Okay, actually, it wasn’t really mandatory fun… It was highly encouraged fun.
Bill’s company allocated funds for a holiday party that never happened due to hectic schedules. So, last night’s gathering was basically what would have been the “holiday party”. I don’t always enjoy Bill’s work parties, because they’re often about people “talking shop”. They also involve set menus. Such was the case last night.
Arran had a better week, too. One of his lymph nodes is still swollen, but his energy and appetite are still fine. The vet called to check on him, since he had a rough week last week. Bill was happy to give her a positive report. After extensive “beagle proofing”, as Bill puts it, we were ready to go.
Fasching is about to commence, starting February 16th. I noticed a lot of people in Mainz dressed up in costumes. Next weekend, it will probably be pretty wild as there will be parades and parties aplenty. In 2019, we ate lunch at a restaurant in Wiesbaden and got MOONED by a reveler. Actually, he mooned the entire dining room. Yes, I got pictures. The post I wrote about it said it was our “first taste”, but I probably should write that it was our first taste of fasching in Wiesbaden. Of course we encountered the celebrations down near Stuttgart, too.
We were a little bit early to last night’s festivities. Bill wasn’t sure about how bad traffic would be. It turned out it wasn’t so bad at all… and once again, I had forgotten just how close to Mainz we are. We really should spend more time there. It has a very different vibe compared to Wiesbaden, which is more of an elegant, grand town. Mainz is more of a dynamic college town.
Originally, we sat at one of the large tables in the middle of the dining room. It was mainly so we could get out of the way of the busy wait staff. But then I realized that I don’t like sitting in the middle of the room. I spotted a small round table on the side, which was a little more secluded and offered a better view of everything… especially the bar area. 😉
Bill’s co-workers trickled in, and soon there was a large crowd in a very cavernous restaurant. I knew they planned to have a trivia contest, which would make it hard for people to hear. As the evening wore on, and the libations flowed, that is what came to pass. We decided not to stay until the end, because we were both kind of tired (especially Bill) and concerned about Arran. Arran did fine, save for a minor lapse in house training.
The food was pretty good, although it wasn’t very hot. We all had charcuterie, pumpkin soup that was a little spicy, and a walnut brownie cake with vanilla ice cream. For the main course, we had a choice of salmon, lamb, or the vegetarian dish, which I believe was eggplant. I didn’t get a good look at it, although Bill’s colleague, who was sitting with us, had that. I had the salmon, which came with a very interesting black rice and broccolini. Bill went for the lamb, which had cauliflower and some kind of Parmesan dumplings. Bill liked the cauliflowers and dumplings more than the lamb.
Here are some photos… We have plans for another outing tonight, this time with one of Bill’s old Army buddies, who is now his boss/co-worker. Going out twice in a weekend! It’s like the good old days! Before long, we will be coming up with some actual travel.
After we left, we walked back to the entrance to the parking garage, which was locked. So we had to take a stroll around the massive building to get to our car. And because we entered from a different way, it took some time to find it. But we were eventually successful after our discovery mission. In all, it was a good time.
I fully expect tonight will be an awesome display of German style pandemonium. For the past two years, the customary neighborhood fireworks displays have been prohibited, because of the COVID pandemic. This year, Germans are once again allowed to purchase fireworks for New Year’s Eve. And as Bill has just come back from the local Rewe, where he bought sparkling water, beer, and laundry detergent, he noticed that a lot of people were at the grocery store, stocking up on bottle rockets, firecrackers, sparklers, and other assorted pyrotechnics.
I suspect the fireworks will upset Noyzi, who has been spared the armageddon like New Year’s tradition for the past two years. Last night, he happened to go outside as someone set off a firecracker. It totally spooked him, and he tried to run back inside before he took a much needed whiz. I made him stay outside and do his business, even though so far, he’s been very reliable about not relieving himself in the house. Noyzi is still very frightened of a lot of things and will jump or try to flee at very little provocation. He has gotten a lot better, though. It’s been very rewarding watching him evolve into a much beloved dog who has a family and a home.
Arran doesn’t care about fireworks. I suspect he’ll sleep through the whole spectacle, as he usually does. He’ll probably fart a few times for good measure. In that way, he is decidedly unlike his predecessor, MacGregor, who was terrified of fireworks. I remember poor MacGregor, the first year we lived in Germany (2007). The people in our neighborhood were all out in the streets, lighting explosives like there was no tomorrow. MacGregor found a spot under my desk and shivered until it was over, hours later.
Even though fireworks were prohibited for the past couple of years, some local Germans still had a stockpile from years past. New Year’s is the only time of year fireworks are allowed to be sold, so I know those were explosives that weren’t spent in earlier years. For New Year’s 2020, we still got a short show. In 2021, it was even shorter still. But this year, I will be very surprised if the fireworks aren’t erupting for a very long time and in high concentrations. I’m glad we have a balcony, so we can watch them. We don’t set them off ourselves.
Hell, I would probably not be too upset if there wasn’t a fireworks show… as they are loud and disruptive, and they upset animals and people with PTSD. And the reason they weren’t allowed in the past two years is because every year, people get hurt. I read one article today that mentioned how it’s customary for people to start showing up in German hospital emergency rooms at about twenty minutes after midnight. Germans are, on the whole, careful and law abiding people, but something about Silvester makes some of them lose their fucking minds. 😉 Alas, some of them also lose digits and limbs, or wind up with severe burns, because they handle fireworks improperly on New Year’s Eve.
I usually get quite tired before midnight these days, anyway… and Bill definitely does. But I know I can’t sleep through tonight. It will be impossible, unless I drug myself. And because my stomach has been giving me issues lately, I don’t want to take that risk. I’ll probably stick with my usual bubbly and call it a night… maybe read more of Jamie Lynn Spears’ book, which I started yesterday. I gotta say, after reading Paulina Porizkova’s book… or even Matthew Perry’s book… she comes off as a kind of a twit. I’ll probably enjoy writing my review. 😉 I predict it will be pretty snarky. If you want to read my thoughts on Paulina’s and Matthew’s books, you can find my reviews on my main blog. The link is at the top of this page (or right here).
Today, we’re taking care of some “honey do” chores. I managed to get a new bookshelf for the cookbooks I keep buying (and rarely using) at Christmas. I put it in our living room, where it makes the room look better furnished. I was going to buy another one for Bill’s Jung books, but after I moved some of the cooking/boozing books from our upstairs shelf, I discovered a whole shelf was available for the Jung books. That’s probably enough for now, although I might get another one anyway, just because I also need to buy new bathroom rugs.
As I write this, the duvet covers are being washed, newly washed sheets are on the bed, a load of clothes have been washed, and Bill is cleaning out the kitchen cabinets. He’s looking for a moth infestation, after I noticed two tiny holes in his favorite wool sweater on Monday, when we went to Villa Im Tal for a Christmas lunch. I figure the holes come from moths, because I’ve noticed a few of them flying around, and I know we have old stuff that needs to be tossed. I’ve already thrown out a couple of things, to include a package of Jello pudding that dates from 2017. 😀
It will be nice to have a slightly less cluttered and cleaner house. Since I got a new vacuum for Christmas, I took the old vacuum to the basement and used it to tidy up a bit downstairs. I’ll probably move that machine downstairs permanently, at some point. It will live with my Tineco wet vacuum, which I’ll probably use after I finish writing this post. That vacuum is good for getting rid of muddy paw prints on the parquet floors. I don’t do it very often, though, because frankly it’s a waste of time and energy. The dogs are constantly tracking mud into the house, because this time of year it rains a lot. Today, we have pretty warm weather, especially for this time of year… but it’s a bit cloudy.
Anyway… wish us luck. I wish you a safe and happy new year. I look forward to some exciting and more frequent travel experiences in 2023, God willing. Of course, that will probably mean losing Arran, which will be very sad… On the other hand, as sad as it will be, it will also present opportunities that we’ve been missing. Much like the Germans have been missing their fireworks. 😉 And, just like the Germans sometimes get into trouble when they set off explosives, so do Americans who travel in Europe. The silver lining is, those kinds of fiasco experiences lead to some epic travel tales. So stay tuned! Happy New Year! And tune in tomorrow, because I’ll probably have photos and video of whatever happens!
The featured photo was taken in Natural Bridge, Virginia, at my family’s homestead during our Thanksgiving 2014 celebration (last time I was home)… My cousin and his son are fireworks experts (seriously) and put on these shows for a living. A few years ago, they put one on for my cousin’s daughter’s summer wedding and pissed off half of Roanoke, Virginia. This is funny to me, because my dad never set off fireworks. I guess some of my relatives get their adrenaline rushes by lighting things on fire and watching them blow up.
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.
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…
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…
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.
This week has really flown by. Here it is, Friday morning, and it’s time to write another blog post for my “travel/German living” blog.
Last time I posted, I mentioned that Bill wasn’t feeling well. In that post, I wrote that he was suffering from irritable bowel syndrome, fatigue from two back to back TDYs, and some kind of respiratory illness that wasn’t COVID. Well, it turned out we were wrong. Bill went to work on Monday, and learned that a couple of his colleagues who had been at the conference in Bavaria had come down with COVID. Since he still wasn’t feeling well himself, Bill decided to test. Sure enough, he had a positive result, so he’s been working from home for the rest of the week.
He’s actually feeling fine now, and never got very sick with the virus. He didn’t have a fever at all, never lost his sense of taste or smell, and aside from some coughing and fatigue, hasn’t been much worse for wear. Yesterday, because he’s over the virus, he took Arran in for his chemo treatment, and we attended the weekly market, although we made sure to stay on the periphery of the crowd. He’s working from home today, too, because his boss told him to, but he’s pretty much recovered from the sickness. I haven’t been sick at all, perhaps because I had COVID myself back in July. While Bill was at the vet’s office, he was masked, as everyone is required to be in any healthcare setting in Germany.
Arran is still doing well with his lymphoma treatment. His blood test didn’t reveal any progress, per se, toward technical remission, but we can see a difference in his energy level. For instance, a few days ago, I was eating a sandwich on my bed, and Arran managed to jump up on the bed by himself. He has pretty much quit doing that lately, but before he got sick, he always slept on our bed. He’s also been jumping up on the bench of our Eckbank Gruppe, which he always did when he was well. I know a lot of people wouldn’t want a dog sitting next to them on a bench or sleeping in bed with them, but for us, it’s a normal thing. I’m just glad Noyzi doesn’t do it, because he’s a lot bigger and hairier.
We had gorgeous weather yesterday for the market, so we went down for about an hour or so. We got some cheese, cold cuts, and beautiful produce. Maybe I’ll make a homemade tomato sauce today and we’ll make lasagne or manicotti. Of course, we also enjoyed some local wines, and waved to our neighbors. I really love the weekly market. I know the markets are common in larger towns, but our little neighborhood is unusually close knit, so the market is intimate and convivial.
Our town manager is always there to oversee everything, too. I think he does a great job. He’s very active on social media, and approachable. This is something we didn’t experience when we lived near Stuttgart. I didn’t know who the town managers were in our previous neighborhoods, nor did we have weekly events like we do in Breckenheim. But then, I don’t know if what we have in Breckenheim is the norm for the Wiesbaden area, either. I’ve noticed there’s been an uptick in events here just over the last year or so, but then, we did have to deal with COVID restrictions. Anyway, Bill and I both really like that they do these events here, and we have enjoyed meeting some of the locals with whom we share space.
Below are some photos from this week. First, are a few shots of our Arran, who is obviously feeling much better. Bill asked about the bill for his treatment so far, and the vet said there’s no pressure to settle up at this point. As Americans, we are allowed to use a “VAT” form, which exempts us from having to pay local taxes for the treatment. Whether or not to accept VAT forms is voluntary on the part of local merchants, since it involves paperwork for them. But it sure is nice for us when they do that, especially for expensive things like non-routine veterinary care, or big purchases like furniture.
This week, I read an article in the Washington Post about a woman who got expensive cancer treatment for her dog. She got a lot of rude comments from people, which I ranted about. Last night, she left me a very nice comment on my post, which you can read here. In any case, so far Arran is doing well, and we’ve been enjoying some priceless time with him. I also don’t expect that his care will cost as much as it would in the United States. As soon as we have a bill, I will confirm or deny that expectation for the curious.
And here are some shots from the market… Someone had some heavenly smelling bread. It smelled like garlic bread. I never did find the source, but they were also selling waffles with powdered sugar that reminded me of the early 90s, when I worked at Busch Gardens making waffle cones. I worked in “Germany”, and wore a dirndl. Little did I know what the future would hold.
Bill found some lovely Italian cheeses and cold cuts, as well as gorgeous, colorful produce… but I was there for the wine.
For some reason, the editor isn’t letting me put comments on the photos… Luckily, most of them are self explanatory. I did notice the Gastatte sign for the first time yesterday. Breckenheim has little signs on its historic buildings, as well as “stumbling stones” (Stolpersteine), placed in honor of local Jewish people who were victims of the Holocaust. The stones are now making appearances all over Europe. You can search my blog for more information on those.
Since Bill is feeling better, maybe we can get out of the house this weekend. We do have plans to carve pumpkins for Halloween this year, since we have new German neighbors with small children who requested it. I’ll post about that when the time comes. 😉
I was hoping we could go out this weekend, since there was a wine festival going on near us. Unfortunately, I’ve been sick this week, and I didn’t feel like going out yesterday. I wasn’t wanting to walk around in the hot sun. This morning, I decided to do a COVID test, and sure enough, it was positive. So I don’t have anything fun to report on this week, since now I have to stay home.
I suppose I could write a travel related post… maybe something about living in Germany or a retrospective of some of our best trips. I might do that in the coming days, if the energy strikes. For now, I have to wait until the COVID has passed before I can go out and experience German culture again. This is a bummer, but I knew it was coming. At least I’m not very sick, and I haven’t gone out anywhere since last weekend, when I was feeling okay. Vaccines work!
Bill doesn’t have any symptoms of COVID, even though we haven’t been isolating from each other. He’s going to see if he’s asymptomatic, or doesn’t have the sickness yet.
I did hear a series of repeated sneezes coming from our landlord’s house yesterday. But he came over a little while ago with a bag of fresh cherry tomatoes he grew in his garden. That was nice of him!
Bill is getting ready to brew a fresh batch of beer, using the new equipment he bought from a Belgium based retailer called Brouwland. He was planning to do that today, anyway, but since I have COVID, it’s just as well that he breaks out his new toy. It’s so funny that Bill was a Mormon when I met him. Now he makes his own beer. I guess I drove him to drink. 😉 Below are a few photos of his new gear, and a video of him telling us how it all works.
Well, that about does it for today. I hope I’ll be done with this crap soon. It’s cramping my style. I look forward to trying Bill’s latest brew. I’m glad he can now pursue this hobby in Germany, because there was a time when homebrewing wasn’t legal here.
On the morning of June 21, we got up and packed everything, and Bill took it to the car, which was buried deep under the hotel in their tiny parking garage. We went down to breakfast and enjoyed the other half of the delicious strawberry tart. It was even better the second day! I was sorry to leave De Witte Lelie, as it was such a welcoming and homey hotel. The staff is so friendly and helpful, and the accommodations are stylish and comfortable. Alas, we had to leave Antwerp and go home to our dogs. So, after we settled the bill and said goodbye, we got in the Volvo and took about half an hour trying to maneuver out of the garage, which has a steep incline to the door. Kudos to Bill and the many fancy sensors on the Volvo for getting us out of there unscathed!
We also had much less trouble leaving Antwerp than entering it, as Bill didn’t make any wrong turns. I was sorry to leave without a new diamond, but I think I’d rather get one at a place where I’m not a tourist. There were a couple of Trip Advisor horror stories that advised me against shopping for a new rock in Belgium.
First on our agenda was to stop at a Belgian supermarket to pick up some beers for home. We stopped at a little co-op market and loaded up a cart with suds, as well as a few other items. Bill went to pay, and it turned out they didn’t take Visa. They also didn’t have an ATM. So the cashier was kind enough to watch our cart while we searched for a cash machine. That took about an hour, even with a GPS… but eventually, we got our euros, gassed up the car, I unloaded the breakfast beverages, and we went back to the store to make our purchase. The cashier had kept the cart safe for us. Next time, we’ll bring cash.
Then, we headed eastward, stopping at a typical German Rastplatz for lunch at McDonald’s. I had to laugh when Bill ordered two Royales and one of them came with the bun that is usually reserved for plain cheeseburgers (no sesame seeds). I guess McDonald’s in Europe are also suffering from supply chain shortages.
Our drive home was completely uneventful, and we arrived in the mid afternoon. I got started on my blogging, and Bill went to get the dogs, who were very happy to come home after four nights away. I always worry about Arran on our trips now, as he’s an old guy and would rather hang out with us. Noyzi was also very glad to be back home in his bed.
I was feeling okay… maybe there was a little scratchiness in my throat. I didn’t know that Wednesday, I’d be legitimately sick for the first time in several years and wondering if I finally got COVID-19. I have so far tested twice, and got negative results both times. I also feel a lot better today than I did yesterday. So… I’m thinking this was a cold. But, I will confess that this trip was maskless and restriction free. I might have gotten COVID-19, but so far, the tests say no… However, I don’t interact with people anyway, so I’m just riding it out at home. Today, I feel like I am about 85% normal. Yesterday, I was probably 60% normal. Wednesday night and Thursday were the worst, but even they weren’t as bad as the last time I had the flu. I haven’t had a fever, body aches, or exhaustion. I have had a runny nose, coughing, vomiting (from coughing), headache, sinus pressure, and mild fatigue. In other words, this sickness feels like a cold.
So ends my 50th birthday celebration. I must say, it was a lot of fun turning 50 in Antwerp. Belgium is a great destination for me, mainly because it has beer, frites, chocolate, and friendly, unpretentious people who are funny! I hope we can visit Antwerp again, and I would encourage you to visit, if you have the time and the means!
Stay tuned for my usual ten things I learned post… if you’re interested, that is. 😉
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 loved 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’.
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.
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
We arrived in Florence in the early evening. Tom pulled his van into the parking area where he had originally advised Bill to park. He wasn’t able to park there, though, because it was full when we arrived. Consequently, Bill had to go get the Volvo from the garage. While he was doing that, I said goodbye to the other group members, who all headed off in different directions. Tom, very kindly, stayed with me while I waited for Bill. He asked what I thought of the tour.
I’m afraid I might have been more blunt than necessary, but that was mainly because I really needed to pee, and we didn’t stop on the way back to Florence. I know I should have said something… I’m sure the others might have even been grateful. I know Bill would have. He always needs to go, because he takes blood pressure medicine that makes him have to urinate a lot. I told Tom that, if I was honest, I hadn’t really wanted to do a tour. That’s certainly not because of his services, though. It’s because, like I said, I’m just not very good at “the group thing”. I know some people find me annoying, and I don’t enjoy feeling like I’m annoying people, simply for being myself. I was also concerned about COVID-19 policies, but thankfully, that didn’t turn out to be a problem. My lifestyle probably makes me less appreciative of strict schedules, even though I know they’re necessary. But, that’s just me. Some people are great in a group situation. I fully own that I’m less so, especially since I’m out of practice since we’ve been dealing with COVID life since 2020. I don’t hang around people much, and it probably shows.
In spite of my comments in the previous paragraph, I genuinely enjoyed this wine tour. I’m really glad I did it. 😉 I would not hesitate to book another tour with Tom. I thought the price, especially for what we got, was very reasonable. It was 875 euros per person. We owed him more than the 1750 euros, since he booked two extra nights for us at the Hotel Firenze Capitale. But, for the base price, considering that it included two nights in hotels, four meals in restaurants, tours at four different wineries in several different towns, and Tom’s professional services, I think it was a pretty good deal. I really liked the places where he took us, and I was impressed by his language skills and business connections. He’s also very knowledgeable about the wines in Tuscany, and the region itself. The payment was easily handled by bank transfer after the tour.
Bill and I talked about it, and we were a little reminded of our very first cruise on a Royal Caribbean ship in 2009. It was a four night Baltics cruise that went from Oslo to Stockholm on a ship that carried 1500 passengers. We had a very good time, but by the end of the cruise, Bill said “I would happily take another cruise, but I think I’d rather do an all inclusive luxury cruise.” Those words were, of course, music to my ears. Since then, we’ve cruised three times on SeaDream I and five times on Hebridean Princess. Both ships are small, luxury vessels. I know… I know… high maintenance!
In spite of my years as a Peace Corps Volunteer, I am definitely not a “no frills” traveler. At least not anymore. Maybe roughing it for two years in a developing country does that to a person. 🙂 I’m also getting older, so I would probably prefer a tour that happens at a somewhat slower pace. Bill said he would really like to do a private tour with Tom, which I know can be arranged. We would consider doing another regular tour, too, although I think it might be better to do it with people we know. That way, people are forewarned about my unorthodox sense of humor and many personality quirks. Again, that’s easily arranged, since the tours are pretty small. I appreciated that Tom made the logistics relatively easy, which I know can be a real feat. He was very professional and, again, it was nice of him to wait with me. I didn’t expect him to do that.
It took Bill awhile to get back to the parking area, so we moved my bags to the other side of the road to make it easy to load the bags and get on our way. Bill picked me up, and we headed for Hotel David, which at this writing, is Florence’s #1 ranked hotel on Trip Advisor. After our one night there, I can see why it’s so popular. I booked Hotel David because I was looking for a hotel with parking. Hotel David’s rates include free parking. However, besides parking, the hotel offers a free social hour with wine, beer, and other beverages in the hotel’s yard. Breakfast is included in the rate, as is the minibar. And our room was beautiful and very comfortable, and beautifully appointed. I would say that now, after having stayed in four Florence hotels, Hotel David is easily my favorite, even though the somewhat stern message they sent ahead of our arrival put me off a little bit.
We arrived on May 1, though, and that was the happy day when the mask mandates in Italy were lessened somewhat. We only had to wear a mask when we were at the buffet at breakfast. I really enjoyed the aperitif hour in the garden. We met two other American couples who were very friendly and nice to talk to. It reminded me that people outside of the American military community can be very refreshing company. One lady we talked to was from Boston. I found her utterly charming. I could tell she was a good friend and loving family member. She was so excited to be in Italy, and it was really nice to talk to someone who was so happy to be in Europe and not jaded. Below are some photos from our stay at beautiful Hotel David. I would not hesitate to stay there again, although again, the elevator is TINY. I always cracked up when I saw signs advising only four people were allowed in the elevator at a time. I don’t know how four people could possibly fit!
Total cost for a night in the superior room we booked was about $270. Cheaper and different sized rooms are available, and if you book on their site, you get 15% off your rate. I booked on Expedia, so I didn’t get the discount. If we book there again, I’ll know better. They even have a quad room, and singles. We had a very restful night, and it was so easy to load up the next morning and get on our way to the next destination, Vaduz, Liechtenstein, where we would be relaxing and decompressing a bit before coming back to Germany. More on that in part fifteen.