March in Stuttgart and Salzburg

While the attempt to introduce a new Health Care Bill dies in Washington, we are enjoying the attractions in Germany and Austria!

img_3980-1First stop was Stuttgart to see the Porsche factory and Museum. If anyone had told me I could spend 8 hours in a Porsche facility I would have told them they had lost their marbles. But we did and I enjoyed every minute. First, there is the factory itself – with floors that are so clean you could eat a meal on them. The tour takes you through the entire line so you get to see each stage of the production of the cars built in Stuttgart – Boxster, Cayman and 911s. When the chassis gets paired with its body, they actually call it the “marriage.”

img_3983-2After two hours with a wonderful guide who could answer every detailed question and seemed thrilled when one of the group knew a technical answer, we went to have lunch in the elegant restaurant above the museum called Christophorus. I never expected to have a gourmet meal at a car factory. But we did and discovered that there are some very excellent German red wines from the Trocken area which were dry and very smooth without being fruity or sweet. The food was fabulous – especially the “surf and turf” which was a lobster and filet that easily fed two and a goose pate that melted in the mouth. The best part though was overlooking the circle where the sculpture sits of three Porsches high in the sky and watching various Porsches, BMWs, and Audis whizz by underneath us.

The museum was our last stop of the day where we spent several hours with a private guide taking us through the history of Porsche and getting to see all the cars up close. They even have trial buttons for one to punch to hear the sound of a racing car engine or a tractor. (Yes, Porsche made tractors for a while. They even have a fire truck on display which still runs.)

We discovered that at our hotel, Althoff Hotel am Schlossgarten, was a small wine bar and bistro that made excellent food and also served a Trocken wine under their label. The chicken was perfect – moist and full of flavor with fresh local vegetables as were the various sausages that we had for hors d’oeuvres.

One night we went to the highly rated Olivo restaurant for an eight-course meal. It was superb. My companion and I had a slight difference of opinion – he thought it was as good as Epicure in Paris but I thought it was a notch down – either way, it was delicious and the amusement was that the German chef had once worked at Mar-a-Lago.

Then it was off to Salzburg – a city that is nestled in the mountains and is absolutely beautiful. We did not do the “Sound of Music” tour but instead wandered the old city streets, went up the funicular to the Fortress Hohensalzburg which has a magnificent view of the valley and has never been breached which is totally understandable once you stand at the top of the fortress and look down the sheer rock face. There is no way to get up unseen. Much to my surprise, the luncheon restaurant next to where the funicular deposits you atop the mountain turned out to be an excellent source of a large plate of various sausages with saucer kraut, fresh shaved horseradish, and exquisite mustard. Who would have thought?

Another place to visit is St. Peter’s cemetery or Petersfriedhof. It may sound maudlin but it isn’t. The plots and mausoleums are beautiful with fresh flowers and amazing carvings at each space. In addition, the cemetery has catacombs that date back to the late fifth century and are amazing to wander through.

We noticed a tent sign on one of our walks for a Mozart concert that was to be at three in the afternoon. We found the Alten Residenz and bought two tickets (18 Euro each) and were seated in a small room that had a domed roof and white washed walls. Sitting at the corner of the “l” shaped room was a harpsichord. We were the only ones there. Just before three, someone came to apologize that since there were only the two of us, the concert had been canceled but we could come back at 5 for a later program. We decided to try once more and how lucky we were. In the same room, there were about 20 people and two musicians – one on harpsichord and the other on violin. Tatiana Aleksandrova on the harpsichord and Lutz Bartberger on the violin. They played three sonatas and it was heaven to hear Mozart in his birth city up close and personal with two excellent musicians who clearly loved their art and instruments. Aleksandrova gave introductions to each piece in German and English and accompanied the information with interesting funny tales of Mozart. They do the concert daily – but we suggest don’t try the 3 pm just go for the 5 o’clock!

We decided to avoid another large fancy meal and so went to our hotel’s recommendation Pizzeria Il Sole which was a down-home Italian restaurant that served excellent carpaccio and pasta. (A good sign was that Italians were also eating there.)

If you are ever in Salzburg, do stay at the Goldener Hirsch. It is elegant and is a fascinating web of halls and rooms since it is three townhouses put together, the oldest being from the 1400s. The atmosphere is traditional (but with updated bathrooms) and the staff is extremely helpful. One night we ate in their “international” dining room and had delicious smoked salmon, spinach pasta and homemade vanilla ice cream that was mouthwatering without any need for chocolate sauce to be added. The bar is delightful and luckily for me stocks Glenmorangie. For others, they keep a large bucket of ice with multiple bottles of champagne at the ready.

We headed for Vienna but stopped at the Melk Abbey on the way. Perched near the Danube it is an awe-inspiring building that not only houses an exquisite High Baroque church with enough gold leaf in it to fill the coffers of a US city for a prolonged period of time, but it is also a living Benedictine abbey with monks, a convent, and a high school for approximately 900 students. It is a beautiful building with lovely gardens and a new restaurant that serves absolutely delicious food – including an Abbey soup that is a beef broth with fresh vegetables and herbs from the gardens on the property with vermicelli noodles thrown in. It is listed as an appetizer but is a meal unto itself.

Next week: Vienna and Munich!

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Idiocy in Washington

I am leaving tomorrow for two weeks in Germany and Austria and to get away from Washington, D.C., and the crazy news that seems to occur every day. Who would have imagined the President would tweet negative things about China the night before his Secretary of State was to sit down in Beijing to negotiate with the Chinese? Why would he undercut his own employee? Welcome to the weekend stupidity of tweets.
And when everyone who would know, the Gang of Eight as they are called (Speaker of the House, Minority Leader of the House, the Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Intelligence Committee, the Majority and Minority Leaders of the Senate, and the Chair and Vice Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee), says publicly that Trump has no basis to say he was wiretapped or surveilled by anyone, he still insists he was targeted by the former President. And to add insult to injury, his spokesman said the British had been used to do the surveilling. The British were quick to say that it was “utterly ridiculous.”

Yet Trump brought it up again in his press conference with Angela Merkel after he was rude to her. Why would he refuse to shake the hand of the leader of Germany who is one of the US’s greatest allies? And right in front of the press gaggle who had microphones going so we could all hear and see what he did. He’s the one that says he has such respect for women but it didn’t look like it when she asked him to shake hands and he refused.

And has the Republican party gone insane? To suggest that cutting Meals on Wheels or after school programs to feed poor children is going to make any dent in the federal budget is a guaranteed way for many Americans to vote for anyone but Republicans. And it seems that many on the Hill agree with that and are letting it be known that the White House budget proposal is dead on arrival.

All in one week. I can’t wait to go to Stuttgart, Salzburg, Vienna, and Munich so at least for two weeks I’ll be writing about fun places, museums, cars, and great food!

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The Deconstruction 

Although Snopes’ fact checker has not found proof that Stephen Bannon told more than one journalist that he was a Leninist who “wants to bring down the entire state and to destroy the entire establishment,” it seems as if he is successfully accomplishing the goal of tearing down the establishment piece by piece. The first step seems to be the State Department.

The hope was that by selecting Rex Tillerson for State and Jim Mattis as the Secretary of Defense Trump was showing that he was bringing in the “adults” to manage the U.S. foreign policy. Unfortunately, Tillerson is not even included in meetings with the Mexican Foreign Minister which the White House arranged and held on its own. It seems as if the State Department is not a major player at this point, and Tillerson is not even allowed to select his own deputies.

And then we find out that Mike Flynn made half a million dollars as a lobbyist for the government of Turkey at the same time as he was working for the Trump campaign, and then was announced as the National Security Advisor. The kicker: The White House knew of his lobbying. OMG! How could you vet someone knowing this information? Deconstructing again, I suppose, or perhaps just not caring about ethics?

And no one in the White House, or anyone surrounding Trump in his family, seem to care that our new President likes to say things that have no basis in fact. Such as that Obama wiretapped his phones during the election. He has given no proof of the accusation and no one else seems to knows of it and, oh, by the way, a President can’t even order wiretaps. The agency who thinks there is a reason to wiretap an American has to apply to a FISA judge who is the only person who can approve the taps.

What concerns me is if the President can tweet ideas which have no basis in fact, what is he going to decide to do when it comes to our foreign policy? He’s insulted so many already such as Mexico, Germany, Japan, and China, to name a few, that I am worried about what will come next. With Tillerson being sidelined at State, what bizarre ideas will Bannon and others put in Trump’s brain?

As Bette Davis said in All About Eve, “Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night.” Maybe I should just concentrate on my horse loving to jump and try not hear or read any news.

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Escape to Florida


Colin & Super Flashy

My wonderful horse loves warm weather and jumping so once again he hitched a ride with his trainer, Meghan Michaels, and went off to Wellington, Florida, to compete at the World Equestrian Festival. The horse show that draws 7,500 or more horses to its facility between January and April. The location attracts the best of the best riders – both dressage and jumping.  SF, short for Super FLashy, his nickname, competes under his registered Thoroughbred name of Carni’s Last Stand. At 13, he is entering his prime for showing.  And this year he started earning his keep – literally. Thanks to an organization called the Take2 Thoroughbred League which is an organization created  by the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, the Breeders , and the Racing Association to promote second careers for retired racehorses. They give monetary rewards to the horses who win ribbons.

img_20170226_134342_462SF’s new jump rider, Miranda Scott, suggested we put him straight into the thoroughbred classes.  She had only ridden him three times and he came in sixth which meant a green ribbon and a small amount of cash.  The next day he went up to a fourth.  By the fifth day of competing he had a first and some “swag” which was a box of horse treats in addition to his winnings.  The 6th day brought two blue ribbons, a box, of treats, and a new horse blanket, plus his winnings. Such a good team!

Watching Miranda and SF learn each other is a delight in itself. Obviously, I am fond of animals, but a horse and human together when they mesh are truly magnificent to watch. A jump rider has to know how the horse thinks and when he needs help or when he needs the rider to just get out of the way and let him fly.  And in Jumping, one wins by no knockdowns and time. Miranda and SF cleared a course in the jump off in 30 seconds.  I almost couldn’t watch it was so powerful. A 1,000-pound animal of pure muscle flying through the air with a diminutive human perched on his back is the ultimate trust on both sides. For him he knows she will not intentionally guide him wrong, hurt his mouth, or ask him to do something he can’t.  Or her side, she knows he will never intentionally hurt her, throw her off, or refuse to do his best to accomplish anything she requests.  Miranda and SF found this balance in such a short time. I was very impressed.

She is going to continue to show him so we will see where he goes next – to Upperville this summer most likely after he leaves the warmth of Florida and heads back to Maryland mid-month. In the meantime, SF will show again next week so who knows what more swag he’ll bring back to DC!

img_20170302_093515_065Thank you again to Team Super FLashy – Meghan who cares for him everyday and is his primary trainer, Miranda who has now joined the team officially (the team shirt will follow soon) and Sandy Lytle who started him down his jump path.  Then there is Bonnie in Maryland who daily makes certain he is fed and watered and blanketed when needed.  Colin, Meghan’s 5-year-old who is SF’s wonderful friend and who is known for singing to SF as he leads him to his turnout field, His support cheerleaders at shows are also greatly appreciated since SF loves an audience!  So thank you to Lois, George, Mary Grace, Joann, Val, Tina, James, Amanda, and Don Dean, who took such good care of him when SF was racing. Super Flashy and I love you all.

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Super Flashy wins!

Super Flashy winning at the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) in Wellington, Florida!

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The president’s erratic behavior

8566717881_58f36f5a37_bAnd just when I thought that I was getting inured to the stuff coming out of the new Administration! An hour-plus press conference — which was so amazing and so full of stupid petty lies that one has to wonder, “Why bother?” — is topped by the pick for a new National Security Advisor who turns it down. Why didn’t the White House staff know that the retired Admiral would not take the job? That is very bad staff work.

I’m not shocked that he continues to lie about having the biggest victory in the electoral college since Reagan (George H.W. Bush got more as did Bill Clinton and Barack Obama) and that he got 306 electoral votes (he got 304). It seems as if he is obsessed by his loss of the popular vote. However, what is weird to me is when faced with his inaccurate facts, his response was that someone had given him that information. What???? And going after the media is vintage Trump so that wasn’t surprising, but asking a black female reporter to schedule a meeting with the Congressional Black Caucus when she asked him if he was meeting them made no sense.

The President literally looked and sounded slightly unhinged. It was even more so than during the campaign. And then he’s off to his Florida home to once again relax in the sun and perhaps have another meeting in public where classified conversations may happen. He is also going to have a campaign-style rally to boost his ego after all the bad news of his first month in office. I wonder if we’ll be seeing one of those every month?

I also wonder how long the Republicans in Congress will give Trump the benefit of the doubt. They want to pass legislation and are on the whole biting their tongues in public but how long will that last?

Now, I can’t wait to see what new, scary, amusing, and jaw-dropping antic Trump will do.  He hasn’t “pivoted” to Presidential behavior yet, but has remained the Entertainer-in-Chief.  I doubt that was why people voted for him. There are plenty of television shows for that.

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Happy Valentine’s Day!

The good news is somehow, someone got to the President and we are back to the “one China” policy. I’m thinking positively that golf with the Japanese Prime Minister might have helped American Japanese relations. We’ll see how long these policies last. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

But for now I’m focusing on Valentine’s Day. I hope all of you have a wonderful fun week with lots of love surrounding you – and a few items spread around that reflect the holiday.

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