Our pandemic dog rescue story… part four

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I have mentioned before that I think Austria is an extremely beautiful country. We haven’t spent enough time there, which is a shame, because it’s a small country that has huge things to offer. I love the scenery there. There are enormous mountains, babbling brooks, Dirndl clad ladies and men in Lederhosen, and lots of great food. I like Austrian food more than German food. Yes, there is a difference.

It seems like Austrian food has a little dash of Italian to it… and it also seems like there’s more variety to it. It’s not just Schnitzel, sausages, Spatzle, potatoes and cabbage. And yes, I know I’m inviting criticism from my few German readers for writing this. But I also know that some of them are reading because they want to know what things look like from an American point of view. Well, I am American, and this is my point of view, even if it’s not entirely accurate. You know what they say about perspectives. I know Germany has a variety of different specialties throughout the land, but for some reason, Austrian food just seems slightly different to me. Not that we had much of a chance to eat it during this whirlwind trip.

I was expecting Bill to stop for lunch. He never did. I don’t know how he hasn’t learned in almost eighteen years of marriage that it’s good to take a break. On the other hand, there weren’t that many appealing stops on the way down to the Slovenian border. We did stop at one place so I could pee. It was pouring down rain, though. I also remember having to pay a toll of 12,50 euros before we could go through Katschburg Pass. Bill was freaking out because the toll was done by machine and it wouldn’t accept his Bar (cash). I told him he should just take his time. People would have to wait. It’s not like they don’t make us wait when they have business to attend to.

Anyway, as we approached the border, we ended up on a narrow mountain road behind some guy who didn’t seem to know which was was up. There were many wrong turn signals, a few weaves and bobs in the road, and slow speeds. The drive over the mountain was very beautiful. The leaves are turning, so the colors were dramatic against the stormy skies. There’s a bunker museum on the mountain road. We saw a lot of signs and had we not had Arran and it hadn’t been raining, it would have made for an interesting stop for Bill. It was built during the Cold War to make sure no one from former Yugoslavia would cross into Austria and raise a ruckus. Again… I would love to visit Kransjka Gora again, so maybe someday we’ll get a chance to visit.

Here are some photos from our drive down from Salzburg.

We rented an “apartment” for our night in Slovenia. I didn’t realize it was really more of a hotel apartment. We told the proprietor that we’d be there at 2:00pm, since they told us they needed an hour to get to Kranjska Gora. We actually arrived earlier than 2:00, but for some reason, it didn’t occur to me to message them through Booking.com. We just waited for a car. Well… first, Bill went to a tiny grocery store near the apartment and picked up a few essentials. Kranjska Gora is very close to both the Italian and Austrian borders. It must have been interesting to live there when Slovenia was still part of a closed society.

After we picked up a few items, we went back to the suite hotel and met the young lady who showed us our digs for the night. For about 86 euros, we got a little place with a bed, a sitting room, basic kitchen facilities, and a bathroom with a tiny shower. It was very clean and had what we needed, but it wasn’t quite as nice as our place in Salzburg. The floors were tile, which makes for easy cleaning, but chilly quarters. Still, it was just fine for a night and the price was right. Checking out was equally a breeze. All we had to do was dump the trash and leave the keys on the kitchen table. That was perfect for our purposes. The place we stayed was called G&F apartments on Booking.com, but it was in the Hotel Klass building, which is very close to the town center. I prepaid for the room and we had to pay four euros for the tourist tax. There wasn’t a pet fee and Arran was definitely not the only dog there.

Our original plan was to get Noizy at about 8:00pm, as that was when Meg was supposed to arrive with him and two other dogs who got new homes. Another American couple, based at Ramstein, I believe, were coming down to pick up a dog for themselves and transport another to a German family in Bavaria (I think). That other couple turned out to be a godsend. More on that in the next part.

Strasbourg’s annual wine extravaganza! Part six

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Sunday morning, we had breakfast and headed back to the wine expo to pick up our wines. I was a little nervous about how we were going to pull it off, since the venue had few parking spaces locally. Bill found a parking garage a short distance from the convention center… short distance, that is, if you’re not carrying a lot of stuff.

There was a guy selling little wheeled “chariots” made in China. We bought a blue one, which helped us a little. The guy warned Bill about not putting his wallet down, since pickpockets abound. I laughed at that and the guy said he was being serious. I didn’t explain that back in December, we were victims of a tire slashing scam at a French rest stop. So unfortunately, we are all too aware that there are crooks in France, although fortunately no one managed to steal from us after vandalizing our tire.

Our “chariot”. It says Paris on it, but it’s really from China. You can take the pouch off and it will take five boxes. With the pouch on, it will take three.

Saturday night, Bill managed to break one of our souvenir wine glasses, so we only had one with us yesterday. We stopped by the Loire Valley guy’s booth, got our two boxes, which took up most of the room in small wheeled chariot we bought. Bill decided to take the Loire wines and the wines from the Languedoc to the car while I waited. When he came back, we were going to go pick up the wines from southwestern France and get out of there. It wasn’t quite as crowded as it was Saturday, but I wasn’t sure how long I could take the crowds.

We hadn’t really intended to buy more wine, but I spotted another booth that was offering Pommard wines from Burgundy. We discovered Pommard a few months ago, when we went to Beaune on our way to Nimes for Christmas. Although it’s not a cheap wine to purchase, the flavors are wonderful… spicy, complex, tasty reds are my favorite. So although it was a splurge, we ended up buying another box of six wines. Then we bought three more from Corsica… all of which fit nicely in our new chariot. We took it all back to the car at the distant parking garage, marveling at the huge hauls some other people had. One lady in the wine group I run said she bought 131 bottles!

All in all, I enjoyed our visit to the wine expo. If we’re still here next year and don’t have somewhere else we want to see even more, maybe we’ll go next year. We did have a good time, and I really enjoyed Strasbourg! I can see why people make day trips from Stuttgart, though. If you stay the weekend, you can wind up with a huge haul. One other useful but of information– the wine expo is dog friendly. I saw at least two people with their four legged friends with them. I’m not sure I’d want to bring Arran to such a chaotic place, but if you are inclined to bring your dog with you, apparently it’s alright to do so.

After our wine expo adventure, we went back into Strasbourg for lunch. I was thinking maybe we’d go to a restaurant outside of town, but Bill parked at the museum near Petite France, a charming area of Strasbourg where all the tourists hang out. We parked and walked toward the area, catching the aroma of garlic outside a Venetian restaurant called Marco Polo. Once again, according to reviews, it’s a mediocre place. We managed to have a good time, anyway.

A slender woman invited us to sit down and we ordered a couple of large draft beers. The menu consisted mostly of pizzas and pasta dishes. I thought I’d order grilled fish, but I would up with tagliatelle con salmone. Bill had basil pesto risotto with grilled shrimp. I had read that the service in this place is mediocre, but we didn’t have that experience. And the food, while nothing earth shattering, tasted fine. I’d go back, although I think next time we go to Strasbourg, we’ll make an effort to make reservations at some of the notable restaurants.

We took a brief walk around Petite France to burn off lunch. It really is a cute part of town. In some ways, it reminded me a little bit of Tuebingen in Baden-Wuertemberg, Germany, although I didn’t see any punters.

After a little more walking around, we went back to the hotel and I guess I was more tired than I realized, because I was soon sound asleep. I took a nice long nap while Bill did some reading. Then, we ordered room service from the hotel and I watched yet another crappy 80s era movie on YouTube starring Kristy McNichol, and her brother, Jimmy. I guess we’re getting old.

Our drive home was pretty uneventful. After we checked out, we headed back to Germany in the rain. The border was maybe ten minutes from our hotel, and we were back home well before lunchtime. I think we’re going to have to visit Strasbourg again, even if it’s just for a few hours. It really is a very charming city and it has a different vibe than Germany does, even though it’s so close.

As for the expo… we learned a few things about that, too. I think if we go back, we’ll bring a nice heavy duty dolly and several bungee cords with us. Maybe even one that folds up. I don’t see us buying 100 bottles or more at a time, but I could have done with a few more stops on the wine tasting trail. I also think I might plan well in advance and maybe even stay at the Hilton, even though where we stayed this time was very charming and service oriented. For serious wine buying, you can’t beat the convenience of the Hilton! Besides, we’re HHonors members and could use some points.

And finally, I think it might be time to look for another wine rack for our house… I guess I’ll do that while Bill enjoys his latest TDY!

Strasbourg’s annual wine extravaganza! Part one

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Well, we finally did it. After a total of 7.5 years of living in Germany, Bill and I finally visited Strasbourg, France, for more than a couple of hours. And we finally went to the annual wine expo I’ve been hearing about for years, now. Although I run a local food and wine group on Facebook and I’ve never made a secret of my love for wine and beer, Bill and I have somehow always missed Strasbourg’s big wine convention, which takes place every February. This yearly event, which has been going on since 1994, brings together hundreds of vintners from all over France. And since we never know when our time in Europe might end, Bill and I decided this year we’d attend.

We weren’t sure we were going to make the expo until the last minute. Bill has to go away this week and will be leaving in a few hours, after he picks up Arran from the Birkenhof Tierpension, which has become our go-to dog hotel since we moved to Wiesbaden. Then I was concerned about where we were going to stay, since I wasn’t at all familiar with Strasbourg and I worried that hotels would be full. But it all came together nicely and I am happy to say we had a great weekend, complete with extraordinarily warm, sunny weather. I had originally given some thought to staying on a house boat in Strasbourg, but I figured the weather wouldn’t be good. As we were leaving this morning, I told Bill that we could have had a great time on the boat. We had sunny skies and balmy temperatures in the 60s! I didn’t even need to wear a sweater!

The first thing we did to prepare for our trip to Strasbourg was order a sticker for the car. France, like Germany, now requires stickers for cars traveling in certain cities. Strasbourg is one such city that requires the sticker. It costs 7 euros, and comes in the mail, but since our trip was coming up so soon, we had a printout of our proof of purchase on the dashboard of the car.

Bill took Friday, Valentine’s Day, off from work, dropped off Arran at the Hunde Hotel, where he was left in capable hands and the promise of hanging out with a beagle girlfriend he’s had since we lost Zane. I was glad to hear she’d be staying at the pension, too, since they make good roommates. Then we loaded up the Volvo and got on our way. Strasbourg is only about 2.5 hours from Wiesbaden, which makes it a super easy place to get away to for a weekend break. We were actually closer to Strasbourg when we lived near Stuttgart, but always wound up being lured by Alsatian wine country. Now that I’ve spent a weekend in Strasbourg, I think it’ll be hard to choose between the two areas when we need to get out of Germany but don’t want to travel too far.

Our trip to France mostly took place in Germany. We made just one stop, at a truck stop that was a lot closer to France than we were expecting. In retrospect, we probably should have just continued to France and had ourselves some Alsatian goodies. But we did stop, and I took a few photos…

Our lodging…

I booked Hotel des XV for our three night stay, a four star establishment on the east side of town. I booked the hotel because it got really excellent reviews on Trip Advisor and Booking.com, but it also had more of what I was looking for than other places I researched. Since Bill and I not getting any younger, we like to stay in nice hotels with good service. We don’t mind paying a bit more for better quality.

Hotel des XV is located in a quiet residential area, very close to the Orangerie Park and several consulates. It’s not in the thick of town, and there aren’t any restaurants closeby, although there is at least one grocery store within reasonable walking distance and, in fact, it’s possible to walk into town in about 30 minutes or so. There’s also a bus stop right outside the hotel’s gate, although the bus stops running at 9:00pm.

Hotel des XV has just ten rooms. There’s a free parking lot next to the hotel, although I think it’s for the neighborhood, and not just for guests. I read that the hotel also offers a private garage where one can purchase the right to park, but we never needed to use it.

Breakfast costs 19 euros per adult and includes a buffet with the usual fruits, cereals, breads, cold cuts, and cheeses. They will also make bacon and eggs, if you like. Breakfast for children is 9,5 euros. It’s served in a lovely front room that also serves as a fully stocked bar, which also offers small plates and room service.

Two classes of rooms are available, superior and deluxe. I booked us a deluxe room, and we were in #3. It was not a big room, but it was nicely appointed with a king sized bed, desk, free WiFi, and a flat screen TV. The bathroom had a good sized glass enclosed shower with a wide head. We were very comfortable there for three nights.

From the moment of our arrival at about 3:00pm on Valentine’s Day until our departure at about 8:30am on President’s Day, we got mostly friendly, attentive service from the staff at Hotel des XV. I was even greeted in a welcome card, written in German. I guess they thought I was German because we booked from Germany. All of the staff members spoke excellent English, though, so kudos to them for that!

The only hiccup in service was when we came back late on Friday night and couldn’t get into the hotel. They had changed the code to the lock since we’d checked in that afternoon. Consequently, the door wouldn’t open and we had to call reception at about 10:30pm… it made a racket and took the guy several minutes to respond. Edited to add: I see now that they sent me an email about the new code, but it went to my spam folder.

I was already pissed because Bill made me walk back from town, so I was a bit irritated about having to wait outside for the door to be opened. More on that in a later post. For now, here are some pictures of the property!

For three nights with breakfasts each morning and room service last night– a bottle of wine and two small plates– we paid about 630 euros. Not cheap, but it was cheaper than the houseboat would have been, and a very comfortable stay. I’d definitely book there again. This hotel, by the way, is also pet friendly, although pets don’t stay free of charge. Fair enough… and maybe someday Arran can come with us to Strasbourg, which is as dog friendly as the rest of France is.

Our first French Christmas, part nine…

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Yesterday morning, Bill got a phone call from ADAC. The person who called him wasn’t a very good English speaker and made it seem like we might have to wait another day for tires. The owners of our gite told us they had a booking for Tuesday night and I knew that if tires had to be ordered, we would possibly be stuck in Beaune for a couple more days. Then, just after ADAC called, the owners of the gite told us that they’d gotten a last minute booking and needed us to check out. In retrospect, I probably should have just booked the two nights myself through Booking.com, but I hadn’t expected them to give us a free night. I thought we’d just book directly.

Since we didn’t know if we’d be able to get our tires in time, I hastily decided to book a night at La Maison de Maurice, another dog friendly property in downtown Beaune. It was a non-refundable booking, so we were committed. Then ADAC called and said they had tires for us. Bill took the car to a tiny French garage and we were set to go by 11:30am. Figures.

We could have just eaten the cost of the hotel room and gone home yesterday, but Bill and I were a bit exasperated and in no mood to travel. Another night in Beaune would give me the chance to see and review another lodging, and we could just relax and unwind.

La Maison de Maurice turned out to be a really nice place. It’s an “apart-hotel”. I think they have a couple of apartments and a suite/loft. They also sell wine and offer tastings. For 120 euros a night, it wasn’t quite as economical as the other gite, which was pretty much a whole house with a couple of bedrooms, a kitchen, and a living room. But it was in a great location and the owners were very friendly. The female half of the brother and sister team greeted us and spoke very limited English, but managed to get us set up.

We stayed in a loft, which was very comfortable and kind of cool, except for the very tight spiral staircase. I wondered how in the world they got furniture in that room! It was really tight and steep. Anyway, here are a few photos from yesterday… which proved to me that we missed a lot of Beaune. There’s a whole ‘nother section to the town that we didn’t get to during our tire fiasco or the weekend prior.

As you can see, La Maison de Maurice is right in the thick of town, while Au Miracle du Pain Dore is more on the outskirts. Both are good places to stay for different reasons. La Maison de Maurice is perfect if you want to stay right in town and be near shopping and restaurants. Au Miracle du Pain Dore is great if you need more room and don’t mind walking a few hundred meters to town.

Bill went around the corner to a burger place called Gaspard. It gets dreadful reviews on TripAdvisor, but we were actually very pleased with the burgers. They were served hot and promptly, were fresh and juicy, and tasted good. I’d go back for sure. I’m going to have to write them a positive review to counteract all of the one star ratings they have. I’d love to have a Gaspard in my town, although next month, we’ll be blessed with a Five Guys in Wiesbaden (Stuttgart is getting one too).

Bill took the dog out for a walk last night and was pleasantly surprised by a light show. The tall metal columns that I thought might be toilets were projectors scattered around the city. And they were shining beautiful, colorful holograms on certain buildings. Here’s a link to one woman’s pictures, which are a lot brighter and prettier than the one Bill shared with me– the featured photo. Now I wish I’d gotten up and gone walking with them. I bet I could have gotten some shots with my real camera, which rarely gets used thanks to how easy the iPhone and iPad are to use and carry.

I ended up watching ER, Grey’s Anatomy, and a weird French series that involved a French woman going to St. Petersburg, Russia and working for a circus at Christmas time. I don’t speak French at all, and all three of these shows were in French. I had seen the ER episodes, but never watched Grey’s Anatomy, and was mostly guessing with the French series, which was oddly entertaining.

This morning, we got up and enjoyed a very fresh French breakfast of croissants, bread, yogurt (for Bill), fresh fruit, coffee, butter, jam and juice. The proprietor seemed very taken with Arran, who was a perfect gentleman. I was so proud of him. We went to check out and he didn’t ask for my credit card, which was surprising to me. Booking.com had not given me the chance to pre-pay for the room; I could only reserve it. But it said if we didn’t show up, we’d still have to pay. I was under the impression that they had my card info, since he seemed to be saying goodbye to us, but the guy came running after us after we left. So Bill went back and paid the hotel, then we got on our way.

It was about a six hour drive, completely uneventful… we made a stop in Moselle, where we found a KFC and had no problems with tire punchers. KFC in Europe isn’t as good as it is in the States, not that it’s all that good there, either. But at least it wasn’t a burger… I meant to take a picture of the Bob’s Big Boy statue a restaurant on the outskirts of Beaune had out front. It was very campy! Those of us who remember Bob’s Big Boy in America will get a kick out of it. Maybe next time!

By the way, straws in France are now made of paper. But they don’t seem as gung ho about recycling their bottles as Germans are.

Anyway… that about does it for my French Christmas series. I will follow up tomorrow with my usual top ten things I learned post… and this time, although we didn’t go to a lot of restaurants or visit a lot of sights, I sure as HELL learned a lot. I might have to make it a top fifteen things I learned post. Stay tuned!

We went Dutch for MLK weekend 2019! Part five.

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On Sunday, we decided to visit Maastricht.  I really didn’t know what to expect, since I had never been to the city before.  I did know that there aren’t any “coffee shops” open to foreigners in Maastricht.  It’s one of the areas in the Netherlands that has chosen to restrict pot sales to people who aren’t locals.  If you want marijuana, you have to go west.

It was no big deal, though.  Maastricht proved to be entertaining without the benefit of pot.  Not only is the city beautiful, it’s also wide open on Sundays.  Yes, you can go shopping, have lunch, or simply people watch.  There was some kind of race going on there Sunday, so there were several brass bands playing along the route, along with a drum band and a group of violinists.  As a music lover, this really appealed to me.  Despite the bitter cold, I stood there and listened to a group of musicians play “Canon in D” and Vivaldi.  I’m not ashamed to admit that their version of Pachelbel’s masterpiece had me openly weeping.

We parked in a huge lot on the outskirts of town and walked in…

Right off the bat, we heard the thundering sound of drums.  An awesome drum band was beating an infectious rhythm and had attracted a crowd.  The music would be a theme in Maastricht on Sunday, as we ran into a number of bands playing in the street.  

What’s that sound?

 

You can also load up on cheese!  I wish I liked cheese more.

We rounded the corner, just out of earshot of the drummers and promptly encountered a quartet of string musicians.

I often get choked up when I hear really well played live music.  I was listening to these people with tears streaming down my cheeks.  They played so well out in the cold and their music went straight to my heart.

As you can see, other people were affected by the music, too.  

We reluctantly moved on, because it was so cold and Bill needed to get some cash.  I managed to get a few more pictures as we searched for an ATM.  We were looking for lunch and a place to pee.

Our route took us past the runners and several more excellent brass bands!

We walked through one area near a mall and several very touristy looking restaurants.  One alley smelled distinctly of cheeseburgers, which was kind of strange.  But then I noticed we were near a McDonalds.

And these guys were playing jazz… I loved that they had a tray of empty beer glasses nearby.

 

Just as we encountered our fifth musical ensemble of the day, I turned to the left and we found a place to have lunch…

 

I have a knack for finding good places to eat.  There are a few things I look for.  Mainly, I like places that aren’t either too crowded or too empty.  I prefer them to be off the main drags.  And it doesn’t hurt if it smells good outside of the restaurant, too.  A lot of people were sitting outside, despite the cold weather.  I didn’t want to sit outside, but Bill was about to bust.  So we walked inside De Twee Heeren, which turned out to be a pretty awesome bar/restaurant.  They were playing good music and had menus in English, as well as places to sit.  We ended up spending a couple of hours in there, enjoying lunch, good Dutch and Belgian beers, and fun music.

Obligatory menu shot of Bill.  They had a number of appealing choices, everything from steaks to falafel.

 

Bill had what amounted to a “sauerbraten stew”.  It came with a big basket of frites and a salad.

 

I had fish and chips.  I considered a few of the other choices and actually had some trouble deciding, but since the Netherlands is a sea faring nation, I figured the fish and chips would be good.  And they were!  I even tried the fries with mayonnaise.  That’s how they eat them…  Not bad at all, though a little bit of mayo goes a long way.

 

Bill had a double espresso while I enjoyed an excellent Belgian brew suggested by the waiter.

And one more for the road.  It’s probably a good thing German beers aren’t this interesting.

 

It was late afternoon by the time we were finished at De Twee Heeren, so we decided to get some cheese for Bill and head back to the dogs.  I might have liked to have tried another restaurant later, but I just can’t eat as much as I once did.  You’d never know it to look at me, though.

This place had lots of free samples, which Bill was happy to try.

Here he’s trying the gouda with garlic.  I think he brought some home.  I found us some beers and waffle cookies, too.  If it turns out he loves the cheese, we can order more.

We headed out of the city and I took a few more photos.

The grand looking building houses the visitor’s center, which sadly, does not have a public toilet.  Fortunately, I found one at a bustling looking hostel with a huge bar.  It was nothing to duck in, which was a huge relief.

So long, Maastricht.  We’ll be back!

 

I missed the lunar eclipse, but did manage to get a picture of the huge full moon.

 

Yesterday morning, we got up bright and early, had breakfast, let the dogs have one more romp with Yogi, and loaded up the car for the drive back to Germany.  Nel was the most awesome hostess and invited us back.  I think she said we were her first real American guests, although she has hosted Canadians.  I’m hoping a few of my American readers living in Germany might visit Vijlen.  I have a feeling we’ll go back, especially if we stay in Germany for much longer.

I love visiting small towns and talking to locals, getting a feel for the real culture.  While we always enjoy visiting big cities, I find that it’s harder to get a feel for the culture, mainly because so many other international visitors are also there.  So, if there’s anything to be learned by this trip, it’s that small towns are worth a look.  They tend to be less expensive, safer, and the locals are more likely to make a connection.  I felt like we’d made a friend when we left Nel’s place yesterday.  I hope this series will inspire a few others to visit her in lovely Vijlen!

We went Dutch for MLK weekend 2019! Part three.

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Saturday morning, we woke to beautiful sunny skies.  The weather in Wiesbaden has been so yucky lately that the sunshine was especially energizing.  The dogs went a little nuts when they saw Yogi prowling around outside, but then Nel invited us to let the dogs play with her in a little paddock.  Zane and Yogi got along beautifully, but Zane gets along with everyone.  Arran needed to warm up a bit, but he also had a great time.  They rolled around in chicken shit and ran like a couple of youngsters.  It’s been awhile since I last saw them play so hard, especially Zane!

Adorable Yogi is eight months of unbridled puppy energy!  She was jumping up to give me a kiss when I took this photo, even though it looks like she’s on the ground.  Who could resist that smile?

Yogi was a great canine hostess!

Yes, the chickens were tempting, but fortunately, they were well protected.

The horses looked on in amusement.

They were so happy that they came running to me when they saw me with the camera.

Arran checks out the henhouse.  No hens were harmed.

I think Zane wanted to play with the chickens.

I already miss Yogi.  She’s so cute!

A picture of the outside of the house.

 

After an extended play session, we brought the dogs inside and went on a short excursion, starting with the St. Martinus boutique winery.  The winery is literally steps away from Nel’s house.  We could have walked there very easily, but we wanted to make a purchase and we didn’t know how much we’d be buying.

The entrance to the winery.  It’s a rather small vintner, but they have a beautiful tasting room.  In the summer, they offer group tours of the facility.

When we arrived at the winery, the parking lot was pretty empty.  Bill parked far away anyway.

By the time we left about thirty minutes later, the lot was fuller.  We even ran into an American couple who appeared to be affiliated with the military, but we didn’t chat them up.  The male half had the air of an up and coming officer.  My guess is that they were Air Force.  😉

 

The very friendly lady behind the counter spoke perfect English and let us try several of the wines, which included several whites, a red, a rose, and a couple of sparkling wines.  They also had beer that had been aged in wine barrels.  We bought several bottles of wine and a couple of the beers.  I had one of the beers last night, and it was surprisingly good.  I was expecting it to be sweet and cloying, but it was actually much drier.

The tasting room, which offers a lovely view of the surrounding countryside.

Bill tastes a sparkling wine.  I never knew the Dutch made such good vino.  The whites were good, and we bought a bottle of red, which was unusual but interesting.  The biggest surprise to me was the rose, which was dry and had a finish that reminded me of buttered popcorn with a little zing at the end.

Beautiful scenery!  This is one thing I miss about our former house near Stuttgart.

 

After we visited the winery, we headed to Vaals.  It’s just a few miles from Vijlen.  There’s a park there where you can visit Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands at the same time.  Although it was sunny on Saturday, the weather was quite cold.  Still, lots of people were visiting and, if we’d wanted to, we could have had lunch there or visited the labyrinth.  There’s also a tower to climb where visitors can get a look at three countries at the same time, hiking trails, and lots of playground equipment for kids.  I expect it gets busy there during the warmer months.  We could have spent more time there and not been bored.

Parking is two euros a day.  When you leave, you deposit your coins into the green machine.

 

A commemorative rock.


Someone brought her horse.  I was jealous.  You can bring your dogs, of course.  We did not bring ours.

 

Bill gets his bearings by looking at the sign.

The entrance to the labyrinth.  If it had been a little warmer, we might have tried it.  I read that it’s a pretty challenging maze.

 

The big tower.  It was too cold for us to consider climbing up, although there is also an elevator.  Maybe next time.

A picture of the labyrinth… again, an activity we might try next time.  

This sign was in Belgium.  It was in French.

 
 
 

And here it is…  three countries, no passports required.  This may not seem like a big deal to some folks, but I’ve never even been to Four Corners in the United States.

 

The Netherlands…

Belgium…

Germany…

 

And one more photo for the road.  The border itself isn’t all that exciting, but there are a few family activities available.

 

We probably should have gone up the tower.

 

We didn’t have to pay for anything besides parking, although there are a couple of restaurants there and I think there is a fee to climb the tower.  The labyrinth is also not free.  I noticed a couple of other restaurants in the area, including one that had its own tower.  We decided not to eat at the park, since there was a Cuban restaurant in Vijlen I wanted, and failed, to try.

Bill took a wrong turn and we took a short jaunt through Belgium, which I thoroughly enjoyed.  I’ll post pictures in the next installment.

We went Dutch for MLK weekend 2019! Part two.

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Off to the Netherlands!

I had let our hostess, Nel, know that we would be arriving sometime between four o’clock and five, since we needed to check our APO box on post.  Bill is going to be out of town for the rest of the week and I can’t be arsed to go to Clay Kaserne to check the mail.  I don’t even have the combination to our mailbox.  That turned out to be a good plan anyway, since we had a few chores to do before we could head for the Autobahn.  From Wiesbaden, Viljen is about a three hour drive, but most of it is on high speed highways.  And unlike Stuttgart, it appears the the Autobahn up here is pretty well appointed.  There are probably more people here than down there, but traffic isn’t as bad.

We had a mostly uneventful, yet beautiful, drive to the Netherlands.  Here are a few pictures I took on the way.

As we got closer to Aachen, I noticed these signs on the side of the Autobahn.  They were names of trees and years.  My German friend explained that they are “trees of the year“.  The count started in 1989 and every year, a new tree and year is erected.  On the Autobahn, you can see the signs from 1989 to 2014, although I saw no evidence of actual trees planted there.  However, they are planted at the Berlin Zoo.  Since 2010, a German “tree queen” is also elected to represent the project.


Another tree…

 

I also noticed this interesting truck, which had artistic depictions of the Crusades painted on it…  

The art was pretty cool looking, although I wouldn’t be surprised if some people were distracted enough to have a wreck at the sight of it.

We stopped here for a little late lunch.  This rest stop has a Nordsee, which had pretty good food.  Since we had the dogs with us, we ate in the car.

I always enjoy the reading material on the stall doors in German rest stops.  They’ll let you charge your phone, but you still have to pay 70 cents to pee.

Thanks for being there, Serways.

We arrived in the Netherlands at about 3:40pm and arrived at our apartment less than 20 minutes later.  Our hostess was waiting for us.

I like how some places have a canopy of trees formed by lines of them on either side of the road.

 

Pretty country on the way in, with rolling hills…  this is the most “mountainous” part of flat Netherlands.

One of the reasons I like border towns is that you can see how countries change.  You cross the border and the signs change, the language changes, and the laws change.  In the Netherlands, I noticed a difference in architecture, with many brick buildings and painted shutters.  And yet we were really just minutes away from Germany.

I remember enjoying our first trip to the Netherlands in 2015 and wanting to go back there, but it was so much easier to go to France from Stuttgart.  Now that we’re in Wiesbaden, I predict a lot more trips to Benelux, where the beer and the chocolate is better.

Below are some photos of our accommodations, which were very reasonably priced.  I paid just 336 euros for three nights in this two room apartment in rolling farmland.  We also paid 9 euros taxes in cash on the way out today.

The living room area… note the very steep stairs.  Our dogs had a little trouble with them at first, but then got used to them.  The bathroom is on the first floor, which makes our middle of the night pees a little less fun.  We left a light on in the living room for safety, although there is a hall light, too.

A washing machine, but no dryer.

The master bedroom has what I presume was a queen sized bed.  This room also has a TV.

These are two twins pushed together, I think.  There is no TV in this room.

Steep!

It’s a little like climbing a ladder.

The dining area is adjacent to the living room and kitchen.  It does not have a traditional oven, but there is a microwave that has a convection setting.  There’s also a dishwasher.

Another view of the bedroom.  It was a bit chilly during our visit, but the bed linens were warm enough.

 

There is a TV in the living room and a broken DVD player.  The are also a few board games like Rummikub and Yahtzee.

This was a hit at our family reunions when I was growing up.  Nice to know the Dutch like it too.

 

But probably my favorite part about the accommodations was the big fenced in paddock.  Our dogs were welcome to run around in the paddock to their hearts’ content.  They were also allowed to play with Nel’s dog, Yogi, an adorable Shiba Inu.  These Japanese dogs look just like foxes and are bred to hunt birds.  Yogi is just eight months old at this writing and she had a good time getting my 9 and 10 year old dogs to play with her.

Nel also has chickens, which were kept very safe from the dogs and foxes, and she offers boarding for two horses who made Zane and Arran bark.  In warmer weather, we could have walked a route around town, stopping at different restaurants and bars for refreshment every few kilometers.

We decided to stay in on Friday night after Bill made a quick run to the grocery store.  After a good first night’s sleep, we did some exploring on Saturday.  More on that in the next post.

We went Dutch for MLK weekend 2019! Part one.

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One of the best things about living in Germany is being able to access so many great countries so easily.  When we lived near Stuttgart, it was super easy to get to France and Switzerland.  Now that we live in Hesse, we live much closer to BeNeLux… that is, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg.

It’s our habit to take quick trips over holiday weekends and, boy, was I ready for a trip.  We hadn’t had a good one since September, when we visited beautiful Lesa, Italy on Lake Maggiore.  Although we’ve had long weekends since September, we spent Columbus Day weekend house hunting in our new town of Wiesbaden.  We spent Veteran’s Day weekend celebrating our anniversary in beautiful Baden-Baden.  We had good times on both of those trips, but sometimes I just need a break from Germany.  Fortunately, it’s easy to cross borders in Europe.

A couple of days before Christmas 2018, I started looking for places to go over Martin Luther King weekend.  I went on Booking.com and started looking at my list of bookmarked places.  Bill and I narrowed our choices down to two– the Netherlands or the Czech Republic.  We flipped a two euro coin and the Netherlands won.

We haven’t yet found a local boarding facility for our dogs, nor have we found our local vet, although we do have ideas for both.  We decided this time, as usual, to bring our dogs, Zane and Arran, with us.  Wherever we went would have to accommodate the dogs.  As I’ve mentioned before, when I look for rental houses or apartments, I look for places that don’t charge extra for dogs.  I’ve found that people who don’t charge pet fees tend to be much more laid back about the dogs and welcome them, rather than simply tolerate them.

I had been curious about the eastern Dutch city of Maastricht, especially since it’s not too far from where we live.  Adding in all of my other criteria, I ended up finding very dog friendly accommodations in a little hamlet called Vijlen, which is just fifteen kilometers from Maastricht and only a few kilometers from the German city of Aachen.

The apartment I found in Vijlen, which is connected to the hostess’s house, is called Hoeve Nelderhof.  It’s within walking distance to the St. Martinus boutique winery, as well as the city of Vaals, which is very close to the highest point in the Netherlands as well as the three country border of Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands!  I love booking trips near border towns, too.  You get more bang for your travel buck when you can access two or more countries.  Vijlen offers access to three!

I had good feelings about our hostess when I let her know we were coming with two beagles.  Her response was that we’d be very welcome.  And indeed, she made it so.  We had a great time in Vijlen, although the weekend was a little too short.  If you’re searching for a dog friendly place to visit, I hope you’ll come along with me on this multi-part series.  As usual, I’m going to start at the beginning and will include links at the bottom of each post.

Cute shoes!

Wiesbaden, take two… the dog friendly housing quest continues. Part two

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I was a bit nervous about our stay at GL Suites.  Check online, and you’ll see this particular property gets some pretty shitty reviews.  I think it’s because people somehow get the idea that the apartments are in downtown Wiesbaden.  The apartment we stayed in was actually in Wiesbaden-Sonnenberg, which is in a residential area on the outskirts of town.  I can see why people hoping to see downtown Wiesbaden would be disappointed in where the apartments are located.  However, for our purposes, the apartment we chose worked out great.

There are two (possibly three if people park tightly and have small cars) free parking spots at the property and plenty of street parking, at least while we were there.  I counted four restaurants within easy walking distance, a bakery, an English speaking veterinarian, and it’s close to Sonneberg, where there’s a cool castle and a huge Edeka with a separate drink market.  Last time we stayed in Wiesbaden, we stayed in a very pet friendly hotel downtown.  Yes, it was nice to be downtown, but when you have dogs, a tiny hotel room is not ideal.  GL Suites wasn’t inexpensive, but it had all the comforts of home and was a lot more practical than the Wiesbaden Town Hotel was.  There’s also public transportation in the neighborhood.

Anyway… we booked apartment one, which came with a whirlpool and a rainfall shower.  We didn’t opt to use the whirlpool.  I was a little tempted last night, but I was also feeling a little under the weather and decided I didn’t want to mess with it.  The rainfall shower was luxurious enough.

Below are some pictures.

Awesome shower and whirlpool!

Living room.  There’s a huge HD TV in there with Sky TV, which gets a few channels in English.

Foyer.  You use an electronic code to access the building and the apartments themselves.

Fully equipped kitchen has an induction stove, oven, and dishwasher.  There’s a table and chairs, too.

Huge fridge and freezer, although I don’t think the water and ice maker work.  They don’t appear to be connected to a water source.

Bedroom.  I think the bed was queen sized.  It was very comfortable.  My only complaint was the street lights outside.  Rolladens or blackout drapes would have been nice, since the lamps shone into the room.  

Couch.

On the first floor, there’s an infrared sauna, a toilet, a couple of pieces of workout equipment (treadmill and elliptical), and a straw bed.  There’s also a barbecue area where you can grill out and eat al fresco.  Bill took the dogs up there because there’s also a trail where the dogs could easily relieve themselves.

I usually try not to book places that charge pet fees, mainly because I find places that don’t charge fees are less anal retentive about dogs.  I didn’t really have a choice this time, since the Town Hotel was fully booked.  We paid 15 euros per dog per night, so 90 euros… It’s a little steep, since I could have put them in the hunde pension for only a few euros more.  But I doubt I would have been able to book them with Max with such short notice.  It was nice having them, too.  I like having my dogs with me, even if they do hog the bed.

For three nights, we paid about $600 to stay at GL Suites.  I’d book there again, now that I know what to expect.  But I can understand people being irate if they were expecting downtown Wiesbaden.  It’s NOT in downtown Wiesbaden.

Below are a few more pictures of the amenities.

Sauna.  We didn’t use it.

Straw bed.

Exercise equipment.

Coffee and drinks…

Towels…

Whirlwind trip to Wiesbaden– our quest to find new dog friendly digs… Part five

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I woke up on Sunday morning with bruises.  Apparently, at some point during the night, I did a little sleepwalking and wound up falling down in the bathroom.  Bill told me this happened at about 1:00am, but I have no memory of it whatsoever.  I will admit that we enjoyed some wine on Saturday night and I was pretty tired when we went to bed.  I also have a history of sleepwalking that dates to childhood, although thankfully, I don’t do it very often anymore.  Anyway, I’m sitting here typing away with purple bruises under my arms and on one of my legs from the spill I took and don’t remember.

Bill says I spoke to him when this happened.  I let out a huge fart and started giggling, then told him not to inhale.  Apparently, I have a sense of humor even when I’m technically asleep.  I read up on sleepwalking.  It usually happens when a person is not in a dream state, and is either very tired or under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

I remember when I used to show horses, for several years, I competed at the 4H State Fair horse show in Virginia.  I always got really tired at that show, as fun as it was, and as well as my pony, Rusty, and I always did.  Rusty was a fan of the big exciting shows and would usually perform well.  One year during that annual show in Richmond, I shared a bed with my riding coach.  I was so tired, but while I was sleeping, I apparently thought I was on my horse.  I sat up and started wavering back and forth, as if I was riding.  My teacher described it as “doing the Watusi”.

I also remember falling out of the bunkbed in my room when I was a kid, and, more than once, getting up in the middle of the night while still asleep, thinking it was time for school.  One time, I even got dressed in a hideous outfit while still sleeping.

Despite my little Unfall early Sunday morning, I woke up feeling relatively well rested.  We decided to use Sunday morning to drive around the area and see if there were any other towns that would be attractive places to live.  I also got my first look at Clay Kaserne, which is where Bill will be working.  Below are some pictures from our drive, which took us all the way to Wöllstein.  One house we keep seeing advertised on Bookoo is located in that town.  We didn’t see the house, since Bookoo is closed on Sundays and we couldn’t access the address.  Also, it appears to be too much like the house we’re already in.  However, I will say that Wöllstein appears to be the kind of town I’d like to find, even if it is a bit too far for Bill’s new commute, and the house is very reasonably priced.

This is wine country…  and I noticed a lot of little wine tasting places just south of Wiesbaden.  I think this is where I want to live.

I have to admit, the mountains in that area are pretty puny… 

 

We also drove through Mainz, which is in Rhineland-Palatinate, just over the river from Wiesbaden, which is in Hesse.  I didn’t get the chance to take any pictures of Mainz, but I am sure there will soon be many pictures in this blog of both places.  Mainz has some jaw dropping architecture and I have read that if you’re looking for nightlife, it’s better than Wiesbaden is.  Bill and I are boring middle aged people who no longer hang out in bars, so Wiesbaden is probably more our speed.  But I do look forward to getting to know both cities.

We went back to the hotel at about 1:00pm, hoping to let the dogs nap while we had lunch at the Thai restaurant right next door to Town Hotel.  Unfortunately, the housekeeper was just about to clean our room, so it wasn’t a good time to let the dogs have their alone time.  We took them with us to Chookdee, the very beautifully decorated eatery next door.  Since Zane and Arran aren’t exactly the most relaxed dogs when there’s food around, we decided to eat at the restaurant’s one outdoor table.

This was our view.  I took a picture of this sign because it looks like something I might want to attend.  We will be in town that day, too.

Obligatory Bill shot…

I had delicious crispy duck with garlic sauce, green beans, cilantro, and lemongrass.  This drove Zane crazy, although he was basically well-behaved for most of lunch.  The waiter, who seemed to enjoy Zane and Arran, had just poured the garlic sauce over the duck and made it steam!

Bill had chicken with coconut milk, peanut sauce, and peanuts.  It was a bit spicy, thanks to the peppers.  I loved Bill’s dish.  Both came with rice, of course.  I saw some really good looking appetizers in their huge menu, but I decided that would be too much food.

Zane was more vocal than Arran was, until some lady brought a little dog past them that made them react.  It took a couple of minutes for them to calm down and one of the cooks at Karim’s came out and gave me a dirty look, which I was happy to return.  He started laughing and went away.  

Arran is turning into quite the little gent.  

I didn’t go inside the restaurant, but Bill said it’s really beautiful inside.  We’ll have to go back so I can eat more stuff with peanut sauce and coconut milk.  

 

I can’t eat as much as I once did, but you’d definitely never know it to look at me.  However, I have to admit the temptation to eat more was there at this restaurant.  I really had trouble deciding what I wanted because there were so many appealing choices.

By the time we finished lunch, the room was ready.  We had a little rest and talked more about how we’re going to make this move happen.  I wish I enjoyed the relocation process more.