Our first “Noizy” week…

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We’ve now had our new family member, “Noizy”, the street dog from Kosovo, for a week. Every day, he pushes his boundaries and explores new territories. Every day, he makes progress toward integrating with Bill, Arran, and me. And every day, he does something really cute and funny.

So far, Noizy has learned what a glass door is. When we brought him into the house last week, he bonked his head on the door several times before he realized that he can’t walk through it. He’s also learned that he can walk through the bug screen on the other door.

Noizy still hasn’t left the living room, but every day, his safe space gets bigger. He’s moved from the corner to two of the rugs. Today, he almost came into the dining area.

A couple of days ago, Noizy’s bed arrived. As soon as I set it up for him and put his favorite sheet on it, he claimed the bed. He has piled several toys on it. He doesn’t play with the toys. He just stacks them on the bed like they’re his friends. It’s so cute!

Noizy is terrified of the leash. Yesterday, he had his second lesson in our backyard. He peed on himself when he saw me with it. But once I put it on him, he did okay. He only reared up a couple of times. I felt like I was halter breaking a foal again. Haven’t done that in decades! I look forward to the day when he’s less terrified of the leash and we can take him for a walk. He needs the exercise, and so do I.

He was also afraid of the brush, although he did let me brush him and seemed to enjoy the process. We’re not quite ready to bathe him yet, since he won’t willingly leave the living room except to go outside. We don’t want to traumatize him further by forcing him to have a bath. But the brushing does help and I even noticed that he doesn’t smell as bad as he did a week ago. Being inside probably helps.

Last night, Bill made homemade dog food in the Instant Pot with chicken breasts, sweet potatoes, and green beans. He used to do that all the time when we still had Zane. Zane had mast cell cancer and needed a lot of protein. This time, he decided to make the food as a treat. Noizy is still afraid of Bill, although he’s getting better. I think the homemade food will go a long way in winning over his trust. He loved it! So did Arran, who has really been missing that special treat. Noizy was a bit reluctant to eat earlier in the week, but now he chows down with gusto.

One thing I’ve also noticed and really appreciated is that Noizy naturally seems to prefer doing his business outside. In the mornings, he goes out and squats down by the garden and takes a long whiz. He also drops his logs outside.

Yesterday, we used the robot mower to cut the grass. Noizy wasn’t too afraid of it, unlike our dearly departed Zane, who barked at it for hours before he finally realized it wasn’t an alien. The robot mower is good to have, because it’s very quiet, runs on clean energy, and has tiny blades. It’s very safe to use because if it bumps against something, it just changes direction.

I’m sure this could be the calm before the storm, but I have to admit this first week hasn’t been bad at all… I was expecting a lot more drama, especially from Arran. Incidentally, Arran went down to the living room over night and slept on the loveseat. I think he’s getting used to the new dog. They may even be friends soon. I hope I can take an adorable picture of them snuggling someday.

Above all, Noizy is just a sweet dog. He’s so loving and friendly, and it’s really been fun to watch him over the week. I think being an indoor pet suits him well.

A funny thing happened on our afternoon walk…

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The sun is out this afternoon, and temperatures are kind of pleasant outside today. Arran missed yesterday’s walk because it was yucky outside and I was waiting for a package that never arrived. The package still hasn’t arrived yet, but I couldn’t miss the chance for some fresh air and exercise. Walks are also when Arran does his business best, otherwise we run the risk of him going in inappropriate places at inappropriate times.

On the way out of the house, Arran and I ran into our landlady. We don’t talk to her very often because her husband handles most of the business with us. We learned from the landlord that his wife’s brother built the house we’re living in. Our landlord then joked that he gets called “slumlord” a lot, but Bill told him this is the nicest house we’ve ever lived in. I think I agree with him. We’ve lived in a few houses we’ve enjoyed for various reasons, but overall, I think this one is in the best shape. The only place I absolutely hated in all ways was our apartment in Fredericksburg, Virginia. It was the true epitome of a dump, along with inconsiderate neighbors, high crime, and shitty infrastructure. For that dump, we paid about $900 a month in 2003. By contrast, the house we’re in now is the most expensive of any we’ve ever lived in. But, for the most part, it’s completely worth it… and not just because it’s a nice house, but because we are treated respectfully, like adults with the right to privacy. It’s also a very comfortable home with many nice amenities and no one freaking out over dog hair in the doorway.

One nice thing about our current landlords is that they don’t mind dogs. Arran went over to say hello to the landlady. She gave him a pat and asked about Zane. I told her that he’d died. I’m sure they were wondering, but probably didn’t know how to bring it up. I mentioned that maybe we’d have a new dog after the holidays. She nodded in agreement, which makes me feel good. A few weeks ago, one of our elderly neighbors asked about Zane, and remarked that the dogs are like our children. That’s definitely true in our case. I was kind of happy that he’d asked, since I never know how the neighbors feel about our dogs. It seems like they’re well liked in this neighborhood. Obviously, Zane has been missed, and not just by Bill and me.

So we did our usual loop, and on our way through the messy field by the Rewe, I noticed an older lady coming down the hill with a little Yorkie. The Yorkie was off lead, which usually makes me nervous, since you never know how dogs will act when they first meet each other. The little dog came running up to Arran, who was whining and shrieking, trying to make contact. The lady smiled at me as our dogs sniffed. Her little dog was so cute, dodging, barking at Arran, yet curious and wanting to sniff my hand. I said to the dog, “Hello… aren’t you cute?”

Then the lady laughed and said, “You’re American?”

“Yes!” I responded, with a giggle.

“Me too!” she laughed.

We shared another awkward moment, then said goodbye. What are the odds?

I’ve heard there are a number of Americans here in Breckenheim. I know there’s a little hotel and there are a couple of Air BnBs here, too, where people have stayed until they find housing. This was the first time I’ve bumped into an American while walking the dog near my home in any of the three places in Germany I’ve lived so far. Or maybe I have run into them, but because I pass for German and so do a lot of other Americans, I just didn’t know it.

Anyway, it was kind of a funny encounter. Maybe we’ll run into each other again sometime. I hope so, since I think Arran and her dog may be buddies now. I love how our dogs serve as such excellent canine ambassadors. I’ve met a lot of nice people in Germany thanks to my dogs.

Today also happens to be the seventh anniversary of losing MacGregor, who was Arran’s predecessor. MacGregor was such a wonderful dog. He was best friends with Bill, who was probably the only man he ever liked. I can’t believe it’s been seven years already since we lost him. Time flies!

MacGregor, posing on our well-loved loveseat at our very first German house… Our first German house was almost as beautiful as the one we’re in now. We lost MacGregor in Raleigh, North Carolina seven years ago today. Canine cancer sucks!

Bill goes GoLYTELY into the good night…

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Bill and I just enjoyed a 24 hour adventure in Landstuhl at the Army’s Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, the biggest U.S. military medical facility outside of the United States. As an Air Force brat and Army wife, I had heard about this place many times. A few of my friends were born at Landstuhl, as well as Bill’s former stepson, and a few children of friends. Today’s experience was the first time I had ever been there myself. I must say, I was rather impressed with it. For a military hospital, it’s pretty damned nice.

Anyway, as is my habit, I’ve decided to write up this tale, since we did stay in a very no frills hotel near the installation. I came along with Bill to drive him home, since he’s currently under the influence of sedatives and muscle relaxants. I drove our new Volvo for the first time yesterday, even though we’ve had it since July. I am proud to say that I managed to drive it home with ease today, too. Actually, it drives like a dream. Makes me think it might be time to trade in my Mini. I might even drive more often if I had a car like that.

Bill stopped to get Euros at our Rewe. Pictured above is the brand new drink market that opened a couple of weeks ago. A year ago, that was a field. The adjoining store is being renovated and will reopen on the 5th.

Landstuhl is maybe a 90 minute drive from Wiesbaden. I kind of like it out that way. It’s pretty, and reminds me a little of Baden-Württemberg, minus the hellacious Staus. Because I had never driven the Volvo before, Bill drove part of the way and then I got a test drive. I finally understand, now, when Bill talks about the view he gets on the windshield, which shows his speed and the speed limit. As a passenger, I can’t see it, but it’s easy to see in the driver’s seat. Of course, I still found myself speeding a lot, since that car drives as smoothly as silk. It’s like driving your living room. We pulled over at Burger King so I could eat. Bill wasn’t allowed to. While we were there, I noticed that they were selling burgers with some kind of truffle sauce. I hate truffles, but even if I liked them, what in the hell would possess me to buy anything with truffles on them at Burger King or any other fast food joint? Seems kind of crazy to me. I also noticed they were selling the dreaded lava cakes.

We got to Landstuhl during the afternoon and stopped by the hospital so Bill could check in. I was surprised by how quiet it was, as well as how large the installation is. Bill got a number from the automated machine, but it wasn’t really necessary. No one else was there.

It was so quiet in the hospital… almost eerie.
Even the emergency room was quiet. It looked like it was going to snow yesterday, but today it’s sunny and bright.

Because we had to be at the hospital early, Bill was advised to book a room. He chose the Hotel Pfeffermühle & Flammerie, a very simple, very German hotel with a restaurant that only serves Flammkuechen, otherwise known as Alsatian pizza. Because we were there on a Sunday and the restaurant is only open on weeknights, we didn’t get to try the pizza. In fact, we had to call the proprietor to come open the door for us so we could check in.

Our room was pretty small, but immaculately clean, and a good deal at 80 euros for the night. I noticed all of the rooms were named after local towns, which seemed an interesting touch, given how no frills the hotel was. I’m sure they get a lot of business from people like Bill, who live in Germany but need local lodging to access the hospital on the Army post. I think we might have gotten one of the better rooms. It had a shared balcony that overlooked the street in front of it and the generous parking lot, where there is free parking for guests.

We had a little time before the witching hour of 6:00pm, when Bill was to start drinking his GoLYTELY. Because he’s a sweetheart, he went out and got me snacks, wine, and beer. We brought most of it home, although the Cheetos came in handy while I watched TLC reality TV programs dubbed into German. Later, he realized that the two rolls of toilet paper provided by the hotel would also be insufficient. He went out to get some more. It turned out to be Charmin, and we also had leftovers of that. However, I think this house can handle Charmin, while our last house could not.

Dinner… for me, at least.
Finally, it was time to flush Bill’s innards…

Bill had to drink half of that jug at 6:00pm and the rest at 3:00am. He said it didn’t actually taste that bad. It was kind of chemically with a salty aftertaste. He chilled it, added Crystal Light, and drank quickly. I’m proud to say that he managed to finish the whole thing without throwing up. And I don’t think things were that “explosive”, either. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be, anyway. He brought a book and his iPad, but I don’t think he had to camp out on the toilet. In fact, aside from getting chilled, he was even able to sleep.

I had the usual German breakfast of cold cuts, Brotchen, and a boiled egg, washed down with juice and peppermint tea. Bill watched.

We showed up at the clinic at about 8:00am. A cheerful nurse greeted Bill quickly and he was went on with the procedure. I ended up chatting with a lady who had accompanied her friend, who works at Ramstein and is about to retire. A few other unlucky folks showed up… I’m assuming most of them were there for the same reason.

Two hours after our arrival, Bill was done. A very kind looking nurse gave me the post op instructions, as well as a detailed printout of what happened during the procedure and full color pictures of Bill’s colon. I signed the form indicating that I’d be responsible for getting Bill home, and off we went. Aside from some confusion as to how to get on the Autobahn and a couple of impatient parking space lurkers, it went off without a hitch. Bill’s scope was clean; he doesn’t need to have another done for ten years; and he’s now sound asleep. I think I’ll join him.

Will I have myself scoped? Probably not. Bill says he’ll make me go, but I kind of doubt it. Should I have it done? Probably… but I can’t be arsed.

Big business in Poland, part two

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Although we spent Saturday, the 16th, in Frankfurt, our big business trip to Poland officially began on Sunday, November 17th. We spent a luxurious anniversary night at the Jumeirah Frankfurt Hotel, for which I have already written a TripAdvisor review. I tried to upload my photos with that review, but it was taking way too long on the hotel’s WiFi.

The Jumeirah Frankfurt hotel is part of a chain based in the United Arab Emirates, so it’s a very Muslim friendly hotel. Personally, I found that a very interesting touch. It was definitely not like typical upscale German hospitality. Everyone on staff spoke English and all seemed very eager to please. From the moment of our arrival until we checked out, we got great service. The only real hiccup was when we ate dinner in the dining room, Max One Grillroom. Our waiter was very kind and hardworking, but seemed a bit inexperienced and unsure about wine service. However, having waited tables myself, I know there’s a first time for everything. I have faith he’ll catch on and do just fine.

I prepaid the room, which was about middle of the road for what they offer. It was about $400, but less expensive options are certainly available. Remember this was for our anniversary. Adding in dinner and drinks the bar, plus valet parking and taxes, we had about 300 euros left to pay at checkout.

The Jumeirah Frankfurt is attached to a shopping mall. On the top floor is “Foodtopia”, which is supposed to be some kind of high powered food court. I wasn’t impressed by it, mainly because it was very loud and crowded. However, Americans might be interested in it, because that’s where Chipotle Grill is. I have never eaten at Chipotle myself, but I do remember when we lived in Stuttgart, people spoke of driving all the way to Frankfurt to get their “fix”. Seems a bit extreme to me!

We didn’t manage to eat lunch before we left the house on Saturday, so we made a quick stop at Buena Vista Restaurant, which is right across from the Jumeirah Frankfurt Hotel. We chose it because they serve tapas and wine. I didn’t want a lot before dinner, just enough to chase off the low blood sugar blues. We ended up with too much, anyway… but here are a few photos. I had garlic soup, which was pretty good, but a little too rich.

After we checked out of the hotel on Sunday morning, we made our way to hellish Frankfurt Airport. Bill had pre-arranged parking in a business lot. That was a real blessing, since trying to park in other areas can be quite the nightmare. I had booked a business class seat on our flight, while Bill was booked in coach. Had I known we’d be on a tiny airplane, I would not have bothered. As it was, I got bumped from business class and sat with Bill in an exit row. Supposedly, Lufthansa will give me 90 euros back on my credit card someday.

Having the business class ticket was useful in that it got me through security quickly and it got my bag off the plane first. Unfortunately, Bill and I got split up, since the economy security line was loaded with people. He got to the gate before I did, since I waited for him not knowing he was already through the line. Then, we had to take a long bus ride all the way out to the cargo area to get to our rinky dink airplane… which happened to be full of people who were also going to Bill’s conference in Wroclaw. In fact, there were so many Americans aboard that the staff at the airport asked Bill what was up.

I don’t think so, but keep trying.

The flight itself was okay. It took about an hour. I was glad I at least got to sit with Bill. I suspect I’ll be bumped on the way back to Frankfurt, too. One thing I do miss about Stuttgart is the airport, which is much smaller and less chaotic than Frankfurt Airport is. Frankfurt Airport generally puts me in a bad mood because shit just doesn’t work there. We had to use self check in and self baggage drop, and neither worked properly for me, so I had to find a customer service person anyway. I wish they’d just employ people and not force the clueless to try to use their poorly calibrated machines that need more printing ink. Oh… and I wish they’d not oversell their flights, too… but I guess everyone is doing it.

More in the next post.

Ten things I learned on our latest trip to Scotland…

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I usually like to summarize our trips with a “ten things I learned” post. I usually only do them when we go to new places. We’ve now been to Scotland four times and I know I’ve done at least one “ten things I learned” post for one of those past trips. However, this time, we did explore new territory, and I never did get around to writing anything yesterday. I usually update my travel blog on the weekends, too. So… here’s a new “ten things I learned” post, for the curious.

10. It pays to check the calendar before booking a stay in a city like Edinburgh.

I wish I had known about the Fringe Festival. It was kind of cool to experience it, but if I had known about it in advance, we might have made different plans. On the plus side, I was glad to visit Edinburgh again and pick up new art by Matylda Konecka.

9. Bill needs to practice sitting in his kilt.

Seriously, I have tried to teach him about how to sit in a skirt, but it’s hard to undo 55 years of habitually sitting as a man typically does. At least he was wearing underwear. He still looks gorgeous in his kilt, though, so I will keep trying to teach him how to sit like a lady.

8. Eating fried bread before a long coach ride is a bad idea.

For me, anyway, it is… I shouldn’t be eating fried bread anyway, but I have to admit to liking it. It must be that 78% British/Irish ancestry I have. 😉

7. First class on ScotRail isn’t a luxury experience.

If there is a next time we need to get to Inverness from Edinburgh, we’re renting a car.

6. Inverness is a very charming city.

I definitely want to go back there for another visit and stay longer than just a night.

5. More people should take time to speak to the elderly.

One of the things I like most about Hebridean Princess is that there are typically a number of elderly people on board who are still very much “with it” mentally and even pretty spry. And if you’re lucky, they’ll talk to you about their lives. Every single Hebridean cruise we’ve enjoyed has had at least one or two of these charming folks who remember what it was like in the past and want to share their experiences. It’s fascinating.

4. Bill likes whisky more than I do.

While I did a lot of whisky drinking on our first whisky cruise, I did a lot less of it on this cruise. Maybe it was the time of the year, or maybe I’m just getting too sensitive. I probably should stick to beer and wine.

3. There’s a good reason why Cape Wrath is called Cape Wrath.

’nuff said.

2. Seasickness pills are a God send.

’nuff said about that, too, except to add that I prefer the kind you swallow as opposed to chewable Bonine pills, which taste horrible.

And finally… 1. It’s time for a French barge cruise.

I hope we can finally arrange one this year.

The prettiest view in Eppstein… Ristorante Kaisertempel

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After last night’s wonderful dinner and our outing to the Fasanerie, Bill and I decided we’d take another trip to lovely Eppstein.  I wanted to explore the temple on the side of the mountain I noticed when we visited Eppstein Castle a couple of months ago.

The Kaisertempel.  Right next to it is a very nice Italian restaurant called Ristorante Kaisertempel.

After a rather scary, white knuckle ride up a steep, narrow, mountain pass, we came to the restaurant, a large, charming building with a stone oven for pizzas and a full bar.  The area is full of walking trails, so there were plenty of bikers and hikers, although there are precious few spots on the narrow road that make it easy to pass cars going the opposite direction.  It wasn’t a problem when we went up the mountain, but it was when we came back down.  In any case, we had a very lovely lunch.  Here are some photos.
My very first view of the view… Absolutely stunning!

They ask for a small donation at the door.


A little info in German…
The inside of the temple, which opens out into Eppstein’s most beautiful view.
What the temple looks like from the lookout point, where there’s a telescope and a bench for taking in the gorgeous panorama.
We spent a few minutes gazing at the beautiful landscape, then went to the restaurant.  We didn’t have a reservation, although I have read they are a good idea to have, especially at dinner time.  They don’t take a pause.
The inviting front door.  You pass the bar and the stone oven before you enter the beautiful dining room.  I wouldn’t have minded eating in there, but of course the weather was fine.  We sat outside, right next to the soul stirring view.

The menu had a number of options.  There were a few pasta dishes, pizzas, and main courses like steak and fish.  They also had a special fixed price meal that could be ordered in courses or on their own.
I decided to have lasagne.  It was very good… maybe not the best I’ve ever had, but definitely tasty.  It was Bolognese style, with bechemel sauce and ground beef.
Bill had a buffalo mozzarella pizza.  It was delicious!  I don’t usually go for pizzas in Germany, but the crust on this was magnificent.  We paired our dishes with the usual sparkling water and a glass each of Montpulciano.

Total bill came to about 45 euros.  Bill gave them 50 and asked them to keep the change.  Then, we took the white knuckle ride back down the mountain.  Kudos to the guy who was coming up as we were going down.  He backed much of the way down the last stretch of road so we could pass.  It really is a scary drive up, but well worth it at least once, if only to see the views.  It’s gorgeous up there. There was a nice breeze and it was noticeably cooler, too.  
I could see it’s a very popular place for bikers and hikers, but there was plenty of free parking available.  I’d go back, as long as someone else does the driving.
Eppstein is so beautiful!

Michelin starred birthday dinner at Ente in Wiesbaden!

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Thursday, June 20th, was my birthday.  It was also Corpus Christi, one of the many religious holidays celebrated in parts of Germany at this time of year.  And, it was also a work night for Bill, who needs his beauty sleep as much as possible these days.  Consequently, we celebrated my birthday last night instead of on my actual birthday.

Ever since we moved to Wiesbaden a few months ago, we’ve heard many great things about its only Michelin starred restaurant, Ente.  Actually, the first time I heard of Ente was last fall, when Bill and I had “top flight” cuisine at Stuttgart’s high class airport restaurant, Top Air.  That night, we enjoyed the services of a very particular sommelier who fussed over us all evening.  He got his training at Ente many years ago.  Ente is affiliated with the Nassauer Hof, a beautiful hotel in downtown Wiesbaden.

Ente is the German word for duck, and yes, you can have duck there if you wish.  They’ll cook a whole bird for you, complete with heart, liver, and everything else that comes with a living creature before it gets slaughtered.  Bill and I like duck, but we weren’t feeling that adventurous about eating organ meats.  Besides, Chef Michael Kammermeier, who joined Ente in 2008, had other delights to choose from.  There was a menu that featured a dish from each of the chefs, and we had a choice of four to six courses.  Ente also has a “bistro”, which looks less formal and expensive and serves French and Italian cuisine.  We’ll have to try it sometime.

Originally, we were going to take a cab to and from the restaurant, so Bill could relax and enjoy more wine.  But when Bill called for a cab, the closest one was in Frankfurt and would take about thirty-five minutes to get to us.  We decided to take our 2006 Toyota RAV 4 for its final spin as a datemobile, as today we’re driving it to Kaiserslautern and trading it in at the Volvo dealership.  Next week, we fly to Sweden to pick up our new ride.

Here are some pictures and light commentary about last night’s birthday bash.

As we approached… we ended up entering through the bistro, which caused us to take a quick tour through the interior of both restaurants.

Our reservation was for 7:00pm, but we got there a little early.  We were the first ones seated.  The weather was absolutely perfect!  We had a nice view of the Kurhaus, too, where Elton John recently performed.

A smartly attired young woman was our sommelier.  She poured me a glass of vintage rose Champagne.  Bill had an expertly prepared Campari with soda.

Next came the welcome amuse– a raspberry gazpacho with olive oil that tasted like raspberry tomatoes…  a truffle falafel (which I actually ate), duck liver that tasted like cherries, and… I’m not sure I remember what was in the little bowl.  I’m pretty sure it was fish.

Butter with salt and a duck shaped mold of duck “schmalz” to go with…
four kinds of wonderfully fresh bread… Bill liked the duck fat, while I mostly stuck with butter.  I did love the duck shaped mold, though.  We ordered a lovely bottle of Kessler Riesling from the Rheingau that tasted eerily of a sour apple Jolly Rancher, minus the sweetness.  The sommelier was very good about keeping our glasses filled.

I started with the asparagus salad, which had a delightful dollop of sorrel flavored ice cream in the middle.  That was a surprise!  The asparagus was so beautifully arranged, in perfectly cut green and white stalks.  This was a nice beginning.
But I think I liked Bill’s first course even more.  It was king fish ceviche with mango salsa and peppers, along with little “chips” on top.  It popped with flavor.  

Next came the pea ravioli, which was served with coconut foam.  The peas were very fresh and sweet.  Several were in their pods to go with the three homemade raviolis stuffed with pea puree.
Bill’s next dish was tiger trout, which looked a whole lot like salmon and was served with a beautifully presented medley of vegetables and foam.

We each had a scoop of Champagne flavored sorbet to cleanse the palate…

Then it was time for the main courses.  Bill had Loup de Mer, which is basically European sea bass.  It was served with deconstructed ratatouille and jus.
I had Spanish dry aged entrecote.  Originally, this would have been a tri tip of Waygu beef, but they did not have Waygu beef available.  My dish came with a Caesar salad, served on a heart of Romaine with black olives and tomatoes, mashed potatoes, jus, and of course, Bearnaise.  Yes, it’s a tiny portion, but remember we were eating four courses.  The steak was mostly cooked to medium and, to be honest, I’ve had better beef.  I think I liked Bill’s main dish more.

We both had the Strawberry Fields dessert, which was probably my favorite of all of the courses.  It was basically like a very thin layer of chocolate cake with cream, crumbles, and very sweet strawberries.

Just before they brought out the bill, we had chocolates and fruit.  I had a glass of Chianti with it.
Bill ponders the bill…  Glad he brought his credit card.

They brought me a little gift to take home…
A little cake!  And look, it has candles, too!

Total damage for this meal was about 359 euros.  Bill rounded up to 400 euros.  For any Americans reading this who think that was a crappy tip, remember we’re in Germany, where wait staff actually get paid by their employers.  They don’t require or expect a 20 percent tip.  
Overall, our experience at Ente was a very pleasant meal coupled with excellent service.  It was not the BEST I’ve ever had… Actually, I think my favorite restaurant experiences in Germany so far have both been at the now defunct Alte Post in the little Black Forest town of Nagold, of all places.  I had the pleasure of dining in their formal dining room twice and left there both times absolutely floored by how wonderful the meals and service were.  Unfortunately, Alte Post, and its more casual sister restaurant, Luz Bistro, had to close last fall due to a lack of qualified service personnel.  I was sad to see it close, even though we’ve since moved away from the Nagold area.  It really was a fantastic restaurant.
I’ve also had meals in Wiesbaden I liked more than what we had at Ente.  Martino Kitchen immediately comes to mind.  The presentations at Ente were exquisite and the service was divine, but I guess my selections last night just didn’t thrill me as much as some at other places have.  However, I would definitely visit Ente again and try other selections, which very well could shock me like Alte Post did.
A kid doing cartwheels nearby.
A view of the terrace as we were leaving.
Kurhaus.  

Manic looking ad for a dentist who does implants.
Big ass van parked next to us…  Look, it’s a Ford!  Donald Trump was wrong about Germans not owning American cars.  This was a model produced in Europe.
Glad our new car has parking assist.  It’s not easy getting out of a parking spot with something this huge blocking one’s view.
The dogs were delighted to see us!
Well, that’s another birthday down the tubes!


Jettingen who? New discoveries in nature and more Breckenheimer rock n’ roll!

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Last night turned out to be unexpectedly awesome.  After we came home from Idstein, we decided to hang out with the dogs for awhile.  Then, at about 6:00pm, the Breckenheimer Bikers were back to continue their fest.  I asked Bill if he wanted to go.  He said “sure”, so we walked to the area where they had set up their booths and tables.  The weather was better, so there were a lot more people.  It looked like they had different food, too.

Then Bill wanted to see if there was anything going on at the Dorfplatz, which is where they always have the wine stands every other Friday night.  Nothing was going on there, but we decided to keep walking.  I’m ashamed to say that in seven months of living in this town, I haven’t explored it much.  I don’t know why.  When I was younger, I’d always walk around my new neighborhoods to make new discoveries.  I usually have the dogs with me, though, and our new town doesn’t have very good sidewalks, since it’s very densely populated.  I guess I figured the area was too congested for them, making it hard to dodge cars.

We walked down Dorfgasse, which is the main drag, passed the antiques dealer, a Kurheil practitioner, a pension, a bakery, an architect, and a druggist with a gynecologist’s office attached to it.  Aside from the bakery and the druggist, I had no idea the other stuff was even there.  We also passed a bunch of guys sitting in their garage, drinking beer, and having a party.

Then we saw a country road on the edge of the neighborhood.  Yes… Breckenheim is on the edge of the country, and we discovered a large park where we can take walks with the dogs.  Perhaps my days of walking them in the poo and dildo infested fields near the Autobahn and the Rewe are over.  Here are some photos from our walk.

This looks familiar… our old town of Jettingen had a similar sign asking people to pick up their dogs’ crap.

Turns out there’s a pretty big walking area, complete with orchards.

There’s even a woods!

 

After a few minutes of walking, we came across a small paddock where a group of ponies were enjoying some hay.  I call them ponies, but they might have been miniature horses.  I mean, they’d be ponies because of their height alone, but they had the more delicate features of horses, with a lighter bone structure. I don’t have much experience with minis, although I have plenty of experience with ponies.  Whatever they officially were, I was delighted to see them!  I spent most of my childhood around horses and even used to have my own pony.  It’s been too many years since I last had a horse in my life.  They are wonderful company.  I even miss their wonderful aroma.

 

One of the mares had a colt by her side.  It looked like a couple of the others might also be expecting, although it’s a bit late in the year for that.  They might have just been fat.

They were very friendly, although I didn’t dare try to pet them.  I have a lot of experience with electric fences, too.  I’m glad we walked up this way, since my dogs go nuts when they see horses.  Now, if I try to walk them here, I’ll be forewarned.

The further we went down the road, the quieter and more bucolic the views were.  I was reminded of the more country areas where we’ve previously lived in Baden-Württemberg.  I’m really a country girl at heart, so finding out our new Hessian town has country scenes did my heart good.  The one thing I’ve been missing about Jettingen are the beautiful wooded areas where I could walk my dogs.  Now I’ve found Breckenheim’s version.

 

The church on the other side.  I think there’s a concert there today.  We might have to check it out.

 

On the way back to our neighborhood, we happened to pass by a tree as several birds of prey had engaged in what appeared to be a violent attack.  I grabbed my camera and tried to film them in action, but was just a little too late to capture the fight.  But then I saw something strange.  A bird was hanging upside down by one talon.  It hung there for an agonizing minute as we looked on, wondering if it was just stunned.  I filmed the bird and my German friend told me it was an Eichelhäher, otherwise known as an Eurasian Jay.  It bore a slight resemblance to our blue jays.  Just after I turned off the camera, the jay lost its desperate grip on the branch and dropped to the ground.  It was still alive when we left it, but I doubt for much longer.  I was a little sad about witnessing that scene, but unfortunately, it’s the way of nature.

By the time we got back to our street, the fest had exploded.  Most of the tables were full of people drinking beer, Sekt, Aperol spritzes, and Jack Daniels.  There were several bands, all of which were quite good.  Our landlord and his wife were there, having a good time.  I like them both, although I haven’t really spent much time talking to them.  Our new landlady doesn’t speak much English, but she’s always very friendly and seems happy to see us.  The landlord seems to like Bill, and he speaks more English– likewise, Bill speaks more German than I do.  We said hello and watched a few acts.  The landlord said they usually do this fest every year, although some years they’ve skipped it.  I’m glad we were around for it this year.

The bikers put on a hell of a party!  I remember Jettingen had events too, but none like this.  A lot of the fests in Jettingen were religious or agricultural.

Cheers!

I got video of a couple of them, which maybe I’ll turn into something I can share here.  I did think to take a few pictures, especially of an enthusiastic gentleman who danced to several well covered classic rock songs.  The group before the rock band consisted of four very talented men singing a cappella in surprisingly good harmony.  I am myself a singer, so I know how hard to can be to stay on pitch when you sing unaccompanied.  They did a really good job of it.  I was especially impressed by their version of “The Bonnie Banks o’ Loch Lomond”.  For some reason, Germans seem to love Scotland, just like I do…  I got some raw video, which I might turn into something sharable at some point.

This guy was dancing his ass off.

This dude sounded like a mix of Bon Scott and Meatloaf.  He was singing songs by Foreigner, Billy Idol, and Bob Seger, among others.  His female partner covered a Bryan Adams song and Pink.  They were surprisingly good.

They brought up a young girl… a family member, perhaps, who joined them on the Bryan Adams number, “I Need Somebody.”

This guy was awesome.  He was inspiring people to cut loose.

We went back home and Bill cooked burgers on the new grill.  The party went on down the street.  At about 10:45pm, they set off some fireworks– maybe a minute or two’s worth.  At about 11, the party was over.  All in all, from Idstein to party time, our Saturday was amazing.  I’m not sure what we’re going to do today, but we sure did have a great day yesterday!

Fireworks!

A day in Bacharach…

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After last week’s trip to Eppstein to see the castle, I thought maybe we might want to go to another castle this week.  But Bill had other plans.  Elton John is going to be playing a concert tonight in Wiesbaden and since we saw him in Stuttgart and have no desire to sit in Staus from Hell again, we decided to avoid the city.  Remembering a lovely day we spent in the Rhein-side hamlet of Bacharach, back in 2014, Bill decided we should visit there again.  I was game.  Bacharach has the distinction of being the very first German town I ever laid eyes on, back in 1997.  It’s an adorable place, even if there’s not a lot to it.

On the edge of town.

We didn’t really do a lot in Bacharach other than wander around, take pictures, eat lunch, and have beer at a Biergarten.  We were blessed with wonderful weather– much better than what we had when we visited in 2014.  I don’t have much to write… but I do have lots of pictures.  Feast your eyes on this cute little historic town, located about an hour away from Wiesbaden.  It’s nice to be so close!

If castles are your thing, you could do worse than visiting Bacharach or any of the other cute little towns near it, like St. Goar.  There are many castles around the area.  I caught these photos on the ways in and out of town.

Lots of pretty vineyards, too.  Bacharach’s Schloss is now a youth hostel that sits majestically on a hillside overlooking the town.

You can see the hostel in the background.  I stayed in a lot of hostels during my 1997 epic train trip through Europe, but I didn’t stay at Bacharach’s.  I think I was intimidated by the climb up the hill.  Bacharach’s hostel is in the historic Burg Stahleck Castle, which dates back to the 12th century.

When I stayed in Bacharach, I stayed at the Hans Dettmar B&B.  I was excited because the room came with a shower and a WC.  My standards have changed a lot since 1997, but so has my budget.

Our first order of business was to find something to eat.  Bacharach was busy with tourists today, most of whom were sitting outside.  We didn’t necessarily want to eat outside, although on a warmer day, it’s nice to be in the open air.  I have to balance wanting to be cool and wanting to stay out of the sun.  We ended up having lunch at a garlicky smelling place called Pizzeria Pippo (or Pippo Bistro, depending on what sign you’re reading).  Based on the decorations on the walls, I would guess it’s owned by Sicilians.
Cheers!
They had lasagne on the menu that looked tempting, but they weren’t offering it today.  I had spaghetti with “Lachs”– salmon and onions.  It was okay, though I have had better.
Bill went with the daily special, housemade tagliatelle with tomatoes, herbs, and cream sauce.  He seemed to enjoy his dish more than I liked mine.  

While we were sitting there, an English speaking group of 7 showed up.  They were making special requests.  Kudos to the waitress for handling it so well.  I think if we go there again, I’ll try a pizza.  They have a stone oven and the sizes looked manageable.  As it was, I managed about half of my dish, while Bill finished his.  We spent 37 euros.
After lunch, we wandered around… toured a church, strolled by the river, and wished we had more time to take a cruise.  The breeze coming off of the Rhein was lovely.
Check out those pipes!
This is different.  I probably would have kept going to church if we’d had one of these where I used to attend.
Literature lovers will enjoy this…
Another shot of the hostel/castle.
Boat schedule.  We’ll have to make a point of coming up and spending more than a couple of hours.  
The town itself is super cute.  And if you want to buy some wine, you can easily accomplish that.
I would actually love to find a little vacation apartment and come up for a long weekend with the dogs.  Bacharach is not that far from Wiesbaden, but it feels like a world away…  this is the kind of place we love to visit on weekends.  The Black Forest area is chock full of them, but we’re still trying to make discoveries up here in Rheinland.
We stopped at a Biergarten– the Kleines Brauhaus at the Rhein Theater— where we had a memorable afternoon in 2014.  We happened to visit on German Father’s Day, and there were many fathers and sons at this Biergarten, getting loaded and singing songs…  It was such a special memory for us that we decided to go back.
They had a full house.  We had to wait for someone to vacate a table under the carousel canopy.  One young lady– looked about seventeen or so– was bravely handling all of the orders.  She was remarkably chilled out. 
I had a Bacchusweizen Krug.  When it arrived, the Germans at the next table looked at me with bemusement.  Maybe it’s not very ladylike to order a liter of beer.  Maybe it’s not smart, either, since it will get warm if you don’t drink it fast enough.  Believe me, I’m up to the task.  This beer was a little bitter.  I liked Bill’s 1489 Dunkelweizen better.
In the foyer of the theater.  I took this same photo in 2014, which you can see on the post I linked at the beginning of this post.  I see they’ve added a safety vest.  
Someone started up this calliope.  Pretty cool!
I do like the Rhein Terrasse.  We didn’t make any new friends here this time, like we did in 2014, but it was still a pleasant place to kill an hour or so, before we decided to go home and feed the dogs.

We’re supposed to have similarly beautiful weather tomorrow.  Maybe we’ll visit that castle I was thinking about.  Or maybe we’ll do something else entirely.  I’m just glad we aren’t sitting in traffic.
On the way out…

The Eagles sure didn’t stink in Cologne… part 1

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Last October, as Bill and I were preparing for our big move from Stuttgart to Wiesbaden, I found out that the Eagles, one of my favorite bands of all time, was going to be playing two dates in Germany in 2019.  2018 was our summer of concerts.  We saw The Rolling Stones in Stuttgart, Paul Simon, Bonnie Raitt, and James Taylor (all at one show) in Dublin, Roger Hodgson in Stuttgart, and the Irish Folk Festival in Stuttgart.  I also knew we were going to be seeing Elton John in Stuttgart in May 2019.

Given that we’d already spent so much money on shows and knowing that a move always requires more spending, I hesitated slightly before I bought the tickets.  When we go to concerts, they usually turn into major spending events.  I usually book us a nice hotel, so we don’t have to worry about driving far to get to the venue or trying to park (although we made the mistake of driving to the Elton John show).  I also don’t bother with “nosebleed” seats.  There was a time when those were the best seats I could afford, but now I want to sit closer, which always means more money.

I asked Bill what he thought about seeing the Eagles, even though the band’s legendary frontman, Glenn Frey, passed away in January 2016.  After some thought, Bill was okay with attending the show.  Now it was time to choose a city.  I had a choice between Cologne and Munich.

We had been in Cologne once before, back in May 2012, when we took our very first Space A military “hop”.  I remember we stayed at the Ibis in the train station, which was fine for a night when we were totally exhausted, but probably wouldn’t do now that I’m older and richer.  I also know Munich is expensive, since we did a blind booking out of Cologne on Germanwings (now known as Eurowings) during that same Space A hop and got Munich.  Don’t get me wrong– Munich is so much fun; but it’s super pricey.  Even average hotels down there cost a mint.  Munich is also further away from us, now that we’re in Wiesbaden.

Both of the shows were on work nights, but the Cologne show was the day after Memorial Day, so we decided it would be easiest to go to Cologne.  Bill would use up one less vacation day, and both the concert tickets and the lodging were less expensive than Munich.  Now that we’ve been back to Cologne, I can say that we’ll probably go there for more shows.  Not only was it super easy to get to the concert venue, it’s also super easy to get to Cologne from where we live.  And, as a bonus, we discovered an amazing hotel in the Excelsior Hotel Ernst!  As long as we can afford it, I think the Excelsior Hotel Ernst has effectively ended our Ibis days in Cologne.

This trip was also important, because it provided an excellent opportunity for our dogs to try out a new doggy pension.  When we lived in Stuttgart, we used Dog on Holiday, which I would absolutely recommend to anyone.  In fact, we’ve decided that anytime we need to go to or through Stuttgart with our dogs, we will try to have them stay with Max and Christine.  But it wasn’t practical to take the boys to Dog on Holiday from Wiesbaden, so we needed to find a place for them closer to our new town.  In February, we visited the Tierpension Birkenhof, and arranged for our boys to have their first stay during this quick trip to Cologne.

 

I got us fifth row seats!

 

With all of the arrangements made, we set off for the “city of pleasant smells” on Monday of this week– Memorial Day.  Since our hotel was super close to the train station and the train station had a stop near Cologne’s Lanxess Arena, which was where the Eagles would be “crying”, we decided to take the Inner City Express (ICE) train from the Frankfurt Airport.  The Tierpension Birkenhof is fairly convenient to the airport, although not as convenient as Max’s pension is to the Stuttgart airport.

 
Checking in to the doggy hotel

 

 

The Tierpension Birkenhof was recommended to Bill by one of his co-workers.  It’s always interesting to see the differences in the “doggy hotels” in Germany.  When we were in Stuttgart the first time, we used to use Hunde Hotel Haase, which was a beautiful facility in Bad Niedernau, a very country hamlet south of Stuttgart.  Kiersten, the  lady who ran it back in those days, was absolutely awesome.  But, when we came back to Stuttgart in 2014, she’d left and took the hotel’s good reputation with her.  We used the Hunde Hotel Haase a couple more times, but kept hearing horror stories about dogs that were left there.  That’s when we switched to Dog on Holiday, which has been universally great, despite it’s somewhat urban location.

 
 

Tierpension Birkenhoff is a rather large facility that cares for dogs and cats.  It’s located in a somewhat suburban area, yet it’s near farmland.  The owner doesn’t accept VAT forms, and we haven’t yet met him.  We have met two of his employees, both of whom seemed very kind.  

 

I have noticed that each German dog facility has its quirks.  At the Birkenhoff, you’re not allowed to bring your own dog bed.  I’m not sure exactly why this is… I think it’s because the other doesn’t want to have to worry about the owners’ beds getting dirty.  Nevertheless, it does make things somewhat more convenient for us, since we’re about to trade in our RAV 4 SUV for a Volvo SUV and will probably have to bring the dogs in my Mini Cooper next time they stay.  Mini Coopers are small.  Dog beds take up a lot of space.

 

Frankfurt Airport train station to Cologne Messe

 

Once the dogs were dropped off, we made our way to the Frankfurt Airport.  Bill had reserved parking with ACS at the airport, which turned out to be very convenient, once we figured out where P4 was.  The reserved spots are reasonably priced and located near the terminal, so there’s no need to haul heavy bags long distances from far away lots.  Frankfurt Airport is a bit more confusing than Stuttgart Airport is.  It’s huge, and finding parking can be super confusing and annoying.  But now that we know where the ACS parking is, I’m sure we’ll use it all the time.  It really made parking super easy.

 

Frankfurt Airport also has a big train station, making it easy to access a lot of cities.  If we had left from Wiesbaden, it would have taken a lot more time, required us to park in the parking garage from Hell, and we would have needed to change trains at least once.  From Frankfurt Airport, it was a straight shot to Cologne.  

 
 

I like how, in Germany, “bullshit” isn’t a bad word.  You’ll even see it on billboards.

 

We had time for lunch, so we stopped at a restaurant called Little Italy, not to be confused with the Little Italy in Wiesbaden, which has become one of our favorite Sunday lunch stops.  The Little Italy at the airport is in the shopping area called The Squaire.  It’s not long on ambiance, but the food and service are good.

 
Mmm…  food!
 
 

Bill went vegetarian with spaghetti and fresh vegetables, tossed in a little olive oil and washed down with a tempranillo.

 

I had a very lovely tagliatelle salmone.  The salmon was cooked to perfection and melted in my mouth.  I love salmon that isn’t overcooked, and they did a really good job with this.  However, I probably would have preferred about half this much food.  

 

With lunch sorted, we headed down to the platform where we’d catch our train to Cologne.  But then, about ten minutes before we were to depart, our original train was cancelled due to some people on the tracks.  Don’t ask me what that means.  I have no idea.  Bill ran up to the Deutsche Bahn (DB) information kiosk, where he was advised that we should take another train. 

 

Instead of dropping us directly at the Cologne Hauptbahnhof, would go to the Cologne Messe stop.  That would require us to take a city train one stop over the Rhein River.  The nice thing about the train we took was that it went directly from Frankfurt to Cologne, with no stops.  It was also practically empty, which was a good thing, since changing trains also erased our seat reservations.  Within an hour, we were whisked to Cologne, having flown past beautiful scenery at about 280 kph.

 

I was surprised by how fast our trip from Frankfurt to Cologne was on the ICE train.  It was also very comfortable, since the train has clean toilets and a restaurant.  We did not use the restaurant during our trip to Cologne, but it was nice to have had the option.

 

 

Bill checks the schedule…

 

This is the life.  First class all the way.  Second class probably would have been fine, too.

 

We could have taken a more leisurely train to Cologne and probably saved some money, but this was a really nice way to get where we were going.  It’s been too long since our last train trip.  I think we need to take them more often.

 

It was a simple thing to take the S-bahn over the Rhein River to get to Cologne’s main station, home of the city’s majestic Dom and our hotel, the Excelsior Hotel Ernst.