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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“That doesn’t sound good.” I said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Baiersbronn in the Black Forest– Bareiss Style! Part eight

Here’s the very last part of my series on the Hotel Bareiss in Baiersbronn. I hope it will be short. I’ll try to make it so, as I will also be doing my customary “top ten things I learned” post, for those who can’t be bothered to read the whole series.

Sunday night, after dinner, we found a letter from the hotel management thanking us for our stay. The letter was in English, but it had a couple of rather glaring errors in it. I know this sounds really “uppity” of me to notice, especially since I understood it perfectly. But, I’m afraid I am a bit of a stickler about such things, especially since so many people speak English at the hotel, and the errors were pretty basic (ie; not capitalizing the word “dear”). Also, this hotel charges out the wazoo, and purports to exact high standards in all things. So I wasn’t very impressed by the letter, which thanked us for staying, offered instructions for checking out, and requested us to fill out a survey, which I was happy to do. One thing that was lacking in the room, or maybe I just never found it, was a pen. Fortunately, other hotels were more generous, and I had a couple in my purse. 😉

I didn’t sleep well the last night, because I woke up at about 3:00 am needing the bathroom. When I was finished there, I was wide awake, which prompted me to look at Facebook. That was a mistake, since that was when I saw the comment about my trout looking like it was vomited on, and that irritated me. I probably should book a meditation vacation next. I need to stop being annoyed by dumb things.

I did finally drift off to sleep again, and we got up at about 7:30 am. We packed everything up before heading off for our last breakfast. Then Bill fetched the car key fob from the “mailbox” in the lobby, so he would have it ready for the porter who came to help us with our bags. The same very kind gentleman in the green blazer arrived quickly to load us up and get us on our way. I took a couple of photos of the minibar, which I never managed to look at during our stay. It was pretty well stocked! I didn’t see a price list, but I’m sure nothing in there was cheap. They did provide us with daily waters and fruit. I took the fruit home, since I knew they would be throwing it out, anyway.

Bill settled the bill, which came to about 4800 euros. That was for the room, half board, a la carte dining, drinks, tips, taxes, an energy surcharge (thanks Putin), and parking in a private garage. Yes, it was a lot of money, but it was less than we would have spent on a luxury cruise. We don’t do big ships– we do smaller lines like SeaDream and Hebridean– and if we ever cruise again, we’ll probably do a French barge cruise. We would have easily spent more than that for a week on a boat, plus we probably would have had to fly to reach the vessel. This was a lot like being on a cruise, but having access to our car. I like not being a captive audience!

Thankfully, right now the dollar is in the very rare position of being worth more than the euro is. So actually, we spent about $4700. What a bargain! 😉

Of course, you don’t have to spend that much to enjoy Baiersbronn. The area has a bunch of lodging options to fit any budget. In fact, I was looking at another hotel– four stars– that is rated higher than Bareiss is on TripAdvisor. Because it has fewer facilities, it’s less expensive. And it is important to note that in Europe, five stars doesn’t necessarily mean service is five star. The stars indicate the facilities available and supposed luxuries. So you could stay at a perfectly basic but wonderful one star hotel that just offers a bed and a toilet. Or you could stay at a really shitty five star place that has a big pool and a business center. Keep that in mind.

I do think the Bareiss Hotel is a beautiful property and, for the most part, I was very pleased by the service. Most everybody was very pleasant, and the facilities are very good. My only quibble was that some of the decor was kind of dated looking to me. The color scheme included a lot of pinks, greens, and mauves, with lots of gold fixtures, if you catch my drift. Yes, it’s a hotel with a long history, having been founded in 1951 as the Kurhotel Mitteltal by Hermine Bareiss, and the quaintness is part of its charm. But there were a few areas that looked like they could use a coat of paint or maybe an updated color scheme. Of course, making those changes would result in higher prices.

I did love the uniforms everyone wore. The dirndls were especially pretty, and it looked like they had several styles. I don’t like wearing uniforms, but I would feel beautiful in some of the dirndls they had for the ladies. A dirndl is a rare dress that actually flatters my figure.

Once Bill paid the tab, we got in the car and headed home. Just as we were leaving the valley, the sun came out and there was beautiful sunshine. Figures. It would have been a good day to go to the waterfalls. Maybe next time we’ll make it there. I did get some pictures from the drive out of the Schwarzwald. It’s so beautiful there. I do like Wiesbaden, but it lacks a lot of the landscape and natural beauty of Baden-Württemberg. Since I lived in that area for a total of six years in two and four year stints, it will always have a piece of my heart. I feel like I’m going home when I visit BW, even though my actual home is Virginia.

So now we’re back in Wiesbaden, and it’s time to face the music with our sweet Arran. He survived the Hundepension just fine, and is still chipper at this point. I know it’s temporary, but it’s good to see him, and Noyzi who, just today, is celebrating two years of life with us. We brought him home two years ago today. Who knows what’s in store for us? We could have a rough winter. So I’m glad we took this trip. I don’t think I’ll forget our experience at Hotel Bareiss anytime soon… especially since they sent us home with a parting gift.

It’s not Molton Brown, which were the toiletries in the bathroom… in fact, it’s better.

Tomorrow, I will post my top ten things I learned rundown… Hope you’ll read it!


Sweating for $600 a night…

Temperatures in Edinburgh were comfortable, particularly compared to Germany’s recent heatwave. Our cab driver was slightly confused when I gave him the name of our lodging, the Kimpton Charlotte Square Hotel. That’s because the name just recently changed, as the Kimpton chain purchased what used to be called The Principal Edinburgh Charlotte Square. I chose it because Bill and I have stayed in Kimpton hotels in the States and liked them. I didn’t realize that the chain had been bought by the InterContinental Hotel Group, otherwise known as IHG. IHG owns a number of popular hotel brands, including Holiday Inn.

Our cab driver got into a brief altercation with the guy in front of him, who slammed on his brakes in a traffic snarl. The cab driver got out of the car and started shouting at the guy, telling him “You’re on camera, mate!” The guy started yelling back at the driver as everyone else started laying on their horns. Yep… definitely NOT in Germany anymore. As the traffic oozed forward, an ambulance blew by with its siren blaring. It should have been a clue as to the theme for the weekend.

The driver dropped us in front of the hotel, where a very friendly bellman grabbed our bags and helped us check in. I’d say he was the most impressive of the staff at the Kimpton Charlotte Square Hotel. I’d booked us a deluxe king room and it had cost a mint. In addition to the $400 worth of credit card points I redeemed, I paid an additional $800 for two nights in this hotel. It’s probably the most I’ve ever spent on any hotel room anywhere– even in Switzerland– but it seemed to be par for the course in Edinburgh for “comfortable” accommodations in August. Yes, we could have stayed in a cheaper place on the outskirts of town, but I wanted to be in the city center. I trusted the Kimpton brand, which again, I didn’t know had been taken over by a different company.

The bellman helped us get our bags to our room, which was in the “Wee House”. It seemed like an okay room at first, albeit sort of small. We had our king sized bed, a fridge with free water, and a “tuck box”, which is basically a tin box with free snacks– chips and some kind of candy. Things went downhill when the bellman attempted to turn on the air conditioner. Although it wasn’t hot in Edinburgh, the room was warm. I suspect the building retains heat and there had been recent warm temperatures which the building was still hanging onto. The bellman looked at the display on the air conditioning controls and said it wasn’t working. But he got a housekeeper to bring us two fans, which did help somewhat.

What would have helped even more would have been the ability to open the window more than two inches, but that was impossible. There was some kind of lock on the window that prevented it from being fully raised. Even if we had been able to open the window more, we would have then been dealing with the noise of traffic and drunken partygoers out in the wee hours of the morning. Consequently, it was rather uncomfortable in our very expensive room… but the hotel was completely booked and paid for in advance. We also expected that they’d eventually fix the air conditioning, which, unfortunately, never happened. In any case, here are a few photos of our room in Edinburgh.

On the plus side, I liked the shower, which had a rainfall head, and the toiletries. The WiFi worked well and, I suppose I would have enjoyed the pool and spa if we’d had time to try them. I liked that they were available. The bed was a bit too firm, but that wouldn’t have been as much of a problem if the room hadn’t been so warm. Bill did complain to the front desk about the air conditioning issue and was told that the building was very old and when other guests use their AC, it makes the air conditioning in the “Wee House” break down. I don’t know about you, but when I spend $600 a night on a hotel room, I expect things to be in full working order. $600 is more than the rent I paid on my first American apartment!

On our first night, we walked around the corner and had dinner at Badger & Co., which had a very inviting looking “garden” out front. After we dined there, Bill looked up the restaurant and discovered that it’s themed on The Wind in the Willows. I really enjoyed the music in this place, which was decidedly funky, if not a bit too loud. Bill had a cottage pie and I had the lobster roll special, which came with a glass of rose wine. I must admit I was kind of tempted by the Golden Cock Pie, if only because of the name. Maybe I would have tried it if the weather had been slightly cooler. We also enjoyed a couple of beers while we waited for our table.

You can see the Oor Wullie sculpture in the above gallery. Artists have been individually commissioned to design the sculptures, which are raising money for children’s hospitals. I read about a seven year old girl who traveled over 1000 miles to visit each of the statues, which are located in Edinburgh, Inverness, Dundee, Aberdeen, and Glasgow. She must have very game and dedicated parents!

After we dined at Badger and Co., we went back to the hotel and tried out their bar. Again, I was kind of disappointed in it, as it was basically their greenhouse inspired breakfast room and didn’t have an actual bar where a person could sit and chat up the bartender. They were also playing cheesy pop music that put me in a bad mood. Generally speaking, the pubs in Scotland play good music… but the hotel bar was lacking in that respect.

I didn’t book breakfast at the hotel, so we went looking for it elsewhere… and ended up in a cheaper hotel that had a simple continental arrangement for five GBP a person. My back was giving me trouble, perhaps due to the hard mattress, so before we started to explore Edinburgh in earnest, we stopped by Boots, a UK pharmacy chain, and picked up some essentials for our cruise, as well as painkillers for my back.

During our last Edinburgh visit, we stayed at the Chester Residence, which regularly tops Trip Advisor’s list of Edinburgh’s best accommodations. Maybe if we go back to Edinburgh, we’ll stay there again. I don’t think we’d stay at Kimpton Charlotte Square Hotel again… at least not unless they really dropped the price of the room or we visited in a cold month. It’s in a very good location, but for what they’re charging, they really need to step up their game. At the very least, they need to get the air conditioning fixed.

Part four


Things aren’t bad in Baden-Baden… Part five

Sunday was the day we’d been waiting for.  It was the day we planned to brave the Friedrichsbad, well known around the world for being an old fashioned Roman-Irish bath.  I remember when I first heard of the Friedrichsbad bath.  It was back in 2015, when I wrote about how, in France, men have to wear Speedos at public swimming pools.  In that post, I mentioned that my husband, Bill, would not want to wear Speedos for anything, but I was working on getting him to consent to a visit at the Friedrichsbad in Baden-Baden.  At that time, I was also a bit leery of being naked in front of strangers.

Well… as of June of 2017, Bill and I both took the naked plunge for the first time when we visited Palais Thermal in Bad Wildbad, which is a mostly nude spa.  Since that bold day in early June, we’ve done the naked thing a few more times at the Schwabenquellen in Stuttgart, and at Böblingen’s own Mineraltherme.  The Schwabenquellen is all nude except on certain days and/or at certain times.  The Mineraltherme is nude in the saunagarten on the bottom floor, which has a pool area.  Frankly, having now seen the Mineraltherme’s whole complex, I think not going to the saunagarten is a waste.  There’s a whole lot more to do in the nude area.

The Friedrichsbad is different, though.  It’s not really like the other nude spas we’ve been to.  For one thing, it’s a very old bathhouse and looks it.  It was opened in 1877 and does not have any of the new fangled finery of the other spas.  Hell, it doesn’t even have 1980s era finery.  This is an old school spa.  However, of all of the spas we’ve done, I like it the most.

We decided to do the Friedrichsbad before we tried neighboring Caracalla because I knew Caracalla was going to be like the other places we’ve been.  Also, I had a feeling that the Friedrichsbad was an experience best had first thing in the morning… and also, we happened to be out for breakfast without our towels or bathing suits and we didn’t feel like going back to the room to fetch them.  There is no need to bring a bathing suit or a towel to the Friedrichsbad.  They provide everything, even shower gel.

We had walked into the downtown area in search of an economical breakfast and found one at the assembly line like bakery called Peters am Leo.  This place was doing quite a brisk business when we arrived at about 9:00am.

Very cheerful and busy!


We noticed they had a breakfast deal for two people priced at 19,95 euros, so we went for that.  It was a lot of food… more than we needed.

We got fresh fruit, some kind of “vanilla mousse” with raspberry, butter, and jam…

Scrambled eggs with bacon mixed in, cold cuts, cheese, and a big basket of bread, hot drinks (I had hot chocolate and Bill had coffee), and a choice of either Sekt or orange juice.  We had orange juice. We couldn’t finish everything.



I was treated to a nice view of the action.


I started to enjoy breakfast until I suddenly heard the unmistakable sound of someone gearing up to spit.  I glanced over at the table catty cornered to ours just in time to see the guy who was sitting there spit into his plate.  It really grossed me out, which seems strange, since I have neither a filter nor an appreciation for the concept of TMI.  Fortunately, the guy got up and left, but not without leaving part of his breakfast on the table.

I was eager to forget about the “loogie hocking” guy, so we made our way to the old bathhouse.  When we entered at about 10:00am, things were pretty quiet.  A pleasant and very laid back looking black lady was sitting at the admissions booth.  She would later help us when we decided to visit the Caracalla spa next door.  I think she recognized us, too.

The famous baths on a sunny Sunday morning.  I think that may be a great time to go to the baths.  It wasn’t very busy when we arrived, but business was picking up as we left.

Anyway, when we met her the first time, she greeted us kindly in English and was patient as we ordered the luxury plus package.  Priced at 59 euros per person, this is the most “luxurious” of the packages.  It includes soap and brush massage, a cream massage, a meal, and a drink at the spa restaurant in the Caracalla.  If I’d had more time to read up, I would have gone for the luxury ticket, which eschewed the meal.  It turns out the meal and drink offered at the spa restaurant are limited to salads and pasta.  Also, I would have rather eaten somewhere else.  Leave it to me to go for the most expensive deal.

The luxury and luxury plus tickets allow up to four hours in the baths.  We didn’t need that long to go through the whole experience, but it’s nice to know we could have stayed longer if we’d wanted to.  Those who don’t want the whole experience can opt for a basic ticket, which doesn’t include soap or cream massages or the wellness ticket, which leaves out the cream massage.  Each progressive step in inclusiveness adds another ten euros to the cost.  We paid 118 euros.  Credit cards are accepted.

Once we paid our admission, the lady gave us waterproof wristwatches… the same kind we’ve gotten at every German spa we’ve ever attended.  Sunday happened to be a “mixed” day, which meant men and women were coming from both sides of the spa.  Some days, the sexes are split.  Women go to the right and men go to the left.  I wanted to experience the baths with Bill at my side, so we chose the mixed day.

Here goes…

After we found lockers, we grabbed the sheets that were left inside, got completely naked in changing rooms (which now seems ridiculous under the circumstances), and were beckoned into the baths by a bunch of very brawny looking men in white uniforms.  I soon realized that the other side of the spa was staffed with similarly attired women.

The men, a couple of whom spoke English, directed us to get shower shoes and then take showers under the old style open bay showers.  They had big levers that controlled the water temperature in a rather crude way.  It kind of reminded me of a prison shower, not that I have any experience with prisons, mind you.  It’s just that it was very crude and not private at all.  And though we had entered the baths covered with a sheet, that lasted maybe a minute before they were taken away.

The shower shoes, at least on the men’s side, were huge and way too big for my feet.  But I only wore them for a short while, as we sat in a warm room for ten minutes, then a hotter room for five.  The shoes were necessary because the floor is very hot and will burn your feet if you walk in there unshod.

After we sat in the hot rooms, we took another shower, then were summoned for the soap and scrubbing, and a massage.  Bill’s therapist was a big German guy who spoke English.  I got a burly Russian man whose German seemed rather elementary– or, I’m going to assume he was Russian.  He could have been Bulgarian, Polish, or Ukrainian, for all I know.  I don’t think he was German, though.

He invited me to lie face up on the table as he scrubbed my body with soap and a scrub brush, rinsed, then had me roll over so he could do the other side.  Then, he gave me a vigorous massage that made a couple of joints crack audibly.  It was a rather surreal experience… almost clinical, yet kind of primal, too.

There I was, naked as the day I was born, lying totally exposed on a table with bright lighting shining down on my bare body, as if I were in a hospital.  And yet, despite decades of feeling ashamed of my body, I didn’t really care that much.  I mean, the staff sees all kinds of people day in and day out.  They were totally professional, and it’s not even like I was the biggest and ugliest person there.  Besides, after a few minutes, the nudity thing doesn’t really matter at all.  Everybody’s naked, and I think most people just stop noticing.

After our enthusiastic massages were finished, we went into the first of two steam rooms.  The first room was kind of warm and smelled heavily of sulfur.  We were in there for ten minutes, sitting on “butt pads”.  Then we went to a warmer steam room for five minutes.  I looked to my right and noticed the very old equipment that was making the steam from Baden-Baden’s ancient thermal springs.  After another shower, we went to station 9, which was the first pool.  It was nice and warm and very tranquil as we soaked for ten minutes.  That was really what I had been waiting for the whole time.  It was heavenly and extremely relaxing.

Next came a short time in a shallow pool that bubbled.  We sat there until it was time to hit station 11, which is the beautiful round pool that is featured in all of Friedrichsbad’s literature.  What I didn’t know was that the water in that beautiful pool is very cold!  We did our five minutes there, then went to the other side of the pool.  This was where things went a little awry.

Unbeknownst to us at the time, we were supposed to stay on the side we came in on.  When we went to the pool on the other side of the round pool, we ended up on the wrong side of the baths.  This is only a big deal because we needed to be on the side where we entered in order to access our lockers.  When we got to the end of the line, which included more showers and a dip in an ice cold pool, a female staffer turned us around.  I now realize that if we’d done the last part on the female side, we would have had to somehow get to the other side while naked.  Either way, we had to backtrack or else flash everyone in the public part of the building.

So, we turned around and walked back through the stations until we got to the men’s side.  We were greeted by the same big dudes with big hands, who wrapped us in warm towels and invited us to wait for the cream massage.  The same Russian guy who did my soap scrubbing took me to a private room, while Bill got a different German guy.  The Russian guy expertly rubbed herbal smelling cream all over my naked body.  Once again, I was strangely uninhibited.  He was very much an expert.  I left his care with skin like a newborn baby’s as he directed us to drink tea in the “reading room”.

Actually, we were supposed to go “sleep” for thirty minutes in the sleeping room, but to be honest, I was alright with skipping that part.  I doubt I would have slept, anyway.  Besides, it was just nice to relax on the lounger in the “reading room” with unsweetened hot tea and Bill at my side.  It was a very restful experience for me, although I will admit that it’s not for everyone.  I know many people would prefer not to bare their bodies to the world.  But, I have to say… now that I’ve gotten into nudity, it doesn’t really faze me at all anymore.  In fact, I find it quite liberating.  Maybe I’m more German than 23andMe says I am.

When we were finished relaxing at the Friedrichsbad, we went back to the locker room, got dressed, and went back to the hotel.  After a short break there, we packed up day bags with swimsuits, towels, and robes.  I wasn’t going to leave Baden-Baden without trying both of its best known spas.  Also, because we got the Luxury Plus ticket, we were owed a meal at the Caracalla spa.

The guy at the spa restaurant who waited on us was quite the smooth talker.  I noticed he was easily mingling in French, German, English, and even a little bit of Russian.  I was a little cranky because most of their beer was non-alcoholic.  In the restaurant, they do have wine and one “real” beer.  I ended up with a non-alcoholic hefeweizen, which wasn’t bad, but wasn’t great.  I also got a Coke because it came with our coupons.

I somehow ended up with a side of duck, which wasn’t covered by the coupon.  At least it tasted good.

Bill had a chef’s salad.

I had a “fruity” salad, which was made with shrimps, mangoes, cherry tomatoes, onions, and greens.  The bread was excellent.  It was soft and not too crusty.


After lunch, we tried the Caracalla Spa… and, I gotta say, I was much less impressed with it than any of the other spas I’ve been to.  First off, it was very crowded yesterday.  It’s also been around awhile, as evidenced by how everything looked.  The tiles were all faded and somewhat discolored.  The water looked a little bit cloudy.  I guess I’m used to the Mineraltherme, which was just extensively refurbished last year.

They were repairing the “blue grotto”, which probably would have been packed with people, anyway.  The only thing I really liked about the Caracalla Spa was this really cool current alley in one of the outdoor pools.  It was almost like shooting the rapids as it propelled spa-goers down a pass.  But we had to be careful not to be shot into someone standing on the side of the pool.  I think some people were oblivious to the danger of careening bodies in the strong currents.

As crowded as the Mineraltherme gets sometimes, at least their snack bars have wine and beer and really good food.  The one thing the Caracalla had that the Mineraltherme didn’t was fresh squeezed juices, which were admittedly delicious.  Bill and I tried their orange juice, which was nice after a couple of sauna sessions.  Other than that, I was not all that impressed with Caracalla.  I would much rather visit the Friedrichsbad again.  The Caracalla also has a saunagarten that costs extra, but it doesn’t have a nude pool.  Instead, there are a bunch of saunas and one whirlpool that was packed the whole time.  It wasn’t very relaxing at all.  We paid for three hours and left about halfway through.

When we were finished at the Caracalla Spa, we walked back to the hotel and I took a shower.  We enjoyed a rest after our big day of relaxing baths.  Actually, I was surprised by how tired I was after hitting two spas in one day.  As the sun went down, I told Bill that I wanted to have dinner somewhere, so we wouldn’t end up sitting around drinking wine.  We decided to try Rizzi & Co., which is a wine bar very close to the hotel.  I was glad to try it, because I had been eyeing the menu the whole time we were in town.  We were also lucky because they happened to have one two top open for us.  The next couple who showed up without a reservation was out of luck.

The menu looked good.

Obligatory menu shot of Bill…  We weren’t very hungry, so we went with something fairly light.

I had salmon filet with broccoli and a maple glaze.  I enjoyed the salmon, but especially liked the broccoli, which was really more like broccolini.  It was surprisingly tasty.  

Bill had rare tuna, served with chopsticks, soy sauce, and wasabi.  It was just the right size.  Naturally, we also enjoyed a very nice red wine.

The bar area was pretty cool, although they were playing dance music that made us feel ancient.  I think a lot of Russians frequent Rizzi & Co.  It looks like it caters to the young and hip.

For dessert, I had Le Colonel, which is lemon sorbet with a shot of vodka poured over it.


And Bill had vanilla mousse, which was covered with mangoes… I thought it looked like cream of corn soup!

It’s a very hip place.

Since we were told we had 90 minutes, we were quick about eating dinner.  I was ready to go to bed, anyway.  I think we were both out cold before 9:30pm.  In fact, I remember waking from a sound sleep at just past eleven for a potty break.  It’s exhausting trying to relax.  When we got back to the hotel, one of the receptionists said, “Good night, Mr. and Mrs. Crossen.”  That really blew Bill’s mind.  It’s something when the staff at a big hotel remembers your name.  It happened a few times during our visit.  I think it’s the hallmark of superb service.

This morning, we decided to have breakfast at the hotel.  We went back to the breakfast room and loaded up at the buffet and enjoyed the excellent coffee.  I was thinking maybe we wouldn’t have eggs again, but a very charming German gent, whose name was Friedrich and had probably worked there for awhile, charmed us into having scrambled eggs.  He indulged Bill’s German and also greeted him by name, without any prompting.  Maybe we were easy to remember since I don’t think there were too many Americans there during our visit.  We also had a shot of espresso for the road.

When it came time to check out, we were warmly welcomed by the same chap who had checked us in.  He was delighted when we gushed about our weekend and invited me to sign up for their email service/newsletter, which is free of charge and entitles us to perks like free breakfast (which is well worth it).  Since we’re moving to Wiesbaden and Wiesbaden isn’t all that far from Baden-Baden, I could see us coming back to Brenners Park, even if it is super expensive.  We really enjoyed ourselves and the service is absolutely top notch.  Of course, I’m not sure how we’re going to downgrade from a junior suite.  They’re probably counting on that!

I wondered what this was.  Bill showed me that it’s a coat rack.

Perfect scrambled eggs.  Better than the eggs at the bakery yesterday… and no one hocked a loogie.

This is Brenner Park’s resident cat, Kleopatra.  I never saw her, but we did see evidence of her presence.  Evidently, she eats on the second floor of the hotel, which is where we were staying.  Her food bowl and water were neatly laid out in the hall.


I think all told, we spent about 3.000 euros.  That included a couple of nights in the bar, a couple of breakfasts for two, two spa treatments, and parking for four days.  And yet, even though that’s a lot of money for us, we were both smiling as we got into the car to go home.  The hotel staff had kindly provided us with a small bag that included waters and snacks for our drive.  It was the kind of service Bill and I have experienced on luxury cruise lines, notably Hebridean Island Cruises, which costs a mint but offers stellar service.  If you’re interested in my Hebridean experiences, you can easily read about them in this blog.  We have sailed with them four times– in 2012 (back to back cruises, and written about on my main blog), 2016 (whisky cruise), and 2017 (Scotland and Northern Ireland).

A shot of the countryside on the way home.  This isn’t far from Seewald, which is not far from where we are living until next Tuesday.  Then, it’s off to Wiesbaden.

Anyway… so ends our very ritzy trip to nearby Baden-Baden.  We had a great time!  If we manage to make it back there, we will have to make a point of seeing and doing more in the area, which surely offers more than spas and shopping!  But then, Wiesbaden is a lot like a more cosmopolitan Baden-Baden.  So we’ll see…


Things aren’t bad in Baden-Baden… Part two

As I mentioned in part one, after we had lunch at the Wintergarten Restaurant at Brenners Park Hotel and Spa, we decided to take our first of many walks through ritzy Baden-Baden.  If you like high end shopping, this is definitely the place to be.  I was amazed by all of the very expensive clothing, shoes, and jewelry for sale there.

The gorgeous Lutheran church near the hotel.  I would have liked to have walked through here.  I noticed how beautiful the stained glass windows were last night as they were lit up from inside.

The park next to the hotel and spa.  Brenners Park also offers medical treatments, most of which seemed to be for cosmetic purposes.

They were preparing the ice skating rink for opening night, which was on Saturday.

This outfit could easily set you back about 3000 euros.  It’s at times like these I’m glad I don’t have a figure for high fashion.

A testament to all of the Russians in town…  This travel bureau specializes in trips to Sochi, which is in Russia near the Black Sea coast.

The world famous Friedrichsbad.  

The Roman Bath ruins.  These closed for the season on November 15th.  If we’d been a little more on the ball, we could have taken a tour, but we were passing by just as the lady was locking up until March 15, 2019.  Oh well.

If you like Segways, you can take a Segway tour in Baden-Baden.  Bill and I did that in Antigua and that was enough for me, especially since I fell off and nearly busted my head.  Fortunately, I was wearing a helmet.

The Aqua Aurelia Hotel, where I almost booked a room.

The entrance to the Caracalla Spa, which is the more modern of the mineral baths in Baden-Baden.  At the Caracalla, you can wear your bathing suit.  At Friedrichsbad, you have to be nude.  More on that in a subsequent post.

I took a picture of this yarn shop in homage to my mother, who used to own and operate a knitting and needlepoint shop in Gloucester, Virginia.  I did not inherit her gift or patience for needle crafts.  Instead, I got her gift for music.  😉

A lovely Turkish market near the baths.

We probably should have bought this artwork in honor of our anniversary.  I was a little afraid of how much it would cost, though.

Like… check out the prices of the outfit pictured below…

It’s not even real fur!

The Christmas market will open next weekend, so they’re setting up.  I bet if we’d visited next weekend, we wouldn’t have gotten an upgrade.  Sometimes it pays to have your anniversary during the “off season”.

A look at a map of the Baden-Baden area.

And a few shots of the river, as well as a club of male mallards.  The river was looking a bit low.  We need some rain.

I was impressed by the playground, which allows kids 14 years old or younger and closes at 8:00pm.


After our walk, we decided to visit the bar and its accompanying lounge and have a few drinks.  I really enjoyed the lounge area, which was pleasantly lit and had books, a fireplace, comfortable couches, and after 5:00pm, a pianist playing jazz.  Prior to 5:00pm, they play pre-recorded jazz, mostly sung by sultry torch singers like Jane Monheit and Diana Krall.

A view from near the bar.

Bill waits for his Negroni.

They brought out some “free” lavish snacks for us while we waited for our drinks.  I noticed they did this on Thursday night, but not on Saturday.  Maybe it’s because we came later on Saturday.  I put “free” in quotes because although we weren’t charged for the nibbles, the drinks were very expensive.  But then, you only live once, right?  


The hotel was kind of lightly populated on Thursday night.  Consequently, there weren’t too many people in the lounge.  The piano player didn’t seem too enthused as he played for the half dozen of us in the lounge, but brightened up when I reacted to a couple of the songs he played that I especially liked.  I noticed he was more animated on Saturday, when there were more people to entertain.

We were too full to eat dinner, so we decided to head back to the room.  By 9:00pm, Bill’s eyes were fluttering and I was turning off the light.  It’s surprising how exhausting relaxing can be…

We drew the curtains the first night.  Fancy!