Here’s a quick photo dump and a few paragraphs about our eleventh Christmas in Germany. We have now spent half our marriage in this beautiful country, but the Christmases have been epic– 2007, 2008, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, and now 2022… Oh, okay, technically we spent Christmas 2019 in France.
But we’ve lived over here for awhile… so long, in fact, that we didn’t bother to go to any Christmas markets this year. That was mostly because of Arran, who has been undergoing chemotherapy for lymphoma and tends to get in trouble if he gets left alone. We are planning to go out tomorrow, though… lovely lunch at Villa Im Tal, which is one of our favorite restaurants. I just bought a new, taller, and sturdier baby gate for preventing entry to the basement, which I hope will curtail any of Arran’s antics for a few hours tomorrow.
As usual, I bought a lot more gifts for Bill than he bought for me, mainly because I know what he likes, and what we need. I usually get him clothes for Christmas, but I already got him clothes a few weeks ago. He doesn’t need more. In fact, we both really need to cull our wardrobes! I have some clothes I haven’t worn in ten years! The only thing I bought for him that he can wear are new gloves, which he requested. I ordered them from an Italian outfit called Fratelli Orsini. He tried them on and said they fit perfectly. I tried to order a pair for myself, but I think I chose gloves that were out of stock. Oh well.
I mostly bought books– especially cookbooks and books about wine, and one book by Carl Jung– and lots of kitchen gadgets. I had a good time stuffing Bill’s stocking, which my mom knitted for us twenty years ago. We used to fill them every year, but stopped for some reason. This year, we decided to fill them again, to great success. I think Bill was especially pleased with the “toilet light” I got for us. He got me ready made cocktails, which won’t be as good as his, but might come in handy at some point. He also bought me shawls in three different colors.
Bill made baked eggs with asparagus and smoked salmon for breakfast, using one of last year’s cookbooks. He recently discovered them, and decided he liked them, so I bought him two more books by the same author, the late Michel Roux, a Frenchman who went to Britain and changed food there. Just now, I decided to get a couple more of his books, because they’re going out of print, and I have plans to buy bookshelves in the new year. Bill also made some excellent biscuits from scratch, a skill he’s been working on for awhile. The secret is truly in the flour. You need White Lily self rising flour to make them like we have them at home.
Anyway… here goes with the photo dump… He bought me a weighted blanket, which Arran immediately claimed. I also got a new office chair with heat and massage and a cordless vacuum! I did ask him for the vacuum, because the one I have is 7 years old and very cumbersome to use. I think it was a successful morning.
The featured photo is from a Christmas card our landlord brought us. It’s a photo of our village church, which dates from the 12th century. I love the photo. I might need to find a frame!
Bill is now preparing dinner, which should be pretty epic. I feel very fortunate today… and I hope everyone reading this also feels good/well today. But I know Christmas isn’t always easy for everyone… so if you happen to be feeling blue today, I send my very best wishes for better days. Merry Christmas, to all who celebrate! For those who don’t celebrate, may your day be blessed!
Today’s post is going to be different than usual. It might even be a bit controversial. I’ve decided to write about it here, instead of on my main blog, because it has to do with travel and international relations. And it also complements a piece I wrote for my main blog this morning. So here goes…
Last month, I wrote about the trip Bill and I took to Ribeauville, France for our 20th wedding anniversary. It was our sixth visit to Ribeauville, a town that has become one of our favorite places to visit when we need a break from Germany. This time, we went there because we wanted to go somewhere dog friendly to celebrate our anniversary. Because Arran has been undergoing chemotherapy, and Noyzi had never been on a trip before, we thought it would be best to go somewhere we knew could accommodate them.
Although we have visited Ribeauville many times, I didn’t realize that a lot of businesses would be closed during our November visit. I would have expected a lot of closures during the winter season. But when we got there, our host, Yannick, explained that a lot of businesses shut down for a rest just before the Christmas season, because of the surge in business when people descend on the village to shop the markets. Consequently, the tourist friendly town was pretty dead during our visit. Only a few restaurants were open, and not all of the retail establishments were doing business.
In my blog series about our most recent trip to Ribeauville, I wrote about an unfortunate experience we had at a wine shop in Ribeauville. I didn’t go into great detail about it in the blog post, because overall, we had a good time. However, Bill and I did submit Google reviews about the place where we got bad service. We would not have bothered to do that if the shopkeeper had given us the right wine, but the unfriendliness coupled with incompetence invited comment. Some people might question our decision to complain about our experience on the Internet. I would invite the naysayers to consider the value of people sharing their opinions about products and services.
The whole reason Google offers people the chance to leave reviews is so that others might be able to choose the most appropriate places to spend their money. I almost always use reviews when I decide to book places to stay overnight. Sometimes I read restaurant reviews before I’ll book a table. I look for reviews of doctors, veterinarians, and lawyers, too, because I don’t want to waste time or money on something that will be inappropriate or disappointing.
Think about shopping at Amazon. Most of us read reviews before we make purchases, right? It helps one decide between two similar products and maybe avoid bad experiences… or increase the odds of having a really good experience. It also gives businesses the chance to do some quality control, if they are so inclined. As much as business people don’t want to hear about something going wrong, they can’t fix problems if they don’t know they exist. And in the case of the wine shop we reviewed, we couldn’t have complained in person, even if we’d wanted to, because the salesperson only spoke French, and Bill and I can’t speak French.
So, Bill wrote about how, after lunch on a cold, rainy afternoon in Ribeauville, we decided we wanted to buy some wine to take home with us. We were actually hoping to get the chance to do a tasting. Ribeauville has a lot of places where it’s possible to taste wines before buying them, and we hoped we’d find such an outlet that offered tastings when we were wine shopping. Unfortunately, on that particular day, most of the winesellers were closed, either because it was too early in the day, or because they had closed before commencing the Christmas markets. We decided we just wanted to buy the wine and hole up in the apartment, since the weather was so yucky and the dogs were waiting for us.
We saw that this one wine shop was open. The lights were on; the door was open; it was a quaint looking place. Bill had successfully shopped there before, so we had no reason to think we’d have a bad experience there. We walked in and saw there was a woman behind the counter. It was apparently her job to sell wine. She was giving off unwelcoming vibes, and looked quite annoyed that we’d come into her shop. In retrospect, we probably should have just walked out. But we wanted to buy Alsatian wine, and were planning to leave the next morning. So we approached her.
Bill asked her if she spoke English or German. Her response was a flat “no.” Okay… well, it’s France, so we don’t necessarily expect that she speaks any language other than French. She had a menu available. We spotted a package we wanted. It consisted of three Pinot Blancs and three Rieslings. We pointed to that, and I said more than once, “No Gewurztraminer.” Granted, I didn’t say it in French, but “no” means “no” in English and French. So, actually, I probably did say it in French.
The woman packed up the wines in a box. We weren’t able to see which bottles she put in the box before she taped it up. Bill paid for the package we indicated, and we quickly got out of there, because we felt unwelcome. The whole interaction lasted maybe five minutes.
When we got home, we found three bottles of Gewurztraminer instead of the Riesling we wanted. I was immediately annoyed, because not only were we treated very rudely, but we also didn’t get what we ordered. So Bill and I wrote reviews of the shop on Google, noticing that we weren’t the only people who got bad service at that particular establishment. However, we appeared to be the only Americans who had reviewed their shop. Everyone else was evidently either from France or Germany.
Last night, Bill saw that he got a response from the wine shop about the review he wrote. The woman responded in French that she was “very sorry” about her “attitude” if she was the one to whom we were referring. And she added that it was “unfortunate” that we got bottles of Gewurztraminer instead of Riesling, since Gewurztraminer is “more expensive”. Her implication seems to be that we should be grateful that we got more expensive wines when we paid for cheaper wines.
I was a bit taken aback by the woman’s response. But here are my four takeaways from this experience.
This woman doesn’t care about giving people what they ordered.
I don’t know if she owns the shop or is just an employee, but apparently she doesn’t care that she cost the business money because she gave us the wrong wines.
She thinks that things that cost more are automatically better.
She doesn’t realize that Riesling and Gewurztraminer are different wines and taste different.
I will admit that I am not an expert on Gewurztraminer, but I have never had one that I’ve enjoyed. Perhaps if the shop had offered tastings, the saleslady could have convinced us that Gewurztraminer was the better choice. She wouldn’t have even needed to speak English or German to do that. Bill and I have done tastings at other vintners in France in which all the proprietor did was pour sips of wine for us and let us decide if we wanted to purchase it. But her shop didn’t offer tastings, which is certainly fair enough.
But, since they didn’t offer tastings, and I know I like Rieslings and haven’t historically liked Gewurztraminers, I ordered Rieslings– not Gewurztraminers. It doesn’t make a happy damn to me that Gewurztraminers cost more than Rieslings do. It’s not worth anything to me if I don’t want to drink it. And while I don’t necessarily assume that the customer is always right, I do think people should get what they ask for, and pay for, or something that comes reasonably close if what they want isn’t available. This morning, when Bill and I were talking about this, he said “I’m sure a pink, diamond encrusted, Mercedes Benz would cost more than our Volvo did. That doesn’t mean I want to drive it.”
I decided to write about this incident on Facebook. I posted about it on my page, and in a wine group I run. I kind of knew in the back of my head that posting about it in the wine group would be risky, since a lot of people in the group are affiliated with the U.S. military, and a lot of people in that community seem to think that no one ever has the right to complain about anything. If you complain, you’re automatically labeled a “karen” (a term I usually refuse to use because I think it’s stupid). Below is what I posted:
That last bit was a reference to an experience Bill and I had in Ribeauville back in May 2018, when we visited a restaurant. I had ordered an entrecote steak. Bill ordered smoked salmon pancakes. The waiter came out with the pancakes and choucroute garni (Alsatian dish with sausages and sauerkraut), which was NOT what I ordered. When I politely pointed that out to the guy, he immediately got really pissed and insisted that I had ordered sausages and sauerkraut. Why would I lie about what I ordered? I didn’t want the choucroute garni, because I don’t like sauerkraut. He took the dish away, then came back and tried to get me to accept it, since it would take time to prepare the steak I ordered. Bill, being the prince of a man that he is, offered to take the choucroute garni. I took the salmon pancakes, since they had been my second choice. Unfortunately, the pancakes were badly scorched.
The Ribeauville wine shop lady reminded me of the waiter at the Ribeauville restaurant who gave us very bad service and expected me to shut up and color. But… in fairness to the town, everyone else there has been fabulous. That’s why we’ve visited there six times so far!
Anyway, I had a feeling that someone would assume that I brought on my own problems at the wine shop. Sure enough, I was right. Someone responded that I shouldn’t have “expected” the wine shop woman to speak English or German at a shop in France. Where in my post does it say that I expected her to speak another language? I wrote in a matter-of-fact way that the woman didn’t speak German or English. We don’t speak French. There’s no judgment about that. Many people in that region speak German, though, because it’s very close to the German border.
Lots of Europeans speak English. In fact, a lot of people from other parts of Europe speak English to each other even if they don’t come from an English speaking country. English is a very commonly studied second language in many parts of Europe. Say you’re a French person visiting Spain, and you don’t speak Spanish, but you can speak English. You visit a Spanish restaurant and the waiter doesn’t speak French, but does speak English. You can both speak English and get what you need. See? I’ve seen this happen on many occasions.
It’s generally not possible for everyone living in Europe to learn every language, although I have met some impressive people who had seemed to try. It’s not uncommon to meet people in Europe who have mastered four or five tongues, especially among the Romance languages, but they’d still be struggling if they were somewhere in rural Croatia, Latvia, or Poland and the person they were trying to talk to didn’t speak one of the languages they happened to know.
The person in my wine group continued that she had studied French in high school and college, so she has never experienced rude behavior in France. The implication, apparently, is that I’m an “ugly American” and ignorant because I don’t speak French and had the nerve to ask the saleslady if she spoke English or German.
I was pretty irritated by that reaction and response, because I felt it was pretty judgmental. I’ve lived in Germany for ten years of my life. I like living here. Otherwise, I would have gone back to America or somewhere else a long time ago. Moreover, I completely understand the importance of being culturally sensitive. Besides Germany, I’ve also lived in England and Armenia. I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Armenia, where I taught English to little kids. And yes, I do speak some Armenian, a language that I’ll bet relatively few Americans have ever learned a word of.
I also understand that it’s important to study foreign language in school. I studied Spanish for six years, stupidly assuming I’d be living in the United States, where more people speak Spanish than French or German. Believe me, if I had known I’d be living in Germany, I would have studied German and/or French. But I didn’t have a crystal ball back in 1985, when I started taking a foreign language course for the first time. I learned the language I thought was most practical. Based on how my life has turned out, I was wrong.
Someone else wrote that maybe the woman misunderstood me because I don’t speak French. She reasoned that her mother is from Greece and sometimes misunderstands accents. But I don’t think that was what happened, because “No Gewurztraminer” is pretty clear in French and English, especially when we also point to the menu and PAY the price for the box we ordered– which the proprietor says is cheaper than the price is for a box with Gewurztraminer.
Why do people feel like they need to play devil’s advocate, even when the other person isn’t even around to be offended. The wine purveyor isn’t in my wine group, after all. I didn’t even mention which shop she runs. I was just sharing an experience. Why can’t people simply have empathy, rather than try to blame the victim?
The saleslady was not only rude to us, but she also made a mistake; then she shamed us for daring to speak out about it. And instead of apologizing for making the mistake, which everybody does sometimes, she responded in a way that indicated that we were right about her disposition. She’s just plain rude, and probably should find a new line of work that makes her happier. I mean, it’s not like she was slammed with people on the day of our visit. We were the only people in her shop, which was legitimately open for business. We made a very simple request. She botched it, and was very unpleasant to boot. Then, when we legitimately complained, she continued to show everyone her ass.
I think that experience warrants a complaint… or even just a comment, so that other people can avoid that experience themselves. I comment about what happened to Americans, and some of them imply that this was my fault. Isn’t that really nice?
Listen, I’ll be the first to admit that I can be extremely annoying sometimes. This was not one of those times. This was a five minute interaction that went terribly awry for some reason, in spite of our best intentions. I simply wanted to write about it. But some people want to make anyone who sounds off a villain, especially if it involves Americans. Oh well.
We donated two of the offending wines to a Thanksgiving celebration. Hopefully, someone will enjoy the “more expensive” wines that we bought in Alsace. And next time we go to Ribeauville, we’ll try one of the other wine purveyors… providing they’re open for business. I probably should give up wine, anyway… and whine. My liver would surely thank me for it.
When we woke up in Ribeauville on Saturday, November 19th, I looked at Facebook to see if there were any announcements about James Taylor’s show. I didn’t see any emails from the ticketing venue, or on James’s social media. That meant we’d be going home a day early.
I was a little sad to be going, since I really had wanted to go to Riquewihr at least once, if only to get macaroons. Bill didn’t want to go to Riquewihr, because it was in the opposite direction of home, even if it was just two miles. He said he’d go look for the macaroons in Ribeauville. So he went out, picked up more croissants, and FAILED to find the cookies I wanted. Instead, he bought three bags of other cookies.
Maybe I should be ashamed for feeling this way, but I was a little disappointed. What he brought back were not what I wanted. Then it occurred to me that I could probably order the macaroons, which is precisely what I did (they arrived this morning). So I got over my disappointment, and we started packing up to go home. As I was walking the dogs to the car, my hands full of whatever else I could carry, a French woman approached me, speaking rapid fire. I said in English, “I’m sorry, I don’t speak French.”
She nodded and smiled, then backed away. I soon realized what she wanted. It was mid morning and the parking lot was already pretty full. She wanted our parking spot. I saw her lurking in the lot, just waiting for us to move. I always hate it when people do this, even though I understand why they do it. I wasn’t the one driving, and we weren’t quite ready to leave. She finally gave up at some point, after Bill had done a sweep of the Riesling gite, and came back to the car. By then, there were a couple more lurkers, just waiting…
It was probably a half hour later when we were on our way home, after a quick stop at the Daniel Stoffel Chocolatier outlet on the way out of town. Bill went in and picked up some goodies for us, and his daughter’s family.
Our drive home was almost totally uneventful. Arran went to sleep, and Noyzi was a perfect gentleman in the back. Maybe we have finally broken him of his habit of barking in the car. The only strange thing that happened was that, as usual, I witnessed public urination at a rest stop. I vented about that here. Below are a few shots from the drive home. As you can see, Arran was relaxed.
When we got home, our landlord came over to tell us our off kilter dishwasher, which had come off its foundation, wasn’t fixed yet, because the repair guy needed a part. Yesterday, he said the repair guy was sick, but would be able to fix the machine when he was well again. He said we should just be careful using the machine. When I told him we hadn’t been using it, because the dishwasher had given me an error code last time I ran a load, he said if the repair guy couldn’t figure it out, he’d just get us a new one. I am still stunned by how different he is, compared to our former landlady. They are like night and day!
I did the requisite load of laundry and a few other chores, then we got ready for the show in Frankfurt. We had to pick up our tickets at the box office, I guess to thwart scalpers. I pictured a long line of people, but when we arrived at the Jahrhunderthalle, we were pleasantly surprised by the ease of parking, the short distance to the venue, and the short line to get our tickets. Then we enjoyed some libations while we waited for the doors to open.
James Taylor had a stripped down band for this show. There was no keyboard player, and no opening act. We had second row seats, which was a first for me. I saw my first James Taylor concert in 1990. In fact, that show, when I was almost 18, was my very first “rock” show– if you could call it that. I remember I went with my parents and one of my sisters, and I paid $18.50 for nosebleed seats.
For this show, I paid 82,50 euros which I thought was very reasonable to see a guy who has won 6 Grammys and spent more than 50 years enchanting people all over the world with his wonderful guitar playing and angelic voice. While we waited for the show to start, I noticed the music that was playing. I recognized songs from albums by James’s daughter, Sally, as well as backup singers Kate Markowitz and Andrea Zonn. I downloaded Kate’s album from the concert hall. I already had Andrea’s.
This was the fourth time I’d seen James Taylor play, but there was a difference between this show and the others. For one thing, there weren’t drunken, idiot women standing in front of us, dancing and shrieking the whole time. There were no huge screens showing close ups of James and his band. And while he forgot a few words, he still played and sang beautifully. I was charmed by his efforts to speak German to the crowd, as well as the encouraging message he had for anyone “in recovery” from drug and alcohol addiction, as he has been since the mid 80s.
James told us some of the stories behind some of the songs he performed, including “That’s Why I’m Here”, from his 1985 album by the same name. I remember that he had dedicated that album to Bill W., the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous. Imagine going to an A.A. meeting and seeing James Taylor there! But anyway, “That’s Why I’m Here” was a song he wrote in memory of his friend John Belushi, who died of an overdose in 1982. James was a pretty serious addict back in the day. He’s still addicted, of course, but no longer indulges. Before he started singing, he said, “If you like getting fucked up, that’s okay. I just can’t handle it myself anymore!” Everybody laughed.
At the beginning of the evening, I thought James looked a little pale, perhaps because he’d had COVID. But as the show went on, he was more and more animated, at times jumping around the stage. I enjoyed watching him interact with his band, most of whom had been with him for many years. Dorian Holley was the only one on stage I had not seen with James before. I suspect he’s the replacement for Arnold McCuller, James’s longtime backup singer who just retired from life on the road. I enjoyed Dorian’s singing. He has quite an impressive resume. James listed the people Holley’s sung with, which includes the late Michael Jackson. That actually surprised me, because he didn’t look old enough to be one of Jackson’s backup singers… but then, Michael was well known for enjoying and employing young performers for his shows.
James’s long time guitarist, Michael Landau, was well within view of us on the right side of the stage. He stood up and flexed his legs, I smiled at him, and he smiled back. That was kind of a cool moment. One thing I love about European concerts is that I seem to have a much easier time scoring good seats here. Another thing I love about European shows is that most people don’t act stupid at them… at least not at the shows Bill and I attend. And you can get a beer or a glass of wine without mortgaging your house.
At one point, James was introducing a song from his 1971 album, Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon. A man in the audience held up a vinyl copy, which James immediately offered to sign and bite. The guy rushed up to the stage with his album and presented it to James, but then they needed to find a pen. Another guy came up and said he had something that had been signed by a bunch of famous singers, including Johnny Cash. He requested an autograph, which James was happy to oblige. In fact, at the break, I ran out to go to the restroom, and when I came back, James was still on stage, signing autographs and shaking hands. I was very impressed. I wondered if he needed to pee as badly as I did! It struck me as a very humble and generous gesture toward his loyal fans.
I decided not to try to get an autograph myself. I would be honored to have James’s signature, of course, but autographs don’t really mean that much to me. Earlier in the show, someone yelled out that his dad loved James. James made a comment reminiscent of what he said on his Live album from 1993. Basically, he reminded the guy that they don’t know each other. It made me think how strange it must be for performers to be “loved” by people who don’t know them. James himself reminded us that he is a deeply flawed person, as we all are… but what impresses me about James Taylor is that he’s clearly worked very hard to become much better. He’s clearly not the same person he was in the 70s or early 80s.
At the end of the show, of course there were encores… and James and his band encouraged people to get up and come close to the stage. It was one of the most intimate concert experiences I’ve ever had. I think the only one who topped that was James’s somewhat less famous brother, Livingston, who puts on a FABULOUS live show and is extremely approachable. I remember seeing Liv in 2003 at the Birchmere in Alexandria, Virginia, a couple of months after I saw James at Wolf Trap in Bristow, Virginia. James’s show was MUCH bigger than Liv’s was, and we had those drunk women in front of us, careening around sloppily as they slurred the lyrics of James’s best songs. I remember thinking Livingston’s show was so much better, if only because there weren’t any obnoxious drunks there. But Liv also engaged the audience and was thoroughly entertaining. This most recent show by James, while slightly pared down, was akin to Liv’s show, only it was in a much larger, yet still intimate, venue.
In any case, we obviously had a wonderful time! I’m so glad we went. It was the perfect ending to our 20th anniversary weekend. And yes, even though James will be 75 years old in March, he’s still a hell of a great performer. I think the money we spent on this show, even with its delays, was well worth euro cent.
Dorian and Kate dance!
Getting out of the Jahrhunderthalle was very easy. Bill was happy about that. But then we hit a Stau, so Bill went through Hofheim to get us home. And when we got home, we were confronted by a big mess caused by Arran. He got into the basement and raided our dry goods, and peed and pooped on my rug. Fortunately, he was no worse for wear. We have thoroughly dog proofed down there, as we’re going to someone’s house for Thanksgiving dinner today. Noyzi had nothing to do with the raid. He was tucked in bed when we got home. He’s very classy for a street dog.
Well, that about does it for this series. It wasn’t a super exciting trip, but we had a good time… and it was great to have Arran and Noyzi with us. I’m so grateful to be here on many levels, and for so many reasons. I’m glad James Taylor is still with us, too. And before I forget, below are a couple of clips from the show.
I really had good intentions for getting away on Friday. I thought maybe we’d go to Riquewihr, if only so we could buy some macaroons. The wine route in Alsace is just so beautiful, and even though we’ve done it so many times, it never gets old. But the weather was kind of drizzly, off and on. We’d have sun for awhile, then it would start raining. The dogs were pretty good. We really only heard them throwing a fit once, and we waited about a minute before they shut up.
One of Bill’s co-workers was hoping for a photo or video of Bill tasting cheeses. Ribeauville actually has a wine and cheese bar, and it was open during our stay. However, it was only open for takeaway; the “bar” part was closed. Bill went there and brought home a few stinky selections, which he videoed himself tasting for his daughter, whom he’s just now getting to know again after many years of separation. That’s a long story, of course, which can easily be found in my main blog.
Speaking of Bill’s daughter… she is the mother of three very young children. I saw a shop with some cute stuffed toy storks. Alsace and parts of Germany are pretty well-known for the population of storks that live there. Their huge nests are easy to find on top of buildings. The locals even make it easy for the birds to nest. I made a note of the shop and, after lunch, we went there and picked up some toys for Bill’s grandchildren, as well as a a gnome for our own house.
For breakfast on Friday, Bill went to a different patisserie– one with a medieval theme. He picked up more croissants and an artisanal loaf of bread that he said tasted of sourdough. I don’t like sourdough much, so I left him to it.
We took another walk around the town, thinking maybe we’d taste wines at Louis Sipp, which has a couple of tasting rooms… but they weren’t open when we were in the mood. So we explored some other parts of town– areas we had never been to on previous trips. Ribeauville seems like a really small town, but there’s actually a lot to it besides the charming main drag. I love the way the village looks, and found myself taking many pictures. But I don’t think I’d want to live there, because everyone is kind of packed in. I don’t like sharing walls with people, and I enjoy having a yard. It’s nice to visit such a quaint place, though, if only to remind me of how much we enjoy our current “mansion” in Wiesbaden.
We had lunch at Schaal E’ Sucre, the cute little restaurant we had tried to get into on Thursday. It was crowded again on Friday, but there was a table for two open. There was one waiter working the entire room. He was very friendly and smiley, and he spoke English, which was nice. This little eatery has a very simple menu, with salads, pasta dishes, quiches, sandwiches, and soups. I was torn between the bacon and cheese open sandwich and another Quiche Lorraine. I decided to have the quiche, just so I could compare it to the previous day’s. I could probably eat quiche every day… although that wouldn’t be the smartest thing to do.
The quiche was a bit browner than the quiche I had at L’Ami Fritz. However, it definitely had more of a “professional” pastry look, like it was made by a pastry chef, rather than someone’s mama. It had a different flavor, too. I didn’t taste the “musty” cheese. I liked both quiches for different reasons. I preferred the cheese and the look of the quiche at Schaal E’ Sucre, but I liked the texture and bacon in the quiche from L’Ami Fritz. Bill ended up getting the bacon and cheese sandwich, which was also delicious! I could tell he had trouble finishing it, as it also came with a big salad, like my quiche did. We never even touched the bread, although we did enjoy an interesting Riesling/Muscat blended white wine.
Naturally, we were talked into having Quetsch (plum) tart, with chantilly (whipped cream). I noticed that Schaal E’ Sucre also offered a wide variety of waffles. We definitely left there satisfied, and although I loved that place when it was Chez Martine, I think it’s in good hands, now. When we left the restaurant, it was raining.
We decided to stop by a wine shop to get some vino for home. Sadly, that was not a good shopping experience. There was a lone woman running the shop, and she wore a sour expression on her face. Bill asked if she spoke English or German. She responded with a flat “No.” Okay, fine. I distinctly said, more than once, “No Gewurztraminer”. That should be translatable in French. She also had a list of available wine packages. We pointed to one that consisted of Rieslings and Pinot Blancs. She packed a box for us and pretty much didn’t so much as say “kiss my ass” to us as we left.
When we got home the next day, and unpacked the box, we found three bottles of Gewurztraminer. I guess that will teach us to trust a salesperson with a sour disposition to pack wines for us before we check labels. Fortunately, tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and we’ve been invited to someone else’s house. Guess we’ll bring over some wine for them. 😉 And yes, Bill did tell his friend/co-worker that we got the wrong wine, and he was fine with us bringing the Alsatian Gewurztraminer. Someone at the party will surely enjoy sweet French wine.
Once again, we were too full for dinner, so went hung out with the dogs as I watched James Taylor’s Facebook page to see if the show would still be going on in Frankfurt Saturday night. Yes, it was a very “chill” break in Alsace, and we could have done more with our time, but really, it was just nice to be with Bill and the dogs, enjoying a different country. And, even though we had a disappointing experience with the wine lady, Ribeauville is still so beautiful…
I don’t think we’ll ever get tired of Ribeauville.
Arran’s medications make him hungry. They also make him need to go potty more often than usual. Consequently, on all three nights of our stay, Bill got up in the wee hours of the morning to take him and Noyzi out for walks. Then, he’d come back to bed, and try to go back to sleep. The apartment where we stayed was easy to keep dark, so on Thursday, we slept until 8:00 AM. We almost never do that anymore!
Our morning habit, whenever we visit France, is to get baked goodies from the patisseries. I am a big fan of FRENCH croissants– and yes, they are different to me than the ones we can get in Germany. Kugelhopfs are also very popular and prevalent in Alsace, as well as in parts of Germany and Austria. Personally, I can take or leave the Kugelhopfs, although I will admit to thinking they look very pretty. They usually include raisins and almonds, though, and I generally prefer my baked goods without fruit and nuts. One can also score delightful Pain au chocolat– flaky pastries filled with semi sweet chocolate– which are very decadent. I love chocolate, but again, the one must do French breakfast treat for me is the lowly croissant.
Bill went to one of the nearby patisseries and brought back the usual, then scrambled some eggs. We bought some clementine juice, ham, and cheese, at the local Carrefour grocery store, located very conveniently about a five minute walk from our gite. Once again, I was marveling at how flaky and delicious the croissants were, and kind of wishing we had more of them. But the last thing I need is a plentiful supply of baked goods!
After breakfast, we all took a walk around Ribeauville. It’s a very pretty little village, not unlike other pretty villages in Alsace. Riquewihr, which is only two miles from Ribeauville, is considered one of the most beautiful villages in France. However, I prefer Ribeauville, because it feels more lived in to me. It’s obvious there are a lot of locals in Ribeauville, even though it’s a tourist destination. Riquewihr feels a little more touristy to me, and it has a lot more tourist oriented businesses. For that reason, I like to stay in Ribeauville, and visit Riquewihr and some of the other, more famous towns, like Kaysersberg, which is where Anthony Bourdain, sadly, took his life in June 2018. Of course, I also like Ribeauville, because we know Yannick, and he’s very cool with our dogs.
I took lots of pictures of the town, as usual, because even though we’ve been to Ribeauville so many times, it’s always a pretty town. We usually go there in the winter, rather than the fall. We’ve only managed one visit in the late spring, when everything is open, but crowded. Once the dogs were sufficiently exercised, we took them back to the gite and went looking for lunch.
As I mentioned before, only a few restaurants were open during our visit. The ones that were open had plenty of business. We were wanting to go to a little lunch spot that was once called Chez Martine, but now has new owners and a different name. Schaal’É Sucré offers a menu that is very similar to that of what Chez Martine used to have, only now it’s open later and is run by men instead of women. On Thursday, it was clear that it was every bit as popular as its predecessor was, as the dining room was completely full when we stuck our heads in, looking for a bite.
We ended up eating at Caveau de L’Ami Fritz, a restaurant that is affiliated with the hotel of the same name. We have eaten at L’Ami Fritz before, and I remembered that the dining room is in a very charming “cave”. I also remembered liking what I had there the first time we tried it. The dining room was full of people when we arrived, but everyone looked very happy. Bill and I sat down and enjoyed some local specialties.
I had Quiche Lorraine, while Bill went for pork and Baeckaoffa, basically cheesy potato casserole made with Munster. The quiche was delicious, although it was made with a slightly “musty” cheese. I am very particular about cheese, and this one just bordered on “offensive” to me. Still, I managed to eat the whole thing, anyway.
We also enjoyed a local Riesling. Bill had asked for a 28 euro bottle, but when we got the bill, it turned out they had given us a 55 euro selection. Oh well. I suppose he could have complained, but we enjoyed the wine and we could afford it. And of course, we had dessert, too… Chocolate mousse for me, and a myrtle tart for Bill. He had leftovers from the Baeckaoffa, so we had that packed up and brought it to the apartment. I probably should have done the same with the mousse. It was a very generous portion.
By the time we were finished with lunch, it was early afternoon and a bit drizzly. I decided to have a rest and try to read more of my latest book. Naturally, that led to a two hour nap. 😉
Our lunch was so filling that we ended up staying in for the night, eating a light snack at dinner time and, of course, enjoying more wine. It’s a lovely thing to go to France to recharge! I liked the French weather lady’s dress, too. I also notice the fine for not cleaning up after your dog has gone up a bit.
On Wednesday afternoon, Bill and I loaded up the car with a couple of small bags and lots of supplies for our two dogs, Noyzi and Arran. Both dogs were excited at first, because they enjoy going places. But then Arran got decidedly sullen. I could see that he was upset, because he noticed Noyzi was in the car with us, and probably figured we would be taking him to the Hundepension. There was a time when Arran didn’t mind being boarded. Bill and I have noticed that lately, he’s a lot more interested in hanging out with us. So, he looked pretty sad at the beginning of our trip. Depressed, even. Noyzi, on the other hand, was barking and carrying on. He likes car rides, and loves going to the Hundepension. Last time we took them there, Noyzi actually banged on the gate to be let in!
I noticed that Arran’s countenance was decidedly less dour when he realized we weren’t on the familiar road to the Hundepension. He knew that he was going on a trip with us, something he and Noyzi’s predecessor, Zane, used to do fairly regularly. Zane was a lot smaller than Noyzi is, so it was easier to take them on trips. We could even get the two of them in my Mini Cooper. Noyzi won’t fit in my Mini by himself, let alone with Arran. He takes up the entire back of our Volvo. So traveling with the dogs is more challenging than it used to be, and, for that reason, we don’t do it as often.
When we got to Ribeauville, Arran knew EXACTLY where we were, even though it had been about 4.5 years since his last visit. We used to go to Ribeauville fairly often, but we didn’t bring Arran on our last visit, back in January 2020 (before we had Noyzi), because we had Bill’s mom with us, and we wanted to be free to take her to different places without worrying about Arran making a fuss. I watched in amusement as Arran pulled Bill toward the Riesling Gite, where we always try to stay when we visit Ribeauville. I had to remind myself that it was our 20th anniversary, as I played Keb’ Mo’s song, “France”.
Noyzi had never been to France before, so he was a bit bowled over by everything. I let our host, Yannick, know that we had arrived, and he said he’d be coming over in about an hour. We set up in the apartment, and fed the dogs, as it was time for them to eat. Yannick came over with treats, which impressed both dogs. He told us that he loves dogs, but his wife doesn’t like them because their hair gets all over everything. I can see why that would be annoying, but I don’t think I could be married to someone who didn’t let me have a dog. 😉 They are the best company, as far as I’m concerned.
After Yannick left, Bill and I went looking for dinner. We ended up at a restaurant we had never tried before. The Cheval Noir is at the edge of the main drag, and while the outside of it is very cute and quaint, it has a decidedly unromantic ambiance. We ate there because there were only a few restaurants open in Ribeauville, as many places closed in preparation for the upcoming Christmas market. They had space for us, although there were lots of people dining there on Wednesday night who had made reservations. We sat in a corner, where we perused the very Alsatian menu. They had all of the usual stuff one finds in Alsace– Choucroute Garni, pork knuckles, potatoes with Munster cheese, and faux filets. Alsatian food is a lot like German food, just with a French accent. I ended up ordering one of the specials, a salmon fillet with Beurre Blanc sauce and roasted potatoes. Bill had a faux fillet with Munster sauce and roasted potatoes. Both dishes came with side salads.
We ordered a bottle of local wine, giggling that it was our 20th anniversary. The waitress, who spoke English, promptly wished us a “happy birthday”, which only made me giggle more. The food was good, but very basic stuff one can find at a lot of the local places. It wasn’t the kind of special dinner I expected to have on our 20th anniversary, but I found that I wasn’t upset or disappointed about it. Maybe that was the point. We’ve had a pretty wonderful 20 years, with many special evenings and occasions. It somehow made sense to have a somewhat run of the mill 20th anniversary. At least we were together, which is more than I could say about our 19th anniversary, which Bill spent alone in Poland.
We did opt for dessert, which was also nothing special. We’re big on desserts, as one can tell just by looking at us. I had profiteroles, which are ice cream filled pastries with chocolate sauce. Bill went with, torche aux marrons, a local speciality we never saw before, but saw twice on this trip. Basically, it’s a dessert that is support to look like a stork’s nest, as storks are very prevalent in Alsace. Or maybe it looks like a torch. Nearby Colmar is the birthplace of Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, the artist who created the Statue of Liberty.
Torche aux marrons consists of meringues topped with chestnut cream squeezed out as if through a grinder. Bill said it was interesting, but he probably wouldn’t order it again. I enjoyed the profiteroles. I think we spent about 70 euros, which is pretty reasonable.
When we got back to the gite, we found that Arran had raided the trash can. Yannick’s treats came in packages, which we threw in the trash and forgot to lock in the bathroom. We cleaned up the mess and went to bed, as we were both tired. Of course, Arran needed potty breaks and snacks in the night. Below are some photos from our first night. As you can see, 20 years of marriage leaves a mark on the ol’ ring finger.
I’ve been looking forward to November 16, 2022 for twenty years. That’s the day Bill and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary. As some readers already know, I am Bill’s second wife. On some levels, I would say he and I have had a fairly easy time of marriage. We get along very well, and we genuinely love spending time together. We aren’t just husband and wife; we are best friends. But that doesn’t mean we haven’t had our share of dramas.
All year, I’ve been thinking about what we should do to celebrate our big milestone. Normally, I would come up with a fancy vacation of some kind, or at least a trip to somewhere we’ve never been, even if it’s not a luxurious destination. But then in September, I discovered that our beloved dog, Arran, had swollen lymph nodes. The diagnosis was B-cell lymphoma. We are now in our last days with Arran, who is a very special family member, and has a particularly close bond with Bill.
Originally, we thought it would be best to ease Arran into palliative care, but he’s repeatedly showed us he wants to fight. So he’s now undergoing chemotherapy, which has been kind of miraculous. He started treatment October 13th, and on November 20th, he’s still happy and spunky. Nevertheless, I didn’t want to board him. For one thing, we’ve come to realize that Arran doesn’t enjoy being boarded anymore. He’d much rather be with us. For another, I didn’t want to burden the Hund Pension with dealing with his medications, which aren’t that complicated, but do involve some risk. He takes a drug that requires gloves to dispense safely, and it’s not safe for his poop to be accessible to other dogs.
Finally, when we were celebrating our tenth anniversary in Scotland, Arran’s predecessor, MacGregor, had an undiagnosed cancerous spinal tumor that caused an emergency while we were traveling thousands of miles away. I didn’t want anything similar to happen this time. We lost MacGregor a week before Christmas 2012, just a couple of weeks after our return from our big anniversary trip. Arran, who joined our family on January 12, 2013, is named after a Scottish island we saw on that first trip to Scotland.
I decided we’d spend our big day in Ribeauville, France, which is about a three hour drive from us. We have been there half a dozen times since 2017, staying in apartments owned by Yannick Kopff, a Alsatian native and excellent host. Yannick is extremely dog friendly, and since our favorite of his apartments, Riesling, was available for our dates, we decided that was a good place to celebrate. I booked four nights– from Wednesday, November 16th until Sunday, November 20th, at Yannick’s Gites au Coeur de Ribeauville.
Meanwhile, we were also looking forward to seeing and hearing James Taylor perform a concert. Originally, the show was supposed to go on in February 2022. But COVID-19 numbers were too high at that time, and there were many restrictions in place. So James decided to reschedule his European Tour dates for later in the year. In our case, the Frankfurt show was rescheduled for November 8th. Perfect– a Tuesday night, over a week before our anniversary trip.
On November 7th, we got the news that James had to postpone several concerts, including ours. He finally got COVID, and was advised to rest in Zurich, Switzerland for a few days. We watched anxiously, as four shows were eventually canceled because they couldn’t be rescheduled. However, Frankfurt’s venue was open for November 19th… last night. We were supposed to be in France last night, but we decided to come home a day early to catch James’s show… and I’m really glad we did that, because it was a great show, in spite of James’s brush with COVID.
I don’t have a lot of exciting stories to tell about our most recent trip to Ribeauville. November, just before the Christmas markets, is the “off season”. A lot of places were closed in preparation for the frenzy that is about to hit the village. I don’t know how big their market was in 2021, but I’m pretty sure it was canceled in 2020. I have a feeling this year’s markets will be bigger, and I could see that people were preparing. But, in terms of having a lot to do while we were there… I can’t say that we did. On the other hand, we did try a couple of restaurants we had never tried before, and Bill tried a dessert that is a local speciality that we never had before.
This was also Noyzi’s very first trip with us, aside from when we went to Slovenia to pick him up in 2020. Ribeauville was a good choice, because it wasn’t too far away, and because Yannick is so good with dogs in his properties. It was a fruitful trip for Noyzi, too, since he finally learned to poop while on a leash. This is a big deal, because it will make traveling with him much easier and less worrisome. Eventually, we may have to take him back to the States, which means for his own health, he needs to know how to relieve himself when he’s not frolicking in the backyard. He did seem to learn the lesson on our trip.
Aside from taking pictures of the always beautiful village of Ribeauville, binge watching Netflix and cheesy French game shows, eating lots of French comfort foods, drinking Alsatian wines, and being together, we didn’t do much on this trip. It was a good opportunity for Bill to sleep. We also picked up some gifts for his daughter and grandchildren. The beauty of Ribeauville is that we’ve been there so many times that not doing anything doesn’t seem too much like a hardship. By now, the village feels like a second home, even if our last visit was in January 2020.
So… over the next couple of days, I’ll write up this trip and James Taylor’s concert. I don’t think I’ll binge write today, because frankly, I just don’t feel like it. The weather is kind of crappy and I feel like hibernating. But we had a great time, and I’m grateful we could do it. I hope we can do it again.
If you’re interested in reading about our latest trip to France, I hope you’ll watch this space for updates… Meanwhile, here’s a video I made a few days ago in honor of our anniversary and James Taylor’s show. He didn’t do “Secret O’ Life” last night…
Happy Saturday, blog fans. I usually try to update my travel blog on the weekends with reports on restaurants, fun activities, or travel. This weekend, Bill is recovering from two back to back TDYs, some kind of respiratory infection that isn’t COVID, and irritable bowel syndrome. He is out shopping for food right now, but I have my doubts that we’re going to get out and about today.
Although we have lovely fall weather, we’re both kind of tired… Bill from sickness, and me from tending to Arran all week and repeatedly getting up in the middle of the night. Arran is doing okay today, except for his rancid, atomic farts, and being a little sleepy from his chemo. He did get a chemo pill today, as well as Prednisolone; the Endoxan pill makes him want to snooze. And two days post Vincristine infusion is also when the side effects tend to kick in. He was a little low energy this morning, and threw up a little of his food.
This is actually kind of a bummer, though. I’d rather Arran not be dealing with side effects on Saturday, which is the one day Bill and I can go anywhere and things will be open. Maybe we should try to change the day of the infusions. We’ll have to do that anyway, if Arran is still with us next month. We still have plans to visit France, starting on Wednesday, the 16th, which is our anniversary.
But maybe it’s not so bad that we aren’t going out today. I’ve been wanting to write another post about some of my favorite European luxury hotels. We’ve been to some good ones since the last time I did one of these posts, in February 2017. Our fortunes have improved since that time, five years ago, when I wrote about our favorite luxury digs. These aren’t necessarily ranked in order, nor are they even my favorite lodgings of all time. They’re just luxurious European places we really enjoyed and haven’t forgotten. So here’s another post about some of my favorite hotels when we want to drop a load of euros. Here goes.
Bill and I stayed at this five star hotel in Vevey, Switzerland in December 2015. I went with him on a business trip to Vicenza, Italy, and we decided to stop in Switzerland on the way home, so Bill could visit the Giger Museum in Gruyeres. I noticed the Grand Hotel du Lac the first time we lived in Germany, but in those days, our finances made it impossible to book such a place. Switzerland is expensive no matter what, but a five star hotel there is quite a splurge. Still, I decided to go for it, and even sprang for a lake view, as the hotel is right next to Lake Geneva. The lake view was a waste of money, though, because there was fog the whole time we were there during waking hours. The one full day we were in the area, we spent in Gruyeres. Still, the hotel is absolutely beautiful and comfortable, and I remember our stay there fondly– with exception to our experience in the restaurant, which was not as impressive. Vevey is a pretty town, too. I’d love to go back! And I would definitely stay in this hotel… though I might go elsewhere for dinner.
In 2018, I whimsically bought tickets to see a bunch of concerts, one of which was in Dublin, Ireland, and featured Paul Simon, James Taylor, and Bonnie Raitt. Yeah, that was a great show, and it lasted about six hours! We obviously needed good digs, so we could get proper rest. I decided to book Merrion Hotel, which is supposedly Dublin’s best… or, at least it was when we were there in 2018. Anyway, we didn’t have an upgraded room, but the room we had was nice enough. Bonus was that they gave us lots of chocolate– like three huge bars of it– milk, dark, and white. I remember loving the breakfasts at this hotel, which were cooked to order and absolutely amazing. Plus, there was a beautiful pool area, and top notch service. Highly recommended!
In June 2021, Bill and I decided to pay a visit to Heidelberg, Germany, a city not that far from where we currently live. At the time, COVID-19 cases, and the restrictions that accompanied the pandemic, were in full swing. We decided we wanted to stick close to home. I booked a few nights at Europäische Hof Heidelberg, a beautiful five star hotel with a long history and high service standards. The hotel has been family run for generations, and the attention to detail and care for guests are obvious. The owner of the hotel was very attentive and visible during our visit. Afterwards, when I wrote a review on TripAdvisor, she responded personally, and even sent me an email. We had a gorgeous, comfortable room, and the location was very convenient to the downtown area. I still get email offers from this hotel, and I’d love to go back sometime. Yes, it’s expensive, but it’s not a rip off.
Bill and I visited Vaduz, Liechtenstein in May 2022, on our way home from a trip to Italy to taste wines. Originally, I had planned to stop in Lugano, Switzerland, but determined that Lugano wasn’t close enough to home. We had visited Liechtenstein once, back in 2009, and I thought it might be interested to visit the tiny country one more time. When I saw that it had a very highly regarded hotel with beautiful views, I was definitely onboard with booking. We had a lovely time in Vaduz, and delighted in tasting even more wines there! Park Hotel Sonnenhof is a very restful hotel with an excellent restaurant. It’s great for a splurge.
If you are a regular reader of my blog, you might know that Bill and I only recently stayed at the Hotel Bareiss in Baiersbronn, Germany. It’s probably the most expensive hotel we’ve ever stayed at, but it’s important to remember that the price of the room includes breakfast and dinner, as well as an afternoon cake buffet. At this hotel, food is front and center, but it also offers classic, quaint Black Forest inspired rooms, a petting zoo, daily activities, walking trails, several restaurants, and a first class pool and spa area. I LOVED the pool and spa areas, actually. We were there at a great time to enjoy them, too, because it wasn’t crowded at all! I wish we’d had a chance to try the a la carte restaurants, because the items that we had that weren’t part of the board menu were truly very special. Service is also outstanding at this hotel! Baiersbronn is a great town for foodies, as there are quite a few exquisite Michelin starred restaurants there. It’s also a fine place for hikers, especially if they want to see waterfalls.
In late June 2019, Bill and I went to Gothenburg, Sweden to pick up our brand new Volvo at the Volvo factory. Although we could have stayed at a hotel chosen by Volvo, I wanted to go to the Upper House, a hotel in Gothia Towers. Why? Because of the pool. It juts out from the side of the building on the 18th floor! Also, the hotel is very swanky and beautiful, and offers beautiful views of the amusement park next door. Bill and I both loved the breakfasts, which were very unusual and cooked to order with fresh ingredients. If you’re going to Gothenburg and looking for something special, The Upper House is a good bet. The spa area is dreamy, but so is the bar… and I distinctly remember loving the bed. I wish I’d thought to find out where the mattress came from. That was a pretty epic trip. We combined it with stops in Copenhagen, Rostock, and Leipzig, and saw Mark Knopfler, both in concert, and at the bar in the Leipzig hotel where we were staying!
In March 2022, we had to go see our dentist in Stuttgart. At that time, COVID-19 rules were in full effect in Germany, and things were feeling a bit dystopian. We decided we wanted to get out of Germany for a few days, so I looked for a place just over the border. That’s when I discovered tiny Sessenheim, a little village near Soufflenheim, where a lot of French pottery is made. Sessenheim boasts a marvelous Michelin starred restaurant called Auberge au Boeuf, which also has four rooms to rent. This isn’t a big hotel, but the room we stayed in was the only one I have ever stayed in my lifetime that had its very own private sauna. It also had a jacuzzi bath. But the most impressive and memorable part of our stay at this hotel was the breakfast, which included the most delicious pastries I’ve ever had! They were obviously made on site, and served on special pottery that appeared to be locally made. Breakfast also included cheeses, smoked fish, cold cuts, and a variety of other goodies, all of which were brought to us. No breakfast buffet!
If you ever feel the need to feel “safe”, Hotel Oberwaid is a good bet. This hotel, located within sight of Lake Konstanz, is also a health sanitorium. There are physicians on staff for people who go there for health reasons, but it’s also a very comfortable hotel. From June until December, children are not allowed at the hotel, so it’s a very restful, adult oriented place. The restaurant serves excellent local cuisine, and there’s a fantastic pool and spa area. What I loved most about this hotel, though, was that they went to great lengths to make guests comfortable. After four nights at a noisy resort in Italy, I was definitely in the mood for a peaceful, quiet couple of nights at a place that was climate controlled and had good beds. Hotel Oberwaid had that, but it was also a very classy place. I can see why people go there for their health, even though I didn’t feel like I was staying in a hospital. The focus is on health and wellness, but in a comfortable, visually appealing setting. I’d like to go back sometime, if the fates allow.
This is the hotel Bill chose for us when I turned 50 in June. It’s not the most luxurious of the properties where we’ve stayed. It doesn’t have a spa or a pool. However, it is beautifully and stylishly furnished, and offers every comfort, and it’s very convenient to downtown Antwerp. What I loved most about it was the service, which was very warm, personal, and professional. They brought out a beautiful strawberry tart and some fizz for my birthday morning, and we stayed in the funkiest room I’ve ever seen. I like this hotel because it’s so hospitable; we were so pleased with everything! One caveat I would mention is that if you have mobility issues, you might want to call the hotel for advice on which rooms are best. Our room required climbing a couple of flights of stairs. The other side of the hotel has elevator access for that part. The featured photo is of the hotel’s iconic red front door!
In November 2018, Bill and I celebrated our 16th wedding anniversary. We were also preparing to move to Wiesbaden from the Stuttgart area, in what would turn out to be a very stressful relocation, particularly considering that we were moving within Germany. I wanted to find us a really beautiful place to spend our anniversary, and I found it in Brenner’s Park. One of my former professors from Longwood University recommended this hotel, calling it “a little slice of Heaven”. Indeed, that’s what we found when we got there, especially since they upgraded us from a deluxe room to a junior suite… and that room was palatial! Brenner’s Park has a resident cat named Kleopatra, a fantastic spa, beautiful pool area, delicious food, and a classy bar. I would LOVE to go back there, even though it’s not very far from where we live now. Maybe on a future dentist excursion, we’ll book Brenner’s Park… but I don’t know if we can spring for a junior suite, and it’ll be hard to downgrade after staying in one. In a word… WOW.
I won’t deny it. Bill and I have been living a pretty sweet life over here… and I am very grateful we’ve had these opportunities to enjoy some of Europe’s loveliest hotels. I hope we can visit a few more before it’s time to retire and settle somewhere permanent. For now, we’re going to keep splurging for as long as we can. You only live once!
If you’re curious about any of these places and want more details of our visits, be sure to search the blog. I have done extensive review series of each place listed in this post!
Although there’s a lot going on in our area this weekend, and Bill and I have been wanting to visit other little towns near us, we decided to stay close to home. I knew there was going to be a little French market in Hofheim today, and that would be a good opportunity for Bill to get some of his favorite stinky cheeses. We also heard that there was going to be a huge climate change protest in Wiesbaden, along with a food truck festival.
The French market sounded like it was more our speed, but once we got there, it was a lot smaller than I was expecting it to be. When I saw how tiny it was, I suggested we look in the other usual areas of the city to see if there was anything else. All we saw was the tail end of the weekend market, getting ready to shut down. Lots of people were drinking Riesling at the Wine Chalet, too.
We decided to have some lunch, then hit the French market. Today, we finally managed to try Die Scheuer. Die Scheuer translates to “the barn” (even though Google says the word translates to “the scour”). We’ve been wanting to visit this cute little restaurant for some time, but we usually get there too late, as they shut down at 2:30pm. We noticed that they got a Michelin Red Plate. After today’s delicious lunch, we can see why.
Die Scheuer has a nice shady outdoor area, with huge sycamore trees. They had also put up several large umbrellas, which was a good thing, since it started to rain right after we ordered our food. We had to change tables, in spite of the the umbrellas and tree cover. Still, it was so nice to see the rain, as it’s been weeks since we last had a good spritz. The rain didn’t last long enough, but it did cool things off a little bit.
Bill and I both chose lunch dishes, which were reasonably priced and not too huge. I had breaded, baked chicken, with sweet potato fries, and a lemon cream dip. Bill had what was called a barbecue bowl, which had a minute steak garnished with beans, corn on the cob, onions, and spicy barbecue sauce. It all looked and tasted great, especially washed down with cold hefeweizens. Service was friendly and relaxed, but professional. My chicken was very moist and tasty… and kid friendly, as I noticed the boy at the next table having the same. I have a child’s palate.
I ventured into the restaurant to use the restroom and noticed how very charming it is on the inside. The tables were all beautifully set, with comfortable looking booths. We’ll have to come back for dinner sometime. Sitting inside or outside promises a pleasant experience, albeit not a particularly inexpensive one.
After we finished our lunch plates, we had dessert. Creme brulee for me, and an apricot dish for Bill. There was a time when he wouldn’t eat apricots because it was “bad luck” for “tankers” in the Army. I think he’s gotten over that superstition. I think Die Scheuer has a pretty devoted following in Hofheim. I can see why. It really is a nice restaurant. Our bill came to 73 euros, which Bill paid in cash, along with the “Trinkgeld” (tip).
After we ate lunch, we went to the French market. Bill bought some sausages, cheese, duck spread, and macaroons. I bought four bars of lovely French soaps. I wish the market had been a little bigger, but it was perfectly nice. After the wine festival in Wiesbaden, it was fun to do something low key.
I wish it had rained longer. I hope it will start again. We missed last night’s wine stand, in part, because it threatened to rain, but never did. The wine stand was also held in a different part of our village, and we didn’t feel like looking for it. Next week, we’ll get our very first market in the Dorfplatz, and then the following week, Breckenheim gets its own wine fest. So I don’t think we missed out too much. Besides, last time I went to a wine stand, I got COVID.
Below are today’s photos…
We enjoy visiting these little markets sometimes, and it’s been too long since our last leisurely lunch in a restaurant. Next month, we are headed back to Baiersbronn for five nights at the Bareiss Hotel. I’m sure there will be many more beautiful food pics then!
It’s time for me to write another one of my “ten things I learned” posts. This one is coming a bit later than usual. I’m going to preface the post with a bit of an explanation for the people who still follow my travel adventures.
I’ve held off on writing my usual “ten things I learned” post for our most recent trip to France. I’m sad to say that I’ve kind of lost some of my desire to produce travel blog posts. There are a couple of reasons for this development.
Ever since I moved my blogs to WordPress, I’ve been struggling with lagging morale, particularly regarding the travel blog. Part of the reason I’ve been struggling has to do with people who were following me on Blogspot and decided to cause trouble. That situation was what led me to move my blogs in the first place. I suspect they just didn’t like me personally, for whatever reason, and decided to stir up some shit. It all ended badly, and ultimately, not in their favor, but it left me with some significant psychological angst that has taken some time to overcome.
I spent a year struggling with feeling really violated and angry, mainly because the people who were causing issues were being creepy, dishonest, and toxic. I’ve written quite a lot about that situation, mostly on my main blog, so I don’t want to rehash it here. I do think it’s really sad that some people feel the need to meddle in other people’s business and try to sabotage something like a personal blog. What those people did caused real damage on many levels, and there was absolutely no reason for it, other than their need to be destructive and creepy.
The second reason I’ve been less enthusiastic has a lot to do with the pandemic, and how difficult and annoying travel has been since COVID-19 became part of life. I was finally starting to feel better about writing in early 2020, only to have everything fall apart due to a deadly novel virus. The below song by Rhonda Vincent is pretty much a good summation of my feelings about COVID… If you haven’t heard it, I highly encourage you to listen. I promise it’s good, unless you just can’t abide bluegrass.
I am happy to report that Europe really is FINALLY opening up again, and COVID measures are becoming less obnoxious. This is happening, even though COVID infections are on the rise again in Europe, and I was actually exposed to COVID on our latest trip (though I haven’t been sick). I’m hoping the “red tile” on my Corona Warn app will go back to green today. Bill and I had a wonderful time in France, and now we want to travel more. So, I’m hoping we can move back into our former lifestyle, and I will recapture the joy of travel and experiencing new places and things. And now, on to the ten things I learned…
10. COVID-19 measures in France are currently much less annoying than they’ve been in Germany.
One of the reasons Bill and I went to France in the first place is because we didn’t want to be bothered by strict COVID rules. France doesn’t require FFP2 face masks, and if you are vaccinated, you don’t have to bother with masks in public indoor areas of restaurants and hotels. You do still need to wear a mask in shops, because they don’t check for vaccinations at the door. This was true during our visit, but as we know, rules are always subject to change.
9. Soufflenheim is French pottery heaven!
We have been to the Alsace area of France many times, but we’ve always stuck to the Wine Route. This was our first time exploring the area above Strasbourg, and we decided to go there because we knew Soufflenheim was where Alsatian pottery is made.
8. But there isn’t that much else going on in Soufflenheim…
Or, at least that was our impression during our visit. It’s a great place to go pottery shopping, but I wouldn’t say the town is particularly picturesque. However, nearby Sessenheim, where we stayed, is very cute!
7. There’s more to Alsace than the Wine Route.
On our previous trips to Alsace, we stayed in pretty, tourist friendly towns like Riquewihr, Colmar (Bischwihr), Ribeauville, and, of course, Strasbourg. We have visited the picturesque hamlets around Riquewihr and Ribeauville, and even made a point of stopping by Kaysersberg, where Anthony Bourdain took his life in 2018. If you go north of Strasbourg, you’ll still be in Alsace, but it feels different… and it’s well worth seeing.
6. Auberge Au Boeuf is a really cool place to stay!
I think the main reason we enjoyed our trip so much is because we discovered Auberge Au Boeuf, which is a wonderful, historic restaurant. But it also has four really cool bedrooms that can be rented. We were delighted by how thoughtfully designed and beautiful the hotel was. The little town of Sessenheim is also notable for its historic connection to Johann von Goethe, a very famous German poet, playwright, novelist, and statesman.
5. Michelin starred restaurants are not the end all, be all…
I do enjoy eating fancy food on occasion; but I’m really much more of a comfort food fan. We ate at the Michelin starred Auberge Au Boeuf twice. I’m not sorry we did that, but we did learn that “fancy food” should be special, or the magic wears off. On the other hand, it had been so long since we last indulged!
4. Speaking German often, but not always, comes in handy in Alsace.
We kind of already knew this from other trips, but we did run into a number of people who didn’t speak German or English. It made me wish I had studied French, in school, instead of Spanish.
3. The town of Bitche, which is in Lorraine, is very close to Kaiserslautern and Ramstein.
I did not realize how accessible this town, with its impressive and famous citadel, is to Germany’s largest military community. Maybe if Bill had worked in K-town, we might be slipping over the border more often.
2. Saverne is a cute town I’d never heard of!
We visited Saverne on a whim after we got bored in beautiful Obernai. Seriously, Obernai is a very pretty town, but it reminded me so much of other wine route towns. It was a treat to discover Saverne, which was about 45 minutes away. It had a very different feel. I wish we’d had time to explore more of it. Maybe we can go back.
It’s time to get back to enjoying Europe… for as long as possible.
One of our biggest regrets during our first time living in Europe is that we spent too many weekends at home. We completely missed out on the Black Forest and Alsace during our Army tour. In fact, I don’t even remember any visits to Stuttgart Mitte during those two years. When we came back to Germany in 2014, we were determined to explore more. For four years, we were able to do that, and we did it to great success.
But then, once we moved, we dealt with harassment and COVID-19, which knocked us off track somewhat. As we’ve learned from COVID, life is short and tomorrow is never guaranteed. Putin is making things in Europe a bit tense. Add that to COVID, and things can seem mighty grim. The truth is, every day there are risks to be faced. It’s time to face more risks and get back to living. I hope that’s what we can do more of in 2022.
And to those who want to cause trouble and see me fail…