Reunited with France… and it felt so good to be back! Part two…

On Wednesday, March 2nd, we loaded up the Volvo with our bags and our pooches. I can’t say “beagles” anymore, since Noyzi is definitely NOT a beagle. Our first stop was the Tierpension Birkenhof, where the dogs stay when we leave town. I dug out a FFP2 mask for the brief time we would be inside, settling up with the Hunde Pension. Noyzi was absolutely delighted to be back at the doggy hotel. He barked almost the whole way there. Arran, on the other hand, was pretty cranky and kept barking back at Noyzi, probably telling him in dog language to STFU. I was doing the same.

Once the dogs were taken care of, we made our way to Stuttgart, with one quick pee stop at a rest station. I noticed they already had their Easter display up. I wasn’t able to get a picture, which may be a blessing. On the other hand, I don’t remember ever seeing an Easter display put up by a rest stop in the United States.

I had to pee again as we arrived in Stuttgart, so we decided to go into a McDonald’s. As I was making my way to the restroom, I heard someone behind the counter yelling “Entschuldigung!” Ahh… she wanted to check my COV-Pass to make sure I’ve gotten jabbed. The restroom in that McDonald’s was on the second floor, so it wasn’t like I could just duck in and out. I showed my credentials, did my business, and Bill handed me a very small Coke that he bought me for the privilege of using the can.

We got to downtown Stuttgart a couple of hours early, so we decided to have lunch at the Paulaner am alten Postplatz, a German restaurant on Calwer Strasse, the chic street where Dr. Blair’s office is located. Ever since COVID hit, I’m never quite sure of what I should be doing. We went inside, and a waitress checked our COV-Passes and IDs… a step further than what the lady at McDonald’s did. I was shocked, since the first floor of that restaurant is for smokers, and plenty were doing that when we visited! Fortunately, there was a non-smoking area upstairs.

Bill and I both opted to have daily specials. I had duck leg with red cabbage slaw and a bread dumpling. Bill had pork goulash. We had beer– the only beer we had all weekend. It was our first restaurant visit in months, and, I must say, it was great. The food was good, as usual, and it was kind of nice to be around other people. I especially got a kick out of the lady with a large puppy she carried in.

After lunch, we headed over to Dr. Blair’s office for our cleanings and waited, dutifully wearing the oppressive FFP2 masks. Bill got a stern lecture about his flossing habits. I got a lecture about my hesitancy in seeing doctors. I have an area of chronically red gum tissue under my front teeth. Dr. Blair always asks me about it. Then he ribs me about being anxious. He’s a very good dentist, and I think he truly cares about his patients, but I also think he takes my anxiety personally. He really shouldn’t. I had a terrible experience with a physician years ago that has left me very reluctant to see medical people. Dentists are, generally, an exception. I do get nervous before procedures, though. He has never forgotten it, even though it’s been years since he put in my implant.

After our appointments, we made our way toward Sessenheim, which is located just inside the border of France. Even Dr. Blair knew about Sessenheim, correctly identifying it as very close to Baden-Baden. But once you cross the border, everything changes! From the beginning of our trip, checking into Auberge au Boeuf, until the end of our stay, COVID rules were much less inconvenient. We walked into the hotel wearing FFP2s and immediately removed them for the rest of our stay after we were confirmed vaccinated. The same conditions applied at every restaurant we visited. We showed our passes, and it was like 2019 again. The FFP2s were also not required. Regular surgical masks were perfectly okay.

Auberge au Boeuf only has four rooms, and each one has a name. We rented L’Idylle, which is one of the larger rooms. It has a balcony that overlooks the beautiful church next door, it’s own private sauna, a jacuzzi, a rainfall shower, and an impressively stocked minibar. Below are some photos of L’Idylle.

We were still full from lunch and pretty tired from the day’s events, so we decided to stay in. We watched French news, drank wine from the local Aldi, and went to bed early. We were off to a good start.

dental, trip planning

A dental appointment means we finally have actual travel plans!

On March 2, 2022, Bill and I have an appointment to go to Stuttgart to see our dentist, the venerable Dr. Blair. It’s time for our cleanings, which we forewent for two years before we finally went to see him last August. Some readers may remember that we combined our last trip to Stuttgart with a visit to the Black Forest.

We went to the Black Forest for a few reasons. First, our usual go-to hotel in Stuttgart, the Wald Hotel, was fully booked when we needed a room. Second, it occurred to me that we’ve been to Stuttgart enough times that it’s no longer a very exciting place for us to be, even though we both love staying at the Wald Hotel. Third, we used to live at the edge of the Black Forest, and went there many times for day trips. We loved going there, and I thought it might be fun to stay a few days. And finally, it was a great opportunity to spend a long weekend in Baiersbronn, where there are several excellent Michelin starred restaurants. It beat hanging out in Stuttgart, where we’ve been many times.

Well, we did have fun in Baiersbronn last August. It was so much fun that I thought maybe we’d go back to the Black Forest and stay in another area we visited for a day and loved. I looked at visiting both Oppenau and Wolfach, both picturesque places that are in different parts of the Black Forest. But then I read about the strict COVID-19 requirements in Baden-Württemberg and decided that it wouldn’t be that much fun to hang out in a hotel, or even a guest house, dealing with those rules. Plus, I just want to get out of Germany for a few days, since we have that capability. When I searched for properties in Oppenau, I noticed that I was also getting results for Strasbourg, France. I didn’t want to go to Strasbourg, though. Our last trip to France was to Strasbourg, exactly two years ago this month. February is usually when Strasbourg hosts an annual wine expo. Last year, it was canceled. This year, it was postponed until late March.

Then it occurred to me that we’ve never been to Soufflenheim, which is a town near the German border, famous for its pottery. I went looking for a place to stay in Soufflenheim, and noticed that one of the choices was a small hotel in nearby Sessenheim, which is known for a museum dedicated to the German poet, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. The hotel, Auberge au Boeuf, has a restaurant by the same name with a Michelin star. The place gets rave reviews, especially for the food, but also for the rooms. They had one room open for the time we were visiting. It would cost substantially less than the room I was thinking of booking at the Wald Hotel in Stuttgart, and, as it’s just inside the French border, does not impose the same onerous COVID rules and restrictions that Baden-Württemberg currently has.

It’s not so much that I’m an anti-vaxxer, or anything. I have been triple vaxxed, and I wear masks when I have to. But I HATE the FFP2 masks with a passion, and while they could be required in France, at least if we go there, it’ll be a change of scenery. At this writing, masks and vaccines are required in France, but they have done away with the rule requiring people to wear masks outside, and it’s my understanding that a simple medical mask will do. And we have MISSED France so much! Bill and I didn’t visit France much when we were here the first time, from 2007-09, but this time, we have gone a bunch of times. We have come to love it. It’s almost like a second home, since it’s not far from where we lived near Stuttgart, nor is it that far from Wiesbaden.

Yesterday, I made reservations at the hotel’s restaurant for dinner on Friday AND Saturday nights during our visit. It looks that special. Also, Bill and I have been to Alsace enough times to know that it pays to make reservations. Otherwise, you could end up having a really terrible time at a poorly rated restaurant where the waiter asks you if you’re pregnant. Of course, that happened to me in October 2014, when I still colored my hair and wasn’t as nearly close to menopause as I am today. It’s doubtful that would happen to me in 2022, even though my face is still pretty smooth and, in fact, still occasionally has zits. Thanks, hormones. On another note, damn, we have really been here a LONG time.

I think we’ll have a great time in France. I suspect Noyzi will be delighted to visit the Hunde Pension again. Arran will be annoyed, but it’s only for four nights. Then, we’ll come home, and he’ll be pampered again. Poor guy used to love going to France with us, when we still had Zane, and it was easier to travel with the dogs. Noyzi is a good traveler, but he’s huge, and takes up the whole back compartment of the car. And hotels and rentals aren’t as keen to rent to people with big dogs… although I’ll bet Yannick in Ribeauville would be cool with it. We’ve stayed at his place many times; the latest was in January 2020. Alsace never gets old, but we do want to see other areas than Riquewihr and Ribeauville, and the like. Sessenheim is also a little closer to Nancy, where we visited in 2009. Maybe we can go there on this trip. Nancy is a beautiful city. It’s about a two hour drive from where we’ll be staying, but what the hell? We have no agenda, other than eating at the hotel twice. Based on what I’ve read, we could end up eating there even more times.

I’m looking forward to our trip. Hopefully, nothing will fuck it up for us. That includes anything that happens because of Putin.

Moving on…

We didn’t do anything special yesterday, except for use our new fondue/raclette grill. I got a few photos. It really is fun to use this grill, and it offers a nice change of pace at dinner. Bill is quite the gourmand.

And then, this morning, Bill decided to get doughnuts from our neighborhood bakery again, like he did last week. I think it’s because we finally have some Peet’s Major Dickason’s coffee to drink. We’re big fans.

The heart shaped Valentine’s doughnuts were especially yummy! Raspberry! And sweeter than usual. No, we didn’t eat them all. I look forward to a snack later, or maybe breakfast tomorrow.

So things are looking up. It’s nice to look forward to a dentist appointment. I think we’ll have a great time in France. Knock on wood, nothing will screw this up… I’m looking at you, Russian dictator wannabe Putin. I think the Georgians sang it best…

Hear us?

Seeing “stars” in Baiersbronn… Part two

Bill’s driving habits turn to shit…

Thursday morning we woke up early with big plans for the day. Because we had dental appointments in Stuttgart, Bill decided that we’d need to skip breakfast. He said our appointments were at ten o’clock and eleven o’clock, and as downtown Stuttgart is about 100 kilometers from Baiersbronn, it would take over an hour to get there. Plus, there’s Stuttgart’s famous traffic to consider, and scheduled road work that was going on. Well… as it turned out, we certainly could have eaten breakfast. But more on that in the ensuing paragraphs.

The sun was shining as we set off for our old stomping grounds. I busied myself by taking photos of the enchanting landscape as we passed through charming towns and past green fields full of sunflowers in bloom. Bill was trying very hard to make sure we got to the dentist on time. He decided to take a route that directed us through Horb, a town we only managed to visit once during our time in Jettingen, even though it’s a nice looking and easily accessible place from our old town. Going through Horb turned out to be a time consuming decision, since there was road construction going on. A detour sent us through more picturesque towns that delighted the senses. I took a few more photos as Bill continued to stress and stew over making our appointments.

We stopped at a bakery for coffee, juice, and bread. I noticed what appeared to be a new chain of bakeries… or maybe it’s not a new chain, but I had never noticed them before our visit over the weekend. I counted at least four outlets of Ziegler’s Bakery on our drive. We stopped at one in Horb, then Bill got back on the road and immediately got blitzed by a speed camera! Then, about fifteen minutes later, as we entered the hamlet of Eutingen im Gäu, Bill got blitzed a second time! To put this in perspective, I think in seven years of living in Germany this time, Bill has gotten just one speeding ticket. That time, it was near our old town of Pfäffingen, where we lived from 2007-2009. I guess in a few months, he’ll get the tickets in the mail.

Despite the detour and blitzing, Bill managed to get us to Dr. Blair’s office at 10:00am. The sunshine we enjoyed in the Black Forest had disappeared behind clouds. Rain was forthcoming.

Bill waits patiently in his high speed mask. I can’t stand the FFP2 masks, so I wear a disposable surgical mask. Using homemade cloth masks alone is no longer permitted in Germany.

There were several other people in the waiting room. I’m not sure what happened… Bill said he’d reconfirmed the dates and times, but it turned out we were early. It was after noon when I finally got in the chair. I had a clean checkup, but Bill has to return this Thursday for a repair. He told Dr. Blair about a trouble spot in his mouth. As Blair was poking around, the tooth, the filling fell out. Fortunately, Bill can easily take the ICE train from Frankfurt and get to Stuttgart much faster than he would if he drove. Blair’s office is even close enough to the main train station that Bill could easily walk to his next appointment from there, rather than taking the U-Bahn.

After our appointments, I had a date to drop off corks with a member of the Stuttgart military community. But Bill wanted to eat lunch first, so we stopped by Abacco’s Steakhouse, a chain restaurant that offers steaks served on hot stones. We had eaten there once before, back in 2016. As we entered the restaurant, our waiter checked our COVID-19 passes. Every restaurant we visited over the weekend checked our vaccination status.

Abacco’s Steakhouse offers soups, salads, and steaks. The steaks, which come from the U.S. or Argentina, come out lightly seared and very rare. The idea is to let them cook on the hot stones to your preferred level of doneness. I’m not all that excited about cooking my own steak in a restaurant, but I have to admit the 300 gram rib eye steak from Argentina was good after a lean morning no protein. It came with barbecue sauce, horseradish, and a chimchurri sauce, as well as steak fries.

With lunch done, we headed to Panzer Kaserne, where we dropped off our corks. The lady we were meeting is a longtime member of the Facebook food and wine group I run. It was nice to put a face to the name, especially since we’ve been conversing for several years! I always collect corks from the many bottles of wine we drink, since I’ve found that a lot of crafters want them for their projects. Every time I’ve asked if anyone wants them in my Facebook group, someone always does! I could just as easily dump them at the store, but I like to help out the crafters when I can, since I’m not particularly crafty myself. Besides, it’s a nice way to meet people.

I was pretty shocked to see how things have changed around Panzer in the time we’ve been here. When we lived in Stuttgart the first time, the bucolic road that links Vaihingen to Sindelfingern, Pascal Strasse (affectionately known as Frog Road by Americans, thanks to the ponds and many frogs on it) was completely sheltered in forest. I used to love driving on that road, since it was so pretty compared to the A 81 Autobahn that runs next to it. When we moved back to the Stuttgart military community in 2014, that road started to change. The end of it was diverted to a nearby state road and the traffic pattern was completely rerouted. Since we left in late 2018, the area has changed even more. It made me feel sad, since I always enjoyed driving on Frog Road. Looks like it’s being torn up now.

After we dropped our corks, we headed back to Baiersbronn. Bill opted to go back a different way, one that would take us through Herrenberg and past our old town of Jettingen and Nagold, where we spent many wonderful weekend days during our second stint of four years in the Stuttgart area. I must admit, as enjoyable as Wiesbaden is, I really miss living close to the Schwarzwald. It really is a beautiful area, even on the edge where we lived, and in spite of our troublesome exit from our previous house. ‘Nuff said about that… I want to keep this blog post positive!

Our alternative route also took us past Freudenstadt, which is another great town where we spent a lot of time. Freudenstadt is very close to Baiersbronn, too, so anyone who is tempted to visit Baiersbronn after reading this area can easily do a trip to Freudenstadt shopping or eating or other activities.

On the way in to Baiersbronn, Bill’s driving was tested again. We rounded a curve, where we were suddenly confronted by some guy who’d apparently had a single car accident. His small car was pointed in the wrong direction in our lane, as if he’d slid into the wrong lane. Bill had to swerve to avoid hitting him, since he was sitting in the middle of the road, wearing his orange vest but having neglected to put out his warning triangle to alert other drivers. We narrowly missed having a collision ourselves, as other cars were coming in the other direction. That was a near miss!

When we got back to the hotel, we decided to try the pools. The Hotel Engel Obertal offers several pools and whirlpools, as well as saunas. It was a bit crowded when we got there. We had to check in, and thanks to COVID-19, there were limits on the number of people allowed in the pool at a time. The lap pool was pretty empty and quiet, so we basically hung out there. Lots of people with kids were in the big fancy saltwater pool that offers egress to the outside. We skipped the saltwater pool, because there were many kids in it and there weren’t supposed to be more than four people using it at a time. We also skipped the Naturalbadsee because it’s entirely outside and the weather was a bit too chilly for swimming outside. However, we did see some intrepid Germans using it, including one woman who went nude!

We opted not to have dinner, since we had a big lunch and Bill had an online appointment with the Jungian therapist he’s been talking to for the past few months. While Bill did his hour with the shrink, I sat in the bar and listened to love songs from the 80s and 90s. Bill joined me later, and we enjoyed a few cocktails. Next post, I will write about our gourmet extravaganza! Stay tuned!


The making of my new tooth! And… tapas at Desiree…

This afternoon, I visited Dr. Blair, the dentist extraordinaire, to get my dental crown fitted.  This day has been a long time coming.  My ordeal started in the fall of 2014, when I noticed the gum above one of the two baby teeth I had left from childhood was badly inflamed.  We visited Dr. Blair for the first time in January 2015 and he told me that I had an infection.  He said it was possible he could try a root canal, but that it would probably be best to remove the tooth and either get a bridge or an implant.

Since I wasn’t interested in ruining the two teeth on either side of my abscessed baby tooth, I determined that I wanted an implant.  However, I am a big chicken when it comes to medical and dental procedures.  Also, before we got started on my expensive dental implant odyssey, I wanted to make sure Bill would still be employed after his first year in Germany as a contractor.  It took until September for me to go see Dr. Blair to have the tooth extracted.  I will admit, I was extremely nervous about it and didn’t have the benefit of drugs beforehand, but Dr. Blair is a pro.  He pulled the tooth out, noted that it had a vertical fracture in the root, and told me we were right to go the implant route.  A root canal would have definitely failed.

In January 2016, Dr. Blair did a sinus lift.  I went in and took a couple of Ativan, mellowed out, and Dr. Blair did a procedure that would allow more bone to grow so that my jaw would handle the implant.  He also put the implant in my upper jaw and I spent the next few months healing.  The sinus lift took about an hour and I’m glad I took Ativan beforehand, because it wasn’t a very pleasant procedure.  That part of the dental implant process cost about 2000 euros, which Bill has paid for.

In May, I went in and Dr. Blair uncovered my implant that had been ossifying in my bone.  Again, I opted for medications for that procedure, but I probably didn’t really need them too much.  He just exposed the implant, then put a “healing cap” over it.  Then in June, I went in and got impressions made for the lab to make my crown.  The impressions were not painful, but the process of making them wasn’t a whole lot of fun.  Fortunately, Dr. Blair’s got a great staff and is himself a very kind and competent doctor.

On my birthday, which was June 20th, we went to the lab and had many pictures taken of my teeth.  Then a few days later, I went back and tried on the new crown.  I was amazed by how real it looked.  We spent about a half an hour shaping it until it fit perfectly.

Today, I went in and had the new crown installed.

Before… you can see the healing cap on my top tooth.

Another shot.

Now the implant is complete.  Can you tell the difference between my natural teeth and my new fake tooth?  I can’t.  


I have to go back next week for one more appointment.  Dr. Blair is going to check to make sure the implant is okay.  Then, it’ll be back to normal until my next dental crisis.  We haven’t gotten any bills for the work that has been done since the implant was installed, but we’re expecting another 2000 euros or so.  We do have insurance, which we will have to file ourselves.  I think it covers a maximum of $2000 per year.  Since we have tickets to see Van Morrison on Wednesday, we will stay two nights in Stuttgart.  I will be travel blogging a lot next week!

After we visited Dr. Blair, we went to the Markthalle and picked up some wine, ham, tuna, cherries, cheese, and chocolate.  I love going there.  Someday, we are going to have to visit the Markthalle and load up on a whole lot of delectable edibles.  After we finished shopping, we visited a tapas bar called Desiree.  It’s located in the Markthalle and I had been curious about it for awhile.

These were the specials today.  I wanted to order one, but because it was only 4:30pm, we were there too early.

Bill being cute.

We each had a glass of wine.  Bill had a rioja and I had a tempranillo.

A shot of the sign.

And the charming downtown area…  It was a great day to sit outside.

We decided to share a plate of tapas.  Desiree has a deal where you can get five tapas for 12,50.  It comes with bread.  You can also get three tapas for 10,00.  On Fridays, they have paella.  Tapas are offered all day, while more substantial dishes are only offered at certain times, which I didn’t see listed in the menu.  The tapas were very good.  I especially liked the spicy chicken wings, olives, and meatballs.  When we were finished, we had another glass of wine to let the horrendous traffic on A81 die down.

All told, we spent about 32 euros for our little afternoon repast.  I think I’d like to go back to Desiree for paella or one of their big dishes.  At the very least, the tapas are fun, especially when the weather is nice and you can sit outside.

We stopped at the Shoppette on Patch on the way home.  Bill gassed up my car.  Has anyone ever tried “Perky Jerky”?  Is it worth the trip?


I’m already used to my new tooth and delighted with the end results.  I highly recommend Dr. Blair if you need a dental implant.  He does great work.  And it’s great to be rid of that big hole in my smile, too!  Edited to add:  The grand total for this procedure was approximately 4,750 euros or just over $5200 by today’s exchange rate.


A four hour birthday meal and new friends at Osteria da Gino in Nagold…

Yesterday was my birthday.  As is our custom on my birthday, Bill and I went out to eat.  Originally, we planned to dine in Stuttgart because I had to go to the dental lab.  I’m in the process of getting a dental implant and we’re now in the end stages.  We went to the dental lab so they could determine what color the new tooth should be and get photos of my mouth.  I thought maybe when we were done, we could find a place in Stuttgart to celebrate birthday #44.

I took a photo of the female form on display at the dental lab…  I guess they don’t just do teeth there.  😉

Bill decided against the Stuttgart plan and booked us a table at Osteria da Gino in Nagold.  I have written about this restaurant several times and continue to write about it because every time we go, we have a great experience.  Gino is a wonderful host who is very friendly and engaging.  He serves fantastic food.  Bill knew he wouldn’t disappoint me on my birthday.  Besides that, the restaurant is very close to where we live and getting to and from there lacks the logistical hassles that can come from dining in Stuttgart.

One of my favorite beers, Prairie Bomb!  This is an American craft beer from Oklahoma that I ordered from Saveur Biere.  I enjoyed this before we went to Nagold for dinner. 

So off we went last night, arriving just in time for our 7:00pm reservation.  We were warmly greeted by Gino, who was sporting a conspicuous bandage on his right hand and thumb.  He somehow managed to cut it.  I was relieved to see that he still had all his digits!  Last night, Gino was offering seating inside and outside.  It was the first time we’d ever been to his restaurant and had a choice of venues.  We ate inside because it looked like it was going to rain.  He and his wife showed us to our table, a six top that we knew we’d end up sharing.

A blurry obligatory shot of Bill.  I must have taken this in a hurry!

The concept of table sharing at a restaurant can be strange for Americans.  We’re used to having our own space.  Here in Europe, where space can be a premium, it can be awkward to share a table with strangers.  Fortunately, last night, we were seated with people who ended up making my birthday more special and memorable.

A few minutes after we sat down, another couple were seated at our table.  I was confused at first, since they started speaking German with Gino, then switched to French.  Then, once they realized we were Americans, they spoke English.  It turned out the husband was French and the wife was German and hails from the Black Forest.  She and her husband had come from Paris to visit her family and were staying in Nagold.  Last night was their first visit to Gino’s after having found it favorably reviewed on Trip Advisor.  I think after last night’s meal, they’ll be back.

Birthday bubbly!

After bringing us a round of prosecco, Gino brought out the usual antipasti, which immediately impressed our new friends from France.  We got to talking after Gino scolded me for not knowing any languages except English.  I corrected him by telling him I speak Armenian (which isn’t so useful outside of the country or areas where Armenians are concentrated).  I also speak some Spanish, though lately when I try to speak it, it comes out Armenian.  It turned out the male half of the couple dining with us had been to Armenia and we were talking about how well the French and Armenians get along.  That segued into an evening of stimulating conversation!

Huge antipasti… Grilled vegetables, cheese, salami, orange and fennel salad, olives… and bread, of course!

I had to take a special photo of the tuna carpaccio…  This stuff is absolutely sinful.

We explained to the other couple that we’d been to Gino’s restaurant several times.  He’s never once brought us a menu, although I have seen one posted on the wall outside and in the dining room itself.  We are always content to let Gino bring us whatever’s available.  Although you can order as many or few courses as you want, we always end up eating four courses when we visit Gino because it’s that good!  Don’t go there looking for pizza.  Gino doesn’t make pizza, but he does have a small deli where you can purchase food to go or a bottle of wine.

Bill enjoyed truffles and angel hair pasta…  He loved it, though I lead a truffle free lifestyle.

I had spaghetti.  This was delicious!  The sauce was so fresh and perfectly seasoned that it almost defies description.  

This is the second time Bill and I have gone to Gino’s and wound up making new friends.  Because his indoor dining room has limited seating, it’s very common to have to share a table if you’re dining inside.  The last time we were there, we ended up dining with fellow Americans who had read my blog and decided to try Gino’s hospitality.  Last night, Gino had many French people in attendance.  Another large group of French speakers joined us about an hour after we sat down.  Gino handled it all with his usual aplomb.  I really don’t know if he speaks French, but he was charming everyone equally.  In fact, because he was so friendly and charming, there was a very long pause between the pasta course and the second course.

Our new friends skipped the pasta.  I enjoyed watching them enjoy the second course.  He had osso bucco and she had the fish, John Dory filet.  It was really fun to see them reacting the same way our American friends Sarah and Mike did when they ate with us at Gino’s back in December.  It was a good thing that we were getting along so well with the other couple at our table.  The conversation made waiting for the main course a lot more enjoyable.  We talked about everything from travel in Africa to American politics.  Amazing, considering we had only known each other a couple of hours!

Bill and I both had the fish last night, served with very fresh white asparagus and a shrimp.


It was getting close to 11:00pm when Bill and I finally shared dessert…

A panoply of Italian sweets!  Strawberries, panna cotta, chocolate cake, and ice cream!  The total damage for four courses for two was about 179 euros.  Gino will take credit cards, though we paid in cash.


It was finally time to call it a night and we exchanged cards with our newfound friends.  If we ever make it to Versailles, they have promised to show us the sights!  I love living in Europe.  You never know what will happen or who you’ll meet.  That being said, I have a tendency to get carried away sometimes.  I hope our new friends didn’t think I was too much of a chatterbox!

On Thursday of this week, Bill and I will venture to Talblick, a hotel and restaurant in Wildberg.  We have been trying to get reservations at their gourmet restaurant for months, so I am excited to finally get to try it out.  Stay tuned for a review!

dental, Germany, restaurant reviews

An early dinner at La Nuova Trattoria da Franco in Stuttgart

Yesterday, Bill and I had to go see Dr. Blair for yet another step toward getting my new dental implant.  He took impressions of my teeth and measured my jaw so that the lab can make my new tooth.  Although yesterday’s visit wasn’t painful, it was somewhat unpleasant and involved bad smells and a mouth full of sticky goo.

After we were finished with the dental stuff, Bill and I were hungry and I really wanted a glass of wine.  We’ve passed La Nuova Trattoria da Franco many times on our way to and from Dr. Blair’s office.  Many times, we have been tempted to stop in for a bite.  Yesterday, we finally took the plunge.  It was about 4:00pm and I was a little worried that all they’d have available would be cakes and such.  I needn’t have concerned myself.  La Nuova Trattoria da Franco’s kitchen stays open all day.  Bravo!  The waiter asked us to leave our wet umbrella in the foyer, then seated us near the window so I could watch people walk by.  When it comes to people watching, Stuttgart rarely disappoints.

This restaurant is rather chic and elegant, with modern decor and starched white tablecloths and napkins.  There’s a small bar and a couple was sitting there having a lively chat.  A well dressed older woman sat two tables down from us and looked like she was enjoying a nice break from the rain.  She carried a shopping bag from Aigner.  The menu had several “menus” offered– that is, two course meals offered at a discount.  They also had plenty of a la carte stuff.  I was tempted by some of the menu choices, especially since I was hungry.  But it did seem like a lot of food and we did have the traffic to face, so we went for a la carte items.

Obligatory shot of Bill right after we ordered food.  I was enjoying a nice glass of primitivo.

Our waiter brought out bread.  It was very good!


I had Seeteufel (monkfish) with a mixed salad.  I think this may have been the first time I’ve had monkfish in a very long time.  I ordered it not knowing exactly what it was until Bill looked it up for me on his phone.

My fish was very good.  The flesh was dense, well seasoned, and not too dry.

The fish came with a huge fresh salad, which I shared with Bill.  I dressed it with a little olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and a few spritzes from my lemon wedge.  

Bill went with the spaghetti gorgonzola, which was exactly what it sounds like.  He said it was very good, though I didn’t try it.  It was too much like what I had for lunch (Egg noodles Alfredo).


Our waiter asked if we wanted coffee.  I said I’d rather have another glass of wine.  Bill put his hand over his glass and pantomimed driving, which made the waiter laugh.  As we were sitting there enjoying our early dinner, I told Bill that I liked this place better than Positano, another nearby Italian restaurant we tried a few months ago.  Bill agreed.  I liked the food and atmosphere better, although both are handy when it’s mid afternoon and you’re in downtown Stuttgart and hungry.

A shot of the elegant looking bar.  They also have an outdoor area that is covered by a tent, but it was raining too much for anyone to use it yesterday.

The front of the restaurant.


We enjoyed our first visit to La Nuova Trattoria da Franco and I have a feeling we could be back, especially if I need more dental work.  Props to them for keeping the kitchen open all day.

On another note, Bill managed to score us a table at a very popular gourmet restaurant in Wildberg.  Stay tuned for a review next week of a place we’ve spent months trying to get reservations!

anecdotes, dental

One more cool thing about living in Germany…

Did you know that if you wear contact lenses and you live in Germany, you don’t have to go running to the eye doc for a new prescription if you need new lenses?  I am actually way overdue for an eye exam.  I had my last one in Texas four months before we moved to Germany.  I probably ought to go in and get my eyes checked, but I can’t be bothered right now, especially since I’ve been dealing with all the dental implant drama.

I’m now down to two pairs of contact lenses that were provided by my Texas optometrist.  I had heard that in Germany, you can just order your contacts from or even pick them up at the Real (German box store akin to WalMart).  This morning, I decided to try it.  I got my Air Optix boxes from the bathroom, went on, and started shopping.  I found what I needed and added them to my virtual cart.  Then I realized the lenses would be coming from different sellers.

Since Bill and I will be going away on a trip soon, I decided I needed to order the lenses from the same seller.  I don’t want the lenses to get to me after we’re gone.  Perhaps if they come from the same seller, they’ll get to me at the same time and cost less for shipping.  I found a seller that offered both of my lenses and ordered them.  Easy as pie!

If they get to me quickly and allow me to see, I’ll be happy.  If not, I will have learned a $100 lesson.  Either way, I need to get to an eye doctor sometime soon.  Maybe after I’m done getting my dental implant.

Super dentist Dr. Blair saw Bill and me yesterday.  Bill had a tooth repaired and I got my stitches out from last week’s surgery.  I have two more appointments to go until I have a new tooth.  I go in next month to have impressions done.  Then, on July 6th, I get the implant.  Six days after that, I go in for a final check.  If all goes well, I will be rid of the big hole in my smile and several thousand euros poorer.

After yesterday’s appointment, Bill and I went to Weber, a restaurant near Dr. Blair’s office, because I was really hungry.  We got there during their “Pause”, which is the time during the afternoon when the kitchen staff is on break.  No matter.  We had cake and coffee.

Bill had Viennese apple cake and I had mandarin orange cheesecake with a side of unsweetened cream.  It was a nice way to unwind after seeing the dentist.


I am really ready for a change of scenery.  Ten days to go!


Update to my dental implant saga in Germany…

I decided a few months ago to post about my experiences getting a dental implant in Germany.  I’ve been on this journey for well over a year, when I discovered one of my two remaining baby teeth had abscessed.  After visiting Dr. Blair in Stuttgart, we determined that it would be best to remove the tooth and replace it with an implant.

The process has not been without some anxiety both over cost and the procedures required.  But I think I will soon have a new smile and Dr. Blair has been great to work with.  So each time a new procedure is done, I write a post about it.  I had a fairly big sinus lift and implant procedure in January of this year.  After allowing the implant to heal in my bone, I went to see Dr. Blair today.  He cut away some tissue to expose the titanium screw that has been there since January.

I was told today’s visit wasn’t going to be nearly as bad as the sinus lift had been.  I requested calming drugs anyway.  Dr. Blair gave me two Ativan, which I took in the waiting room and I sat there for about an hour, waiting for them to kick in.  Once they did, I felt really mellow and calm, but not high or giddy.

I went into the procedure room and Dr. Blair and his assistant got to work.  First, I got two injections of numbing medications.  Both shots were uncomfortable.  One was going on the outside gum near the area getting the implant.  The other was on my palate.  There was a sting, then lots of pressure before the odd sensation of anesthesia set in.

I felt Dr. Blair get to work, but felt little pain.  His assistant kept suctioning out debris, but seemed to miss one side.  Or, at least that’s what it felt like to me.  The whole thing took about twenty minutes and ended with Dr. Blair putting in more stitches.  The worst part was sitting up.  Because my palate was numb, it was hard to feel my nose.  It felt like I was going to choke and/or throw up at the same time.  Dr. Blair reminded me to breathe through my nose, which was much harder than you might expect it to be.  I had to sit for a couple of minutes to get the hang of it.

Dr. Blair walked me out to Bill, who was waiting in the lobby, and told me to go home and take up to 600mg of Advil at a time.  Not one to question doctor’s orders, that is exactly what I did.  Bill put me in the car and drove me home on one of the most relaxing trips I’ve had on the Autobahn thus far.  I took a couple of Advil PMs and enjoyed a nice two hour nap.

I’ve been enjoying some really yummy Thai peanut soup Bill made me from scratch.  We go back to see Dr. Blair next Tuesday.  Bill will get a filling replaced and my stitches will be removed.  I’m guessing there will be new impressions made, too.  With any luck, I’ll have my smile back in no time.


Steak served on hot stones! A review of Abacco’s Steakhouse in Stuttgart…

Bill and I had to venture into downtown Stuttgart this afternoon.  It was time to visit Dr. Blair for our semi-annual dental cleanings.  Afterwards, we decided to find some dinner.  I was pretty hungry because I hadn’t had anything to eat since about 10:00am.  Although we just had steak the other night at Tommi’s Bistro, I had been curious about Abacco’s Steakhouse, which is a place very close to Dr. Blair’s practice.  The weather was beautiful today and they had opened up the sliding doors on one side of the restaurant; so even if you were sitting inside, you were exposed to the lovely weather.  Since I don’t like sitting around people who are smoking, especially when I’m eating, we opted to eat inside.

I picked a spot right by a window, where the people watching was especially excellent.

Bill and I both ordered Paulaner hefeweizens.  Right next to the steakhouse is the Paulaner am alter Postplatz restaurant.  We enjoyed a great meal there last fall and might have been tempted today, but they were pretty packed.


Our waiter started out speaking German to us, but immediately switched to English as soon as he heard Bill and me talking to each other.  Although we were tempted by the cheeseburgers, which were part of a lunchtime deal that was to end at 5:00pm, Bill and I opted for steaks.  It was almost 5:00pm, anyway, so we figured we might as well try the specialty of the house.

Bill tried to tell the waiter he wanted his steak cooked medium, but the waiter explained that the steaks would come out rare.  All steaks at Abacco’s Steakhouse are served on hot stones, so you can control how done your meat is.

We both ordered rib-eyes, though Bill’s looked more like a strip than a rib-eye.  The steaks are about 250 grams each and they come with three different sauces.  One was like a sweet version of A-1.  One was a horseradish sauce.  The third was a basil chimchurri sauce.  We also had fries, though other sides are available and cost extra.

I had to get a shot of the steaming meat when it came out.  The second stone under the steak is kept simply warm. You move the meat to the warm stone, then cut the steak into strips.  Then you move the strips to the hot stone, and let each cook to your desired temperature.  It occurred to me that this technique probably means fewer steaks get sent back to the kitchen.  After all, you as the customer are ultimately in charge of how done your meat gets!  


I did notice that the steak tasted a little bland to me.  Bill also thought the meat was a bit bland, though otherwise enjoyable.  I don’t usually salt my food much, but I needed to salt my steak at Abacco’s.  It tasted like the meat might have been coated in oil instead of butter.  On the other hand, the beef was hot and juicy and, as steaks in Germany usually go, was pretty good.  According to the menu, our steaks were USDA prime beef.  I noticed they had steaks from Argentina as well as Iberico ham and pork steaks.  They also have salads for those who are more health conscious.

After we finished eating, our waiter tempted us with dessert.  We decided to have a round of double espressos and split a brownie dessert.

I thought the double espresso could have been hotter…  It was served well before the dessert was, so I couldn’t really hang onto it until the dessert came out without risking cold espresso.

The dessert was delicious!  The warm brownie was served with whipped cream, vanilla ice cream, and chocolate sauce.  It was the perfect size for splitting.  They also had ice cream, sorbet, apple strudel, and some sort of other dessert that I had never heard of…

I enjoyed watching people walk by.  These two ladies appeared to be identical twins who had to go a size up on their taxi.

A shot of the sign outside.  The location for this restaurant is pretty great.  It’s right in the thick of things.  The restaurant itself is very large and comfortable, with a very nice looking bar.


All told, we spent about 80 euros for dinner before the tip.  We both enjoyed the food and the service, though I think I still prefer Tommi’s for steak.   For us, Tommi’s is also less expensive and much more convenient, since it’s in our town and we can walk there.   On the other hand, Abacco’s offers burgers and other items that Tommi’s doesn’t have.  Aside from that, it’s in a convenient location downtown, which means that for many folks living in the Stuttgart area, it’s in a more convenient place than Tommi’s is.

I would recommend Abacco’s Steakhouse for those who are looking for a good hunk of meat.  However, given the hot stones the steaks are served on, I would recommend parents with small children be careful.  The stones are very hot and capable of burning those who are careless or overly curious.

dental, Germany, restaurant reviews

Late lunch at Positano in Stuttgart…

Today, Bill and I visited Dr. Blair in Stuttgart to get my stitches removed after last week’s procedure.  I was happy to see him because the stitches were annoying and all too secure.  He removed them, gave me a quick once over, and told me the next procedure will be four months from now.  Apparently, that’s sooner than the standard six months.  I guess I healed up nicely.

I asked Dr. Blair to tell me what exactly happened during last week’s surgery.  He gave me a layman’s description of what he did.  I said, “So you just did the sinus lift?”  He answered affirmatively.  All he really needed to do was tell me he’d done the sinus lift because I’d already Googled the hell out of it.  The next operation will be to place the screw for the implant and it supposedly will not be as involved or potentially traumatic as the sinus lift was.  He even said I might not need Ativan, though I will probably request it anyway.  It was nice not being nervous before he did his thing.

After setting up the next procedure appointment for May, Bill and I went to the Markthalle to pick up a few Italian goodies.  I have gotten hooked on Italian tuna since our trip to Vicenza and I wanted to get some more pasta and wine.  I probably could have spent more money on chocolate, but decided not to.  I don’t need any more temptations in the house.

Though it was three o’clock and a lot of places were shut down for a pause, we did manage to find a table at Positano, a pizzeria and restaurant near Dr. Blair’s office in downtown Stuttgart.  The place was dimly lit and almost empty when we arrived.  We got there at the same time as another party did.  There are several small dining rooms in what appears to be an old building overlooking Calwer Strasse.  Cell phone reception is poor in there.

The restaurant has an extensive menu that offers a broad range of dishes.  I was tempted to try one of their Italian pasta dishes but opted for the zander filet special instead.  Bill went for a penne pasta with spinach and gorgonzola cheese sauce dish.  We both had a glass of Chianti and shared a bottle of San Pellegrino.

Obligatory shot of Bill.  Nice generous pour of wine.

Zander filet special with white wine sauce.  I was afraid it would come with mushrooms and it did.  The vegetables were supposed to be fresh, but weren’t really.  Bill took the mushrooms from me, sparing me from angst.  This dish was 9,30 euros.  

Bill’s pasta with spinach and gorgonzola.  I would have probably enjoyed that, though the protein was more what I needed.  The bread was nice, fresh, and crusty.

And two generously sized salads also came with our orders.  They were splashed with balsamic vinegar.  I didn’t notice the oil and vinegar the waiter placed on the table next to us.  I would have liked some oil with my salad to cut some of the acid in the vinegar.

I couldn’t help but notice the very passionate French pop music that played over the sound system.  At first, I thought we were listening to vintage Celine Dion, but it turned out to be Lara Fabian.  I had never heard of her before.  She has great pipes, though it’s not the kind of music I’d necessarily choose to listen to left to my own devices.

To be honest, I wasn’t that impressed by Positano.  The food was fine, but it wasn’t anything special.  What you get there is reasonably priced and they don’t shut down the kitchen at 2:00pm; so if you find yourself in Stuttgart after lunch hours, you can always go there for something to eat.  But I probably would pick another restaurant over that one, given a choice.  The waiter was competent and basically pleasant.  I don’t think he spoke English.  We finished our late lunch with a round of espresso.

You have to go up a flight of stairs to get to the dining room.

They cater to the after lunch crowd.

Not bad.  Not great.

The total bill before tip was 37 euros.  If you’re hungry after 2:00pm and want something reasonably priced, it’s a good bet.  I’ve had better Italian food elsewhere, though.