holidays

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

When we woke up in Ribeauville on Saturday, November 19th, I looked at Facebook to see if there were any announcements about James Taylor’s show. I didn’t see any emails from the ticketing venue, or on James’s social media. That meant we’d be going home a day early.

I was a little sad to be going, since I really had wanted to go to Riquewihr at least once, if only to get macaroons. Bill didn’t want to go to Riquewihr, because it was in the opposite direction of home, even if it was just two miles. He said he’d go look for the macaroons in Ribeauville. So he went out, picked up more croissants, and FAILED to find the cookies I wanted. Instead, he bought three bags of other cookies.

Maybe I should be ashamed for feeling this way, but I was a little disappointed. What he brought back were not what I wanted. Then it occurred to me that I could probably order the macaroons, which is precisely what I did (they arrived this morning). So I got over my disappointment, and we started packing up to go home. As I was walking the dogs to the car, my hands full of whatever else I could carry, a French woman approached me, speaking rapid fire. I said in English, “I’m sorry, I don’t speak French.”

She nodded and smiled, then backed away. I soon realized what she wanted. It was mid morning and the parking lot was already pretty full. She wanted our parking spot. I saw her lurking in the lot, just waiting for us to move. I always hate it when people do this, even though I understand why they do it. I wasn’t the one driving, and we weren’t quite ready to leave. She finally gave up at some point, after Bill had done a sweep of the Riesling gite, and came back to the car. By then, there were a couple more lurkers, just waiting…

It was probably a half hour later when we were on our way home, after a quick stop at the Daniel Stoffel Chocolatier outlet on the way out of town. Bill went in and picked up some goodies for us, and his daughter’s family.

Our drive home was almost totally uneventful. Arran went to sleep, and Noyzi was a perfect gentleman in the back. Maybe we have finally broken him of his habit of barking in the car. The only strange thing that happened was that, as usual, I witnessed public urination at a rest stop. I vented about that here. Below are a few shots from the drive home. As you can see, Arran was relaxed.

When we got home, our landlord came over to tell us our off kilter dishwasher, which had come off its foundation, wasn’t fixed yet, because the repair guy needed a part. Yesterday, he said the repair guy was sick, but would be able to fix the machine when he was well again. He said we should just be careful using the machine. When I told him we hadn’t been using it, because the dishwasher had given me an error code last time I ran a load, he said if the repair guy couldn’t figure it out, he’d just get us a new one. I am still stunned by how different he is, compared to our former landlady. They are like night and day!

I did the requisite load of laundry and a few other chores, then we got ready for the show in Frankfurt. We had to pick up our tickets at the box office, I guess to thwart scalpers. I pictured a long line of people, but when we arrived at the Jahrhunderthalle, we were pleasantly surprised by the ease of parking, the short distance to the venue, and the short line to get our tickets. Then we enjoyed some libations while we waited for the doors to open.

James Taylor had a stripped down band for this show. There was no keyboard player, and no opening act. We had second row seats, which was a first for me. I saw my first James Taylor concert in 1990. In fact, that show, when I was almost 18, was my very first “rock” show– if you could call it that. I remember I went with my parents and one of my sisters, and I paid $18.50 for nosebleed seats.

For this show, I paid 82,50 euros which I thought was very reasonable to see a guy who has won 6 Grammys and spent more than 50 years enchanting people all over the world with his wonderful guitar playing and angelic voice. While we waited for the show to start, I noticed the music that was playing. I recognized songs from albums by James’s daughter, Sally, as well as backup singers Kate Markowitz and Andrea Zonn. I downloaded Kate’s album from the concert hall. I already had Andrea’s.

This was the fourth time I’d seen James Taylor play, but there was a difference between this show and the others. For one thing, there weren’t drunken, idiot women standing in front of us, dancing and shrieking the whole time. There were no huge screens showing close ups of James and his band. And while he forgot a few words, he still played and sang beautifully. I was charmed by his efforts to speak German to the crowd, as well as the encouraging message he had for anyone “in recovery” from drug and alcohol addiction, as he has been since the mid 80s.

James told us some of the stories behind some of the songs he performed, including “That’s Why I’m Here”, from his 1985 album by the same name. I remember that he had dedicated that album to Bill W., the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous. Imagine going to an A.A. meeting and seeing James Taylor there! But anyway, “That’s Why I’m Here” was a song he wrote in memory of his friend John Belushi, who died of an overdose in 1982. James was a pretty serious addict back in the day. He’s still addicted, of course, but no longer indulges. Before he started singing, he said, “If you like getting fucked up, that’s okay. I just can’t handle it myself anymore!” Everybody laughed.

At the beginning of the evening, I thought James looked a little pale, perhaps because he’d had COVID. But as the show went on, he was more and more animated, at times jumping around the stage. I enjoyed watching him interact with his band, most of whom had been with him for many years. Dorian Holley was the only one on stage I had not seen with James before. I suspect he’s the replacement for Arnold McCuller, James’s longtime backup singer who just retired from life on the road. I enjoyed Dorian’s singing. He has quite an impressive resume. James listed the people Holley’s sung with, which includes the late Michael Jackson. That actually surprised me, because he didn’t look old enough to be one of Jackson’s backup singers… but then, Michael was well known for enjoying and employing young performers for his shows.

James’s long time guitarist, Michael Landau, was well within view of us on the right side of the stage. He stood up and flexed his legs, I smiled at him, and he smiled back. That was kind of a cool moment. One thing I love about European concerts is that I seem to have a much easier time scoring good seats here. Another thing I love about European shows is that most people don’t act stupid at them… at least not at the shows Bill and I attend. And you can get a beer or a glass of wine without mortgaging your house.

At one point, James was introducing a song from his 1971 album, Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon. A man in the audience held up a vinyl copy, which James immediately offered to sign and bite. The guy rushed up to the stage with his album and presented it to James, but then they needed to find a pen. Another guy came up and said he had something that had been signed by a bunch of famous singers, including Johnny Cash. He requested an autograph, which James was happy to oblige. In fact, at the break, I ran out to go to the restroom, and when I came back, James was still on stage, signing autographs and shaking hands. I was very impressed. I wondered if he needed to pee as badly as I did! It struck me as a very humble and generous gesture toward his loyal fans.

I decided not to try to get an autograph myself. I would be honored to have James’s signature, of course, but autographs don’t really mean that much to me. Earlier in the show, someone yelled out that his dad loved James. James made a comment reminiscent of what he said on his Live album from 1993. Basically, he reminded the guy that they don’t know each other. It made me think how strange it must be for performers to be “loved” by people who don’t know them. James himself reminded us that he is a deeply flawed person, as we all are… but what impresses me about James Taylor is that he’s clearly worked very hard to become much better. He’s clearly not the same person he was in the 70s or early 80s.

At the end of the show, of course there were encores… and James and his band encouraged people to get up and come close to the stage. It was one of the most intimate concert experiences I’ve ever had. I think the only one who topped that was James’s somewhat less famous brother, Livingston, who puts on a FABULOUS live show and is extremely approachable. I remember seeing Liv in 2003 at the Birchmere in Alexandria, Virginia, a couple of months after I saw James at Wolf Trap in Bristow, Virginia. James’s show was MUCH bigger than Liv’s was, and we had those drunk women in front of us, careening around sloppily as they slurred the lyrics of James’s best songs. I remember thinking Livingston’s show was so much better, if only because there weren’t any obnoxious drunks there. But Liv also engaged the audience and was thoroughly entertaining. This most recent show by James, while slightly pared down, was akin to Liv’s show, only it was in a much larger, yet still intimate, venue.

In any case, we obviously had a wonderful time! I’m so glad we went. It was the perfect ending to our 20th anniversary weekend. And yes, even though James will be 75 years old in March, he’s still a hell of a great performer. I think the money we spent on this show, even with its delays, was well worth euro cent.

Dorian and Kate dance!

Getting out of the Jahrhunderthalle was very easy. Bill was happy about that. But then we hit a Stau, so Bill went through Hofheim to get us home. And when we got home, we were confronted by a big mess caused by Arran. He got into the basement and raided our dry goods, and peed and pooped on my rug. Fortunately, he was no worse for wear. We have thoroughly dog proofed down there, as we’re going to someone’s house for Thanksgiving dinner today. Noyzi had nothing to do with the raid. He was tucked in bed when we got home. He’s very classy for a street dog.

Well, that about does it for this series. It wasn’t a super exciting trip, but we had a good time… and it was great to have Arran and Noyzi with us. I’m so grateful to be here on many levels, and for so many reasons. I’m glad James Taylor is still with us, too. And before I forget, below are a couple of clips from the show.

The magical ending.
Auf Wiedersehen…
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holidays

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

I’ve been looking forward to November 16, 2022 for twenty years. That’s the day Bill and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary. As some readers already know, I am Bill’s second wife. On some levels, I would say he and I have had a fairly easy time of marriage. We get along very well, and we genuinely love spending time together. We aren’t just husband and wife; we are best friends. But that doesn’t mean we haven’t had our share of dramas.

All year, I’ve been thinking about what we should do to celebrate our big milestone. Normally, I would come up with a fancy vacation of some kind, or at least a trip to somewhere we’ve never been, even if it’s not a luxurious destination. But then in September, I discovered that our beloved dog, Arran, had swollen lymph nodes. The diagnosis was B-cell lymphoma. We are now in our last days with Arran, who is a very special family member, and has a particularly close bond with Bill.

Originally, we thought it would be best to ease Arran into palliative care, but he’s repeatedly showed us he wants to fight. So he’s now undergoing chemotherapy, which has been kind of miraculous. He started treatment October 13th, and on November 20th, he’s still happy and spunky. Nevertheless, I didn’t want to board him. For one thing, we’ve come to realize that Arran doesn’t enjoy being boarded anymore. He’d much rather be with us. For another, I didn’t want to burden the Hund Pension with dealing with his medications, which aren’t that complicated, but do involve some risk. He takes a drug that requires gloves to dispense safely, and it’s not safe for his poop to be accessible to other dogs.

Finally, when we were celebrating our tenth anniversary in Scotland, Arran’s predecessor, MacGregor, had an undiagnosed cancerous spinal tumor that caused an emergency while we were traveling thousands of miles away. I didn’t want anything similar to happen this time. We lost MacGregor a week before Christmas 2012, just a couple of weeks after our return from our big anniversary trip. Arran, who joined our family on January 12, 2013, is named after a Scottish island we saw on that first trip to Scotland.

I decided we’d spend our big day in Ribeauville, France, which is about a three hour drive from us. We have been there half a dozen times since 2017, staying in apartments owned by Yannick Kopff, a Alsatian native and excellent host. Yannick is extremely dog friendly, and since our favorite of his apartments, Riesling, was available for our dates, we decided that was a good place to celebrate. I booked four nights– from Wednesday, November 16th until Sunday, November 20th, at Yannick’s Gites au Coeur de Ribeauville.

Meanwhile, we were also looking forward to seeing and hearing James Taylor perform a concert. Originally, the show was supposed to go on in February 2022. But COVID-19 numbers were too high at that time, and there were many restrictions in place. So James decided to reschedule his European Tour dates for later in the year. In our case, the Frankfurt show was rescheduled for November 8th. Perfect– a Tuesday night, over a week before our anniversary trip.

On November 7th, we got the news that James had to postpone several concerts, including ours. He finally got COVID, and was advised to rest in Zurich, Switzerland for a few days. We watched anxiously, as four shows were eventually canceled because they couldn’t be rescheduled. However, Frankfurt’s venue was open for November 19th… last night. We were supposed to be in France last night, but we decided to come home a day early to catch James’s show… and I’m really glad we did that, because it was a great show, in spite of James’s brush with COVID.

I don’t have a lot of exciting stories to tell about our most recent trip to Ribeauville. November, just before the Christmas markets, is the “off season”. A lot of places were closed in preparation for the frenzy that is about to hit the village. I don’t know how big their market was in 2021, but I’m pretty sure it was canceled in 2020. I have a feeling this year’s markets will be bigger, and I could see that people were preparing. But, in terms of having a lot to do while we were there… I can’t say that we did. On the other hand, we did try a couple of restaurants we had never tried before, and Bill tried a dessert that is a local speciality that we never had before.

This was also Noyzi’s very first trip with us, aside from when we went to Slovenia to pick him up in 2020. Ribeauville was a good choice, because it wasn’t too far away, and because Yannick is so good with dogs in his properties. It was a fruitful trip for Noyzi, too, since he finally learned to poop while on a leash. This is a big deal, because it will make traveling with him much easier and less worrisome. Eventually, we may have to take him back to the States, which means for his own health, he needs to know how to relieve himself when he’s not frolicking in the backyard. He did seem to learn the lesson on our trip.

Aside from taking pictures of the always beautiful village of Ribeauville, binge watching Netflix and cheesy French game shows, eating lots of French comfort foods, drinking Alsatian wines, and being together, we didn’t do much on this trip. It was a good opportunity for Bill to sleep. We also picked up some gifts for his daughter and grandchildren. The beauty of Ribeauville is that we’ve been there so many times that not doing anything doesn’t seem too much like a hardship. By now, the village feels like a second home, even if our last visit was in January 2020.

So… over the next couple of days, I’ll write up this trip and James Taylor’s concert. I don’t think I’ll binge write today, because frankly, I just don’t feel like it. The weather is kind of crappy and I feel like hibernating. But we had a great time, and I’m grateful we could do it. I hope we can do it again.

If you’re interested in reading about our latest trip to France, I hope you’ll watch this space for updates… Meanwhile, here’s a video I made a few days ago in honor of our anniversary and James Taylor’s show. He didn’t do “Secret O’ Life” last night…

This song has really grown on me over the years. It seemed like a good one for 20 years of marriage…

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Beef ‘n Beer… A new spot for us in Hofheim…

We woke to a foggy morning, which made us less interested in going to a wine tasting in the nearby hamlet of Hofheim. We did need to go out, though… or really, I needed to go out. So we decided to stop by a Hofheim burger joint called Beef ‘n Beer, which is right next to a mall called the Chinon Center. Two hours parking there cost one euro!

The restaurant’s Web site tells me that there are two locations, the one in Hofheim, and one in Kelkheim, which is a place I have yet to visit. With a name like Beef ‘n Beer, we were thinking maybe they’d have a list of beers to try, but alas, the beer selection was not that impressive or expansive. However, the restaurant doesn’t take an afternoon pause, has a full bar, and offers a variety of salads, sandwiches, burgers, and main dishes.

We ended up having to search for parking, because a lot of people were out today. We managed to snag a spot on the top level of the parking garage at the Chinon Center, then it was easy to walk to the restaurant. An attractive waitress invited us to sit anywhere we wanted. She didn’t speak English to us, but I did hear her speak perfect English to another patron. I’m not sure he was American, either. He could have been from Sweden, for all I know!

I ended up ordering an Avocado Burger, which was a burger with bacon, cheese, onions, lettuce and avocado slices. Bill had The Original Australian, which was a sandwich on a sub roll with Argentinian beef strips, fried onions, tomatoes, pickles, and lettuce. Both sandwiches came with steak fries and cole slaw.

The Avocado Burger was good, but I couldn’t finish it. It also had a molded patty, which I don’t usually like the texture of, though it wasn’t too off putting at Beef ‘n Beer. Bill loved his sandwich. I think I might order that next time, or come hungrier and try one of the main courses. They have steaks, salmon, dorade, and even spare ribs.

I enjoyed the chilled out ambiance in the restaurant, which included comfortable bench seating and cool music. It’s also a dog friendly place. One guy brought his two dogs with him, and I almost tripped over his sweet black Labrador as we entered the place. In warmer months, there’s a small Biergarten area, too. Bill and I both commented that we expected more of a beer selection, but they had stuff we were happy to drink. I’m sure it pleases the local clientele.

Lunch came to a little over 36 euros, which Bill paid for with cash. He could have used a card, too, an option I see is spreading rapidly in Germany. For the longest time, paying with a card wasn’t such a common thing to do here. I guess COVID changed that somewhat.

After lunch, we walked downtown to see if anything was going on. We ended up stopping in a little hole in the wall Fair Trade shop, which offered coffees, teas, condiments, soaps, baby clothes, and wines, all of which came from Fair Trade sources. We bought some coffee, soap, almond butter, wine, and chocolate. How many times have we walked past the Weltladen without noticing? I don’t know, but I will make a point of stopping in again. They have some cute stuff! I love Hofheim, too. It’s a nice town.

Then we completed the loop around Hofheim and took a short rest near the Wine Chalet. For once, we didn’t partake of any wine. We just sat there, enjoyed the change of scenery and lovely cool fall temperatures and colors, as well as a little irreverent graffiti. I feel like I’ve almost missed the fall this year, as worried as I’ve been about Arran.

Speaking of Arran… below is a video of how he and Noyzi welcomed us home…

That chemo is good stuff.

Wednesday, we’re going to Ribeauville, France for our 20th wedding anniversary. Originally, our plan was to stay until November 20 (Sunday). However, we were supposed to see James Taylor in concert in Frankfurt on November 8. He came down with COVID and had to cancel several shows. Poor guy has been stuck in Zurich all week… which is not such a bad place to be stuck. He was able to reschedule Frankfurt for November 19th. So, if the show is still going on next Saturday night, we’re going to come home a day early and see him play. We have second row seats, after all. Not sure that will ever happen again! If he has to cancel again, we’ll stay in France for another night. Either way, we’re paid up, and we have appealing plans.

It’s nice to have first world problems.

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An evening with wonderful Keb’ Mo’… our first concert since 2019!

In 2003, when Bill and I were first married, I bought Lyle Lovett’s then newly released CD, Smile: Songs From the Movies. In those days, we didn’t have much money at all, so it was kind of a big deal when I bought things, even when they were as seemingly insignificant as CDs. On the other hand, I’m a frustrated musician myself, so CDs have never really been insignificant to me.

I got pretty hooked on that CD. I was a pretty new Lyle Lovett fan back then, but it wasn’t long before I became a real admirer of his music. On that CD, there was a collaboration Lovett did with noted blues singer, Keb’ Mo’. They had covered “‘Till It Shines”, a song Bob Seger wrote in the 1970s. I actually owned Bob Seger’s album, Stranger in Town, on cassette tape. I’ve since replaced it at least twice. I instantly recognized the song, and I loved what they did with it. I think that was the first experience I had with Keb’ Mo’.

Never saw the film this was used in, but I love this pairing of musicians.

Some time passed, and I encountered Keb’ Mo’ a few more times. One time, I bought a compilation put together by Martha Stewart, of all people. Yes, that Martha Stewart– the one who went to prison for insider trading! She marketed a CD for new parents called Sleepytime, and it included a collection of soothing songs that were meant to inspire babies to fall asleep, yet didn’t annoy their parents. Keb’ Mo’ contributed a lovely song called “Infinite Eyes” to that CD, which was released in 2004. I see Martha’s Sleepytime CD is no longer available, even on Amazon. That’s a shame, because it’s a really nice CD. I still have it, although it’s in storage now. I hope the extreme heat in Texas hasn’t ruined it. I do have it downloaded to my computer. Additionally, you can find it uploaded on YouTube.

Then came the day when I became a confirmed Keb’ Mo’ fan. Bill and I were having a weekend lunch at Austin Grill, in Springfield, Virginia. They were playing some really great music in there, and I was enjoying my burrito and pink lemonade to some righteous blues. Suddenly, there was Keb’ Mo’s unmistakable voice, covering Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues”. After we finished lunch, Bill and I went directly to a Border’s store and I bought three of his CDs. None of them had his cover of “Folsom Prison Blues”, but the spell was cast. I was soon hooked, and started buying his music regularly. Years later, I found and downloaded his version of “Folsom Prison Blues”, but by the time I found it, I had discovered so many other great songs by him!

It’s hard to believe that about twenty years have passed since the first time I heard Keb’ Mo’s voice. It’s ever harder to believe that last night was the first time I ever saw him play live. Especially since Keb’ Mo’ seems to love Europe and has played over here several times in the almost eight years we’ve lived here. I don’t know how much longer we’ll be in Germany, but I am sure last night won’t be the only time we see Keb’ Mo’ in concert. He was so wonderful last night at the Frankfurter Hof! Thanks to the pandemic, the show, which was originally planned for November 16, 2020 (our 18th wedding anniversary), had been rescheduled three times. It was well worth the wait!

Last night’s concert was the first one Bill and I had been to since July 2019, when we saw Mark Knopfler in Leipzig. I remember Knopfler’s show was memorable for a lot of reasons. The most memorable thing about that show, though, besides the fact that it was the last one after a string of concerts Bill and I attended, was that we were staying in the same hotel where Knopfler and his band were. And all of them came to the hotel bar, so I got to gawk at them from afar.

Something similar actually happened last night. Bill and I were eating dinner outdoors at a place called L’Angolo, an Italian restaurant near the Frankfurter Hof, in Mainz. Bill had ordered a half bottle of wine, and just as our waiter was dropping it off, I looked up and there was Keb’ Mo’, walking down the street, completely unbothered and unfazed by anyone! I didn’t have the chance to take a photo then, but I got plenty of them last night, along with some video. I don’t usually like to take video at concerts, but he was pretty open to it, and everyone was doing it. So I got a few minutes from last night’s intimate show, which included opening act, Anthony D’Amato, who was equally great. I had not heard of Anthony D’Amato before last night, but he was very entertaining. His style reminded me of Springsteen’s or maybe Bob Dylan. He’s also been compared to Josh Ritter, but I’m not familiar with Josh Ritter (yet), so I can’t say for sure.

One of Anthony D’Amato’s songs. I don’t think he did this one last night.

I was pleasantly surprised by last night’s show. I had been a bit worried about it, given the COVID-19 situation. Germany only did away with mask requirements in most places just a few weeks ago. I didn’t look forward to having to sit in an auditorium wearing a mask for hours. Fortunately, people in Europe are pretty good about letting people make their own choices, as long as there aren’t official rules. There were some folks who wore masks at the show, but the vast majority of people didn’t. And I didn’t see anyone giving anyone a problem, either way.

The Frankfurter Hof is a small venue that seats a maximum of 480 people, and offers standing areas on the sides. I would guess there were no more than 600 people at last night’s show. We were in seats one and two in row four, which offered a great view of the stage, even without using the zoom function on my camera. I would not hesitate to attend another concert at the Frankfurter Hof, especially since it’s so close to where we live. My only caveat for the uninitiated is that it’s not so easy to find the entrance to the venue, which is between two restaurants/bars.

As usual, the audience was well-behaved and appreciative, which made for a nice atmosphere. People were singing along and clapping, and for the most part, being very considerate of each other. I haven’t been to a whole lot of US based concerts, but I have noticed that I much prefer the shows in Germany to the ones I’ve attended back home. People are expected to act like adults. Those who don’t will be called out. At the same time, if you want to enjoy your adult beverages, you can do that without harassment or price gouging. It’s refreshing to be treated with dignity and respect, without worry that some idiot will ruin the mood for everyone. Last night was also memorable, because we ran into one of Bill’s colleagues. Before she started working for the US government, she used to do sound and lighting for concerts. She even did them for Joan Jett, at some point before she switched careers. 😉

Below are some photos from our evening, and last night’s delightful show. I’m so glad we were finally able to go! I hope Keb’ Mo’ will be back soon. If he follows his usual modus operandi, I expect it won’t be long before we have another chance to enjoy his music live. And if you like blues and haven’t seen him play yet, you’re missing out. We only paid about 45 euros per ticket to catch that show. It was one of the better concerts we’ve attended! Overall, it was a fantastic evening; he played all of the songs I was hoping to hear, plus some I really need to listen to again! If I don’t wind up with COVID-19, that is a bonus!

I was surprised by how humble and down to earth Keb’ Mo’ seemed. He was so funny and obliging, engaging with the audience and sharing entertaining stories with the audience. I also noticed that there were a lot of English speakers at the show, and they were getting his jokes. Bill and I saw the aforementioned Lyle Lovett in Stuttgart in March 2009, and he spoke English and made jokes. Bill and I seemed to be the only ones laughing! That is not what happened last night. The audience loved him! And most of them were very well behaved, save for a couple of squabbles over seats, and dirty looks due to empty beer bottles falling. For once, they weren’t my bottles, either. 😉

Below is a video I got from the first song in the encore, a sweet rendition of “Lean On Me” by Bill Withers. I wish I had gotten the very last song, which was one of the highlights of the show, in my opinion. It was an upbeat gospel number his late mother had loved. Keb’ Mo’ delighted me by quipping, “Germans go to church, too!” And indeed, they were clapping, stomping, and singing along, just like they had been raised on that homespun southern gospel sound. Once again, I missed my own southern roots, especially when he mentioned southern food. But I can’t help but realize that Bill and I shared a bond with the locals last night… and at this point, Germany will always be one of my homes, too. <3

“Lean On Me”
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Austria is locking down… will Germany be next?

The local news in Germany has been all abuzz about the COVID-19 situation in Austria. Fed up and frustrated by the ever increasing numbers of people falling ill with the coronavirus, Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg announced that Austria would be locking down for at least ten days. The lockdown will apply to everyone, vaccinated or not, and it means that Austrians will be asked to work from home and non-essential shops will close. Schools will remain open for children who require face-to-face learning. The measure will apply until December 12, and then the COVID situation will be reassessed at that point to determine if there should be another ten days of lockdown.

As I read the news yesterday, I realized how lucky Bill and I are that we managed to take our recent vacation and get through all of the countries unscathed. Croatia and Slovenia are considered “high risk” areas– higher risk than Austria was– but we didn’t interact with many people at all during our time there. I think the risk is mainly because fewer people are vaccinated, but the reality is, there aren’t that many people congregating in Slovenia or Croatia at this time of year and social distancing is actually super easy. That may change as winter approaches and people want to ski, at least in Slovenia.

Austria, on the other hand, was like 2019. During our trip, it wasn’t considered a “high risk” area. Masks were only required in grocery stores, on public transportation, and in healthcare facilities. I won’t lie. It was really nice. And, in fact, Salzburg and, to a lesser extent, Wels, were sort of “alive” with people, which was a morale booster. I’m not sure if the lax masking is the reason why this surge is happening. Germany is a lot stricter about masks, but people are still getting sick here, and the hospitals are full. Personally, I don’t think the masks are going to be what saves us. What needs to happen is mass immunity, and that will come as people get vaccinated and boosted, and others manage to recover from the illness. Unfortunately, I think a lot of people may get very sick and/or die in the process. The only way to avoid the risk is by staying away from other people.

Austria has also taken the unusual step of requiring everyone to get vaccinated by February 2022. Frankly, I don’t think that’s a bad decision. It’s certainly groundbreaking. Under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t agree with forcing people to do things, particularly when it involves healthcare. However, communicable diseases are different. With my background in public health, I already know that there are some public health situations that require detaining people who put others at risk. On my main blog, I have written about how I think COVID-19 could eventually become an illness like tuberculosis. If you get TB and you refuse to get treated, you can and will be detained so that you don’t threaten other people. Many of us are really sick and tired of COVID-19, and the way it’s disrupting normal living. It’s also costing the world’s economies a lot in lost business, and like it or not, money matters. I don’t think people should be surprised if the rules become more draconian in an effort to get rid of the scourge.

Bavarian state premier, Markus Söder, who is a champion of the dreaded FFP2 masks for everyone, everywhere, has already declared a “de facto lockdown for the unvaccinated”. All of the Christmas markets have been cancelled, and all bars and clubs will be closed for the next three weeks. In areas where “weekly incidence rates top 1,000 per 100,000 people – restaurants, hotels, sport and culture will also close.” I believe the rules in Germany recently changed, as Angela Merkel plans to leave office. Now, they’re letting the states decide, rather than the federal government. I think I might enjoy the incoming government. I read that they’re also considering making recreational cannabis use legal. I never thought I’d see the day. I have limited experience with pot, having only tried it in The Netherlands a few years ago. But I did enjoy the experience…

I will not be the least bit surprised if other countries take a similar approach against the virus. It really sucks that this is happening, since Christmas is approaching. I do have some hope, though, because this year, at least there are vaccines. Some medications are also being developed to treat COVID-19– legitimate ones, rather than hydroxychloroquine and Ivermectin. Historically speaking, pandemics always end at some point. So I continue to hold out hope that this one will end eventually… COVID-19 is a terrible illness, but it’s probably not even the worst humankind has faced, and nowadays, we have a lot more and better technology, which will continue to evolve out of necessity.

But yes… I sure am glad Bill and I managed to take our trip, enjoy ourselves, and emerge unscathed. We were very lucky. If there’s one thing COVID-19 has done for me, it’s make me a lot more appreciative of being able to travel.

Bill has been in Warsaw, Poland all this week, sadly missing our 19th anniversary at home. He brought home a few things for me last night. It would have been nice if I could have gone with him, but the COVID situation makes it dangerous. In fact, we were supposed to see James Taylor in Frankfurt in February, but he had to postpone his stop in Frankfurt until next November. With any luck, we’ll still be here and alive in November 2022. We’re supposed to see Keb’ Mo’ in May of 2022… but the tickets I bought were for a show that was supposed to happen on November 16, 2020– our 18th anniversary. So far, it’s been postponed three times. So we’ll see if we manage to see James in November 2022. I hope so. We have second row seats.

I was thinking maybe we’d go somewhere to celebrate our anniversary, now that Bill’s home… but I think we’re going to be locked down again very soon. So maybe we’ll just stay home and fuck or something. Just kidding… it’s more likely that we’ll turn on music, light a fire, and drink wine.

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Weird June weather…

I thought maybe we’d go out yesterday. The weather has been nice lately, and it’s been awhile since I last had a proper outing. But then the sky opened up with rain, so we decided to stay in…

It’s sad when a Saturday is messed up by rain, but we do actually need the rain to fall. It’s been pretty dry lately. Our rain barrel was so depleted that I put in a few buckets of water from our tap. We use the rain barrel water for the plants Bill is trying to nurture into bearing fruits and vegetables, since there isn’t a spigot in the back yard (but there is one in the garage).

Bill went to the store yesterday to pick up a few things. He says the plexiglass barriers remain, but the cashiers aren’t wearing masks anymore, nor is there anyone “standing guard” to enforce wearing them among shoppers. We also got our tickets to FINALLY see Keb’ Mo’, who is scheduled to visit Germany again in November. He’s doing a show on our anniversary. I’ve been wanting to see him for ages. Hopefully, this will go on as planned and we’ll have our chance. We’ll see. At least Mainz is close to home for now.

Our landlord says he’s going to send in his work crew to check out a piece of siding that came off during a windstorm last year. He asked Bill about our plans, especially since Trump is making noises about reducing the number of troops in Germany. As far as we know, we will be here for at least another year and probably longer. On the other hand, one never knows about these things. Personally, I think Trump is full of hot air, especially right now. Our landlord also worries that we’ll leave Germany for Poland, since Trump has been building up our relations there and there had been talk of a “Fort Trump” (God help us). When we visited Poland a few months ago for Bill’s work, the landlord wondered if it was to house hunt (it wasn’t).

Honestly, I don’t know if a move to Poland would ever happen. I guess I wouldn’t be opposed to moving to Poland if it ever came down to it. Poland has been steadily improving since our first visit in 2008, and I have heard that Americans are moving there to work. But we did reassure the landlord that we like Germany very much and don’t want to move unless we have to. We didn’t want to leave Stuttgart, either, but that turned out to be a the best thing that could have happened, if only because it got us out of an abusive living situation. Our current landlord is a much better fit for us, treats us with respect, and leaves us in peace.

I’ve been reading a lot about the new rules regarding flying. To be honest, as much as I hated flying before COVID-19, I think I’ll hate it even more now. I am not on the mask wearing bandwagon. I know a lot of people think they are helpful, and wearing them is the considerate thing to do, but to be very honest, I think their effectiveness is limited, especially since many people don’t even wash their hands when they use the bathroom. I do know how masks are supposed to work, in theory. In fact, one of my degrees is in public health, so I probably know more about this subject than a lot of people do. I just think the masks are mostly more about comforting the masses than actually preventing infections. When it comes down to it, social distancing and hand washing are a lot more important, and we’re hearing much less about that because they are impossible to monitor or enforce. Simple, loose fitting masks do not stop viruses from spreading, especially when people are constantly touching and fidgeting with them, although they might slow the viruses down a bit if they are worn properly and laundered or replaced regularly.

Masks are inconvenient and uncomfortable, and the idea of being forced to wear one for hours on a plane is very unappealing to me, especially given that air travel is already unpleasant and expensive. Being glared at, judged, and harassed by strangers over the wearing of masks is also unappealing, especially given how expensive it is to fly. I will wear a mask if I have to for essential travel (say, if my mom dies while we’re in Germany or we have to move), but I will not be happy about it, even if it makes other people *feel* safer, *judge* me less, and *think* I’m more polite.

And so, this blog is probably going to be less interesting to most people for the foreseeable future. That makes me sad, since we really had a great time a couple of years ago, visiting places near Stuttgart. I enjoyed writing and taking pictures, too. Maybe I’ll get back to writing about local spots again, but I doubt we’re going to be taking as many great trips, although Bill definitely wants to. I probably won’t be updating this blog as often, either, since no one wants to read about our life at home. It was fun while it lasted.

So sad.

Speaking of things that are going away. It was announced the other day that our neighborhood restaurant, the Alt Breckenheimer Stübchen, has been forced to close. Bill and I only ate there once, in January 2019, because it was always packed and reservations were essential. Now, thanks to the coronavirus, it looks like yet another great local haunt is being forced to close its doors. This virus has really screwed things up for a lot of people. I also read that the wine stand is going to be dismantled at the end of June. That is especially tragic, since we really enjoyed attending last year, and getting to know our neighbors.

But people are trying to keep up their spirits. Kids in Hofheim and apparently other communities, according to my German friend near Stuttgart, are making painted rock snakes. Here’s a screenshot from our local group about that.

Anyway… I try to keep perspective. I’ve noticed that the kids at the local school seem happy and are still playing. Some wear masks and some don’t. I’m grateful that people where I live are sensible and reasonable about mask wearing, and don’t freak out if people leave their residence without one, since it is entirely possible to stay more than six feet away from others in our neighborhood. I also realize that this is certainly not the first or last time humans have been confronted by pandemics. They always eventually pass or become controllable. This particular pandemic has only been a thing for a few months, so people are still very scared. Some are downright panicky. That’s understandable, given the horror stories about people who have come down with COVID-19. However, I think most of us will eventually be exposed to it and most of us won’t die. Some will die, and some will be left debilitated. And hopefully, there will be some semblance of normal life and travel again at some point in the future.

We’ll see what happens. This blog has been slowly dying anyway, since we left Stuttgart and I quit promoting it and left most of the Facebook groups (which was really a smart thing to do, but that’s a rant for another day).

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

Friday morning, we got up and had breakfast.  The Steigenberger has a pretty good buffet offered, though I somehow missed half of it on the first morning.  My only complaint, besides the coffee being kind of bad, is that some of the chairs were a bit narrow.  I don’t have a skinny butt by any means, but I can’t help but think of those larger than me trying to sit down.  Even Bill, who isn’t a large man, commented on the “snug” feel of the mauve colored chairs in the breakfast room.  However, on the last day, we sat in the black ones, and they were a lot more comfortable.

After breakfast, we walked around Leipzig, enjoying the energy of the place.  I wish I had done a bit more research before we arrived in town, since there are some interesting churches and museums there that we missed.

A big day in Leipzig’s history.  Once behind the East German borders, Leipzig is now a freewheeling, vibrant city.  Although the first demonstrations happened the previous month, it started to become that way on October 9, 1989, when there was a huge peaceful demonstration among the people of Leipzig.  It was just after the 40th anniversary of the GDR’s existence.  For two years, there were Monday demonstrations in Leipzig, demanding change for the people.

 

This was just outside St. Nicholas Church, which is a Lutheran church where protesters gathered.  We didn’t get a chance to look inside the church, since they were doing renovations.

Like Rostock, Leipzig also has a university.  It’s one of the world’s oldest universities and the second oldest in Germany, having been founded on December 2, 1409.  Leipzig University was one of the first in Germany to allow women as “guest students”.  During the Nazi era, many Jews had their degrees “cancelled”.  Some were reinstated during the East German era.

 

Leipzig’s “Hochhaus”, a 36 story skyscraper…  probably the only real one in Leipzig.  The building, which was erected between 1968 and 1972, was designed by architect Herman Henselmann to look like an open book.  It was originally part of Leipzig University, but was later sold to the city, which then sold it to the U.S. investment bank, Merrill Lynch.  The offices are rented to tenants and the top floor has an observation platform, as well as a restaurant called Panorama.

 

After strolling through some of Leipzig’s beautifully constructed passages, we had a nice Greek lunch at Alfa Restaurant.

 

Bean soup… I guess it came with the meal.

 

Obligatory shot of Bill.

 

Salads…

 

Bill had gyros with fries and t’zatziki.

 

I had “surf and turf”, which was gyros with fried calamari and tomato rice.  This was a lot of food, but it was well prepared and the waiter was very nice.

 

The sun briefly came out, so we decided to go back to the wine fest, where we tried more wines… In retrospect, we probably should have gone to museums instead.  But what can I say?  We like our wine.

But soon the clouds were out again…

Most of the wines were German, but some weren’t.  The ones above were from the lone Hungarian vintner who attended.

 

Although I got us a parking spot for the Mark Knopfler concert, Bill decided he’d rather hire a cab to take us to the show.  We also wanted to get there early, remembering what happened when we saw Elton John in Stuttgart back in May.  I had ordered “special tickets”, which got us assigned seats, a wurst and a beer at the snack bar, and a parking spot.  I didn’t actually know where we’d be sitting, since the seats were assigned by the ticket outlet.  Well… it turned out we were on the third row on the ground floor.  They were AWESOME seats, especially since there weren’t any big screens.  Here are a few pictures from Knopfler’s show in Leipzig.  I see I can also order a recording of the Leipzig show in a few weeks.  Genius!

The arena.

The view before the show started.

There he is…

 

He had a wonderful band… although Knopfler himself looked a bit tired at first.  He perked up as the show went on and put on a great performance.  

 

I could not keep my eyes off of these two guys, who were playing multiple instruments so well.  They looked and sounded like they were plucked from some lovely meadow in Ireland or Scotland and recruited to follow Knopfler.  

 

I did not record any part of Knopfler’s show, but I want to mention that he has no objections to people audio recording or taking pictures, so long as they are for personal use.  I think that is a very generous and ultimately smart policy, because people are going to do it anyway and it’s pretty much impossible to police.  Hell, even at The Eagles’ concert, where they specifically asked for no cameras, people were openly recording.  Knopfler does state that iPads and video recording isn’t allowed.  People ignored that rule.

The sax player was badass, too.  He was so good… especially on “Your Latest Trick”, which is one of my favorite Dire Straits songs.

 

I loved that Mark Knopfler was showing off the band and obviously really appreciating what they can do.  I also liked that he shared a couple of personal stories about the songs he played… just a sampling of his amazing catalog of Dire Straits and solo efforts.  I’d been wanting to see him for years and this show was worth the wait. 

 

Security was mostly very good at this show.  I noticed a lot of them sitting on the floor, making sure no one misbehaved or sneaked into areas they shouldn’t be.  This was how it went until the very end of the concert, when a huge swath of people suddenly surged to the stage.  Everyone was forced to stand up.  I can deal with that and expect it… but not this.

This barefoot tall twit got up on her chair…

and started dancing while filming… and I couldn’t help but hope she fell into an open manhole on her way home…  Seriously, I was really pissed.  She could have fallen and hurt someone (namely me), plus who can see when people do this shit?  It’s just very inconsiderate and potentially dangerous behavior.  I was half tempted to yank her chair out from under her.  But while I may fume a lot, I have pretty good control of my physical impulses.

 After the show, Bill was unsuccessful in getting a cab.  We ended up walking all the way back to the hotel.  I was really pissed about that, too, since I wasn’t wearing the best shoes for walking.  My feet were burning and I was still really incensed about the idiot in front of us at the concert.  As a consolation, Bill suggested we go to the bar for a nightcap.  So we did…  We sat down at the bar.  I was still in a crappy mood.  The bartender suggested gin and tonics.  I looked up and…

“Don’t look now, but that’s Mark Knopfler’s band…”

Apparently, they decided to stay at the Steigenberger, too.  I was tempted to tell them how much we enjoyed the show, but decided not to approach them.  They worked hard and deserved a break without someone bothering them.  So we sat there and sipped our gin and tonics…  then…

Mark Knopfler himself showed up.  He sat in the back of the bar and did not call attention to himself. He passed right by me on his way to the elevator after spending about forty five minutes in there, hanging out with his band.  They appeared to be a tight, friendly group.

 

I said goodnight to one of the vocalists, who said he was on his way out to party.  It was very surreal. Apparently, that hotel gets its share of star guests.  As we were leaving, another well known rock star– Sting– was in the sauna taking a day off from his European tour, even though the star in the sauna hadn’t played there.  I guess he decided to stop in Leipzig precisely for that reason.  This sauna loving rock star is one I saw in Stuttgart a few years ago and has himself appeared on one of Dire Straits’ biggest hits.

Once again… special thanks to my dear husband, Bill, for making this dream come true.  One of the very first albums I ever owned was Brothers in Arms by Dire Straits.  I had it on cassette and used to listen to it on my Walkman as I rode my bike to and from the barn where I boarded my horse back when I was a teenager.  It’s an excellent album regardless, but I have some great memories of it thanks to the association I have of listening to it during my horsey days.  I miss them so much now.

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

For the past week, Bill and I have been engaged in an epic road trip.  What started out as just plans for a long weekend in Leipzig over the Independence Day holiday, eventually turned into a car buying odyssey in Sweden, with stops in Copenhagen, Denmark and Rostock, Germany.  Our road trip will end on Sunday, but since this is going to be a long story with lots of pictures, I’ve decided to start writing about it today.

If you’ve been following my blogs, you may know that over the past couple of years, Bill and I have been attending a lot of concerts.  Although I really love music, it’s not that often that I go to concerts.  I don’t like crowds, spending lots of money for uncomfortable seats, or having people’s armpits in my face.  However, even though I don’t enjoy being in huge crowds, I also realize that a lot of my favorite musicians are getting old.  A few have already died before I ever got the chance to see them live.

I didn’t have a lot of money or generous boyfriends when I was younger and more tolerant of crowds, so I missed a lot of my best concert going years.  Likewise, for Bill, it’s only been recently that we’ve been able to afford to get tickets for good seats.  I don’t like paying a premium for seats in the nosebleed section.  I can just as easily listen to a live album at home.

In any case, 2018 and 2019 have been unusually active concert going years for us.  Since a year ago, we’ve seen The Rolling Stones, Paul Simon, Bonnie Raitt, James Taylor, Roger Hodgson (of Supertramp), Scottish Music Parade, The Irish Folk Music Festival, Elton John, The Eagles, and tonight, Mark Knopfler (of Dire Straits).  In 2017, we saw Sting, and in 2016, we saw Van Morrison…  or, at least I think it was 2016.  I can’t keep the dates straight anymore.  In 2015, we saw Diana Krall, and in 2009, we saw Lyle Lovett.

I like going to concerts in Europe.  People tend to be more considerate here, for the most part.  Also, they don’t seem to have as many rules.  At American concerts, it costs an arm and a leg to buy a beer.  People lose their shit and have less regard for people around them.  Although I may be proven wrong tonight, I’ve found that people aren’t like that so much on this side of the pond.

I bought the tickets for Mark Knopfler last fall, as we were preparing to leave the Stuttgart area.  I decided to get them for the Leipzig show, even though Knopfler is playing in Mannheim tomorrow, and Mannheim is much closer to where we live now.  I chose Leipzig because I’d been wanting to visit there.  Also, the date for Knopfler’s show in Leipzig seemed to make better use of the long weekend.  Originally, I had just planned for a three night break.  I was excited about this show, especially, because I’ve been wanting to see Mark Knopfler for years.  I missed him when he came to Germany in 2015.  His music means a lot to me for a lot of reasons.

Bill booked our dogs at the Tierpension Birkenhof in Darmstadt, and I got us a nice room at the Grand Hotel Steigenberger, which is one of Leipzig’s nicest hotels.  Had we not been able to book the dogs, we planned to find a self catering place where they could hang out while we went to the show.  Fortunately, the dog sitting situation is less severe in Wiesbaden than it is in Stuttgart.  We had no issues getting them a place at their new boarding facility.

For months, we waited for our trip to Leipzig, planning for just the three nights.  Then, in the spring, Bill decided he was ready to get a new car.  Our thirteen year old Toyota RAV 4, which was an excellent vehicle that served us very well in many countries, was beginning to need costly repairs.  It was time for a new car.  Bill wanted a luxury SUV.

In late April, we visited Capitol Motors Volvo in Kaiserslautern, as well as the BMW dealership, to see what kind of wheels we were going to buy.  Volvo won, so we ordered a beautiful 2020 XC 60 SUV in denim blue.  It’s a T6 Inscription, which is the top of the line trim.  Our dealer told us the car would be ready to pick up on July 1st.  Realizing that it had been way too long since our last proper vacation, I proposed to Bill the idea of flying to Gothenburg, Sweden, picking up the car at the factory, then driving it back to Germany.

Some readers may be aware that U.S. based Volvo dealers offer a great program for people who want to fly to Sweden, pick up their new cars, enjoy a European vacation, then fly home and have the car shipped to them.  Well…  over here in Europe, Volvo buyers, even through military sales, don’t get the same love.  If you are reading this from the United States and are thinking of having a Volvo sponsored European vacation, I recommend that you read this guy’s blog about it.  It’s not that I don’t want you to read my account, too.  It’s just that because we purchased our car in Germany, our experience was somewhat different.  However, we did get a very nice military discount.  I think Bill said we got our new Volvo for about $8,000 less than we would have paid if we hadn’t bought from military sales.

Since the car was going to be ready so close to when our Leipzig concert was planned, I proposed turning our car delivery into an epic trip.  Since Volvo was not going to be paying for our flight to Sweden and would only put us up for one night in a Gothenburg hotel, we decided to just come up to Sweden on our own, spend two nights in Gothenburg’s best five star spa hotel, pick up the car, and make our way to Leipzig.  I did some research and determined our itinerary.

We’d spend two nights in Sweden, since our only other visit there was at the end of a four night Baltic cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Vision of the Seas.  We ended in Stockholm, and Bill had to fly right back to Germany to go to a meeting in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.  Consequently, we really didn’t see more than the port and the airport in Sweden.  I wanted to do better than that in Gothenburg, which is on the west coast of the country.

Next, we’d spent a night in Copenhagen.  We were able to see Copenhagen on that same Baltic cruise.  I would have liked to have done more than one night there, but we had to make our travel plans fit so that we’d be in Leipzig by July 4th.  After Copenhagen, we’d take the ferry across the Baltic Sea to Rostock.  I had wanted to visit a former East German prison museum there.  Since it looked like a cool town near the beach, we’d stay two nights in Rostock.  Then, we’d make our way to Leipzig for the three nights I planned there months prior to our decision to buy the car.

It’s all worked out seamlessly, so far.

As usual, I’m going to write a blow by blow account of this adventure and will include lots of pictures and TMI commentary.  I hope you’ll follow along, if I manage to capture your interest.  Otherwise, this will just serve as a diary of one of our more interesting trips as a married couple.

Somewhere over Gothenburg, just as we’re about to land…

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The Eagles sure didn’t stink in Cologne… part 5

Tuesday night was the night we’d been waiting months for.  I was finally going to get to see the Eagles play live.  Yes, I was going to do it without Glenn Frey, who was a founding member and co-wrote so many of the songs.  Fortunately, I’m a big fan of Vince Gill’s, and he and Frey’s 25 year old son, Deacon, have joined the band and kept it awesome.

I managed to score us 5th row seats, which was even more amazing to me.  They were expensive, though not as expensive as our tickets to the Rolling Stones were last year.  For that show, I got 13th row seats and still couldn’t see so much, thanks to all the tall people around me.  It was an amazing show and well worth the 1200 euros I shelled out for two tickets close up.  I spent about 800 for the tickets to the Eagles and enjoyed the show a lot more.  In fact, I’d say that for many reasons, it was one of the best concerts I’ve ever been to.

For one thing, we got really lucky and sat near considerate people.  The lady to my left had the good sense not to wear a tank top (like the guy at the Stones concert wore) and there was no smoking allowed.  There was no one sitting in the seat directly in front of mine, although the guy sitting in the next row to the left was a bit tall.  I still managed to get lots of pictures.  Since the Eagles asked us not to video the show, I didn’t.  I noticed some people ignored the rules and videoed anyway.  I guess they’re never going to be able to stop people from doing that.

I don’t do that many selfies, but somehow Bill manages to make me look pretty contented.

 

The view before everyone showed up.  I could see it wasn’t quite a sold out crowd, but it was a very well-attended show with most seats filled.

 

There they are!

The band was about ten minutes late getting on stage and I could tell some of the natives were getting restless.  But when they came out and began with “Seven Bridges Road”, everyone loved it.  Below are some pictures I got of the show.  Here’s a link to the setlist.

I got a huge kick out of Joe Walsh, who is always entertaining, gregarious, funny, and super amazingly talented.

 

It also wasn’t lost on me that Joe and I have the same hairstyle and color.  However, you will never catch me wearing leather pants, faux or real.

 

Check out that facial expression.  Joe Walsh is entertaining if all you do is watch his face contort.

Timothy B. Schmit was pouring his heart into it.

This guy, Steuart Smith, is a fucking genius on guitar.  I read that he took Don Felder’s place when Felder was fired from the Eagles.  He toured with Don Henley during his solo projects.  He was an excellent “straight man” to Walsh’s wild guitar licks.  He was also technically brilliant, although he said nothing to the crowd.

 

Dreamboat…  too bad I’m old enough to be his mother.

Glenn Frey’s handsome son, Deacon, sang a couple of his dad’s songs.  He has a very nice voice, although it didn’t remind me of Glenn’s.  Some children of rock stars end up “cursed” with their rock star parent’s sound.  Ben Taylor, son of James Taylor, comes to mind.  Actually, I hear his mom, Carly Simon, in his voice too.  And Julian Lennon, John Lennon’s son, also sounds a lot like his famous dad.  On one hand, it’s awesome to sound like someone famous.  On another, it makes it hard to carve out your own niche.  Deacon’s voice is warm, rich, and actually reminded me of a much less twangy version of Travis Tritt– who covered “Take It Easy” by the Eagles back in 1993.  Deacon sang “Take It Easy” and “Peaceful Easy Feeling” on Tuesday night.  I’m glad he has his own sound, too.

The crowd was loving it!

I knew about Vince Gill from his 90s country hunk days.  He’s married to Amy Grant and, I’m sure, always dreamed of playing with the Eagles.  He probably would have been about Deacon Frey’s age during their heyday.  I was delighted when they played “Don’t Let Our Love Start Slippin’ Away”, which was a big hit from his solo days.  It was great to hear it done Eagles style.  The Germans seemed unfamiliar with it, though.

 
 

Here’s an illegal video from a show they did in Oklahoma.  I knew all the words, but no one else around me did.  I love this song!  And Vince Gill is an amazing choice for the Eagles.  He has a beautiful tenor voice, plus he’s a kick ass guitar player.  I’m getting goosebumps just listening to it now.  Joe Walsh doing a guitar solo… hot damn!

And here he is… Don Henley.  I have a love/hate relationship with Don Henley.  I think he’s an amazing singer, a fantastic songwriter, and I even appreciate his famous crankiness.  He seemed to be in a good mood on Tuesday night, probably because he’s in Europe.  He quipped that he’s happy to be Europe… and given his political leanings, I think we know why.  He said they were going to play 2.5 hours, commenting that 2.5 hours is a long time for guys their age to play.  It’s a long time for women like me to listen, too.  But the bladder gods apparently blessed us all and we made it without a potty break.

 

These guys played horns on several songs and they were bloody awesome.  One guy played an epic trumpet solo for “Hotel California”, which was the first of three encores.

Final bow!

Easy going crowd.

The stadium was almost full by the time the show got going.

A selfie with Don Henley in the background?  Why not?

At one point, Timothy B. Schmit occupied the crowd by having everyone cheer as we looked up at the monitors over the stage.  I’m glad I didn’t see myself up there.  They probably did that to give the roadies a chance to set up for the next song and/or allow one of the band members to whiz.

“He’s cool!” (because life’s been good to him so far…)

Big crowd!

Nice tribute to Glenn Frey.  I think he was with us in spirit.

Everyone got out their phones for “Desperado”, encore #2.

Pre-flighting before the show?  Not us. 
 

I’d definitely go back to the Lanxess Arena for another show, even though I prefer concerts in smaller venues.  It was super easy to get to the venue and I thought the facilities were very good.  There were plenty of toilets and plenty of food vendors, so people had a choice besides wurst.  We didn’t actually eat at the concert, but it was nice to see we could have if we’d wanted to.  The security wasn’t obnoxious and the seats were quite comfortable, which is more than I can say for both the Paul Simon show and The Rolling Stones.  I also like Cologne and the Excelsior Hotel Ernst… so if we stay in Wiesbaden, I think we’ll be back for more.  I’d also see the Eagles again.  The tickets were worth every penny!

We got back to the hotel at about 11:30pm.  The piano bar was still open, so we went in for a night cap.  The same bartender was there and he remembered what we drank on Monday night.  We had a couple more cocktails, some barbecued potato chips, and almonds while a different piano player played.

The barman was impressed by Bill’s knowledge of libations.  It’s hard to believe he was a Mormon when we met.  However, he’s also quite Irish– though not as Irish as I am.

Nice piano player!

 

I think I finally drifted off to sleep about about 1:00am.  I was very excited about the show.  The Eagles are playing in Munich tonight, having taken yesterday off.  I’m sure the Munich crowd is in for a big treat!  I hope I’ll get another chance to see them play again before I (or they) die.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

I got us fifth row seats!

 

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

 

 

 

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

 
 

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

 

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

 

Frankfurt Airport train station to Cologne Messe

 

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

 

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

 
 

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

 

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

 
Mmm…  food!
 
 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Bill checks the schedule…

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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