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Reunited with France… and it felt so good to be back! Part nine

Sunday morning, we woke up more than ready to head home to Germany. I missed Noyzi and Arran, even though I generally enjoy it when we have a chance to take a break from the dogs. I saw so many cute dogs in France, including a couple of European styled beagles that made me want to get one of my own! Of course, I won’t be doing that until we are down to one dog again. Arran doesn’t share well, and even after about 18 months with Noyzi, he only barely tolerates him. And Noyzi is a very kind and considerate dog.

We went down to the Stammtisch to find our usual breakfast. The day prior, the breakfast lady had thought we were leaving and asked us if we wanted to pay. We had to remind her that Sunday was our day of departure. I got the impression that maybe people don’t typically stay at the Auberge au Boeuf for several nights, as we did. But actually, there’s a lot to do in the area around Sessenheim. It’s not too far to get to Strasbourg. Nancy and Metz aren’t as close as Strasbourg is, but we could have visited there if the mood struck. Of course, the Alsatian wine route, south of Strasbourg, isn’t far, either. Neither is Baden-Baden, the great German spa town.

As you can see by my posts, we did manage to find several cute and diverse eastern French hamlets. It occurred to me that north of Strasbourg is more diverse in appearance than the southern area is. Over the past few years, Bill and I have visited Alsace more than anywhere else in Europe. We almost completely missed Alsace the first time we lived in Germany together. I’m so glad we’ve had the opportunity to explore this unique, historic, and beautiful part of France. We really enjoyed visiting Sessenheim, Soufflenheim, Haguenau, Bitche, Obernai, and Saverne! Each place was different and had its own special vibe and history.

It’s not lost on me that my unexpected and unplanned lifestyle as an “overeducated housewife” has come with certain perks. If I had done with my life what I had planned to do, I might have managed a visit to Paris or Lyon… or maybe to Nice again. Those are all lovely cities, but they tend to be teeming with Americans. Thanks to Bill’s work with the Army, I’ve had some great opportunities to see “the real France”, as it was put by a British man who owned a wine shop in Cluny, France, which we visited in 2017. Cluny is a very nice city in Burgundy and we loved our time there. But I would not expect too many Americans to go, especially not from the United States. That was where Bill ate pig intestines! Talk about a typically FRENCH experience!

Anyway, we enjoyed our last breakfast, but it was time to go home. We loaded up the car and I paid for everything with my credit card– about 1600 euros ($1800 approximately) when all was said and done. That was for four nights in a beautiful suite, breakfast for two every morning, three bottles of wine, four apéritifs, and two nights of sumptuous dinners for two. Parking was free. I feel good about stimulating the local economy.

On the way out of Sessenheim, we stopped at a nearby Boulangerie/Patisserie to get some French pastries. Bill got several beignets, two pain au chocolats, and a kugelhopf. It was a lot for just the two of us. Fortunately, the kuglehopf has kept well in the fridge. I wish he’d gotten some croissants, too. French croissants are better than the locals ones we can get.

The drive back to Wiesbaden was totally uneventful and took about two hours. We had no traffic issues at all, and the weather was fine. I had to laugh on Sunday night, as we dined on Popeye’s Fried Chicken from the food court on post. It’s crazy that we went from five star dining to fast food in less than 24 hours.

I would not hesitate to book Auberge au Boeuf again. Next time, I hope we can try their Stammtisch at lunch or dinner, and if the menu has changed, I would definitely be up for another grand gourmet experience at their restaurant. We’ll see what the future holds! Below are are few last photos from our most recent adventures in France.

If you’ve been following along with this series, thank you so much for reading. My travel blog has been dying, thanks to the pandemic and moving to a new platform. I hope this series will be the first of more to come in 2022! Wish us luck!

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Reunited with France… and it felt so good to be back! Part four…

In part three, I tried to tell you about visiting Haguenau. Unfortunately, the software for this blog is wonky, and messes up my photos. I have to wait until I’m finished writing before I can upload them, because they slow down my typing so much. And then, if I try to upload a big batch, the whole thing turns to shit. It really irritates me, since I actually pay for WordPress. Blogger, back in the day, was a lot easier to use, even with its issues. Anyway, I’ll see what I can do with this post. I hope I don’t have to write many little sections, because people get bored and don’t always finish the series. There’s no point in writing this stuff if people don’t want to read it. So… with that written, on with part four.

Hagenau has a lot of sites for those who want to take them in. We were just there for a few hours, mainly just to get a feel for the city and have some lunch. The weather was sunny and chilly, but after so many weeks of rain and clouds, it was great to see the sun. One thing we did do, though, was visit St. George’s Church, a gorgeous and very old Roman Catholic parish church that dates from 1143. Every time I visit one of these old churches, I’m amazed by what human beings were able to do hundreds of years ago, without the benefit of modern equipment. Wikipedia tells me that St. George’s Church recalls the architecture of Hirsau Abbey a Benedictine abbey in Calw, very near our old stomping grounds in Germany.

We didn’t spend much time in the church. We were in there just long enough for Bill to light a candle for his dad, and for me to take some photos. I am grateful, though, that churches in France are open for visitors. I always think about how welcoming European churches are… Tourists are allowed to come in and look around at the beautiful stained glass windows and architecture. The same is very rarely true in the United States. I mean, I don’t recall anyone coming to the church I was raised in and wandering around like we do in Europe… except, of course, on Sundays.

We also got a look at the ancient water mill downtown, as well as the facade of the tourism office and museum, which was originally the chancellery. It has a clock that reminded Bill and me of the famous astronomical clock in Prague. The clock for the tourism office is actually a copy of the one in Ulm, which was built in 1581 by a Swiss man named Isaac Habrecht. We have been to Ulm, but it was several years ago with our dogs in tow. I’m now thinking we should visit again, sans dogs.

We stopped in Le Comptoir de Mathilde, a gourmet/chocolate shop and did some shopping for Bill’s daughter, who is intrigued by our travels. We picked up some spices and chocolate, as well as some jam and caramels for ourselves. That Slovenian jam we bought in the fall is finally running out. We took the gifts back to the super cheap parking garage.

After we walked around the town, we searched for lunch and found it Restaurant Côté Sud. I had rejected another place nearby, because it looked to be too full of people. I don’t like crowded restaurants even when there aren’t viruses around. We were lucky to find this Moroccan place, especially since it satisfied Bill’s love of exotic food, AND we were able to find something I liked, too!

After we showed the waitress our COVPass, we were allowed to unmask and enjoy the wonderful flavors of Morocco, a place I hope to visit someday. My sister, Betsy, lived there for two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer back in the 80s. She probably has more of an appreciation for cous cous than I ever will, but I will admit to loving tajines. I even managed to get a short video to show everyone how hot and delicious my chicken tajine was. It came with a side of cous cous, and included potatoes, carrots, prunes, and lots of peas. It was delicious and filling, and pretty much took care of my food needs for the rest of the day.

Bill had cous cous with beef sausages. It came with a stew made with carrots, chickpeas, potatoes, zucchini, and coriander. I think Bill impressed the very friendly and exotic looking waitress when he said “yes” to harissa. I tried a little of it and it was too spicy for me. Must be all that Scottish and English ancestry I have. 😉

I could tell the chef took a lot of pride in his work. He came out to wish us “Bon Appetit”… and I also noticed that the restaurant seems to have plenty of regulars. I can see why!

After lunch, we decided to go back to the hotel, stopping in Soufflenheim on the way, to pick up some pottery for Bill’s daughter and ourselves. We don’t really have a place to put the pottery, but I can’t help myself. I’ve been shopping deprived too long. 😉 We picked up a kugelhopf mold and backoeffa dish for her, in the requested shade of yellow. I got lots of blue stuff for me. 😉

Then, after we shopped, we were a bit tired. We decided to try out the sauna and jacuzzi in our room. My parents used to have a jacuzzi, so I sort of understood how that worked, although it was still a little confusing. The jacuzzi had lights, as well as well worn controls that were hard to read. The sauna’s directions were posted in French on the back of a closet door. We managed to figure them out eventually, and it was fun to try it out in lieu of going out to dinner. Luckily, there is an Aldi nearby, where Bill scored snacks and wine, and we watched French reality TV…

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Reunited with France… and it felt so good to be back! Part one…

The featured photo is of a sign in a German restaurant… I share the sentiments of the person who drew the sad face. That’s why we went to France.

Ever since we moved to Wiesbaden in late November 2018, we have used visits to the dentist in Stuttgart as an excuse to get away for a few days. Or, at least that was the original plan, before COVID-19 wreaked havoc on the planet. Thanks to the pandemic, we haven’t been back as often as we had originally planned. We did combine a trip to Stuttgart to see the dentist in May 2019 with Elton John’s Farewell Yellow Brick Road concert. We went to the Spring festival, saw Elton, and got our teeth cleaned. We also stayed at the Wald Hotel, which is our favorite Stuttgart area lodging. We even brought our dogs down to stay with their Stuttgart area pet sitter.

Then COVID struck, and we couldn’t get back down there again until August 2021. I had planned another trip to the Wald Hotel, but it was totally booked during that period. So I decided we’d visit Baiersbronn, which is a little Black Forest town known for its excellent restaurants. We loved visiting Baiersbronn when we lived near Stuttgart, so it made sense to go stay in the area for a few days, see the doc, and eat some really excellent food for a few days.

A few weeks ago, Bill reminded me that it was time to see the dentist again. We had appointments for March 2. I thought maybe I’d find us a little rental home or a cute hotel in a different part of the Black Forest, since we had so much fun in August. There are still so many places we’d like to see there. But then I noticed how strict the COVID rules are, down in that part of Germany… and I realized that having been triple vaxxed and never venturing out much at all for months, I’m pretty damned sick of COVID rules.

Or, at least I’m sick of the super strict ones. Baden-Württemberg has been requiring people to use FFP2 masks, which I find very oppressive and obnoxious. I know… I know… they’re supposedly “better” masks, and all, but I still hate wearing them. I am not a rule breaker, but if I can go somewhere else where I don’t have to wear the fucking things, I’d prefer to do that.

I noticed as I searched for places in the Black Forest, I was also getting suggestions for Strasbourg, France, which is really close to the Black Forest. I didn’t really want to go to Strasbourg, though, because that was where we went during our last trip to France in February 2020. I enjoyed Strasbourg, but I wanted to go somewhere different, especially since the wine expo is set to go on at the end of March and we may end up going there for that. We haven’t yet decided if we will go.

It was at that point that I remembered Soufflenheim, which is a little French town known for its pottery. We have a few pieces from there that we bought in Ribeauville a few years ago, but we’d never actually been to the town itself. I realized that since it was just a little bit north of Strasbourg, it would be on the way back to Wiesbaden, anyway. And this would be a great chance for us to get pottery for ourselves, and Bill’s younger daughter, who is expecting a baby boy soon.

So I searched for a place in Soufflenheim, and soon noticed ads for a Michelin starred restaurant that also has four hotel rooms. Auberge au Boeuf is located in adorable Sessenheim, which is right next to Soufflenheim. A quick peek at the reviews on Google and Trip Advisor, as well as Booking.com, told me that this was a nice play to stay. Better yet, the cost of the room in France was about half of what I would have paid at the Wald Hotel, a nice hotel in a city I’ve been to many, many times, and will no doubt go to again at least once in the future… and probably more often than that. Maybe my next Wald Hotel visit should wait until I need a dental procedure.

Then I realized that France is not nearly as uptight about COVID-19 as Germany is… the latest rules changes in Germany notwithstanding. Those changed while we were away, plus I was booking before they were still being considered. I ran the idea of going to Sessenheim by Bill. Not surprisingly, he was all about it. The fact that the great German poet, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, spent so much time there clinched the deal. Bill and I are literature lovers, too… Bill is more so than I am, in spite of my English degree.

So I booked our room at Auberge au Boeuf for March 2-6. I also booked their restaurant for the third and fourth nights of our stay. I eagerly looked forward to the trip, as I warily watched Vladimir Putin’s increasing aggression toward Ukraine. I don’t normally do this for short trips that don’t involve flights or cruise ships, but I was nervous enough about Putin that I even booked travel insurance in case Bill had to cancel and go to work. Fortunately, that didn’t happen, and now I have lots to report!

Stay tuned for my latest multi-part series about the many wonders of France! Boy, was it great to be back there! But first, it’s time for lunch.

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