid-19 as her friend at school was positive but she tested negative in a PCR test. I caught the cold two days later and also tested myself regularly and always had negative corona tests. I had to have two days off work when the cold was really bad but was able to do a bit of work from home on the second day.
I bumped into Hartmut in his Velomobile when cycling home from work one day. I hadn’t seen him to talk to since before Corona!
I ended up working one Saturday morning with my boss as we are implementing a new ERP system and could never get uninterrupted thinking time in the office, so we both decided to come in on a Saturday, sit in the conference room and go through everything on the giant monitor. It was an excellent plan and we were very successful.
On my way home at 13:30 on a Saturday I got a puncture. The first in over two years.
Not normally a problem but I could NOT get the tyre off the rim. It turned out that the Continental Contact Speeds had been on so long that their rubber had vulcanised onto the rim. It was impossible for me to get off. I phoned Klaus and he appeared in his Velomobile and the two of us finally managed, after 45 minutes, to get the tyre off. I was able to ride home for a very late lunch.
I then realised that it was possible the other tyre was also stuck, and indeed it was. Frank helped me get the second one off which involved cutting the old tyre off and using various tools to FINALLY get the metal bead off. No way could I have done the second tyre myself. I have made a note to take the tyres off every six months or so, and maybe to investigate putting talcum powder or something similar on when I re-mount the tyre.
Poppy and her bad back.
The last few months have been bad for Poppy. She had her osteopathy but it didn’t seem to help her with her stiff hips. In March she became more and more stiff and couldn’t always walk up the stairs. She was like an old dog which was a bit of a shock to Katy when she visited as she remembered Poppy as bouncy.
Anyway, I decided I should take Poppy back to the vets as she was getting worse, not better. the vet muzzled her and did lots of poking about, some of which was clearly very painful, but suggested it is possible the discs in Poppy’s back are getting a bit thin. The vet suggested anti-inflammatories and painkillers might help, and if they didn’t make much difference then we would take some x-rays a week later. We looked at her x-rays from the previous year when she had torn her cruciate ligament and there were signs that her bone structure in her hips is also not ideal.
So I went away with a week’s supply of Metacam at a grand total of 4,70 €. And lo and behold, after two days Poppy was clearly moving much better, and after four to five days she was definitely getting back her zest for life and energy. She must have been in much more pain than I realised and I felt awful she hadn’t been on painkillers before. She had them in January but they didn’t seem to make much difference then, but clearly they were now.
She has another appointment in a week’s time and I expect she will be long-term on the metacam, but as she tolerates it well that is fine by us. We just want to be able to take her out for walks and her not to look so stiff and uncomfortable when she sits still for ten minutes.
So that’s the month of March done and dusted, with a mixture of sunny days and snow at the end of the month. Exercise-wise I wasn’t very successful due to my cold and spending lots of time doing room decorating rather than being outdoors, and I suppose April won’t be much better, but we have a visit to the UK to look forward to as well before Easter. You can read all about it here next month!