Strasbourg’s annual wine extravaganza! Part five

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After lunch, parking the car, and a short rest in the hotel room, we were ready to head to the Wine Expo. Because he knew we were going to be tasting a lot of wines, Bill decided we’d take a taxi to the convention hall where the expo took place. We had gotten tickets to the event– six euros, which includes a wine glass for tasting– was the official price. However, I don’t think we paid for the tickets, since once you go and buy wine, the vinters send them out. Someone gifted Bill with them and he printed them off at work.

So we got the cab, and I made sure Bill took the cabbie’s card, because I sure as hell had no plans to hoof it from the exposition. We walked into the huge convention hall, after my purse was given a cursory once over by security. We picked up a couple of wine glasses for tasting wines… and off we went. As I mentioned before, this event is attended by winemakers from all over France. It was PACKED with hundreds of labels from Alsace to Corsica and everywhere in between. Okay, so I didn’t see any wines from any of the overseas departments like Reunion Island or St. Barts… but mainland France was very well represented.

We stopped at one booth featuring wines from the Loire Valley. I wanted to try some, since I visited the Loire Valley in 1997 with my sister. I have yet to get there with Bill, but I have fond memories of the time I spent there years ago with Becky. We bought two cases there… probably too much in retrospect, given how many people were there. What can I say? The salesman was charming.

Then we stopped at a booth with wines from the southwest, not too far from Basque Country in Spain. The guy at that booth was even more charming, and we bought eight more bottles from him. Since we had no personal trolley nor our car with us, we arranged to pick up the wines the next day.

Then we walked to the other side of the expo, visited the restrooms, which were free of charge (a rare sight in Germany, but the French must realize that when you gotta go, you gotta go). We bought some Chateauneuf du Pape– a small enough order to carry with us, a bottle of cognac, a few bottles of Gigondas, and some Pommard from Beaune. Finally, we stopped at a booth with wine from Languedoc, which is one of Bill’s favorite wine regions anywhere. We arranged to get the Languedoc wines the next day, too. The lady who sold them to us spoke no English, and our French is non-existent– but wine is an international language. As we walked through the convention, I took a picture of the places where we stopped to try wine. It made it easier to find them on Sunday.

Word to the wise. Hilton Strasbourg is located right next to the convention center. I considered booking there, too. If we go back for the wine expo, maybe I will book there. It’s not even a five minute walk away. We did duck in there when we were finished shopping and a kind staffer called a cab for us. We were able to carry about ten bottles with us and arranged to get the rest on Sunday, when we would be bringing the car.

One thing to know for other years… if you intend to buy a lot of wine, it may be worth it to bring your own dolly and bungie cords. You can use the “trollies” at the convention, but you’ll have to wait in line to get them. There are “chariots” for sale there, but they’re not very big and they’re a bit flimsy. We ended up buying one on Sunday and making two trips to the car with our modest haul of about 44 bottles. There is a coat check in the hall, too, but I would recommend dressing lightly. There are a lot of bodies in there and it’s pretty warm.

After a couple of hours at the expo, we were tired and overwhelmed, and Bill was fretting over how much we spent. It turned out we didn’t spend as much as he thought, and he put most of it on his debit card, anyway. Still, by early evening, we were wiped out and ready to head back to the hotel. We were still full from lunch and not interested in going back to the city for dinner. So we went back to the hotel and settled in…

A couple of hours later, Bill used an app to order Lebanese food which was brought by Deliveroo, a delivery service. One other thing I noticed in Strasbourg is that it’s one of six French cities that has Yea! Citiz, a rental car service that allows you to order a car like you’d order a bike. You stay within a certain perimeter and park the car in certain areas. I noticed one of their cars as we were milling around the city. I watched a cheesy 80s era movie starring Kristy McNichol and fell asleep early, with visions of wine bottles dancing in my head.

Strasbourg’s annual wine extravaganza! Part six

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Strasbourg’s annual wine extravaganza! Part four

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Saturday morning, we woke up after a nice night at the hotel. After a hearty breakfast that included a generous portion of scrambled eggs, we drove into Strasbourg on a mission to buy beer. I had heard the city had some really nice beer shops. Not that Germany doesn’t also have places to buy beer– they do! But Germans are very proud of their beer, so it’s not as easy to find suds from other countries. When we lived near Stuttgart, we used to visit Heinrich’s 3000, a huge beverage market near Ludwigsburg, where one could find beer from all over the place. But we haven’t yet found anywhere similar near Wiesbaden.

Bill was a bit worried about driving into the city, but it turned out fine. He made his way to the Gutenberg Garage, which is located right in the heart of the old town. It was fortunate that we got there somewhat early. Strasbourg was alive with activity on Saturday, complete with a sort of mini carnival with rides. The only thing I didn’t see, that I usually see in French cities, was a carousel. I’m sure one exists somewhere in Strasbourg.

We Googled and found that Strasbourg has three beer shops that would have what we were hunting for, so Bill grabbed his trusty Rewe bag and we headed out… but not before I made a pit stop. A lot of garages in France have public toilets, and Gutenberg is no exception. Unfortunately, it’s also no exception to my personal habit of catching people urinating. Seriously, this happens to me all the time, and not just in Europe, where public urination is common. I either see someone peeing outside, often just feet away from me, or I inadvertently open a door that wasn’t locked and catch the occupant mid stream. Believe me, it’s not something I aspire to do. I wish people would lock the door, but maybe they worry about being stuck in the toilet. I don’t know.

Anyway, I managed to see a toddler’s bare behind as his mother was tending to him. Then, while I was waiting, a man and another child joined what was apparently a party in the loo. It took a long time before they’d all done their business and came trooping out, all smiles. It turned out they were German speakers who also spoke French. The mom apologetically said, “Toute le familie” to me with a laugh. Okay, I admit it was pretty funny, even if they did hog the ladies room for about twenty minutes.

After I took care of my personal business, Bill and I headed toward the Strasbourg Cathedral. We figured we’d be loaded down with beer, so it was better to stop in there first. It was the first time I had ever been in the cathedral in Strasbourg and, I must say, it was absolutely beautiful. It’s probably one of the most breathtaking cathedrals I’ve seen yet, and I’ve seen a lot of them. I think the organ was what got me. Bill got choked up, just like he always does. Here are some photos.

After we recovered from the sheer sensory delight of the cathedral, we headed down an alley and found ourselves at a well stocked by rather small beer shop. We spent some time finding brews from everywhere from Belgium to Cary, North Carolina! We bought as much as we thought we could haul back to the car without hurting ourselves.

After unloading our beer haul, we headed to a restaurant called Au Pigeon. This place doesn’t get great ratings, probably because it offers rather run of the mill Alsatian cuisine as opposed to anything really fancy or inventive. However, we had a wonderful time eating there. Service was friendly and we could tell that it’s a favorite of some locals. While we were waiting for our lunches, I watched one of the waitresses kiss about twelve guys French style– on both cheeks– as if she was in receiving line. The guys all sat at a big table obviously reserved for them and they ordered some wonderful smelling traditional dishes. It was so much fun to watch them enjoying the food and their fellowship. They laughed a lot, talked a lot, and made the restaurant feel very festive, which probably improved our experience. It felt like we were eating with locals, which I think we were. And we enjoyed our lunches, too…

My duck leg was pretty good, although it was a little overdone. I was just glad the gravy wasn’t loaded with mushrooms, like Bill’s dish was. I guess some people really love their fungus. If I loved it too, my life would be so much easier. The service was pretty good, although I think it’s better if they know you there. I could see they were very warm and friendly to those they knew, but not to those they didn’t. I guess that makes sense, though, especially in a touristy area. I read in Trip Advisor that the restaurant is family owned and the grandfather does the cooking. Also, the lady who waited on us didn’t speak English, but she did speak German, so we had no problems. All in all, it was a nice lunch!

Dessert was excellent. I love profiteroles, and I paired mine with a little cognac. Yeah, it was extravagant, but cognac is always a treat. And when we were finished, it was time to head back to the hotel, drop off the car, and head to the expo where we could pick up some wines from all over France! More on that in the next installment!

Strasbourg’s annual wine extravaganza! Part two

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Now that I’ve described the hotel, on with the rest of the trip. I was actually kind of dreading trying to find dinner on Friday night. I used to wait tables, so I know what dining out on Valentine’s Day can be like, both for wait staff and patrons. We were unable to make dinner reservations anywhere special, so I had a feeling dinner would be spectacularly un-special. And that’s what ultimately came to pass…

But before dinner, we were keen to visit the The Historic Wine Cellar at Strasbourg Hospices. My German friend, Susanne, told me about this historic wine cave, which was created in the year 1395. The cellar was used for storing wine, but it was also used for storing other perishables like grain. Today, visitors can visit the caves free of charge and pick up a bottle or two of wine. Very old wines are stored there now, including three historic barrels dating from 1472, 1519, and 1525. The barrel from 1472 even still has 350 liters of wine from 1472 in it– the oldest in the world aged in a barrel. It’s only been served three times in five centuries:

  • In 1576 to Zurich, when the Swiss proved that they could come quickly to help their friends in Strasbourg.
  • in 1718 for the reconstruction of the main building ravaged by a fire two years prior.
  • in November 1944 to General Philippe Leclerc de Hautecloque, liberator of the city of Strasbourg.

In 1994, the wine was tested by local oenologists who determined that even though the wine is over 500 years old, it’s still wine, and in fact, has “a very beautiful bright, very amber color, a powerful nose, very fine, of a very great complexity, aromas reminiscent of “Vanilla, honey, wax, camphor, fine spices, hazelnut and fruit liquor …” I wonder how much longer they’re going to age it and what made them decide to keep that particular wine for so long!

Bill and I took a taxi to visit the museum, because Bill thought maybe we’d be tasting some wine there. Alas, wine tastings are only done for special events. However, we did enjoy some beer after our visit to the cave. Here are some photos of the museum.

We really enjoyed our visit to see the historic wines. If we had driven to the museum, we probably would have picked up a few bottles of their current wines, too. Maybe if we go back to Strasbourg, we’ll stop in again. Incidentally, the cave is closed on Sundays and public holidays. If you visit, you can either read the signs, as we did, or get a headset, which will provide more information and stories about the history of the wine cave and its relation to the historic hospital complex. It doesn’t take long to see this attraction. We were there maybe a half hour, and that was because we were reading everything, taking pictures, and going slowly. It’s still pretty cool to visit there, though.

After our visit to the museum/cave, we decided to find ourselves some beer in town. We didn’t have to walk far before we reached our first destination, a bar called La Taverne des Serruriers/ La Schloss Brasserie. More on that in the next post.

Strasbourg’s annual wine extravaganza! Part three

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From the historic wine cave, it was a short walk to Taverne des Serruriers/La Schloss Brasserie. I didn’t stop there for any particular reason, other than I was in the mood for a beer or three. I hadn’t heard anything special about the place. We had a good time anyway, though, because the barmaid was friendly and they played really good music. They had a nice selection of beers in bottles and a few on draft, as well as the expected wines and liquors. We started off with a couple of the daily special– a Meteor Hefeweizen. Meteor is a French beer, and they do okay with their suds.

This bar offers beers on draft in different sizes. They have small beers, large beers, and liters. We went the large, half liter sizes, as we people watched and listened to the classic rock played. I had a good time Shazaming, using an app that identifies the cool or horrible stuff you hear in public. If I’m honest, Shazam kind of sucks sometimes because it doesn’t always recognize songs, but it was doing fine at our watering hole. I noticed the bar offered some snacks… pretzels and the like. They probably had other stuff, too, but I didn’t see it in the menu. The restrooms were typical of a bar. Not the cleanest, but not a horror show, either. We stayed for a couple of happy hours, people watching and drinking suds. After our first French brews, we moved on to some bottled Belgian suds.

After our beer stop, we decided to walk around Strasbourg and search for dinner. As I mentioned before, I didn’t have particularly high hopes for dinner. Given that it was a Friday night too, I had a feeling our dinner would probably be rather ordinary… and it was. But we did enjoy a nice evening walk around Strasbourg. I was enjoying how vibrant the city is and kicking myself for not visiting sooner. Strasbourg is so close– that’s probably why we never went there before, aside from a lunch stop back in 2008, where I ended up drinking a half liter of wine by myself. But it’s definitely a great place to visit!

Our Valentine’s dinner was at Winstub Meiselocker, a rather touristy looking establishment not far from the cathedral. We didn’t go in there for any reason other than it was getting late for us and we figured most of the other restaurants would be booked. We were seated at a rather cramped table right next to a young couple who didn’t look so pleased to have us sitting next to them.

I think they had a special Valentine’s Day dinner offered, but we didn’t go for it, since the mood in there wasn’t particularly romantic. The place wasn’t totally jam packed when we first arrived, so our food and wine arrived in a reasonable amount of time. What we had wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t particularly special, either. The wait staff worked very hard, especially the guy who appeared to be the head waiter. He was put through his paces for sure! I was impressed by his ability to hustle and not get totally confused.

I had grilled salmon on sauerkraut with a steamed potato and Riesling sauce. Bill had a cordon bleu that was full of stinky Munster cheese. He loves stinky cheeses, so it was right up his alley. I wasn’t all that thrilled with the salmon, which was kind of boring and a little overdone. But I did enjoy dessert. It’s hard to disappoint me when it comes to chocolate mousse. The worst part of the meal was when it was time to leave. As we were preparing to end our repast, the restaurant got hit with a shit ton of people.

We asked for the bill and waited a good twenty minutes or more– I didn’t check exactly how long, but it was awhile. Bill finally flagged down the head waiter, handed him 100 euros, which was 17 over what we owed, and said “C’est bon!” The guy rewarded us with a huge smile. Tipping isn’t a huge thing in France. I’m sure the guy thought we were clueless Americans, but really I just felt sorry for him and was remembering my days as a waitress on holidays. Also, we really wanted to get the hell out of there. Watching weeded wait staff gives me the heebie jeebies.

After dinner, we walked out of the heart of Strasbourg. I was expecting we’d call a cab, but Bill said his favorite taxi app didn’t work in Strasbourg. We didn’t see any taxi stands that were convenient, and having forgotten to bring the map the hotel receptionist had given us, we weren’t sure where we could find a cab. I told Bill to consult Google, but he wanted to walk back to the hotel. So that’s what we did. Luckily, the weather was balmy and I was wearing somewhat comfortable shoes. Then when we got to the hotel, we didn’t realize the door code was changed, so we had to wait for the door to open. So much for a romantic night… although it definitely could have been a whole lot worse.

I often bitch at Bill for silly things. One thing he regularly does that is especially irritating is that he has a habit of taking cabs places with no plans on how to get one back. Consequently, my retired soldier has taken me on many miles of unintentional hikes around unfamiliar cities. It’s an ongoing theme with him! One time, on a visit to Slovenia, we hiked about ten miles in the sun with no water. We were eventually rewarded with views of a magnificent gorge, but I insisted that he call us a cab back to the hotel. I know I complain a lot, but if I have to march around a city, I’d rather do it with Bill than anyone else! And yes, I know… I could call the cab myself. Believe me, the thought crossed my mind.

Strasbourg’s annual wine extravaganza! Part one

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

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

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

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

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

Our lodging…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Parker goes to France, part seven…

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Yesterday morning, we were up bright and early. We packed up everything, had one last croissant breakfast, and loaded all our stuff in the car. Bill put the keys to Riesling in the lock box and we were on our way by 10:00am. I was wanting to stop by the big chocolatier on the way out of Ribeauville, but they don’t open until 10 and we don’t need chocolate that badly, to be very honest. We have visited the Daniel Stoffel outlet before and came home with lots of chocolate and cocoa goodies.

The drive back to Germany was kind of gloomy, mainly due to the heavy fog and cold temperatures. I think we left France at just the right time, since the weather is pretty chilly and foggy today, too. There was little traffic on the way back, and I can’t even say there was much going on of note. We did see the ADAC helicopter while we were making a pit stop, but I didn’t even do much rubbernecking of the accident that prompted its appearance.

We got home before 1:00pm, so Bill went to the Spirit of New Orleans for take out. We would have stopped in, but it looked like they were busy and the last time we visited, the chef/owner got really upset and started swearing very loudly. I don’t mind swearing and neither do Bill or his mom, but I didn’t want to take the risk. By the time Bill picked up our lunches, things had calmed down at the restaurant. Maybe we should have gone in for lunch, after all. John plays good music and when he’s in a good mood, he’s a lot of fun to talk to.

Bill and Parker picked up Arran last night. When they got home, Arran went crazy running around with his toy, then crashed on the couch. I keep thinking I want to get another dog, then I realize how easy it is to take care of just one. I also think about the horror stories I’ve heard of people trying to convince Germans to let Americans adopt. I know some people have managed it, but to be honest, I’m not wanting to set myself up for an unpleasant experience. So… I don’t know when we’ll get another dog. I do want one and we are looking, but I guess we’re not in a rush. I still think about Zane every day.

I’m really glad we took the opportunity to show Parker France. And, while it wasn’t Paris or Lyon or even Nice, I think she might have gotten an even more authentic look at France than she otherwise might have. I have yet to have a bad time in Alsace, or even France as a whole, even if there have been a few mishaps over the years. I’m amazed at all of the places we’ve had the chance to see since we’ve lived in Germany, but I think France may have enchanted me the most… although I am definitely due for trips to Italy, Belgium, and The Netherlands… We’ll see where we’ll end up next.

Parker will be here for a few more days. Bill is currently treating her to lunch in Wiesbaden while I do some housework and writing. It’s good for them to have some alone time, and for me to have some, too. I’m not used to being around people anymore and am a bit of an introvert, so it’s good when I can take a break. It probably makes my disposition easier to take.

Parker goes to France, part six…

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On Tuesday, we were blessed with more sunshine, although the weather was still pretty chilly. After another breakfast starring Ribeauville’s flakiest croissants, we headed south toward Eguisheim. Bill and I last visited there in February 2017, the trip Parker was supposed to join us on, but missed due to a sudden injury. That trip in 2017 was followed by a few days in Burgundy, and remains one of my favorite France jaunts to date. One of the reasons I enjoyed it so much was because of the lunch we had at Caveau Heuhaus in Eguisheim, where I enjoyed creme brûlée lit at the table.

As it turned out, Caveau Heuhaus was one of the few restaurants open in Eguisheim during our visit on Tuesday. So, after we strolled around the old city, which is notable for being a well-preserved medieval village that consists of concentric streets, and visited a couple of churches where Bill had a good cry (sometimes churches move him to tears), we stopped by very gay friendly Caveau Heuhaus for lunch. Here are some photos from before our fantastic midday repast.

We headed to the restaurant after we visited the churches, where we were looked after by a very professional, friendly, English speaking waiter. He seemed to be handling the whole dining room himself and Bill said he remembered him from our visit in February 2017, too, although that time, we had a female server. Bill had a gratin made with the stinky local cheese, Munster. He said it was amazing, though to me, it smelled a bit like ass. Parker had the baeckeoffe (baker’s oven), a casserole popular in Alsace. It typically includes a mix of sliced potatoes, sliced onions, cubed mutton, beef, and pork which have been marinated overnight in Alsatian white wine and juniper berries and slow-cooked in a bread-dough sealed ceramic casserole dish. I went with potato pancakes and salad.

The first part of the video is Parker seeing Arran for the first time since 2017… then you see her enjoying creme brûlée flaming at the table!

After lunch, we took a leisurely stroll back to the parking lot, which has a very clean, well appointed public toilet that costs nothing to use. Germans should take note, although the Germans very kindly offer their Autobahn for free (for now, anyway).

Our next stop was Colmar, a lovely city that Bill and I visited for the first time in October 2014. Unfortunately, that was a place where I was asked a very embarrassing question in a restaurant. We hadn’t been back to Colmar since that visit for Columbus Day weekend in 2014. It was good to be back, if only to see Little Venice and allow Parker the chance to pick up some gifts for her friends back home in Texas. Here are quite a few photos from our brief visit. I actually learned something new during our couple of hours in Colmar. As I walked around the town, I noticed a lot of references to the Statue of Liberty. It turns out that Colmar is where the sculptor, Auguste Bartholdi, was born. We could have and should have spent more time in Colmar, so I could erase that memory of being asked if I was pregnant by an obtuse waiter back in 2014.

I was a little sad, realizing that we’d be leaving Alsace yesterday… but I was missing Arran and ready to do some writing. We spent our last night in Ribeauville drinking wine and watching Dirty Dancing on Netflix. Since MIL was a competitive ballroom dancer back in the day, it was a fun movie to watch with her. But it also made me feel ancient, since I was 15 years old when it came out, and I am over three times that old now. 🙁 Time flies!

Parker goes to France, part four…

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On Monday morning, we awoke to sunshine and chilly weather. Bill and I had decided that we wanted to visit Kaysersberg, since we didn’t have a chance to go there during our last visit over Memorial Day weekend in May 2018.

Before we drove to Kaysersberg, Bill and I dropped off some empty wine bottles at the bottle drop on the edge of town. Then we picked up a few items at the grocery store and took a short walk through a part of Ribeauville that we missed on prior visits. I don’t know how we missed the northwestern part of the main drag, but I’m glad we visited it a couple of days ago. I was rewarded with a few nice photos of the ruined chateaus that overlook the town…

Some might recall that Kaysersberg has the distinction of being the quaint French town where famed chef and food writer Anthony Bourdain committed suicide in June of 2018. Bill and I were rather mystified that we had been so close to where Bourdain was at the end of his life; but the truth is, we had wanted to go there during that previous visit. We’d heard it was a quaint town with good restaurants. So this time, since we didn’t have dogs with us, we decided we’d go to Kaysersberg. It was very easy to visit in January; we practically had the whole parking lot to ourselves.

The town was pretty much dead when we arrived, but I still managed to get some beautiful photos thanks to the splendid sunny weather. Yes, it was cold outside, but everything was still very inviting and pretty… and in a different month, I imagine Kaysersberg is hopping with tourists.

We decided to stop for lunch at a hotel restaurant called L’Art is Show. It was one of two restaurants we saw operating in Kaysersberg on Monday, although I’m sure at least one or two more were serving. I’ve noticed that this time of year, some businesses close while others stay open, then they seem to switch in February. Art is Show gets very good ratings on Trip Advisor and, indeed, had a pretty decent lunch crowd. Our waitress spoke a bare minimum of English, but we still managed to order lunch. They had a lunch special, which included a trip to a very generous looking salad bar, but we opted to order a la carte.

As we were leaving Kaysersberg, I got a private Facebook message from Ellen Stillman Thomas, an American who lived in Esslingen (and Heidelberg) for years and is very involved in arranging tours for Esslingen, a cute town near Stuttgart. I have been corresponding with her via Facebook and the Stuttgart area Facebook groups since about 2014 or 2015. She happened to be in Kaysersberg on Monday, with her friend, Louise, and had plans to visit a nearby winery. She asked if we wanted to join her… and we did. More on that in the next post!

Parker goes to France, part one…

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It’s been about two years since Bill’s mom, Parker, last visited us. Parker lives in Texas and has very generous friends who used to work for United Airlines. It’s through their generosity that she gets to see us in Germany. Every time Parker visits, we have some kind of adventure.

Last time she was here was in December 2017, when we still lived near Stuttgart. Before that, she was here in June 2009, also when we lived near Stuttgart. In 2017, we took her on a blind booking trip to Berlin. In 2009, we took a roadtrip to Oberstaufen, Germany, down in Bavaria. That trip turned into a day trip to Italy, whereupon we got temporarily trapped due to flooding. I have written about those trips and they can be found in this blog, although I still need to fix the formatting on them. She also visited Bill when he was posted in Bavaria back in the 1980s, but that was way before my time.

Anyway, back to 2020… It was nice to be able to get Parker in Frankfurt and only have to drive about twenty minutes rather than a few hours. Arran, the dog, was quite happy to see his grandma again. He hadn’t forgotten her from the last time and gave her an adorable welcome. Bill had to work all last week, so Parker and I hung around the house and talked. Bill had asked me to arrange a short trip for us, since Parker hasn’t had the chance to see as much of Europe as she’d like. When she visited us in 2009, we did take the briefest of detours into France so we could have lunch and Parker could say she’d been there. Other than that, she’d never been to France before.

Regular readers of my travel blog might recall that back in 2017, Bill and I discovered beautiful Ribeauville, a little town in Alsace right next to the much more touristy Riquewihr, which is supposedly one of France’s most beautiful villages. In 2017, Bill and I visited Ribeauville three times, which should really say something, given how many awesome places there are to visit in Europe. We found a great gite (vacation home in France) there, and it was so easy, since we only lived about 2.5 hours away and the owner of the gite was so pet friendly.

Our last visit to Ribeauville was in May 2018, but then we had to move to Wiesbaden. Last year was a bit of a cluster fuck in terms of getting settled and making some decisions about the future. We never made it back to Alsace in 2019. When I saw that Yannick, our faithful Ribeauville host, had availability in his largest gite– called Riesling– I jumped on it. We spent four nights visiting Ribeauville during the dead off season. We had a wonderful time, too! Ribeauville is a place we completely missed the first time we lived in Europe, but it’s now one of our go to locations whenever we need a break from Germany.

Yannick Kopff has several gites for rent. He’s got four studio sized apartments, a one room place, and an apartment with three rooms. Bill, Parker, and I stayed in his largest apartment at the wine house he converted into super convenient lodging in Ribeauville. I usually book his places through Booking.com, but he’s also listed on other sites, including reservation-gite.alsace. I would link to it, but at the moment, it does not appear that the site is working yet.

For four nights, I paid about 425 euros, and that was without a discount. Booking through Booking.com results in higher prices because Booking gets paid for reservations made through their site. I also have Yannick’s number, though, so next time we need an Alsatian break, I’ll just send him a text.

We usually bring our dog(s) with us when we go to Ribeauville, but since we had Parker and there were some places Bill and I specifically wanted to visit, this time we put him up at the Tierpension Birkenhof. We look forward to having him home tonight. I always miss our pooches when we go on trips, even if they’re relatively short.

This was probably one of the best trips to Alsace we’ve had yet, although I did miss having the dogs with us… especially Zane, who has now been gone for just over four months. I kept expecting to see them there, and remembering the times Bill and I have visited Ribeauville alone and brought both dogs with us. Sigh… well, maybe soon we’ll find a dog who needs a home. For now, here’s my latest series on Ribeauville and its environs, truly one of my favorite places in France that spoils everyone for choice in how much there is to do there, even during the off season! Stay tuned for part two!