Rheingauer Weinwoche in Wiesbaden– 2023 edition! And more dental woes for Bill…

Yesterday, I lamented to Bill that yet another Saturday was about to get away from us with no fun outside of the house. His answer to me was to suggest that we go to downtown Wiesbaden, where the Rheingauer Weinwoche is going on. This annual event started on Friday and will run through August 21st. COVID kind of messed it up in 2020 and 2021, but we attended in 2019 and we went several times last year.

Although we had some rain yesterday, we managed to get to the festival after most of the weather had passed. It was just partly cloudy with some breezes and a few drops from the sky. As usual, the big celebration is going on in the Schlossplatz, and there are dozens of wineries from the Rheingau region represented, along with some food stands and live entertainment.

Bill and I parked at our usual garage at the theater, where we soon noticed that they had a brand new parking system in place. It used to be, when you drove in, a machine would give you a ticket that you’d later feed into the payment machine. It would tell you how much you owed when you reclaimed your car. Now, you just drive in and input your license plate number when you leave. I also noticed that they had designated a bunch of spaces on the first floor for electric vehicles. I guess that’s one reason to get an electric car. You get prime parking spots downtown! 😉

Anyway, it had been awhile we were last in downtown Wiesbaden. We should probably go there a lot more often than we do, because it’s a really nice town… much prettier than downtown Stuttgart is. There is often a lot going on, too.

We walked around the fest, just to see what was available. I stopped at the first WC I saw, noticing that the price of a whiz has gone up to 1 euro. However, you can purchase an all day ticket for four euros, or a family pass for six euros. I ended up going four times and Bill went twice yesterday. Next time we go, we’ll have to get a family ticket. 😀

We stopped at a random wine stand that had plenty of seating and a good view of the festivities. I had a glass of Riesling and listened to a female singer in the distance, but noticed I could also hear a brass band on the other side. I was more in the mood for the brass band, so we left after one glass and went to the other side. Not surprisingly, there wasn’t a lot of seating there, so we went around the corner and sat at another random wine stand that happened to specialize in Sekt.

That other stand was also near a WC, which was very handy for me… so we just sat there and people watched, drank wine, and took some photos. I’m sure we’ll be back again at least once, because just as they did last year, Bill’s co-workers have reserved a table for this coming Friday night. I have a feeling Bill will be ready for a celebration, because on Monday morning, he has to visit a local dentist to have a tooth extracted and start the process for his very first dental implant.

Wednesday, he was at work, eating a gummi bear, and suddenly noticed that there was some rattling in his mouth. He spit out a hunk of gold, which turned out to be a root canaled and crowned molar that he’d had done in 2011 or so. It just sheared right off! He called our usual dentist in Stuttgart, but as usual in August, he had shut down his practice for his annual vacation. Since this was not a situation in which Bill could wait until next week, when Dr. Blair returns, he asked a colleague for a local suggestion. Her dentist turned out to be pretty excellent, too.

He called that dentist’s office and they got him in at 10:30. The oral surgeon– a young German guy who went to school in nearby Mainz– said he couldn’t save the tooth, which had a huge cavity in it under the gold crown. But since the tooth had already been root canaled, the dentist said Bill could wait until Monday to have it extracted without risking infection. Then, perhaps, he might even be able to get the implant put in without having to wait for the tissues to heal first (like I did when I got my implant in 2016). Truthfully, though, I have a feeling he’s going to have to come back later for the implant. They’re probably going to have to do a sinus lift, which will take more time. I had to get one of those, too.

So… not only did we just buy a bunch of new appliances for our house, but now Bill is going to have a big dentist bill. We do have dental insurance, but it’s still going to be pricey work. And when we go back to see Dr. Blair in October for our cleanings, he’s going to be like “WTF”? 😀

Honestly, though, given the number of appointments it takes to get a dental implant, it’s probably a good idea for Bill to have it done locally. If and when my other baby tooth finally gives up the ghost, Dr. Blair can do another implant for me. I know he does excellent work. The one I had done in 2016 is still perfect.

I figure the wine fest will offer Bill some pain relief, after he has his extraction on Monday… I don’t know if we’ll go back today. Bill just brewed a new batch of beer last weekend, so he needs to bottle his brew. My car also needs a spin to keep the new battery functioning. It looks a bit cloudy, too. On the other hand, the wine fest is a lot of fun– there’s also beer and non alcoholic beverages for those who aren’t into wine, as well as plenty of food. We capped off yesterday by having a rare east Sicilian treat called arancini. I noticed them early in the day and was intrigued. They’re deep fried rice balls, covered with bread crumbs and stuffed with mince meat and/or vegetables, mozzarella cheese, peas, and ragu. The ones we had yesterday were delicious and filling!

Here are some photos from our excursion…

I do love this about living in Germany… There’s always some kind of fun or interesting activity going on, and the vast majority of people are well-behaved. Yes, the police were there, and there was security, but I saw little need for them to intervene. The same isn’t necessarily true at events in the United States. So, I’m grateful to live here… and raise yet another toast to the annual wine festival week in Wiesbaden!

dental, trip planning

Our next trip is shaping up…

So, in my last travel post, I mentioned that I was planning our next dental side trip. If you are a regular follower and actually care about my posts (I don’t like to assume), you might already know we’ve done a few of these trips. Basically, they entail going down to Stuttgart, seeing our fabulous dentist down there, then taking a few days off to explore.

Bill and I love planning these breaks. These dental side trips give us a much appreciated break from Wiesbaden, and provide content for my travel blog… which is not as popular as it used to be. Of course, thanks to the pandemic, and the fact that we both had to get some work done last time we went to Stuttgart, we haven’t broken much new ground on the last few excursions.

We moved to Wiesbaden in late 2018, so prior to that, we had no need to do “excursions”, since we still lived in the Stuttgart area. In May 2019, we went down to Stuttgart to get cleanings and see Elton John perform, supposedly for the last time, but I believe he came back to Stuttgart again after that show. We never got around to coming down for cleanings in the fall of that year, because Bill was very busy at work. Then came the pandemic…

Our next journey to see the dentist occurred in August 2021. I got the bright idea to book a few days in Baiersbronn, which is a small town near where we used to live, famous for its many excellent Michelin starred restaurants. We stayed in a nice resort, but that only made me curious about an upgraded experience at the Bareiss Hotel, which is where we went last fall. We spent lots of money and ate wonderful food, but what really sticks out to me, besides the friendly goats and ponies, is the Bareiss Hotel’s incredible pool complex. I’d go back there just for that!

In the spring of 2022, we visited Sessenheim, an area of Alsace, France we had not seen on our many prior visits to the area. We stayed in an awesome little hotel that had its own Michelin starred restaurant, and we bought lots of new French pottery. We mostly decided to go to France because its COVID rules were much less obnoxious than Germany’s, but that was a great trip, anyway. I love Alsace!

Now that the pandemic panic has somewhat passed, it’s time to branch out a bit, and go further afield. As I revealed in the previous post, the Czech Republic won the coin toss. Folks, I think it’s going to be a really great trip. I think we’ve got a good itinerary shaping up.

Although Esslingen won the coin toss for local lodging in the Stuttgart area, I couldn’t find a hotel that was particularly exciting. I ended up booking us at Hotel La Casa, which is a boutique hotel in Tübingen. If you search this blog, you will see that we’ve spent a lot of time in Tübingen. We lived near there during our first Germany tour (2007-09), and visited often when we last lived in the Stuttgart area (2014-18). We have also dined at Hotel La Casa on three occasions.

Even when we lived down that way, I was keen to stay at the hotel one weekend. I actually thought about putting our dogs up and just doing a weekend at Hotel La Casa, even though we lived about 20-30 minutes away from the town. I liked the staff, the restaurant, and the hotel’s interior design. Now that we live in Wiesbaden, we have the excuse to book a stay. Plus, Tübingen is just a really cool town.

One of many iconic shots that can be taken in Tübingen… It’s a very beautiful city!

Once I booked that hotel, though, I realized we might have a slight problem. In retrospect, I should have listened to my friend, Susanne, who had suggested a visit to Schwabisch Hall, a very beautiful town about an hour north of Stuttgart. I decided against it, because traffic around Stuttgart is a nightmare, and I didn’t want to be stressed about getting to our appointment. But Schwabisch Hall is actually more conducive to getting to the Czech Republic, as it’s just off Autobahn 6, which is the route we’d be taking under normal circumstances. Staying in Schwabisch Hall would have been more convenient (and I do plan to stop there sometime– maybe in the spring!).

Tübingen is south of Stuttgart, so to access A6, we’d have to drive about an hour north, and that might involve dealing with more traffic. It would definitely require backtracking, which I wanted to avoid if I could.

But then I got to thinking… We really have no agenda. The one place I do want to visit in the Czech Republic is Brno, which is pretty far east. There’s nothing to say we have to access it via A6. We can always get there using a different route.

Then I remembered that in 2008, we went to Passau, Germany for my 36th birthday. I had been there before, in 1997, when I was coming home from my Peace Corps stint and spent a month hopping trains all over Europe. I knew nothing at all about Passau in 1997, and just got off there because I was tired of being on the train. I ended up loving the city. It’s very pretty… and it happens to be exactly halfway between Tübingen and Brno. Below are a few shots from our 2008 trip to Passau. I love the cathedral there, and it’s mighty pipe organ! And I love the confluence of three rivers: the Inn, the Ilz, and the Danube.

Then I remembered that October 3, which is the day we’d be traveling, is a German holiday. And I wanted to get out of Germany for the holiday, because things tend to be closed on German holidays, although restaurants, tourist attractions, and hotels aren’t. I’m as excited about German Reunification Day as anyone is, but I’ve been here for nine years (this time), and I already know how Germans celebrate that day. Besides, what better way to celebrate that day than going to a former Eastern Bloc country? Why not cross back over the eastern border for a chance of pace?

In the late 1980s, Bill actually used to help guard the border between Germany and the Czech Republic. When we visited there in 2008, he got visibly nervous as we approached the border, which, of course, was wide open! I remember stopping to change money and get a vignette, and two sexy Czech girls started cleaning the windshield of our Toyota RAV 4. I said to Bill, “I think you are expected to tip them”. He did, and we were on our way to a very memorable exploration of southern Bohemia.

The Czech border circa 2008. Bill was so nervous, even as two pretty teenaged girls cleaned the windshield for us.

I briefly considered maybe staying in Austria. I stayed in Linz back in 1997 and found it kind of boring, but we went back in 2008 and discovered a great Biergarten there. But other than the Biergarten, on our last visit, I still found Linz kind of boring. Other travelers’ reports confirmed that it wasn’t just me; there are more exciting places to be. So then I remembered Cesky Krumlov, which is a VERY charming town east of Passau.

Bill at said Linzer Biergarten… I’d love to go back to that place, but October is kind of when a lot of Biergartens tend to close, anyway. And I’m sure there are things to see in Linz, but there are more exciting cities nearby.

Funny story about Cesky Krumlov. We visited there in 2008, too. The owner of the hotel where we stayed in Passau had recommended it. The day we were there was my birthday, and it happened to be when they were having their annual Five Petalled Rose Festival. We ran into many locals dressed in medieval garb, and there were games going on. I took an awesome photo there that remains one of my favorite pictures of all time. I thought we’d stumbled into a theme park! I had no idea the festival was happening. I remember thinking the town was very charming, and I would have liked it even if the festival hadn’t been happening. The fact that it was going on only added to its charm.

From Cesky Krumlov, we went to nearby Cesky Budejovice, which is where the Czech Budweiser is made. 😉 I remember having lunch there and thinking I’d like to stay in that town. Below are a few shots from our 2008 trip. I wasn’t as much of a shutterbug in those days. I also used Microsoft computers, which aren’t compatible with my Mac.

For our upcoming visit, I found us a cute hotel in Cesky Krumlov that gets excellent reviews. We’ll stay there for two nights, then move on to Brno, which is maybe three hours away. I found another hotel in Brno that isn’t quite as cute as the one in Cesky Krumlov is, but has a lot of amenities. It’s located on the outskirts of town, but from what I’ve read, a lot of Brno’s charm is found outside of the city itself. Since we’ve never been to Brno, we’ll stay three days there, then move toward home.

At this point, I’m tentatively planning our last stop to be two nights in Prague. We last visited Prague in November 2008, as part of a trip we did to celebrate our 6th wedding anniversary. In those days, we had a lot less money, but thanks to Hilton Honors Points, we were able to score two free nights at the Hilton Old Town Hotel. I remember they brought us sparkling wine and strawberries because we were there on our actual anniversary. I also remember they had an awesome old school pool that was DEEP. But I think this time, we’ll stay somewhere different.

I still came home with tons of cool souvenirs from Dresden, Poland (Bolesławiec), and Prague. I’m hoping we can find some art for the house. Last time we went to Prague, I bought a painting at an art gallery with an Armenian proprietor! I got to speak some crappy Armenian with him. I had (and have) forgotten a lot. Below are a few shots from Prague. It was COLD during our visit!

I can’t book the Prague hotel yet, though, because we have to make sure Noyzi can stay an extra night at the Hundepension. I don’t expect it to be a problem, but you never know. I gave some thought to stopping at the Chodovar Beer Wellness Land in Chodova Plana (very close to the German border), but recent reviews of the place make it sound less than enticing. I’d like to go there, though, if only to pick up some beer and their awesome flavored mineral water. Last time we were in the Czech Republic, we found some at a grocery store, but there wasn’t much of it to be had.

Chodova Plana isn’t far from Karlovy Vary, which is a great spa town overrun with Russians (last time we were there, anyway). We bought two paintings from a talented Russian artist, last time we were there. The town of Chodova Plana itself, though, is pretty desolate, other than the brewery, beer spa, and hotel. Prague offers a hell of a lot more to do, plus they’ve now got beer (and wine) spas, too. That wasn’t the case in 2008.

From Prague, we can reach Wiesbaden in about six hours, barring terrible traffic. I think it’s doable… If it turns out Noyzi can’t stay another night, maybe we’ll stay somewhere a little bit closer to home. Brno isn’t super far from Prague. I think it’s only a couple of hours’ drive.

Hopefully, we can finalize these plans over the weekend. Bill is coming home from his latest trip today. I look forward to seeing him, as it’s been a very quiet, boring week here in Wiesbaden. On the other hand, my liver has gotten a break, as I have mostly been teetotaling. I had two beers last night, but they were my first since Saturday.

Anyway… I love trip planning. I hope to do more of it… at least until the next war or pandemic sidetracks everything. Maybe we’ll even get a chance to stop by the border of Slovakia, so I can get a new mug to replace the cracked one we bought in 2015. 😉

Sundays, trip planning

The next big trip was decided by a quarter…

October is approaching, which means it’ll soon be time for us to visit Stuttgart again for dental cleanings. We had originally booked the dentist for October 3, but that’s a holiday in Germany. Our dentist’s receptionist later called and rescheduled us for October 2. That got me to thinking about potential travel opportunities after the appointment. It occurred to me that maybe we should get out of the country for German Reunification Day.

As is my habit, when we go to Stuttgart, I’m making some tentative plans to go somewhere. Taking a side trip after seeing the dentist kind of lessens the trauma of the experience, even if it does kind of add to the cost.

For the past couple of years, when we’ve seen the dentist in the fall, we’ve gone to Baiersbronn, in the Schwarzwald. It’s a picturesque area, with many good restaurants and things to do. This year, as much as I like the Black Forest, I think it’s time to do something different. So, after our Hundepension confirmed that they have space for Noyzi, Bill and I started talking about where we might go for our dental side trip. Stuttgart is kind of an advantageous area, as it’s not too far from France, Switzerland, Austria, or even the Czech Republic.

We had originally wanted to book Noyzi starting on Sunday, October 1, but the dog hotel doesn’t do check-ins on Sundays. So that means we have to bring him on either Saturday or Monday, giving us a couple of days in the Stuttgart area.

When we stay in Stuttgart, we often book the Wald Hotel, which is a favorite lodging of ours. But while we like the hotel, we also enjoy other towns near Stuttgart. So, for our upcoming visit, I proposed staying in either Esslingen or Tübingen– two very pretty towns we both love that are near Stuttgart. We already know Tübingen very well, since we used to live very close to it during our first German stint. We’ve only been to Esslingen a couple of times. We decided either would be fine bases other than Stuttgart. To choose where we should go, we flipped a coin. Esslingen won, so now I’m looking for good lodging options in and around that area.

Then, we decided to plan where to go after the cleanings were done, since we’ll have a few days to burn, and the following weekend is a US holiday. We did another coin flip. First, it was between Austria and Switzerland. Switzerland won, so we flipped again between Switzerland and Germany. Switzerland won again! Then, we did one for Switzerland and the Czech Republic. That time, the Czech Republic won.

I’m happy about the results, because we haven’t gone to the Czech Republic since 2018. We used to visit the Czech Republic pretty often when we lived in Germany the first time, but we’ve been neglecting it lately. I’ve been very interested in visiting Brno, among other places… I am hoping to find some more art for our walls.

So… that’s the plan for our next big trip for now. I’m going to look for a place in Esslingen and/or its environs. Then, we’re going on a road trip to the Czech Republic, to show off our nice, clean teeth. Should be fun… Maybe this will keep me busy while Bill is in Bavaria this week, doing his TDY duty!

I really hate it when Bill travels for work without me, but at least we no longer have a dog with cancer to take care of. And our sweet Noyzi has really bonded to us. I suspect the week will be pretty peaceful. I do enjoy trip planning!

I wish I could write about something fun today, but Bill is busy preparing for his trip. I thought maybe we’d go to the Hofheim Wine Fest this weekend, but I just didn’t feel like it yesterday. My stomach was bothering me, and I didn’t want to upset it further with too much wine. We stayed home and hung out instead, which is always a pleasure. And… of course, I drank beer and wine, too. So much for babying my stomach, but at least I didn’t have to put on a bra.

The featured photo is the actual quarter we flipped to come to this preliminary decision… We’ll see what we actually end up planning, as even coin toss trip plans are subject to change… Heh heh… I said “change”! See what I did there?

Edited to add: After searching for a place in Esslingen, I ended up deciding to a book a hotel in Tübingen, after all. It’s one we’ve been curious about for awhile, as we’ve eaten in their restaurant a few times– Hotel La Casa. I got an apartment for three nights at a pretty reasonable rate.


Stuttgart, Germany… it’s as lovely as ever in the springtime… part five

Finally, it was Monday, the day we’d kind of been dreading. It was the reason we’d come to Stuttgart in the first place. At 3:00pm, we would be visiting our dentist, Dr. Blair, in downtown Stuttgart, for repairs and cleanings. After breakfast, we went back to the hotel room for a chat, and finally decided to go downtown at a little after 11:00am.

There was another reason to be a little worried about the day. Monday was the day transportation workers were on strike, protesting for more pay and better working conditions. That meant a lot of trains and planes would either not be going or were delayed. Since we were just going downtown, this issue didn’t affect us too terribly, but we did hear a lot of warnings about it.

We parked in the public garage close to Dr. Blair’s office and went searching for lunch. Stuttgart has a number of good restaurants, but not all of them are open for lunch, and quite a few of them take Mondays as their “Ruhetag” (quiet day off). I was wanting to try a different restaurant, too. We often end up eating in places near Dr. Blair’s office. I wanted to go somewhere else for a change, if only so I could report about it in my Facebook food and wine group. I like to be useful whenever possible.

After some time walking around downtown, we finally ended up at the Nesenbach Brauhaus, not far from the Stuttgart Markthalle. Although Bill and I have visited the Markthalle many times, we had never before dined at the Nesenbach Brauhaus. I wasn’t really wanting German food again, but time was getting short before our appointments and we needed to have lunch. Below are a few shots of beautiful downtown Stuttgart, including the festive Stuttgarter Markthalle…

The Nesenbach Brauhaus has a decent sized menu, which did include a lot of local Swabian inspired dishes. Naturally, there was beer, too, and other libations. We sat down at a corner table by a window, near a large group of ladies who were lunching. For lunch, I chose the “filled avocado”, which promised chicken and vegetables in avocado halves, drizzled with nuts and sweet chili sauce. I was a little hesitant about ordering the avocado, since sometimes “mixed vegetables” include mushrooms. But then, I reasoned, who puts mushrooms in avocados?

Bill ordered a “salad from the land and sea”, which included a small piece of salmon, a small piece of beef, Parma ham with melon, white asparagus, and greens. We were reasonably assured that his choice would be fungus free.

Well, the food came, and wouldn’t you know it? The avocado had mushrooms in it… We had to switch plates, because I can’t eat mushrooms. Fortunately, I liked the salad Bill ordered, even though it was quite an array of different things. I wouldn’t have necessarily thought to put melon and Parma ham with salmon and beef, for instance. Bill didn’t mind the avocado, although he said the mushrooms didn’t really go well, and the chili sauce was a little too cloying. Seems to me they should have paired the avocado with bacon or citrus, or something more like that. Oh well, at least it was an attractive presentation.

When we were finished eating, the waiter asked if we wanted anything else, like sweets or coffee. I just sort of smiled at him and, reading my mind, he said “Another beer?”

“Yes!” I enthused. “We have to see our dentist in an hour, and I want to be relaxed!”

The waiter laughed and brought me my suds, which I happily drank, then we paid the bill and walked to Dr. Blair’s office.

When we arrived, there was still a sign on the door requesting that everyone wear a face mask. However, most of the staff didn’t wear masks, and I noticed a number of patients weren’t wearing them, either. I suspect that by the time we see Dr. Blair again in the fall, the masks will be long forgotten. I know not everyone feels this way, but frankly, I hope that is what comes to pass.

After a short wait, I was invited to the treatment room. The assistant left me alone, and I decided I’d better go to the restroom before things got started. That was a good decision, even though she was waiting for me when I got back. I apologized, and Dr. Blair came in and commented, in German, that my filling was “kaput”.

“That doesn’t sound good.” I said.

He laughed and reminded me that the “kaput” filling was why I was there. Then, somehow, we ended up talking about our ancestries. When I told him I grew up near Williamsburg, Virginia, he said he had many relatives buried near there. I asked him if he was related to James Blair, who was a rector at Bruton Parish Church in Colonial Williamsburg, and whose name is on a number of public buildings there. He said he didn’t know, but his grandmother– last name of Warren– was from there. And then I realized that he was named for his grandmother, as his first name is Warren.

So then, they put a dental dam in my mouth, which is kind of a foreign experience for me, as most dentists don’t seem to bother with it unless the work is extensive. I mentioned that I knew about dental dams, since I used to study public health, which naturally led to a brief discussion about how gay men used to use them during the height of the AIDS era to protect themselves when they engaged in oral sex. 😀 I swear, I’ve never had this kind of talk with any of my American dentists! But Dr. Blair is not constrained by American conventions! He did mention that back in the late 80s, he worked in San Francisco and knew a lot of gay men who had lost people to AIDS. It was definitely a challenging time for his career.

As I tried to hang in there during the repair of my baby tooth, it occured to me that I am lucky to have such a skilled dentist. And I’m lucky that we can afford to see him on a regular basis, even though using a dental dam was vaguely kinky. It was a big relief when he was finished. Then, after another short wait, I was invited to get my cleaning done by the hygienist. She did an especially thorough job. I left the office with a noticeable brighter smile, although half of my mouth was very numb.

Bill’s cleaning went similarly well. Then he went in to get his filling repaired, as it had a tiny sliver missing. Dr. Blair said, “I don’t even need to numb you for this. It won’t take twenty minutes to fix this.”

Bill thought to himself, “Sez you…” but really, he didn’t require any novocaine. Dr. Blair worked his magic, and we were soon on our way back to the Wald Hotel’s bar. We’ll be back to see. Dr. Blair in early October. I will have to find a fun place to visit in the fall! We don’t need to stay in Stuttgart for that visit, since there’s no work planned.

While we were sitting in the bar, the lady from Vermont and her son came back. She said they’d buried her father that morning. They had a taxi coming, as she had plans that evening. During the day, they went to Ludwigsburg and visited the palace (a place I still haven’t seen), and her son, who is an arborist, found a reflective jacket that isn’t available in the United States. He said he managed not to buy the matching pants! The duo said they’d be flying back home on Wednesday, after a day trip to Rothenburg ob der Tauber, a place we last visited in January 2018.

We decided to have a light dinner, so we wouldn’t be starving on Tuesday morning. I had a burger and fries, and Bill had soup. In retrospect, I probably should have had the soup, too. The burger came huge, on a pretzel hamburger roll. I liked the roll and the fries, but the burger patty was “machine molded and compressed”, which seems to be what Germans prefer, as opposed to hand formed. Hand formed patties are not so tightly packed, so they are juicier and lighter.

The patty was also seasoned, so that it kind of reminded me more of sausage. I like my ground beef “natur”, as the locals would put it. And finally, there were tons of condiments on the burger! Like– a really thick smear of mayo, a bunch of onions and tomatoes, and lettuce. My mouth was still pretty numb, but even if I hadn’t been, I couldn’t open it wide enough to bite into the burger, which was dripping mayo all over the place. I ended up having to eat it with a knife and fork, and finally gave up about halfway through.

Ah well… it wasn’t the worst burger I’ve ever had. And it did the trick of preventing me from getting hungry before breakfast.

We went back to the room and watched some German TV. We landed on a show called First Dates, which was about Germans who went to a hotel near Amalfi, Italy, where they had dates with strangers. There were several contestants, but it looked like the gay couple was the only one that found love. They were sent to Mallorca for water sports, too. I’m guessing the specific water sports they enjoyed didn’t just involve Waveriders and surfboards. 😉 I do like how German shows are less about violence, and more about love. 😀

On Tuesday morning, we got up, packed our bags, hauled them to the car, and had breakfast. Bill had to park in the “Tiefgarage” (which costs money), because the free outside lot was full of expensive cars for the businessmen who had converged on the hotel Monday afternoon. I was admiring my new white smile as Bill settled the bill, which was about 2500 euros. Yes, that’s a lot of money, but consider that we were staying in the suite, and we ate and drank a lot at the hotel. It’s still less than what we spent at Bareiss last fall, too.

Now that we’ve stayed in the suite, I can also say that I don’t really think I’ll need to book it again. I might go for the junior suite, which I think is a better room for us. Or, I might just go back to the superior room, which is a lot cheaper and has a really fabulous shower with mood lighting. 😀

Our drive home was kind of frustrating. There was an accident, so of course there was a lengthy Stau. But we managed to get home by the early afternoon, even after enjoying lunch at a NordSee in a rest stop. I resisted the urge to buy one of those obnoxious signs I noticed on the way down to Stuttgart on Friday. But maybe I’ll see if I can find one on, which would spare me some embarrassment. One other byproduct of our trip is a nasty cold sore, which I think was caused by stress. Either that, or Aunt Flow is about to visit for the first time in months.

As for Noyzi… he came through our short break just fine. Bill said he had to wait a bit before the clients ahead of him were finished getting their dog. When Noyzi finally came out of the pension, he almost knocked Bill over with a literal hug. I almost wish I’d been there to see that!

Anyway, so ends my latest series… Now it’s time to plan a real vacation in a country other than Germany! We might have to bring out the champagne bucket to help us make our choice. I look forward to making the decision soon!

anecdotes, dental

Stuttgart, Germany… it’s as lovely as ever in the springtime… part one

Twenty-four hours ago, I was in downtown Stuttgart, lying on my back, as our trusty German/American dentist, Dr. Blair, was applying a dental dam to my mouth and telling me about his ancestry. It was the first time in a long time since I’d had any fillings done. And I don’t remember any of my previous dentists using a dental dam when I did have them done. I think previous dentists were more likely to only use them for crowns.

I knew this drama was coming. Six months ago, when Bill and I last went to Stuttgart to see Dr. Blair, he said he didn’t like the looks of the filling in my last remaining baby tooth, on the bottom left side of my mouth. I’d last had it filled in 2013, when we first moved to Texas. The tooth above it– also a baby tooth– had a cracked filling, which the Texas dentist repaired. She said she believed the other baby tooth needed a new filling. I was worried, in 2013, that the baby tooth wasn’t going to survive another repair, but my previous dentist assured me it would make it through the procedure. She refilled the tooth. I thought it would be for the last time, since it’s a baby tooth.

One year later, we moved to Stuttgart, and the top tooth that had the cracked filling promptly abscessed. It had a fractured root. I didn’t have pain, because there was an exit for the infection. However, this wasn’t a condition I wanted to let go for too long. Once Bill had dental insurance again, we visited Dr. Blair for the first time. He eventually pulled the abscessed top baby tooth, and in 2016, I got a spiffy dental implant, which has worked perfectly. I know that eventually, I’ll need another implant. Hopefully, Dr. Blair can do that one, too.

Fast forward to yesterday. I was worried about the baby tooth surviving yet another filling, because it’s 50 years old, and was never meant to work for so long. But after 45 minutes in the chair, the work was done. About 45 minutes after that, my teeth were clean and smooth, although my mouth was still numb for about four hours. Bill also had to have a little work done, but his work didn’t require any novocaine.

Lately, I’ve been choosing to pair our visits to Dr. Blair’s office with excursions to places we haven’t yet been. For instance, we’ve done two Black Forest trips and a trip to a part of Alsace, France, we hadn’t yet visited. We decided to stay in Stuttgart this time, because we weren’t just having cleanings done. Next time we see Dr. Blair, unless there’s a problem, we’ll probably go somewhere else relatively nearby that we haven’t been to yet. Maybe my German friend, Susanne, will finally see us visit her hometown of Freiburg. I’ve been trying to arrange a trip there for years!

The trip to see our fabulous dentist was the main reason we went back to Stuttgart over the weekend. However, we had other reasons for going back “home” (Stuttgart has been “home” for us for six out of twenty years of marriage). The fact of the matter is, Stuttgart is a pretty nice place to visit. We made a valiant attempt to see a lot more of it during our most recent four year stint living there, but there are still a lot of places we haven’t been. There are also places we wanted to see again.

Over the weekend, we managed to visit a couple of new places, as well as a place we hadn’t seen since 2008, when we lived in the Stuttgart area the first time. We stayed in the Wald Hotel, our favorite Stuttgart area hotel, albeit in their “suite”, which we’d never tried before. I believe it was our fifth stay at the Degerloch four star accomodation, located near a sports complex and the famed Fernsehturm (TV tower).

We ate good food, drank lots of libations, experienced just about every kind of weather, bought a new rug, met new people, listened to music, picked up souvenirs for Bill’s grandchildren, and spent plenty of euros. I got pictures, too. So I hope you’ll come along with me on my latest jaunt to our old stomping grounds… Maybe you’ll learn something new… or just be entertained. Or maybe not.

I’m just happy my smile is bright again, and my tooth is fixed. Turns out it wasn’t as bad as Dr. Blair thought it was. Stay tuned for part two!

Featured photo is yet another 3D city model… I just saw the one for Wiesbaden a couple of weeks ago. Now I seem to see them everywhere. 😉

Baden-Württemberg, blog news

Hello from Stuttgart!

Here’s a quick post to say hello from our old stomping grounds, Stuttgart, Germany. We got here Friday and will be coming home on Tuesday. I expect to write several posts about this trip, which has turned out to be surprisingly productive so far. We’ve visited a couple of new places, as well as one we haven’t seen since 2008.

The weather has been positively crazy, which is totally normal in March. Today, we’ve seen rain, wind, sunshine, and HAIL! It’s possible there could be snow tomorrow, though I doubt it will stick.

We have to see our dentist in the afternoon. He’ll be repairing things for both Bill and me, and we’ll get cleanings… and then, when we get home on Tuesday, we’ll fetch Noyzi and start planning our next big adventure, which will likely be somewhere totally different. I might even get on an airplane again.

Even though we’re in Stuttgart, this trip is pretty pricey for us. But today, we scored a new carpet for the living room, which desperately needs it after Arran’s many clandestine toilet runs. It doesn’t match the other two carpets, but the rug guy says he’ll be up in Wiesbaden in three weeks. Maybe we’ll just redo the whole living room.

I’ve also noticed a lot of businesses coming and going down here… and a lot more road construction. It’s weird to see the changes.

Anyway, I’m not quite ready to start blogging yet. But I do have a lot to write about… Here’s a short list, so I don’t forget:

  • Bill mistaking a Muslim woman in dark coat with a hood and a white headscarf as a nun.
  • The “Familie von Trapp” and the private concert/birthday party we crashed.
  • Arran is everywhere…
  • “You don’t need to put a bow on that load…”
  • Wein fur Eins…

Stuttgart will always have a piece of my heart, in spite of some of the things that happened when we lived here. It’s a beautiful place, with good people, delicious food, and gorgeous scenery. So, watch this space for the new series. Maybe I’ll start it tomorrow, but definitely Tuesday it will commence, if I’m not in the hospital or somewhere else like that. We’ll see.


Baiersbronn in the Black Forest– Bareiss Style! Part one

Those of you who regularly read my travel blog might remember that in August 2021, when it came time for Bill and me to visit our dentist in Stuttgart, we decided to book a stay at the Hotel Engel Obertal in Baiersbronn. We spent four pleasant nights at that luxury property and mostly really enjoyed ourselves. While we were staying at that hotel, we visited a restaurant owned by the Hotel Bareiss called the Forellenhof Buhlbach. I noticed a number of guests who were enjoying fresh trout there were also staying at Hotel Bareiss. I didn’t know much about the place, other than it’s where one of the two Three Star Michelin restaurants in Baiersbronn is. I also knew that Hotel Bareiss is considered a pretty swanky place to stay.

In August, Bill rescheduled our dental appointments, to accommodate the Hundepension taking care of our dogs, Arran and Noyzi. Since we moved to Wiesbaden and COVID-19 has been less of an issue, we’ve been combining our trips to Stuttgart with “mini breaks”. Last year, we did Baiersbronn, for instance. In the spring, we went to Sessenheim, France, and stayed in a beautiful little boutique hotel with a gourmet restaurant. I was considering staying in another nice place we haven’t yet been, when I remembered the Bareiss Hotel, and how curious I was about it. So I checked their availability for our dates…

Sure enough, they had room in their “Landhaus”, which is where some of the hotel’s suites and apartments are. After talking about it with Bill– especially given the steep price of the room– we decided to book it. And, because of the steep cost, and the contractual obligation to pay soon after we booked, I also bought travel insurance. It made sense, since the original quote– just for five nights in the room, parking in a garage, and half board, was about 3700 euros. That may seem like a lot, and it is. But you get a lot for your money at this hotel. Besides offering a comfortable place to stay, the Bareiss also has daily activities and many facilities, an awesome spa and sauna world, a huge pool complex with several pools, most of which can be used year round, walking trails, a petting zoo, and lots of child friendly attractions. It’s also an extremely dog friendly hotel, although there is a daily 35 euro charge for each dog.

Having just left the hotel this morning, I can say that the high price was mostly worth it. I liked the Bareiss more than Hotel Engel Obertal. The food was exceptional, especially considering that we mostly ate from the board program, rather than a la carte. The staff is mostly excellent, too. I did have a few quibbles about a few things, which I’ll get to as I write the blow by blow account of our trip. But– overall– I can say that we did enjoy ourselves very much.

I just wish we’d had better weather, because there were some outdoor activities I wanted to do while we were visiting. However, not doing those activities meant that we got to enjoy a couple of fabulous mornings in the pool and sauna world. They were not at all crowded, and were on par with some of the best public mineralthermes/spas/quellens we’ve been to. Imagine going to your favorite pool based spa with almost no one there, competing for resources. That’s what it was like for us at the Hotel Bareiss at this time of year, when most children are in school. I think if you’re a couple or a bunch of ladies who want a relatively quiet and less child populated experience at this property, definitely book in late September or October! In the summer, I’m sure it’s a hell of a lot more crowded and expensive! But then, the weather is also sunnier.

I’m going to start from the beginning of our five night stay and give a very detailed account, then do my usual quick and dirty top ten things I learned post, for those who want to skip the details. I hope you’ll come along with me on our latest Black Forest journey!


Will be home tomorrow… and a new blog series will commence!

We’ve spent the past few days in Baiersbronn, again, and will be finishing up our trip and coming home tomorrow morning. If you’re one of the handful of people who looks for posts on this blog, I would encourage you to come back tomorrow. I plan to have some fresh content hot off the presses.

As for now… we’re going to enjoy the final hours of this trip before we go home and face everything that will be waiting for us, to include sweet Arran and his big, younger bro, Noyzi. Arran has been ailing lately, so we’ve been concerned about him. But, as far as we know, at this point, he’s okay. So we’ll see him tomorrow at about this time.

It sure is pretty in the Schwarzwald. We should probably come here more often than we do. This is the one thing I miss most about living near Stuttgart.


Reunited with France… and it felt so good to be back! Part two…

On Wednesday, March 2nd, we loaded up the Volvo with our bags and our pooches. I can’t say “beagles” anymore, since Noyzi is definitely NOT a beagle. Our first stop was the Tierpension Birkenhof, where the dogs stay when we leave town. I dug out a FFP2 mask for the brief time we would be inside, settling up with the Hunde Pension. Noyzi was absolutely delighted to be back at the doggy hotel. He barked almost the whole way there. Arran, on the other hand, was pretty cranky and kept barking back at Noyzi, probably telling him in dog language to STFU. I was doing the same.

Once the dogs were taken care of, we made our way to Stuttgart, with one quick pee stop at a rest station. I noticed they already had their Easter display up. I wasn’t able to get a picture, which may be a blessing. On the other hand, I don’t remember ever seeing an Easter display put up by a rest stop in the United States.

I had to pee again as we arrived in Stuttgart, so we decided to go into a McDonald’s. As I was making my way to the restroom, I heard someone behind the counter yelling “Entschuldigung!” Ahh… she wanted to check my COV-Pass to make sure I’ve gotten jabbed. The restroom in that McDonald’s was on the second floor, so it wasn’t like I could just duck in and out. I showed my credentials, did my business, and Bill handed me a very small Coke that he bought me for the privilege of using the can.

We got to downtown Stuttgart a couple of hours early, so we decided to have lunch at the Paulaner am alten Postplatz, a German restaurant on Calwer Strasse, the chic street where Dr. Blair’s office is located. Ever since COVID hit, I’m never quite sure of what I should be doing. We went inside, and a waitress checked our COV-Passes and IDs… a step further than what the lady at McDonald’s did. I was shocked, since the first floor of that restaurant is for smokers, and plenty were doing that when we visited! Fortunately, there was a non-smoking area upstairs.

Bill and I both opted to have daily specials. I had duck leg with red cabbage slaw and a bread dumpling. Bill had pork goulash. We had beer– the only beer we had all weekend. It was our first restaurant visit in months, and, I must say, it was great. The food was good, as usual, and it was kind of nice to be around other people. I especially got a kick out of the lady with a large puppy she carried in.

After lunch, we headed over to Dr. Blair’s office for our cleanings and waited, dutifully wearing the oppressive FFP2 masks. Bill got a stern lecture about his flossing habits. I got a lecture about my hesitancy in seeing doctors. I have an area of chronically red gum tissue under my front teeth. Dr. Blair always asks me about it. Then he ribs me about being anxious. He’s a very good dentist, and I think he truly cares about his patients, but I also think he takes my anxiety personally. He really shouldn’t. I had a terrible experience with a physician years ago that has left me very reluctant to see medical people. Dentists are, generally, an exception. I do get nervous before procedures, though. He has never forgotten it, even though it’s been years since he put in my implant.

After our appointments, we made our way toward Sessenheim, which is located just inside the border of France. Even Dr. Blair knew about Sessenheim, correctly identifying it as very close to Baden-Baden. But once you cross the border, everything changes! From the beginning of our trip, checking into Auberge au Boeuf, until the end of our stay, COVID rules were much less inconvenient. We walked into the hotel wearing FFP2s and immediately removed them for the rest of our stay after we were confirmed vaccinated. The same conditions applied at every restaurant we visited. We showed our passes, and it was like 2019 again. The FFP2s were also not required. Regular surgical masks were perfectly okay.

Auberge au Boeuf only has four rooms, and each one has a name. We rented L’Idylle, which is one of the larger rooms. It has a balcony that overlooks the beautiful church next door, it’s own private sauna, a jacuzzi, a rainfall shower, and an impressively stocked minibar. Below are some photos of L’Idylle.

We were still full from lunch and pretty tired from the day’s events, so we decided to stay in. We watched French news, drank wine from the local Aldi, and went to bed early. We were off to a good start.


Reunited with France… and it felt so good to be back! Part one…

The featured photo is of a sign in a German restaurant… I share the sentiments of the person who drew the sad face. That’s why we went to France.

Ever since we moved to Wiesbaden in late November 2018, we have used visits to the dentist in Stuttgart as an excuse to get away for a few days. Or, at least that was the original plan, before COVID-19 wreaked havoc on the planet. Thanks to the pandemic, we haven’t been back as often as we had originally planned. We did combine a trip to Stuttgart to see the dentist in May 2019 with Elton John’s Farewell Yellow Brick Road concert. We went to the Spring festival, saw Elton, and got our teeth cleaned. We also stayed at the Wald Hotel, which is our favorite Stuttgart area lodging. We even brought our dogs down to stay with their Stuttgart area pet sitter.

Then COVID struck, and we couldn’t get back down there again until August 2021. I had planned another trip to the Wald Hotel, but it was totally booked during that period. So I decided we’d visit Baiersbronn, which is a little Black Forest town known for its excellent restaurants. We loved visiting Baiersbronn when we lived near Stuttgart, so it made sense to go stay in the area for a few days, see the doc, and eat some really excellent food for a few days.

A few weeks ago, Bill reminded me that it was time to see the dentist again. We had appointments for March 2. I thought maybe I’d find us a little rental home or a cute hotel in a different part of the Black Forest, since we had so much fun in August. There are still so many places we’d like to see there. But then I noticed how strict the COVID rules are, down in that part of Germany… and I realized that having been triple vaxxed and never venturing out much at all for months, I’m pretty damned sick of COVID rules.

Or, at least I’m sick of the super strict ones. Baden-Württemberg has been requiring people to use FFP2 masks, which I find very oppressive and obnoxious. I know… I know… they’re supposedly “better” masks, and all, but I still hate wearing them. I am not a rule breaker, but if I can go somewhere else where I don’t have to wear the fucking things, I’d prefer to do that.

I noticed as I searched for places in the Black Forest, I was also getting suggestions for Strasbourg, France, which is really close to the Black Forest. I didn’t really want to go to Strasbourg, though, because that was where we went during our last trip to France in February 2020. I enjoyed Strasbourg, but I wanted to go somewhere different, especially since the wine expo is set to go on at the end of March and we may end up going there for that. We haven’t yet decided if we will go.

It was at that point that I remembered Soufflenheim, which is a little French town known for its pottery. We have a few pieces from there that we bought in Ribeauville a few years ago, but we’d never actually been to the town itself. I realized that since it was just a little bit north of Strasbourg, it would be on the way back to Wiesbaden, anyway. And this would be a great chance for us to get pottery for ourselves, and Bill’s younger daughter, who is expecting a baby boy soon.

So I searched for a place in Soufflenheim, and soon noticed ads for a Michelin starred restaurant that also has four hotel rooms. Auberge au Boeuf is located in adorable Sessenheim, which is right next to Soufflenheim. A quick peek at the reviews on Google and Trip Advisor, as well as, told me that this was a nice play to stay. Better yet, the cost of the room in France was about half of what I would have paid at the Wald Hotel, a nice hotel in a city I’ve been to many, many times, and will no doubt go to again at least once in the future… and probably more often than that. Maybe my next Wald Hotel visit should wait until I need a dental procedure.

Then I realized that France is not nearly as uptight about COVID-19 as Germany is… the latest rules changes in Germany notwithstanding. Those changed while we were away, plus I was booking before they were still being considered. I ran the idea of going to Sessenheim by Bill. Not surprisingly, he was all about it. The fact that the great German poet, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, spent so much time there clinched the deal. Bill and I are literature lovers, too… Bill is more so than I am, in spite of my English degree.

So I booked our room at Auberge au Boeuf for March 2-6. I also booked their restaurant for the third and fourth nights of our stay. I eagerly looked forward to the trip, as I warily watched Vladimir Putin’s increasing aggression toward Ukraine. I don’t normally do this for short trips that don’t involve flights or cruise ships, but I was nervous enough about Putin that I even booked travel insurance in case Bill had to cancel and go to work. Fortunately, that didn’t happen, and now I have lots to report!

Stay tuned for my latest multi-part series about the many wonders of France! Boy, was it great to be back there! But first, it’s time for lunch.