As I mentioned in part three of this series, I chose to stay at our castle location near Parma because I knew there were several places of interest nearby. There’s Parma, Italy, where Parma ham and Parmesan cheese come from, Modena, which is known for wonderful balsamic vinegar, and Bologna, which is just alleged to be a beautiful city with great food and sightseeing. Bill did some research about Bologna and decided not to visit there, because parking was too much of a hassle. I definitely wanted to go to Parma, and Modena was interesting enough for a visit, too.
On the day we visited Parma, which was Monday, April 25th, it was Liberation Day. We did not know it was going to be Liberation Day before we planned our visit. We have a habit of being in different countries on their major holidays. We did the same thing last fall when we visited Wels, Austria. Anyway, Liberation Day was first celebrated in Italy in the year 1946. It was to commemorate the 1945 victory of the Italian resistance to Nazi Germany and the Italian Socialist puppet state. Because it was a holiday, the streets were crowded; some shops were closed; and there was a parade.
We managed to visit Parma’s beautiful cathedral and monastery, followed by lunch at a really cool restaurant where blues were accompanying the delicious food. Below are some photos of our day. Again, masks were required at that time, but as of May 1, 2022, masks are mostly only needed on public transport, in medical settings and nursing homes, and in sports venues, concert halls, or theaters. I note, once again, that Italy is stricter than Germany is right now. One of these days, I’m going to make a video of all the beautiful cathedrals I’ve seen in Europe.
The monastery is located very close by the Parma Duomo. We had to wear FFP2 masks to see the library.
After more walking around, and more photos taken, we found our way to a quiet little plaza where we had lunch at a restaurant called Osteria del Teatro. This was a cute and popular place where excellent blues music paired with really nice local dishes and wines. Old vinyl records were used as placemats!
Below are some more photos from our day in Parma. Some decorations are in honor of the holiday.
By late afternoon, we were ready to go back to the B&B and drink more wine… which we did.
After our wine break, we watched old American shows dubbed into Italian… The Dukes of Hazzard, The A Team, and Walker, Texas Ranger! No wonder I saw so many Confederate battle flags in Italy.
On Wednesday, March 2nd, we loaded up the Volvo with our bags and our pooches. I can’t say “beagles” anymore, since Noyzi is definitely NOT a beagle. Our first stop was the Tierpension Birkenhof, where the dogs stay when we leave town. I dug out a FFP2 mask for the brief time we would be inside, settling up with the Hunde Pension. Noyzi was absolutely delighted to be back at the doggy hotel. He barked almost the whole way there. Arran, on the other hand, was pretty cranky and kept barking back at Noyzi, probably telling him in dog language to STFU. I was doing the same.
Once the dogs were taken care of, we made our way to Stuttgart, with one quick pee stop at a rest station. I noticed they already had their Easter display up. I wasn’t able to get a picture, which may be a blessing. On the other hand, I don’t remember ever seeing an Easter display put up by a rest stop in the United States.
I had to pee again as we arrived in Stuttgart, so we decided to go into a McDonald’s. As I was making my way to the restroom, I heard someone behind the counter yelling “Entschuldigung!” Ahh… she wanted to check my COV-Pass to make sure I’ve gotten jabbed. The restroom in that McDonald’s was on the second floor, so it wasn’t like I could just duck in and out. I showed my credentials, did my business, and Bill handed me a very small Coke that he bought me for the privilege of using the can.
We got to downtown Stuttgart a couple of hours early, so we decided to have lunch at the Paulaner am alten Postplatz, a German restaurant on Calwer Strasse, the chic street where Dr. Blair’s office is located. Ever since COVID hit, I’m never quite sure of what I should be doing. We went inside, and a waitress checked our COV-Passes and IDs… a step further than what the lady at McDonald’s did. I was shocked, since the first floor of that restaurant is for smokers, and plenty were doing that when we visited! Fortunately, there was a non-smoking area upstairs.
Bill and I both opted to have daily specials. I had duck leg with red cabbage slaw and a bread dumpling. Bill had pork goulash. We had beer– the only beer we had all weekend. It was our first restaurant visit in months, and, I must say, it was great. The food was good, as usual, and it was kind of nice to be around other people. I especially got a kick out of the lady with a large puppy she carried in.
After lunch, we headed over to Dr. Blair’s office for our cleanings and waited, dutifully wearing the oppressive FFP2 masks. Bill got a stern lecture about his flossing habits. I got a lecture about my hesitancy in seeing doctors. I have an area of chronically red gum tissue under my front teeth. Dr. Blair always asks me about it. Then he ribs me about being anxious. He’s a very good dentist, and I think he truly cares about his patients, but I also think he takes my anxiety personally. He really shouldn’t. I had a terrible experience with a physician years ago that has left me very reluctant to see medical people. Dentists are, generally, an exception. I do get nervous before procedures, though. He has never forgotten it, even though it’s been years since he put in my implant.
After our appointments, we made our way toward Sessenheim, which is located just inside the border of France. Even Dr. Blair knew about Sessenheim, correctly identifying it as very close to Baden-Baden. But once you cross the border, everything changes! From the beginning of our trip, checking into Auberge au Boeuf, until the end of our stay, COVID rules were much less inconvenient. We walked into the hotel wearing FFP2s and immediately removed them for the rest of our stay after we were confirmed vaccinated. The same conditions applied at every restaurant we visited. We showed our passes, and it was like 2019 again. The FFP2s were also not required. Regular surgical masks were perfectly okay.
Auberge au Boeuf only has four rooms, and each one has a name. We rented L’Idylle, which is one of the larger rooms. It has a balcony that overlooks the beautiful church next door, it’s own private sauna, a jacuzzi, a rainfall shower, and an impressively stocked minibar. Below are some photos of L’Idylle.
We were still full from lunch and pretty tired from the day’s events, so we decided to stay in. We watched French news, drank wine from the local Aldi, and went to bed early. We were off to a good start.
And now, we’ve come to the end of my latest series… which I will admit was not long on food and activities, but had plenty of gorgeous scenery and solitude. When I am finished writing this post, I’ll do my usual “ten things I learned post”, but that will probably be done tomorrow, so as not to overwhelm anyone with all the action my travel blog is suddenly getting. 😉
Because we were coming from “high risk” areas– Croatia and Slovenia– we had to upload our vaccination information to officials in Germany. This would absolve us from having to quarantine. But, when we got to the border, they just waved us through, anyway. Maybe because it was Sunday.
Our drive home was mostly uneventful. Salzburg is about six hours or so from where we live, I think… Ray had made it easy to check out. All we had to do, besides take out the trash and make sure we used the toilet brush, was put the 12 euro city tourist tax (three euros per person per night) in the lockbox, along with the key. We got an early start, and, at first, the weather was beautiful.
The nice weather began to change the further north we went. It got cold and decidedly cloudy, then it was raining. At one point, we tried to stop for lunch, but there was no parking in the parking lot. The spots were all taken up by tractor trailers. We eventually ended up at the very same rest stop where we stopped on the way down to Croatia. On that visit, I wore a surgical face mask, as did a lot of other people. Surgical masks are the rule for all of Germany… except hard assed Bavaria, where people are supposed to wear FFP2s, the tighter fitting “coffee filter” masks. I did have a fresh one in my purse, but I really hate wearing them.
Anyway, we walked into the McDonald’s, which was empty. Evidently, the COVID-19 rules changed again, because the cashier pointed to me and said I needed the heavier mask. That pissed me off, so Bill and I left. I ranted about it on my other blog. We went to Burger King and ate lunch in the car. I spent much of the rest of the drive annoyed, since the heavier masks are obviously not curbing the now soaring infection rate in Germany. People need to be vaccinated. But if they’re going to enforce mask mandates, I wish they’d be consistent about it. And I wish they’d show common sense, particularly toward people who have actually done the responsible thing and gotten the vaccine.
I mean, look at this…
It’s ridiculous. I can’t sit in an empty McDonald’s without being forced to wear a heavy mask, but these fools can party and drink unmasked in huge crowds in Mainz and Cologne! I fear we may be heading for another lockdown soon, which makes me even more glad that we took our trip. As it stands now, James Taylor has postponed his European tour. We have second row tickets to his Frankfurt show, but who knows when it will happen. We still have tickets to see Keb’ Mo’ for a show that was supposed to happen on November 16 (our anniversary) 2020. At this point, it’s been postponed three times, thanks to COVID-19. Maybe we’ll get to see him in May of 2022. This COVID shit really needs to be sorted.
The only other notable thing that happened on the way home was that we passed a van that had a sticker on it that read “Porn casting car”.
After we got home, we unpacked and started doing the laundry. Later, we went to get Arran and Noyzi, who I guess could hear and smell us as we approached. They were so excited! Noyzi was even ecstatic to see Bill. He practically dragged me to the car and was delighted to jump in the back all by himself.
When we got home, we discovered that Arran had a couple of swollen flesh wounds on his ears. And the next day, Noyzi had kennel cough. By Tuesday, Arran was coughing too, although they are both okay now. Fortunately, it was a mild case. It was the first time I have ever dealt with kennel cough, which is usually a mild illness that clears up on its own. Our dogs are usually vaccinated against it, but we stopped giving Arran most vaccines because he’s had mast cell tumors. Noyzi is due for his vaccines next month.
Here are a few final pictures of a few things we brought back with us… I wish I had found a few things to put in the house. Oh well. Maybe on the next trip. Bill has to go to Poland on Monday, and he’ll be gone on our 19th wedding anniversary, which is on Tuesday. I’m sure he’ll get some Bison Grass vodka. Just what we need! 😉 We also got jams, honeys, liqueurs, and gin.
Well… that about does it for the series. Stay tuned tomorrow, for my super fun “ten things I learned” post. I actually did learn some new things on this trip. It was one of our better ones, and we’ve been on some great trips. I hope we can do it again, soon.
I actually hate to write about this subject again. I am sick to death of reading about face masks. I hate looking at them, and I definitely hate wearing them… but I feel compelled to write this post, if only because if I weren’t an overeducated housewife, I’d probably have a job in public health. This morning, I was reading comments on an article about face masks that was posted by The Atlantic. The article, entitled “Why Aren’t We Wearing Better Masks” was originally published on January 13th. I read it the first time it popped up on my feed. It’s back again this morning.
The article is about how homemade cloth masks were supposed to be a “stopgap” measure until better masks could be made available to the general public. Ten months into the pandemic, a lot of us are still wearing the cutesy face masks that we bought on Etsy. Well… actually, if I’m honest, I only wear the medical surgical masks. From the beginning, I decided I would not indulge in wearing fashionable face masks because I do not want face masks to be permanent fashion statements. I really don’t. I think they cause a lot of problems for people, even though for now, they are necessary. But— now, thanks to a new mutation of the COVID-19 virus that is more contagious, though not necessarily more dangerous– experts are saying we need to ditch the cloth masks and wear medical grade masks.
As I was reading the comments, I noticed that a comment from someone who claimed that Germany is now requiring everyone to wear N95 masks. And they were presenting that fractured fact as if Germany is doing COVID-19 better. Well, if I’m honest, Germany IS doing COVID-19 better than the United States is; however, N95 masks ARE NOT currently required here.
The current rules stipulate that in most areas, medical grade masks are now required in shops, on public transport, and in crowded areas where social distancing isn’t possible. Bavaria is the only state that currently requires everyone to wear a FFP2, FFP3 or N95 style mask on public transportation, in shops and supermarkets, or in crowds. Bavaria has been hit harder by COVID-19 than other states, hence the stricter rules. Everywhere else, disposable surgical masks will still suffice, except in nursing homes, where the FF92 masks are also required to be worn by staff. Also, the FF92 masks are only required on Bavaria’s local trains and buses. On long distance trains, the medical/surgical masks are still okay. Face shields and visors without masks are not.
And, while I know many people think the masks are required everywhere outside someone’s home, I’m here to tell you that in my neighborhood, no one wears a mask of any kind when just walking around outside. They do wear them at bus stops and there are signs reminding people to don them, but I hardly ever see people hanging around the bus stops.
This is not to say that the FFP2 masks won’t eventually become required everywhere in Germany if the COVID-19 numbers don’t improve soon. Despite the effective response here last spring, Germany’s currently having a lot of problems with COVID-19… though not as many as in the United States. There aren’t as many sick people here, and not as many people are dying… but enough are, which is why the better masks are now being mandated.
Incidentally, I have also read that the government is going to make the masks freely available to people over age 60 and chronically ill people, so they won’t have to shell out a lot of money to acquire the better quality masks. But since I’m neither chronically ill, nor over age 60, nor a regular German resident, I can’t comment too much on that.
I’m really hoping that we can get a handle on COVID-19 soon. This lifestyle sucks, and I want to get back to enjoying Europe and writing fun articles about food and travels. The vaccine should help… or, I sure hope it does. We did enjoy some takeout Italian food last night, but I really miss sitting in restaurants and seeing other people.