Practicing Good Behavior

Logo_morningjoeRecently on “Morning Joe” someone started a conversation about how society has become so coarse, rude, vicious, aggressive, and even impolite. What a surprise! Many of us have noticed this for years – crude language in music, road rage, random violence increasing on the streets. We even have a man who admits in his own words to sexually harassing women as our President. So someone suggested maybe we need to start teaching courtesy, kindness, and manners to the next generation in order to improve America and its politics.

I was amazed that these talking heads were just realizing that if we don’t practice what we preach, people don’t respond well and children don’t learn. It did remind me though that I need to constantly lecture myself that when someone is aggressive on the road I shouldn’t allow myself to get angry. I should take another deep breath and think of something positive and go forward. This is especially hard for me with cyclists who ride in the middle of the road and slow everyone down. I want to scream and yell and honk at them and curse them for their rudeness – especially when there is a perfectly usable bike path. Therefore, I resolve to immediately restrain myself and keep my blood pressure down.

Since I work at home I don’t have a lot of interaction with strangers unless I am driving to the horse or eating out. But I will also try to remember to hold open doors for strangers and say hello to anyone I see while walking the dog.

Small steps but if everyone started thinking more about others, perhaps our entire society might start thinking that we can work together even if we have different opinions and backgrounds. The anger that courses through so much of our citizens just tends to breed more anger and violence. All the major religions teach the equivalent of, “Do unto others as you would have done to you,” but much of the world seems to have forgotten that lesson.

Morning Joe has reminded me to think about practicing graciousness, politeness, and kindness as much as possible. If nothing else, it will help me stay healthy by keeping me thinking positive thoughts not negative ones.

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MUNICH, WIESBADEN AND THE NORDSCHLEIFE

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The last leg of this journey was first to the city of Munich to visit the BMW Welt and plant. Unlike the Porsche factory and museum, BMW was larger and the facilities greatly crowded so it was not as intimate a feeling while doing the tour. The cars were exquisite, however, and seeing the new Rolls Royce Black Badge and the history of the 3 series, one of my favorite cars.

In Munich is the wonderful Rocco Forte The Charles Hotel and a marvelous restaurant, the Dallmayr. As they describe the restaurant on their website, “On the first floor of the traditional delicatessen, you can dine in the finest possible style thanks to Michelin-starred chef Diethard Urbansky and the attentive care of head waitress Barbara Englbrecht.” They serve only 40 at a time and the tasting menu was beyond melt in your mouth. My favorite was the appetizer that was duck liver with shredded filet of beef and rum pot. If you go to Munich, stay at the Charles and walk to the main square where there is constant activity and around the corner, you’ll find The Dallmayr. It’s a 20-minute walk but it is well worth it – both to walk off calories that you are going to consume and also to get the feel of the cross section of cultures and languages that now compose Munich.

 

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The Dallmayr

 

Our last full day was spent once again involving cars – on the Autobahn and on the racetrack at Nurburgring. From the Autobahn, we got a lasting impression of not only how fast the cars go but also of how polite and carefully the drivers are even if they are going 180 miles an hour. They use turn indicators and only use the left lane for passing. A complete difference from the way most Americans drive on highways.

After the four-plus hour drive from Munich to Nurburgring, we reached our destination: Ring Taxi at the Nordschleife. This was where we were to ride as co-pilots with a professional race driver around one of the most winding tracks in the world. Almost 13 miles of curves and different elevations where professional drivers test cars as well as have races. We rode in two cars – a BMW M3 and a Porsche 911 GT3 RS which is a full on race car. It was amazing to see what a pro could do with these cars – whipping around corners and going flat out with a sudden downshift to make a corner or to slip by a slower driver with only a few inches to spare. Truly one of the most thrilling moments of my life, and it was fun to have the driver ask if he was going too fast and for me to be able to say, “Wheee,” and egg him on.

Here is how the website describes the Nordschleife:

“Since its construction (1925 – 1927), the Nordschleife has enjoyed a reputation as a terrifying and merciless route through the Eifel forests. An English journalist who visited the Nordschleife during the opening race on 18 June 1927 even concluded: ‘that it seemed as if a reeling, drunken giant had been sent out to determine the route.’ The Formula 1 pilot Sir John Young Jackie Stewart – after all a three-time world champion in 1969, 1971 and 1973 – was so impressed by the circuit that he gave it the name which it will probably never lose: Green Hell (Grüne Hölle).”

After that excitement, we spent the last night in Wiesbaden at the Hotel Nassauer Hof with a lovely few of an old building which is now a casino and concert hall. It is a small charming town and is only 15 minutes away from Frankfurt airport and is a much nicer place to stay than in Frankfurt proper.

Germany and Austria are definitely worth putting on your travel list – and if you like speed, you must do the Nordschleife in either a BMW or a Porsche – or both!

If you want to hear me jabber and squeal and have 10 minutes to spare, here is the site:

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Vienna: One of the most beautiful old cities

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Vienna is one of the most beautiful old cities in the world. In my mind, it rivals Paris although much smaller. For four days we explored different parts of the city and fell in love with the culture and people.

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We stayed at the Park Hyatt which is a converted Art Deco bank, and door overlooking the indoor pool is one of the old vault doors to prove the point.  It has been beautifully redone with all the modern amenities in the rooms – beautiful deep bath tubs with separate shower with waterfall and hand sprayers (and a full marble bench to relax while steaming yourself. The rooms are exquisitely decorated and security is extreme – keys are needed for elevator and hall door before you use it for your room. But it is the helpfulness of the staff as well as the wonderful bar and excellent food and the location that make it even more special.

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Within ten minutes one can walk to the Hofburg, the Spanish Riding School, St. Peter’s Cathedral and Opera as well as every famous designer store.  (One of our favorites was the Louis Vuitton that had blinking eyes on the boxes in the display windows.  Some would blink once then twice and some would do three and four blinks.)

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We were there to celebrate a friend’s birthday so food and drink, as well as fun entertainment, was on the agenda. This included a marvelous dinner at the Park Hyatt bar and dining room and we can recommend all of the menu but especially the lobster! IMG_8869It also included a carriage ride around the center city and a tour of the Lippizaner stables as well as seeing their show.  Seeing so many horses perform exquisite moves and riders who do not let you see how they communicate with the horses (including riding the horses without stirrups and having them leap through the air) is an amazing experience.  Since cameras clicking and flashes going off might disturb the horses, no one can take pictures once the horses are brought in to perform, but you can see from the picture of the empty arena that it is fully decorated and the chandeliers are such that they could be in any palace in the world. The riding school has a fascinating history that includes their being saved in World War Two by General Patton and Colonel Reed in what was called Operation Cowboy.

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Beef Tartar at Julius Meinl

While in Vienna, one must go to Julius Meinl which is a gourmet food store which also serves a great lunch including beef tartar and sausages with fresh horseradish and mustard. And the Opera House is truly amazing.  The acoustics are perfect even if one is seated in the “nose bleed” seats.  We were lucky to see and hear Edita Gruberova who performed arias from multiple operas and who added arias for seven curtain calls.  At the eighth, she gave up and retired for the evening.  One of the famous sites in Vienna is the Hotel Sacher (home of the Sacher torte) which until I stayed at the Park Hyatt was my favorite hotel there.  It is the traditional hotel and is beautiful and steeped in history and if the Park Hyatt hadn’t been created several years ago, I would have stayed there.  It is worth a trip to the bar – which is a dark turquoise and is very elegant – if you’re not staying there.

 

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Beethoven’s Grave

Some other things to do in Vienna if you are have time are: visit the Imperial Crypt at the Capuchin Church and Monastery.  It is where the Hapsburg Emperors and Empresses (as well as mere Dukes and Princes) have been buried for centuries. Even Emperor Maximilian of Mexico is interred there; go see St Peter and St Stephen Cathedrals which are beautiful); visit the Center Cemetery which is slightly out of the city but where Beethoven, Brahms, Mozart, Schubert, and Strauss are all buried within 50 feet of each other; go to the Belvedere which is an amazing museum a little off the beaten path but with glorious gardens; and don’t forget the Dorotheum which is the auction house that was established in 1707 and which has multiple floors full of jewelry, oriental rugs, statues, silver and furniture for sale or just to ogle.

 

Next time Munich and the Nürburgring!

 

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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

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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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