November 30, 2013

Let it Snow...

Sonja was still out and about riding on her Harley in the morning despite low temperatures and light drizzle. As a matter of fact it was still fall season in the valley, but the surrounding hills and mountains were already snow capped.
So, in the afternoon we drove up the hills to get a taste of winter. This is indeed how we like our snow best… about half an hour away, just the right distance.
The sun came out briefly, as it often does shortly before it sets, and presented us with an awesome 'light show'. We were not the only ones enjoying the breathtaking scenery.
Our car did well on the snow and ice covered roads, we didn't feel a difference. 4WD and winter tires are certainly advantageous, and we will do a lot more exploring in winter, and it feels good knowing that our vehicle can get us there safely.
We kept trudging through the deep snow and had fun like kids. (And we don't even like snow much, as it prevents us from motorcycle riding…)
Public services did a great job keeping the main roads clear, and there seemed to be no shortage of snow plowers (other than in Vancouver area…)
As we were descending back into our valley we were again greeted by the familiar green and brown of a late autumn day. And we found ourselves thinking that we are actually looking forward to experiencing this Black Forest winter wonderland.
 Life is good!

One Last Ride!

The temperatures barely reached 5C (40F) in November. If it hadn't rained it had been foggy and damp, and with the humidity came the frost and the slippery roads. Recent rainfalls in the valley have turned into snow on the surrounding hills. Winter is definitely on its way!
The riding time for my Sportster has come to its inevitable end for 2013. I am not going to take the risk to have it baked in salt and dirt. Since getting my Harley street legal five weeks ago I have clocked about 400km. Given the time of the year, I'd say that isn't too bad.
Now the bike will be stowed away until March. Meanwhile we are considering putting winter tires on our scooters because we will want to ride in winter as long as the weather is fair and the roads clear.

By the way this is what we found up in the hills same day in the afternoon...


Ein letzter Ausritt in November
Der November war kalt und regnerisch, auch heute gab es wieder nur maximal fünf Grad Celsius und leichten Nieselregen. Macht nix, ich fuhr trotzdem noch einmal um den Block. Denn nun ist es Zeit, die Harley einzumotten. Ich habe keine Lust, mir all die schönen Chromteile mit Salz und Split zu ruinieren. Immerhin habe ich seit dem Segen vom Amt knapp 400 km auf der Sportster abgespult. Nicht schlecht, wenn man (Frau) bedenkt, dass ich sie erst vor fünf Wochen abgeholt habe, und das Wetter doch eher ungemütlich war.

November 26, 2013

Been there, done that, got the T-Shirt!

With Roland's birthday coming up, and our employers having forced some vacation upon us we decided that another trip to London was in order. One place we (make that: I) always wanted to visit was the legendary Ace Cafe in the northwest of London, a notable venue for motorcyclists, and former 'home' of the Rockers.
So, Sunday morning at 10AM we were headed towards Stonebridge, a mere forty minutes ride on the tube. Located in an industrial area, and surrounded by major roadways the cafe looked rather inconspicuous. No Rockers to be seen, just a handful of riders braving the cold and wet weather, and amongst them: Gary France on Amelia, his custom Harley Davidson.
It had been a while since we last met, and with Gary being a busy retiree, we were happy that he managed to clear up his calendar for us  ;-)
Here, we meet again!
Gary generously offered to sit on Amelia. The seat was surprisingly smooth and comfy, but I had a hard time reaching the handlebar. The custom details on his bike are simply amazing, and the motorcycle naturally attracted a lot of attention.
Roland was seemingly uncomfortable on the bike, and was reluctant to even touch it but Gary could convince him to pose for a picture. While mounting the motorcycle a curious bystander warned Roland about mounting the bike without the owner's permission, or else… well rest assured it was all okayed by the proprietor.

There is always something going on at the Ace Cafe. This Sunday it had been the Ariel and Classic Bike Day, but due to the time of the year and the dreary weather, there was only one Ariel to be seen, and only a handful of other vintage motorcycles.
I only got it on second glance: A David Harleyson? And the Enfield below was indeed sporting a bicycle pump.

The cafe's food was a pleasant surprise. Despite the diner style of the venue, I found several vegetarian options on the menu, and I even got a full vegan breakfast.
We chatted the time away and parted several hours later with full stomachs, and T-shirts sponsored by the man. Thank you so much, Gary. We had a blast, and very much hope to see you again one fine day (maybe we can even escort one of your tours through the Black Forest…).


Wieder etwas abgehakt!
Da uns unser Arbeitgeber 'gezwungen' hatte, unseren Urlaub zum Jahresende abzubauen, zögerten wir nicht lange und fuhren um Rolands Geburtstag herum mal eben nach London. Hier holten wir uns mal wieder unseren kulturellen Fix (siehe hier, hier und hier) und besuchten im Rahmen unseres Weiterbildungsprogrammes das legendär Ace Café, in den 50ern und 60ern ein berüchtigter Raufplatz für die Rocker und Mods. Heute ist es mehr ein Ausflugslokal und Treffpunkt für Biker aller Couleur. Wir trafen uns dort mit Gary France, von Beruf Pensionär, Autor und Organisator für Motorradreisen, den wir im Sommer 2011 kennen und schätzen gelernt hatten. 
Auf dem Parkplatz saßen wir auf Gary's Custom Harley Amelia Probe und wurden von einem anderen Biker gewarnt, dass man sich doch nicht einfach auf fremde Motorräder setzen kann… er hatte nicht mit bekommen, dass Gary tatsächlich der Besitzer der Harley war und somit alles seine Ordnung hatte.
Im Ace Café ist immer was los, so auch an diesem kühlen unfreundlichen Novembertag: Das Treffen der Ariel Fans und anderer Vintage Motorrädern. Wir sahen unter anderem ein paar klassische Triumphs und Enfields. Das Essen war erstaunlich gut, sogar mit vegetarischen Optionen, und ohne Ei wurde sogar ein veganes englisches Frühstück daraus. Wir redeten eine Menge Benzin und tauschten unsere Reiseerfahrungen und Begegnungen aus. Gegen drei Uhr nachmittags verabschiedeten wir uns dann von Gary, der bei Nieselregen auf seiner Amelia nach Hause fuhr.

November 25, 2013

Mummies, a Secret Tea Room and Twelve Angry Men

No London trip would be complete without a visit of the British Museum, especially with its Egyptian exhibition. So we got our ducks in a row (said ducks can be found in above picture!) and spent a few hours in the probably World's best museum. There is nothing here that isn't breathtaking, including the wonderful architecture of the Great Court.
And again we can add some Canadian content (in form of totem poles)!
The Pantheon
Colossal statue of Ramesses II and two Lamassu (Human Headed Winged Bull)
Are you my mummy? (quoted from Dr Who: The empty Child)
The Nereid Monument

When we came back out of the museum the weather was - again - wonderful, so - again - we spent the rest of the day strolling through the parks and the streets of the city.

Buckingham Palace
Green Park

We had a lot of (fancy) coffees during the weekend, so we thought that for once a tea room would be in order. Google Maps pointed us towards Soho's Secret Tearoom: You enter into a normal pub that looks like a normal pub. To be let into the tea room you will have to ask the waitress. She will point you in direction of a hidden stairway leading to the upstairs tea room, furnished like a tea room, with lots of tea china and tea pots. Very cosy! Difficult to find, but definitely recommended!

Afterwards we decided to have a look at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, but unfortunately we were too late for a tour (next time for sure!). Therefore we strolled a bit around St. Paul's Cathedral before we returned to the Entertainment District.

River Thames with the Shard in the background, with 306m (1,004ft) currently the highest building in the European Union.
St. Paul's Cathedral
We had tickets for Twelve Angry Men with Martin Shaw (Doyle from the 70's TV Show The Professionals) and Robert Vaughn.

The drama was very well played and beautifully directed, and we had no problems understanding the actors (although they spoke with an American accent…). Unfortunately this was also our final act in London; tomorrow we have to fly back to Germany!
So much to see, and things to do… London, we'll be back!

November 24, 2013

Meeting Gary, Tourist Stuff and a Birthday

Roland: I am actually not that much into Motorcycles, but I was really looking forward to having breakfast at the Ace Café in Northern London and meeting up again with Gary France who we met two years before on Vancouver. Gary arrived on one of his custom made (would an Englishman call this 'bespoke'?) Harleys with 5500 cc or something. The bike drew a lot of attention, and when Sonja sat on it I was warned by a bystander that I should tell her to get off it before the owner comes back (apparently he could not believe that the owner was standing right next to it). We had a lot of fun chatting all morning and even ended up with two Ace Café T-Shirts sponsored by Gary. Thanks a lot!!!!

We spent the rest of the day doing the usual Tourist stuff in downtown London again: walking up and down River Thames, strolling over the London Christmas Market at the London Eye and enjoying the scenery at Trafalgar Square.

Getting hungry again we started looking for a good Restaurant in downtown, but in the end we decided to ride back to Paddington to conclude my Birthday with a very nice Italian dinner at the Taormina Restaurant. I even got my traditional Birthday Chocolate Cake!
This was a very good birthday, indeed!