Notes from Puzzle Palace

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

DCD and excellent news!

We have our Permesso!  We have our Carta di Identita!  

The Polizia have made sure we actually live in the home we exit from every time we see them.  At the risk of getting in trouble, living in Italy is a game and we are learning how to play it. (I much prefer Eurorails)  We have our household goods on the move!  It's been a whirlwind month yet again.  This time it is all very good news.  Well, most of it. There is that little problem of the big house in Boca but that will be solved all in good time. 

It's been a long month with very little to report on.  We plug along here in Panicale until it's time to go to a puzzle trip somewhere.  And that is just what we have done.  We spent the last month just living.  I'm putting together a Lego Winter Village for the local school children...Did I mention, we are opening the ground floor of the castle.  George is playing Santa Claus, I am setting up a room full of Lego for the children to look at, and a room full of puzzles to play.  Of course there will be treats for the children and adults both.  We feel it very important to give back to the community.  We love living here and really want to be a part of Panicale.  

We had a Discord puzzler and his family come for a Sunday visit.  This was most enjoyable, especially since he cooked for us! It was a delightful visit and I hope they are able to return when more puzzles are in place. 

We decided as always. to attend DCD.  This was my 7th.  It would have been 9th, but there was that COVID thing.  I'm surprised that I've attended that few.  It feels like I've been going forever.  That's not a bad thing.  I really enjoy attending and seeing friends.  Oh, and the puzzles are fun too.

George and I decided to drive yet again.  I'm up to it and we both enjoy the scenery.  We are American and long drives are nothing to us compared to our European counterparts, but I must say, I'm becoming European.  I love driving, but there is something to be said about getting to the next hotel when the sun is still up. Our MO is to bring along the refrigerator and have a picnic lunch somewhere along the way.  Sadly, this trip we had a lot of rain storms so the picnics were inside the car. No matter.  It's more time alone with my lover. This too reads as odd as we are retired with no one at home. And yet, we always have someone at home. There is so much work going on.  

Our first stop was a nice ski lodge that we enjoy in Aosta, Italy.  This time we stayed in a room with a tub.  that was a hoot. The ceiling was angled so we could only sit on one side because on the other we banged our heads.  But we don't get it for the bath.  We love the views.  I can't wait to go through in winter and see it filled with snow.  But not until the pass is opened again. The Mont Blanc tunnel is closed until January and I do not want to drive the way we did in winter snows. It was bad enough in the rain.  

I've realized, I'm becoming European. That hotel in Aosta was 6 hours from home.  There is something psychological about getting past Milan on the first day.  The next night we stayed at an AB&B that was really cute.  George made friends with some of the other guests that were staying there and shared our bottle of wine with the Mr.  The Mrs. shook her head and gave a look.  I think she was a Puritan. (The Mr.  Tilted his glass in request for a refill unbeknownst to the Mrs.) 

It was a cute little place, I think we will add it to our "stay again" list.  It is 5 hours from Aosta and 6 hours from Oskar's.  Perfectly in the middle.  The Gite au Chalet in Laferté-sur-Aube, France is a full service place. Kitchen, Laundry (if you don't mind leaving with wet clothes after one night), parking, shower, no heat.  The 9 degrees in the room was a bit cold for me. We had a comfortable bed and a pleasant evening.  I made a chicken salad for us for dinner. With my lover and a bottle of wine, what else does one need?  

The next day we drove to Belgium.  There we met with Raf Peters (and his lovely wife) from Smart Games.  We had a nice few hours talking puzzles and mutual acquaintances.  Raf was surprised to learn that I had every Smart Games puzzle up 'till this year.  He very generously gifted us a few that I didn't have.  It was a very nice way to spend an afternoon. (Aside from the parking ticket caused by a slew of broken ticket machines)

The next morning we awoke and drove to Dan Haag so I could stop at the Lego store.  Ok.  Ok.  This has gone overboard.  I'm bored. I need our PUZZLES!  I've been building Lego since Christmas of last year knowing that if they arrive broken, it is an easy fix.  I have to be doing something all the time.  I couldn't do Crystal Puzzles in Boca so I picked up a Lego. Thanks a lot Krissy!  It's all your fault.  Anyway, I got my passport stamped-it's a thing! And then we headed on to Oskar and José's.  They are dear friends and have been putting up with the two of us together since.... 

Today is José's birthday. I shan't tell you her age, but I am so very glad she chose to spend it with us.  We had a lovely dinner at a wonderful sushi place.  

Friday we met with the daughter of Ivan Muscovich to acquire his collection!  What a wonderful addition to the library that would be.  (Edit, like the Singmaster collection, someone in the UK has told the family that they would like it.  So much for that addition.) No matter, the library is filling up nicely as it is. 

On Sunday it was Dutch Cube Day, our reason for heading up North again.  As always, it was great to see old friends.  We missed quite a few at the last IPP and it was catchup time.  We wandered the room buying up puzzles that would make a nice addition to the collection.  This year I didn't purchase too many.  The problem is, our collection isn't on display yet so I didn't want to purchase duplicates. In the afternoon, we listened to Ton talk about some cubing competitions and a talk on fast methods of solving. George and I presented on the progress of the World Puzzle Center and a talk on some of the IPP exchanges from this year.  I found that to be great as I still haven't played with that many.

Sadly on Monday we said our good-byes to Oskar and Jose and headed out.  Our first stop was Baden Baden to take the waters again.  This will become ritual for us when traveling North. The rest of the trip home was uneventful.  

When we returned, our friend Diogo came for a few days. He and George designed a puzzle or two and had good fun in the workshop.  As always, we had a lovely dinner at Gallo, sadly it was the last one of the year.  Something to look forward to in the spring.  

The painting is now being done in the hotel and the shelves will start going up soon. 

It is autumn now and the colors across the road are stunning.  I just love this view.

And, because I will be a new driver, we had to purchase yet another vehicle because I am not allowed to drive the Tesla for 3 years! We opted this time for a new Ford Transit van.  Small engine, lots of space.  Easy to park.  The downside? It's a Ford! :)

Life is sure fun here. 

But now for the really good news!  Our household goods and puzzles have arrived in Genoa!  If all goes well, we will be having everything delivered within the next 2 weeks!  Cross your fingers and toes for us. I need clothes.  It's getting colder now and dumb bum here didn't bring winter clothes when she came in April.  

Thursday, October 12, 2023

No news is GOOD NEWS!

 First, I want to say I've been enjoying the cup-a-soup that I bought in the UK.  Such a silly thing, but my meals historically have been a bit of cheese, some sausage and a coffee (no longer partaking of this delight) around 10 followed by lunch of a cup of soup around 1 followed by dinner between 7 and 8.  George is not a soup drinker so for me to make a pot, I would be bored senseless after eating the same soup for a week. "And now for the rest of the story..." (Thank you Paul Harvey)...

First, our beautiful new Tesla.  We bought a temporary tag to get it home. Home. Panicale.  Home. I like the sound of that. >>> And then the problems start.  We need to register it so we park it as required and go to Perugia to register it (45 minutes away). We rent a car because we are responsible citizens.  Then have Antonio drive us because we are intelligent citizens.  And then we find out we need all of the documents translated and apostolated.  Fine.  We did that. then we wait some more. What next?  Oh. Residency.  

Here we go again.  The Burr-ass-cracy.  We have our Permesso.  Now we need the next bit. We apply, but there is a problem. Too many nosey ninny's in the community have told those in power that we own 3 properties and live in each one of them at the same time. FYI: 2 are uninhabitable. One has no utilities and the other has now anything.  No running water, no kitchen...nothing.  We have an acquaintance in" town" help us with a contact of hers but this does no good.  Now we need our Marriage license apostolated or we aren't married (welcome to Italy). To do that we need to go back to Miami....And the beat goes on...


I purchased a new Ford Transit van because I can't have a more powerful engine because Italy has decided that after 30 years of driving I will be a new driver. I guess I need to learn all of the bad habits here like stopping in the middle of the road to answer the phone (not driving right?), rounding every corner striding the center lane, and never using turn signals are a few things that come to mind. Sadly, we can't pick up the truck until after DCD so we have to rent the car for yet another month.  

Until I have some news, happy puzzling all. 

Thursday, September 14, 2023

MPP and return home

MPP didn't start until 10, but I woke up early anyway.  I wanted to do a bit of grocery shopping and take some stuff back home with us.  (I can't get cup of soup in Italy and since George doesn't drink soup there is no reason for me to make big pots of it for myself.) I got what I needed and headed back to the hotel to pick up my lover.

We arrived promptly at 10 where we were first met by Kevin and then by Steve and Ali who had some boxes for me.  I put everything away in the suitcases and we went inside. This trip I brought along a WADA puzzle for Michael to see so that came in with us as well. I don't get the hype, but everyone likes them so why not.  

I really enjoyed this day.  I spent a good deal of time talking with Phil and Kyle.  I got to try both of their new puzzles and of course I bought them both.  Kevin handed me a few puzzles to try which I was of course rubbish at so I handed them to George.  

I really enjoyed this trip.  The guys  brought their IPP puzzles for others to play with and I had a go at a few.  All in all, I managed to solve 3 puzzles that day.  I'd call that a success.  Well, one wasn't.  I solved it, was about to move it to the base, and the thing went flying all over the room. Oh joy!  I know I solved it though.  

I was looking forward to a pork sandwich for lunch but that was not meant to be.  Instead I had a Cornish pasty!  OMG!  Delicious.  It brought me back to my childhood when my grandmother would pick these up in Door County and bring them home from her trips to Michigan.  I got a lesson on why they have the crimping along the edges and have decided I'm going to learn to make these myself. Why should I have to wait until next summer.  They would be amazing in the cold winters I bet.

The afternoon we puzzled on and chatted some more.  I played with Rik's exchange for a while then handed it over to Steve and George.  Later Ali came by and showed us what we had all just gotten to in solving.  It's a tricky bugger.  Fun though.

That night we headed to Allard's for a bunch of chatting. No puzzling really.  We did all enjoy watching Gilly make an autumn wreath.  Dinner was fish and chips as usual, and we took our leave around 10.  Tomorrow was another day of driving.  This time to the Netherlands.

We awoke around 7 and just hit the road. This put us to Folkestone a full 3 hours ahead  of schedule and as expected we managed to get on the chunnel early.  Our stop that night was in Delft where we stayed with Peter Knoppers.  Oskar and José bicycled over and we all had a wonderful dinner.  

The next morning Peter showed George his laser cutter and I have a feeling there will be a new purchase soon.  We left around 10 and headed for Khus.  Hendrik has been holding a bunch of puzzles for us for almost a year now so I thought we could drive up and get them. 

When I started the car in the morning, it made a bit of a screeching noise, but on the second crank it turned over.  Fluke I guess.  We spent the night in Lübek and drove to Hendrik's in the morning.  No problem starting the car.  

Upon arrival, I condensed the puzzles from 22 boxes down to 14.  9 of which we put in the car and made Hendrik promise that he would bring us the rest at DCD this October.  

He made a wonderful BBQ for us an we got to meet Matilda, his 1 year old grand daughter. She's adorable.  George played with the devil for a while, but around 3 we took our leave. I still had that lack of dash lights problem.  Once again the car made funny noises starting up and so I decided we just drive until we get to a hotel that has a Ford garage near by just in case.  

You have no idea how wise this decision turned out to be.  The next morning when we were to take off, the car would not start at all.  It just screeched at me. Ok.  I need a new starter. I suspected it, but was hoping we could make it to Italy.  No such luck.  I called a garage, and got a tow truck for the next morning.  

Sigh.  When the tow truck came to get us, the driver told me it was a broken timing belt.  Crud! That means a new engine.  We only paid €2000 for the car so a €4000 engine was out of the question. We had it towed to a junk yard and sold it for €100. Sounds cheap, but it did 2 (almost) trips to England, and it brought a lot of puzzles home.  We drove it for 3 months so that came out cheaper than a rental car.  

Now what?  Well, we are known to be a bit soft in the head, so we called Tesla while sitting at the junk yard and ordered a new Model Y.  Easy! 

Or not.  We were told the car could be picked up on the 12th.  It is in stock, almost exactly what we wanted (only missing the FSD, but we can add that later) She's a beautiful car.  Midnight red.  This paint job is amazing. As to the color you see, it depends on how you look at it and the light that it is in.  

But I digress.  The car is ready, at the delivery center.  Ready to be picked up, but....we need to register the car.  Normally Tesla would help, but because we are taking it to Italy we need to do it ourselves.  We sent the money over, paid for the car, and yet we wait.  It turns out the salesman thought we were diplomats for some reason.  I guess it was hard to understand that our car died and we were buying a new one on the spot.  Anyway, we had to spend 5 days in Berlin waiting.  So much for on the spot purchasing.

So we spent a day in bed catching up on emails, movies etc.  Then we drove to Leipzig to visit with Andreas Röver.  We had a lovely lunch and then George and Andreas returned to his flat to work on some Burr Tools stuff and just puzzle away.

 I wandered into town to see a few sights.  Leipzig is a city I was unable to visit when I lived here way back in the '80's.  It is a mix of old and new with some amazing churches and great sculptures.  I really enjoyed my wanderings.  I hope you enjoy the photos below. 

This is a chime for the clock across the road
My MPhil was on the 30 years war

Tallest tower in Leipzig

St. Nicholas Church

On Monday I went into Berlin to do some sight seeing and a bit of shopping.  Of course I bought a few legos to assemble and promptly did them when I returned.  I was here in the 80's and again a few years back for an IPP.   Today I decided to wander the streets where I was in the 80's.  Nothing remains the same except the KaDeWe.  All the rest was like walking into a foreign land to me.  

Kaiser Wilhelm Church
An amazing clock

It could have been a puzzle

KaDeWe: THE place to shop circa 1980's Berlin
The wall inside the European Center

An old Skoda
A part of the wall near our hotel

Tuesday morning!  We get to pick up our car!  Oh yipee!  NOT!  Remember that diplomat thing?  Well, they hadn't changed it and we are still waiting.  George and I returned to the hotel where I assembled the rest of my legos.  

That evening we saw the Berlin Orchestra play at the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church.  The pipe organ was amazing during the event.  This of course was the real reason we went. George loves that music

When we returned to the hotel we received the email telling us that our registration documents are on the way to the dealership.  This means all we need to do is bring them to a company who will in turn get us tags so we can then drive back home to Italy where we start the process of registering the car all over again.  Stay tuned for that bit of bureaucracy. I'm sure it too will be great fun.  

Today we got our temporary tags.  We picked up our new ride at 4:30 and headed to the rental agency to return the Fiat 500 that we rented.  A word of advice, don't rent one of these.  They have great storage, but the steering is hard work. Thankfully there was no extra charge for the bit of today that we had the car. 

Tesla in hand. The driving is as expected and I'm so glad to have a bit pickup again.  Actually, a lot of pickup.  I can get into traffic.  With that Fiat and the Ford I wasn't able to. Whose a happy girl then?  We got our Tesla for Italy. Now to do the paperwork. 

Tomorrow we leave for home. First stop: A junk yard to pick up some plates and a carload of puzzles.  Next stop: Tesla Florence to register a car.  And then home. It's been too long.  Here's hoping the reest of the trip is uneventful!