Welcome back from the Holidays! It certainly looked different for the M.B. Henry household this year, with Covid keeping us from our usual travels and family visits. We had little to do but watch Christmas movies, and I also cooked us a nice big meal on Christmas Eve. But the change of pace also allowed us some time to reflect. On our futures, since next Christmas, we will be living in a different state and our holiday season will come with big changes once again. And our pasts, which have included many travel adventures in addition to seeing family and friends. 

Those memories and thoughts helped us get through a pretty bleak holiday season here in California, especially when we recalled Hofbrauhaus. If you’ve ever been to Munich, Germany, I’m sure you’ve heard of this delightful little pub, and probably visited it yourself. It has become a bit of a staple stop in the city, with its impressively sized beer steins and pretzels to match, along with lively German bands and delicious food. For us, it provided even more than a full belly. 

In 2018, we took off for a long-planned and dreamed of trip to Europe for historical sight seeing and other major tourism stops, but things kicked off a bit rough. Our airline had a shortage of planes, which delayed us by several hours in Los Angeles, then by several hours more in Denmark. By the time we finally reached Berlin, we were exhausted, frustrated, and two days behind on an extremely tight schedule we hadn’t budgeted any travel mishaps in. We also had some uncharacteristically warm weather to deal with in Berlin, with temperatures soaring into the high 90s and low 100s Fahrenheit. 

So you could say that the first few days of our dream trip, which saw us scrambling through blazing heat to get back on schedule, had us a bit put out. It wasn’t until we visited Hofbrauhaus that we finally got to slow down, smile, and let it set in that no matter what our schedule looked like or what we had to lay aside to get back on track, we were still on a wild adventure in a foreign land, and it was time to make the most of it.

So, this one’s for you, Hofbrauhaus. Thanks for the smiles and memories. 

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“Let Me Tell You Where I’ve Been” – Hofbrauhaus

 

Our flight to Europe was a mess, delayed time and again

We were a day and a half behind when we finally reached Berlin

The weather was hot, the city crowded, we felt lost and tired

We only managed a few hours before we got in the car and retired

 

But we couldn’t sleep, oh no, a long drive still lay ahead

To stay on schedule we couldn’t rest, no time for a soft, clean bed

We had to drive all the way to Munich, six or seven hours at least

And we had to quickly learn the Autobahn, that speedy highway beast

 

We didn’t reach Munich until very late, even dinner hour had passed

And we couldn’t much stand our tiny room, our sanity wouldn’t last

So we walked out onto the Munich streets, crowded despite the dark

We needed a place to sit for a spell, to try and recapture the spark

 

That’s when we found the Hofbrauhaus, warm and inviting inside

Wooden tables, music, and big beer steins, everyone smiling so wide

It felt a bit loud for my usual taste, but for food, it seemed like the best

Besides, I needed a chance to put my shaky German to the test

 

The Waiter frowned, looking quite tired, no English, from what I could tell

But I smiled and said “Ich Spreche Deutch,” (although certainly not very well!)

The man smiled wide, gave me a wink and a friendly clap on the back

He handed me a menu, helped us sit down, and our hearts opened up just a crack

 

I ordered a beer for my husband and me, and a pretzel the size of my head

It had been a long few days, I thought it would put me to bed

But then the Waiter struck up the band, and music filled the air

He also sent over a free platter of meat, and some samples of German fare

 

It finally hit me, sitting there, that despite the rough start to our trip

A dream was coming true before my eyes, with every little beer sip

A smile stretched across my face, my exhaustion broke all apart

The music, the people, the smiles, the food, it all went straight to my heart

 

There at Munich’s Hofbrauhaus, the adventure in me came awake

I felt at home in a faraway land, my nerves finally got a big break

When I think of the lively place today, I still manage to smile

With just a beer, some music, and a pretzel, they made me feel better by a mile   

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These photos provided by my husband Joel Henry. For more photos from our trip to Europe, click here.

To plan your own visit to Munich’s historic Hofbrauhaus, click here

TO AMERICA, WITH LOVE

Both my husband and I were heartbroken and sick beyond belief to witness what unfolded at the US Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. last week. While it’s hard to find much of a silver lining right now, we hope and pray that these unprecedented events, at the very least, provide a stark wake-up call for some badly needed unity among the people of this country. Because it will take all of us working together to end injustice, inequality, and violence, along with the other dizzying struggles before us, like a pandemic that isn’t slowing down in the slightest. As gut-wrenching as it was to witness, we know and believe that love is so much more powerful than hate. And that will prevail in the end.

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It’s a tale as old as time – or at least as old as the Great War. In 1914, on a frigid Christmas Eve in the middle of trench-scarred Western Europe, two warring armies took a time-out from lobbing shells and bullets at one another to light Christmas trees and sing carols together. A few of them exchanged gifts and photographs. Some soccer games with less deadly consequences than battles broke out. All in the middle of a battlefield littered with corpses, barbed wire, and shell craters.

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We weren’t that far down the Route 66 when I saw the entry in our guide book. “Funk’s Maple Sirup.” I giggled to myself, thinking it must be a typo. But as I read a bit more about this lovely-sounding place, I realized two things. One – the spelling was intentional, a small nod to the woman who preserved her heavenly maple farmland for generations to come. Two – this place had homemade maple candy for sale.

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Devil’s Den.

Just the name provides a good idea of what awaits you in such a place. Towering, jagged rocks make for difficult climbs while the sun blasts on your back. Hills covered with brush, snarled trees, and stone monuments linger nearby. It’s isolated from the road, and a perfect place to twist your ankle if you don’t watch your step. And on July 2 of 1863, this piece of earth in the fields of Pennsylvania created a whole other level of horrible.

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It’s a wild world out there right now. I don’t know about you guys, but I have found myself longing for somewhere quiet, somewhere green, somewhere peaceful. Since many of us can’t travel just yet, I feel lucky to have my many memories (and photographs) of the beautiful places I’ve been to give me a respite. So, this is a very special post for all of you out there who need something pretty and relaxing! 

“Let Me Tell You Where I’ve Been” – Titlis Mountain

Lush grass covered the mountainside

Rain swirled thick in the air

A pure lake where blue and green collide

Cool breezes tussled my hair

 

An ice cave beckoned, neon blue in tone

Dripping water echoed all around

The frigid air cut me right to the bone

And the tight spaces held me bound

 

From the summit I could almost see the whole world

Through the blowing, swirling snow

One of the scariest bridges on earth unfurled

I just tried not to look down below

 

But what charmed me most about Titlis

That heavenly mountain of the Swiss

Was the tinkling, plinking musical bliss

Ringing here and there, hard to miss

 

Like a happy chorus of bells and chimes

They ring all across the land

They cover the mountains, so sublime

Like their own special kind of band

 

When I first heard the soothing but strange sound

I looked all around me in wonder

What is that noise that is so profound?

Ringing everywhere, over and under?

 

It was then that I peered in the valley below

And I saw them scattered in herds

The grazing cattle and their cute little bells

Calling to each other without words

 

Now when I’m stressed, or sad, or scared

I think of a sound in my head

One that brings me back to a gorgeous mountain lair

Where I had hot soup and delicious bread

 

A sound that conjures scenes and sights

Like something from a fantasy book

Rainbows of flowers and snow-capped heights

A shining lake, and a stunning overlook

 

The cowbells of Titlis always chime

And I play them when I’m feeling blue

I listen to them anywhere, anytime

And now I’ll share them with you

 

Turn the volume way up on that video! 

Photos and video by M.B. Henry – for more from Switzerland and Europe, click here 

Strap in, ladies and gents. We’re going nuclear, and it will be a lengthy post.

You wouldn’t think much to look at the place, at least not today. It’s simple and sparse. There’s a big pond, frequented by honking geese and ducks. Summer trees whisper in the dry breeze. Cafes and businesses have popped up over the years, mixed with the few remaining older buildings. Lovely homes line a street that some of the locals call “Bathtub Row” – once the only homes with bathing facilities. This small mesa, deep in the desert of New Mexico, doesn’t seem out of the ordinary.

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Ashley Pond – Los Alamos

Until you come upon the small monument near the town center. Statues of two men stand next to each other, one in uniform at military rigid attention, the other in a suit with an iconic Porkpie hat – General Leslie Groves, and Doctor J. Robert Oppenheimer. They forever remind curious onlookers that this is Los Alamos. This is where nuclear warfare got unleashed into an unwitting world.

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When I was a little girl, my parents took me to visit the Little Brown Church in Nashua, Iowa. The church was built during the Civil War (makes sense, given the uptick in prayer around that time), and it still stands today. I felt immensely excited to explore a building that greeted humans all the way back in 1862. I marveled at the candle-lit, cozy space, imagining the decades’ worth of things that had transpired there. The weddings, funerals, family gatherings, baptisms, prayers, tears, and laughter. Even as a little girl, I felt such strong ripples of history inside that church. It was the oldest building I had ever stood in…

…Until I went to New York City about fifteen years later. There, I visited St. Paul’s Chapel of Trinity which was built in 1766. Back then, it was the tallest building in New York. Alexander Hamilton (“we are waiting in the wings for youuuuu!”) drilled troops on the lawn for the American Revolution. George Washington visited the church on his inauguration day, and he frequented St. Paul’s when New York served as the nation’s capital. While I stood in that building and looked out the window, my head spun at how the view must have changed over the years. What must it have looked like when George Washington, sitting in his pew (preserved still today), stared out that exact same pane, turning his wheels about our new nation’s trials?

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Where are my fellow Californians at? It’s a crazy place, we know, even when we aren’t in the midst of a global pandemic. Especially in Los Angeles where I live. Between crowds, traffic, and overall LA crazy, it can be hard to find any peace and quiet. And this year has seen a significant uptick in noise because of a very particular problem – fireworks.

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It wasn’t just the 4th of July, although that was quite a spectacle. Covid saw the cancellation of all the city’s official shows. But that didn’t stop pyro enthusiasts, professional or otherwise, from blazing up the night sky with flashes and booms. The minute the sun went down, the fireworks went up, and they didn’t stop all night. Our neighborhood sounded like Flanders in the First World War. My husband and I watched from our windows, and said our prayers more than once, when our neighbors fired off some top-shelf explosives from their balcony. So many Angelinos went nuts with fireworks that the Los Angeles air, already nothing to brag about, topped the list for most polluted in the world on July 5.

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It’s time for a poetry break. I know you’re used to my series “Let Me Tell You How I Died,” exploring the sacrifices made by soldiers and civilians in various military conflicts. However, I’ve decided to put that on hold for awhile. With everything going on, I just don’t have the heart to post it these days. The good news is I’ve been using the time to work on a new poetry series that’s a bit more upbeat for these troubled times. As an avid traveler, I’ve so been enjoying everyone’s recent posts about their past trips. It’s helped me travel all over the world without ever leaving my desk chair, and I can’t tell you how much these posts have made me smile over the last few months. They have inspired and comforted me so much that I decided it was time to return the favor.

A while back, I posted an article about a visit to a place call Talbot House in Belgium. This cozy space, and the kindly Priest who ran it, provided ample comforts for the troubled soldiers of WWI. In these troubling times of my own generation, I’ve found my thoughts wondering to Talbot House quite often. Since I can’t go there (or anywhere overseas) for some time to come, I decided to do the next best thing and put pen to paper, reliving my memories of this wonderful place. Here for you is the very first installment of my new  poetry series, “Let Me Tell You Where I’ve Been.” Inspired by all of you, these are poems about some travel gems that have meant the most to me over the years. I do hope you enjoy it.

“Let Me Tell You Where I’ve Been” – Talbot House

There’s a place tucked away in Belgium in the charming town of “Pop”

A place where all the crazy in the world really comes to a stop

Where it’s very quiet and peaceful, where the grass seems extra green

Where there’s a sun-filled room with tea and cakes they like to call “the canteen”

Welcome yourself to Talbot House, a friendly priest once said

It’s how he greeted the many soldiers who fought and cried and bled

He took them in with open arms, regardless of rank and file

He showed them compassion and gave them a shoulder, a place to stay awhile

A friendship corner helped lonely soldiers locate family or a friend

A music room and theater provided laughter without end

There were plenty of books for soldiers to borrow and pass away the day

Or they could stroll in the garden, where a petting zoo let them play

In the writing room they could post a letter after waiting so long

They could go to the sun-filled canteen room, for tea, cakes, and song

And a narrow ladder atop the stairs led to the best room in the abode

A quiet, humble chapel, where troubled warriors could take off a load

But the best part about Talbot House was the priest who ran the place

With his casual uniform, stocky build, and oh-so-friendly face

The boys all called him “Tubby” and he felt like one of their own

And for the happiness of those boys, Tubby worked himself to the bone

He broke strict army protocol to reunite brothers one last time

He lugged his portable organ to the trenches with all their danger and grime

He talked with boys and helped them process their overwhelming pain

He took them in and gave them a home, a place to stay dry in the rain

Hundreds and thousands of people walked through Tubby’s door

And he made every single one of them feel important and well cared for

All in his wonderful “every man’s club” in its quiet corner of Pop

It became its own cubby in history, that house where time seems to stop

A small corner of the big old world where peace reigned instead of war

Where soldiers could relax, make new friends, and escape all the blood and gore

Where a friendly priest who cared so much helped them with their needs

Who showed them compassion with soothing words and even better deeds

I never thought I’d see such a place with my very own eyes

But there came a hot summer in Europe where I got a most welcome surprise

I found myself ringing the bell of Talbot House, and a priest came out to greet me

He gave me a tour of the entire grounds, and there was so much to see

He showed us the garden, the theater and book rooms, the peaceful chapel too

The friendship corner, the old piano, and even the old petting zoo

Afterward I took a seat at a table in the canteen room

I enjoyed a warm cup of tea while the sun cast away all the gloom

Even after so many years, I felt old Tubby in the place

I heard his voice bellow a welcome, I felt him through time and space

I heard the soldiers singing and laughing, and banging those piano keys

I felt their happy smiles, I heard them whistle and tease

Tubby’s spirit is alive and well, you can feel it there all around

In Talbot House, where things slow down, and only smiles abound

And while I sat in his lovely chapel, he taught me something grand

Kindness will always win in the end, even when the world’s gone mad

M.B. Henry

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For more photos from Belgium and Europe, click here

To plan your own visit to Talbot House, or to donate to the upkeep of this incredible piece of history, visit their website

M.B. HENRY ON FURLOUGH – I’ve been writing up a storm lately between this website and a lot of intense work on my newest novel, which I have just begun querying. It’s time for a bit of a summer break! While our world travels for this year have been cancelled due to Covid-19, my husband and I will be taking a Quarantine-Friendly road trip in the near future, probably involving some nice tent camping and hiking in the wilderness. Feel free to follow along on Twitter and Instagram – handle @mbhenry1985. Posts, and visits to your amazing blogs, will continue in July.  Until then, my friends! 

Has anyone ever told you you’re crazy? You hit them with an idea you’re super stoked about, only to have them slap it down with a callous wave of the hand. I’ve received plenty of this as an aspiring writer, and those wave-offs can hurt. They can chip away at you until the doubt hijacks your passion and creativity. It takes a strong person to block all those “no ways” and “it can’t be done” chorus lines. Someone who believes in the power of their vision and what’s more, they believe in their ability to accomplish it. It takes someone with confidence, someone with smarts and boldness …. someone like George Ferris.

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