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3.5 Month Update

It’s been almost 4 months since I left Ludwigshafen in a cloud of cheese and rage. I have some bad feelings about the internship, but everything else was amazing. In retrospect, it was one of the best times of my life. More so than my semester abroad, I think, which is what catches me up. Having roommates (AWESOME roommates, I am fairly sure I will never have better) made it much less lonely. The workweek, strange as it may sound, made me less crazed with free time. The cameraderie between our roommates, labmates, housemates and neighbors was remarkable. People came together more often than not. Adventure was a free trainride away. I find myself missing it more than I would have guessed.

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Indoors!

No, I have not sunk to posting from work, I’m in an internet cafe that is not a euphemism for a dark alleyway! Here goes Zurich, with Cologne and Freiburg (frisbee tourney) yet to come:

Um. Hi. I don’t know if you remember me, but my name’s Marianna, and if you’re reading this, we were probably once compatriots in some sense. I once had this great plan to blog about my summer in Germany, but that dream was crushed beneath the jackboot of international, industrial science.

Of late, I have been in Zurich, Cologne and Freiburg. The internship is drawing to a close. I’m applying to jobs. I’m reading graduate school application deadlines. I am eating cheese. I’ve started going to Frisbee practices in Heidelberg, with exactly enough time left to go to TWO of them. “Na ja…” as we say in the business. Oktoberfest is this weekend, and I have to hem my dirndl.

I cannot express how objectively boring my life is. It’s actually not bad, but I realize that the day to day is incredibly boring from the outside point of view:

6:10 – hit snooze button

6:20 – hit snooze button

6:30 – take shower/pack lunch, whichever space is unoccupied

7:00 – leave for train

7:21 – arrive at destination/ proceed further on bicycle

7:32 – arrive at work

7:32-4:00 – work

4:15 – train back home

4:30 – go to grocery store on the way home from the train, buy food in 4:1 ratio of normal adult comestibles to junk food.

And now I must emphasize that the preceding section is literally EXACTLY what I do every day. No variation. After that, I generally scramble to make dinner, and then read or listen to music or watch a movie until 10pm, on the dot, when I go to bed. Right now, strangely enough, I am reading “Consider the Lobster” by David Foster Wallace. Despite being a fairly obscure book (until last week when its author killed himself) it was one of the few English books available in Mannheim. The essay I’m reading now (“Up, Simba”) was originally published in Rolling Stone during McCain’s 2000 presidential bid, and is about McCain as a candidate. It both brings me back to the time when I thought McCain wasn’t a bad dude, and is eerily prophetic about the electability potential of a candidate who can “inspire”

And now for recaps, which will probably be less complete than earlier ones, which you are probably thrilled about.

Zurich

So here’s the thing about Zurich. It doesn’t have a thing. Paris has the Eiffel Tower, Berlin has the Brandenburg Gate, Munich has the Glockenspiel…Zurich…not so much. Don’t get me wrong by any means- Zurich is great. It has a beautiful lake, a number of superlative churches, and a definite unique character. Not to mention all the people speaking Schwyzerdutsch (Swiss German). But when you walk out of the train station, and turn to your travel companion, you find yourself saying, “So, where’s the…um…wait…crap.” Needless to say, the day started slowly.

No wait, it in fact did not. The day started 20 minutes before our train left with Stephanie and I banging on Kevin’s door for 10 minutes because he was supposed to meet us IN THE HALLWAY OUTSIDE HIS OWN DOOR 10 minutes before. We ended up leaving without him. Then our train to Mannheim to get the fast train to Zurich never came, so we had to leave an hour later. It was fun.

Once we GOT to Zurich, Stephanie and I spent a fair amount of time walking up and down the main thoroughfare looking for a bank. In Switzerland. Sometimes I feel like that whole country is a maze. But anyway.

We walked down to the lake, which is really quite beautiful with its mountains and little settlements and swans. We walked up to near the University, where there was a little street festival going on- the perfect opportunity for food! So, I paid 8 Franks (about 8 dollars at the moment) for what was literally a slice of white bread with a half-cup of melted raclette cheese poured over it and a couple of pickle slices on top. On the one hand, I was all “What a rip off!” on the other, I was all “this is the only thing I have ever wanted in life…om nom nom nom.”

It was not long before we went chocolate shopping, of course. I got three truffles: plain milk chocolate, cappuccino and walnut. No complaints. We were then aimed for the Schweizerisches Landesmuseum (Swiss National Museum) when we realized that we didn’t have time before we met up with Tessa, Kamila’s German friend who was coming down from Konstanz. So we met up with her, and she had a plan, which was more than we had, so we headed to the Langstrasse district, where there were supposed to be hip stores and what-all-have-you. When we got there, there was an international festival going on with loud Latin music and food booths and cocktails for sale – BUT I WASN’T HUNGRY! It was awful. Incidentally, the cool stores didn’t seem to actually be anywhere. I did try on some ridiculous looking pants because we saw so many girls wearing them and I wanted to get a pair so when they’re hot shit in the states I can show off. But they were too ridiculous looking. They are like, baggy linen capris with a very low crotch and elastic just below the knee – like what male Afghani civilians are wearing as they squat to tend the fire on the news. Bizarre.

Museum in background with sweet tower

Museum in background with sweet tower

International Fair

International Fair

We also went looking for a church that (apparently) was the oldest church in Zurich (I actually did not care at all). There was a wedding going on which prevented us from going in, which for some reason drove Stephanie crazy.

Around this time (5pm-ish) Kevin actually arrived in Zurich and called us to meet up. So back to the train station, and then back into the city in search of dinner. There was a general consensus that we wanted to eat “by the lake” so we headed off in that direction. Strangely, there are not that many lakefront eateries. We ended up getting takeout from a bistro near the lake (serving mostly grilled and/or cylindrical meats) and sitting on the wall next to the water as the sun set over the lake. It was very nice. We spent the night at the Paul Scherer Institute guesthouse, where Kevin is now living. It’s out in the countryside in a pleasant way. Might feel kinda claustrophobic on weekends when the bus to ANYTHING only runs every two hours.

Sunday we picked up where we left off with a visit to the Swiss National Museum, sans Tessa, who left on Saturday night. The museum is housed in a beautiful old building with a multicolored tile roof and motifs painted under the eaves. It had quite an eclectic collection, with a truly bizarre audio tour- two Brits faux-arguing about nothing. I must say, the archeological collection was unbelievably poorly labeled. The collection of Medieval and religious art was impressive, as were the reconstructed 17th century rooms. They had a section all about guns, which included a room titled “Children and Guns” that was all about toy guns and video games. Unfortunately the museum was laid out across 4 floors, some of which were only accessible from certain points on certain other floors, and it was very confusing to get around if you wanted to see everything. It does seem to be under construction, so maybe it will improve?

I also talked Kevin and Stephanie to go to the Medical History and Zoological museums of the University of Zurich, basically the only things I saw last time I was in Zurich. I just think they’re fantastic museums. Obviously the medical history museum has a target audience, but the zoological museum is just fantastic- tons of familiar and exotic animals are mounted and displayed in big glass cases. There are bird and bug sections, too.

Hungry despite the visit to the medical history museum, we consulted Kevin’s guidebook and came up with a vegetarian by-the-decagram restaurant called Tibits by Hiltl. It was not too far away (and all down hill) so we mosied on down. The food was exquisite, as I had feared it would be. And some of us, to remain nameless, had trouble with the “pay by weight” concept and paid 30 Franks for dinner. But yum! Lentil salad, pea samosas, Moroccan bulgar, jalapeno poppers. I nearly wept. I should’ve gotten more. As it turned out, the restaurant was only about a block from the lake, so we returned to the little boardwalk to eat again. Then we ran around to see a bunch of churches. A few were lame, but there was one that was actually DIFFERENT looking inside (miracle!), and one that had stained glass windows by Marc Chagall. So those were fun. That’s about all she wrote, except my buying a candy bar for 3 Franks because I needed to get rid of them somehow.

American Bakery! (in the train station in Zurich)

American Bakery! (in the train station in Zurich)

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Normandy Photos

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I am an interweb bandit

Well, it’s been a while. Sorry, but there’s nothing I can do about it. The last two weekends I was in Munich, and then Paris. They were both excellent trips, to admittedly excellent destinations.

I’m not even sure what the “best thing” about the Munich trip was: finally doing all the tourist stuff, seeing Gretchen, or just being back in Bavaria. I arrived via a few hours in Regensburg. When I left Regensburg a little over a year ago, I didn’t think I would ever see it again and of course that lead to a lot of musing about the quirks of life. I stopped by a few old haunts to gawk and take pictures- Peaches, Dibo, and even a few grocery stores. After one of those long deliberations that end with a “duh”, I decided to have dinner at the Indian place on Maximillianstrasse, which was just a great decision. At one point during the day, with my legs getting tired, I almost turned around to go “home” to Goldener Turm and it was a little bit painful to realize how long ago it all was. I saw one of my old professors, but it took a moment to register and it was too late to say anything.

Upon arriving in Munich, I had just enough time to buy a dirndl (I know!), get lost, check into my hostel, and meet Kevin for my first legitimate trip to the Hofbrauhaus. Kevin was staying with his father’s friend’s daughter and I went with them and the daughter’s group from a summer program at LMU. We ate in a little restaurant above and behind the Bierhall, so it was fairly pleasant. Those keeping score will notice two dinners. I was tricked!

On Saturday I got up extremely early to go to the flea market in the Olympia Stadion (aka the best flea market ever!) only to discover that it was cancelled due to a religious event at the stadium. Eventually Stephanie and Gretchen called me to “meet up” about 15 minutes apart, so we wasted some time on that, but then we walked up the Alter Peter and got Obatzda and baguettes in the Viktualienmarkt, so all was well. Then we all (plus Gretchen’s boyfriend) walked up to the Chinesischer Turm in the Englischer Garten, which led past a few cool buildings and monuments that I never knew about. We were able to enter the Garten right where the surfers are in the Eisbach. Florian had never seen them before, even though he’s from Bavaria. We went our separate ways at the biergarten, and Stephanie and I stayed and had a water and a beer, respectively. I got a Mass (liter) of beer for no other reason than I was hot and thirsty and it was awesome. I guess probably about this time Stephanie decided she wanted to go to the dirndl store, and so we bolted across town but were too late. But then, Stephanie, being more inquisitive or more inclined to exercise, or both, wanted to walk around a little bit. Then I pulled a “look, green space” and we walked down this alley to discover a wide open field with a temporary fence around it and a few large tents on it. So then of course I went, “Oh. My. God. I think it’s the Wies’n.” Theresienwiesen, aka the “Wies’n”, is where Oktoberfest happens. And we were indeed at the Wies’n. I did a little bit of a hand-flappy thing, and then we walked up to where there is a GIANT statue of a personification of Bavaria surrounded by a Hellenic-type-building on three sides. That was pretty cool too. We later learned that it’s the Ruhmeshalle, which is a lot like Walhalla, having built by Leo von Klenze under the eye of Ludwig I to honor great Germans. Later we met Kevin and the other sister at the Augustiner Keller on Neuhauserstrasse (my choice) because Augustiner has the best Helles in Munich.

On Sunday Stephanie went to Neuschwanstein and I went to the Alte and Neue Pinakotheke, two famous art museums across the street from one another. Entry was only 1 Euro because it was a Sunday. The most famous painting there is the self-portrait of Albrecht Durer, but there are just a TON of amazing paintings. I was totally “that guy” who takes pictures of paintings in the museum. The Alte Pinakothek had amazing still lifes, as well as paintings by this guy Adam Elsheimer, which featured scenes “lit” only by a candle but still in enormous detail. I was impressed. I don’t, however, recommend going to the museums one right after the other. Oh, they also had a portrait of Goethe that has adorned many of my German texts.

I then went to the University area to see the Ludwigskirche and look for cheap food. The Ludwigskirche was breathtaking, but completely covered on the interior in scaffolding, which was nothing short of tragic. Not finding much appetizing food, I headed for the Viktualienmarkt, forgetting that it would be closed on Sunday. So I wandered, aimless and cranky, through the streets around Marienplatz. Salvation came, as it so often does, in the form of beer. I looked up and spotted the Schneider Weisse “Weisses Brauhaus”. Schneiderweisse makes, hands down, the best wheat beer in Bavaria. So I was all, purse be damned, I want a Schneider Weisse. So I had a Schneider Weisse and spinach spaetzle in cream sauce with champignons. It was heavenly. Heavenly!

Paris

Despite my secret suspicions that it was overrated, and not-so-secret fears that everyone hated Americans, Paris was wonderful. Here is how I planned for my trip: I got all the logistics for going to Normandy in order, and then just read food blogs and “Top 10” lists about Parisian food. I had a fifteen item list of “things to do” and the Eiffel Tower was not on it. The first stop after the hostel was Laduree, supposedly the best macarons in Paris, plus highly recommended croissants. Stephanie and I each got a croissant and a couple of macarons. I got chocolate and caramel. The croissant was delicious, and crispy, though it did not permanently alter my idea of what a good croissant is. The chocolate macaroon was good, obviously, though I thought it had too much filling and was a little fudgy for something supposedly delicate. But the caramel one. Oh the caramel one. I wanted to weep. It was so good. The filling was pure, butter caramel. Good lord. On our way to get the macarons, we rounded a corner and there was the Eiffel tower, and we both kind of made awkward squeaking noises.

Then we just started walking. We walked to the Champs Elysees and saw the Arc de Triomphe, which was pretty neat, though I still don’t know which victory/ies it references. Then we went looking for lunch, turned down a lot of places that weren’t perfect, and then got so tired and cranky that we settled for something imperfect anyway- an Italian restaurant. I got a warm goat cheese salad with sundried tomatoes and pine nuts, yay! I made a huge mess eating it, but oh well. Stephanie, who is a vegetarian, ordered a pasta dish that came with a hamsicle. That is, prosciutto wrapped around one end of a thin breadstick. I gawked, then panicked that she’d try to send it back, then was thrilled/relieved when she gave it to me. Free pig!

At this point, we were relatively close to the Eiffel Tower, so we sauntered over there, approaching via the Palais de Chaillot, which until then, we didn’t know was a great place to photograph the Eiffel Tower from. Then we went up to the tower and did some recon about times when the line might be shorter (Answer: the stairs-only line 15 minutes before they open). Then I made Stephanie go to a chocolate shop and she made me go to something called the “American Cathedral,” which is randomly just an American church that happens to be in France. It was pretty on the inside, though, and had this great neo-gothic carving that was very similar to what you’d see in any cathedral, but then instead of shepherds or angels holding up the buttresses, it was WWI soldiers. It was beautiful. Incidentally, the chocolatier was Michel Chaudun, and I got one caramel mousse and four peanut-butter-sesame-truffle chocolates.

With “chocolates” crossed off the list, I then started the forced march to the second most important food stop on my list: Le Grande Epicerie. It’s a grocery store in the vein of Russo’s/the Wellesley Roche Bros./Julius Meindl/Zabar’s- BUT IT’S IN PARIS OMG! It was pretty great. I got a tomato/pesto/mozzarella salad, and of course cheese. In fact, I walked up to the cheese counter, and saw that they had camembert soaked in/brushed with Calvados, which I didn’t know a normal person could even GET. So I got half a wheel and ran around the store squealing. This is the part where I tell you I am not exaggerating. With these goodies, we went back to the hostel and had dinner in the common room and watched the Olympics. We are in Olympic withdrawal here in Ludwigshafen without a TV.

The next morning, because Stephanie and I are excellent travel buddies, I went to Normandy and she went to Versailles. My train went directly from Paris to Bayeux, one of the first cities in France liberated in 1944, the closest rail stop to Omaha Beach, and home of the Bayeux tapestry, which illustrates the Battle of Hastings. Normandy is beautiful in the way that I imagine people imagine France to be, green, rolling hills and antique-looking stone houses with stone walls and big barns. The 3.10 I paid to get from the Bayeux train station to the American Cemetery was worth it for the bus ride alone. The cemetery is beautiful and very well kept. Surprisingly, most of the tourists there were French rather than American. The dollar must be pretty weak, because there were almost no Americans there. I think it wouldn’t have been so sad if it weren’t so pretty. It’s hard to think about the Americans and Brits and Canadians who showed up to storm those beaches to liberate a country they didn’t owe anything to, not because they were going to get oil out of it (for instance) but simply because the French needed help. One of the exhibits in the visitors’ center used the work “audacity” to describe the invasion, which seems quite apt. I don’t know why anyone thought they could storm that beach, but they tried and they succeeded. It was a gorgeous day just weatherwise, but wow, Omaha beach was about the most beautiful place I’ve ever been. I walked down and put my toes in the water and everything, the water is really blue. Supposedly (I think, according to symbols) you can still see some of the caissons they put in when they built the artificial harbor. Because the busses were on a holiday schedule, I couldn’t spend as long there as I wanted to. I had about 45 minutes to go to the “Battle of Normandy” museum in Bayeux, but no time to see the tapestry. Bayeux is just going to have to go on the “Well, I’ll just have to make it my business to go back” list.

On Saturday we went up the Eiffel Tower at 9 am, all the way to the top, even though I freaked out on the way to the second level. It’s a lot taller than it seems, even from the base. Eventually we elbowed our way down to meet Kevin, Rob and Jim at Notre Dame. Being the veteran European travelers that we are, we took one look at the enormous line outside the cathedral, and simultaneously thought to ourselves: “I know what the inside of a cathedral looks like.” The decision to move on barely had to be confirmed verbally.

It was around then that I started a forced march to a bakery I had read about in David Lebovitz’ “10 Things You Must Do in Paris” blog entry. It’s called “Eric Kayser” and supposedly has the best Pain au Cereal in Paris. I wouldn’t argue with that assessment. In addition to the baguette, everyone got sandwiches for a proper lunch. Mine was basically a sesame baguette with a wheel’s worth of brie inside. It was great. Then we attempted to go to the catacombs (closed!) and Kevin started a forced march of his own. Granted that GPS saved our asses big time in Heidelberg, it is not that great for searching out tourist attractions. We may or may not have done one of those “I don’t see it yet…let’s keep walking…we can’t be on street X, that’s on the other side…how can we have missed it…Oh. That was it?” We also discussed at length which places were “in Ratatouille.”

After a second failed attempt at accessing a Pierre Herme macaron, we went for dinner at a raclette restaurant, which frankly sucked. But hopefully we can try again in Zurich in two weeks. Of course there was a post-dinner “nighttime” Eiffel Tower visit- very fancy. It’s remarkable how blue they can make that thing with lights, considering that it is solidly brown in real life. It also does a little sparkly light show.

And that was the end of Saturday with one exception. At 3 am there came a knocking on the door of the hostel room that Stephanie and I were sharing with two other (British) girls. I had a heart attack, and then I ignored it, assuming that it would go away. It wasn’t for me or Stephanie, and the other girls weren’t waking up, so I figured it was not my problem. So I went back to sleep. For thirty seconds, before the knocking got louder. Once again freaked out, I called reception from the little phone in the room, intending to say something along the lines of “Um, bon nuit, we’re about to be murdered in room 402, merci”, and of course they didn’t pick up. So not knowing what else to do, I climbed down from the top bunk, wedged my foot between the door and the floor and opened the door a crack…

“Pleeeeeease, give me back my sunglasses!”

Long story short, some enormous loser had lent his 170 Euro sunglasses to a stranger he’d met in a hostel, aka the girl sleeping in our room. He knew she was leaving on Sunday and “didn’t want to wake up early” to get the glasses before she left. So she cussed him out for a while, found his glasses, sent him away, and apologized to Stephanie and I, to which I said, “whatever, I’m just thrilled he wasn’t a murderer….zzzzzzzzzz.”

Sunday we ditched the boyfolk and took a brief trip to the Sacre Coeur Basilica in Montmartre (we were positively accosted by “dirt merchants” as Stephanie put it). It’s a nice building but it’s honestly nicer as an element of the horizon. Then we zoomed back to the catacombs where we waited in line for an hour, but didn’t mind because CATACOMBS!!! The catacombs were a little bit “meh”, saved only by the fact that there were, as promised, big piles of bones. But they were only neatly stacked, not artfully arranged like cooler catacombs. The result was that basically every inch of the place looked the same (excluding the half-mile “entrance hallway” that was just a plain, blank hall). There were a few informational signs, but it was unclear what they were indicating when they addressed an element of the room, and were mostly about mine inspection (?). The tour was capped off with two chambers each bearing a label reading something like this: “This is a cloche (or some C word). It is where collapses occur. It is very easy for collapses to occur in places like this because…” and I missed the rest because by that point I was literally off and running. The entrance is a spiral staircase that just. Keeps. Going. and it did not escape my notice that in the case of an earthquake, we would be extremely, extremely dead. So by the end, I was ready to see the sun. I sprinted up what I guess was about 20 vertical meters of spiral staircase. Then, they check your bags to make sure you haven’t stolen bones! Ah, Paree…

Pictures:

Crap, forgot the Normandy photos. Give me a moment.

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Update

Internet in the tunnel has been shut off, so expect even less posting. Sorry, it hurts me more than it hurts you. I went to the black forest this weekend!

Here is a picture of wine and cheese from Wachenheim:

And here is a picture from the Black Forest (at the SOURCE of the Danube!):

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I wrote this in “travel essay contest entry” format. One guess why. (p.s. I didn’t edit it at all, wah wah.) Anyway, I had a great time in Wachenheim, and the whole time I was wishing I had remembered my notebook because I was coming up with all these descriptive words and great imagery. Then I got drunk and forgot everything. Typical. I go to Germany- I learn to love beer. I go back to Germany- Wine and I can finally be friends. I forgot to add at the end how I climbed up the castle tower and it was awesome and I tried to take some MySpace photos of myself, and they all came out looking dumb. Surprise. The following is a picture of me looking exactly like my brother. The DNA is strong in ze Mutterland. Okay, auf geht’s:

“Well, what’s that big green area?” asked my father, initiating yet another trans-continental GoogleMaps adventure.

“Oh, that’s the Pfälzer Wald,” I answered, “or Palatine Forest in English, I guess.”

“You know your German ancestors were Palatines, don’t you?” he asked.

And that’s how it began. Yes, my ancestors came to the United States in 1731 on a ship called the  Pennsylvania Merchant from the Rhine River valley, via Rotterdam. The next day my father sent me an email more or less copied from the family history binder, naming three German towns and one French one, all possible homelands to the Fuss family, now of Ohio. After a quick internet inquiry, it appeared that Wachenheim, though not the closest of the four, might be the best bet for an adventure.

Four days later I was on the train toward Wachenheim, a smallish outpost on what is known as the German “Weinstrasse”, or Wine Road. Chugging across the countryside, my train approached a quaint little town surrounded by vineyards and shadowed by a line of green hills, and I thought to myself, “Please, let this be it.” A few minutes later, the next stop was announced, and it was not Wachenheim, but Deidesheim. Despite this initial gun-jumping, I was thrilled when Wachenheim turned out to be an equally charming village, but with the added bonus of a castle sitting in the hills just above the town’s red roofs.

Just climbing the gentle slope up to the town center was impressive- traditional German stucco houses with colorful, quirky gardens and a constant, ever-enlarging view of the castle ruins. By the time I reached the disparate downtown, I had seen three or four different vineyards. I mean vineyards in the “name on the bottle” sense; I had seen quite a few more fields of grapevines. My goal for the day had initially been to find information about the family history, but I didn’t have any expectation of success: I figured I’d look for telltale tombstones and then give up. Of course, when I arrived I told myself that cemeteries are open later than other attractions, and after taking a few photos “downtown”, the draw of the castle pulled me uphill. All good German sightseeing starts with climbing a hill (and ideally ends with ever so slightly blurred vision.)

Once I was most of the way up to the castle, the buzz of voices gave away the presence of what turned out to be a little self-serve wine café. Though I have always disliked wine, I was willing to risk a few Euros in the hopes of maybe, just maybe, enjoying a glass of local wine at a picnic table perched on a castle wall high above my ancestral homeland. Being an odd sort of person, panic struck swiftly. Though I planned on getting a bite to eat there, I really could not know less about wine pairings. The thought of thirty Germans staring me down for a completely obvious wine mismatch unnerved me. In an attempt to “play it safe” (which is hard when you are woefully clueless) I ordered a 2007 Wachenheim Gewürztraminer and a camembert platter. It would be an understatement to describe this spread as utterly sublime. Because it was more or less the first glass of wine I have ever consumed in its entirety, I don’t think any description would be the least bit useful to anyone else, but I liked it. The cheese was also stunning, it was a full wedge comparable in size to the wedges in which Brie is often sold. Accompanying it were but two slices of bread. Those who know me know that there is no such thing as too much cheese, but even after covering each slice a half-inch deep in cheese, I had perhaps a third of the wedge left. So I made a daring move, I ordered another glass of wine (a 2006 half-dry Riesling, I think) and another slice of bread. Friends will also not be surprised that I will risk looking like an American if it means I get to eat more cheese.

I think I may have sat there for nearly two hours, sipping cool white wine and munching on enormous slices of camembert bread, while looking out across the many vineyards, and, of course, acquiring a sunburn. (I have Irish ancestors, too.) It was sunny and breezy and the libations and victuals were delicious, and it was without a doubt an unparalleled experience. How often does one sit alone in a restaurant for two hours and enjoy it?

Sweet photo from the tower of the castle:

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