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Our Heidelberger Birthday Holiday! Part four

After a nice “lie in”, as the Brits would put it, Bill and I headed down to breakfast, which I had pre-booked with the room. There are plenty of breakfast options nearby as well as a grocery store, so it wasn’t necessary to have breakfast at the hotel. But I like to try everything I can when I stay in a hotel, and this was a splurge. We were seated outside in the lovely garden area, and a very friendly and professional waitress seated us, brought us coffee, and a three tiered serving tree with smoked salmon and roe and mustard dill sauce, cold cuts, and cheeses. She also brought a basket of bread. There was a buffet in the dining room, but I never even looked at it, because she also offered eggs and bacon, which we did order. The orange juice was excellent– fresh squeezed– and if we’d wanted it, we could have had sparkling wine. I passed on the wine at breakfast to give my liver a much needed break.

I think my favorite item at breakfast was the excellent smoked salmon. The mustard dill sauce that came with it was a perfect accompaniment. Here are a few photos from breakfast.

After breakfast, it was back to the Hauptstrasse, which was bustling with activity. It felt strange to be among so many people after hanging out with Bill alone for most of the year. We headed for the Neckar River, which famously runs through Heidelberg. We know this river well, because it also flows down near Stuttgart. The Neckar is a major right tributary of the Rhein River, which is probably Germany’s most famous. The Neckar passes through some pretty awesome German cities. According to Wikipedia, one can see and sail the Neckar in: Rottweil, Rottenburg am Neckar, Kilchberg, Tübingen, Wernau, Nürtingen, Plochingen, Esslingen, Stuttgart, Ludwigsburg, Marbach, Heilbronn, and Heidelberg.

There were several boats available for tours. In the distance, we noticed the Patria, which is a ship operated by the other spendy hotel I had considered booking. One can book a very special floating meal on that vessel, which cruises the Neckar. Maybe if we get a chance to go back to Heidelberg, we’ll try the Heidelburg Suites and take a cruise. Hopefully, the pandemic will be even more controlled by then. It looks really nice. Here are some photos from our morning walk.

Once again, we were steaming hot after our walk, which was pretty leisurely. We went back to the hotel and Bill booked us a slot at the pool. Because of COVID-19 regulations, it’s necessary to make appointments to use the pool and sauna area. We were assigned 1:00pm until 3:00pm, but when we got there, the spa manager said we could stay until 5:00pm if we wanted to. All we really wanted was a quick dip and a few laps. There were a few other parties who joined us, so we had to be extra considerate about sharing the pool. Only two people are allowed in the pool at a time and they have to be from the same household. Did I mention what a pain in the ass COVID-19 is? Still, everyone was considerate, so it was a nice way to cool off. We were satisfied after about 45 minutes and decided to go find a snack to tide us over before dinner.

Since we had dinner reserved for 7:00, we decided to have a snack to keep us going until then. As we walked along Hauptstrasse, we became aware of a commotion. A man wearing mismatched blue socks had set up a station near the Galeria– a great place to be on a hot day, thanks to the super strong air conditioning that can be felt all the way across the street. He had a dog and a sign asking for money. He was yelling at someone.

My German isn’t so great, but I noticed two people– a young man and an older woman– holding a heavyset, middle-aged woman with straight black hair and many tattoos on her legs. People were crowded around, gawking at the scene. She was screaming and fighting, and I got the sense that maybe she’d been caught shoplifting or something… or maybe had even tried to rip off the guy begging for change. She was wearing what looked like Birkenstock slip on sandals, which had come off her feet during the struggle. The man and woman who were wrestling with her were being humane enough. The guy handed one of her shoes to a bystander, but she slipped from their grasp before she managed to put them on. The woman took off running barefoot down a side street, and she quickly disappeared.

One thing I noticed was that no one seemed to be videoing her, which I thought was pretty classy. I think in America, there would be many people training their phones on the spectacle. I don’t know what happened, but it appeared to me that she was up to no good. Someone probably did get a video… but at least it wasn’t everyone.

We stopped at the Dubliner Bar, an Irish pub and hotel. The inside looked really nice. I kind of wished we’d flashed our vaccination paperwork so we could sit in there and listen to the excellent classic rock they were playing– American music in Germany at an Irish pub! But we sat in the Biergarten instead, which was small and lacked umbrellas. The one table in the shade was booked, so I ended up sitting in God’s flashlight for about 30 minutes. Still, it was an enjoyable stop. We used our QR code scanner to see the menu on our phones, although printed menus are also available, of course!

The Dubliner appears to be very popular. The waitress told us the tables in the back were all reserved, probably so people could watch soccer. I think if I wanted to watch sports, I’d rather do it at home. But we were only there for fuel. While I was sitting there, my watch started ringing– probably because my phone was near. This was the first time I ever got a phone call on the Apple Watch. It was the restaurant, Chambao, which is where we enjoyed Saturday night’s dinner. They were calling to make sure we were still coming, since they were fully booked. Apparently, people have a habit of making reservations and not showing up. I assured the caller we’d be there… and boy, did I make a great dinner choice! More on that in the next post.

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A whirlwind trip to Austria, Italy, and probably Switzerland, part 13

Finally, it was Sunday morning, the last day of our three country business/leisure trip.  As is our habit, we woke up at about 6:00am.  Although I initially had a great impression of the hotel in Vevey, our experience having dinner in the restaurant had dampened my enthusiasm a bit.  We probably should have searched for another place to have breakfast; they are definitely available in the area around Grand Hotel du Lac.  But I remembered the excellent experience we had at breakfast on Saturday morning and was hoping another great breakfast experience would make up for our run in with the snotty Swiss waiter from Saturday night (ooh… try saying that three times fast!).

The best shot I managed to get of the lake.

We got dressed and went back to the restaurant.  We waited a few minutes until another young man, not the one from Saturday night, greeted us and invited us to take a seat.  We chose the same table where we sat the night before.

We were the only ones in the restaurant at 8:00am.  That’s probably because the hotel has a brunch from 12-3pm on Sundays.  I bet it’s very expensive, though I have read that the food is excellent.  We needed to get on the road, though, so we opted for the regular breakfast buffet.  Instead of coffee, I asked for hot chocolate.  I figured since we were in Switzerland, the hot chocolate would be something to write home about.  Alas, it wasn’t.  The waiter brought out a cup of steamed milk and three sachets of hot chocolate powder, one of which was Ovaltine.  I haven’t had Ovaltine since I was about twelve years old.  Maybe I should have asked for a shot of Bailey’s Irish Cream on the side.

“Hot chocolate”…  Now I know how real southerners felt when I waited on them at The Trellis in Williamsburg and invited them to sweeten their iced tea with the sweeteners in the caddy on the table.

Anyway, I decided not to order anything else special.  I noticed that unlike the awesome lady who had run the breakfast on Saturday, Sunday morning’s waiter had not put out labels for the food items.  I ended up being affronted by a chafing dish full of grilled tomatoes and sauteed mushrooms.  This is not a huge deal… I only mention it because the other lady had paid such great attention to detail, while the young chap serving us yesterday seemed to still be learning.  However, I give him credit for being very pleasant and not irritating us.

Also, I noticed that the plates stacked in the plate warmer were much warmer than the ones on Saturday.  The pat of butter I struggled to put on my plate ended up melting by the time I sat down.  We also had to use napkins in order to handle the plates.  Again, not a big deal… just a minor oversight that made an impression.  I’m sure there’s a reason why the awesome lady who identified our room number without a hint was working Saturday morning, when more people would be eating breakfast, and the greener waiter was working on Sunday morning, when more people would probably choose brunch.

Melted butter…

Once again, the food quality was very good.  I wasn’t as dazzled by the experience as I was on Saturday morning, but at least I didn’t leave the restaurant annoyed like I did on Saturday night.

We packed up all our stuff and hauled it down to the car.  Bill went in and settled the bill for our two night stay.  The grand total was 1340 francs.  Again, the bill was presented with a box of chocolates to soften the blow.  It was not the most we’ve ever spent on lodging, but it probably was the most we’ve spent for only two nights.  For the most part, we really liked the Grand Hotel du Lac.  I would not hesitate to stay there again or recommend it to others.  If we ever go back to Vevey, I will think about whether or not the deluxe upgrade to the room is worth it.  Had we been in town all day on Saturday, we would have been able to enjoy the lake views.  The sun eventually came out after we got on the train to Gruyeres.  As it was, the times we were in the room we couldn’t see the lake due to the morning fog and it being dark outside when we returned.  Also, we could hear faint strains of the piano player because our room was right over the restaurant, though thanks to Advil PM, it was a temporary nuisance.   On the plus side, the rooms on the first floor had bigger balconies than the ones on the higher floors.

The restaurant also seems to be hit or miss.  We had one really great experience there, one poor one, and one that was about average.  The food was uniformly good, but for what we were paying, I think the restaurant should have been better than it was.

The rest of the staff was very kind and helpful and the property is really beautiful.  In fact, the whole area around Lake Geneva is gorgeous.  I’d love to go back and see more of it sometime.  I think if we have the time and chance to do it, we will return… after we save up some money.

Our drive back to Germany was mostly uneventful, if foggy.  Switzerland is an interesting country.  Since they have so many official languages there, you can see when you cross over to another area.  One minute, all the signs were in French; the next minute, they were in German.  We stopped at a rest stop, which was very bare bones.  Basically, it consisted of a row of unisex stalls that weren’t all that clean and offered no sink for hand washing.  I did spot a spigot on the side of the building.  Maybe that’s for those who want to rinse off.

Swiss rest stop.  At least it was free!

Border…

Blurry German sign.

Bill struggled to distract me from playing with the seatbelt.  He’s a safety freak and I get bored and restless on long car trips.  We eventually made it back to Germany in one piece after crossing the two lane border.  Since it was almost lunchtime, we stopped at a truck stop, hoping to find chicken.  We decided to pass on eating there, since they didn’t have anything that looked especially appealing.  That was a mistake, since we ended up stopping in Horb and couldn’t quickly find anything there.  The one place we tried was booked solid.

We’ll have to go back to Horb and explore it more, though.  It looks like a really interesting town.  Had I not been in a hurry to get home and reunite with our dogs, we might have tried harder to find a spot for lunch.  I did at least get a few photos.

Horb

Weird sculpture.  It smelled like it had served a few public urinators.

I kind of identify with this one…

A black cat followed us…

Overall, we enjoyed our trip.  It was great to be able to get away for awhile and actually do some traveling instead of hanging around Stuttgart.  Our next planned trip is in March, but I’m hoping we can do a short trip sometime before then.  For now, I guess I’ll get back to trying and reviewing local restaurants and attractions!

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Part seven of our Hamburger saga!

Yesterday, we decided to try Sofitel’s extremely expensive breakfast.  Though there are plenty of places around the hotel that we could have tried, I like to see what hotels offer, especially when they charge 30 euros a person!  And I have to admit, Sofitel’s breakfast was very impressive, even though we didn’t come close to eating 60 euros worth of food.

The hotel offers a vast array of juices, cereals, breads, cheeses, cold cuts, and even champagne if you want it.  They also have a buffet that includes scrambled eggs, baked beans, sautéed mushrooms (yuck), several kinds of sausages, bacon, and soft and hard boiled eggs.  They have fruit, yogurt, smoked salmon, smoked trout, and other breakfast delicacies.  Yes, you can have most anything you want at Sofitel’s breakfast, though I didn’t see anything being cooked to order.  Service was pretty good, but not 30 euros good.  Still, they were doing a brisk business.  If we stay there again, we’ll go to one of several local cafes and/or coffee shops.  Starbucks is close; so are several Ballzac outlets (whenever I saw the name Ballzac, it made me think of ball sack– not so appetizing!).

We had several hours to kill before our flight at 4:25pm, so we checked our bags at the hotel after we checked out and did some more walking around Hamburg.  I took more photos so my iPhoto slide show will be more interesting.  One thing I noticed in Hamburg is that many people there are very tall.  It must be the Nordic influence up there because I saw quite a few women who were at least six feet tall and a lot of men who were even taller.  Bill and I are of Celtic descent and we’re shorties.  I’m about 5’2″ and he’s 5’7″.  We felt like we weren’t done growing.

I also noticed that Hamburg is heavy on designer stores.  I’m sure there are plenty of wealthy people there.  In fact, on the way to the airport, I noticed some very impressive “Victorian” looking homes on the outskirts of town.  But I have to wonder if there really are that many people wanting to spend so much money on clothes and other luxury goods.  I guess there must be, though I didn’t see too many people actually shopping in the stores.  I did see a lot of bored looking security guys standing around in the stores.

I mentioned to Bill that though Hamburg has more bridges than Amsterdam does (and I haven’t yet really seen Amsterdam, other than the airport), the city reminds me a lot of Oslo.  Fortunately, it’s not as expensive as Norway’s capital is, but it is just as cold!  Or at least it was when we were there.  We were told Hamburg doesn’t get so much snow, though, because it’s so close to the water.

After we walked around Hamburg some more, we decided to have lunch.  I noticed a cute little Portuguese place near The Funky Fish and Le Plat du Jour that I wanted to try.  Bill and I headed over there and, boy, did that turn out to be a great ending to our Hamburg adventure!  I think there must be a number of Italian and Portuguese folks in Hamburg because we saw a lot of restaurants featuring either cuisine.  Italian restaurants were especially plentiful.  Curiously enough, we didn’t see many Greek restaurants at all.

Anyway, we headed over to this little Portuguese place called O’ Cafe Central that is well liked by Yelpers and Trip Advisor.  We didn’t check Yelp! or Trip Advisor before we went there.  I just had a good feeling about the place, which was offering a very economical three course lunch special for 10 euros.  We had plenty of time to enjoy a leisurely lunch and when we arrived, I think there was maybe one other party in the place.  By the time we left, it was pretty full.  Obviously, it’s very popular with the local business crowd.  After our lunch yesterday, I can see why.

Service is very prompt and friendly, though I don’t think either of the two ladies who helped us were English speakers.  To be honest, though, I found that kind of refreshing.  It forced me to use my fledgling German skills.

The view from our table before the place got busy.

Yesterday’s special included a white bean soup with bacon.  This soup was delicious and filling!  It reminded me a little of peanut soup, though I didn’t see peanuts listed as a starring ingredient.  It was still a very nice soup for such a chilly afternoon.  

We had a choice between a salmon filet or turkey medallions.  I had the salmon, while Bill had the turkey.  We both really enjoyed our main courses.  My salmon came with some kind vanilla scented fruit.  I’m not sure what it was (ETA: it was pumpkin).  Bill thought it was squash at first, but it was too sweet for that.  It could have been apricots.  Honestly, all I know was that whatever it was, it was delicious!

Bill’s turkey medallions were more savory, served with snap peas and rice.

Our specials came with dessert.  My mouth is watering looking at it right now… They were like little eclairs with raspberry coulis and cream.  Very nice!

We finished up with espresso… all told, our check for our lunch, which included a half liter of house red wine and a bottle of San Pellegrino, was about 32 euros!  That made up for our overpriced breakfast!

Outside the restaurant…

O’ Cafe Central was bustling by the time we left.  That’s another restaurant I would not hesitate to enjoy again in Hamburg.  Had we not liked the lunch special, we could have ordered off the menu.  We saw people doing that and what was being served looked excellent.  Service was fast, friendly, and very pleasant.  Yet another culinary jewel!  And if you like Portuguese beer, you’re in luck… they have Sagres!

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