beer, Italy, restaurant reviews

Food and wine in Switzerland, Italy, and Liechtenstein… part nine

Figuring out Florence…

After I bought my new scarf, which was carefully packaged for me by the stylish shopkeeper, Bill and I took a walk over the Ponte Vecchio and crossed the Arno. Whenever I look at the Arno River, I want to break into “O Mio Babbino Caro” by Giacomo Puccini. I learned that song when I studied voice years ago. I’m probably too old for it, now… my “beloved daddy” has been dead for several years now. But when I was in my 20s, it was a good song for me. I did even better, though, with Puccini’s “Musetta’s Waltz”. Being in Italy makes me want to break out in song!

The Ponte Vecchio is a medieval stone bridge. It’s got many shops along it. At this writing, most of the tenants on Ponte Vecchio are jewelers. It was very crowded when we walked across, and God knows I don’t need any more jewelry, so we just walked across and milled around for a little while on the southern side of the river. Last time we were in Florence, circa 2013, we explored more on this side of the Arno, even visiting a beautiful church there and sitting in a park, where I observed several local seniors gathering to chat. I’m nine years older now, and have fewer spoons for walking, so we walked a couple of blocks and came back across the bridge to look for lunch.

I took this in 2013.

I usually follow my nose when I go looking for food in different cities. My nose rarely lets me down. Such was the case when we found Ristorante Il Paiolo, not too far from the heart of Florence. An affable waiter who laughed at my jokes seated us at a table. I noticed there were models of the Bistecca alla Florentina in a case by the entrance. Several people ordered that during our visit, and I must admit, it smelled fantastic. But since we knew we were going to have that on Friday night, after meeting up with our wine tour, Bill and I deliberately made other choices for lunch. I went with chopped wild boar and polenta (Cinghiale alla maremmana e polenta). Bill ordered beef with cannellini beans. We paired our dishes with a lovely bottle of wine… one of many on our trip.

After lunch, we walked around more to burn off lunch. I took more photos and a video. Sadly, this time we didn’t run into Piotr Tomaszewski, a very talented busker we found during our last visit. He is easily found on YouTube. We bought his beautiful CDs in 2013, which I still love listening to now. Instead, we found this guy…

Not very exciting…
I didn’t make this video, but this is Piotr Tomaszewski, a talented busker we saw last time in Florence. I understand he was based there for several years. I don’t know if he still is. His music made me cry.

Later, we headed back to the hotel, because I needed to call my bank in the States and get them to fix my online access to my account. I’m still hunting for a less annoying bank. I’m getting discouraged. That was also a good time for a nap, so I took one before we went out for dinner at a brewpub. We figured we were going to drink a lot of wine over the weekend, so beer would be a good idea., although I have had better burgers than what they had at Hops Pub. At least it was relatively cheap! And one of the waitresses reminded me of a friend from my hometown. We walked over 6 miles on Thursday!

Stay tuned for part ten…

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BrewDog in Wiesbaden!

We had beautiful weather again yesterday, so Bill and I decided to go to Wiesbaden and have lunch at the new BrewDog restaurant. BrewDog is a Scottish craft brewery that claims to be the #1 craft brewer in Europe. Bill and I both like beer very much– that could be an understatement, actually. Bill is a big fan of India Pale Ales (IPAs), too, so he was especially interested in trying the place, which is situated in what used to be a Maredo outlet.

Maredo is a well-known German steakhouse chain, and if you search this blog, you’ll see that Bill and I have visited them a few times, although I don’t think we ever went to the one in Wiesbaden. Looking at their Web site, it appears that they closed a lot of locations. Stuttgart used to have two of them within view of each other, but now it looks like there’s only one. And I remember going to one at the Bonn-Cologne airport back in 2012, and it looks like it’s no longer open, either. There is still one in Frankfurt, so I guess we could go there if the spirit moved us.

In any case, I’m glad to see that there’s a new restaurant in Wiesbaden and it offers unique offerings, for Germany, anyway. Wiesbaden is actually pretty well served by different cuisines, but sometimes one can get stuck in a rut eating Italian, Greek, and German food here, and drinking hefeweizens, pilsners, and the like. BrewDog’s menu is very American friendly, but it also offers vegan choices. And, according to its official Web site, it’s a child friendly place every night until 9:00pm. It’s also dog friendly, as are a lot of German restaurants. We didn’t see any four legged guests yesterday. In fact, when we got there at about 12:30pm, there weren’t many guests at all. The door was wide open, but I didn’t see anyone enjoying lunch. I even wondered for a minute if they were open. It was busier as we were leaving.

We took a seat at table near the front of the restaurant, enjoying plenty of social distance. The barkeep checked our COVID vaccination statuses, but that formality will probably go away next week. The beer menu included a lot of BrewDog’s offerings on tap, but there were also bottled beers. Not too many of them weren’t of the IPA variety, though, which later turned into a problem when Bill’s co-worker saw us and decided to join us for a round. She ordered a pale ale and sent it back, because it was too bitter. I don’t mind IPAs in small doses, but like our friend, I would probably choose a lager or weizen over a bitter brew. I did enjoy my “Elvis Juice”, though, and afterwards, I had a Kokosnuss Porter for dessert.

For lunch, I had a Patriot burger, which was 100% beef with cheddar, pickles, onions, bacon, baby gem, and barbecue sauce. It came with pretty good fries. Bill had a Buffalo Chicken Burger, which was buttermilk fried chicken, hot sauce, honey glaze, gorgonzola cheese, and honey gem. It also came with fries. I was pretty happy with the burger, especially for Germany. It’s been nice to see the burgers get better in this country since our return in 2014. I almost went with the Chuck Norris, which was buttermilk fried chicken on a bun with avocado, red onion, cajun mayo, and coriander. I decided against it because I’m not a big fan of coriander. Next time, maybe I’ll try it… or maybe I’ll get brave and try one of the many vegan selections offered. They also have snacks, chicken wings, bowls, and salads, and for kids, there’s even a “Hoppy Meal”.

I really liked the interior of the restaurant, which offered views of the exposed bricks of the old building, which was perfectly located right near the main square in Wiesbaden. We probably should have sat outside, given the location. It was such a nice day, and the place is primely suited for people watching. There was a Muslim wedding going on out there yesterday! But I also enjoyed the music they were playing indoors. All told we spent about 53 euros before the tip. Food is not too expensive, but the beers were a bit pricey, as were the gooey looking desserts. BrewDog is Lieferando friendly, although I think their delivery area is fairly limited to downtown Wiesbaden. They don’t deliver to our neighborhood, for instance. You can also get beer growlers and canned beer to go there.

One word of caution for anyone with mobility issues. The restrooms are located upstairs, just as they are in a lot of European restaurants.

Below are some spring photos from our lunch date and stroll around Wiesbaden. It was a real pleasure to get out and about! And, on another note, I was glad to see Nora again, Bill’s colleague!

We have nice weather again today, but today is the first day of the DST time change. It’s already 1:19pm, and I am not dressed. I don’t know if we’ll go out or not. I did just send Bill out to drive my car, which hasn’t been out in weeks. I have heard the weather is going to be crappy again next week, so maybe we should make an effort to go out. We’ll see.

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restaurant reviews, spas, Switzerland

Our time in Die Schweiz was definitely not Scheißig… part four

We got back to the B2 Boutique Hotel in the mid afternoon. It was just the right time to try out the Thermalbad! As I mentioned, the hotel is literally attached to the Thermalbad, although it’s run by a different company. Hotel guests get a small price break on the cost of admission– 30 Swiss Francs for 24 hour access. That means two days worth, since the spa closes at 10:00pm. We went to the front desk, where we picked up the familiar plastic bracelets offered at all of the spas we’ve been to yet, and a couple of towels. We changed in our hotel room, although the spa has changing rooms. We didn’t discover the changing rooms at the spa until we were almost done! There’s also a small snack bar, although we didn’t notice the service to be particularly good at the one on the fourth floor. You can get a variety of snacks and a wide variety of beverages there, including beer, wine, and cocktails. That is, you can get them if you can find someone willing to wait on you. 😉

The spa offers massages that can be booked in advance. There’s an Irish-Roman bath, as well as a wonderful rooftop pool that offers views of Zürich while you enjoy bubbles and massaging jets. There’s also a Thermal Spa Waterworld, that we almost missed! In short, there’s plenty to occupy a couple of hours of your time, and you’ll feel relaxed afterwards.

I was not allowed to take any pictures, although the spa is not textile free. I did sneak a picture of the door, though, because I thought it was funny. I liked the “no sex” graphic! Below is a video that shows the facilities.

It’s even in English!

And a longer video with more views of the facility.

Bill and I have been to quite a few spas in Europe. This one was interesting. It reminded me a little bit of the Starkenberger beer pool we enjoyed in Tarrenz, Austria, back in 2015, except it wasn’t nearly as private and there weren’t any funny pictures on the walls of naked people. Also, there wasn’t any beer involved… it was mainly the spirit of the place that made me think of the awesome beer pools in Austria that were made from repurposed beer vats. I was also reminded of the Roman-Irish baths Friedrichsbad in Baden-Baden and Wiesbaden’s own Roman-Irish baths at the Kaiser-Friedrich Therme. The main difference, of course, is that there’s no nudity. I’m sure that’s a plus for a lot of people. I think my favorite part of the spa experience were the awesome pools on the first floor that offered massage bubbles. There was no one else in there when we were using them.

After we were finished at the spa, we went back to the room, got cleaned up, and went looking for dinner. Bill thought we could walk to the lake in about ten minutes. Unfortunately, he wasn’t entirely sure of where were going, so we ended up taking a short stroll in a residential area of town. We finally made our way back and stumbled across a neighborhood gem of a restaurant called Bederhof. This place is very close to the hotel and offers good food, kind service, and a view of sheep grazing on a hillside. I made one guy crack up because he was describing one dish in German and I stopped him cold when I heard the word “champignons”. Mushrooms are disgusting to me. Incidentally, my German is terrible, but I can sort of speak restaurant… I had some trouble in Brunnen, though, because the Swiss dialect was tricky for me. Also, they use different words for some things. Like, I noticed that the word on doors for “push” was stossen (bump), rather than drücken (press).

Below are some photos from our impromptu dinner at a local Swiss joint, along with a few pictures of B2 Boutique Hotel’s exercise room.

Several different people took care of us, but one guy talked to us more than the others. There was a cute little boy there– maybe two or three years old– and the one guy who took care of us said that was his nephew, Jayden. I was surprised by the name Jayden. To me, that’s a very American name. I didn’t think our waiter was a native English speaker, although he spoke fairly competently, albeit with what sounded like a speech impediment of some kind. Jayden soon left with his mom, a beautiful young woman, who caught the plentiful public transport.

Eventually, he asked us where we’re from. We said we’re Americans living in Germany. It turned out the waiter was himself, half American, half German! He said he was born in Colorado, and his Air Force dad had worked as a contractor for DynCorp, which was a big contracting company back in the day. But clearly, our waiter, an American citizen, has spent most of his life in Germany– Kaiserslautern, to be exact. He joked that being half American, half German was the having the worst heritage! But he was quite pleased to hear we weren’t Trump supporters, and he told us his sweetheart and the mother of his daughter is from Somalia. His daughter is Swiss, because she was born in Switzerland. Lucky her! The waiter also said he loves Switzerland. I can’t blame him for that.

After dinner, we headed back to the hotel, where we were warmly greeted by the same guy who had kind of ignored us the night before. We enjoyed more Swiss wine, then went to bed with big plans for Saturday. More on that in part five!

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Our time in Die Schweiz was definitely not Scheißig… part two

First thing’s first. I have to write a disclaimer about the title of this series. I kind of made up the word scheißig– which kind of translates to “shitty”. I use the word “shitty” a lot in my daily language. Instead of looking up the actual German word for “shitty”, I decided to add “ig” to the German word for shit and hope it worked. My German friend tells me the German word for “shitty” is actually “beschissen”. However, apparently the word “scheißig” is used in slang situations, especially in Hesse. As luck would have it, I live in Hesse… and this slang bastardization of the word “shitty” works a lot better with “die Schweiz”.

With that explained, on with the tale of our trip. We planned to leave Wiesbaden on July 22nd. I had noticed our older dog, Arran, was having some dental issues. He yawned and I saw a black spot. His last dental cleaning was a year ago, but he’s getting to be an old codger. I asked Bill to take him to the vet to have him checked and schedule a dental cleaning. Bill took him in, got some antibiotics which Arran will start tonight, and an appointment for this Thursday, the 29th, for a dental.

Then, on Thursday the 22nd, we packed everything up and headed south, stopping by the Birkenhof Tierpension on the way, to drop off Arran and Noyzi. All seemed fine as we handed them over. Noyzi and Arran were wagging their tails and very excited to go into their “hotel room”, then out to play. (I promise, this part of the story is relevant…)

We headed down A5, which is also the route we now take when we want to go to France. At lunchtime, we stopped in Baden-Baden for lunch. Regular readers might remember that Bill and I celebrated our 16th wedding anniversary in Baden-Baden back in 2018. We enjoyed a spectacular four nights in an upgraded junior suite at Brenner’s Park Hotel and experienced the famous nude Irish-Roman baths at Friedrichsbad. It was a little weird to be stopping there just for lunch on the way to Switzerland. Baden-Baden is a very beautiful town. I would have been happy to have just stayed there. But we were just there for a quick break. We found an excellent Asian restaurant called Vinami Asia Grill and Bar

Baden-Baden is such a lovely city. We probably should go back for a short break sometime soon. But, like Switzerland, it’s the kind of place where you need to bring lots of money! It’s not cheap!

After lunch, we got back on the road, noticing that there were many “Staus” (traffic jams). Fortunately, they were on the northbound side of the road, so we weren’t troubled as we made our way south. Bill stopped near the border to pick up a 2021 Swiss vignette (toll sticker). I’ve explained this a number of times on this blog. To use Swiss Autobahns, you have to have a special sticker, which costs 40 Swiss Francs. The sticker is good until January 31, 2022. The Swiss issue new ones every year, and you can get them at ADAC stores (or online), at rest stops near the border, or at the border itself. Most other countries that use the vignette system offer them for shorter stints and cheaper prices. Not the Swiss, though… so it pays to make use of the sticker if you live close.

The rest of the drive was pretty uneventful. We arrived in Zürich just in time for traffic/rush hour. Unbeknownst to us, our hotel was also near what would become a construction zone over the weekend. On the way to the B2 Boutique Hotel, we were able to drive straight through, although that took some time, thanks to all the traffic. But by Friday, the area we had come through to reach the hotel was completely blocked off. This caused some stress for Bill, even with the GPS going. I’ve never been a fan of using GPS… the voice always interrupts conversations and music. But Bill likes to use it.

Anyway, we drove up a hillside to get to the B2 Boutique Hotel. As usual, what I had pictured in my head was not what the reality was. Not that I was disappointed at all, mind you… It’s a beautiful hotel, and they’ve done a great job of turning what was a brewery into a nice place to stay– especially if you’re into spas, as I am. A year ago, Switzerland was very laid back about COVID-19 rules. I noticed that no one wore masks indoors in 2020. This year, there were signs everywhere demanding mask use.

I don’t like the masks, but I always cooperate… and yes, I have been vaccinated. Count me among those, however, who hope the mask mandates go away at some point. I really do hate the fucking things. In any case, everyone wore them at the hotel, and most everywhere else we went that was indoors. They had lots of hand sanitizer, too.

I booked us in a junior suite. I usually use travel sites like Expedia or Booking when I make reservations. This time, I booked directly with the hotel, because for some reason, the travel sites wouldn’t let me reserve for two people. They would only let me reserve for one. But, I did get a reward for booking directly… they gave us a free drink. Below are some photos of our room, which was rather unusual but comfortable. For about 500 francs a night, it should have been!

After we settled our bags and got cleaned up, we headed down to the wine library for food and beverages. We decided to try the locally produced Hürlimann lagers, as the hotel was once the Hürlimann brewery. The guy who waited on us for our first two nights was friendly enough, but not the most attentive. Still, the food was pretty good, and although our round of “free drinks” were puny, they were still free. And there was Swiss wine and lots of ethereal jazzy music, mostly performed by people like Diana Krall and Karen Souza… The wine list at this hotel features mostly wines made in Switzerland. We had the chance to try several of them during our stay.

Bill tells me dinner is ready, so I’ll continue with part three tomorrow!

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An afternoon at Sixties in Mainz…

We had amazing weather yesterday. It was so nice outside that I couldn’t bear to stay at home. I thought maybe we’d hunt for a festival or something, and we would have found one if we had gone to Frankfurt. There are several going on right now. But, for some reason, we decided to go to Mainz. Bill missed a turn to go to the downtown area, and we ended up in a part of town we hadn’t seen before.

As we were passing through, I noticed an interesting looking bar called Sixties. It advertised a lot of craft beers, which is kind of an unusual thing in Germany. So, although our plan had originally been to go downtown, we wound up parking and trying out Sixties, which also advertised music. When we walked into the bar, there was no music. Instead, all of the televisions were tuned to football– aka soccer– and the waitress warned us that pretty soon, a bunch of people would be crowded in there to watch the game.

I took a look around and noticed that the bar looked kind of “Irish pub-ish”, with low tables and stools, stained glass windows, and booths. We found a table with no reservation card on it and ordered a couple of beers. I had a Leffe Blonde and Bill had a Eulchen Marzen made in Mainz. Then we ordered snacks. Sixties has a rather limited menu. They have bar food, pizza, a couple of pasta dishes, and schnitzels, but it’s really more of a place to drink rather than eat. We had chicken strips, jalapeno poppers, and pretzels with Spundkaese.

One thing I noticed was that the waitress brought us wet glasses, complete with a little bit of water in the bottom. I can’t say I liked that very much, but at least the glasses were clean. We were impressed by how many beers they offered, too. They even had a beer from Sweden, as well as a number of British and Irish beers. I was surprised they didn’t have more Belgian choices other than Leffe, but a lot of German bars don’t even have that, so it was cool.

Here are a few photos from our visit: