Musings of Geri Dreiling Writing about places, people, lessons and life Sat, 29 Aug 2015 17:45:44 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Three Hungry Swans Sat, 29 Aug 2015 17:22:33 +0000 Three hungry swans looking for breakfast. Saturday morning in St. Louis’ Lafayette Park.

After a jog, we watched a grandfather and grandson feed the ducks and geese. The duo kindly threw some food in front of me so I could get a close-up.

A lovely way to start the weekend.

Three swans_blog

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An Eternal Garden in Granada Mon, 11 Aug 2014 15:59:05 +0000 Looking back as life moves forward

By Geri L. Dreiling

White rose small

“I am a garden adorned by beauty: 
my being will know whether you look at my beauty.”

Poem in the Hall of the Two Sisters at the Alhambra 

The idea that popped into my head was, admittedly, a strange one. The day after I visited the Alhambra and the Generalife in July, it suddenly occurred to me that if I could choose a place to haunt in the afterlife, it would be the gardens of the Alhambra in Granada, Spain.

I imagined my ghostly self roaming the gardens of this historic site at sunrise and sunset; strolling alongside the man-made irrigation canals that the Moorish rulers devised — and that are still used — to sustain life. Perhaps at one of the pools or fountains, or even in the Court of the Water Channel, I might come across an emir, artist, poet or gardener who had originally created or delighted in these spaces and could not resist the pull of the peacefulness and beauty.

In reality, it is a Monday in August. Back-to-school preparations, with all of the anxiety and excitement that they bring, are in full swing. Life, like the water that rushes through the Alhambra and Generalife, flows forward. And yet, I can’t resist taking a few moments to look back with gratitude at some scenes from an extraordinary summer.


Court of the Water Channels

Court of the Water Channels

Rose small

Living arches small

Yellow flowers small

Pathway small

Tiny white flowers small

Arched green walls small

Orange trees small



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Postcard Pic: The Alhambra Wed, 30 Jul 2014 11:07:18 +0000 By Geri L. Dreiling

“I gave myself up, during my sojourn in the Alhambra, to all the romantic and fabulous traditions connected with the pile. I lived in the midst of an Arabian tale, and shut my eyes, as much as possible, to every thing that called me back to every-day life; and if there is any country in Europe where one can do so, it is in poor, wild, legendary, proud-spirited, romantic Spain….”

                                   — Washington Irving, Tales of the Alhambra

Archway Alhambra Purple Vine Cropped small

In the gardens of the Alhambra

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Gypsy Curses and other Random Notes Tue, 29 Jul 2014 12:13:23 +0000 By Geri L. Dreiling

I returned from Spain just after midnight on Wednesday. Since then, I’ve been catching up on work, sorting mail,  restocking the refrigerator, mowing the lawn, pulling weeds and replacing crispy twigs with new plants in my flower boxes.

Like all great trips that come to an end, the visit now has a dreamlike quality. I still have much to write and little time to do so. I will probably just post a picture a day from here to eternity.

Here are a few random notes and observations from my time in Spain:

  1. Bimbo is a brand of bread.Bimbo
  2. “Do you want to sleep with me?” is the tagline for a hotel in Madrid.sleep with me hotel
  3. Take a photo of a building that houses the judicial branch that investigates political corruption and you could make a few people upset. Note that I was on a public sidewalk, there were no signs prohibiting photos and the red box in the photo invites the public to leave comments.banning photo
  4. It could be the camera. It could be speaking in English. It could be the blonde hair. It is probably all three. I am definitely an easy mark as a tourist. I declined offers of rosemary from women standing on the street in Granada. If you believe in gypsy curses, you may want to avoid me for a while. (Yes, Enrique was also cursed.  As a result, he gets to smooth over incidents similar to the one listed in number three.)
  5. Pews in 16th-century churches are not friendly to 21st-century backsides.Enrique Granada Church
  6. Nap before a Spanish wedding. The wedding was at 8:15 pm. Because we had a train to catch at 9 in the morning, we left at 3 am. I believe the festivities went until 5 a.m.Granada church
  7. Watching a live flamenco performance in Andalusia, the region where it was born, is amazing. A riveting and passionate art form. (I highly recommend Casa del Arte Flamenco in Granada.)Case del Arte Flamenco
  8. Sangria is certainly a delicious way to combat the Andalusian heat.Flamenco statue
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The Spell of the Alhambra Sat, 19 Jul 2014 16:40:18 +0000 By Geri L. Dreiling

Who can resist the spell of the Alhambra? Painters, writers, poets and kings have succumbed to its magic. Washington Irving was bewitched by it when he wrote, “Tales of the Alhambra.” Joaquin Sorolla was inspired to paint the Alhambra’s archways and reflecting pools. Francisco Villaespesa penned a collection of sonnets titled, “The Charm of the Alhambra. ” 

Alhambra reflection small

Located at the southern edge of Spain in Granada,  the Alhambra is a palace and fortress that dates back to the 13th century, when much of Spain was under the control of the Moors. During the reconquest of Spain, Granada was the last stronghold of the Moorish empire.

columns and arches small

In 1492, the same year that Isabel financed the expedition of Christopher Columbus, she and her husband, Ferdinand, defeated the Moors at Granada. Legend has it that when Muhammad XII of Granada looked at the Alhambra for the last time, he wept. His mother’s response:  “Thou dost weep like a woman for what thou couldst not defend as a man.”

arches of color small

The conquerors were also moved. Soon after the fall of the Alhambra, the Catholic Kings began extensive repairs to the Arabic palace. In 1526, Charles V built his own palace near the Alhambra after visiting it. Napoleon’s troops inhabited Granada from 1808 to 1812. The French restored some of the Alhambra but, according to legend, they tried to blow up the entire complex as they retreated in 1812.  Jose Garcia, a disabled Spanish soldier,  is said to have singlehandedly thwarted the attempt.

detailed arches small

A day after touring my tour of Alhambra, I am still struggling to process all that I saw. A plaque quoting Villaespesa  can be found at the Alhambra’s Gate of Pomegranates. Villaespesa praised the creator of the Alhambra and pays tribute to its eternal beauty.

A portion of the plaque reads:  

“Though the shadows of these walls have long since gone, the memory of them will live on as the final refuge of dreams and art. And then the last nightingale to breathe on this earth will build its nest and sing its farewell song among the glorious ruins of the Alhambra.”

columns and tree small

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A Glimpse of Life in Madrid Wed, 16 Jul 2014 20:00:06 +0000 By Geri L. Dreiling

The sound of a broom sweeping across the sidewalk. It is one of the routine morning noises that I have grown fond of hearing during my stay in Madrid.

Today, as I drank my watered-down espresso, I looked out the open balcony doors and watched an older woman with dark short hair dressed in a black-and-white striped shirt and long jean skirt sweeping in front of a condo building across the street. The trees have been shedding small, greenish-yellow flakes. With a determined push of the brush, she guided the flakes into grates or out into the street. Then she dumped water from her bucket and cleaned the sidewalk again with her broom.

Pug and flakes

I will miss the apartment I’ve called home for the past two weeks. In my other trips to Madrid, I have stayed in areas favored by tourists. This time, we used airbnb to rent a lovely condo in the heart of Madrid inhabited by locals. The bakery clerks now know us — the curious American-Spanish couple — by sight. I can find my way around the small grocery market. I’ve visited the nail salon. And I’ve only had to walk five minutes to get to these places.  

Our flat is not large yet we managed to have a small dinner party on Saturday night with a few of Enrique’s friends: A 2D and 3D animator who has this video that has been making the rounds among students at Stan Winston School; a level-headed, patient woman who works for a call center; and a young man with the heart of a writer who plans to head to business school in the hopes of finding a job in the truly difficult Spanish economy where the official unemployment rate hovers around 25 percent.

Square of Columbus

 Our guests arrived around 7 p.m. and stayed until 3 a.m. That we talked so long is impressive given the fact that, as I mentioned before, my Spanish is limited. Fortunately, our guests had more mastery of English than I had of Spanish. And Enrique is the consummate translator  who is ready to leap in and help when we couldn’t find the right words to say what we wanted.  When our guests left, the metro had already closed for the night and yet they had no qualms about embarking on the 40-minute walk across Madrid to get back home.

And that brings me to one final observation. Living in St. Louis, I know very well what a gunshot ringing out in the middle of the night sounds like.  I have yet to hear that noise in Madrid –a city with about 3.3 million inhabitants and a metro area with about 6.5 million people.  

couples walking

Tomorrow, we leave Madrid, where traditional European architecture abounds, and head by train for Granada, where the Moors left their mark. 


Post office

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Pan and Queso Tue, 08 Jul 2014 09:51:33 +0000 A delicious daily routine in Madrid

By Geri L. Dreiling

Having a bakery next door is a wonderful — and dangerous — thing.  

flat & bakery small

I’m staying in a quaint, second-floor flat with three balconies in the heart of Madrid. The bedroom has a balcony, the kitchen has a balcony and there’s a balcony off the combined living and dining room. Just outside the building is a bakery filled with pistolas or loaves of bread that look like fat baguettes, and all manner of sweet items like cakes and brownies, as well as savory items like empanadas and sandwiches.

flat second view small

I’ve been here since Thursday. Each day, we pick up a fresh pistola which is .5 euros or about 68 cents, then pair it with a semi-cured soft sheep cheese from Madrid called Campo Real, or a creamy Galician cheese known as Tetilla — shaped liked the name suggests.

Bakery small

The grocery market is about a block away. Next to it, there’s a well-stocked fruit and vegetable shop. Because all of the stores are so close, we walk. A lot. And that, of course, is a good thing when a bakery is just five steps away.

Bakery inside small



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A Stroll Around Algete, Spain Sun, 06 Jul 2014 13:34:02 +0000 A charming town, a complicated past

By Geri L. Dreiling

Spending time outside in the sun is said to help travelers recover from jet lag. And so, after arriving in Spain on Wednesday, I went for a late evening stroll around Algete (al-het-ay) with Enrique.

About 45 minutes northeast of Madrid, Algete is somewhat similar to a far-flung suburb — but with a complicated past.  Traces of the Visigoths and remnants of Roman villages have been found in Algete.  In 720, a Moorish leader left a military company on the banks of the Jarama river and the place was called Al-Satt. In 1081, King Alphonso VI entered the area as a part of the reconquest of Spain by the Catholic rulers.

In the more recent history of the town, the Republican Army used the church during the Spanish Civil War as a logistics center. Eventually, the town was overtaken by General Franco’s National Army. Dictatorship gave way to a democracy after Franco’s death in 1975.

The town now has a population of just over 17,000. Condos and new apartment buildings have sprung up around a much older city center.

Here are some photos I took around 8 pm, and there was still about an hour of daylight remaining. 

Algete Three

Algete Four

Algete Five

Algete Two


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Summer Sailstice Fri, 27 Jun 2014 13:52:17 +0000 Celebrating the longest day of the year

By Geri L. Dreiling

“Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.” — Henry James

The summer’s gift of extended daylight is cause for celebration. The sky is painted blue and streaked with wisps of white. Nature responds. Daylillies explode into joyful, inverted exclamation points of yellow or orange. Trees drape themselves in leaves of green. Bright red cardinals rejoice at dawn with their distinctive song.   

The longest day of all is known as the summer solstice. Once marked by festivals and fun, it has been largely forgotten as we’ve embraced the light bulb and turned away from the sun.

But not everyone has abandoned the tradition of honoring the day. Sailing associations throughout the world have adopted it as their own and dubbed it the Summer Sailstice

Boat Dock

This year, the Summer Sailstice was on Saturday, June 21. I marked the occasion with my parents at Pickwick Lake in Tennessee, serving as a crew member aboard the Three Pence III, the sailboat my parents have owned since I was a teenager. Three Pence is a loose translation of our last name, Dreiling. The III comes from the fact that it is their third boat with the name.

Three Pence III

Three Pence III

The Pickwick Sailing and Cruising Association planned the event that we joined. Boats rendezvoused near the mouth of Yellow Creek around noon then paraded on the lake for a few hours.  

heading out

Flag off the stern

main and jib twoI will admit that I was a rusty deckhand. As a teenager, I nimbly scampered all over the boat. But my sea legs have long since floated away.  Now, I am more cautious. I held the mast tightly as we got ready to raise the main. I gripped the lifeline firmly as I made my way toward the bow to check on the jib.

But for me, there’s still something unique and special about sailing. Without the drone of a motor, you can hear the waves slap against the boat’s hull. You can heed the flap of the sails as the boat comes about. And you can spend an entire afternoon talking.


boats passing

my inspirationEven after we returned to the dock in the late afternoon, several hours of light remained. The Pickwick Sailing and Cruising Association had planned an evening barbecue at Grand Harbor. Steve Hopper and the Wolf Island Band would be on hand to play beach, summer and sailing music.

Sailors gathered near the Grand Harbor pool. They talked about the wind that day. They talked about their boats. They mentioned the places they called home when they weren’t out on the water.

By the time I left the barbecue with my parents, the sky had not fully faded to black. The music continued to play and many sailors still lingered, enjoying the fellowship and fun.

It had been a long and wonderful day; one of those rare perfect days when life feels just right.

Even though the summer solstice has passed, there are still many long days of summer left to enjoy. How will you spend yours?



 “Then followed that beautiful season… Summer….Filled was the air with a dreamy and magical light; and the landscape, Lay as if new created in all the freshness of childhood.” — Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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A Sweet Story Sat, 31 May 2014 16:54:24 +0000 How a retired couple became the proprietors of a neighborhood ice cream parlor

By Geri L. Dreiling

The tale of Tower Grove Creamery is a sweet story.

David and Beulah Ann McCreery own the Tower Grove Creamery, located on the corner of Arsenal and Grand in St. Louis. Beulah Ann is a retired second grade school teacher. David was an underwriter in the insurance business. For 30 years, they’ve owned the commercial building that houses Tower Grove Creamery. Other well known tenants in building include Mokabe’s Coffeehouse and Dunaway Books.

“We had no intention of being in the ice cream business,” David explained to me last week.

Occasionally, I stop by the store with my kids for ice cream. I was curious about the friendly couple who I always seemed to see behind the counter.


David says a previous tenant who had an ice cream parlor vacated the visible corner location. Over the years, payday lenders and traffic ticket law firms have made overtures about renting the space, but it wasn’t what the couple had in mind for the spot. Then Beulah Ann suggested that they open up an ice cream store. It was 2010. The economy was rough. David’s response at the time: “Are you crazy?”

As he recalled the story last week, he grinned and added, “You see who won out.”


They devised a plan. They would get the store up and running and, after a year, they’d look for a nice family to take it over. That was four years ago.

Two Missouri dairies, Central Dairy and Pacific Valley Dairy supply the ice cream. After David noticed that the lines at a frozen yogurt store were often longer than those at an ice cream store in University City, he decided they needed to include frozen yogurt as part of the store’s offerings.


Frozen Yogurt

They created a bright and welcoming space. On any given day, you’ll find families with small children gathered around cheerful yellow tables and couples with their dogs seated at the tables outside. You might even catch a bridal party climbing out of a limo and clambering inside to order ice cream to go.

The store isn’t just about ice cream, it is about relationships. A television is  mounted above the front door and photos scroll across the screen. As each image flashes by, David tells the stories behind the pictures. Customers have proposed marriage at Tower Grove Creamery. Kids throw birthday parties in the space. Bicyclists stop in after a ride in Tower Grove Park. Diners who have finished a meal at one of South Grand’s many restaurants walk over for dessert.  Out-of-towners and suburbanites visiting family members at nearby Saint Louis University Hospital or Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital order ice cream to take back to their loved ones. 

In a world dominated by chain restaurants, Tower Grove Creamery is a refreshing grandmom-and-grandpop ice cream parlor. It is likely that you’ll find David scooping out ice cream for customers while Beulah Ann works at the cash register. Their daughter-in-law spends one day  a week working there. And their granddaughter, who the couple proudly note just graduated with honors from college and spoke during commencement, helps with social media.

David says that they opened the store and a year went by. He mentioned to Beulah Ann that it was time to find a nice family to take over the store.

Her response?

“We are a nice family, aren’t we?”

Yes, they most certainly are.

Have you visited the Tower Grove Creamery? Do you prefer ice cream or frozen yogurt? To find out more, you can follow them on Facebook or visit their website.

Ice Cream Vendor


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