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

ETA: I had a real problem with uploading pictures for this post. The second set of photos is actually several galleries. If you notice “repeats” when you scroll through, just move to the next gallery.

Before we went to sleep the first night, we were visited by one of the restaurant staffers. She bore a slight resemblance to the actress Elisabeth Moss, who plays June on The Handmaid’s Tale. That was how we found out that our room had a doorbell! She came bearing fresh baked treats from the kitchen, which were scrumptious. She came to ask us about our breakfast preferences and reconfirm our reservations at the restaurant on Friday and Saturday nights.

The breakfast at Auberge au Boeuf was absolutely something to behold. But as it was our first time visiting, we didn’t know what to expect and we were decidedly overfed on the first morning. The lady from the restaurant asked us what we wanted from the list of offerings, which included boiled eggs, ham, fruit salad, cheese, smoked fish, juice, coffee, tea, yogurt, jam, butter, Museli, and fresh baked pastries and bread. This breakfast, which costs 12 euros per person, is served “family style”. But we didn’t know that on Wednesday night, when we were asked when we wanted to eat, and whether we wanted breakfast at the big “Stammtisch” table, or in our room. So, we ordered two of some things, not knowing how big the portions were.

The next morning at 8:00am sharp, a tiny lady who spoke French and German brought out tons of food for us… two servings of the things we both liked. I will admit, we were able to eat a lot of it, but some things went to waste. We had two big trays of smoked fish, two big trays of ham and salami, two of three kinds of pastries, and two butters… I was grateful we were the only ones eating at 8:00am, which is when breakfast starts. It was embarrassing to get that much food! We noticed a couple who ate later got less food. Now, we know better.

However… I must admit that the breakfast at Auberge au Boeuf was one of the best I have ever had anywhere. And, at twelve euros per person, it was very reasonably priced. The pastries alone were worth the price of admission, as it was obvious to me that they were very fresh and probably house made. They were exquisite! Below are some pictures from breakfast in the Stammtisch room.

The Stammtisch is something else I must mention. The restaurant offers less fancy and expensive meals at the big table in their gorgeous breakfast/dining room. We didn’t try the Stammtisch, since we didn’t know about it before we came and decided not to have dinner on Wednesday and Thursday nights. The food offered there is mostly beef and Alsatian– and looking at their menu, I might have had some issues with it, since there are many mushrooms! I see that the Stammtisch is offered for lunch and dinner on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. On the other hand, if we go back to that hotel, we may have to try it. The Stammtisch room has a very different vibe than the gourmet restaurant does. I think if I could have found something without fungus, I would have loved it.

The big “Stammtisch” table is made from a tree– in fact, I was blown away by how beautiful that room is. It looked like the plates, cups, saucers, and serving platters were all locally produced by a potter. They were very cool looking and original. They also have a cool wine cave, as well as a museum devoted to Goethe, that I didn’t see open during our visit.

After our first night at the hotel, we took a walk around the neighborhood. First, we passed a small market, where vendors were selling local produce, rotisserie chicken, and cheeses. I noticed that the hotel even had a kiosk set up, probably so people could pick up their catering orders. Patrons can order things via the restaurant’s Web site.

During our walk, I met a very sweet and social “European style” beagle who was super friendly and wanted to chat with us. He was so cute! I wanted to take him home with me, but I know if I bring another dog home, Arran will shit on my pillow! I have noticed that beagles are getting more popular in Europe, but they look a bit different than American beagles look. They’re a bit stockier, and have jaws that look kind of square. Whatever… I think they are adorable! Below are some scenes around Sessenheim.

We also saw some pygmy goats who were hanging out in someone’s yard, enjoying the nice weather. And we visited Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s memorial, which is open and free to the public. If we’d wanted to, we could have planned a day’s activities around Goethe. There’s actually a lot around Sessenheim and its environs about Goethe, who fell in love with Frederique Brion, a French woman from Sessenheim, when he was studying law in Strasbourg. Goethe immortalized her in his memoirs.

We strolled through the neighborhoods, noticing a couple of places for sale. I started talking to Bill about whether we should look for a house in France when he retires. I noticed how beautifully the gardens are kept there, including someone’s well tended kale plants. Dr. Blair, the dentist, used to practice in the Black Forest, and he said a lot of Germans buy homes in Alsace, because it’s supposedly cheaper. And, as we can attest, it’s more laid back, too.

After we took a walk, we made our way to Haguenau, which is a small, pleasant city known for pottery. There are museums, spas, and churches, and even a microbrewery there. The city is located near the famous Maginot Line, so it attracts people who are interested in “Remembrance Tourism”. There is also a lot of Jewish history in Haguenau. There’s even a museum dedicated to baggage in Haguenau! There are also some interesting looking restaurants, bars, and retail establishments. Since we’re still a bit COVID wary, we kept our activities outdoors, with the exception of visiting one cathedral, where Bill lit a candle for his father, who was a devout Catholic and died in 2020.

For lunch, we visited a tiny Moroccan restaurant called Restaurant Côté Sud. We lucked into finding this place, which offered a few French items like faux filet, as well as tajines, cous cous, and some intriguing salads. I’ll write more about Haguenau and our Moroccan lunch in the next post. Uploading photos is problematic for some reason.

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Scotland

Part 11… Oban Distillery, the captain’s farewell, and disembarkation…

After our visit to Jura Distillery, it was time to venture to Oban, the town where most Hebridean cruises begin once the season gets going.  The early spring and late fall cruises usually start in Greenock, probably because the weather is milder down that way.  Bill and I had never been to Oban before this cruise and, I must admit, it’s an awfully cute town.  I think I’d like to go there and just spend a few days shopping and eating.

Tenders ready for our last day.

Before we went to Oban, we stopped to tour some pretty gardens in Ardfern.  It was a bit overcast during the morning, but we managed to enjoy about an hour of walking around.  Afterwards, we had tea and shortbread in the cafe attached to Loch Melfort Hotel, where the gardens were located.  I also managed to get a picture of a Highland cow, though I probably should have gotten closer than I did.

Highland cows.

Pretty flowers!

After the garden tour, we had lunch.  It was a ham buffet, kind of like the fresh seafood buffet of a few days earlier, only with ham.  I enjoyed the ham buffet, but I am more of a seafood fan.

The ham is ready for carving…

 

A close up of the 2012 version…

Oban does, of course, have a distillery.  It’s right in the middle of town.  According to our very cool guide, Catriona, the town of Oban was pretty much built around the distillery, which dates from 1794.  Of all of the distilleries we visited during our weeklong cruise, I think Oban has some of the most interesting history.  Catriona told us that the distillery can’t expand too much because of its location, as well as the fact that there are caves in the cliff behind the distillery.  Some excavations were done during the distillery’s early years and some very old– prehistoric maybe?– bones were found back there.  Also, there is a Roman style amphitheater on the cliff over the distillery and people had started to live up there, so more room could not be carved out of the cliff.

Oban Distillery.

 

Bill checks out the visitor’s center.

Because of Oban Distillery’s location, it’s one of the smallest distilleries in Scotland.  It’s known for producing a 14 year old malt.  In 2014, Oban introduced “Little Bay”, which is a non-age statement whisky.  Oban actually means “little bay” in Gaelic.

I thought Catriona did a great job telling us about the Oban Distillery, though I was pretty much distilleried out by the time we got to her.  She also showed us a part of the process that no one at the other distilleries did.  It was basically a three layered box used to separate the grist of the malt… I think, anyway.  Although all of the distilleries supposedly use this rather unsophisticated tool, no one else told us about it.  So, as Catriona said, “Score one for Oban!”

During this particular tour, the whisky expert expounded on the wonders of whisky making in such a way that Catriona had to stop him.  There was another tour coming behind us that needed use of the room.

After the distillery, we walked around Oban and I did my best to try to talk Bill into getting a kilt.  But he demurred, as usual…  One of these days, I’ll have him wearing a skirt.

Oban sunset.

We went back to the ship and put on our finery for one last gala dinner.  Bill squeezed into his uniform and I squeezed into pantyhose.  I also put on a blue wraparound dress I ordered from Amazon on a whim two years ago.  I have another one that is identical, except it’s in red.  I brought it with me, but bright red makes me feel too loud.

Haggis!

The second gala on Hebridean Princess always involves eating haggis.  I tried haggis the last time we cruised and didn’t remember hating it much.  I am pleased to say that it was actually pretty delicious this last time, although it’s not something I would choose to eat outside of Scotland, especially when no one is reciting Robert Burns.  I had turbot for dinner and Bill had venison.  It was actually a very nice meal.  Little did I know that later, I’d be tasting it again.

Hilarious original poetry by a passenger…

 

A rare photo of both Bill and me…

 

Haggis… it was surprisingly good!

 

Gin and tonic sorbet!

 

Bill looking smashing.

After dinner, we all had the chance to see the galley and chat with the kitchen staff.  Much to my delight, one of the guys in the kitchen claims to have remembered me from 2012.  I guess that’s possible, since I doubt too many Americans cruise on Hebridean Princess and I do have a distinctive laugh.  Anyway, it was nice to be able to thank them for a job well done.

Someone had an accident on the steps, so we were asked to take a detour to the Tiree Lounge for cocktails.  Bill and I went there and Philip, one of the bar staff members who had also worked on The Royal Scotsman, made me another Brandy Alexander, some of which I ended up spilling on my shoes.  I have to admit, my mood was beginning to sour due to a personality clash I had with someone else on the cruise.  I just wanted to go to bed.  But we were met with a road block on the way there, as the person who had had the accident was being evacuated.

I assured the assistant purser that I just wanted to go to bed and wasn’t interested in rubber necking.  So she let us go; we went to bed; and I promptly fell asleep until 3:00am.  I woke up, felt queasy, and began the first of about twelve hours of vomiting.  As I mentioned in the very first Scotland post, I wrote a rather detailed account on my main, more R rated blog.

In the interest of keeping my travel blog somewhat benign, I will dispense with going into great detail here…  except to say that germs are no joke on cruise ships!  Wash your hands!  Don’t share eating utensils or towels with strangers.  Use the alcohol hand sanitizers, but realize that they are no substitute for thorough and properly done hand washing.  Also realize that sometimes no matter what you do and what precautions you take, you will sometimes get sick.  Rather than beat yourself up over it, just simmer down and let the sickness take its course.  If you’re lucky, your illness will be rather short lived.  I was mostly back to normal within 48 hours, though those 48 hours were definitely not much fun.

In any case, by about 6:00am, I really looked like death warmed over.  I was sitting there wondering what we were going to do, since our plans had us going back to Glasgow, picking up a rental car, and driving to the Stoke on Trent area, where we had reserved a room at the Shawgate Farm House for two nights.  Had I been completely healthy, that plan would have been doable, if not making for a long day of travel.  But I was repeatedly vomiting, had diarrhea, and really bad stomach cramps.

Bill called the bridge to tell them that I was not feeling well.  The first officer came down to our cabin, took my temperature, and gave me water with electrolytes.  I later threw it up.  Bill explained to the purser that we were afraid what I had was contagious (and later it proved to be when Bill also got it).  I feared riding the coach and exposing others, even though they had probably already been exposed.  Also, I wondered if I would be able to make the ride to Glasgow without getting sick (I didn’t, but that’s explained in my other post about this).  I think had it been entirely up to me, I would have just found a hotel room in Oban.  But Bill and the purser determined we’d take a cab to Glasgow, which the ship kindly paid for.

Several very kind staff members expressed concern for me, which I appreciated.  I would have loved to have said goodbye properly to a few of my more favorite staffers.  Iain, the hottie hotel manager from Islay, said goodbye to me before we left the ship.  I hope he didn’t catch my sickness in those brief few moments.  I also really hope our poor stewardess, Katarzyna, did not get sick…  or the people who had the stateroom after us.  And the poor cabbie who drove us to Oban and the lady who ran the B&B where we stayed Wednesday night.  Despite feeling really miserable, I also felt pretty guilty about having a contagious illness.

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