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. ūüėČ

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. ūüėÄ

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.


Celebrating 14 years in Ireland! Part seven

We were literally lodged next to Europe’s Facebook Headquarters!

After our Guinness Storehouse experience, we found a cab right outside.  The driver had “Bullet In The Blue Sky” playing on the stereo.

“U2!” I said.  “How appropriate!”

“What is this song called?” Bill asked.

“Bullet In The Blue Sky.” I said.  “I think it came out around 1987.”

“It’s not from 1984?” Bill asked.

“No, U2’s 1984 album was The Unforgettable Fire.  I feel pretty certain this song wasn’t on that album.” I answered.

“The song was recorded in 1986.” the cab driver said.  “And it was released in 1987.”

“Ha!  I was right!” I cheered.  “I can’t ever forget The Joshua Tree because I was 15 years old and taking a journalism class when it was released.  One of the girls in my class was a big U2 fan and went to Hampton, Virginia to see them perform while they were on tour that year.  She ended up meeting Bono and he signed her white turtleneck.  And she also ‘locked’ her class ring.  She wrote a big article about the experience in our school newspaper.”

“I was in Germany the first time.” Bill said.  “23 years old.”

“Holy shit, you’re old, mate!” the cab driver said.  It turned out he was 46 years old and hailed from Liverpool, England.  He’d come to Ireland to golf and fell in love with a local.  They are now married and have several kids, the youngest of which is six years old.  The driver then told us a story about how the six year old had woken him up that morning by climbing on his face.

The driver went on to tell us about how much Dublin has changed since Bill first visited, back in 1984.  He pointed out an old bar that used to be full of guys who worked in the Docklands area of the city.  He took an old friend to the area, trying to find the bar.  They walked into it and asked where the bar was located.  No one confirmed that they had reached the right place.  I seem to remember there was some talk of the IRA, too.

We left the cabbie and then decided to look for dinner.  Unfortunately, there wasn’t a great selection of restaurants near The Marker Hotel.  We ended up going into the restaurant at the nearby Clayton Hotel– it was called Vertigo.  From the very start, that was an annoying experience.  They were playing horrible generic dance music in the dining room.  Also, we weren’t aware that in order to be served, you had to go up to the bar.  There was no sign alerting us to that fact.  So we sat for awhile before another customer clued us in to what we needed to do.  Bill was starting to have flashbacks to our very bad experience at the Esquire Bar in San Antonio.

Carlsberg is a thirst quencher, but not that inspiring.

Bill ordered a chicken and avocado burger.  I had a cheeseburger.  It took a very long time for the sandwiches to get to us, plus we were drinking Carlsberg beers, which aren’t all that interesting.  Add in the terrible music and the fact that all we really wanted to do was eat and hit the sack, and you have a couple of crotchety middle aged folks.  First world problems, right?

Disappointing burger…


Mr. Bill’s chicken sandwich.  It could have been better.

Neither of the burgers were particularly good, either.  Bill said his was okay, although it had little avocado on it.  My burger was overcooked and not very hot.  I finished less than half before we decided to cash in our chips for the evening.  We have a reservation at a Clayton Hotel the night before we fly back to Germany.  Hopefully, it will leave a better impression than the one in downtown Dublin.

On the way back to the hotel, I noticed the European Facebook headquarters, located directly next to our hotel.  I had to take a few photos.  It looks like an interesting place to work, based on the big posters with provocative slogans on them in the foyer.

Several of the signs I noticed from outside Facebook’s headquarters in Ireland.

Monday morning, we got up and had our breakfast.  After that, we checked out of the hotel and got a cab to the car rental office where Bill had arranged to pick up a vehicle for our three hour trip to Sligo.  After a few tense early moments, Bill got the hang of driving on the left again, having done it for the first time back in March of this year when we were in Scotland and England.  Aside from drifting too far off the side of the narrow roads and some momentary confusion, he’s done a great job driving.

I tried to snag a couple more Dublin shots from the car.

We stopped at a grocery store in Ballysadare and picked up some essentials for our five nights at the beach cottage.  We were going to have lunch, but it looked like everything in the little village, except for the cafe in the grocery store, was boarded up tight.  Lots of young folks who obviously attend the local Catholic school were walking around the town in their uniforms.  I actually found myself admiring the uniforms.  As a youngster, I didn’t like the idea of being forced to wear the same thing as everyone else did.  However, as a middle aged woman, I don’t think school uniforms are a bad idea.  And I even liked the classic look the kids were sporting.

In Ballysadare, apparently being versatile is the key to economic success.

The construction stoplights in Ireland have timers on them, letting you know how long you have to wait.  Bill and I both like that.  There is a lot of construction going on here, which is a good thing.  The roads are narrow and very well used.

After we shopped, we finished our drive to Aughris Head, which is where our beach cottage rental is located.  When we arrived in the mid afternoon, Bill found the keys to the house.  The ads didn’t lie.  It’s literally right next to the Atlantic Ocean.  As I type this, I hear waves crashing dramatically on the rocky coastline.  It’s very peaceful.  Adding to the appeal is the fact that there is a bar located within walking distance of our little house.

More on Aughris in part eight!

First impressions…  I picked another winner.


Celebrating 14 years in Ireland! Part four

We woke up bright and early Saturday morning for our trip to Kilkenny.  Bill ordered a cab for 9:00am after we were told it would take at least an hour to walk to the train station from our hotel.  The cab driver arrived right on time.

A map of Ireland.

While we were in the taxi, I found myself listening to the talk show on the radio. ¬†My ears pricked up when I heard the female commentator refer to the United States as the “United Hates of America”. ¬†She said she didn’t see America that way, but other people did.

“The United ‘Hates’ of America, huh?” I responded. ¬†“Wow.”

The cab driver chuckled and, naturally, that opened up yet another conversation about politics. ¬†He gave us his impressions of our elections and we explained to him that Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump were not the only candidates. ¬†They were simply the only ones most people heard much about, especially outside of the country. ¬†Bill then explained that we live in Germany, so we’re somewhat removed from a lot of the political maelstrom that has been going on for over a year now.

We arrived at the train station a bit early, so after Bill bought us a couple of tickets, we went into a bar for a round of beer. ¬†Yes, it was 9:30am, but I decided I wanted a beer. ¬†We were turned away from the “outdoor” area of the bar, but inside, there were several old guys congregated. ¬†They were all sipping Guinness, so we joined them and enjoyed the 80s music playing on the stereo.

A new book by Jodi Piccoult.

While we were sitting there in the bar, Bill told me about the funny sign at the ticket counter that read something to the effect of “Antisocial behavior will not be tolerated! ¬†You will be caught and prosecuted!” ¬†Little did I know, our social skills would be tested on our ride to Kilkenny.

Cute Hoor beer…
And the first of several Guinness beers I’ve had since our arrival…

At 10:15am, we got on our train. ¬†It was pretty packed with people. ¬†We were at a four top table, so we were later joined by a funky looking lady who was very intent on reading a tabloid. ¬†We thought we would have a nice sedate ride to Kilkenny and we did… ¬†until we stopped at Kildare.

The train stopped and a bunch of people got on… ¬†and most of them were of the youngster set. ¬†I heard lots of high pitched chattering as laughter as we were suddenly joined by a group of about twenty or thirty kids. ¬†I didn’t count them; I only noticed as they made their way down the train, looking for spare seats together. ¬†They looked like they were on the brink of adolescence– maybe ten or eleven years old.

“Urchins…” I muttered.

One kid got on the train with a backpack and a large foam rubber mat.  It was rather wide and he seemed oblivious as it smacked a few passengers he tried to pass.  A motherly looking group leader advised the lad to unhook the mat and carry it in front of him.  It seemed to take a couple of minutes before he finally got it and carried the thing in a less offensive way.

A few minutes later, the boy with the foam mat was back, along with a couple of his friends and a group leader.  The group leader very apologetically seated the boys at the four top table opposite the aisle from Bill and me.  A young man was already sitting by the window, blissfully tuned out of the action because he had ear buds planted firmly in his ears.

The overhead baggage area over the boys’ seats was full, so after prompting from yours truly, Bill very helpfully offered to put the foam mat over our seats. ¬†This kindness opened up yet another hilarious exchange with the Irish. ¬†You see, these boys were not the type to be quiet and shy. ¬†I don’t actually know the boys’ names, but I’ll give them nicknames for the sake of this story.

“Where are you from?” asked the foam mat bearer– I’ll call him Seamus for simplicity’s sake.

“America.” Bill said.

“America!” another boy exclaimed– I’ll call him Lefty due to his broken hand in a cast. ¬†“What the hell are you doing in Ireland?”

“We’re here on vacation.” Bill said.

“You can’t be here on vacation!” another kid I’ll call Ray said. ¬†“Nobody vacations here! ¬†Ireland is awful!”

Naturally, this unabashed comment made everyone in the vicinity crack up with laughter.

One of the boys pulled out a plastic bottle of some kind of juice. ¬†The three of them then commenced flipping the bottle, trying to get it to land right side up. ¬†I am told this is a game that is “all the rage” among youngsters these days, but it was the first time I’d ever seen it. ¬†I eyed the bottle nervously, fearing that it would either break or the top would come off, making a big mess. ¬†At one point, the bottle landed upright and the kid I call Ray started yelling “Drink! Drink! Drink!” like he was at a frat party. ¬†My eyes widened in surprise, but perhaps I shouldn’t have been.

“So do you like Ireland?” Ray asked during a lull in the gameplay.

“Oh yes!” Bill said.

“How many states have you been to?” Lefty asked, moving on to the fact that we were Americans and apparently totally foreign to them.

“48.” Bill said. ¬†“I have not been to Alaska and North Dakota.”

“48 states!” the boys exclaimed. ¬†“Wow!” ¬†They were extremely impressed that Bill had seen so many states. ¬†When another from their group sat nearby, they eagerly told their friend about Bill’s U.S. travels.

“What state are you from?” one of the kids asked.

Bill told them he was from Texas. ¬†I told them I’m from Virginia. ¬†The kids continued peppering Bill with questions. ¬†Eventually, they asked which country he’d been to that was furthest away. ¬†For some reason, Bill said “Iraq”, although he has since been to a few African countries that are even further away from where we’ve ever lived.

Recognizing that Bill had been in the Army, the kids moved on to subject of the war. ¬†“Did you know anyone that died?” one of the kids asked.

“Yes.” Bill said. ¬†Thankfully, they moved on from that line of questioning… only to start talking about politics!

“Hey! ¬†Do you think of Canada as your ‘goody two shoes neighbor to the north’?” Seamus asked, just in time for one of the roving group adults to hear him. ¬†I gasped in surprise just as one of the group moms came over and grabbed Seamus for a talking to. ¬†While she was chewing out Seamus, she shot Lefty what appeared to be a ‘death ray’.

“I’m so sorry,” the group mom apologized as she returned Seamus to his seat.

“Really, it’s not a problem.” I said as I laughed. ¬†These kids were cracking me up and making the time go much faster. ¬†I probably shouldn’t have encouraged them, but I have to admit to being similarly obnoxious… especially when I was their age.

“Oh no.” Lefty said suddenly. ¬†“Here comes Dermott.”

Dermott was apparently the head leader of this group and he gave the impression of brooking no nonsense.  He was heading down the aisle toward the boys.

“He wears a Titanium vest!” Ray shouted. ¬†“And if you don’t get on with him, he’ll send the IRA after you!”

“Oh my God…” I muttered to Bill, who was having a hard time containing his laughter.

“What does D.C. stand for?” Lefty asked.

“District of Columbia.” I responded.

“Isn’t Colombia a country in Africa?” one kid asked.

“No, that’s a country in South America.” Bill said.

“Isn’t it a city in Ohio?” Lefty asked.

“No, you’re thinking of Columbus.” I said. ¬†“But good on you for being close, because a lot of people wouldn’t be.”

“We have to walk three miles to our campsite.” Lefty said.

“You’ll be alright if your rucksack is 20% of your body weight.” Bill offered.

“It’s too far.” the boys said as they flipped the bottle again.

“Hey! ¬†Why don’t you have a go?” Lefty asked Bill as they passed him the bottle. ¬†I shot Bill a warning look as he wisely gave the bottle back to the kids.

Finally, another stop came and a bunch of people got off the train. ¬†One of the moms came back to our little group of comedians and told them to come with her to another part of the train. ¬†They had found seats together. ¬†The boys all groaned and got up to leave. ¬†Seamus, who appeared to be the leader of the hooligans, came back because he’d forgotten his bottle. ¬†Before he left, he said goodbye to Bill and me and gave us both a bro fist.

I have to admit, next to the train ride we took in Luxembourg with a bunch of nuns and a woman wearing Depends and a rubber phallus on her nose, that was one of the more entertaining train rides we’ve ever experienced. ¬†It’s also not the first time Bill has become a de facto babysitter on a train. ¬†For some reason, he attracts people in need. ¬†Fortunately, he is great with kids and as kind and gentle as a man can be. ¬†More on that in part five!

Ads in the train station.  I thought they were very clever!

While walking my dogs this morning…

Zane and Arran having fun near where we live.

I ran into an elderly lady who, I have discovered on previous walks, speaks English fairly well.  She has two little pugs.  One is the usual fawn color and the other is dark brown.  They appear to be somewhat elderly, like their human companion.

This morning, I spotted the lady coming down one of the roads that lead to the nature trail in the park behind our house.  When we were close enough, she said good morning; then our dogs greeted each other.  The smaller dark brown pug wagged her tail as Arran sniffed her.  Zane stood off to the side with the other pug.

I looked up at the lady who said with a smile, “She is a very nice bitch.  Very friendly!  Like a child!” I stifled a giggle as the dogs finished socializing and we went our separate ways.

Of course, being a native English speaker, I know that it’s perfectly fine to refer to female dogs as bitches.  But as an American, I had to laugh when she said her bitch was “very nice”.  I may not see as many odd things in Germany as I do back home, but I have to admit that sometimes the cultural exchanges are pretty funny!