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Been on vacation - The Lyorn's Den

Tue Jun. 22nd, 2010

05:49 pm - Been on vacation

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I've had two weeks something of vacation, and went to the sea with flederkatz. Came back last Thursday.

My idea of a vacation is "go to some place you've never been before and then all over the place". A vacation needs a lot of moving to feel real to me -- be it hiking in Cornwall, driving through Tuscany, or taking trains across northern Poland. And I have never managed to go to the same place twice, because there are so many new ones.

There are two exceptions to both these rules, and they are Meran in South Tyrol, and Norderney in the North Sea. I go there again and again and actually stay in the same place -- the same accommodation even -- for the whole time.

Norderney is for the beach, but the beach isn't for swimming, mostly. Well, you can swim, the water is clean and fun and lively, but it's also cold, and has dangerous tides and currents. The beach, OTOH, is 14 kilometres of sand, and very few of those are busy. The town is large enough to have bookstores, a cinema, and places to get food after 10pm. That combination was why I ended up there on a lark ten years ago. ("It's too damn hot here. I'll drive north until I run out of road and stay somewhere fun.") And it's good enough to go back to, because there is nothing that I find as relaxing as walking for hours along the waterline on a nice, flat, lonely, sandy beach and listening to the waves.

Flederkatz needed some time away from home, too, especially because the floor in half her flat was getting replaced.

I drove over to Flederkatz on the Feast of Corpus Christi, which is a public holiday in Southern Germany. Spent a few days at Flederkatz' place, helped moving all the furniture out of the living room and the dining room. (That sounds as if her place is palatial, but is just has very small rooms.) Saturday evening we went for a guided tour/show in the Kaiserthermen (Imperial Baths). The tour guide is an actor playing some Roman for whom the place has significance. He addresses the group as recruits or trainees, shows them the grounds, tells them what is expected of them, and tells stories. We had already been to the tours of the Porta Nigra and the amphittheatre. The one in the Kaiserthermen was somewhat weaker, because what is left is mostly service tunnels.

Sunday we rose before sunrise, carried the sofa bed from the living room into the hallway (which nearly resulted in a Douglas Adams moment when the sofa got stuck), loaded the car, were on the road before 7 am and got to the 1:30 pm ferry with time to spare. It was low tide, and we saw a few dozen harbour seals on the sandbanks.

I was already very tired of carrying my luggage (you have to pack for every weather except snow), so we took a taxi to our holiday flat, and, it being sunny, headed for the beach as soon as we had dropped our bags in the living room and got our bathing suits, towels, blankets, sunscreen and books out. In Frisia, you have to use the good weather while it lasts. The tide was coming in with very nice waves, and we spend maybe 20 minutes in the water. Then the lifeguards were leaving and we occupied a Strandkorb to get out of the wind and catch the sun. We fell asleep, awoke freezing, and walked back to our flat, which had a very hot shower. And that was the only time we hung out at the beach, because the weather didn't get back up to nice sunny 17°C again until the last day.

The flat was quite large and had a very well-equipped kitchen, which set Flederkatz on a cooking spree. We had pancakes for breakfast or tea, and fabulous dinners. I am completely in awe of Flederkatz' ability to make salmon lasagne from scratch after five minutes of looking things up on the internet, despite never having done it before. I like to cook, but I know my limits. We went through butter like a hot knife, and it was worth every bit.

As the weather was not getting any better, I decided to learn windsurfing. (I had wanted to do that since I was nine and read about it for the first time.) After all, when you wear a neoprene suit, and you are wet anyway, the weather does not matter too much, and as you are practising in a shallow bay, you do not have to worry about the tides and currents. Everything started out rather well the first day, with a nice stable wind of less than 10 knots, and I fell into the water only three times. The next days, the wind got stronger and choppy, and I spent more time in the water than on the board. I was also very glad for all the strength training I had done, because climbing back on the board and getting the sail up again is no effort at all only the first dozen times. As Flederkatz had brought some work with her and did not feel like sitting around in the cold, there are no pictures of me falling into the water. Such a pity. (For you, not for me!)

Windsurfing and good food burned through the excess energy I have when I'm on vacation, and I was content to spend a lot of the time hanging out instead of traipsing up and down the beach like a nervous cat.

The last two days were again brilliant, and I got the board and sail under control reasonably well, except for a tendency to get too close to the wind when beating and then not going anywhere, but while I didn't manage to avoid that, I became quite good in getting back into the wind.

Monday, our last day, the weather was beautiful again, with actual sun and 18°C. I did the windsurfing test, then Flederkatz and I went to eat fish, and finally went to the baths. It's not a "public pool" really, it's baths. We found ourselves referring to the different pools by their Latin names. I drew a line at the steam bath, though, or better, my lungs did, as they refused to take in 55°C hot saturated humid air. ("Are you crazy? We are not breathing that! We could get hurt!") After a lot of soaking in tepid, warm, hot, and seriously hot salty water (with short dunkings in the cold pool) and some vegging out on the water beds, we were feeling comfortably warm for the first time in ten days.

The next day, it was cold and windy again. We were lucky and did not have to vacate the flat at the agreed-upon time (10am) but could have a leisurely breakfast and pack our bags with some semblance of order. The ferry ride back was a little bumpy, but we saw seals again. Despite it being a working day, the drive back went OK -- no traffic jams.

Of course, when we arrived in Flederkatz' flat, the new floor in a shade of institutional ugly was in, and everything not behind a locked door was covered with a thick layer of white dust. We had to clean before we could even have a cup of tea, and I insisted that we put the carpet in the washing machine right now. I did mention that travelling makes my hyper?

***

Interlude: Movie review

The next day we tidied up and cleaned some more, sorted a bunch of clothes, and in the evening went to see the new Robin Hood movie. My opinion might be unpopular, but I liked Costner's take on Robin Hood better. Both movies had cringeworthy speeches, but IME Robin Hood is a trickster, not a warrior, and I want to see him steal from the rich, not kill people in messy ways. The other members of the gang were comic relief -- not silly or stupid, but one-dimensional. The only drama (as opposed to heroic pose) came from the women's roles. Cate Blanchett was great (she usually is), and I liked the king's mother a lot. Prince John reminded me strongly of how he was drawn in the Disney version of Robin Hood, and that's a compliment. The Disney version is my favourite. The menacing bad guy was a very competent menacing bad guy. The gear and the images were great. I have this nagging suspicion that the film was created around its images. All in all I do not regret spending the money or the time (not so sure about the parts of my hearing I'm never going to get back), but impressed I am not. Plus, can we maybe find some kind of middle ground between made-for-TV polished plastic look and over contrasted gory "realism"?

***

Anyway, the next morning (well, noon) after breakfast I got Secunda on the road and managed to get home in semi-good time, mostly by passing the site of an accident after the accident but before the clean-up.

The rest of my vacation I spent doing the washing and, surprise, surprise, wasting too much time on the internet. But at least I wrote a story, which is with the betas at the moment. It's based on a true occurrence.... kind of.

ETA: Story is done.