Happy New Year – 2006 Letter to family & friends

Dear friends,

Soon, another year will be coming to an end. It isunbelievable how time ‘flies’ faster than ever before….

Uschi and I are once again thoroughly pleased, health- andotherwise, with what the year 2006 has had in store for us. In fact, had itbeen any better, we would have started to worry… especially since we were ableto keep those occasional hiccups, common to our vintage, down to a distant rumble with the help of a gently increasing array of pills, potions and tinctures… I liked this opening paragraph so much last year that I am repeatingit also this year – it even appears that I copied it from a friend’s previous message; that is why I liked it so much as I myself could never have come up with such a nice phraseology.

The return from Nevis came in early April with our Swiss garden in good shape and already flowering with forsythia and a myriad of other smaller plants.

My usual Japan trip was highlighted by the coming to Tokyo, for the first time since he left Japanin 1993 for his studies in St. Gallen, of son Nic with his brother-in-law Oliver Kuhlenkamp. I was able to arrange a 1100 cc BMW motor bike from a friend and the two enjoyed some great days in the Toyo area, including a visit to Ryogoku (sumo with dad), tempura with the Sam & Hiroko Okura, yakitori with Mrs. Mori and son Taro, Teppanyaki with his old diving friend Hiramoto-san, and a great many others without my company. The two also made a short visit by bullet train to Kyoto and Kobe where they met many former friends but the most memorable visit was with Emiko Takeda of Higashiyama Sanso who took time out to show the two young guys numerous aspects of old Kyoto which I had never even heard of.

The top event of the year was yours truly’s 70th birthdayparty on July 15th. We brought the date (really on July 20th) forward to this day because it coincided with the last day of the Montreux JazzFestival. 80 persons gathered on the Embarcadero at Villeneuve shortly before 8o’clock on a wonderful warm Saturday. The 90 year old paddle steamer m/s Vevey pulled up shortly before 7:45 PM and the guests started to board, to be greetedby a 5 piece Jazz band. The Vevey “set her sails” at 8 PM sharp with jazz music playing and champagne flowing.

I cannot name all of the friends by name – only those who came from the farthest corners of the world:

John & Nora Flint from Sydney, Bob & Jo Ann Huthart as well as Max & Elaine Kaegi from Hong Kong, Joe & Martha Murphy fromNew Hope (USA), Bill & Valerie Brake and Anton & Kathrin Mosimann fromLondon, Karl & Brigitte Hoermann from Kematen (Austria), Herman & Loes Hedemann from Mol (Belgium), Annette Ovink of De Lutte (Holland) and of course my parents-in-law from Kaernten in Austria, as well as many many friends from all over Switzerland.

We all had a good time with fine specialties prepared onboard by a dedicated team of professional chefs in a the tiny kitchen. The gourmet dishes were served splendidly in the elegant Belle Époque Salon ofthe Vevey and the vintage wines served in fine crystal glasses were expertlypoured. A fine cheese selection rounded off the dinner with a great 1982 Fleur Pétrus.

Espresso was served after midnight with the birthday cake and patisserie – more than half was left over and was enjoyed by the Vevey’s crew and the chefs and the dining room attendants, they all more than deserved it.

All had a great time till 2 AM when the Vevey returned to the pier of Villeneuve where the MontreuxPalace deluxe bus and taxis took the hotel guest back to their respective hotels. Others drove home safely as most appointed drivers did not drink after midnight.

In mid August, we all traveled to Kempten, where we celebrated Uschi’s mother’s 92nd birthday on 21st.

On October 5, we started a 3 weeks trip, first for a week to Irelandwhere we had never been before. We arrived in Dublin where we rented an Audi A6 Diesel, a very economic but quite fast car, much to my amazement. We drove west, to Clifden in the Connemara district. We always stayed in B&Bs, bed and breakfast places, and we found that because of an investment law ending in 2006, this year many such new establishments had sprung up or older ones were spruced up. We had nothing but very good experiences, fine accommodations, mostly two beds, and great full Irish breakfasts with cereals, eggs and bacon, sausage, often home baked bread, fresh butter and milk, good coffee though mostly instant, mostly freeze dried, rarelyNestle (considered the best but also most expensive). We generally paid €30 to 35 per person – very reasonable for the fine accommodation. Internet access: none or very poor. The national provider first looks after the larger citiesand after real businesses… not B&Bs!

We took in all the sights down the western part (Ring of Kerry) with all 4 peninsulas and then the seaboard route to Cork, Waterford back to Dublin. All in all a great experiment. 5 daysof rain, that is why Ireland is so green, 2 very sunny and warm days. Miles ofgood highways lined with 10 foot high fuchsia trees in full bloom, a real delight. And dry walls to kill for – especially when I think how ours in Nevis has been built!!!

The 8 or so days in Portugal with our friend Julio de Sousa passed in a zippy. We had not seen each other in years and had a lot of catching up to do. Went to buy some really great shirts, no changes were needed. Unfortunately, the same Big & Tall Store had no jackets or trousers for my size, their largest items were just one size too small…

One day, we took their 8 year old modern train with atilting capability, which means when it runs at 200 km-h through a curve it tilts to absorb the speed’s outwards pull. It is a bit like the French TGV only more comfortable, with a wagon service that offers relax class clients a free newspaper and a coffee or a drink. It takes you to the terminal Braga in the north in 4 hours from Lisbon, with about 5 or 6 stops.

One rainy day, we drove with Julio’s brother’s VW to thevery famous Spanish pilgrim’s city Santiago de Compostela, some 250 km awayfrom Braga.Some people make pilgrimages from all over Europe to that City ON FOOT, some thousands of kilometers.Uschi’s cousin Rosi walked a 10 day stretch and that was only half the way on Spanish soil a few years back; this was in an organized group whose baggage was transported by a van from overnight place tothe next. Think of the lady friend of Cousin Sylvia who walked from the Zurich area all the way to Santiago, carrying all her belongings, closeto 1800 km!

From Portugal,we flew to London and first visited the Bradshaws in the New Forest for a  leisurelyvisit. They could not attend the birthday celebrations thus we had not seen them for a while. Back in London,we met with the usual array of  friends in a number of new restaurants which were all very exciting and very good but also exceedingly expensive, especially because the price tags had to be multiplied by the factor 2,4 to arrive at the Swiss Franc price. Our last meal was a delicious tempura for Uschi and a sashimi and sushi lunch at Zuma near Harrods, Uschi had a mineral water, I a 75 ml glass of sake and all came to a staggering £100, or over Yen 20’000, thus aprice like at Kyubei in Ginza. But I admit, itwas well served, and very good. I had chu toro and also uni, and that is of course expensive also in London.

Before returning to Nevis on the 8th via PuertoRico, we spent a wonderful 5 days with Joe and Martha Murphy in their Hilltop home in New Hope, PA, sprinkled with lunches, dinners, concerts, a catered dinner party at their home – we all had a marvelous time with them and their friends and the weather played a most important role – nothing but sunshine, first balmy, later biting cold as per the season, but no snow..

In closing, Uschi joins me in wishing you all a very MerryChristmas and a most wonderful, successful and healthy New Year of the Wild Boar 2007.

Willi & Uschi

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