Search This Blog

Monday, November 27, 2023

OUR TRIP TO NORTHERN IRELAND - we are here Monday to Thursday

We left our Paris apartment at 5 am Monday morning and flew on Easy Jet to Belfast. The flight was very nice - only half full - about 90 minutes. We each had 3 seats to ourselves - and stretched out to sleep. The cab to and from the airport cost more than the ticket - $99 round trip.

We were in our Fitzwilliams Hotel by about 9 am - we did go back one time zone. They let us right into the room early. It is a very nice hotel - right downtown in all the action. We had a very hearty lunch at The Harlem - what they think an American pub would be like. It was old old - the food good - a little too hearty for me. 

Temp is only in the 40s - what does one expect for Europe in November! Sky was clear - but a little blustery. City Hall has a big museum on the main floor - we spent over and hour touring that. No charge. Then we did the Christmas Village Shopping which is right around the city hall. We didn’t buy anything but that does not stop Nancy. We are back in our hotel resting up for a second run. 

Tomorrow we are taking the train to Londonderry/Derry. It is on the other side of the country facing Ireland directly. This is where much of the Catholic/Protestant feud went on for 30 years. They are in a truce now called the Agreement for 20 years. Still Catholics and Protestants - do not mix a whole lot. Catholics are generally working class - Protestants were/are management - just like back home in the Coal Regions. Protestants go to public schools - 95% of Catholics still go to Sister Schools. They call it voluntary apartheid. 

We will take a black cab tour of Derry (Catholics call it Derry - Protestants call it Londonderry) the Netflix series - Derry Girls was filmed here. It is about 5 kids going to sister school in Derry - during The Troubles. They would sneak out and date Protestant boys. It reminds me of the school in Tamaqua in the 50s and 60s. I went to the public school in town and across the street was Saint Jerome’s School. For those 6 years - I never went into the sister school - but I had a lot of friends that went there - and we played together after 3 pm - until the street lights came on. I was on Lehigh Street - next to us was Gay Street - that was full of kids that went to Saint Jerome’s school. 

We will be here until Thursday - and all we brought is a backpack. That includes Nancy’s computer. She has classes Wednesday night from 6 to 10 - but it will be 11pm to 3 am here. She teaches on the computer - live! She has her work cut out for her. 

Belfast’s where the Titanic was built - it was the biggest shipyard in the world then. The shipyard is there and there is a big Titanic Museum - we will attend - probably Wednesday or Thursday. 5 pm Thursday we fly back to Paris. Se have 3 days in Paris - then 5 days in London - then we fly home from there. Dec 7. I like that we fly home all during the day. I cannot sleep on day seats - I wear a CPAP machine to sleep - and I do not want to look like I am a lung cancer patient! So in daytime - I can stay up. I have lost a little weight - and it helps my boney butt form not getting sore. 

The flight from Atlanta to Paris was full every seat. The seats were packed pretty tight. I envy those folks that travel in business class with beds. Our buddy Joan does that. 

We have no other long trips scheduled until spring. But that can change quickly. 

On Sunday I enjoyed the Paris Auto Auction. They auction off a beautiful 1990 Citroen 2CV - the car I covet. Lulu said I could bid - but I got cold feet. When I was young I wanted stuff so badly - but could not afford it. Not that I am 75 - I can afford it - but I do not need to own it. The only thing I have kept 52 years is Lulu. It is hard to find things in our home we have near that long. The car of my dreams was auctioned off for 18,500 euros. Some cars went for over $1 million. Many were in the $100,000 range. Some bike lots went for under $1000. It would have cost me $3000 for shipping and taxes to get it home. The car was 33 years old - one family owner - garage kept - only 17,000 miles - recent restore and paint. But you really must check - all bids finals - no refunds - there was a period when they would start it up for you. I visited the car 2 days earlier. It was just a short 2 euro bus ride from Keith’s apartment. 

On Sunday - the Everhart 6 - took the TGV train to Strasbourg. They have the biggest xmas shopping village in Europe. Lulu loved it. It was cold for me. The kids functioned the day - 12 hours - walking - no strollers - no carrying. The train was 300 miles each way - 2 hours each way - very fast - very smooth. That is the way to go in Europe. Last year for xmas we came over - and spent a week in Malaga - south of Spain. It was much warmer than Belfast. :-)

We check our home a pool by camera every day. Everything looks good. We had rain today in Tallahassee. The pools full to the brim. The cover stays on - filter is on - heat is off. It looks good. 

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

I owned a car like this in 1968-1969

This is an MGA - the car between the MG-TF and the MG B. It has a beautiful streamlined body. I bought a used one in 1968 - this color. Mine had a white top and disk wheels - not wire wheels. You did remove the wheels with a knock-off hammer. It had a 4 cylinder engine - and 4 speed transmission. You were able to hand crank the car if your battery was dead. 

Mine had a special twin overhead cam engine. It was way above my knowledge and pay grade when it came to repairing it. After I burned a hole in a piston - and had  it repaired - I quickly sold it to the next dreamer. I was stopped in it by the state police for not having an outside rear view mirror. 

I always loved small foreign cars. I am typing this today in our Paris apartment. It is sunny and cold outside - plenty of scooters and bikes are driving by my window - but not many convertibles. 

It was as close to a AC Shelby Cobra that I could afford. I paid $600 for it used - about 7 years old. At that time a brand new Cobra cost $6500 - that same Cobra car today can be purchased at auction for over $1 million. Guess who made the wrong choice. 


Ou est La Bibliotek?

The main reading room of the 
French National Library


Where is the library? I studied French for 2 years in high school. Then to get my teaching certificate - I tried again for 4 years at Kutztown State College. I was a horrible student. All I learned to say was - where is the library.

Yesterday Lulu and I visited BNF - Bibliotek National Francais. Think Library of Congress - but all the books are written in French. What a lovely building and contents. We even had lunch there. There is a separate museum upstairs for 10 euros - but I encourage everyone to just come to enjoy the library downstairs for free. 

Some ceilings in the library museum

The library catalogs more 
than books

Every seat was filled - 
many just using internet

Outside we have palm trees -
at 49 degrees north latitude. 

Wherever we go - Egypt - Australia - Japan - China - Brazil - Berlin - London - we always seem to end up at the library. Civilization all over the world has one commonality - the respect of storing important information. It is an oasis of common community. People enjoying learning stuff. 

We are here to mainly visit my son and his family. They have lived and worked here for 5 years. They live downtown near the Eiffel Tower. They have a beautiful apartment with a spare bedroom and bath - that is where we fit in. We stick around for about a week - then we travel somewhere else in Europe for a week - finally we spend the last week in London - before we go home. This usually includes a train that goes under the English Channel. 

My main interest is transportation. I love cars - trucks - buses - motorcycles - scooters - bikes - and trikes.  Throw in an electric motor and battery - and I am glued to it. They purposefully price gasoline high ($8 a gallon) with taxes in Europe - so companies design tiny cars - ever since World War II. For years I have been threatening to bring one home with me.  At home we have 2 cars in a 3 car garage. 

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

My Dad Lived Here - Miners Street - Seek - Coaldale PA

Pictured owned by Francis Otterbein


This is what my Dad's hometown of Seek looks like today. He lived there from 1916 to 1941. His house is long gone - it burned down. It was where that sidewalk is on the right. There is a two car garage there now. 

They were called patch towns. The mining company would built basic frame homes and rent them to the miners - taking the rent out of their pay. My grandmother Bertha Hontz lived there alone with 4 small kids. She made ends meet doing piece work at home. The kids would help. She later took a job with the Atlas Powder Company - making dynamite. 

My Dad's Number 8 Mine was about 1 mile down the road. His high school was up on the hill. He eventually moved to Tamaqua - about 3 miles away - but he remained loyal to Coaldale High School. He had a high school class reunion every year - and never missed it. He died at 66 of black lung - miner's asthma. He almost made his 50th class reunion. 

Wednesday, October 04, 2023

Cordless Robot To Clean Pool

Wybot pool robot vacuum

My apologies for not being up to date on my web page. People asked if I am sick - I am not - just busy. 

This robot has a battery - you plug it in for 2 hours - then it cleans the pool for 2 hours. It even climbs the side walls and cleans the border perimeter. It climbs steps too. 

You can control it with your iPhone - it has wifi. It has a 2 year warranty - it was $500. It is sorta like a Roomba but for in the water. 

Yes - we built a pool in the yard. A big story is coming when it is done. 

Sunday, August 27, 2023

The Fountainhead Hotel in Miami Beach - Honeymoon Site

In the summer of 1971 - Lulu and I eloped from our homes in Pennsylvania to Miami Beach FL. At the time South Beach was not the tourist hot spot it is today. The hotels were seedy places mostly occupied by senior citizens. We even answered a newspaper ad for a room for $69 a month - right on the beach - but we were turned away for being too young. 

We drove up the beach and finally came across the Fountainhead - with a sign in the lobby window - saying $8 a night. By our standards it was a really nice motel right on the beach. We did go back there a few times - each time it was progressively worn down. Eventually it was torn down. 

I typed the address into Google Maps. To my surprise - this is what turned up. 


Friday, August 25, 2023

Pool Bench Seat - Retaining Wall

This picture was taken from the northwest corner of the pool deck. The wall will be 2 feet tall along the north and west side of the pool deck. When completed it will be capped with smooth limestone. 

The space between the wall and the tent will be concrete pool deck. 

Bill got about half of the wall done today - the rest will be done Monday. 

Each step is closer to the pool being done. 


Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Pool Construction Project - coming Along Slow and Steady

Pool site is a mess and OCD untidy. 

The pool project is progressing slowly and surely. We are behind schedule due to weather - labor - scheduling. But the work is top notch - and it is going to be lovely when done. Right now the site is so messy - I do not like taking pictures. You all know I am OCD and hate disorder. 

Today they poured the foundation for the retaining wall along the west and north side of the pool deck. It will be a bench seat wall along that perimeter. The wall will serve as a smooth seat - prevent runoff going onto the pool deck - and keep the pool area clean. they also poured the steps walking down into the pool. they also installed the perimeter tiles around the rim of the pool. The pool walls will be capped by a course of Travertine Limestone making a smooth seat on the pool edge. The lines in the pool will also be made of matching tile. 

Tomorrow they will build that retaining wall. The next day they will shape the ground around the pool. Next week they will pour the pool deck. Then it will start looking decent.

The pipes and the wires are underground going to the hardware in the garage. The pool will have its own separate heat pump to heat the water. 

I am guessing we have 3 more weeks of work left. 

Will weaving the rebar

Northwest corner


Henry the hammer

Steel rebar for wall

The filter is in the garage far away

Clay soil is really messy

Steps in southeast corner

This is the west retaining wall

The retaining wall footer has steel in it

The tent keeps them cool here in Florida

Henry and Bill lay the tiles

Lulu chose these Tamaqua Blue tiles

The steps are poured concrete


Saturday, August 05, 2023

POOL PROJECT - Scuff Coat the Walls - Round the Corners


Rounding the bottom corners

This is where the steps will be

Lots of mixing mud

The pool is moving along slowly but surely. We dodge weather problems and labor problems. It is hard to line up things depending on others. 

Thursday - they scruff coated the walls. This will give the marcite finish something to grab onto. 

Friday - they rounded off the corners between the walls and bottom. This will make it nice and smooth for the wireless vacuum to climb around. It also eliminates corners for dirt to gather. 

Next - they will do a stucco coat on the floor - again giving the marcite some teeth to stick on. 

Sunday - we are doing trenching and laying pipes from the pool to the garage. We are also trenching and putting a new 100 amp power line from the meter to the garage. This will provide plenty of power for the pool heat pump - pool water pump - the salter - and our electric car. 

Next - we must dig and contour the land for the pool deck and drainage. The pool deck will slant away from the pool on all 4 sides. Rain water will run away from the pool - not into the swim water. 

Finally - they will trowel on the marcite plaster. Along the perimeter will be blue tile - on top of the walls will be a travertine coping with round nose. 

Tuesday, August 01, 2023

Movie Premier - Barbie

Margot Robbie as Barbie

We went to two movie openings in 24 hours. First there was Oppenheimer. Then came Barbie. I knew Lulu had the Barbie dolls as a kid. She let them behind when she eloped - never to see them again. I guess it is a lost innocence. So I asked her if she wanted to see the movie. Our rears were still sore from sitting thru Oppenheimer the night before. But Lulu is never a girl to pass up an opportunity - you Never know where it will lead. 

We chose a theater that has the red leather recliners. We arrived at 3 PM for the opening - and we were the only ones there. In the next 15 minutes many more came - but not the sellout I expected. 

Barbie is a dress up doll that started in the 50s. It is made by Mattel Toy Company. Disney owns the movie rights. It starts out as just one stacked blonde - but today they branched out to all races and professions - they even made a couple boy dolls. 

Lulu seemed to enjoy it - she laughed at many things that went over my head. The famous Barbie house and cars were blended into the plot. I guess it is some sort of cult and I am on the outside looking in - but it was fun seeing the joy and remembrance that Lulu had from those days playing with her friends and cousins. 

There was a ghost appearance of Ruth Handler - the inventor of Barbie. She died in 2002. Will Farrell was the president of Mattel. Barbie was played by Margot Robbie - the Australian that played Tonya Harding in the movie. 

At the end - Barbie has a sorta "Sandra Dee" moment - that brought a big laugh. I will leave that to you to experience. This is a nice movie for all ages - mostly girls. 

Monday, July 31, 2023

Monday Morning Removing The Concrete Forms

We have a beautiful blue sky Monday morning. After torrential rain yesterday - that delayed Lulu's trip to London - Bill is removing the wooden forms that shaped our pool. 

There is a lot left to do - but this really looks like progress. The tent is designed to keep the workers out of the "global warming" sun. It also protected the pool from the rain. 

The next steps - 

- forming and pouring the pool deck

- installing the pumps and filter in the garage

- connecting the pool to the filter

- running the new power line to the garage

- running the gas line to the fire pit

- and finally plastering the entire inside of the pool with an inch of Marcite plaster

Lulu will be gone for 18 days - which means I am the boss. Bill just called me a "free range chicken."