Notes from Puzzle Palace

Friday, April 12, 2024

Another trip to the UK

Some of our puzzle trips are spur of the moment decisions.  This last month Peter Hajek was the cause of one of those. A few months back, I had bid on yet another Berrocal and won.  I thought to ask Steve to pick it up for us, but he reminded me that Peter lived right next door.  I very quickly emailed Peter requesting that he pick up my new piece and paid for the auction.  In the mean time, I had purchased another box of puzzles from Happy Puzzle Company and had them delivered to Steve.  Now Steve then went to Peter's for a visit and delivered that box there.  In the mean time, Peter very generously donated a collection of parlor games and puzzles to the WPC so we woke up one morning and decided to go pick them up.  

Now that sounds like we just hopped in the car and left.  In reality, I emailed all parties involved, booked hotel rooms and the Chunnel and spent a day planning the trip because of meetings and work going on in the WPC.  So a week later we finally hit the road.  Our trip this time was dull with not many extra sites to see because I wanted to get there and back because of the work going on here.  We always stop in Como for the night, then again somewhere in France before taking the Chunnel the next morning.  I messed up this time and we ended up in France for 3 days!  UGH!!

I also discovered F1 hotels. The last time we stayed at one, we thought it was ok so I booked again without realizing what I was doing.  I'm posting it here for my future reference.  NOTE TO SELF: NEVER AGAIN!!!  Yes, the hotel was cheap and the rooms were adequate, but after spending 3 consecutive nights in one, I would only recommend it to a college student, and grudgingly at that.  George looked up the average size of a prison cell in the US and they are bigger than these rooms.

The first night in France we stopped in Nancy Sud.  Talk about a nasty area.  The only positive was a big shopping mall across the road.  We had a simple dinner in the room, then went out to the lobby to play a game of Eurorails that we always carry with us. We had a bratty kid decide he wanted to smoke right at the door, with his foot in it so he didn't need to open it with the code.  Talk about lazy.  Anyway, we asked him to please close the door.  I thought by his behavior we had asked him to give us all of his money and clothes too.  He was incredibly rude to us.  But, another gentleman traveling with him managed to get him to shut the door.  

We had planned to have a lie in, but the next morning we got up and headed out.  I didn't want to stay there anymore.  We reached Calais and this is where I realized I made a mistake.  We were checked in to another of these F1 hotels, this time it was about 1/2 mile from the Chunnel station.  Not bad.  The property was the same, but nicer people around.  When I went to check in for the morning ride, I discovered that it was a day later.  Oh joy!  I booked the F1 again and went for a drive over to the Cité Europa to look for puzzles.  Bust.  Oh well.  Back to George for another game. 

And another day in the same hotel....

Finally, we woke up, I checked in and discovered we could leave a bit earlier so off to the UK we went.  We met with Peter around noon, had a good long talk, lunch, more talking, more puzzling.  You get the idea.  Out of respect for Peter's wishes, I post no photos.  

We left him around 4 and drove to the hotel we chose for the night.  This time we stayed at the Rising Sun Inn in Longfield.  I highly recommend it.  We will stay there again. It was such a quiet little place with an amazingly comfortable bed!

We brought in the game thinking we would play, but both of us were so exhausted, we went to bed without eating.  The fish and chips lunch was more than enough to satisfy us.  And speaking of, what is it with fish and chips?  Our friends in the UK love them.  I enjoy it, but it really hates me. Every time I eat it, I'm sick.  this time was no exception.  Around an hour after I went to bed, I was up tossing lunch.  It just didn't agree with me.  But look at this beautiful room!  

Again we had no lie in.  I wanted to get home.  I had gotten a message bout a rogue electrician who decided to pull wires out of walls willie nillie and was eager to return to sort out the problem.  We woke around 8 and I checked in to the Chunnel only to learn that we could get on the train 3 hours earlier without having to pay more.  Needless to say, we got up and left right away.  The ride across was uneventful and we began our trip home.  But....Once again we had to stay at a pre-booked F1 hotel.  I can see you all slapping your forehead.  Yes, I was stupid!  NEVER AGAIN.

We drove as far as Reims spent yet another night with this hotel chain and got up the next morning as soon as possible for a visit to Constantin Puzzles.  Again, out of respect for Constantin I won't post photos.  We had a tour of his workshop, George got to look at the laser cutters he uses and thankfully has decided he doesn't want to get one.  Those are expensive machines!  We were so honored, they made a lunch for us and allowed me to rummage through the storage area. Of course, I had ordered a bunch of puzzles in advance and picked those up.  While rummaging, I managed to find quite a few more that we didn't have.  

After leaving, we decided to stop in Luzern and stayed at an Ibis hotel.  I had booked us an F1, but this time because I had decided to pay a bit more to be able to cancel in case we were unable to make this short detour.  I cancelled.  I was able to find an Ibis and that is where we spent the night.  Much more comfortable bed, much more comfortable room, and only a 7 hour drive home.  I let George have his lie in and we left around 9:30 or so.  

You know that feeling you get when you are a long holiday and finally return to your home region.  When I crossed the border into Italy, I breathed a sigh of relief and began to enjoy the beauty of the country we have chosen to call home.  We had a very leisurely drive through Italy and returned to the castle around 4.  

I immediately went over and dealt with the rogue electrician.  Turns out, there was confusion as to who actually owns the building.  (Note: it is George and I).  Once that was established, I got the smokers out-we have clothes stored there and the smell....And got everyone back to doing as I wanted it done.  Problem solved.  

As we had guests arriving in a week, George and I decided to do a little more unpacking.  This time, it was the Mega Mansion.  Finally!  It has found a home under the stairs in the tower hall.  I think it is in good company now.  

The End


Thursday, April 4, 2024

Another interview and a visit from a friend.

 We have been busy since our last trip.  So much has happened since I last posted on my blog that this one is going to read like a laundry list.  My original intention when I started this blog way back in 2010 was to post weekly.  I decided though that maybe people weren't interested in my puzzling adventures so I only wrote about the IPP's I attended.  Since then, this blog has grown into the most generic puzzling blog ever.  The randomness is crazy even to me.

But I digress.  In February before we took off on our last trip we had a group of students from the Journalism school in Perugia stop by for an interview and a walk around the WPC.  Sadly, the articles haven't come out yet, but when they do, I will be sure to post them here. While they were here George was cutting Marti's exchange gift for G4G so we let them give it a go and take one each home.  

After they left, the work began in earnest in the Palace.  We have them starting the work on the elevator, the kitchen and George's workshop.  

WARNING!  You need strong fortitude to view the following photos. Or to be totally insane to do this kind of thing.  

Removal of 2 bathrooms

Start of the kitchen
Master bathroom entrance
Master bedroom
Master bathroom
Giant hole...

As you can see, all we need is a coat of paint and all will be just perfect. The Palace used to be an old hotel.  When we bought it, it had been abandoned for 12 years.  The rooms while in good condition, are small.  We wanted a master bathroom that rivaled that in Florida, sadly to do that we would need to gut an entire floor and there are too many support walls.   We are making due with a smaller master suite.   I love to cook so we decided to do the kitchen my way and not go through renovations in a few years time.  This started out as a small project and has grown substantially since we began.  

I continue with the driving school. I'm pleased to note that I have now completely translated the driving book and am beginning on the online videos from the driving school.  I've only 4 more to get through.  Piano, piano (this is Italian for do things {very, very} slowly).

The Tesla saga continues.  George had to have that car.  It is now April.  Seven months since we bought it and it is resting quietly in the garage waiting for us to be able to drive it.  We finally got the paperwork put in place to get the tags put on it when we encountered another problem.  George! He was walking around the building taking photos of the signs so he could translate them.  Turns out that is not a thing the bureaucrats like.  He was taken into the management office and chastised.  Thankfully Antonio told the supervisor that George is a bit light in the head and they had him delete the photos.  But this did not help with the tags.  Now we need to pay the VAT again in Italy! For anyone who can count, that is 41% vat on this car now.  Italy want's its share.  We had to go to the accountant to pay the VAT, and now I need to request the 19% back from Germany...Hopefully by the time my birthday rolls around again this year I'll be able to drive it for a few months.  Did I forget to mention that I'm a new driver and the car has to be garaged for 3 years while I "learn" to drive all over again?

And finally, we had another visitor to the castle.  This time Steve Nicholls came along for a bit of puzzling fun.  We of course gave him a tour of the WPC to begin with, then he and George geeked out and did the 3D printing thing.  Me? I cooked dinners and had some good laughs as well. It's always a joy to have friends come out when the nights are filled with laughter.  (And probably a bit too much wine.) 

George and Steve put together one of his A1 printers (when Peter came he put together the 2 A1 minis, Tanner put together the 3 carbons-do you see a pattern here?) Sadly, I have no photos of it.  

We did unbox quite a few puzzles.  I started ages ago with the library, and when Steve came over, he helped us with the chest room.  Having that little bit of help pushed me along and now the room is finished.  

Of course I had to let Steve have a go at the puzzle door...

It was a great visit and I can't wait to have more puzzlers come over and see what we are up to.  
After Steve left, Antonio and Elena helped us unpack a bit more.  Well, Elena did.  Antonio played.  
We finished unpacking in the apartment.
And started to work on the mirror room.  We have a system down now.

George made these brackets that hold the glass in place on the mirrors and we then used UV glue to hold them to the mirrors.  It's an amazing looking room now.  But more on that later. 

And that my friends is the last two major events that happened while I was busy living life in Italy.  Bureaucracy, driving school, and renovations are now my life.  Perhaps one day I can get back to enjoying the puzzling.  

Until next time....

Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Heading home

We left Nuremberg and headed out to see a friend in Austria.  Stephan Baumegger has been making puzzles for many years now and I have been a great fan of his.  We had recently just purchased quite a few puzzles and I thought we might as well go pick them up in person.  

He and his lovely wife we so accommodating.  We had planned to visit for a few hours, see the workshop, pick up some puzzles and head out. Instead, they surprised us with a wonderful lunch!  

Stephan did give us the tour of his workshop as I requested, and it can be seen here and here.  They are 2 very long videos but really show his layout.  Below are a few photos that may be of interest.

I was impressed by the  puzzles he had on the walls, and the chickens thrilled me.  

What beautiful eggs they lay. 

For the record, I did pick up quite a few puzzles, but they are as yet, still unopened. I'm trying to get on top of things with unboxing and packaging and so far, it's not working.  :( I need to purchase a new Lightbox because the ones we had in the States are on the wrong voltage here. After lunch we said our goodbyes because we had a hotel booked in Zagreb that night.  

Why Zagreb?  Well because we can now.  No really, it is because of the game EuroRails.  Zagreb is one of the cities in the game and we have decided we would like to travel to every city.  There are 60 cities in the game and so far we have traveled to 43 of them so far.  A few more to go.  

What surprised me about Zagreb was the number of casinos.  Everywhere we turned we saw them.  Astounding.  While there we took the time to visit the Tesla Museum that was a few blocks from the hotel.
It was well worth the trip. I wish we had more time.  Next trip I guess.

Our next stop was Bologna to visit with Dario Uri and get a book signed.  While there we took some time out to see the city.  It appears the Bolognese are worried that their leaning tower will fall over soon so we wanted to see it before it was gone.  While thre we saw a few other sites as well. 

That night we met with Dario and his wife for dinner at a local place.  The food was delicious and the company was amazing.  We had such a wonderful time.  The following day, they brought us to their home where they had a small puzzle party with a few of their friends.  We spent the night puzzling and Giusi made an amazingly large dinner for us.  It was truly a wonderful night.

As we were leaving, Dario and Giusi both gave us an amazing gift.  Dario gave us his copy of Uri Blocks to add to the museum and Giusi gave us a hand made hanging that she made. Both are now given space where all can see them.  

These are both truly amazing gifts.  

Until next time....