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Sud Tyrol and beyond… part five

Onward to Italy…

Monday morning, we woke up to clear skies and the prospect of driving to Italy. I was a little sorry to be leaving Leutasch, although I did hope our next hotel would have a bed with a softer mattress. The one at Hotel Kristall was pretty firm. We packed up our stuff, had another breakfast, and checked out of the hotel. One thing I didn’t mention in previous posts is that Hotel Kristall has a “Zumo” machine. I first encountered a Zumo machine in Spain. You load up fresh oranges into the machine and it makes delicious fresh squeezed orange juice. That was another thing I loved about our Austrian hotel. They also had a machine for carrot juice, but I didn’t try that. Since I prepaid the hotel, we only had to take care of the bar bill. With that settled, the receptionist gave us a small jar of housemade marmalade as a parting gift and we were then on our way to Parcines, Italy and Klein Fein Hotel Anderlahn. The last words I said as we left Hotel Kristall in Leutasch were, “What a great hotel!” I would definitely go back.

Parcines, Italy, also known as Partschins to German speakers, is well known for its waterfall. However, I didn’t know about the waterfall when I booked the hotel. I was just looking for a nice spa/wellness hotel to spend four nights. My German friend was the one who told me about the waterfall, which I understand is very beautiful. Unfortunately, we were not able to see it up close because although the waterfall is public property, the land around it is not. During the pandemic, the owner of the land around the waterfall decided to put up a fence. So now, if visitors try to get close to the falls, they are trespassing. Based on comments on Google reviews, the landowner is now engaged in legal action regarding this situation.

Still, some people were able to make videos of the falls before they became less accessible. Here’s a video I found on YouTube.

It was disappointing that we couldn’t see this up close…

Our drive to Parcines was easy enough, with lots of nice scenery and a familiar trip through Brenner’s Pass. I took some photos, of course. The drive from Leutasch was maybe about three or four hours, so we arrived in Parcines in time for lunch.

We got to the hotel at about noon. Our room was ready, so the very kind receptionist, who was also the wine sommelier and bartender, as well as the proprietor’s son, welcomed us to check in early. We had another junior suite. It overlooked one of the three pools at the hotel. When we checked in, no one was using the pool. I remarked my surprise about that, and Janek, the barkeep said, “That’s because everyone’s out hiking. Trust me. They’re going to use it!” I should have realized what was to come. That pool was to be used by the kids, as the hotel also has an infinity pool for people aged 15 and up. There’s also an indoor pool in the spa area.

Like our room in Austria, the room in Parcines came with half board and a small fridge. We could order the fridge filled with beer and such, or just use it on its own. Like Leutasch, Parcines offers a lot, especially to people who are into hiking, biking, whitewater rafting, or swimming. Once again, we were allowed into the hotel without a mask. They were only required for the buffet, although we did not have to wear gloves, as we did in Leutasch. But then, Leutasch didn’t require masks. Like I mentioned before, the mask and glove requirements are oddly different everywhere we’ve been this summer. In Meerfeld, Germany, last month, we had to wear masks in the restaurant and at the buffet and Bill had to wear gloves to see the wine list, because it was in a book. In Austria we had to wear gloves, but no masks. In Italy, masks, but no gloves… and in Switzerland, no gloves OR masks. More on that later.

Since it was close to lunchtime when we arrived, we decided to have lunch at a pizzeria in town, which we were able to walk to. Weirdly enough, the pizzeria doesn’t offer pizza until after five o’clock. Maybe it’s because the oven is too hot for daytime use? I don’t know. Parcines has a couple of little shops. I noticed a shoe store and a tiny grocery store. There’s also a Weingut within walking distance of the hotel. The town has a lot of little hotels and apartments for rent.

After lunch, we walked back to the hotel, and sure enough, people were in the pool. We decided to join them. First, we checked out the indoor spa pool, which was empty. A little boy kept peeking in on us as we swam in there. I suspect it was because the kids kind of commandeered that pool, too, as I discovered over the course of the week.

When we got back to the room, the kids were back and in full play mode. Unfortunately, there is no air conditioning in this hotel, so we had to leave the window/door open for cool air. But that also meant listening to shrieking from the kids and, later on, people on the patio drinking, laughing, and enjoying themselves. Don’t get me wrong! I am all for doing those things. But I also like to take naps and enjoy peace and quiet when I’m in my room. If this hotel had air conditioning and we could have closed the door to the balcony, it would have been a lot better for us.

Later, we went down for our first dinner at the Klein Fein Hotel Anderlahn. It was “Italian night”, and we’d made our selections when we checked in. Bill had saltimbocca– veal wrapped with bacon– and I went with the vegetarian dish– mozzarella cheese in a pastry with tomato sauce. We enjoyed aperitifs before dinner started at 7:00pm, and met the very friendly proprietor, who spoke only German and Italian, but was kind and welcoming.

I think of all the dinners we had at this hotel, our first one was my favorite. To be very honest, I wasn’t all that crazy about the food at the Klein Fein Hotel Anderlahn. It wasn’t the worst I’d ever had, but I would say it was kind of disappointing, especially for Italy. Although this hotel gets high ratings, the one bad review it got was by someone who didn’t like the food. While I wouldn’t go as far as that person did in their criticisms, I did think there was definitely some room for improvement in the culinary department. I’ll get more into why in the next post. But anyway, Monday night’s dinner was mostly fine.

Once again, we got some side-eyes from the many Germans who were also staying at the hotel. That’s another thing I don’t like about half board deals. You end up eating with the same people and it can be uncomfortable, especially during a pandemic, when you’re an American and Americans aren’t supposed to be in Italy. We felt a little bit under the microscope at this hotel. However, the staff was excellent. Again, it’s family run. The facilities are also very nice. I just wish they’d planned a bit better regarding the rooms over the patio area (which are many of them). If you don’t want to hang out and drink after dinner, you either have to wait for everyone to go to bed for quiet or swelter with closed windows/doors. It’s not a very appealing tradeoff. I think I’d like this hotel more in the cooler months.

One guest’s opinions about the hotel. I wouldn’t go as far as a one star rating, but I did kind of agree with what s/he wrote. I don’t mind buffets, but I thought the food could have been better.

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Strasbourg’s annual wine extravaganza! Part three

From the historic wine cave, it was a short walk to Taverne des Serruriers/La Schloss Brasserie. I didn’t stop there for any particular reason, other than I was in the mood for a beer or three. I hadn’t heard anything special about the place. We had a good time anyway, though, because the barmaid was friendly and they played really good music. They had a nice selection of beers in bottles and a few on draft, as well as the expected wines and liquors. We started off with a couple of the daily special– a Meteor Hefeweizen. Meteor is a French beer, and they do okay with their suds.

This bar offers beers on draft in different sizes. They have small beers, large beers, and liters. We went the large, half liter sizes, as we people watched and listened to the classic rock played. I had a good time Shazaming, using an app that identifies the cool or horrible stuff you hear in public. If I’m honest, Shazam kind of sucks sometimes because it doesn’t always recognize songs, but it was doing fine at our watering hole. I noticed the bar offered some snacks… pretzels and the like. They probably had other stuff, too, but I didn’t see it in the menu. The restrooms were typical of a bar. Not the cleanest, but not a horror show, either. We stayed for a couple of happy hours, people watching and drinking suds. After our first French brews, we moved on to some bottled Belgian suds.

After our beer stop, we decided to walk around Strasbourg and search for dinner. As I mentioned before, I didn’t have particularly high hopes for dinner. Given that it was a Friday night too, I had a feeling our dinner would probably be rather ordinary… and it was. But we did enjoy a nice evening walk around Strasbourg. I was enjoying how vibrant the city is and kicking myself for not visiting sooner. Strasbourg is so close– that’s probably why we never went there before, aside from a lunch stop back in 2008, where I ended up drinking a half liter of wine by myself. But it’s definitely a great place to visit!

Our Valentine’s dinner was at Winstub Meiselocker, a rather touristy looking establishment not far from the cathedral. We didn’t go in there for any reason other than it was getting late for us and we figured most of the other restaurants would be booked. We were seated at a rather cramped table right next to a young couple who didn’t look so pleased to have us sitting next to them.

I think they had a special Valentine’s Day dinner offered, but we didn’t go for it, since the mood in there wasn’t particularly romantic. The place wasn’t totally jam packed when we first arrived, so our food and wine arrived in a reasonable amount of time. What we had wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t particularly special, either. The wait staff worked very hard, especially the guy who appeared to be the head waiter. He was put through his paces for sure! I was impressed by his ability to hustle and not get totally confused.

I had grilled salmon on sauerkraut with a steamed potato and Riesling sauce. Bill had a cordon bleu that was full of stinky Munster cheese. He loves stinky cheeses, so it was right up his alley. I wasn’t all that thrilled with the salmon, which was kind of boring and a little overdone. But I did enjoy dessert. It’s hard to disappoint me when it comes to chocolate mousse. The worst part of the meal was when it was time to leave. As we were preparing to end our repast, the restaurant got hit with a shit ton of people.

We asked for the bill and waited a good twenty minutes or more– I didn’t check exactly how long, but it was awhile. Bill finally flagged down the head waiter, handed him 100 euros, which was 17 over what we owed, and said “C’est bon!” The guy rewarded us with a huge smile. Tipping isn’t a huge thing in France. I’m sure the guy thought we were clueless Americans, but really I just felt sorry for him and was remembering my days as a waitress on holidays. Also, we really wanted to get the hell out of there. Watching weeded wait staff gives me the heebie jeebies.

After dinner, we walked out of the heart of Strasbourg. I was expecting we’d call a cab, but Bill said his favorite taxi app didn’t work in Strasbourg. We didn’t see any taxi stands that were convenient, and having forgotten to bring the map the hotel receptionist had given us, we weren’t sure where we could find a cab. I told Bill to consult Google, but he wanted to walk back to the hotel. So that’s what we did. Luckily, the weather was balmy and I was wearing somewhat comfortable shoes. Then when we got to the hotel, we didn’t realize the door code was changed, so we had to wait for the door to open. So much for a romantic night… although it definitely could have been a whole lot worse.

I often bitch at Bill for silly things. One thing he regularly does that is especially irritating is that he has a habit of taking cabs places with no plans on how to get one back. Consequently, my retired soldier has taken me on many miles of unintentional hikes around unfamiliar cities. It’s an ongoing theme with him! One time, on a visit to Slovenia, we hiked about ten miles in the sun with no water. We were eventually rewarded with views of a magnificent gorge, but I insisted that he call us a cab back to the hotel. I know I complain a lot, but if I have to march around a city, I’d rather do it with Bill than anyone else! And yes, I know… I could call the cab myself. Believe me, the thought crossed my mind.

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Big business in Poland, part ten

At last, it was Friday… the last day of my husband’s big Polish business trip. It promised to be a weird day, since our flight didn’t leave until 7:00pm and check out at the Sofitel was at noon. Fortunately, the staff at the Sofitel granted Bill’s request for a late checkout, so we had use of the room until 3:00pm, even though the hotel was booked. As it turned out, I didn’t need the room beyond noon. The weather was nice, so I decided to walk around the main square and check out the Christmas market, which opened that day. I dropped off a bag with the hotel staff and set out on my last Polish adventure.

First, I was going to have lunch. Originally, I thought I’d go back to the Doctors’ Bar, but for some reason, they appeared to be closed on Friday. Maybe they had a special event, since it looked like it was open, but the door was locked. So then I decided to find another place, which took some time, since I couldn’t decide what I wanted. I hate eating in restaurants alone, because I feel awkward. Eventually, I ended up at a place called Steak ‘N Roll, which appeared to be a steak joint loosely modeled after the Hard Rock Cafe.

There wasn’t any rock star memorabilia on the walls or gimmicky cocktails on the menu, but they were playing rock music on the sound system as they showed unrelated muted rock videos on the monitor. The music and videos were reminiscent of Hard Rock Cafe… and, in fact, I think the music was my favorite part about the experience, which ended up being kind of disappointing.

A tall young man invited me to sit down and handed me a menu in English. I asked him for a large draft beer. He said all they had was dark beer, which was fine with me. He went to get the beer and set it down, then asked if I was ready to order food. I wasn’t, because I was having trouble deciding what I wanted. I kind of didn’t want another burger, but it was either that, a Reuben sandwich, or a steak. They had other stuff on the menu that didn’t really appeal… salads, soups, fish bowls, and such.

I wasn’t sure I wanted a steak for lunch, and didn’t know if I had enough cash, although they do accept credit cards. I don’t really care for Reubens because of the sauerkraut, which I knew would result in a very windy flight. I just wanted a sandwich, and nothing jumped out at me as especially appealing. I asked the guy for another minute or two, which seemed to put him off a bit, even though there was only one other party in the dining room.

After a couple of minutes, the waiter came back and asked for my order. I decided to have the Classic BBQ burger, which consisted of a patty with cucumbers, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, BBQ sauce, and mustard seed mayonnaise. This is not really the way I like my burgers, but the only other regular burger choice was the Alamo Burger, which came with mustard seed & mayonnaise sauce, nachos, cheddar, bacon, tomato salsa, jalapeno, and lettuce. That sounded like a recipe for indigestion. Or I could have had a vegan burger, which came with goat cheese, lavender mustard, rucola, beetroot, and nuts… and that didn’t appeal to me, either. Side note: wouldn’t goat cheese render that burger non vegan?

Once I ordered, the waiter came back with a basket of grilled bread and a side of truffle spread. I’m sure a lot of people love the truffle spread and, in fact, Bill probably would have eaten all of it if he’d been with me. Unfortunately, I have a demonic hatred/phobia of mushrooms and truffles. Just having that spread near me was giving me the willies. I don’t enjoy the aroma of truffles, either, so I left the spread untouched and pushed it far away from me. I know a lot of people think this is crazy. Believe me, my life would have been so much easier if I didn’t hate fungus so much.

Finally, the burger arrived, along with a side of steak fries, which looked really good. However, just like the burger I’d had earlier in the week, the sandwich was too big to bite into. I had to cut it, which made a bit of a mess. Also, they had really slathered on a ton of the mustard seed mayonnaise, so much so that it was dripping copiously from the side in big glops. I don’t know what the deal is with mayo in parts of Europe, but I’ve found that people over here seem to love it and really load their burgers up with it.

I didn’t think the burger was as good as the one I’d had at Doctors’ Bar. The patty didn’t taste very fresh and had been molded, rather than hand shaped. The steak fries looked appealing, but had kind of a weird aftertaste, like maybe the were fried in old oil or something. As I was finishing up, the waiter asked me if I wanted dessert. They had a three items that looked appealing, but I decided I’d rather have another beer. By that point, they also had a lager, which the waiter offered. I told him I wanted another dark beer. I got up to go to the bathroom and when I came back, I found that he’d left me a small beer, even though I’d said I wanted another one and meant I’d wanted one just like the one I was drinking.

So I decided to just finish up and get out of there. I asked for the check, which the guy brought to me. The total was 61 zloty, so I put down a 100 zloty bill and asked him to bring me 30 zloty back. Instead, he brought back the whole amount and said, rather curtly, “Here’s the rest of it.” I kind of sighed and gave the guy a ten zloty note and went on my way. He did kind of smile at that. It occurred to me that he probably didn’t want the coins… who knows? The experience left me in kind of a bad mood, though. I wished I had just eaten shashlik at the stand in the Christmas market that was set up just outside. I probably would have had a better experience.

After I ate, I had a couple of hours to kill. I walked around the main square and took pictures of the Christmas market stalls I’d watched workers constructing all week. I’m glad I got to see them open before we left, although I didn’t end up buying anything. There was nothing there that I couldn’t live without and/or couldn’t buy in Germany. Still, the Christmas markets are kind of cool, and it was interesting to see one in Poland. Here are some photos.

I went back to the hotel a little bit before three and parked myself in the lobby to wait for Bill and his co-worker, who would be sharing a taxi ride to the airport. They got to the hotel at just after 3:00, and we started our journey back to Germany. Our cab driver turned out to be an older Polish guy who spoke broken English and wanted to bond over rock music.

We got in the car and he proceeded to speak to the men and ignore me. Actually, if I had been in a slightly less irritated mood, I probably would have enjoyed talking to him. He told us about how he’d grown up in Poland during the communist era and went to university when Americans weren’t friends. He studied German, because although English was available, learning it wasn’t all that encouraged. What a difference a few decades make. We ran into so many English speakers in Poland. I was shocked by the difference between 2008 and 2019.

Anyway, the guy kept listing all of his favorite English speaking rock bands… Rush (which he noted is Canadian), Metallica, Journey, and curiously, he even mentioned Blondie, but he wasn’t sure if Debbie Harry was American. He had no way of knowing that I was probably the biggest music buff in his taxi. Bill asked me about Ms. Harry’s citizenship, and I confirmed that she’s from the United States. The taxi creeped along, because Wroclaw has terrible traffic during rush hour and the roads are in the process of being expanded into two lanes. My mood was still slightly sour, mainly because I felt like a third wheel sitting there while Bill and his buddy chatted up the taxi driver.

We finally got to the super nice airport in Wroclaw, and this time, I did not get bumped from business class. I was allowed to use the lounge, but ended up hanging out with Bill and his co-worker at a restaurant. The co-worker turned out to be interesting to talk to, since he’s from Georgia and has a strong accent, but is quite liberal. We were lamenting that Trump is our president, and he told me about his plans to buy homes in different European countries and just rotate from house to house every ninety days. He’s already bought a house in Italy and is looking to buy ones in Germany and England. I’m not sure how well his plan will work, nor do I think it’s very practical, but I can understand the attraction of simply hanging out in Europe for awhile. I’m inclined to do that myself.

Our flight was okay. I was seated in 1A, which was not any more comfortable than any other seat on the small airplane, but had an empty seat next to it. I also got food, which on Lufthansa is at least somewhat edible. Actually, it wasn’t bad at all. We had some kind of guacamole like salad, hummus, panna cotta, chocolates, bread, and red wine. One thing I didn’t like about my seat, though, was that it was right next to the lavatory. At one point, a woman got up to use the toilet and neglected to close the door after herself when she was finished. I happened to be eating when this occurred, so I had a nice view of the toilet while I was chowing down on hummus.

But there was also a very kind flight attendant on board who was very solicitous to me. When I mentioned her to Bill, he knew which one I was talking about, because he’d also noticed how good she was. I’m always heartened when I run into flight attendants who are genuinely pleasant and seem concerned about giving good service as well as maintaining safety. I wish I could have seen her nametag. She’s one for whom I would send compliments to Lufthansa– a true credit to her profession.

We were quick to retrieve our luggage and on our way home before too long. Bill was smart enough to park in “business parking”, which is well worth the expense, and actually comes out cheaper than regular parking, anyway. On Saturday, Arran came back home and was delighted to be with his people again.

I wish we could have done more while we were in Wroclaw. It’s a great city, and I didn’t get to see enough of it. However, I think there could be a chance we’ll come back on our own terms, bringing our own vehicle with us so we can get out and about and try some of the city’s tourist attractions. I particularly would have loved to have sees Hydropolis, which is a museum about water near Wroclaw. And, of course, there are still some places in the area around Wroclaw that I’d like to visit, but with Bill in tow. It’s just a lot more fun to visit these places with someone else.

Next up– ten things I learned in Wroclaw, Poland.

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An underwhelming late lunch at Chillers in Wiesbaden…

Bill needed time to bottle his latest homebrew and Zane got us both up at about 4:00am.  Consequently, after a morning spent doing laundry, I laid down to read and fell fast asleep.  By the time Bill was finished bottling, Zane, Arran, and I were all catching some Z’s.  I finally woke up about about 1:45 or so, kinda late for lunch.  Since we didn’t go out yesterday, we decided to try lunch at a place where there is no pause.

I generally make it a habit to steer clear of German “American” style restaurants, with the exception of those I know have a connection to an actual American person.  However, I had seen Chillers at the Wiesbaden train station and was kind of intrigued by it.  I kept getting suggestions to try it on Open Table.  So, realizing that a lot of places would be closing soon for their pre-dinner pause, we decided to give it a try.  I made a reservation for 3:00pm, but there was no need to do so.  They had plenty of open tables.

Before I get too cranked up with my review, I must mention the truly confusing parking garage next to Wiesbaden’s train station.  We had a hard time figuring out how to get out of it, since it’s Sunday and the garage is attached to a mall.  The mall is closed and they don’t leave it open like they do the Schwabengarten in Vaihingen, and some other places we’ve been when we lived in Stuttgart.  It took us about fifteen minutes to find the way out, since every exit had a sign that said it didn’t lead to the mall… not that we wanted the mall.  We just wanted to escape the garage.  I think we finally just said “fuck it” and picked a door to see where it would lead.

Out front.  They were setting up umbrellas for all the pale people avoiding the sun.

Anyway…  Chillers is supposed to be a “Californian” beach bar.  The bartenders were wearing t-shirts that read “Never leave the beach”.  The waitresses were dressed in black.  We heard both German and English spoken there.  In fact, the staff all spoke excellent English.

The bar area.

Bill told them we had a reservation and the bartender joked that he wasn’t sure he could accommodate, as he pointed out all the open tables.  A lot of people were sitting outside, since the weather is warmer today.  I wanted to avoid the sun and cigarette smoking, so we decided to sit inside.  I liked the music they were playing, which was one part hard driving rock, one part head banging metal.  The inside of the restaurant appears to have been part of the train station, so the building has some character.  It’s also a bit noisy inside, due to the high ceilings and hard floors.

Bill checks out the menu, which is chock full of burgers, quesadillas, ribs, chicken wings, and a few salads.

 

I got a kick out of the welcome, which started in English, welcoming everyone to California, then went to German.  The menu is in English and German.

Lots of burgers.  They let you choose what kind of patty you want– beef or “gemischt”.  Mixed there was half beef, half bacon.

We sat in a booth and I decided to have a Lynchburg Lemonade, which is basically lemonade with Jack Daniels.  I don’t usually order mixed drinks, but I wasn’t in the mood for beer.  Bill had a hefeweizen.

This Lynchburg Lemonade wasn’t bad.  It was generously sized and potent.  I noticed the non-alcoholic drinks were kind of pricey.  For instance, Dr. Pepper was selling for over four euros a can.

 

Bill had a regular Weizen, also kind of pricey at about 4 euros.  I think my mixed drink was about 6 euros.

 

They also have American craft beers in bottles.

There was a large group of Americans in the restaurant and the wait staff had their hands full with them.  Consequently, they were a little too busy to deal with us right away.  That was alright, since we weren’t in a hurry.  Then the group moved outside, which made things a bit more chaotic.  The waitress was apologetic as she took our food orders.  I had a “Social BBQ” quesadilla, which was a tortilla with chicken, guacamole, barbecue sauce, melted cheddar, melted Monterrey Jack cheese, and bacon.  It came with a choice of sides– fries, garden salad, Caesar salad, or for a euro more, curly fries or sweet potato fries.  I went with a small Caesar salad.  Bill ordered a half rack of baby back ribs, with Californian jerk sauce, and fries.

Our food took a long time to get to us.  After we’d been sitting for awhile without food, the waitress came over and apologized, explaining that the large group had put them behind.  It was alright, since we were neither in a hurry nor particularly hungry.  However, once the food arrived, I couldn’t help but notice that it wasn’t very hot and appeared to have been sitting for awhile.  I wondered what it would have been like if they were dealing with that large crowd of Americans and the restaurant was actually full.

My barbecued chicken quesadillas.  This was actually good, but not very fresh.  Obviously, it sat for awhile before it got to me.  The cheese was no longer very melted, and it was just warm.  I could have complained, but I didn’t want to wait longer.  I did enjoy it well enough.  It would have been better if it had been hot.

 

Bill enjoyed his ribs, which had a bit of heat to them.  They were saturated with sauce.  He said he also liked the dip that came with the fries.  I can’t comment on that, since I didn’t try it.  I did try the ribs, which were pretty good.  I did notice that the sauce tasted a lot like the sauce that was used on my quesadillas.

 

After we were finished eating, the waitress asked if we’d like an espresso on the house, since we’d had to wait.  I missed that she was comping it and said I’d rather have a shot.  She said that was fine.  Bill then explained that these were freebies.  It was no matter, since the shots were cheaper than an espresso or cappuccino would have been.  I decided on Bailey’s.  Bill had an espresso.

I was expecting a small shot glass, but she brought me a big glass with a healthy pour that looked watered down… but didn’t really taste watered down.  

You can’t go wrong with espresso.
 

While we were waiting for the check, which came to about 34 euros, we noticed a man talking to the waitress.  He was from the large group that had moved outside.  We heard him apologizing and wanting to pay for ribs.  She said something along the lines of what he was asking wasn’t allowed– I mean, I’m sure she would take his money, but it sounded like something else happened that was technically verboten.

I wasn’t sure what was happening, but her reaction and body language were definitely not what I’d expect from a restaurant in California.  It was very German, in fact.  But I can’t comment on who was in the right, since I’m not sure exactly what was going on.  He seemed to be trying to smooth things over and she was kind of chastising him for something.  Rather than stand back and rubberneck, Bill gave her 40 euros and said “Stimmt”, so we could get out of there and let them settle their dispute in peace.

We went back to the parking garage and proceeded to get off on the wrong floor, wandering around the garage for about ten or fifteen minutes in a fruitless search for my car.  I kept telling Bill I thought we were a level lower.  He finally listened to me and we found the Mini.  Very soon, that car will be the senior one in our fleet, as we send his Japanese SUV on to its next owner (in Africa or Asia maybe?) and start driving a Swedish SUV.

As we passed Chillers on the way home, we saw that same large group of Americans standing in a circle in front of the restaurant, appearing to be having a discussion with someone in charge.  It just occurred to me that the lady at the bus stop was posing!  

This election poster gave me pause.  It sounds a bit like MAGA.

It’s election time…

I didn’t think Chillers was horrible.  It wasn’t as bad as Chili’s at Ramstein, for instance.  I might give it another chance if the opportunity arose and I really wanted a German interpretation of American style junk food, although I don’t think I’d go out of my way to give it another try.  I would have had a better impression if my food hadn’t been lukewarm and service had been a little more attentive. However, having once been a waitress myself, I understand that sometimes shit happens.  I don’t hold it against her too much.  It looked like that group might have been giving her a hard time.

Drinks were a bit pricey, but the food was reasonable.  I just don’t want to park at the garage from hell again.  Anyway… not my favorite local restaurant… could have been better… but it has its positives, too.  Probably best for a young crowd.  Bill pointed out that Erbenheim isn’t too far away.  I’m sure American youths come by there often to get their chicken wing fixes.

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Ribeauville… AGAIN! Part 1… knotty gets snotty over a pile of pork

A couple of weeks ago, I asked Bill if he’d like to go somewhere for Memorial Day weekend.  He said “sure”, so I went looking for places to stay.  I tried to find a place we hadn’t been yet.  In retrospect, there were a few places I forgot to consider, places in Germany I’ve been wanting to visit and haven’t yet.  But, for whatever reason, they didn’t cross my mind.  I started thinking of Alsace again and how much we always enjoy our visits to northeastern France.  Plus, I just love France and Alsace is so convenient and so pretty…

I realized our old friend Yannick, who has rented us apartments in Ribeauville three times before, had space available.  Granted, it was one of his “studio” apartments, Muscat, which I knew would be a lot less spacious than “Riesling”, the three bedroom apartment we have stayed in twice so far.  The first time we rented that apartment in February 2017, it was because we were planning to bring Bill’s mother with us.  She ended up not being able to visit us due to an injury and the sudden need for surgery, so we stayed there on our own.  It was awesome.  Then last November, we came back and stayed in Riesling again because it was available and inexpensive.

The other apartment we’ve stayed in is “Pinot Noir”, which is a “one bedroom” apartment.  Actually, it’s more like a big studio with a curtain that divides a back area from the living area.  That was the first apartment we rented from Yannick, back in January 2017.  So, you see, we’ve been to Ribeauville before and we keep coming back, mainly because Yannick is so easy to deal with and Ribeauville is such a cute town.

Yesterday, we got on the road to wine country and had to stop at a German gas station to pick up some motor oil.  Our 2006 Toyota RAV 4 needs an oil change, but Bill never got around to it.  The engine was about a quart low.  We stopped three times before Bill finally found the oil he needed.  The car still needs an oil change.  Oh well… it handled itself fine crossing the mountains.  I snapped a few pictures of the stunning scenery.  We usually come through this area in the winter, so it’s glorious to see it when the weather is nice.  Before are a few blurry shots of the beguiling Black Forest as we passed through it.

Finally, at about 4:30 or so, we entered France.  It seemed we went over a different bridge over the Rhein than we usually do.  It confused Bill, who had some issues getting out of the very congested Strasbourg area.

Bonjour again.

 

Bill got confused at one point and ended up in a nightmare of a traffic jam heading toward the city.  He started cussing and my bladder started screaming for a rest stop.  We had to get off at an exit near a mall and were immediately accosted by a group of Syrian refugees panhandling on the side of the road.  I actually felt sorry for them, since it was rather hot outside and the women were completely covered in black.  Bill says it’s time for Ramadan, though, which is probably why they were out there.  Fortunately, we found a gas station… and, how refreshing, not only did one of the guys there say “Bonjour” to me, but I didn’t have to pay 70 euro cents for the privilege of peeing.

Once we finally started heading south, we got caught in another Stau.  We were behind one guy who was checking his phone as he was creeping along.  Bill went into retired Army officer mode and barked, “Get off your phone, Sir!”  That put me in a silly mood and I started asking him ridiculous questions about what he was like when he was still in the military.  One thing about Bill… he almost never yells unless he’s in traffic.  He was definitely bitching yesterday, but then I started asking him about how he dealt with guys in the company he commanded, trying to imagine him yelling at some guy in basic training.  That’s always good for a laugh.  Bill is probably one of the most mild mannered people I know.

We got to the parking lot near our French gite just before seven o’clock and lucked into a good parking spot.  Thanks to the traffic, it took us an extra hour to get to Ribeauville.  Then, once we got to the outside of the apartment, I had some trouble finding the code to open the lockbox.  We tried calling Yannick, but got a recording.  Later, he sent me a message telling me he was in the hospital with his wife.  I’m not sure, but it sounds like she was having a baby.  He says he’ll visit today, so I’m sure we’ll get the scoop.  Below are pictures of Muscat.

A big, king sized bed that is pretty comfortable, although my back is used to a feather bed, so this was a little painful.  I don’t expect feather beds in rental properties, though, so I don’t fault the bed for my back.

And the rest of the tiny apartment.  There’s a small bathroom with a shower and a tiny little kitchenette area.  Yannick left us a bottle of sparkling wine, which we put in the dorm sized fridge.  There’s a stove and a microwave, coffee makers, and of course, a raclette grill.  The apartment is kind of microscopic, but would be fine for one or two people.  It would also work well for a group renting the Riesling apartment next door and needing a little extra space.  Actually, I think this wine house would be awesome for a family reunion, if you managed to rent the whole thing.

 

View from our window.  It’s a bit noisier in this apartment, because it’s right by a busy thoroughfare.  There’s a group of very pleasant German ladies staying in the Riesling apartment we’ve rented twice before.  They were pretty cool with Zane and Arran.

 

After we settled in, we went searching for food.  Since we’ve been to Ribeauville a few times now, we’ve been to a lot of the restaurants on the main drag.  I wanted to try a different place.  When we were here in November, I noticed Hotel du Mouton’s restaurant.  They had “cock” on the menu and that always excites me.  But first, we stopped at a restaurant right next to it.  We moved on when I noticed some guy giving me the side eye when I spoke English.

We approached Hotel du Mouton’s restaurant, where there were three tables open on the terrace.  A couple of waiters were standing there, looking casual.  They seemed inviting, so I started to a table, which they said was reserved.  Then, they pointed to another table at the end of the terrace.  We headed for that one and they said that one was also reserved.  We finally ended up at the first table, where we were finally invited to sit down.  I must admit, this did not leave me with the best first impression, especially since it seemed like all eyes were on us.  But we sat down… and proceeded to wait for about ten minutes before anyone bothered to speak to us.

I used to wait tables myself, so I tend to be pretty forgiving and patient when it comes to service issues while dining out.  Still, I was hungry, tired, and in need of a drink.  I was also annoyed by the seating rigamarole and watching as the waiters casually walked past us, filling wine glasses and not even inviting us to go screw ourselves.  It was off-putting, and I gave some thought to leaving.  Then I started humming inappropriate songs I learned from Red Peters’ song snatch program.  But then, a man wearing a leather apron finally stopped and asked if we were ready to order.

Bill looks at the menu.  It would be a long time before he got to give his orders.  Hmm… wonder if it was like that for him in the Army, too.

 

Bill ordered the first selection.  I was very tempted by the cock, but asked for an entrecôte…  I got the Choucroute Garnie.

 

The restaurant had a number of asparagus dishes offered on special.  I might have ordered one, but I couldn’t read the sign, since it was mounted on the wall.  Some guy was sitting in front of it and blocking the view of anyone who might be interested.  I decided on an entrecôte, which is a rib eye steak.  It was supposed to come with either pepper sauce or morel sauce.  Bill decided on marinated salmon with potato pancakes, a dish I had been eyeing myself.

The waiter came over and Bill started trying to speak horrible French.  Then he switched to German.  The waiter finally indicated that he spoke English, so Bill switched to that.  He ordered us a bottle of wine, some sparkling water, and the salmon pancakes.  Then I ordered the entrecôte, but was surprised when the waiter simply said “Okay,” collected the menus, and quickly left without asking me the temperature or which sauce I preferred.  After he served the wine and the water, we didn’t see him again for some time.

While we were waiting for our food, I noticed the restaurant was offering a special Wagyu beef entrecôte from the United States.  I wondered if maybe that was what I was going to get, since it made no mention of sauces.  It was 42 euros and I figured they’d just bring it out super rare, since a lot of French people seem to like really bloody meat (though I don’t).

I also noticed that they were holding our wine hostage, a practice I really hate.  Everyone’s bottles were kept on a table and the waiters were pouring the wines as they had the opportunity.  In some restaurants, this practice is considered good service, and it is, if the wait staff is attentive.  When they are weeded, it becomes a real nuisance.

After some time passed, a different waiter showed up with Bill’s dish and one that was unrecognizable to me.  It was basically a pile of pork with sauerkraut.

“I didn’t order that.” I said when the waiter tried to give it to me.

He looked confused, went to his colleague, and clearly upset the man.  Our original waiter came back and said, “Yes, you did order the choucroute.” he said, checking his notes.  “Because if you had ordered the entrecôte, I would have asked you the temperature and which sauce you wanted.”  It was as if because he wrote down the wrong thing, in his mind, the matter was settled.  Obviously, he couldn’t have mistaken choucroute for entrecôte, right?  And yet he did!  And he was trying to blame me for his error.  Bullshit!

At that point, I was becoming extremely annoyed and was quickly getting over the whole experience.  I snapped, “I ordered the entrecôte.  And you’re right that you didn’t ask me the temperature or which sauce I wanted.  In fact, I wondered why.”

I can’t say for sure, but it’s very likely that I had one of my trademark venomous expressions on my face.  I usually do when I get pissed off.  I do know that my voice became quite sharp and I could tell the guy was worried that I was about to lose my shit right there at the table.  I was a bit hangry and really tired of the bumbling service.  I just wanted to eat and get out of there.

The guy scurried away with the food, then came back and offered me the pile of pork again.  He said, “If you don’t take this, you’ll have to wait for the entrecôte to be cooked.”

I was thinking to myself, Duh… of course I would have to wait for a steak to be cooked to order.  This isn’t a McDonald’s.  I probably would have preferred McDonald’s at that point.

Then Bill, sweet gentleman that he is, said “I’ll take the choucroute.  You can have the salmon and potato pancakes.”  That was alright with me, since I’d been thinking about ordering the pancakes anyway.

The waiter looked relieved as he served me the pork.  He actually smiled as Bill and I switched plates.  It probably appeared that the awkward bullshit was about to end.

I was sitting there wondering why in the hell that man was arguing with me over what I ordered.  Why would I lie about that?  I don’t go out to restaurants, order stuff, and then change my mind after I’ve ordered.  That doesn’t make any sense.  I understand that people make mistakes.  I made a lot of them when I waited tables.  But I felt the waiter was very rude to argue with me about what I ordered.  The correct response is not an argument.  The correct response is, “I apologize.  What can I do to fix the problem?”

So these were the potato pancakes.  They were served with pieces of marinated salmon, which are not too visible in the photo because they are under the pancakes.  One of the endive leaves was filled with a horseradish dip.

And this was the erroneous pile of pork farts the waiter tried to serve me.  Bill says the sauerkraut wasn’t all that good.  There was a lot of it, so it’s good that I didn’t actually eat this.  It would have been very windy in our little apartment if I had.  I don’t think Bill was able to eat the wiener.  That was too much protein.

The good news is that after the waiter got a load of my bitchface, he released our wine from custody and put it on the table.  The wine was probably my favorite part of the meal.  It was full of the essence of dark berries and, when I tasted it after eating a couple of peanuts, it tasted a little like a PBJ sandwich.  Better yet, I could keep my glass filled.

Alas, one of the potato pancakes arrived a bit scorched.  Fortunately, the other two were unscathed and I was plenty full.

Instead of having dessert, we decided to have after dinner drinks.  Bill enjoyed a very lovely Japanese whiskey.  Props to the second waiter, who did a very professional presentation, complete with showing us the bottles from which he was pouring.

While I had a snifter of Armagnac from 1973… just a year younger than I am.  The Armagnac was dangerously smooth and at 16 euros, not exactly cheap.  However, it did leave me with a smile on my face.  We noticed the rest of the service was done by a different waiter wearing a leather apron.  He had piercings in his chest and was a lot more professional than the other guy was.

 

The bill came to 92 euros.  It’s probably the only bill we will ever be presented by Hotel du Mouton because I don’t think we’ll be going back there.  That was probably one of the least comfortable dining experiences I’ve had in a good long while.  It’s a shame, too, because the hotel is in a cute area and gets fairly good reviews on Trip Advisor and Google.  I saw the owners there last night with their adorable little girl.  I would be very surprised if this is the impression they’d want to leave with their guests… and any potential guests who happen to read this review.

Hotel du Mouton… looks inviting enough, but looks can be deceiving.  Oh well.  We’ll find a better place today.

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Valentine’s Day dinner at Refugio 2018… a big “meh”…

I did try.

Ahh, Valentine’s Day…  a greeting card holiday that has caused quite the angst in many a young person.  Since I haven’t been young in awhile, I’ve made it a point to try to do things on Valentine’s Day.  My husband, Bill, is very obliging.  Most years, he brings me chocolate, a mushy card, and/or flowers.  We also usually go out to dinner.  I’ll put on a relatively pretty dress and fix my hair.  He’ll put on fancy clothes I bought him for Christmas.  We’ll hit the town and try to be fancy.

“When in doubt, pinky out…”

Last year, our Valentine’s Day celebration took place at Refugio, a restaurant at Hotel La Casa in Tübingen.  I remember we had originally made other plans for Valentine’s Day dinner 2017, but I was swayed by the ads I kept seeing on Facebook for Refugio’s event.  They were having a concert with a virtuoso pianist and singer, plus a set dinner.  Last year, we had to reserve in advance and the hotel mailed us actual tickets to the dinner.  I remember having a pretty good time, even if I don’t always have the best luck with “set dinners”.

Fast forward a year.  It’s Valentine’s Day again.  Somehow, we let our plans get away from us.  Bill was too busy to bring me flowers, chocolate, or even a mushy card.  Two days ago, I visited Hotel La Casa’s Facebook page and noticed they were doing another Valentine’s Day dinner, albeit with less fanfare than last year’s celebration.  I asked on Facebook if they still had reservations open.  They responded that they did, so I asked Bill if he wanted to go.  He said yes and emailed them a reservation request for 7:30pm.

Last night, Bill came home from work and changed from work clothes to…  work clothes.  I changed out of my nightgown, put on pantyhose and makeup, and curled my rapidly greying blonde hair.  The dress I wore last night was a purple velvet number I bought for our latest Scottish cruise.  I decided I should wear it instead of the black dress I usually wear when we go out.  Bill doesn’t like it when I wear black on Valentine’s Day.  I will admit it was nice to wear something different, although that dress doesn’t show off my cleavage, which might be my most alluring feature.  I threw a wrap over it– a pretty red silk/cashmere one that Bill bought me on a business trip to Vicenza.  The same guy was probably selling them in Stuttgart.  I have to admit Bill did pretty well with that purchase.

We headed to Tübingen, arriving on time for our reservation at Hotel La Casa.  This was our third visit to the hotel’s restaurant.  I keep thinking I’d like to book a weekend there, since it’s a charming boutique/spa hotel.  Even though we only live about a half an hour from Tübingen, I know I’d find plenty to do.  Tübingen is a great town and one that is close to our hearts, since we lived very close to there when Bill was in Germany with the Army (07-09).  Before I was an annoying blahger, I was a bored housewife who had lots of fun times in Tübingen.

Things got off to a reasonably good start.  We parked in a nearby garage and walked a couple of blocks to the hotel.  A friendly receptionist welcomed us and took our coats.  We were directed to a four top table in the lower level of the dining room.  Our table was in front of a very comfortable couch like seat.  I remarked to Bill that the chairs looked like they might be new (although I see from previous reviews that they aren’t).  They were very luxurious and comfortable, even though I shared the “couch” with the lady sitting at the next table.  There was a cylindrical pillow dividing her space and mine.  The concept reminded me of an order divider one finds on conveyer belts at grocery stores.  I kind of liked it, since I’m territorial.

Although the seating was very comfortable, the person who set the table kind of made things difficult for me.  You see, the “couch” also had a barrier of sorts on the outside, which meant that in order to access the place set for me, I had to awkwardly scoot across the couch.  Likewise, if I wanted to get up to use the ladies room, I had to scoot the other way.  It wasn’t unlike trying to get out of a window seat on an airplane, although at least I didn’t have to climb over anyone to do it.  Every time I slid across the couch, my dress and panty hose shifted and I just knew I’d end up with static shock.

Our table was also located right next to a very tasteful divider that blocked the way to the ladies room.  Had that divider not been there, it would have been easy to get to the restroom.  Although I was really tempted to just duck past it, I decided to be classy and walk past the small fountain in the middle of the dining room, up the stairs, past the pianist and bar, down more stairs, and then down another flight of stairs to the restroom.  Fortunately, I didn’t wear heels last night, so it was no big deal.

Bill takes in the scene.  I was momentarily amused by the unicorn horn like napkins on the table.  I did refrain from putting one to my forehead, which is a good thing.  A tuxedo clad gentleman sitting behind us kept shooting us looks.  Or maybe he was just looking at the pianist.

A server brought us some bread and we ordered two glasses of champagne and some sparkling water.

We enjoyed the bubbly with the amuse, a heart shaped savory bread with a bacon wrapped date and a goat cheese spread that was hidden under the petals of the flower.  The amuse wasn’t bad.

 

Service was rather leisurely.  Well, for us it was, anyway.  I’m sure the servers didn’t think it was leisurely at all, as four of them looked after everyone in the restaurant.  I don’t think they had a full house, but the dining room was fairly busy.  They probably could have used at least one more set of hands.  I finished my champagne and kind of wished for a glass of white wine to go with the next couple of courses.

Meanwhile, the pianist was playing a curious selection of hits.  He’d play a romantic song, then lapse into “Just a Gigolo” or a James Bond theme.  I noticed the adorable elderly couple next to us were really enjoying the pianist’s musical stylings.  They burst into applause when the pianist stopped for a break.  I mostly enjoyed the pianist too, at least at first.  More on that, later.

After the elderly couple applauded, they got up to leave and bid us a pleasant farewell.  They were so cute.  I hope if Bill and I make it to true elderly status, we’re still going out and enjoying dinners on the town like that couple was last night.  It was lovely to see, and probably my favorite part of our evening.

Our server brought out the first course, two sea scallops on vegetables with a heart shaped “frame” of smoked salmon.  The scallops were “speared” with lemongrass, in the style of an arrow.  I enjoyed the scallops and the horseradish themed dressing that came with them.  This wasn’t too bad.  I did order a glass of white wine at this point, which the server promised he’d bring for me.  I finished this course before the wine came… (and have actually only now noticed that the salmon was arranged in a heart shape.)

Then came course two, a tomato soup with “trout chips”, a soggy heart shaped piece of bread, caviar of some sort, and a basil leaf.  It wasn’t bad, but really didn’t blow my mind…  and I also finished it before my wine came.  I had to remind the waiter to bring it.  And then when he brought the wine, it also didn’t thrill me.  It was a very buttery, locally produced grey burgundy that was slightly effervescent and kind of mediocre.  It wasn’t bad, but I like my white wines crisper. 

 

Before dinner started, we made sure to tell the waiter that I can’t eat mushrooms.  He said he would make sure my main course didn’t have them, which led me to believe that if we hadn’t asked, I’d be presented with a plate full of fungus.  I know it sounds silly, but mushrooms are the one food that make me want to run screaming from the room.  They give me the creeps (long, ridiculous story that makes me look even crazier than I am).  Anyway, more than once, I’ve been unpleasantly surprised by fungus on my plate.  I didn’t want that to happen last night.  We made very certain to confirm and our waiter assured us it was no problem.

The main course, beef filet with vegetables and a heart shaped puff pastry garnish.

 

Bill’s dish was the same as mine, which immediately made me nervous, since the waiter had originally indicated that mushrooms had been part of the dish.  The beef was covered with a an unappetizing light brown sauce.  It made me suspicious.  I asked the waiter again about the ‘shrooms.  He said there weren’t any.  Bill tasted the beef and said he couldn’t taste the nasty little parasites.  I tried the beef, too.  I don’t think there were mushrooms in the sauce, but unfortunately I was so turned off by the thought of them that I couldn’t really enjoy the main course.  I ate maybe a third of the beef and half of the vegetables.  In retrospect, I should have asked the waiter to hold any sauces.  I’ll remember that for next time.

On the positive side, the waiter did pour us a lovely Italian primitivo, that was very nice on its own.  I wish I’d thought to take a picture of the bottle because that was a wine I would love to drink at home.

“The Winner Takes It All” is a beautiful song by ABBA with a melody that lends itself to piano.  However, it seemed an odd choice for Valentine’s Day.
 
 

And the appropriately jazzy “Moon Over Bourbon Street”, is also a little creepy…  

While we were finishing the main course, I noticed the pianist’s song choices were getting a bit strange.  I can’t be sure, but I think I heard mashups of pieces that included “Moon Over Bourbon Street” by Sting and, curiously, “The Winner Takes It All” by ABBA.  I was especially perplexed by the ABBA song.  I happen to love “The Winner Takes It All”; it’s a beautiful song with a lovely melody.  However, although the song itself is moving, the lyrics are about divorce and the loss of love, so I wasn’t expecting to hear it on Valentine’s Day!  Ditto the Sting song, which is romantic and interesting, but it’s basically about a lonely vampire who is tormented by his urges to destroy the things he loves.

Dinner ended with a dessert panoply, which we shared.  There were two scoops of gelato– strawberry and mango, I think.  Two frozen chocolate mousse bars, fresh berries, a rather dry, heart-shaped chocolate brownie, and what tasted like a strawberry mousse.  The gelato was a little soft, like it had been sitting out a bit before it reached our table, but it could be they just had the gelato out of the freezer for easier scooping.  I was glad the brownie wasn’t a lava cake.  The whole thing was capped off by a heart shaped piece of white chocolate.

 

Around this time, I was starting to get a bit antsy and, if I’m honest, kind of annoyed about how dinner turned out.  I also felt a little guilty, since not enjoying Valentine’s Day is truly a first world problem.  For many years, I didn’t even have anyone to celebrate Valentine’s Day with.  Now I have a sweet husband who is willing to indulge me.  Yes, I know sometimes I’m an asshole.  We all have our moments.  Unfortunately, then Bill and I started talking about my hair, which is now natural and rapidly going grey.  Bill saved the conversation by reassuring me that he loves my hair.  The neurotic moment mercifully passed and we decided to call it a night.

Bill called for the check, which came to 179 euros.  He paid our waiter, who reminded me to take the rose in the vase, which I did.  After a quick visit to the restroom before our drive home, we stopped at the coat rack.  Normally, a staff member gets your coat for you, but I guess they were busy.  So Bill and I helped ourselves and, as I was struggling to put my coat on, our waiter came over to say goodbye without offering assistance.  That was no big deal, I guess.  Maybe you could say it sort of capped off my overall impressions of the evening– a big “meh”.

But at least the rose is pretty! 

And my hair does look blonde in this photo, which was taken last night…  so I’m going to resist the urge to break out the hair color.

I did notice a couple of patrons ordering from the regular menu.  Or, at least it appeared that they did.  I never think to ask about doing that, especially since having worked in restaurants, I know that kind of screws up things for the kitchen.  Sometimes it’s hard to go from server mentality to guest mentality, even if you’ve been out of the business for a long time.

I’ll be the first to admit that my attitude sometimes sucks.  I certainly wouldn’t say last night was a disaster.  In fact, having once worked as a waitress in a nice restaurant, I should have realized that if you really want to have a good time at dinner, it’s best to avoid eating out on popular holidays like Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day.  Those are the days restaurants have “special menus” that can lead to disappointment, since you don’t necessarily have a choice in what you’ll be eating.  Those days are also when people tend to go out to eat, which means service can suffer.

Since this was our third time eating at Refugio and the first two times were good, I can truthfully say last night was probably an aberration.  No one can bat a thousand every day.  As always, it was a treat to be out with Bill, who is my favorite person.  That, in and of itself, makes any Valentine’s Day a success.  At least he was home and not deployed or TDY, right?

This weekend, we are going to the Czech Republic, staying in a town very close to Plzen, which is an excellent venue for beer lovers.  I probably like beer even more than I do wine, so I’m expecting to have a good time.  We visited Chodovar, a beer wellness land/beer spa/ brewery in the Czech Republic in February 2009 and, for many reasons, had an unforgettable experience.  So I suspect we’ll make up for last night this weekend, if all goes according to plan.  I don’t know if we’ll manage to hit the beer spa (or a wine spa, for that matter), but I’m sure we’ll find great things to do.  And this time, I won’t forget to bring my camera, like I did last time.

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Now I’ve experienced a German buffet…

So…  Now I can say I’ve been to a German buffet.  Until tonight, I didn’t realize such a thing existed here in Deutschland.  I thought it was strictly an American thing.  But no, if you know where to go, you can eat like a horse for not so many euros.  And now that I’ve done it, I don’t know if I want to do it again.  But I am very happy to share my experiences for the curious.

You may be wondering how Bill and I wound up eating at the Restaurant Waldachtal tonight.  It’s quite simple.  I fell prey to Facebook advertising.  Bill and I currently live in Unterjettingen, which is on the edge of the Black Forest.  I get ads for businesses in this area.  One ad that kept popping up on my timeline was for the Restaurant Waldachtal, which is apparently somehow affiliated with a large hotel in the little town of Waldachtal.  They kept advertising their Brazilian Steakhouse night, which looked exotic and fun.  Incidentally, they do the Brazilian thing on Friday nights.  On Saturday nights, they do the “American Buffet” for 18 euros a person.  That, right there, should have been a big clue… as well as the info for bus tours.  Always remember that German style American food often loses something in the translation.

The sign at the bottom of the hill.

Bill has been in Morocco all week and we needed a night out.  We decided to head to Waldachtal, a town that, as the crow flies, isn’t too far from where we live.  It’s kind of southwest of Unterjettingen, on the way to Freudenstadt.  I realize that many of my more local readers will still think this is a really long way from them.  The fact is, they’d be right.  I’m not all that sure that the vast majority of my local readers will want to bother to visit this place unless they are either big fans of buffets or they are very curious about the Brazilian Steakhouse deal (which I confess Bill and I still are).

Shades of Dirty Dancing…

I made an online reservation last night.  That was ABSOLUTELY the right thing to do.  Evidently the “American Buffet” on Saturday nights is very popular and the place was packed this evening.  Not only was the restaurant hosting a wedding reception, there was also a birthday party and lots of hungry families had congregated for dinner.  And yes, at about 7:30pm, a large busload of tourists showed up.

Just getting to this restaurant was challenging, because the GPS tried to put us on a back road that was closed.  Once we took the long way, which wasn’t actually too far from where we live, we managed to find the large restaurant on the hillside.  It kind of has the look of a resort… because I believe it is a resort.  I was catching Dirty Dancing vibes as I climbed the steps to the door.  When we entered the very busy restaurant, we were met by a middle aged woman who appeared to be extremely pissed off and completely over her job.

She stopped and asked us what us what we wanted.  Bill told her we had reservations.  She consulted what appeared to be a repurposed flip chart and noticed our name.  Apparently we didn’t have a table assigned to us because we must have been among the last people to reserve.  She turned to Bill, totally exasperated, and said, “Kein Tisch!” (no table) as she made a helpless gesture with her arms.

I am generally very patient with wait staff because I once waited tables myself and have felt the pain. Still, the place was a zoo and I was wondering if we really should stay for dinner.  Finally, the lady told a younger woman to take us to a table for six.  We would have to share it with another party.  No biggie.

So we sat down, ordered a couple of weizens from a much cheerier and younger waitress, and I went to get my food while Bill hung out at the table and watched my purse.  In order to get to the food, I walked past a crowded bar area, through a foyer, and down a narrow hall that appeared to be half of a wait station.  Then the room opened into a larger dining area where there were several large, empty tables that were probably intended for the people who were arriving on the bus.

As promised, there were plenty of stations full of food.  I found barbecued chicken, hamburger patties, duck, salmon, grilled shrimp, steaks, spare ribs, soups, salads, and sides.  There was also a large dessert station.  I was surprised by the sheer range of food available.  Most of it was pretty good quality… probably better than what you’d find at a typical American buffet restaurant like Old Country Buffet.  I also noticed it wasn’t populated by a lot of elderly people like American buffets often are.  We saw mostly young and/or large families tonight.

Part of the buffet.  There was more to my right and left and behind me.

They had curry and rice.

Salmon…

 

Spare ribs, which were pretty good, and potatoes that were just a hair underdone.

This was what I came back with.  It was more than I could eat.  The chicken was a hit.  The sauce was kind of spicy… spicier than most things I’ve had in Germany.  They had cheese sticks and onion rings, too.  Actually, there was a whole lot of food to choose from and most of it was pretty good quality.

When I got back to the table, Bill informed me that the other folks who were sitting at our table were three young guys under age 20.  I was immediately amused, because I have seen my fair share of young guys eating at buffets.  I had a feeling these three guys were going to chow down.  I was right.  I was alone for a couple of minutes before the guys showed up and our waitress apologized that we had to share the table.  It was not a problem, really.  The guys were perfect gentlemen and kind of funny.

I told Bill I could see a stiff martini in his future.

 

There was a birthday party going on near our table, so there were a number of kids.  This restaurant is, by the way, very kid friendly.  I think kids, as a rule, love buffets.  Imagine… they don’t have to wait; they can eat whatever and however much they want; and they are guaranteed dessert.  In any case, because there were kids near us, we did have a few who entertained us.  One little boy stopped and stared at us for a couple of minutes.  Maybe he was puzzled because we were speaking English.  Another girl, dressed in a fluffy pink frock with silver sparkles, had an ice cream cone and was entertaining herself and a few peers by holding the cone under a bright lamp and watching the ice cream melt.  We got to hear them sing Happy Birthday in German and watched as the one year old birthday girl blew our her candle.  The older kids enjoyed multiple ice cream cones.

And, of course, there were the young, fit looking lads who were sitting with us.  They knew we were American because Bill warned them.  I watched them each eat a large plate full of food.  Then, they got up and headed back to the buffet.  I said, “Bill, do you think they will come back with more meat or dessert?”

Bill and I both agreed they were going to load up on meat.  Sure enough, that’s what they did.  One of the smiled at me and said, “Round two.” as he dove in to another big plate of food.  I don’t remember ever being able to eat like a young man, but I have watched a few of them put away some food.  It’s always funny because they are obviously able to burn it off.

One of the young guys was wearing this jacket.  I had to take a picture of the tag, because it was in English and rather amusing…

Bill got me dessert.  I asked for a little tiramisu, but he brought that with a couple of cookies and a small scoop of raspberry ice cream.  Always the provider!  The tiramisu tasted good, but it was a bit heavier than what I’m used to.  I wonder if they used quark instead of mascarpone cheese…

 

As we were eating dessert, the young waitress came back and told the young guys that she had a table open.  They moved to a new spot, so I don’t know if they went back for thirds.  She needn’t have bothered, though, because Bill and I were about done anyway.  We just happened to get there first.  We told the pissy older waitress that we wanted the check and she rolled her eyes, but apparently passed on the message to our younger, pluckier, server.  After about fifteen minutes or so, the cheerier lass showed up with the bill, which came to 43 euros before the tip.  After Bill paid, she gave us a coupon worth five euros off our next visit.  Don’t know when that will be, but it was a nice gesture.

Bill is thrilled.  He had to double check to make sure he didn’t try to pay in dirhams.

 

While we were waiting to settle up, I remarked that the Restaurant Waldachtal reminded me a little of the Marketplace at the Edelweiss Lodge in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.  It sort of has the same ambiance, with murals on the walls, a gazebo, and a “beachy” themed area near the bar.  The food is mostly better than what I remember at the Edelweiss and it’s a bit cheaper, but the ambiance is very much the same.  It’s loud and raucous, like a college dining hall or… perhaps the AAFES food court.  But, I will say, I thought the chicken was good and the spare ribs were decent.  The steak appeared to be of dubious quality.  The burgers were very thin and unimpressive and, if you wanted cheese, it wouldn’t be melted, but you could have as many burgers and steaks as you wanted.

We may try this restaurant again on a Friday night, just to see if their Brazilian Steakhouse experiment is worthwhile.  I doubt we’ll do the American Buffet again, but now at least I can tell people that I’ve been to a German style American Buffet and lived to tell the tale.  And, if you happen to be near the Black Forest and like buffets, maybe it would be worth visiting.  Just make sure you reserve first, especially on a Saturday night.  Tonight, the place was packed and, even though we had a reservation, we wondered for a couple of minutes if we would be seated.  Frankly, my guess is that most of the Americans around here would probably do better to look elsewhere.

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I was expecting better from Pier 51…

Every once in awhile, I run across a restaurant in the Stuttgart area that gets talked about a lot.  I had heard a lot about Pier 51, a restaurant that is part of the same group that owns Cube, an expensive and highly regarded restaurant downtown.  Bill and I dined at Cube in January and had a good experience.  I kept hearing how great Pier 51 is.  Yesterday, I decided to book it, thinking we were going to have a fancy night out.

Well… tonight was definitely memorable.  We didn’t have a horrible experience, but it definitely could have been better than it was.  Some of what happened was beyond the staff’s control, but I found the service to be a bit off tonight.  I was also feeling a bit tired and out of sorts, which didn’t help matters.

We arrived at the restaurant at about 6:00pm, which is when we made our reservation using Pier 51’s online system.  There are several parking spots behind the restaurant as well as a garage.  We got there early enough that there were plenty of spots in the lot behind the restaurant.  For those who prefer public transportation, there’s a U-Bahn stop right across the street.  So kudos to Pier 51 for that.

Willkommen…

Pier 51 is convenient to the U-bahn.

We walked into the restaurant and I immediately smelled truffles.  Bill was excited because he was looking forward to trying their truffle fries.  I avoid all things fungal, so I wasn’t as excited.  I noticed all the signs in English and they reminded me a lot of 80s era “Please wait to be seated” signs I might see in a Shoney’s.  The hostess/manager first tried to seat us at a two top next to a large party when there were several two tops open that weren’t near a crowd of people.  I think she caught the look on my face and offered us what appeared to be a good table by a window.  A family of four was seated near us– a couple and their two young, adorable kids, a girl of about four and her little brother, who appeared to be about two.

A waitress came over to take our drink order after dropping off a menu.  Bill ordered mineral water with gas.  She left before we ordered wine.  Her male colleague dealt with us for most of the rest of the evening, but it took him awhile to get to us.  Consequently, we had time to observe the family sitting near us… actually, we had time to listen to their kids shriek.  Apologies to all of the parents of very young kids who might be reading this review.  Bear in mind that I’m almost 45 and don’t have kids, so I’m not used to hearing them do a lot of yelling.  I like kids fine and I understand that they are not really in control of their behavior when they are as young as these two were.  But you know, very young kids have shrill voices that can cut right to your heart and jangle the nerves.  These kids were doing a lot of squealing throughout our meal and their high pitched vocals were anything but adding to the ambiance.

Anyway, the waiter finally came over and we put in our order.  Bill got a Caesar salad.  I got salmon tartar.  We also got surf and turf for two.  We also ordered bearnaise and pepper sauce and sides of truffle fries and macaroni and cheese, all of which cost extra.  The surf and turf is charged based on weight.  We got the smallest portions available.  That proved to be a good plan, since the portion sizes weren’t too huge.

Obligatory shot of Bill before my temper got too short.

 

The waiter brought out fresh bread and raw vegetables.  There was butter for the bread and two kinds of dip for the veggies.  One of the dips tasted like a sweet pepper relish of some kind.  The other was a very tasty basil garlic cream creation.

I didn’t want to load up too much on the bread and veggies, though…

The table with the little kids must have arrived just before we did because they got their food just before we did.  The food sort of kept the tykes quiet, although the little boy (who probably should have been in a highchair) kept standing on his chair.  I cringed as I watched him reach for one of the plates the waiter was delivering.  I used to wait tables myself and one thing you NEVER want to do is try to reach for something the server is balancing.  Fortunately, a disaster was averted and the food was delivered without incident.  However, neither mom nor dad did anything to correct the boy.

Meanwhile, our wine was delivered.  After pouring some for us, the waiter took the bottle and set it on the bar, probably because we were at a small table.  At finer restaurants, it’s customary for the wait staff to pour the wine.  I don’t necessarily mind this practice as long as the wait staff is attentive.  Otherwise, the wine ends up being held hostage… and boy, did I need wine to get through our meal and dull the squawks from the little kids sitting near us.  Bless their hearts.  It was probably way past their bedtimes.

As we sipped wine, I noticed that the window I was sitting right next to offered a view of the outdoor ashtray.  Several people loitered outside finishing their cigarettes and checking their iPhones.  I might not have noticed this if I wasn’t already in a bit of a mood.  Our server came back and brought us the appropriate silverware for the rest of our meal.

My salmon tartar.  This was citrus cured salmon topped with a thick layer of creme fraiche, avocado, and roe with bits of endive.  The green pearls were avocado creme.  This was a pricy starter, but pleasant enough.  

 

Bill had a standard issue Caesar salad.

 

The manager cleared our dishes after we assured her the food tasted good.  We just didn’t want to get overloaded with food before our main course arrived.

A close up of the surf and turf.  We got a petit filet and split a lobster, which came with drawn butter.  The bearnaise sauce was extra.

I had a side of macaroni and cheese, which tasted like it was made of Gruyere cheese.  It wasn’t bad, although I like my mac and cheese made with slightly more pedestrian cheese.  I finished about half.

Bill’s dish looked the same, except for the truffle fries topped with Parmesan cheese.

 

While we were eating, the tykes at the table near us got up and started running around the restaurant.  Their mother half-heartedly tried to corral them at the table.  Dad, who had a rather prodigious gut with a correspondingly flat posterior that didn’t hold up his jeans, stepped outside for a smoke.  He stood in front of the window next to our table and hitched up his pants after rearranging some “stuff”.  Bill laughed at the faces I made, since it was unavoidable for me not to see what he was doing.  His ass was basically flush with the window.  If we ever dine at Pier 51 again, I think I will ask for a table further away from the front windows and not take the one right next to the front door.

Dad came back into the restaurant.  I noticed his wife was dressed in a pretty red dress and heels.  He was dressed much more casually.  Actually, although Bill and I looked nicer than usual, Pier 51 appeared to be a fairly casual place.  Dad’s wardrobe was fine.  Mom was looking like she was hoping for a date.  Dad was looking like he just wanted to satisfy his hunger.  I watched as two parties got up to leave.  Both had kids as young as the ones sitting near us, although the other kids never made a peep.  As the adults with the young kids passed, I noticed as they gave the family a disapproving side eye.  I don’t think we were the only ones who were weary of all of the screeching.

Around this time, our wine glasses were empty.  Our waiter had fallen into the dreaded weeds and kind of forgot about us.  After awhile listening to more shrieks from the kids, I was really wanting wine.  It took some time before anyone noticed we were finished eating and wanting more vino.  Another waiter cleared our plates and asked us if we wanted another drink.  I said we had some wine.  He thought we wanted to order more wine and I had to point out our half full wine bottle sitting on the bar.  I had briefly considered getting up and rescuing it from the hostage situation it was in.

Finally, the manager clued in and came over with the bottle and poured the wine for us.  Then, for some reason, she took the last bit of it and set it back on the bar.  I noticed her go over and say something to our waiter, who eventually came over and apologized.

The family with the kids finally paid and left.  Our waiter offered us espresso on the house, which we gratefully accepted.  The espresso came with little brownies, which was enough dessert for me.  When the waiter asked if we wanted dessert, I said I just wanted to finish the wine.  Then, I watched in amazement as the waiter walked right past the bottle to another part of the restaurant.  He eventually came back and found our bottle for us.  He poured the last bit and we finished it.

Then we sat several more minutes before we could get the waiter’s attention and ask for the bill.  When he brought us the bill, Bill checked it over, noting that it was under 100 euros.  We sure weren’t expecting a check that low, so we flagged the waiter down again.  Sure enough, he’d brought us the wrong bill.  Our dinners came to just over 200 euros.  Bill paid with a credit card and slipped our waiter a tip in cash.

Look… I know parents with young kids want to go out to eat, too.  And kids should go out to eat because that’s how they learn how to behave in public.  These kids might have been tired and I give the parents props for at least showing up at the restaurant fairly early.  However, when you’re paying several hundred euros for a meal, it kind of sucks to listen to high pitched banshee sounds.  We were only in the restaurant for two hours, but it seemed like we were there a lot longer.  I was definitely ready to go.

That all being said… the food was good.  I wasn’t totally blown away by the surf and turf, but the food was attractively presented and tasted fine.  It was rather expensive for what it was, although it’s not so easy to find lobster in these parts.  About a year ago, Bill and I enjoyed a lovely dinner at the now defunct Ocean’s First in Holzgerlingen and I had a whole lobster there that was better than what we had tonight.  But it’s not easy to get a lobster fix in these parts.  I noticed that Pier 51 had lots of attractive looking steaks available, as well as a few other choices for non meat eaters and a couple of fish dishes.  They also have a cheeseburger that was tempting, though it’s hard to justify spending 23 euros on a burger, especially in Germany.

I visited the ladies room before we left and was perplexed to see this portrait in the stall…  

 

Anyway, I’d probably give Pier 51 another chance, although I think I’d go a little later in the evening. And I would definitely ask for a table away from the bar area, even though the bar was attractive.  I did enjoy the 70s era soul music they were playing, especially after the little tykes were no longer screeching along.  They also get points for having show jumping on the TV monitors.

My curiosity is now satisfied.

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Alsace and Burgundy… chocolate and fizz! pt. 3

One thing to know about Ribeauville is that there’s no shortage of places to buy wines there.  There are also a couple of great chocolatiers.  We were determined to stop at Daniel Stoffel, the one on the main drag coming into town.  It wasn’t too far from the apartment, so we walked there.  It was probably a twenty minute stroll.  We walked into the store and a young lad offered us complimentary chocolates.  That’s one way to get me to stay and shop!

We spent another twenty minutes or so looking at the very creatively designed chocolates.  Though this store isn’t dog friendly (which makes perfect sense, since dogs can’t eat chocolate without risk of harm), it is very kid friendly.  There’s a play area for them so you can devote your attention to the chocolate heaven you’re in.  They also have non chocolate candy, though I didn’t spend a lot of time looking at it.

A stork I spotted on the way to the chocolatier.  Storks are EVERYWHERE in Alsace.  I never noticed them until this last visit.

A view of the main drag in Ribeauville.

Wine barrels at Louis Sipp, a major winery in Ribeauville.

Ribeauville has bees!

I had to get a shot of this hilarious sign for dog owners.  They are everywhere in the town.

Beer and chocolate at Daniel Stoffel.

Your little ones will be entertained.

I could have spent hours in that place…  But my ass gets enough presents.

 

Later, we went to Le Giersberg for lunch.  It was a very no frills kind of place.  In fact, although I have been told one has to “work” at having a bad meal in France, this place came somewhat close.  What we had wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t close to the best.

Lunch at Le Giersberg

This was my Quiche Lorraine.  It wasn’t nearly as good as the quiche I had the first time we visited Ribeauville when we had lunch at Chez Martine, another local restaurant.  This quiche didn’t seem set and it was a bit too salty for my taste.  I got the sense they made it while we waited.

Bill had better luck with his smoked duck salad.

But we did save room for dessert.  I had chocolate mousse.  It was a lot like chocolate whipped cream, with chopped walnuts on top.  

 

Bill had creme brûlée.  It was pretty good, but the one I had the following day was much better.

I liked their centerpieces, though.

Outside the restaurant.  We noticed this one took longer to fill up.

 

Later in the afternoon, we decided to buy some Cremant, which is a type of fizzy white wine in France.  It’s much like Champagne, but does not come from Champagne.  So they call it Cremant…  We ventured to Martin Zahn’s caves to get it.

The big winery had art on display, which we checked out.  The prices were pretty high… I think I saw one painting going for about 8400 euros.

But you could simply buy a book if you wanted…

Okay, enough art.

We were there to drop some euros on wine.

We tasted three different Cremants and bought two bottles of each.  The lady who did the tasting for us spoke English.  

I noticed there was a museum and film at this winery, as well as caves.  We didn’t check them out, though.  

But we’ll be back, I’m sure.

Later, Yannick came by to talk to us and show us his other apartments.  He’s obviously hoping I’ll spread the word, which I’m happy to do.  You need a dog friendly place in Ribeauville, Yannick’s your guy!

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Celebrating 14 years in Ireland! Part six

Our train ride back to Dublin was mostly uneventful when compared to the ride to Kilkenny.  We did sit near a woman who appeared to be rather suspicious.  At one point, she sprayed deodorant on her underarms in front of everyone.  She got on the phone a lot and rode with a guy who was telling her about his living situation while also complaining about how much a pair of shorts cost him.  I had a weird feeling that she may have been a lady of the evening, but I can’t be sure of that.

There was a group of ladies who were clearly going out on the town.  They were drinking beer and talking very loudly about their evening plans.  Another lady sat with a group and proceeded to have what sounded like a live Dr. Phil session.  She talked a lot about all she’s done for people and how no one appreciates her.  She even mentioned working with people in prisons and how she went unacknowledged for her work.  I was pretty glad to get back to Dublin and into a cab so we could hit the sack, pronto.

On Sunday, we had big plans to visit the Guinness Storehouse.  I had booked us tickets for the 4:00pm Connoisseur Experience, which involves having a private tasting of several Guinness products.  You pay a bit extra for this experience, but I had read it was well worth the euros.  Also, Bill and I are dedicated beer lovers who enjoy beer tourism, so it was natural that we’d splurge.

After breakfast, I did some writing, then Bill and I thought we might go have tea somewhere.  Unfortunately, although there are places that offer tea in Dublin, they mostly seemed to be booked.  Bill asked someone at the hotel for a recommendation for a place.  We were told we should go to a little place called The Queen of Tarts.  We started walking and ended up in Dublin’s shopping district, which was teeming with people.

I spotted this sign on the way downtown.  I thought it was interesting.  

It was posted right next to this plaque…

Unlike Germany, Ireland allows shopping on Sundays.  Consequently, the whole area was a madhouse.  I don’t generally enjoy being in huge crowds of people, especially when I don’t necessarily know where I’m going.  I did take notice of a couple of really good buskers who were playing music by the stores.  But as we continued to walk, I started feeling cranky and hungry.  We finally ended up at a bar called The Banker’s Lounge.  It had a TripAdvisor seal of approval on it, so I figured we would at least enjoy a pleasant dining experience.  I was half right.

Utility box of some sort painted like a candy machine.

Cool building.

We walked into the restaurant and were directed to a tiny, low table with two little stools.  I have very short legs, so this wasn’t a huge deal for me.  The restaurant itself was rather crowded and, curiously, most of the people sitting in there were speaking Spanish.  Although the bar was typically Irish, the staff definitely weren’t.  But since I really needed some protein, I ordered fish n’ chips and Bill had Irish stew.  

Bill checks out the menu.

My fish n’ chips.  The peas were supposed to be mushy, but weren’t.

Bill liked his Irish stew.  It was made with lamb, though, so I didn’t care for it.  

 

My mood was slightly improved once we’d eaten.  But then I looked up and realized I was having a little crack with my lunch.  This dude was apparently oblivious and I think I had the best view in the house…

Say no to crack.

Anyway… I don’t think I’d eat there again, although it certainly wasn’t my worst experience in a restaurant.

We kept walking toward the Guinness Storehouse and I took some pictures along the way.  Not long after our crack filled lunch experience, we saw The Queen of Tarts.  If we’d only walked a few more minutes, I could have been spared the accidental mooning.

As we approached the massive Guinness Storehouse, I took note of the horses and buggies, as well as  the many taxis waiting for people coming out of the museum.  Trust me… you are liable to be exhausted after you tour the Storehouse.  It’s HUGE.  We had been advised to see the museum before the beer tasting experience, so we started our tour at about 2:00pm.  Having been to a lot of brewery and whisky distillery tours, I already know pretty well how beer is made.  Consequently, we moved through the exhibits on the first floors rather quickly.  I probably would have done that anyway, since the place was so crowded and overwhelming with people.  But then we got to the advertising section, which I found pretty cool…

The Whistling Oyster.  It was whistling when I took this photo.

The Storehouse has a couple of restaurants.  One of them featured some live musicians playing in a corner.  The other one appeared to be slightly more upscale.  Since Bill and I had already eaten, we headed up to the Gravity Bar, which was where we got our free pints.

Check out the crowds!

These guys were crowded around a guy dressed up like a bottle of beer.  At first I thought maybe he worked there, but then I saw him take off his costume.  Maybe it was just a bunch of lads out on the town.  

Bill finally managed to get a pint.

And I snagged this photo of the view.  It’s actually panoramic, but there were way too many people to get more photos.

We went to the somewhat quieter fifth floor to enjoy our suds.

At about 4:00, we waited in a bar for our fellow connoisseurs.  A friendly guy named Ian took us to a hidden bar, where we spent the next hour learning about Guinness.

The Connoisseur Experience was very interesting.  I learned, for example, that the term “P’s and Q’s” came from pints and quarters, which were the measures of beer back in the day.  Our guide was basically great, except he seemed to forget there were a few of us sitting on the other side of the room.  But what he had to say was very informative and he was otherwise an excellent speaker.

And yes, we got to pour our own pints of Guinness, too.

 

As we walked out of the Guinness Storehouse, we stopped to pick up engraved glasses that I’d ordered in honor of our anniversary.  On the way through the line, we picked up a few souvenirs.  You can really go crazy at the Guinness store.  I recommend proceeding with caution!

After we left the Storehouse, we found a cab and another entertaining cabbie.  More on that in the next part.

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