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. 😉
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.
We had 1:45 lunchtime reservations at an upscale Frankfurt Greek restaurant called Omonia Taverna. Bill found it on OpenTable.de. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.