Dining Out Auf Deutsch

The same scenario has repeated itself multiple times in multiple countries.  The Reitemeyer family goes out to eat at a German-speaking restaurant.  I’m in the front and I ask for a table for nine.  I speak in German, because I can.

“Is a menu in German ok?” the waiter asks, and I say it is.  And then I think to myself, “Oh.  I wonder if they have an English option?” But it’s too late.  I’ve committed to a German menu.

Now instead of one illiterate child, I have seven.  Only unlike George, to whom I can say: “chicken, spaghetti, or pizza,” these other kids know that there is lot more than that on those five pages.  So, I spend the next ten minutes translating “pickle,” “onion,” and saying things like, “this sandwich has some sort of meat and some sort of cheese…are you feeling adventurous?”  They never are.

Finally, everybody figures out something to eat, and we manage to order it with my kids opting to point more than attempting to pronounce the words.

Shortly thereafter, never before, somebody else walks in to the restaurant.  The same waiter, speaking in impeccable English, asks if they would like a menu in English.  And then all the kids who happened to overhear this turn and give me that look instinctive to all teenagers conveying shock and betrayal.  Yes, they suspected I was a cruel and evil person, but now they have proof!

Our First Italian Road Trip: Pisa

Pisa is about 3 1/2 hours from Vicenza, Italy.  We had planned to spend the night, but, alas, last minute planning which left few hotel options available and children who seem to think we’re kidding about doing school work in a timely fashion forced us to make this a day trip.  A long, tiring day trip.  7 hours in the car, 7 hours in Pisa.

The first thing that struck me as we approached the town was how isolated the Tower, the Cathedral and the Baptistry are.  In many towns, these important structures are in the heart of the city with other buildings crowding in close.  In Pisa, the densest sections of the city are to the south, and these structures are well separated by a lovely green space called the Field of Miracles.

The Cathedral, or Duomo, was built first, and was consecrated in 1118 (yes, that’s nearly 900 years ago).  The Baptistry was built between 1152 and 1363.  The Tower was started in 1173 and started leaning as early as 1178.  It is typical for churches in Europe at this time to have these three separate structures: church, baptistry and bell tower.

We arrived in plenty of time to attend Mass, although Bill sat outside with the dog and went to the evening Mass instead.  Non-prayers had to wait in line and go in the main doors with a ticket, but pilgrims could go through the Door of Mercy.  No lines for mercy, people.  Lines for gawking, no lines for praying.  Non-Catholic friends who do not like to wait in line: please note that nobody checks your I.D. or asks for the secret Catholic handshake.  Go in, sit, enjoy.


John 10:9 I am the door.

The cost to go into the Tower was 18 euros, so we declined.  Personally, I had little desire to go up.  They say it’s safe, yet it is leaning more than 17 feet from the vertical.  It doesn’t look safe to me.  There was also a charge to go into the Baptistry and the cemetery, so we didn’t do those either.  I heard, later, that the Baptistry is the best thing in Pisa.  Maybe next time.

After Mass, we went to lunch, and after lunch, we watched many people taking their riposo (nap) on the grass by the Baptistry.  The Duomo was closed during riposo, which seems to be typical throughout Italy.  Except for gray skies and an occasional drizzle, it was a lovely day.

Everybody takes pictures of themselves or their loved ones either holding the Tower up, or pushing it down.  It’s the thing to do.  It’s very hard to line up seven children…much easier to do one or two people.

After we decided to not climb the Tower, we thought we would head over to the church of Santa Maria della Spina (St. Mary of the Thorn).  This church once held a thorn from Christ’s crown.  Once.  We didn’t know that until we got there, and the church was locked anyway.  It was a 15 minutes walk through town and across the Arno River.  We took a different path back towards the Duomo to see more of Pisa.

The church of St. Catherine of Alexandria was not locked, and we were able to go inside.  Bill thought the unlit interior felt empty and sad.  It certainly was dark, but it helped me to imagine what it would have been like to attend Mass there before electricity.  I didn’t take any pictures, but this link shows the beautiful altar windows which were one of the few things one could see inside.



St. Apollonia

We also passed a small church which happened to be the church of St. Apollonia, for whom I have a special devotion.  I only grabbed a quick shot of the exterior.  The interior was closed, but the note on the door announced that there would be a Latin Mass that evening.  If I were more familiar with the TLM, that would have been nice.  I would have liked to see the Baroque interior.


Palazzo della Carovana

The last part of Pisa we wanted to see was the Piazza dei Cavalieri, or Knights’ Square.  I learned later that the church on this square, Santo Stefano, has banners captured during the Battle of Lepanto.  I really could have done better research before taking this trip!  I suspect, though, that no matter how much research I do, there will always be things that are missed.  It was in this square that Florence announced to the citizens of Pisa that they were now a conquered city.  The Palazzo della Carovana, pictured above, had been the Palace for the Knights of St. Stephen (who brought home the banners from Lepanto) but is now part of a university (according to Wikipedia, the university was founded by Napoleon).


Some of the buildings near the Duomo


Part of the walls surrounding the Duomo


These gates lead to the Jewish Cemetery.


Mail slot.


George holding up the Tower. I don’t think he will succeed.


A plant growing in a wall crevice.


They really are not going to allow those dead people to get out.


This is how my men riposo.


Waiting for Godot.


A random door.


Chasing the 4 yo.


A neat building.


Across from St. Apollonia.

Just throwing in some other pictures from our trip.  Our final stop was to eat some gelato, and then 8 of us headed back to the van, exhausted, while Bill went to Mass.  The evening Mass had been listed as beginning at 5 pm, but, as we had been warned, the posted time is not always the actual time that things begin.  It actually began at 6 pm, so we waited, and even the dog passed out from all the walking.


OK, Kids.  We’ve got 26 hours to see Richmond.  Ready, set, GO!

First up: The Poe Museum (as in, Edgar Allen).

Eat lunch at a local eatery.  Yummy.

Next, visit The Valentine Museum.

Then drive down Monument Avenue and through Hollywood Cemetery.



We had a hard time finding this 90 ft pyramid.  Seriously.

It’s getting late.  Rush off to Maymont Park.


I didn’t even have to ask them to pose….they just KNEW.

Then, a quick trip down Memory Lane: here, my first job; there, my second job; the library; a friend lived there; the elementary school is that way; more friends’ homes; where we lived for 8 years (they painted the shutters and door purple); Dead Man’s Hill (fun to ride your bike down, but a killer going up).

Dinner with people the kids don’t know, but I’ve known all my life.  So nice.

Then get a good night’s sleep and eat a hearty breakfast because today it’s Tredegar Iron Works.


Ironwork to museum


Cannons made here


To bind up the nation’s wounds (Lincoln and son statue)

Then on to the White House of the Confederacy.

A quick lunch at Sally Bell’s.

Finally, back to the American Civil War Museum (part of the White House) to see things we didn’t have time to see before the tour of the White House…


Anchor of the CSS Virginia


Please buy me this, Mom.


Peter was sulking at lunch because I would not buy him this gun.  It costs $99.  George wanted the cannon behind the gun. 


The photo above was the last thing I really looked at before deciding we had to leave.  It shows men who had survived the Battle of Gettysburg re-enacting Pickett’s Charge.  There was no date on the photo, but it looks like it was done about 50 years later, based on their ages.  They have replaced their rifles with hats and umbrellas, their uniforms with the trappings of civility.

And that’s all we had time for.  Saving things for the next time we can go.

Beach Day

A month ago, we went to the beach.  I had been wanting to go since we moved here, ever since my neighbor mentioned watching the sunset at the beach.  Practically all of my beach going has been on the East Coast where the sun sets behind you as you watch the tide roll in.  Watching the sun set over the water sounded quite lovely, and not quite as tiring as getting up to watch the sun rise.

Of course, the first few months we were here, we were busy unpacking and dealing with a newborn.  Plus it was too hot to move, too hot to go to the beach, especially for a newborn.

Then school and kid activities started.  The only free days we had were Sundays, and Bill had to go to work the next day.  Staying out until 10 pm or later was not a good way to start the week.  Finally, Bill had Columbus Day off, so we spontaneously decided that the Sunday before was the day to go.

Fritz and Billy were camping that Saturday at a retreat with our Diocese, so we “surprised” them with our plans upon pick up Sunday morning.  They were unhappy.  I understood to some extent.  Spend two nights away from home, and on the way back you think about a nice hot shower, mom’s home cooking, and relaxing in front of the TV watching a football game.  But I think one son’s comparing us to slave owners went a bit too far.  Really, how many slaves owners “forced” their help to spend the afternoon and evening playing on the beach?

This is not a beach picture, just a random shot: Pirate George.

In the shade

Unfortunately, the shade had to block the view of the Gulf.

A soldier’s tan is similar to a farmer’s tan.

The Gulf is much more peaceful than the Atlantic Ocean.

It was a gorgeous day.

George was still pretty skinny at 3 months.

Skinny, but cute.

Love his smiles.


Ready for the rising tide



As the sun went down

There was a 40% chance of rain, but we went anyway, because at that time, there was always a 40% chance of rain.  The clouds did roll in, but the rain held off until we got back to the car.  And then it poured, for a half hour.  That’s the way it is in the summer/early fall down here.

I saved the landscape photos for another blog post, coming up next.

In the end, my grumpy sons apologized and thanked us for a great day.  It was so very hard to block out that family time, but very much worth the effort.

St. Augustine Road Trip

I have an awesome husband.  He stayed home this weekend, washed the kitchen floor grout, re-painted the kitchen table, ferried children to all their activities, and monitored the eating, sleeping and hygienic habits of our children, my sister’s children and our 4 dogs…while my sister and I went to St. Augustine for a few days.

He’s my hero.

St. Augustine is beautiful.  I must go back there.

In brief:

Got a great walk-in deal at the oldest hotel in the oldest city.  Highly recommend it.  (But why do the nicest hotels charge $10/day for wi-fi when a Howard Johnson’s does it for free?  Why?)

Met the natives.

Went to jail.

Friendly people.

Went shopping.

See explanation below.

Had beautiful blue skies.

The cathedral

Statue in the cathedral’s courtyard

Had some not so blue skies which gave us off and on rain.

The fort.

Considered napping, but didn’t.

Spanish guard room bunks.

British barracks bunks – for 4.

Overlooking the town.

 Talking to locals gets you the best tip on places to eat.  We had lunch and dinner based on recommendations from a guy we met on the trolley going around town.  Loved the cheese-ale soup at A1A Aleworks.  After vigil Mass at the cathedral, we ate at a place called Casa Maya for dinner.  Yummy.

Earlier, we reserved spots on a ghost tour/pub crawl that began at 830 pm.  With some time to kill between dinner and the tour, we went and got tattoos.  Seriously, I don’t think my husband will let me go anywhere with my sister again.

Actually, he doesn’t mind.  It’s a tasteful pair of roses.

And it’s just henna.

Sunday morning breakfast at the Athena Cafe.

This sundial on the wall of the cathedral tower would be correct if not for Daylight Savings.  It was actually 830 am.

 Quick trip to the landing spot of Pedro Menendez in 1565.

And visiting the Shrine to Our Lady of La Leche.

Saw the oldest tree in St Augustine, a 640 year old live oak in the Ho-Jo parking lot.  The one with free wi-fi.

A wall made of tabby construction.  That means made from mud and sea shells.  Do not confuse it with coquina, which is also mud and sea shells, but coquina is natural and tabby is man-made.

We did not drink from the Fountain of Youth, so I still have my gray hair.

Decided to cross the Bridge of Lions to see the ocean.  We got there just as the drawbridge was going up.  I got out and took pictures.  See that group of people on the side?  They had posterboard signs.  We asked them what they were doing.  They were waiting for a boat…

Not one of these boats…

That man’s daughter was boating with her boyfriend.  He was going to propose marriage.  Their signs said, “Will you marry me?”  Isn’t that sweet?  My sister and I had fun talking to strangers all weekend.

Waiting for the bridge…

Great day for boating…especially if it means a diamond ring…

Any day now…

We actually didn’t see the ocean because you had to pay to go to the park, and we’ve already seen the ocean.  Once or twice.  We went back to the historic district.

City gate

Just hanging out in the bay…ah, the life…
Magnolia Street – lined by live oaks.

The afternoon came too quickly.  We got to see a bit of the Browns game where we ate lunch (they were playing Miami, and we tried hard to not be too loud as we rooted for our team).  Then we hit an outlet mall, and came home.

They survived, but nobody slept…neither kids nor dogs, hence not Bill.  Good thing it was only 2 nights!

Museum Hopping

After the parade, we headed up the street to the Coca-Cola Museum.  The previous night at the Aquarium, we purchased “Pemberton Place Passes” which, for a minor discount, paid for admission to both the Aquarium and World of Coca-Cola.  Note that active duty military get in for free to Coke, and that the military discount on the passes was decent.  The truly nice thing about having the passes, though, was not having to wait in line for a ticket.  As luck would have it, there was no line for admittance at that moment, so we breezed right in.

Truth be told, I am not currently a huge fan of carbonated beverages, although I did routinely drink Diet Coke up until a few years ago.  Those of you with soda addictions?  I just don’t get it.  Coffee, yes.  Coke, no.  I thought the museum would be fun, and thought there would be a production line the kids could see.

I have to admit that I was pretty disappointed with the whole place.

For a view into the world of pop culture and Americana, I guess this is a good place to go.  And for that, it was interesting enough.  But I don’t think that Coke is “happiness in a bottle.”  There was a section where people could write their favorite Coke memories.  Uh…sorry, I have no poignant reminiscences centering on consuming soda of any type.  The Coke-themed wedding highlighted on their wall?  Don’t get it.

A Coke couch in a Coke ad room

There was a 4-D movie experience, which I thought was awful.  I hate 3-D movies to begin with, but what really set me over the edge was the simulated bug bite which was a painful poke in the back by some device embedded in the chairs.

The “production line” wasn’t moving, so you could read about what would be happening in each particular area, but didn’t actually get to see it.  The kids weren’t thrilled, especially the ones who can’t read yet.

I did like the section near the end where you could sample all the Coke products from around the world.  Unfortunately, it was packed and people kept hovering around the dispensers blocking the way for other people.  Very obnoxious.

If you love Coca-Cola (and I know some people do) and you love the Coke culture, then this is the place for you.  But if you really can’t stand corporate self-promotion and the attitude that their product is a part of what makes America great/happy/wonderful, then maybe you should skip it.  Skip the 4-D movie either way.


No salads allowed

After Coke we headed to Johnny Rockets for lunch.  We passed the 500 people standing in line for the Aquarium, high-fived ourselves for not being in with that crowd, and waited only about 15 minutes for a table (2 tables, actually) for our group of 11.

“Would it be wrong to order a salad here?” my sister asked me.

“I think that borders on mortal sin,” I replied.  “We’re planning on going to confession later, but it’s risky – you might get hit by a car before then.”

Waiting for a table








The bike rack looked like an old-fashioned bike

How we kill time while waiting


The last museum stop of the day was the Atlanta Cyclorama and Civil War Museum.  Months and months ago, my friend, Rachel, emailed me about this place, so I had it in the back of my mind.  I don’t think I would have ever selected it had she not suggested it.  She hadn’t been to it, and was wondering if I had been there.  Now, I can say yes.  And I think it was the highlight of the trip.  We loved it.  I admit, we are history geeks, and modeling geeks, and art geeks.  But I think most people would appreciate this museum.  (Oh, who am I kidding?  At least half of America would find it boring.  Not us.)

The centerpiece of the museum is the world’s largest oil painting which depicts the Battle of Atlanta.  It was made in the late 1800’s.  In the 1930’s, a diorama was added – that’s 3-D figures and landscaping.  The diorama is so well done that it is difficult to distinguish between it and the painting.  It really gives you a good idea of what it might look like to be in the middle of a battle.  Except not as smoky.  Or as terrifying.

Maybe they should make it 4-D and assault you with air pellets.

Two lucky people got to go out and demonstrate the scale

I wish I could have gone.

The tour guide said “No photos are allowed, but if you are related to these people and you do not take their photo, you should be shot.”  She was a great tour guide.

Also in the museum is the train that chased the Union soldiers/spies who stole a different train, tore up track, cut telegraph cables, and made a general nuisance of themselves for a day.  Disney made a movie of it: The Great Locomotive Chase.  Since it’s Disney, the historical facts are dubious, but the movie is fun.  We made the kids watch it before we went.  Apparently, Buster Keaton is also in a movie about it: The General.  We’ll have to check it out.


After the Cyclorama, we raced to Mass at The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which is a very pretty church.  We barely made it there in time for Mass, so it’s a good thing my sister did not have that salad at Johnny Rockets.

Part of the prayer intentions included praying for those who attended Dragon*Con and also that we would have an appreciation for our imagination as expressed in fiction (or something to that effect).  I think the pastor is a trekky.


After Mass, we took the kids out to the ball game.

The Parade

“You didn’t post a single picture of the parade,” complained my husband after reading my last post.

“Honey, we have 200 pictures from that parade.  I really think it needs a post all by itself.”

I’m not putting all 200 (actually 223) pictures here.  Many were blurry or we just couldn’t quite capture the essence of what we saw.  This is just a taste of the parade.  Like anything in life, you have to experience it to really experience it.

Evil stepsisters

Ahem.  Not what I’d want my daughter wearing for Halloween.

The Dread Pirate Roberts


Back to the Future car


Don’t you think this guy is too old for this silliness?

I think this guy is from Halo.

Nice teeth.

Pretty scary dude.


Some of these people looked like they walked off a movie set.

LEGO Darth Vader

LEGO Princess Leia

More great costumes

The boys were drooling

I don’t know if this guy was really tall or if he had stilts.

The time and money these people invest in costumes…

Princess Leia pushes a baby stroller.

Clone Troopers in kilts – a bagpipe band

Some thing from Star Wars

More trooper things

More troopers in kilts

 The parade was at 10 am.  I guess the convention began right afterward.  We moved on to other adventures.  Later that day, in the late afternoon, we were driving around downtown Atlanta.  I guess the convention was on break or done for the day.  Many strange creatures roamed the streets of Atlanta.

Waiting to cross is some very tall Star Wars (?) character

This guy (from Halo?) saluted me as I took his picture

It’s the Old Spice commercial guy.

I saw the Old Spice commercial guy during the parade, but didn’t get his picture.  That last shot was done at least 7 hours later.  Dude spent the day in a towel.  And no, he was not nearly as good looking as the real Old Spice guy.  Not even close.

We went to Mass that evening (that’s what Catholics on vacation do), and I did not see anyone dressed up.  My sister and husband, though, said there was a Jedi knight in a wheelchair.  Obviously, he had been assigned to the Jedi Warrior Transition Battalion.

Planning Changes

The whole reason we even went to Atlanta this past weekend was because we had gotten free tickets to a Braves game through my husband’s work.  We even had tickets for my sister and her children.

On Friday night, after the kids finally got settled, I lay tossing and turning in bed.  About midnight, just as Bill was starting to doze off, I suddenly remembered – I LEFT THE TICKETS AT HOME!  I was pretty upset (he was upset about being awakened).  And what really makes me mad is that my checklists, the ones I didn’t print out and use, have listed the item: TICKETS.  It’s a generic term, but very handy for all the trips we take where we have prepaid for entrance fees.  Had I used the checklist, I would have seen that and remembered.

I racked my brain trying to decide what to do about this: disappoint the kids?  Disappoint the adults?  Drive 3 1/2 hours there and 3 1/2 hours back to get them?  Cough up the money to buy new tickets?

Bill and I each offered to drive home to get them using my sister’s car, which had better gas mileage.  The only thing was, we couldn’t decide who should spend the day in the car (no fun) and who should spend the day with the grumpy, whiny children (even less fun).  A man in my husband’s unit was coming to Atlanta that day for a wedding, and we asked him to drive over to our house on the chance that we left a door unlocked.  Unfortunately, we were very good about securing the doors.  In the end, we decided to buy new tickets rather than spend the day in the car.



On Thursday before we left, somebody else in my husband’s unit who had free tickets (through the unit) for the NASCAR race on Sunday night in Atlanta realized they had a conflict and turned the tickets in for anyone else to use.  Knowing we were going to Atlanta for the Braves game, we were offered the tickets.  There were only 4, though, and it was on Sunday night.  We planned to come home Sunday night.

I called my sister and asked her if she wanted to go to the race.

“Now why would I want to do that?” she asked.

My sister and I were not raised by a NASCAR-loving Dad.  Dad likes football, baseball, and basketball.  He might sit and watch some other sports if he has nothing better to do, but if the lawn needs mowing, or the porch needs painting or the Sunday sudoko puzzle is not finished, I can’t imagine him watching a car race instead.

So I could understand my sister’s less than enthusiastic response to my offer.  However, I did point out that it was something she had never done before, it might be fun, and, best of all, it was free.

Still, she declined, and I told the unit to find someone else.  (Side note: the race was rained out anyway.)

This little segue does have a point.


In Atlanta, we went to the Aquarium on Friday night instead of Saturday and decided to shuffle the Stone Mountain trip to Sunday.  The big debate then was what to do on Saturday in the window of time where we were supposed to go to the Aquarium.  My sister’s friend was going to the Dragon*Con parade and she asked if we wanted to do that.

Dragon*Con?  What is Dragon*Con?

Dragon*Con is the largest multi-media, popular culture convention focusing on science fiction and fantasy, gaming, comics, literature, art, music, and film in the universe!

And they kick off their event with a parade of everyone dressed up in their costumes.

So I asked her, “Now why would I want to do that?”

And she pointed out that it was something we had never done before, it might be fun, and, best of all, it was free.  And I laughed and reminded her that she didn’t take the tickets for the NASCAR race.

But we decided the boys would enjoy it, and that’s where we headed on Saturday morning: to a parade for science fiction and fantasy aficionados.

The Georgia Aquarium

I had a jam-packed schedule of events for our trip to Atlanta.  I’m not saying it was planned to the minute, but I did have an estimate of how long I thought the various activities would take.

Funny thing about plans…

My sister was joining us in Atlanta (also staying at Kris’ house), and I called her after we arrived to see how much longer she would be.  The idea was to go to Stone Mountain that evening where there was a laser show.  Fortunately, she asked so many annoying forward-thinking questions about things like where we would eat dinner, that I went to the website and realized that they did not, in fact, have a laser show on Friday evening, their Labor Day weekend beginning on Saturday, not Friday night.

Change of plans.

I looked at the different places I wanted to go, and saw that nothing was open on Friday night, except for the Aquarium, which, to our great luck, was open until 10 pm on Fridays through the summer, and included a cash bar and live band.  My kind of party.

Barb had eaten at a place called Mary Mac’s Tea Room on a previous trip to Atlanta, and she called a friend of hers who lived not too far outside of town and had him meet us there.  Food was great.  They put us at a huge round table, which is so much better than a long rectangular one. 

After dinner, we headed to the Aquarium.  The place was lively, but not crowded.  No line at the door for tickets, not too crowded getting in to see the exhibits.  I did not appreciate this nearly as much then as I did the next day when I passed the Aquarium several times.  Each time we went by, the courtyard was packed with huge masses of people shuffling forward to get a ticket.  Thank goodness there was no laser show at Stone Mountain the night before.

Walking to the Aquarium.  Everybody way in front; Mary lagging.

I’ve been to plenty of aquariums, and this one was just fine.  It’s the largest aquarium in North America, so it pretty much had everything. 

In with the fish.


We didn’t see the dolphin show, but we did watch them in their tank.  One came up to Jenny and stared at her.  They really are neat.  You wonder what they are thinking.

She kept trying to hide.  Drove me nuts.

Petting the anemones.

I really liked going into the penguin exhibit.  You have to crawl, which is no fun, but in one part there are places you can stand up and be at eye level with the penguins.  The best part of this was being outside the tunnel and watching the penguins watch the humans pop up.  I imagine they thought the humans were pretty neat, maybe even wondered what the humans were thinking…

Fish tunnel.

Pretty big dude.
Uh, Mom, I think I’m a little too close to these guys.

Even though we left the aquarium late, we still had to tell certain children to settle down and go to sleep. 

My favorite part.  SIT and watch.