anecdotes, Champagne Bucket trips, rants

Our 21st anniversary wasn’t unlike our wedding day…

21 years ago today, Bill and I got married at Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Virginia. On that day, we had rain, a bitchy florist, a caterer who packed things up before my mother-in-law could say goodbye to us, a fainting spell from my father-in-law right before our vows, a photographer who took pictures of the fainting, and an unlucky visit from Aunt Flow. The good news is, our marriage is thriving regardless… and it will continue to thrive after today’s craziness, too.

This morning, I told Bill I thought it might be a good day to visit the Hrazdan Gorge, and maybe the Genocide Memorial. I used to live near T鈥檚itsernakaberd (Genocide Memorial), which is close to the Gorge and has a nice park around it. When I lived here in the 90s, I used to walk through the Gorge somewhat regularly. At least when I lived near the Genocide Memorial, anyway. Maybe not so much during the first year.

Anyway, our hotel is also near the Gorge, but from Mashtots Avenue, which is in a different part of Yerevan from where I lived. I thought we could walk through there from Mashtots and work our way to the other side of the Gorge.

We went to breakfast, and things got off to a good start. The food and beverage manager noticed I speak some Armenian and asked me about it. I told her it was our anniversary and I had come back to Armenia after 26 years. She sent us a bottle of red wine as a congratulations. It was waiting for us after our weird day. Maybe we鈥檒l enjoy it today.

After breakfast, we got on our way. All was fine until we started heading down the crumbling steps leading to the Gorge. There weren’t many people there. Suddenly, a man wearing sunglasses and a hat showed up. He was right behind us as we started to descend. It made me nervous, so we stopped to let him pass. He passed, went down to the bottom of the steps, and turned left. We waited to see if he would keep walking, but he soon turned the other way, and kind of loitered for awhile, as if to see if we were still coming. It seemed kind of sketchy, so I told Bill I didn’t think it was a good idea to go down there. He agreed, and we made our way back up the steps. Later, we noticed the guy who was following us also came back up the steps. He wasn鈥檛 subtle at all, and seemed to be up to no good.

The Gorge is also near the Yerevan and Ararat Brandy factories. I thought maybe we could go take tours or something, rather than walk through the Gorge. We headed over to the Ararat factory, but thanks to a faulty light at the crosswalk, we weren’t able to cross the street safely. The light would turn green for us, but cars were still spewing through the intersection. So we decided to walk toward the stadium. That was okay, until some guy pulled over and urinated in front of us. That鈥檚 nothing we haven’t seen before many times, but we never relish seeing it.

We walked for awhile along the Gorge. I thought maybe we could figure out a way to get to the Memorial. But there was construction going on, and the sidewalk kind of ended abruptly. It didn’t seem like a good idea to keep going. So we turned around and said hello to a couple of very sweet and friendly looking street dogs. Then we walked back up toward our hotel…

I should mention, something not having anything to do with Armenia also happened today. I got a rude comment on my latest video.

I made this video last week for Bill, as part of our anniversary celebration…

Some random asshole left this comment (copied and pasted exactly as he left it)…

Don’t give up your day job

Joke’s on him, of course. I don’t have a day job. Nevertheless, I left him this response.

Thanks for the hit! 馃槈 In your profile picture, it looks like you鈥檙e taking a dump. That must be where you do your best work.

馃檪 I will never understand what compels people to leave rude comments for those they don’t even know, on things they don’t have to read or watch. Especially when they, themselves, aren’t exactly any great shakes. Fuckwad, here, barely has any content on his channel and has just six subscribers, so I don鈥檛 know what qualifies him to harass me on my channel. In any case, I hope he falls into an open manhole.

I was still kind of ruminating about that comment– and no, it’s not that I care about the guy’s opinion, or even that it ruined my day. I’m kind of proud of my zinger, after all. I guess I just don’t get the psychology of such a thing. If I don’t like someone’s video or post on social media, I simply keep scrolling. But some people like to shit on others, and I’m afraid that’s what happened today. He didn’t even downvote me or anything. Just left a crappy, stale, and lame comment for my video on my wedding anniversary. I guess his time on the toilet has led to a creative block that has kept him from coming up with more original insults toward strangers.

We ended up at a restaurant called The Garden. It wasn’t a bad experience, although the service was kind of inattentive. We didn’t care, as we were just having snacks and beer, in anticipation for tonight’s meal, which we expected would be good. After we went to The Garden, we went back to the Opera House to see if the guy who sold us art the other day was still there. He wasn’t, and Bill really needed to pee. Fortunately, there is a toilet near the Opera House now. It costs 100 dram and is worth every luma. The unsmiling woman who tends it keeps it super clean and stocked. It’s a handy place to know about if you’re ever near the Opera House in Yerevan and need to pee (or whatever else).

Our reservations were for 7:30 PM. As the time went on, I yawned a bit, and wasn’t really in the mood to go out. But since it was our anniversary, I put on makeup and a dress. I curled my hair… and I even shaved my underarms. Off we went, and the whole dinner experience was a disappointment from start to finish. They had to search for our reservation, and sat us next to the kitchen, which was loud, and put me in the line of heat from the kitchen and a draft from outside.

The sommelier was a bit oily, and upsold the wine to Bill, then went through an elaborate wine service. We ordered dinner, with the anticipation that we’d have dessert. But as we sat in the restaurant, I noticed people having wedding and anniversary celebrations. Even a waiter got a flaming dessert. I didn’t care so much about having a flaming dessert, but when we mentioned it was our anniversary, no one even wished us a good one. They were playing super loud music and setting cakes on fire for other people. Did I really shave my armpits for THIS?

And when I finally went to pour my own wine, because the wait staff was weeded (or fucking around), a young man suddenly raced over to me, grabbed the decanter from my hand, and poured the wine. Bill thought maybe he was afraid I’d break the decanter, but I think this was supposed to be his idea of 鈥済ood service”. It was anything but, and I was extremely annoyed, especially when the guy poured the wine, but didn’t bother to clear the table of dirty dishes. I finally scraped my plate clean and moved it to the other side of the table, after he poured the last of the wine.

Adding to the chaos was the very loud music, later provided by a female singer and what sounded like backing tracks. She was a good singer, and the tracks weren’t terrible, but her singing made it impossible to have a conversation, and it was not a whole lot better than karaoke.

I finally said to Bill, “I’ve about had enough of this shit. Let’s get out of here and have dessert at our hotel.” So that’s what we did. Bill paid for dinner and we got the hell out of there. We went to the restaurant in our hotel, had lovely desserts, fine brandies, and listened to much better jazz music played by real musicians and another female singer (who seemed to be channeling Adele). The excellent staff at our hotel restaurant saved the evening, so we made a dinner reservation for tomorrow night.

We have two more nights here until we get up in the very wee hours of Sunday morning and head back to Germany. I think we will still enjoy the rest of our time in Armenia. It has, overall, been a magical trip. But today was definitely a bit weird…

On the other hand, no one died, no one got robbed or raped, and when I get home, I can make even more videos for people like the fuckhead who told me to “keep my day job.” Too bad that guy’s mama wasn’t, instead, working at her day job on the day he was conceived. 馃槈 And the people at the hotel restaurant really did help us save our weird ass anniversary.

Time to close this post. Got to go to bed. Here’s to 21 years. Tomorrow will be a better day.


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anecdotes

We got bad service at a wine shop in France. Somehow, it’s all our fault…

Today’s post is going to be different than usual. It might even be a bit controversial. I’ve decided to write about it here, instead of on my main blog, because it has to do with travel and international relations. And it also complements a piece I wrote for my main blog this morning. So here goes…

Last month, I wrote about the trip Bill and I took to Ribeauville, France for our 20th wedding anniversary. It was our sixth visit to Ribeauville, a town that has become one of our favorite places to visit when we need a break from Germany. This time, we went there because we wanted to go somewhere dog friendly to celebrate our anniversary. Because Arran has been undergoing chemotherapy, and Noyzi had never been on a trip before, we thought it would be best to go somewhere we knew could accommodate them.

Although we have visited Ribeauville many times, I didn’t realize that a lot of businesses would be closed during our November visit. I would have expected a lot of closures during the winter season. But when we got there, our host, Yannick, explained that a lot of businesses shut down for a rest just before the Christmas season, because of the surge in business when people descend on the village to shop the markets. Consequently, the tourist friendly town was pretty dead during our visit. Only a few restaurants were open, and not all of the retail establishments were doing business.

In my blog series about our most recent trip to Ribeauville, I wrote about an unfortunate experience we had at a wine shop in Ribeauville. I didn’t go into great detail about it in the blog post, because overall, we had a good time. However, Bill and I did submit Google reviews about the place where we got bad service. We would not have bothered to do that if the shopkeeper had given us the right wine, but the unfriendliness coupled with incompetence invited comment. Some people might question our decision to complain about our experience on the Internet. I would invite the naysayers to consider the value of people sharing their opinions about products and services.

The whole reason Google offers people the chance to leave reviews is so that others might be able to choose the most appropriate places to spend their money. I almost always use reviews when I decide to book places to stay overnight. Sometimes I read restaurant reviews before I’ll book a table. I look for reviews of doctors, veterinarians, and lawyers, too, because I don’t want to waste time or money on something that will be inappropriate or disappointing.

Think about shopping at Amazon. Most of us read reviews before we make purchases, right? It helps one decide between two similar products and maybe avoid bad experiences… or increase the odds of having a really good experience. It also gives businesses the chance to do some quality control, if they are so inclined. As much as business people don’t want to hear about something going wrong, they can’t fix problems if they don’t know they exist. And in the case of the wine shop we reviewed, we couldn’t have complained in person, even if we’d wanted to, because the salesperson only spoke French, and Bill and I can’t speak French.

So, Bill wrote about how, after lunch on a cold, rainy afternoon in Ribeauville, we decided we wanted to buy some wine to take home with us. We were actually hoping to get the chance to do a tasting. Ribeauville has a lot of places where it’s possible to taste wines before buying them, and we hoped we’d find such an outlet that offered tastings when we were wine shopping. Unfortunately, on that particular day, most of the winesellers were closed, either because it was too early in the day, or because they had closed before commencing the Christmas markets. We decided we just wanted to buy the wine and hole up in the apartment, since the weather was so yucky and the dogs were waiting for us.

We saw that this one wine shop was open. The lights were on; the door was open; it was a quaint looking place. Bill had successfully shopped there before, so we had no reason to think we’d have a bad experience there. We walked in and saw there was a woman behind the counter. It was apparently her job to sell wine. She was giving off unwelcoming vibes, and looked quite annoyed that we’d come into her shop. In retrospect, we probably should have just walked out. But we wanted to buy Alsatian wine, and were planning to leave the next morning. So we approached her.

Bill asked her if she spoke English or German. Her response was a flat “no.” Okay… well, it’s France, so we don’t necessarily expect that she speaks any language other than French. She had a menu available. We spotted a package we wanted. It consisted of three Pinot Blancs and three Rieslings. We pointed to that, and I said more than once, “No Gewurztraminer.” Granted, I didn’t say it in French, but “no” means “no” in English and French. So, actually, I probably did say it in French.

The woman packed up the wines in a box. We weren’t able to see which bottles she put in the box before she taped it up. Bill paid for the package we indicated, and we quickly got out of there, because we felt unwelcome. The whole interaction lasted maybe five minutes.

When we got home, we found three bottles of Gewurztraminer instead of the Riesling we wanted. I was immediately annoyed, because not only were we treated very rudely, but we also didn’t get what we ordered. So Bill and I wrote reviews of the shop on Google, noticing that we weren’t the only people who got bad service at that particular establishment. However, we appeared to be the only Americans who had reviewed their shop. Everyone else was evidently either from France or Germany.

Last night, Bill saw that he got a response from the wine shop about the review he wrote. The woman responded in French that she was “very sorry” about her “attitude” if she was the one to whom we were referring. And she added that it was “unfortunate” that we got bottles of Gewurztraminer instead of Riesling, since Gewurztraminer is “more expensive”. Her implication seems to be that we should be grateful that we got more expensive wines when we paid for cheaper wines.

I was a bit taken aback by the woman’s response. But here are my four takeaways from this experience.

  1. This woman doesn’t care about giving people what they ordered.
  2. I don’t know if she owns the shop or is just an employee, but apparently she doesn’t care that she cost the business money because she gave us the wrong wines.
  3. She thinks that things that cost more are automatically better.
  4. She doesn’t realize that Riesling and Gewurztraminer are different wines and taste different.

I will admit that I am not an expert on Gewurztraminer, but I have never had one that I’ve enjoyed. Perhaps if the shop had offered tastings, the saleslady could have convinced us that Gewurztraminer was the better choice. She wouldn’t have even needed to speak English or German to do that. Bill and I have done tastings at other vintners in France in which all the proprietor did was pour sips of wine for us and let us decide if we wanted to purchase it. But her shop didn’t offer tastings, which is certainly fair enough.

But, since they didn’t offer tastings, and I know I like Rieslings and haven’t historically liked Gewurztraminers, I ordered Rieslings– not Gewurztraminers. It doesn’t make a happy damn to me that Gewurztraminers cost more than Rieslings do. It’s not worth anything to me if I don’t want to drink it. And while I don’t necessarily assume that the customer is always right, I do think people should get what they ask for, and pay for, or something that comes reasonably close if what they want isn’t available. This morning, when Bill and I were talking about this, he said “I’m sure a pink, diamond encrusted, Mercedes Benz would cost more than our Volvo did. That doesn’t mean I want to drive it.”

I decided to write about this incident on Facebook. I posted about it on my page, and in a wine group I run. I kind of knew in the back of my head that posting about it in the wine group would be risky, since a lot of people in the group are affiliated with the U.S. military, and a lot of people in that community seem to think that no one ever has the right to complain about anything. If you complain, you’re automatically labeled a “karen” (a term I usually refuse to use because I think it’s stupid). Below is what I posted:

That last bit was a reference to an experience Bill and I had in Ribeauville back in May 2018, when we visited a restaurant. I had ordered an entrecote steak. Bill ordered smoked salmon pancakes. The waiter came out with the pancakes and choucroute garni (Alsatian dish with sausages and sauerkraut), which was NOT what I ordered. When I politely pointed that out to the guy, he immediately got really pissed and insisted that I had ordered sausages and sauerkraut. Why would I lie about what I ordered? I didn’t want the choucroute garni, because I don’t like sauerkraut. He took the dish away, then came back and tried to get me to accept it, since it would take time to prepare the steak I ordered. Bill, being the prince of a man that he is, offered to take the choucroute garni. I took the salmon pancakes, since they had been my second choice. Unfortunately, the pancakes were badly scorched.

Am I really a “karen” if I complain about this at a restaurant? Not only is it not what I ordered, but it’s burnt.

The Ribeauville wine shop lady reminded me of the waiter at the Ribeauville restaurant who gave us very bad service and expected me to shut up and color. But… in fairness to the town, everyone else there has been fabulous. That’s why we’ve visited there six times so far!

Anyway, I had a feeling that someone would assume that I brought on my own problems at the wine shop. Sure enough, I was right. Someone responded that I shouldn’t have “expected” the wine shop woman to speak English or German at a shop in France. Where in my post does it say that I expected her to speak another language? I wrote in a matter-of-fact way that the woman didn’t speak German or English. We don’t speak French. There’s no judgment about that. Many people in that region speak German, though, because it’s very close to the German border.

Lots of Europeans speak English. In fact, a lot of people from other parts of Europe speak English to each other even if they don’t come from an English speaking country. English is a very commonly studied second language in many parts of Europe. Say you’re a French person visiting Spain, and you don’t speak Spanish, but you can speak English. You visit a Spanish restaurant and the waiter doesn’t speak French, but does speak English. You can both speak English and get what you need. See? I’ve seen this happen on many occasions.

It’s generally not possible for everyone living in Europe to learn every language, although I have met some impressive people who had seemed to try. It’s not uncommon to meet people in Europe who have mastered four or five tongues, especially among the Romance languages, but they’d still be struggling if they were somewhere in rural Croatia, Latvia, or Poland and the person they were trying to talk to didn’t speak one of the languages they happened to know.

The person in my wine group continued that she had studied French in high school and college, so she has never experienced rude behavior in France. The implication, apparently, is that I’m an “ugly American” and ignorant because I don’t speak French and had the nerve to ask the saleslady if she spoke English or German.

I was pretty irritated by that reaction and response, because I felt it was pretty judgmental. I’ve lived in Germany for ten years of my life. I like living here. Otherwise, I would have gone back to America or somewhere else a long time ago. Moreover, I completely understand the importance of being culturally sensitive. Besides Germany, I’ve also lived in England and Armenia. I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Armenia, where I taught English to little kids. And yes, I do speak some Armenian, a language that I’ll bet relatively few Americans have ever learned a word of.

I also understand that it’s important to study foreign language in school. I studied Spanish for six years, stupidly assuming I’d be living in the United States, where more people speak Spanish than French or German. Believe me, if I had known I’d be living in Germany, I would have studied German and/or French. But I didn’t have a crystal ball back in 1985, when I started taking a foreign language course for the first time. I learned the language I thought was most practical. Based on how my life has turned out, I was wrong.

Someone else wrote that maybe the woman misunderstood me because I don’t speak French. She reasoned that her mother is from Greece and sometimes misunderstands accents. But I don’t think that was what happened, because “No Gewurztraminer” is pretty clear in French and English, especially when we also point to the menu and PAY the price for the box we ordered– which the proprietor says is cheaper than the price is for a box with Gewurztraminer.

Why do people feel like they need to play devil’s advocate, even when the other person isn’t even around to be offended. The wine purveyor isn’t in my wine group, after all. I didn’t even mention which shop she runs. I was just sharing an experience. Why can’t people simply have empathy, rather than try to blame the victim?

The saleslady was not only rude to us, but she also made a mistake; then she shamed us for daring to speak out about it. And instead of apologizing for making the mistake, which everybody does sometimes, she responded in a way that indicated that we were right about her disposition. She’s just plain rude, and probably should find a new line of work that makes her happier. I mean, it’s not like she was slammed with people on the day of our visit. We were the only people in her shop, which was legitimately open for business. We made a very simple request. She botched it, and was very unpleasant to boot. Then, when we legitimately complained, she continued to show everyone her ass.

I think that experience warrants a complaint… or even just a comment, so that other people can avoid that experience themselves. I comment about what happened to Americans, and some of them imply that this was my fault. Isn’t that really nice?

Listen, I’ll be the first to admit that I can be extremely annoying sometimes. This was not one of those times. This was a five minute interaction that went terribly awry for some reason, in spite of our best intentions. I simply wanted to write about it. But some people want to make anyone who sounds off a villain, especially if it involves Americans. Oh well.

We donated two of the offending wines to a Thanksgiving celebration. Hopefully, someone will enjoy the “more expensive” wines that we bought in Alsace. And next time we go to Ribeauville, we’ll try one of the other wine purveyors… providing they’re open for business. I probably should give up wine, anyway… and whine. My liver would surely thank me for it.

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Frankfurt

Sunday afternoon at the Hauptwache Cafe in Frankfurt…

This past weekend was a bit of a bust in terms of German adventures. Our dog, Noyzi, recently decided that he wants to stay upstairs with me, rather than hanging out downstairs. He’s co-opted a pile of bedding that was previously used by Zane and Arran. Arran still uses it from time to time. On Friday night, while enjoying my evening buzz, I decided to buy Noyzi a bed for upstairs, reasoning that he’d use his downstairs bed when he’s downstairs. I bought him a smaller one for upstairs, noting that the downstairs bed is huge and there’s less room for it in my office than down in the living room. It was supposed to show up yesterday, so we waited around for it. But then, at around 2:30pm, I got the dreaded message from DHL that the shipment was delayed. By that time, we’d already had lunch, and it was during the usual “pause” time anyway… so we just hung out at home.

Last night, Bill asked if I’d like to go out to lunch today. I said sure, so Bill chose a Latin American place called Buena Vista. He set the reservation for 1:30pm on OpenTable. This afternoon, off we went to lunch. On the way there, I noticed Frankfurt’s TV Tower. We parked at an expensive parking garage attached to a huge shopping mall, very close to Jumeirah Hotel, where we stayed November 16, 2019 to celebrate our anniversary.

The Europaturm… Unfortunately, it’s no longer possible to visit it, just like the one in Cologne.

When we arrived at Buena Vista, we were informed that lunch wouldn’t start until 2:00pm, even though we had reservations for 1:30pm. I also remembered that we ate at that particular restaurant in November 2019, when we stopped there for a snack on our anniversary. We had spent the night in Frankfurt to celebrate, then headed to Wroclaw, Poland for a week of business for Bill and a week of messing around for me. Since we didn’t feel like screwing around for a half hour and I wanted to go somewhere different, we decided to cancel our reservation. That’s how we ended up eating lunch at the Cafe Hauptwache.

The Hauptwache (Main Guardroom) Cafe has a long history in Frankfurt; it dates from 1904. Bill and I had been attracted to it on previous visits, but always seemed to get waylaid by the nearby Five Guys. Today, we were determined to give it a try. When we first walked into the Biergarten area– an excellent place for people watching, by the way– the sun was trying to come out. We sat down at a table under an umbrella. But within a few minutes of ordering drinks, it started to rain. We managed to duck under the porch, where there was a four top well away from the precipitation. It’s good that we moved, since the sky soon opened.

Our waitress was pretty perfunctory. She moved with no urgency, and seemed kind of half-assed about the work. She wore a face mask, but it hung under her nose. Her colleague didn’t bother with one at all. And thanks to the rain, all the smokers were huddled under the porch with us. One lady smoked the whole time, even when she had food.

One other thing I didn’t care for at this place was the fact that they have a Klofrau. That’s a woman who sits at a table by the bathroom and collects change. I’m sure she’s there for people off the street who just need to pee, but I find the practice of charging patrons in a restaurant to go to the toilet very chintzy. I also had to get an unsolicited tutorial from her on how to get the touchless faucet, soap dispenser, and towel dispenser to work. She might have done better to instruct me on the self-cleaning toilets. I’ve encountered them numerous times, but I never quite trust them to flush as they should. I’m not sure why a place that has touchless and automated everything needs a restroom attendant. It just seems cheap and tacky to me. On the other hand, I do have a ton of change that needs to be spent.

The toilet I encountered today was just like this one. Why did this restroom need a Klofrau, other than to demand change?

As for the food, it was quite good. I was very impressed with the burger. So many times, we have had burgers at German restaurants and they’ve been sub par. Cafe Hauptwache did satisfy with the cheeseburger. It came with cheddar, lettuce, mustard, tomatoes, onions, mayo, and I think ketchup. The fries were also very good. I couldn’t finish them, though.

This place has options for vegans and a children’s menu. It also has a full bar and apparently offers breakfast all day.

We considered having dessert, but the waitress was so inattentive that we decided to have another round instead. I had a Hefeweizen and Bill had coffee. I did see people having dessert, though, and it looked inviting. They have waffles with sugar and cinnamon or Nutella (blecch), ice cream, or the cake of the day. Today, it appeared to be cheesecake. I wouldn’t have minded trying that. Or, maybe it the weather was better, we would have looked for a Konditorei.

We called for the bill. It came to about 47 euros. Bill gave the server 50, and we were on our way home to two very excited dogs. Maybe tomorrow, Noyzi’s new bed will arrive.

Anyway… I would eat at Cafe Hauptwache again. We aren’t unhappy that we stopped there, especially due to its historic look and excellent location for people watching. The inside isn’t very big or impressive, though, so it’s probably best to go there when the sun is shining. I did love the music they were playing– 70s and 80s hits. I could hear it when the rain wasn’t pouring. I’m glad we ate there, instead of at the Buena Vista restaurant.

On Wednesday, we’re off on our next trip– a mixture of business and pleasure– four nights in the Black Forest town of Baiersbronn, where there are several Michelin starred restaurants, and a trip to Stuttgart to finally see the dentist. I did book us at what appears to be a very nice resort, so that should be fun. We also have a couple of reservations, although we couldn’t score any at the very fancy places. They’re either fully booked or on vacation. It IS August, after all. Hopefully, next week, the blog will get a nice boost.

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Uncategorized

Volvo, Mark Knopfler, and East German adventures… part nine

Saturday was our last full day in Leipzig. 聽To be honest, I was feeling kind of ready to go home. 聽I always look forward to vacations, especially long ones that involve different cities and countries other than the ones that immediately border Germany. 聽But usually, after about a week, I start to feel tired of being away from home. 聽I miss my dogs. 聽I miss having access to my desktop computer, which is a lot easier to write on. 聽I miss making music. 聽I also miss having plenty of clean underwear, even though I usually pack enough to take care of me even if I were to hypothetically shit in them every day.

I have a bad habit of packing too much stuff I won’t wear. 聽For instance, this last trip, I packed two dresses in case we decided to go somewhere nice for dinner. 聽I packed jewelry, which I never bothered to wear. 聽I packed an extra bathing suit, which I might have used if I had gone to the pool at our Copenhagen hotel. 聽But I almost never go to the pool unless it means visiting an awesome spa, like at the Upper House. 聽Meanwhile, I should have packed more pants and a couple more long sleeved shirts. 聽I should have brought a sweater or a jacket, although I did bring a wrap.

Making matters worse was the fact that the gin and tonics I had the night before were reminding me I’m a long way from being 21. 聽And… somehow during the night, I got bitten by something. 聽I had three red, swollen blotches on my right leg. 聽They didn’t itch, but they were kind of painful. 聽Nevertheless, Bill and I took a walk and visited St. Peter’s Church, whose steeple I had seen in the distance. 聽It looked like a beautiful church. 聽We walked in the direction of the old building, which took us through a decidedly poorer neighborhood that was heavily littered with trash and large piles of feces that, I hope, came from dogs and not people.

The church was beautiful, but looked like it could use some work. 聽The interior looked a bit careworn, like maybe not enough tourists had come out to donate money. 聽It was a bit of a walk from the center of town. 聽But the windows were pretty, and I could see the skeleton of the building was very graceful and strong. 聽It looked like it had a good foundation. 聽When we arrived, it appeared that they were setting up for a concert.

Linoleum floor. 聽Had seen better days.

Interesting clouds. 聽Looks almost like a Monet painting.

Indeed, there was a concert going on. 聽Benjamin Britten is graduate level music.

I was impressed by this BARF market for dogs. 聽BARF is basically raw food that some dog owners swear by. 聽If my dogs didn’t have mast cell tumor issues, I might try it myself.

My leg was starting to hurt, as was my lower back. 聽We sat down on a bench near the St. Thomas Church, where Bach used to play his organ. 聽I took a picture of my bites and shared it with friends. 聽My German friend, Susanne, recommended that I go to an Apotheke (druggist) to see if they could give me something for the swelling and itching. 聽That was a very good recommendation.

Ow…

This place was near the main drag and it was obviously open. 聽When we went in, it was empty. 聽The young guy behind the counter took one look at my leg and said, “What happened to you?” in perfect English. 聽I explained that something bit me. 聽He fixed me up in a jiffy.


I left with antihistamine drops and cortizone cream. 聽I didn’t know the drops were antihistamines until after I took them… and then started drinking wine with lunch. 聽Still, I was impressed, because he got me some water and measured the dose for me in the pharmacy, like I was a kid. 聽And while we were in there, the place filled up.

We decided to have lunch at Cafe Madrid, since someone in the Facebook wine group recommended it. 聽Spanish food sounded good to us. 聽I thought maybe we’d have tapas, but I was a bit overwhelmed by all the choices. 聽I ended up having a pork filet and Bill had a shrimp salad.

So colorful. 聽My only complaint was that the vegetables included mushrooms. 聽I wish I had known… 聽The potatoes were very good. 聽They were heavily salted and served Canarian style, which seemed to mean they came with a very flavorful, garlicky green sauce. 聽The pork was Iberico and not bad. 聽It came with a port wine sauce.

Bill enjoyed his huge shrimp and avocado salad… and he was happy to eat the mushrooms that came with my dish.聽

Lots of choices. 聽If we ever go back to Leipzig and eat here, we’ll be sure to get the tapas.

I got a kick out of the “peeing bull” in the restaurant.

As we were finishing lunch, I told Bill that I needed to lie down. 聽Wine and antihistamines equals nap time. 聽Sure enough, that’s what I did for three hours. 聽When I woke up, my leg looked like this.

Much better. 聽It’s not quite totally healed yet. 聽There’s still a little pain, but there’s no itching and the redness and swelling are gone. 聽I just hope that wasn’t caused by bedbugs and I especially hope we didn’t bring them into our house.

But the next morning, Bill found this under his pillow. 聽It was crushed and dead, but clearly some kind of insect. 聽He never got bitten and those were my only bites. 聽Still, it kind of gives one the willies. 聽I was very impressed by the help I got at the Apotheke, though. 聽That guy took great care of me.

We went to Morrison’s Traditional Irish Pub, where we were served by hardworking Germans who were busy, but willing to take care of us. 聽The food was good, and the service was better. 聽They brought out the wrong order, but were quick to correct the mistake with a smile and a good attitude.

Bill had fish & chips… 聽The chips were especially good. 聽I stole several of them.

I had a duck salad. 聽I don’t usually go for salad, and this was probably a better choice than what I was hoping to have at another restaurant. 聽It was very good, and reasonably priced. 聽We were happy to reward the much better staff with a good tip.

Gay pride! 聽Leipzig is full of it. 聽We saw lots of gay pride flags during our visit.

We were about to go back into the hotel when I heard what sounded like a man on trumpet playing David Soul’s “Don’t Give Up On Us, Baby.” 聽It turned out he was playing a flugelhorn and the song was “Can You Feel The Love Tonight” by Elton John. 聽The guy playing piano was excellent. 聽I could tell he was influenced by Elton John. 聽After that number, he did a solo rendition of ABBA’s “The Winner Takes It All”.

Cool looking show. 聽Toilet paper always gets my attention.

After we listened to a couple of songs, we went back to the hotel and had a nightcap, then went to bed. 聽The next morning, after breakfast, we decided to check out and head home. 聽Bill discreetly spoke to the reception about the critter we found under his pillow that might have been the culprit for my welts. 聽We didn’t ask for anything, just wanted to alert them to a potential problem and give them a chance to check the room before someone else gets bitten and raises hell. 聽I’m still praying that wasn’t a bedbug and none of its friends stowed away in the luggage.

The guy who handled our bags was very funny. 聽He spoke fluent English and said he’d lived in Chicago fifteen years ago. 聽He wondered why we’d choose to live in Germany. 聽Is he kidding? 聽As we were dishing about Mark Knopfler, he confidentially mentioned that his hotel was where the rock stars like to stay. 聽I’ll keep that in mind.

The drive home was uneventful and pleasant. 聽It took maybe four hours or so, not counting breaks. 聽Bill dropped me off and went to the commissary to buy food while I did laundry and started this blog series. 聽Then he went to get Zane and Arran, who were definitely glad to be home. 聽I’m always so glad and relieved to see my dogs, but they always need a good brushing. 聽They don’t get petted as much when they get boarded and need to shed.

Next month, we’ll take another big trip… another whisky cruise in Scotland. 聽This time, we’re starting in Invergordon and sailing over the top of Scotland to Oban. 聽I am praying I don’t get norovirus. 聽Stay tuned.

All in all, this was a very fun trip. 聽It lived up to our expectations and, in some ways, really exceeded them. 聽I’m so glad we were able to combine our trip to get our new car with our trip to see Mark Knopfler. 聽A lot of really cool things happened during our week of travel… it was almost surreal how much cool stuff happened. 聽And yeah, I got bitten and we ran into an asshole at a bar, but we saw a rock star and traveled in style. 聽And nobody died… 聽I’d say it was a big success overall. 聽Thanks for joining me on my odyssey.

Leipzig is a really lovely city with an unusual vibe.

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Ribeauville… AGAIN! Part 1… knotty gets snotty over a pile of pork

A couple of weeks ago, I asked Bill if he’d like to go somewhere for Memorial Day weekend. 聽He said “sure”, so I went looking for places to stay. 聽I tried to find a place we hadn’t been yet. 聽In retrospect, there were a few places I forgot to consider, places in Germany I’ve been wanting to visit and haven’t yet. 聽But, for whatever reason, they didn’t cross my mind. 聽I started thinking of Alsace again and how much we always enjoy our visits to northeastern France. 聽Plus, I just love France and Alsace is so convenient and so pretty…

I realized our old friend Yannick, who has rented us apartments in Ribeauville three times before, had space available. 聽Granted, it was one of his “studio” apartments, Muscat, which I knew would be a lot less spacious than “Riesling”, the three bedroom apartment we have stayed in twice so far. 聽The first time we rented that apartment in February 2017, it was because we were planning to bring Bill’s mother with us. 聽She ended up not being able to visit us due to an injury and the sudden need for surgery, so we stayed there on our own. 聽It was awesome. 聽Then last November, we came back and stayed in Riesling again because it was available and inexpensive.

The other apartment we’ve stayed in is “Pinot Noir”, which is a “one bedroom” apartment. 聽Actually, it’s more like a big studio with a curtain that divides a back area from the living area. 聽That was the first apartment we rented from Yannick, back in January 2017. 聽So, you see, we’ve been to Ribeauville before and we keep coming back, mainly because Yannick is so easy to deal with and Ribeauville is such a cute town.

Yesterday, we got on the road to wine country and had to stop at a German gas station to pick up some motor oil. 聽Our 2006 Toyota RAV 4 needs an oil change, but Bill never got around to it. 聽The engine was about a quart low. 聽We stopped three times before Bill finally found the oil he needed. 聽The car still needs an oil change. 聽Oh well… it handled itself fine crossing the mountains. 聽I snapped a few pictures of the stunning scenery. 聽We usually come through this area in the winter, so it’s glorious to see it when the weather is nice. 聽Before are a few blurry shots of the beguiling Black Forest as we passed through it.

Finally, at about 4:30 or so, we entered France. 聽It seemed we went over a different bridge over the Rhein than we usually do. 聽It confused Bill, who had some issues getting out of the very congested Strasbourg area.

Bonjour again.

Bill got confused at one point and ended up in a nightmare of a traffic jam heading toward the city. 聽He started cussing and my bladder started screaming for a rest stop. 聽We had to get off at an exit near a mall and were immediately accosted by a group of Syrian refugees panhandling on the side of the road. 聽I actually felt sorry for them, since it was rather hot outside and the women were completely covered in black. 聽Bill says it’s time for Ramadan, though, which is probably why they were out there. 聽Fortunately, we found a gas station… and, how refreshing, not only did one of the guys there say “Bonjour” to me, but I didn’t have to pay 70 euro cents for the privilege of peeing.

Once we finally started heading south, we got caught in another Stau. 聽We were behind one guy who was checking his phone as he was creeping along. 聽Bill went into retired Army officer mode and barked, “Get off your phone, Sir!” 聽That put me in a silly mood and I started asking him ridiculous questions about what he was like when he was still in the military. 聽One thing about Bill… he almost never yells unless he’s in traffic. 聽He was definitely bitching yesterday, but then I started asking him about how he dealt with guys in the company he commanded, trying to imagine him yelling at some guy in basic training. 聽That’s always good for a laugh. 聽Bill is probably one of the most mild mannered people I know.

We got to the parking lot near our French gite just before seven o’clock and lucked into a good parking spot. 聽Thanks to the traffic, it took us an extra hour to get to Ribeauville. 聽Then, once we got to the outside of the apartment, I had some trouble finding the code to open the lockbox. 聽We tried calling Yannick, but got a recording. 聽Later, he sent me a message telling me he was in the hospital with his wife. 聽I’m not sure, but it sounds like she was having a baby. 聽He says he’ll visit today, so I’m sure we’ll get the scoop. 聽Below are pictures of Muscat.

A big, king sized bed that is pretty comfortable, although my back is used to a feather bed, so this was a little painful. 聽I don’t expect feather beds in rental properties, though, so I don’t fault the bed for my back.

And the rest of the tiny apartment. 聽There’s a small bathroom with a shower and a tiny little kitchenette area. 聽Yannick left us a bottle of sparkling wine, which we put in the dorm sized fridge. 聽There’s a stove and a microwave, coffee makers, and of course, a raclette grill. 聽The apartment is kind of microscopic, but would be fine for one or two people. 聽It would also work well for a group renting the Riesling apartment next door and needing a little extra space. 聽Actually, I think this wine house would be awesome for a family reunion, if you managed to rent the whole thing.

View from our window. 聽It’s a bit noisier in this apartment, because it’s right by a busy thoroughfare. 聽There’s a group of very pleasant German ladies staying in聽the Riesling apartment we’ve rented twice before. 聽They were pretty cool with Zane and Arran.

After we settled in, we went searching for food. 聽Since we’ve been to Ribeauville a few times now, we’ve been to a lot of the restaurants on the main drag. 聽I wanted to try a different place. 聽When we were here in November, I noticed Hotel du Mouton’s restaurant. 聽They had “cock” on the menu and that always excites me. 聽But first, we stopped at a restaurant right next to it. 聽We moved on when I noticed some guy giving me the side eye when I spoke English.

We approached Hotel du Mouton’s restaurant, where there were three tables open on the terrace. 聽A couple of waiters were standing there, looking casual. 聽They seemed inviting, so I started to a table, which they said was reserved. 聽Then, they pointed to another table at the end of the terrace. 聽We headed for that one and they said that one was also reserved. 聽We finally ended up at the first table, where we were finally invited to sit down. 聽I must admit, this did not leave me with the best first impression, especially since it seemed like all eyes were on us. 聽But we sat down… and proceeded to wait for about ten minutes before anyone bothered to speak to us.

I used to wait tables myself, so I tend to be pretty forgiving and patient when it comes to service issues while dining out. 聽Still, I was hungry, tired, and in need of a drink. 聽I was also annoyed by the seating rigamarole and watching as the waiters casually walked past us, filling wine glasses and not even inviting us to go screw ourselves. 聽It was off-putting, and I gave some thought to leaving. 聽Then I started humming inappropriate songs I learned from Red Peters’ song snatch program. 聽But then, a man wearing a leather apron finally stopped and asked if we were ready to order.

Bill looks at the menu. 聽It would be a long time before he got to give his orders. 聽Hmm… wonder if it was like that for him in the Army, too.

Bill ordered the first selection. 聽I was very tempted by the cock, but asked for an聽entrec么te… 聽I got the Choucroute Garnie.

The restaurant had a number of asparagus dishes offered on special. 聽I might have ordered one, but I couldn’t read the sign, since it was mounted on the wall. 聽Some guy was sitting in front of it and blocking the view of anyone who might be interested. 聽I decided on an entrec么te, which is a rib eye steak. 聽It was supposed to come with either pepper sauce or morel sauce. 聽Bill decided on marinated salmon with potato pancakes, a dish I had been eyeing myself.

The waiter came over and Bill started trying to speak horrible French. 聽Then he switched to German. 聽The waiter finally indicated that he spoke English, so Bill switched to that. 聽He ordered us a bottle of wine, some sparkling water, and the salmon pancakes. 聽Then I ordered the entrec么te, but was surprised when the waiter simply said “Okay,” collected the menus, and quickly left without asking me the temperature or which sauce I preferred. 聽After he served the wine and the water, we didn’t see him again for some time.

While we were waiting for our food, I noticed the restaurant was offering a special Wagyu beef entrec么te from the United States. 聽I wondered if maybe that was what I was going to get, since it made no mention of sauces. 聽It was 42 euros and I figured they’d just bring it out super rare, since a lot of French people seem to like really bloody meat (though I don’t).

I also noticed that they were holding our wine hostage, a practice I really hate. 聽Everyone’s bottles were kept on a table and the waiters were pouring the wines as they had the opportunity. 聽In some restaurants, this practice is considered good service, and it is, if the wait staff is attentive. 聽When they are weeded, it becomes a real nuisance.

After some time passed, a different waiter showed up with Bill’s dish and one that was unrecognizable to me. 聽It was basically a pile of pork with sauerkraut.

“I didn’t order that.” I said when the waiter tried to give it to me.

He looked confused, went to his colleague, and clearly upset the man. 聽Our original waiter came back and said, “Yes, you did order the choucroute.” he said, checking his notes. 聽“Because if you had ordered the entrec么te, I would have asked you the temperature and which sauce you wanted.” 聽It was as if because he wrote down the wrong thing, in his mind, the matter was settled. 聽Obviously, he couldn’t have mistaken choucroute for entrec么te, right? 聽And yet he did! 聽And he was trying to blame me for his error. 聽Bullshit!

At that point, I was becoming extremely annoyed and was quickly getting over the whole experience. 聽I snapped, “I ordered the entrec么te. 聽And you’re right that you didn’t ask me the temperature or which sauce I wanted. 聽In fact, I wondered why.”

I can’t say for sure, but it’s very likely that I had one of my trademark venomous expressions on my face. 聽I usually do when I get pissed off. 聽I do know that my voice became quite sharp and I could tell the guy was worried that I was about to lose my shit right there at the table. 聽I was a bit hangry and really tired of the bumbling service. 聽I just wanted to eat and get out of there.

The guy scurried away with the food, then came back and offered me the pile of pork again. 聽He said, “If you don’t take this, you’ll have to wait for the entrec么te to be cooked.”

I was thinking to myself, Duh… of course I would have to wait for a steak to be cooked to order. 聽This isn’t a McDonald’s. 聽I probably would have preferred McDonald’s at that point.

Then Bill, sweet gentleman that he is, said “I’ll take the choucroute. 聽You can have the salmon and potato pancakes.” 聽That was alright with me, since I’d been thinking about ordering the pancakes anyway.

The waiter looked relieved as he served me the pork. 聽He actually smiled as Bill and I switched plates. 聽It probably appeared that the awkward bullshit was about to end.

I was sitting there wondering why in the hell that man was arguing with me over what I ordered. 聽Why would I lie about that? 聽I don’t go out to restaurants, order stuff, and then change my mind after I’ve ordered. 聽That doesn’t make any sense. 聽I understand that people make mistakes. 聽I made a lot of them when I waited tables. 聽But I felt the waiter was very rude to argue with me about what I ordered. 聽The correct response is not an argument. 聽The correct response is, “I apologize. 聽What can I do to fix the problem?”

So these were the potato pancakes. 聽They were served with pieces of marinated salmon, which are not too visible in the photo because they are under the pancakes. 聽One of the endive leaves was filled with a horseradish dip.

And this was the erroneous pile of pork farts the waiter tried to serve me. 聽Bill says the sauerkraut wasn’t all that good. 聽There was a lot of it, so it’s good that I didn’t actually eat this. 聽It would have been very windy in our little apartment if I had. 聽I don’t think Bill was able to eat the wiener. 聽That was too much protein.

The good news is that after the waiter got a load of my bitchface, he released our wine from custody and put it on the table. 聽The wine was probably my favorite part of the meal. 聽It was full of the essence of dark berries and, when I tasted it after eating a couple of peanuts, it tasted a little like a PBJ sandwich. 聽Better yet, I could keep my glass filled.

Alas, one of the potato pancakes arrived a bit scorched. 聽Fortunately, the other two were unscathed and I was plenty full.

Instead of having dessert, we decided to have after dinner drinks. 聽Bill enjoyed a very lovely Japanese whiskey. 聽Props to the second waiter, who did a very professional presentation, complete with showing us the bottles from which he was pouring.

While I had a snifter of Armagnac from 1973… just a year younger than I am. 聽The Armagnac was dangerously smooth and at 16 euros, not exactly cheap. 聽However, it did leave me with a smile on my face. 聽We noticed the rest of the聽service was done by a different waiter wearing a leather apron. 聽He had piercings in his chest and was a lot more professional than the other guy was.

The bill came to 92 euros. 聽It’s probably the only bill we will ever be presented by Hotel du Mouton because I don’t think we’ll be going back there. 聽That was probably one of the least comfortable dining experiences I’ve had in a good long while. 聽It’s a shame, too, because the hotel is in a cute area and gets fairly good reviews on Trip Advisor and Google. 聽I saw the owners there last night with their adorable little girl. 聽I would be very surprised if this is the impression they’d want to leave with their guests… and any potential guests who happen to read this review.

Hotel du Mouton… looks inviting enough, but looks can be deceiving. 聽Oh well. 聽We’ll find a better place today.

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