Champagne Bucket trips

Airplane rides to Armenia… part two of our Armenian adventure!

Friday, November 10th was the big day we’d been waiting for since September. I chose that date because I wanted to have an extra Saturday in Armenia. I had big aspirations of finding new art for our home, and I knew that the Vernissage would have more people there on the weekend than during the week. It also turned out that Stepan had a work project he had to attend to over this past weekend, so it was a lucky thing that we opted to leave on the 10th.

Right now, Bill and I have the good fortune of living in Germany, which makes getting to Armenia comparatively easy. One can fly directly to Yerevan from several European cities, including Frankfurt, which is just 20 minutes or so from where we live. However, Lufthansa currently only offers direct flights from Frankfurt to Yerevan once a week. If we wanted to fly there directly from Frankfurt, we’d have to leave on Saturday, the 11th. So we flew to Vienna on Friday night, enjoyed a few hours in the Lufthansa lounge, then flew Austrian Airlines to Yerevan. That was an interesting experience!

It wasn’t the first time we’d flown on Austrian Airlines. When we lived in the Stuttgart area, we’d had layovers that involved flying on Austrian and Swiss Airlines, as they are code shared with Lufthansa. It had been several years since our last experience with Austrian Airlines, but I did remember that all the ladies working for them wore bright red tights!

Since we were in business class, we got a somewhat elaborate dinner service… for being on an airplane, that is. They brought out “tablecloths” for our tray tables. The food was relatively decent, too. Below are a few photos from our visits to the Lufthansa lounge in Frankfurt and the Austrian Airlines lounge in Vienna. You’ll notice a certain theme… Free beer and wine is a nice perk of flying business. Of course, it’s not really “free”, is it? Our usual lounge in the Frankfurt airport was closed, so we had to go to a different one. It was pretty busy! Travel is definitely back in full swing, post pandemic.

I was very excited in Vienna when we went to our gate. After 26 years, I was finally going to Armenia, and it was a treat to hear the language again. I looked around at the other passengers, many of whom looked like they might have been coming from the United States. I also saw a few Americans, at least one of whom was traveling with an Armenian. I wondered if any of them were fellow RPCVs… or maybe even a current PCV. One American guy must have noticed our blue passports, because he came up and asked us in English if we were in line.

Then we were called up to the desk by the Austrian Airlines rep, a pretty young woman wearing a bright red Austrian Airlines approved hijab. She told us that she needed more information. I wasn’t surprised, since Lufthansa’s Web site hadn’t let me properly fill out our profiles. We handed over our passports, and she took care of it quickly. Soon, we were on our way.

We enjoyed an uneventful 3.5 hour flight to Yerevan, making our landing at 4:40 AM. Before we left Germany, Stepan sent me a private message asking for our flight details. I had never managed to get ahold of our hotel before we arrived, so he called them for us to ask about hotel transfers. Then he decided he’d just pick us up, which was very kind and generous of him! Stepan is the bomb for doing that for us! շնորհակալություն, Stepan jan!

I braced myself on arrival to Armenia, remembering what it was like to arrive in Yerevan via Paris, France in June 1995. At that time, the old Soviet era airport was still operating. I remember getting there at about 3:30 AM, and there being very few lights anywhere. Our flight was courtesy of the now defunct Armenian Airlines, which was still flying 70s vintage Soviet planes.

My 1995 Peace Corps flights were my first flights anywhere since I’d moved home from England with my family in 1978. Whenever my parents traveled by air after that, they left me at home with my sisters or a housesitter. So while the United Airlines flight to Paris was more modern, the Armenian Airlines flight was a lot like what I’d remembered from my last flight from the 70s.

Looking around that Armenian Airlines plane, it really felt a lot like 1978, complete with people smoking the whole time and standing in the aisle. The day prior, we had flown from Washington, DC to Paris, and then spent twelve hours in Paris. Actually, I stayed in the airport for twelve hours, while braver and better traveled souls went into the city. I was in a pretty exhausted, frazzled state by the time I first laid eyes on Yerevan in 1995. I left Charles De Gaulle airport swearing off another visit to Paris… Of course, I have since learned that one should never judge a place or its people by its airport(s). I love Paris, now.

When my Peace Corps group got off the Armenian Airlines plane in 1995, we got off on the tarmac, and then walked through an old, dimly lit office, which I guess was passport control. I remember the airport itself was crumbling a bit, and there were few lights on in the terminal. The restrooms were a nightmare. You could smell them much easier than you could see them. If you’d like to see some photos of the airport, click here. It didn’t look nearly that bad in 1995, of course… but those pictures do bring back some vivid memories.

Volunteers from A2 (the second Peace Corps Armenia group) had come to greet us, and were passing snacks over a barrier. It took about three hours for our group of 32 to get all of our luggage because the airport lacked the modern equipment to unload the aircraft expeditiously. Then we all had to get through customs. I remember we were all loaded on a bus with curtains on the windows several hours later. I think it was about 8:00 AM when we finally got out of the airport. I remember staring at the half built buildings in the area near the airport, people’s laundry billowing from their balconies. The landscape was so different. I could see Mount Ararat, as it was a bright, sunny day with relatively low air pollution.

CP53N6 Armenia – Yerevan – Piazza della Repubblica. Hotel Armenia. Photo licensed by Alamy.

This is a photo of Republic Square the way I remembered it in 1995. Hotel Armenia is in the background.
CP529N Armenia twentieth century nineties – Yerevan – Piazza della Repubblica. Hotel Armenia. Photo licensed by Alamy.

Another look at Hotel Armenia in the 90s. This is exactly how I remembered it. The signs on the roof are now long gone.

Our group soon arrived at what was then Hotel Armenia, and is now the Marriott in Republic Square. We had a brief meeting with our training director; then we were allowed to go to our rooms on the less expensive “old side” of the hotel. I remember the rooms were very Soviet, with no hot water except in the early hours of the day, twin beds with wool blankets, and linoleum floors. There were ladies in uniforms there who “guarded” the halls and made sure we turned in our keys before we ventured out anywhere.

I remember chandeliers in the conference room, with long tables that had bottles of sparkling Jermuk mineral water, Pepsi, and juice. I distinctly remember thinking the water tasted like Alka Seltzer… and so did the Pepsi, which probably came from a Russian bottler. The chandeliers only had a few light bulbs in them. We were presented with borscht and smoked fish… and I remember a lot of sour cream, which I don’t really eat. I wondered what in the world I had gotten myself into.

By contrast, in 2023, getting out of the much newer airport was a breeze. We went to passport control, where a rather dour man asked me if it was my first time in Armenia. I smiled and said, “No. I used to live here.”

The passport guy was obviously not as excited as I was. He gave my passport an aggressive stamping as he grunted a disinterested welcome and sent me on my way. Bill and I rounded a corner, where our bags were already waiting for us. I could feel the excitement welling as we walked out of the secure area. There was a small group of Armenian men standing there, obviously waiting for new arrivals. Some of them held up signs.

Then I saw him… Stepan jan was there, holding a huge bouquet of flowers and wearing an ear to ear smile! We were easy to spot, especially since my hair has turned platinum blonde in my middle age years.

“Jenny Jan!” he exclaimed as he handed me the flowers.

I let out an emotional cry as we shared a warm embrace. The Armenian men loitering in the arrivals hall kind of stared at us curiously. It was obvious Stepan and I were very excited to see each other, and they probably wondered why… I’m clearly not a local!

The scene kind of reminded me of when Bill came home from the Iraq War in 2007. I had come to what used to be called National Airport in Northern Virginia to pick him up, and I will never forget how he came charging toward me, still in his ACUs (uniform), walking just behind his narcissistic war boss from Hell. Bill almost knocked me over with a huge hug, so relieved was he to be done with that particular patriotic chore. Bill and I shared a kiss and a long hug, and people looked on, smiling at the scene that was unfolding. It was like a movie moment.

Totally goofy picture of me at 5:00 AM, holding the beautiful flowers Stepan brought for me. Yes, I was happy! And yes, I needed a shower and sleep.

Think of our first meeting with Stepan as kind of like a much less romantic version of meeting Bill, as he came home from war. It was dramatic and exciting, but also kind of heartwarming and sweet. I remembered Stepan as a 15 year old kid, and I’m sure he remembered the 24 year old version of me. Now, we’re both a lot older… but Stepan graciously said, “You didn’t change!” And neither did he!

Stepan took my bags and we ran into Naira, the Peace Corps doctor, who had come to the airport to see off her brother. We said hello to her, and Stepan loaded our bags into his car. We chattered excitedly as we headed to the Paris Hotel in Yerevan. It’s located on Amiryan Street, very close to Republic Square and just steps away from Hotel Armenia/Marriott.

I remember being flabbergasted by the drive into the city, as everything was lit up. I can’t belabor this point enough… in 1995, there was an energy crisis in Armenia, so there were very few lights then, even on the streets. By contrast, in 2023, Yerevan is a city that doesn’t really sleep. There are a number of businesses that operate 24 hours. Bars and restaurants stay open late. And there are colorful lights everywhere!

A smiling man was waiting to welcome us at Paris Hotel Yerevan. He spoke excellent English. I had made the mistake of not booking our room for the 10th, which would have allowed us to check in immediately upon arrival. Or, maybe it was’s doing, since we weren’t technically arriving until the 11th. Our deluxe king room wasn’t ready for us to check in early, but they did have a lower grade room available. Bill and I agreed to that arrangement, since we were both so tired.

When Bill went to pay, the transaction failed. Stepan paid for the temporary room with his card, and after a chilly shower, we gratefully went to bed. We later learned that the transaction failed because of the WiFi system. Once we learned to use the chip on our credit cards, we had fewer problems with failed transactions. I think the room they gave us was one the hotel staff uses for situations like ours. Its condition was not nearly as good as the room we’d booked and moved to later that afternoon. But honestly, we were both so tired, we didn’t care. Below are pictures of our temporary digs. The room was fine for what we needed it for.

A few hours later, we got up for breakfast in the hotel, which is included in the rate. Paris Hotel has a great spread in their rooftop restaurant, Montmartre, which as you can see in the above photos, is also beautifully decorated. I enjoyed the relaxing jazz music that played as we enjoyed views of Yerevan. Yes, I still recognized it, as there are still a number of familiar Soviet style buildings and cranes in the landscape. Mount Ararat was tucked behind the clouds. It was so great to be back!

Stepan had said he wanted to take us to Garni and Geghard, a place that everyone who visits Armenia should see at least once… More on that in the next post!

art, Champagne Bucket trips

Our last day being “Hay” in Hayastan!

Today is our last full day in Armenia. Tomorrow morning, at about 3:00 AM or so, we’ll be at the airport getting ready to board a Lufthansa flight back to Frankfurt, Germany. I wish we didn’t have to leave so early in the morning, but the bright side is, we’ll arrive in Germany at about 7:00 AM. That will give us the whole day to prepare for Monday, when Bill has to have his dental implant installed.

This trip has been very meaningful to me on so many levels. I was really fretting about coming here, wondering how it would go. Sometimes, I say more than I should, and I have a tendency to shock people sometimes in a less than pleasant way. But, I’m happy to report that things have gone very well… at least so far. We’ve had a great time seeing Yerevan, and I’ve had fun showing Bill places that have meaning to me, personally. If we manage to come back, we’ll be ready to visit the many historic places in Armenia and I can show Bill that the country is actually very beautiful outside of the capital.

As you can see from today’s featured photo, even Yerevan has its beautiful surprises… Mount Ararat finally came out of hiding yesterday. Today, it’s even clearer! Too bad we aren’t at the Genocide Memorial today, where I’m sure the photos would be fantastic. I did get a few pictures yesterday from up there. We walked all the way from the hotel to the Memorial and back. It was over 8 miles, and I was absolutely exhausted afterwards!

I think today we will go look for a sleeve to put our new artwork in. It’s going to have to be checked and the guy who sold them to us put them in a rather beat up plastic bag. If I see that man again, I think I’d like to buy another painting from him. Either way, I hope to find one of Ararat, but I want one that is unusual, rather than the typical mountain scene I saw at the Vernissage (art market) the other day.

I am ready to go home. I need to do laundry, and I want to sleep in my own bed. I miss Noyzi, too, probably because Yerevan has so many sweet and gentle looking street dogs. But I also think I will miss Armenia, once we’re back in Germany. Now that I’ve been back to Armenia, I know that it still has a piece of my heart. I hope we’ll be back again… and much sooner than 26 years from today.

It doesn’t seem like it’s been that long… Some things haven’t changed a bit! But yes, I’ve been away for a long time. I’ve been so amazed and touched by the warm welcome Bill and I have received from these special people of so many talents. I’m proud that I can say that I once called Yerevan home.

Now, if you are a regular reader and are interested, watch this space for my usual blow by blow… I will be busy writing it next week!

By the way, when I left Armenia in 1997, my destination then was also Frankfurt, to start my month long Eurail train trip through Europe. But that time, I got to leave at the civilized hour of 11:00 AM!

Champagne Bucket trips, Regent Seven Seas Cruise Lines

July 2… time to go HOME.

On the morning of July 2, it was time to start the process of ending our big trip of 2023. Again, I can’t say that I was sad about it. I love going on vacations. I enjoy traveling– seeing new things, buying new stuff, meeting people, eating different foods, and drinking different beverages… especially the adult varieties. But it all has to end eventually.

I missed Noyzi. I craved having access to my washing machine. I worried about the pile up of mail. I even had fond memories of my bed, which really needs a new mattress. And, even though not that many people want to read my blog posts about our travels, I was really itching to write and upload all of the photos I took over the two weeks we were gone. I prefer to write on my desktop computer, which is at home. So, home was where we needed to go.

Bill checked out of the hotel, while I went to the handy self check-in kiosk in the hotel lobby. I printed our luggage tags and boarding passes, and we made our way to the luggage drop off point, which was actually a pretty stout walk within the airport from the hotel. It was especially rigorous, since we had heavy bags. I was thanking God that I booked business class on the plane, because it got us into the short security line, and we were able to get through and into the SAS Lounge (which also serves Lufthansa passengers) in no time.

The Copenhagen Airport has a pretty decent lounge, although I didn’t make full use of it. I just sat in a nice chair and drank sparkling water while we waited until it was time to make our way to our gate. Once we got there, we found it backed up with a lot of passengers and not enough seating. Typical! 😉

I was a little worried that maybe our plane would be like the one we flew out of Bergen on… two by two seating in a very narrow aircraft. But it was a nice spacious plane, with three seats per row. Since we were in business class, we had an empty middle seat, and we even got served “breakfast”… which was mostly stuff I don’t eat. But they did have warm croissants and orange juice, which was fine for me. I also appreciated the chocolate they gave us afterwards!

The flight was perfectly lovely, and we landed on time in Frankfurt. It took forever to get our bags, and I think we might have even been the only ones who checked baggage. We were the only ones we noticed from our flight waiting for bags, which took over a half hour to get to us. While we were waiting, we encountered more Americans. One was a woman who looked a little annoyed when I sat down in a chair near her luggage. She changed her tune when she started wondering aloud about transportation and Bill helpfully piped up with local insider info. She asked us where we were from, and we answered America… but now we live here in Germany, and boy has it changed us in profound ways.

I don’t know what the woman and her husband were here for. The way she was dressed and the amount of luggage she had suggested that maybe she was going to go on a Rhein cruise or something. But those usually start in Basel, Switzerland or Amsterdam, Netherlands. They do pass through the Rheingau, though, and I often watch them and think… maybe I’d book one of those if I didn’t live so close to so many of the stops!

We found the Volvo and drove home, quickly unpacked, and I started doing laundry. I turned on the robot mower to deal with the very high grass. I checked out our rain barrel, which was full of nasty critters I’ve been killing all week. And I’ve been writing on this blog for a solid eight days. I’ve still got some more to write about, but the actual blog series on our big Nordic trip is over now. I hope some of you enjoyed it.

For those who are curious… This trip ran us approximately $22,000. We don’t usually come close to spending that much on a vacation, and we spent more than we had to. This was not an economy trip, by any means. We were also gone for two weeks, traveling in style in a very expensive area of the world. So…

*Cruise was about $12,000 or so… Concierge E on Regent Seven Seas Splendor, which is a luxury class, all inclusive cruise ship.

*Business class plane tickets from Frankfurt to Oslo, Bergen to Stockholm, and Copenhagen to Frankfurt, probably about $2,000 or so.

*A compartment on the train to Bergen from Oslo, about $500

*Hotels for eight nights, about $2,000 or so. Those, we paid at the hotel, rather than ahead of time.

*Trip insurance for a year about $1,000 (covers all trips all year)

*Food, booze, shopping, transportation, tickets to activities etc. about $4,500

I also haven’t factored in how much Noyzi’s boarding was. We had to prepay that in cash before we left.

If we’d wanted to, we could have pared down costs considerably. This summer, we really just wanted to enjoy ourselves. We definitely aren’t alone. Europe is teeming with people this year, and prices are pretty high. I’m happy to report that most of these costs were paid off before our trip started. We just need to work on paying off the stuff I didn’t pre-pay or pre-book.

It was a special pleasure to visit Finland and Latvia, two places I had never been to before, and learn about other places I’d never heard of, like Visby and Bornholm. It really was a good time, albeit very different from our usual road trips south!

So, that about does it for this series. I have to close now, as workmen have just shown up to replace the windows in my house. Hope to see some comments at some point!


Rainy day parties with the neighbors…

Yesterday, our next door neighbor decided to host a gathering in her driveway. She does this every few months or so, inviting those of us who live in the vicinity of her house. She had one at Christmas time, and we all sat around in the cold drinking Gluhwein, and one last fall, which was during milder weather. Yesterday appeared to be mild, too, except for the rain that started about thirty minutes after the fun started. We ended up moving everything to her backyard.

It was a nice time. The neighbors in this neighborhood are very friendly, and everybody pitched in to make the party fun. We had tons of different sausages, lots of beer and wine, and canine company, as the neighbor’s Labrador, Tommi, was there to make sure everyone was socializing properly. I sat next to the neighbor’s mom, who speaks English, and loves Grauburgunder– a dry white wine. Our landlord and his wife were there, too. He got a big kick out of the bottle opener I bought the first time we lived in Germany when I went on a day tour of Berchtesgaden, back in 2009.

I bought this thing from a wood carver not knowing the translation. According to Google Translate (and confirmed by the landlord’s amused reaction), it reads…

Given our senses of humor, this is pretty much the perfect bottle opener for us… ETA: My German friend says I misread the above quote, which should read “If there is no more joy in the house, there is always the brothel.”

In spite of the rain, we all had fun hanging out together. I admired the neighbor’s beautiful cherry tree. Wish we had one in our yard. She also has a really small in ground pool. I suggested that Bill make chocolate chip cookies. He did, and they were a huge hit! I used to make them all the time myself, but Bill took over the kitchen. 😉

I asked the landlord who built the shelter over our patio. I always suspected it was a former tenant. He confirmed that it was. The reason I suspect was because of the way it was built. I don’t think a German would be satisfied with the “jerry rigged” workmanship. Not that I’m complaining or anything… It’s just that Germans are usually a lot more precise about such things. Then he said he knew a good handyman. Maybe he’d get him to come over and fix up the terrace.

Our landlords are very nice and quite generous people. We feel fortunate to rent from them. And they seem equally glad to have us in their house. They live next door, so anytime the house comes up for rent, they probably feel some anxiety. On the other hand, since they’re the landlords, they get to choose the people. I guess it might be more stressful for our other neighbor. But she is, herself, a landlady. Seems like most of the established people in our village own properties. Our neighbor’s mom is also a landlady.

But yes… once again, I have noticed that this neighborhood is the friendliest one we’ve ever lived in here in Germany… or really, anywhere else. We have lots of social events here. It’s definitely not like it was in the towns we lived in near Stuttgart.

Prior to last night’s gathering, we also visited the commissary and the PX. I hadn’t been in the commissary since 2020, so that was an experience. We bought some food, and I picked up some cosmetics, for the rare times I go places. Bill also bought a bug zapper, which should make our terrace more inviting this summer. Bring on the good weather! At least the umbrella I bought at the Van Gogh Alive! exhibit on Easter in Frankfurt came in handy.

This week, I’ll probably make a decision on how and where we’ll spend the first part of our Nordic/Baltic vacation this summer. Maybe I’ll go ahead and pay for the rest of the cruise, too. I know… very exciting plans. 😉

art, Frankfurt, holidays, Sundays

Easter, Van Gogh Alive, and Omonia…

Howdy folks. Bill and I just got home from today’s outing. We planned it a few days ago, knowing that Saturday would be busy. I wanted Bill to fix the boundary wire for the robotic mower, because it’s definitely grass cutting season. We needed to get the outdoor furniture moved outside. And I bought a new Apple TV, so I could update the TV in our entertainment room with the old HomePod as a speaker. It actually took some time to get the new technology squared away. I had to reset the Apple TVs, run updates, and then configure everything. By the time all that stuff was done, it was mid afternoon and too late for an outing.

But we knew Sunday would be a good day for a day out on the town. Yes, it’s Easter, but restaurants and museums are open. Lately, I’ve been seeing lots of ads on Facebook for the Van Gogh Alive exhibit in Frankfurt. It started in January and will now run until early June. The ads were enticing. Then I read the reviews, which were pretty lukewarm.

Bill likes art, and the ads made the show seem exciting. So we bought two tickets for noon today– at about 25 euros a pop. I think the tickets were overpriced, BUT– we did have a good time and learned new things. And Bill got very emotional as he saw Vincent Van Gogh’s works in the show, projected on the walls with information about the artist’s tragic life and death, coupled with lovely classical music from Van Gogh’s era. There was also a (somewhat lame) sunflower room, which consisted of fake sunflowers, lights, and mirrors, which took about five minutes to see. And there was a “drawing room”, where they had easels and a YouTube video showing how to sketch Van Gogh’s bedroom in under two minutes. I didn’t try it myself, but I did observe others.

Our visit lasted 45 minutes. Maybe it would have lasted longer if we’d brought our own chairs, as some people wisely did! I would also recommend showing up a little after your appointment time. You can enter the exhibit anytime after your appointment time, and stay as long as you like. If you’re on time, you’ll be in a crowd. But if you show up later, you’ll have the first part of the exhibit to yourself! If I did it again, I’d come a few minutes late.

Below are some photos… As you can see, everything is in German and English!

There is a public restroom in the exhibit, as well as baby changing and handicapped facilities. I was grateful for the restroom. I would also recommend using the train to get to the venue. Parking is at a premium, but there’s a train stop just outside the exhibit’s location.

Below are a few short videos to offer a look at how the show is… It’s pretty cool, but nothing earth shattering.

It’s an impressive show… especially if you can sit down.
A longer look.

We had 1:45 lunchtime reservations at an upscale Frankfurt Greek restaurant called Omonia Taverna. Bill found it on He ended up amending our reservation to 1:30, and found a parking spot on the street.

Omonia Taverna turned out to be a great place to spend the afternoon. The food was excellent; the staff was welcoming and didn’t rush us; and we had a very lovely Greek wine. Bill had lamb, and I had a Grill Teller. The waiter spoke English and offered English menus. We didn’t require either, but it was good to know they had them. There is a parking garage nearby, but it was closed yesterday. We found street parking, but it would have also been convenient to use the train.

Below are some more photos… I got some good ones of the Europaturm (Frankfurt’s TV tower, which no longer allows visitors. Every decent German city has a TV tower.). The Europaturm used to have a discoteque, but it’s been closed to the public since 1999, mainly for fire safety reasons. Recently, there was talk of reopening it, but so far, nothing has happened. Still, it makes for a striking sight in Frankfurt. Koln’s TV tower is also closed to the public– and has been since 1992. But, you can still see Stuttgart’s and Berlin’s TV towers, which I have…

We noticed that the staff was extremely hospitable at Omonia. Especially the proprietor, who was personally welcoming everyone in Greek. I didn’t know the word “Kalispera” before we ate at Omonia, but now I know it’s Greek for “Good day”. We similarly learned the Greek word “Yamas” from our friend, the “Mad Scientist” at Agais in Entringen, down in BW. We spent a good 90 minutes on a very leisurely Easter lunch, but we skipped dessert. The main courses were enough to fill us up… Maybe next time we’ll try a sweet ending.

The bill was about 104 euros. Bill tucked some euros in for a Trinkgeld (tip), and paid with his credit card. The waiter was so nice. He said come back anytime, with or without a reservation. I truly think we will. We had a great time, and the food was really nice. They also have an inviting outdoor area for when the weather is slightly better. I noticed a lot of locals there, and a lot of Greeks! It’s obviously a local gem!

Overall, Omonia Taverna, and Frankfurt in general, were excellent places to spend our Easter Sunday afternoon. I understand there’s also a Monet Alive exhibit. It was going on in Stuttgart when we were down there. It got worse reviews than the Van Gogh Alive exhibit did. What a pity. I like Claude Monet. I probably would still go see it if it shows up in Frankfurt, even though I think it’s overpriced. But I would bring a chair and spend a little more time watching the movie.

We need to spend more time in Frankfurt, anyway. There’s a lot to see there that we’ve missed, thanks to COVID-19. I’ll be looking for more ways to kill our weekends in Frankfurt and Mainz, which we’ve also sorely neglected since we moved to Wiesbaden.

Bill is now working on our US taxes… but I think I’ll go downstairs and bug him. That’s what I was born to do.

Frankfurt, Hessen

Dinner at Romantik Hotel Schloss Rettershof – Ihr Hotel bei Frankfurt…

Spring is coming, and I’m starting to feel like I should be end my self imposed winter hibernation. I do still worry about Arran, whose lymph nodes are getting big again, but I also know I can’t stay homebound forever. Saturday night, Bill decided to check OpenTable to see if there were any inviting and interesting restaurants to try yesterday. He noticed one we hadn’t yet tried, Restaurant Retter’s at the Romantik Hotel Schloss Rettershof. They had plenty of tables open for a 7:00pm reservation, so Bill booked us. As you can see from the featured photo, it’s a lovely, historic venue!

I didn’t know anything about the Schloss Rettershof before last night’s repast. My German friend, Susanne, decided to look up the castle’s history while we were enjoying dinner. It seems that before the Rettershof became a hotel and restaurant, it had a colorful history that included stints as the European headquarters for the Hare Krishnas, and, for a few years after World War II, a U.S. Army post. Prior to the 20th century, it was a farm. And before that– from the 12th century until 1559, it was a monastery, and home for nuns. On July 3 and 4, 2018, parts of the roof of the nearby riding stable burned down due to a major fire. I saw evidence last night that people still go riding in the area.

The property has had a very colorful past that is well worth reading about, even if it is beyond the scope of today’s blog post. I only wish we could have visited when the sun was out, as even in the darkness, I could see that the Rettershof offers beautiful views. It’s located in the Fischbachtal district of Kelkheim, and very close to Eppstein, which is one of my favorite areas up here near Wiesbaden. I wouldn’t have been at all distressed if we’d found a house in Eppstein, instead of in Breckenheim.

Anyway… on to our actual experiences. 😉

Bill overestimated the amount of time he’d need to get from our house to the Rettershof. Nevertheless, I was delighted that the GPS took us in a direction that, in four years of living up here, we’d never before ventured. I guess COVID lockdowns have a way of putting a damper on exploration. We ended up going through our village, up a hillside, and into a pretty, mountainous area. Or, it was mountainous for this area. Really, it was probably more hilly than mountainous, but it was still a nice change of landscape for us. We live in a valley.

I was pretty hungry when we got to the Rettershof, which was a good thing. We got plenty to eat last night. However, as we pulled up, about 25 minutes before our 7pm reservation, I almost wondered if the place was open. The generously sized parking lot was practically empty. No one was near the entrance of the hotel, although it was lit up. When we walked inside, there was a friendly young woman at the reception desk who greeted us and took our coats. I was immediately enchanted by the sitting area near the reception. I didn’t get a chance to linger, though, because we were immediately ushered to the dining room and invited to take a table. There was one other party there– a family of four, who had the one table near a charming bay window. We took a table for four on the other side of the small dining room, so it was rather private.

I did manage to get a couple of photos of the lobby area before we sat down… I loved the fireplace, and the cozy lighting of the area around it. Too bad this isn’t a dining room, because it was very charming and inviting.

At the top of the stairs are some bedrooms for rent. There is also an extension where newer rooms have been built. I have no idea if anyone was staying at the hotel last night. It didn’t appear to have any guests, but then, it’s not exactly the high season.

There were two very enthusiastic men waiting on us. We got the sense that one might have been from France, and the other seemed to be Spanish. Both spoke German and English, of course, and they were very friendly. The one from France, who had his long dark hair in a bun, thanked us profusely for coming. We sipped glasses of champagne while we looked at the menu, which was pretty limited last night. I got the sense that maybe they limit the menu when they are expecting few guests.

There was a set four course menu, which I didn’t go for because of the presence of truffles… A la carte, we had a choice of Ox with cheese, See Teufel (Angler fish), or Wiener Schnitzel. I didn’t see any vegan or vegetarian options on last night’s menu, but I’m sure they have something… perhaps it was in the regular menu, which I never had a chance to look at, as Bill was selecting a wine and the list was in the one permanent menu they gave us. There was also a choice of two starters– beef tartar with quail egg or beef consomme.

I decided to go with the Angler fish, which a dense fish that reminded me a little of catfish in terms of looks and texture, but tasted more like halibut. Bill went for the Schnitzel. I was surprised he didn’t want the ox, since he usually likes that kind of thing… but he did order the tartar as a starter. I had the consomme, which had sliced pancakes and carrots in it. We also had bread and butter from France, and a lovely and unique red wine that the waiter with the man bun said was “new” to them.

Both waiters were professional, but the one with the man bun was especially memorable. I got a kick out of him, especially when he pronounced the word “dynomite” like “deenomeete”. I think he might have learned new vocabulary last night.

Overall, we really enjoyed the food and the pleasant, yet quirky, wait staff, who were both clearly delighted that we came in for dinner last night. Yes, it would have been nice to have had more of a choice in entrees, but given that we and the other party of four appeared to be their only patrons last night, I can understand why they didn’t stock too much. This definitely wasn’t an inexpensive meal. The check came to 277 euros, which is a lot… and Bill delighted the wait staff by tipping like an American. They were practically bowing to us as we left. 😀

I would go back to the Retterhof for another meal. Next time, I’d like to do it during the daytime, so I can see how pretty it is. I also suspect that when the weather is warmer and more people patronize the restaurant, the menu expands a bit. But we did enjoy ourselves last night. The castle is a charming venue, and at least last night, the staff was very warm and friendly and were clearly glad to welcome us. We don’t live far away, either, so I could definitely see us venturing out there again.

A little clever marketing about the hotel and restaurant… I’m sure they live up to this if you give them plenty of warning.

I will offer a caveat to those who have mobility issues. The restrooms are located down a flight of stairs and I didn’t see an elevator. In the ladies room, there are several steps up to the toilets. I’m not sure if they have alternative accommodations for people who use wheelchairs.

A parting shot of the wine…

We got home at about 9pm. Arran and Noyzi were delighted to see us again. Arran, in particular, was really wound up and took off running around the house. I was relieved to see it, as two of his lymph nodes are large again. The vet decided to skip chemo last week, and the cancer has responded accordingly. But, in spite of the larger lymph nodes, Arran doesn’t appear to be feeling too badly right now. This is a sign, however, that the cancer is progressing, and we will probably be saying goodbye to him before too much longer.

I really hate this part of having dogs in my life, even though I know it’s necessary. However, I also know from experience that every time I have a dog who is very special and think no one can possibly equal him, I am proven wrong. Every dog we’ve had has been original and special in their own ways, and every one has been unforgettable and uniquely wonderful. So, as much as I hate the thought of saying goodbye to Arran, I also know that when he goes, another opportunity awaits us. And with that opportunity comes new and amazing experiences waiting to happen.


Mr. Bill and I celebrate 20 years of marriage… Part five

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.

The magical ending.
Auf Wiedersehen…

Mr. Bill and I celebrate 20 years of marriage… Part one

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…

This song has really grown on me over the years. It seemed like a good one for 20 years of marriage…

Frankfurt, Hessen, Sundays

Our first, but not last, visit to Bad Homburg!

Some time ago, I started following a Facebook group dedicated to sharing pictures of Hessen and day trip ideas. People were sharing photos that reminded me of how much fun Bill and I used to have pre-COVID, visiting different places, eating in restaurants, and enjoying our weekends. Bad Homburg, which is a spa town just north of Frankfurt, is about a half hour drive for us. People in the Hessen Facebook group often share pictures of it, making me think it was a place I wanted to see.

Today was the perfect day for a visit, as we had beautiful, sunny weather, and pleasant temperatures. So, off we went this afternoon, after Bill had confirmed there were restaurants that didn’t take a pause after lunch. As usual, we got a late start that put us at our destination after prime lunch hours. He also found a well-rated parking garage. This was important, as when he arrived at the garage, he found it pretty hard to maneuver our SUV into a spot without parking over the line! He tried several spots before he finally got the car in without encroaching. I shudder to think about the poorly rated garages in Bad Homburg!

Just outside of the garage, I could tell we were in for a treat. Just coming into the city, you pass imposing looking tower gates. I also noticed that the Christmas market stalls were already going up, and they were all over town! I bet this will be a great destination when the markets open for the holiday season! I loved the tower on the Schloss grounds, and the saying at the gate “Walk in like you mean it.” I also loved the awesome cedar tree outside the gate. This castle dates from the 12th century, although all but the keep were demolished by Frederick II, Landgrave of Hesse-Homburg. The castle that exists today was built in the 1680s.

First, we walked up to the Schloss, which offered beautiful views and finally, some fall foliage, which I feel like I’ve missed since summer ended. Not only did I get some pretty photos, I also got a chance to use the bathroom, and it was FREE! That was lucky! Below are some photos from around the Schloss. We could have toured it if we’d wanted to, but we were short on time and needed lunch.

After the Schloss, we visited a couple of churches– Erlöserkirche, a Protestant church that dates from 1908, and the Church of St. Mary, a Catholic church. Both were beautiful in their own rights, but I also loved the gay friendly vibe at the Catholic church. I liked how the inside of the Protestant church glittered as if it was studded with gold. The Catholic church was a little more modern looking, but still very welcoming and comfortable, with the smell of incense in the air. The town itself, especially near the churches, reminded me a lot of France.

Bill lit a candle for his father, and then we made our way to a restaurant called Pane e Vino, an Italian place with a full menu and bar, and no afternoon pause! I had grilled salmon with potatoes and spinach, while Bill had veal scallopini with potatoes and pea pods. We washed it down with Primitivo and San Pellegrino, and enjoyed the convivial mood of the place, then finished with a glass of Merlot for me, and an espresso for Bill. We also had complimentary limoncellos as digestives! Check out the cool mural on the ceiling in the restaurant! Lunch came to about 65 euros, before the tip, but we had a couple of the pricier dishes.

We walked around a bit more, stopping to tip a violin busker, who was playing Mozart and Vivaldi, enhancing the European ambiance with his talents. Then we went to the Kurpark for a short stroll, as the sun was starting to set. I got a kick out of the statue of Dostoyevsky, who looked like he was thinking real hard. I found myself wishing we had gotten going earlier in the day. Bad Homburg has a lot to see. Next time, we’ll come on a Saturday, and I’ll get a better shot of the potted tree on the way in. I want to come back just to check out that Feinkost!

We will definitely have to go back for a longer visit. This is a really lovely, elegant, classy town with a different feel. I’m glad we didn’t miss it after living here for four years. I want to see more!


Happy 2022!!!

We had a rather quiet New Year’s Eve, with fondue, Riesling, and the news of Betty White’s passing just 18 days before she would have turned 100. Last night was almost like most nights, save for the five minutes of fireworks. I may be exaggerating a tiny bit, but only a TINY bit…

Officially, fireworks were banned for New Year’s Eve, because officials wanted to cut down on people injuring themselves and flooding the hospitals. As you probably know, COVID-19 is still a big problem and the hospitals are overwhelmed. I’m surprised in light of that, officials haven’t banned driving on the Autobahn, which I would imagine is potentially just as dangerous as lighting a bottle rocket. In any case, I knew there would be a few fireworks, because someone always has them. And there were a few fireworks, but it was really not a normal Silvester by German standards.

Last night was our tenth German New Year’s Eve. It will go down in history as the quietest one yet. The loudest and wildest one we ever experienced was in 2007. I could have sworn there was a war going on outside of our house in Pfäffingen. The night sky was literally alight with fireworks, and I could see our neighbors furiously setting off things that went crash and boom. Our late beagle, MacGregor, was absolutely terrified, poor thing!

Noyzi seemed a little perturbed by the noise and both dogs were curious, but they weren’t really scared. Our neighbors were in the street wishing Happy New Year to everyone… It was overall a pleasant evening. Below are some photos from our first try with the new fondue/raclette grill. It was a success! We really had fun making fondue. It was easy, festive, and even a little romantic! I should have bought this machine a long time ago.