holidays

Mr. Bill and I celebrate 20 years of marriage… Part four

I really had good intentions for getting away on Friday. I thought maybe we’d go to Riquewihr, if only so we could buy some macaroons. The wine route in Alsace is just so beautiful, and even though we’ve done it so many times, it never gets old. But the weather was kind of drizzly, off and on. We’d have sun for awhile, then it would start raining. The dogs were pretty good. We really only heard them throwing a fit once, and we waited about a minute before they shut up.

One of Bill’s co-workers was hoping for a photo or video of Bill tasting cheeses. Ribeauville actually has a wine and cheese bar, and it was open during our stay. However, it was only open for takeaway; the “bar” part was closed. Bill went there and brought home a few stinky selections, which he videoed himself tasting for his daughter, whom he’s just now getting to know again after many years of separation. That’s a long story, of course, which can easily be found in my main blog.

Speaking of Bill’s daughter… she is the mother of three very young children. I saw a shop with some cute stuffed toy storks. Alsace and parts of Germany are pretty well-known for the population of storks that live there. Their huge nests are easy to find on top of buildings. The locals even make it easy for the birds to nest. I made a note of the shop and, after lunch, we went there and picked up some toys for Bill’s grandchildren, as well as a a gnome for our own house.

For breakfast on Friday, Bill went to a different patisserie– one with a medieval theme. He picked up more croissants and an artisanal loaf of bread that he said tasted of sourdough. I don’t like sourdough much, so I left him to it.

We took another walk around the town, thinking maybe we’d taste wines at Louis Sipp, which has a couple of tasting rooms… but they weren’t open when we were in the mood. So we explored some other parts of town– areas we had never been to on previous trips. Ribeauville seems like a really small town, but there’s actually a lot to it besides the charming main drag. I love the way the village looks, and found myself taking many pictures. But I don’t think I’d want to live there, because everyone is kind of packed in. I don’t like sharing walls with people, and I enjoy having a yard. It’s nice to visit such a quaint place, though, if only to remind me of how much we enjoy our current “mansion” in Wiesbaden.

We had lunch at Schaal E’ Sucre, the cute little restaurant we had tried to get into on Thursday. It was crowded again on Friday, but there was a table for two open. There was one waiter working the entire room. He was very friendly and smiley, and he spoke English, which was nice. This little eatery has a very simple menu, with salads, pasta dishes, quiches, sandwiches, and soups. I was torn between the bacon and cheese open sandwich and another Quiche Lorraine. I decided to have the quiche, just so I could compare it to the previous day’s. I could probably eat quiche every day… although that wouldn’t be the smartest thing to do.

The quiche was a bit browner than the quiche I had at L’Ami Fritz. However, it definitely had more of a “professional” pastry look, like it was made by a pastry chef, rather than someone’s mama. It had a different flavor, too. I didn’t taste the “musty” cheese. I liked both quiches for different reasons. I preferred the cheese and the look of the quiche at Schaal E’ Sucre, but I liked the texture and bacon in the quiche from L’Ami Fritz. Bill ended up getting the bacon and cheese sandwich, which was also delicious! I could tell he had trouble finishing it, as it also came with a big salad, like my quiche did. We never even touched the bread, although we did enjoy an interesting Riesling/Muscat blended white wine.

Naturally, we were talked into having Quetsch (plum) tart, with chantilly (whipped cream). I noticed that Schaal E’ Sucre also offered a wide variety of waffles. We definitely left there satisfied, and although I loved that place when it was Chez Martine, I think it’s in good hands, now. When we left the restaurant, it was raining.

We decided to stop by a wine shop to get some vino for home. Sadly, that was not a good shopping experience. There was a lone woman running the shop, and she wore a sour expression on her face. Bill asked if she spoke English or German. She responded with a flat “No.” Okay, fine. I distinctly said, more than once, “No Gewurztraminer”. That should be translatable in French. She also had a list of available wine packages. We pointed to one that consisted of Rieslings and Pinot Blancs. She packed a box for us and pretty much didn’t so much as say “kiss my ass” to us as we left.

When we got home the next day, and unpacked the box, we found three bottles of Gewurztraminer. I guess that will teach us to trust a salesperson with a sour disposition to pack wines for us before we check labels. Fortunately, tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and we’ve been invited to someone else’s house. Guess we’ll bring over some wine for them. 😉 And yes, Bill did tell his friend/co-worker that we got the wrong wine, and he was fine with us bringing the Alsatian Gewurztraminer. Someone at the party will surely enjoy sweet French wine.

Once again, we were too full for dinner, so went hung out with the dogs as I watched James Taylor’s Facebook page to see if the show would still be going on in Frankfurt Saturday night. Yes, it was a very “chill” break in Alsace, and we could have done more with our time, but really, it was just nice to be with Bill and the dogs, enjoying a different country. And, even though we had a disappointing experience with the wine lady, Ribeauville is still so beautiful…

I don’t think we’ll ever get tired of Ribeauville.

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holidays

Mr. Bill and I celebrate 20 years of marriage… Part three

Arran’s medications make him hungry. They also make him need to go potty more often than usual. Consequently, on all three nights of our stay, Bill got up in the wee hours of the morning to take him and Noyzi out for walks. Then, he’d come back to bed, and try to go back to sleep. The apartment where we stayed was easy to keep dark, so on Thursday, we slept until 8:00 AM. We almost never do that anymore!

Our morning habit, whenever we visit France, is to get baked goodies from the patisseries. I am a big fan of FRENCH croissants– and yes, they are different to me than the ones we can get in Germany. Kugelhopfs are also very popular and prevalent in Alsace, as well as in parts of Germany and Austria. Personally, I can take or leave the Kugelhopfs, although I will admit to thinking they look very pretty. They usually include raisins and almonds, though, and I generally prefer my baked goods without fruit and nuts. One can also score delightful Pain au chocolat– flaky pastries filled with semi sweet chocolate– which are very decadent. I love chocolate, but again, the one must do French breakfast treat for me is the lowly croissant.

Bill went to one of the nearby patisseries and brought back the usual, then scrambled some eggs. We bought some clementine juice, ham, and cheese, at the local Carrefour grocery store, located very conveniently about a five minute walk from our gite. Once again, I was marveling at how flaky and delicious the croissants were, and kind of wishing we had more of them. But the last thing I need is a plentiful supply of baked goods!

After breakfast, we all took a walk around Ribeauville. It’s a very pretty little village, not unlike other pretty villages in Alsace. Riquewihr, which is only two miles from Ribeauville, is considered one of the most beautiful villages in France. However, I prefer Ribeauville, because it feels more lived in to me. It’s obvious there are a lot of locals in Ribeauville, even though it’s a tourist destination. Riquewihr feels a little more touristy to me, and it has a lot more tourist oriented businesses. For that reason, I like to stay in Ribeauville, and visit Riquewihr and some of the other, more famous towns, like Kaysersberg, which is where Anthony Bourdain, sadly, took his life in June 2018. Of course, I also like Ribeauville, because we know Yannick, and he’s very cool with our dogs.

I took lots of pictures of the town, as usual, because even though we’ve been to Ribeauville so many times, it’s always a pretty town. We usually go there in the winter, rather than the fall. We’ve only managed one visit in the late spring, when everything is open, but crowded. Once the dogs were sufficiently exercised, we took them back to the gite and went looking for lunch.

As I mentioned before, only a few restaurants were open during our visit. The ones that were open had plenty of business. We were wanting to go to a little lunch spot that was once called Chez Martine, but now has new owners and a different name. Schaal’É Sucré offers a menu that is very similar to that of what Chez Martine used to have, only now it’s open later and is run by men instead of women. On Thursday, it was clear that it was every bit as popular as its predecessor was, as the dining room was completely full when we stuck our heads in, looking for a bite.

We ended up eating at Caveau de L’Ami Fritz, a restaurant that is affiliated with the hotel of the same name. We have eaten at L’Ami Fritz before, and I remembered that the dining room is in a very charming “cave”. I also remembered liking what I had there the first time we tried it. The dining room was full of people when we arrived, but everyone looked very happy. Bill and I sat down and enjoyed some local specialties.

I had Quiche Lorraine, while Bill went for pork and Baeckaoffa, basically cheesy potato casserole made with Munster. The quiche was delicious, although it was made with a slightly “musty” cheese. I am very particular about cheese, and this one just bordered on “offensive” to me. Still, I managed to eat the whole thing, anyway.

We also enjoyed a local Riesling. Bill had asked for a 28 euro bottle, but when we got the bill, it turned out they had given us a 55 euro selection. Oh well. I suppose he could have complained, but we enjoyed the wine and we could afford it. And of course, we had dessert, too… Chocolate mousse for me, and a myrtle tart for Bill. He had leftovers from the Baeckaoffa, so we had that packed up and brought it to the apartment. I probably should have done the same with the mousse. It was a very generous portion.

By the time we were finished with lunch, it was early afternoon and a bit drizzly. I decided to have a rest and try to read more of my latest book. Naturally, that led to a two hour nap. 😉

Our lunch was so filling that we ended up staying in for the night, eating a light snack at dinner time and, of course, enjoying more wine. It’s a lovely thing to go to France to recharge! I liked the French weather lady’s dress, too. I also notice the fine for not cleaning up after your dog has gone up a bit.

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France

Ribeauville… AGAIN! Part 3… Primates with personality, French dining, and Sunday shopping!

On Sunday morning, I told Bill I really wanted to visit Kaysersberg, which is rumored to be a beautiful town as well as the birthplace of Albert Schweizer.  I also wanted to go to Montagne des Signes, which is basically Alsace’s version of Monkey Hill.

As many readers may know, Germany has Affenberg-Salem, which is a place where visitors can feed free roaming monkeys popcorn.  Bill and I went to Monkey Hill last year and had a great time, so I wanted to see the French version.  Montagne des Singes is in Kintzheim, which is in the opposite direction of Kaysersberg.  Since there are specific opening hours for Montagne des Singes, I was thinking maybe we could visit the pretty town of Schweitzer’s birth later in the afternoon.  Bill was up for it, so off we went.

I didn’t realize that Kintzheim also has an eagle park, which mostly gets good ratings on Google and Trip Advisor.  It didn’t open until 1:30pm, so we decided to see the monkeys, have lunch, and then maybe go see the eagle park.  We managed to make one plan work out.  Oh well.  We can always visit Alsace again.  Below are some photos I took at Montage des Singes, which doesn’t take a lot of time to visit, but really is a lot of fun, especially if you have kids.

This park is only open from March until November.  We usually visit Alsace during the off season, so this was the first time we were in the area when it was working and we were staying longer than a night.  I’m glad we stopped in for a visit, although I probably don’t need to visit the monkey park again.  One other thing to know– during the tourist season, a lot of places on the Alsatian wine route are open on Sundays.  That means you can go shopping if you want to.  During our previous visits, we’ve been during the short off season, when it’s more like being in Germany on Sunday.

Kintzheim is also a very pretty town.

 

Montagne des Singes has a very large, free parking lot.  There’s also a snack bar, free toilets, and a playground for kids.

Map of the complex.

Entrance into the park.  It costs 9 euros per adult, while children from ages 5 to 15 cost 5,50 euros.  Children under five get in free of charge.  I saw a lot of people with very little kids with them, having a ball.  Like Monkey Hill in Affenberg-Salem, Montagne des Signes has Barbary Macque monkeys.  In many ways, this park is very much like the one in Germany, except it seemed smaller and lacked a lake.

At various times during the day, they have demonstrations.  We heard one in German.  Quite a number of the young people working there were trilingual– French, English, and German speakers.

Same signs that are at Monkey Hill…  Incidentally, my German friend explains that this park was founded and is owned by the same guy who founded the one in Affenberg-Salem, Baron Gilbert de Turckheim.  There is also another park in France and one in England.

Off we go to pick up our very small handfuls of popcorn.  

Some of the monkeys were very charming and flat out posed for the cameras.

Bill feeds one of the residents.  It’s like giving candy to an exceptionally calm toddler.

I got a kick out of this monkey… I like to hang around this way, too.  Especially when I’m naked.

These two monkeys by the exit were taking advantage of all of the people who rationed their popcorn and had leftovers.  If you wanted to, you could go through the park again.  It doesn’t take very long.  I think our visit was only about an hour.

Another primate with personality.

More monkey pictures appear at the end of this post.

After we visited the monkey park, we decided to have lunch in Kintzheim.  There are several restaurants there.  We chose to dine at Hotel Restaurant Jenny, not just because Jenny is my name.  They had a rather extensive menu posted outside of their terrace, but when we sat down, we were given a very limited menu.  However, all of the dishes we saw yesterday looked good and we had no complaints about what we ordered.

I talked Bill into Riesling.  We shared a split.

A sign bearing my name.

I went with the asparagus with Black Forest ham and dried ham.

It came with two sauces.  One was Hollandaise with lots of dill.  The other, I couldn’t tell you the name of, although it tasted fine.  Both were mildly flavored.  I preferred the Hollandaise, although it wasn’t like any I’d had before.  It was more like mayonnaise.  I don’t like drowning my food in a lot of condiments, so this kind of went to waste.

I was especially pleased with the dried ham, though.  It was very good.

Bill had jambonneau with cheese sauce.  Basically, it was like a pork knuckle that had been boiled instead of roasted or baked.  The inside of it was very moist and tender, although the outside was less appetizing.  I think Bill and I both like our pork knuckles with cracklins.  

I couldn’t resist dessert.  I saw a bunch of really enticing ones coming out to the terrace.  I went with a chocolate Charlotte, with is basically chocolate mousse surrounded by ladyfingers.  It was served with vanilla sauce, whipped cream, and toasted almonds.  I liked it because it wasn’t too much.

 

While we were waiting for lunch, I looked up the eagle park and was rather put off by some of the negative reviews of the place.  While most people seem to think it’s a great place to see eagles, I was reminded that these magnificent birds of prey are basically kept on short leashes until it’s time for them to perform.  I understand that this is how it’s done with these types of shows, but figured it might be depressing.  So we skipped it and headed back to the apartment, so the boys could have a break.

Besides… the clouds were starting to roll in…  If we had gone to the eagle park, we would have been caught in the rain.  By the time we got back to nearby Ribeauville, there was a steady downpour.

Pretty Bergheim, which is very close to Ribeauville and quite attractive.  There’s a lot to do in Alsace, which makes it a great place to go for a quick weekend out of the Stuttgart area.  It’s only a couple of hours away, yet you could come back several times and not do the same things twice.  

We took it easy for the rest of the afternoon and enjoyed the bottle of sparkling wine our host, Yannick, left for us.  Although this time, we rented one of his tiny studio apartments, we didn’t really want for anything, except a little peace and quiet.  There was a group of German ladies at the wine house who were very nice, but kind of loud.  However, they didn’t stay up until an unreasonable hour and were very nice about Zane and Arran, so I can’t complain too much.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Yannick’s wine house would be really great if you had a family reunion or a big group and wanted to rent the whole thing.  It’s very convenient and he’s a great landlord.  In fact, he just texted me from the hospital, where his poor wife has been since Friday, trying to have a baby!  I’m sending them birthing vibes!

For dinner, we decided to eat at Chez Martine.  We ate there the first time we visited Ribeauville and I remembered how good the Quiche Lorraine was.  And even though I also had quiche on Saturday, I say one can’t have too much quiche in one’s life.  It turned out to be an excellent decision.  Our waitress was absolutely charming and sweet and the food was outstanding.  Bill had Chez Martine’s version of the dish I’d had on Friday at Restaurant du Mouton and it was vastly superior.

Last night’s wine.  Bill decided to try something different.  This grape didn’t thrill me because I like my whites crisp and this tasted a little flat.  But it was a change from Riesling, so that wasn’t a bad thing.

Bill had potato pancakes with smoked salmon and a salad.  His potato pancakes weren’t burnt like one of mine was when we ate at Hotel du Mouton.  I love that they serve the dressing on the side, too.  That dressing is a delightfully light and creamy Dijon mustard based creation.

That Quiche Lorraine was outstanding.  It was priced at about five euros more than what we were charged at Brasserie de La Poste next door, but it was also vastly superior in quality.  It was perfectly seasoned, generously proportioned, and piping hot.  I think Chez Martine serves the best quiche in Ribeauville.  

For dessert, we split a piece of cheesecake.  It was very simple, not too heavy, and not too sweet.  And we also had espresso.  Total bill came to a little over sixty euros.

 

The dogs were surprisingly well behaved this time, although Zane did let out an ear splitting yelp when Bill took him out to pee at 5:00am.  But it was just one yelp and this time, no one yelled at Bill in French.  We had a quick breakfast and cleared out of the apartment at 9:30am.  Yannick’s key box system makes it very easy to check in and out.  As I mentioned before, he was busy with his family this time, so we didn’t get to see him.

As long as we’re living in the Stuttgart area, I have no doubt we’ll be back.  Alsace is so easy and pleasant to visit.  I still can’t believe we really didn’t explore it the first time we lived in Germany.  I know we have to visit one more time, if only so I can finally see Kaysersberg.

One more Black Forest photo on the way home.  We took a different route that was less confusing, but slightly less scenic.

Below are some photos of the monkeys I took with my digital camera.

Another touching family moment.  One thing I did notice over Montagne des Signes is that it was less structured.  When we visited the one in Germany, we got a long spiel about the rules.  This time, the spiel was shorter and the overall experience seemed to be both more laid back and less crowded.  I’d say it’s worth a visit if you like animal parks, especially if you have small children.

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Uncategorized

Running away to Ribeauville, France… part two (good eats 1)

Ribeauville is pretty quiet right now.  Many of the locals have left town for vacation.  Consequently, a lot of the restaurants and a few stores were closed.  The weather was pretty gloomy during our visit, so we mainly hung around the apartment and ventured out for lunch a couple of times.  Even though the town is fairly dead right now, it’s still very beautiful and quaint.  There’s still plenty of wine for tasting and buying.  And if you’re sick and tired of schnitzel and pork knuckles, you can have something decidedly French in Ribeauville.  I know I did.

Ribeauville is tres cute.

The first restaurant we went to was Chez Martine, an adorable little bistro on the main drag through Ribeauville.  It seems to be a place most popular for lunch.  When we arrived at about 1:00pm on Saturday, the tiny dining room only had a few open tables.  A very friendly waitress invited us to sit where we wanted.  She didn’t speak much English, which I found very refreshing.  And she was smiling and helpful.  I was very charmed by her as she very carefully explained that they were about to close for their vacation, so they were out of some items on the menu.

I decided to have Quiche Lorraine, which is basically made with bacon or ham and cheese.  It came with a salad and bread.  Bill chose a salmon tart, but they didn’t have it.  So he went with lightly breaded fish– I think it was flounder.  It, too, came with a very nice salad.  We shared a bottle of Alsatian wine and no one gave us the fish eye for drinking during the daytime.

No, I wasn’t drinking when I took this.  The expression of Bill’s face just reminded me of Squidward’s.

A little better.

A very nice locally produced Riesling, which went great with our lunches.

My delicious Quiche Lorraine.  This was so good.  Just what I needed on a cold, gloomy January day in France.  And such a nice change from the fare one usually finds in these parts.  The salad had carrots, green beans, radishes, and fresh greens.  It came with a light mustard vinaigrette as well as super fresh bread.  

Bill was equally happy with his flounder.  It came with the same salad my dish had.  

Our waitress talked us into dessert.  I had a cherry tart, which was delicious and just the right size.  

Bill enjoyed a pear and chocolate tart.  Again, it was the right size and very fresh.  I was marveling that we only live a couple of hours away, but the food is so refreshingly different.  We will have to come back for that alone.

A shot of the front.  In warmer months, there are tables available for outside.

Our bill came to just over fifty euros.  Bill made the waitress smile by giving her a generous tip.  A friend of mine who lives in France says that tipping isn’t really a thing in France.  More than a couple of euros isn’t necessarily expected.  I could tell that our waitress appreciated it, though.  And that meal was enough that we didn’t really need anything else for the rest of the day.  We went back to the apartment and enjoyed some wine from the local grocery store while we watched the flurries come down.  Ribeauville definitely did not get the snow that Stuttgart got.

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