holidays

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…

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France

Parker goes to France, part two…

After taking Arran to the Hundepension, Bill, Parker, and I loaded up the Volvo and headed to France. It was cold and cloudy, as it usually is this time of year. However, it wasn’t so cold in Germany that I packed my down jacket. I eventually regretted that decision, because it did get pretty cold in France. I did at least bring a cape that I could layer over my wool sweater. Global warming is definitely a thing, though. When we were in Germany the first time, I would not have dreamed of going outside without down. The past couple of years have truly been unseasonably warm here. We haven’t even had any snow yet. Last time I saw a decent amount of white stuff was when we lived in Jettingen.

We got on the road at about lunchtime on Saturday, January 18th. In retrospect, we probably should have eaten before we left, but I was eager to get on the road. We made one pit stop before lunch, where I managed to take a few inappropriate pics. I always get a kick out of the signs and ads in the bathrooms, as well as the people who prefer to go au naturale rather than pay the 70 cents to pee in private…

We ended up stopping in Landau, a pleasant town in southern Rhineland-Palatinate, not that far from the French border. I had told Yannick we were shooting to be at his gite between 3:00 and 4:00, but hadn’t realized that lunch would take as long as it did.

As it was, we stopped very close to the “witching hour” of 2:00pm, which is when a lot of restaurants shut down for a pause. I managed to find us a Paulaner restaurant, the Paulanerstuben-Landau, which still had lunch going. That turned out to be a fortuitous stop. The food was delicious, even if came out at a rather leisurely pace.

I had the delicious half chicken, which was crispy and probably done “extra spicy”. I say that, because they used a lot of black pepper to season it. I also noticed that they offered less spicy and mild versions. I wish I had specified, because when it comes to spicy food, my tastes are very German… or British. Makes perfect sense, too. Bill had the Wiener Schnitzel and Parker had sausages. Both of them liked their choices as much as I liked mine.

The rest of our drive to France was uneventful, except for when we stopped at an unusually rustic rest stop. There was another couple ahead of me. The man used the pissoir, which was outside (on a related note, I sure did see my share of public urination on this trip). The woman was in one of the two little wooden sheds, but she’d neglected to lock the door. Consequently, I opened the door on her when she was mid piss. Sigh… sorry lady, but I didn’t know you were in there. The doors lock for a reason.

We arrived at Yannick’s gite in the heart of Ribeauville at about 5:30pm. It was dark outside, and we were still full from lunch, as well as a bit tired from the drive. Yannick came over to say hello, and we got to meet his adorable little son, Raphael, who is about 18 months old. During our last visit to Ribeauville, Yannick’s wife was in labor with little Raphael; he was born the night we departed during our last visit over Memorial Day weekend in 2018. He was very shy, but adorable. Yannick said he wasn’t used to hearing English, but after a couple of minutes, he went to work entertaining himself with the drawers full of wine corks. Yannick says his wife will be having another baby in May or June of this year; then their family will be complete. It was a real pleasure to finally meet Raphael. I have no doubt that he’ll be bilingual in no time.

We all went to the little Carrefour grocery store located about 100 yards from the gite and loaded up on wine, beer, chips, breakfast fixings, and chocolate. Parker took one of the upstairs bedrooms, and Bill and I took the usual back bedroom. Here are some photos from Riesling, which mostly looks the same as it did last time we stayed there, in November 2017. Yannick says he’s trying to upgrade, but he’s had trouble finding workmen who are available. All of his gites in the wine house are named after local wine specialties.

We like to stay at Yannick’s place, mostly because he’s very nice and loves dogs. But his place is also very convenient to Ribeauville, has access to free lot parking, and has most everything you’d need. It’s also reasonably priced, and Yannick makes checking in and checking out a breeze. You just access the lockbox, for which he sends a code before you arrive. It’s super easy and convenient. In fact, about an hour after we left, he texted me to see how we enjoyed our time. It was, indeed, a great time! Now… on with what we did in Alsace this time! Stay tuned for part three.

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France

Parker goes to France, part one…

It’s been about two years since Bill’s mom, Parker, last visited us. Parker lives in Texas and has very generous friends who used to work for United Airlines. It’s through their generosity that she gets to see us in Germany. Every time Parker visits, we have some kind of adventure.

Last time she was here was in December 2017, when we still lived near Stuttgart. Before that, she was here in June 2009, also when we lived near Stuttgart. In 2017, we took her on a blind booking trip to Berlin. In 2009, we took a roadtrip to Oberstaufen, Germany, down in Bavaria. That trip turned into a day trip to Italy, whereupon we got temporarily trapped due to flooding. I have written about those trips and they can be found in this blog, although I still need to fix the formatting on them. She also visited Bill when he was posted in Bavaria back in the 1980s, but that was way before my time.

Anyway, back to 2020… It was nice to be able to get Parker in Frankfurt and only have to drive about twenty minutes rather than a few hours. Arran, the dog, was quite happy to see his grandma again. He hadn’t forgotten her from the last time and gave her an adorable welcome. Bill had to work all last week, so Parker and I hung around the house and talked. Bill had asked me to arrange a short trip for us, since Parker hasn’t had the chance to see as much of Europe as she’d like. When she visited us in 2009, we did take the briefest of detours into France so we could have lunch and Parker could say she’d been there. Other than that, she’d never been to France before.

Regular readers of my travel blog might recall that back in 2017, Bill and I discovered beautiful Ribeauville, a little town in Alsace right next to the much more touristy Riquewihr, which is supposedly one of France’s most beautiful villages. In 2017, Bill and I visited Ribeauville three times, which should really say something, given how many awesome places there are to visit in Europe. We found a great gite (vacation home in France) there, and it was so easy, since we only lived about 2.5 hours away and the owner of the gite was so pet friendly.

Our last visit to Ribeauville was in May 2018, but then we had to move to Wiesbaden. Last year was a bit of a cluster fuck in terms of getting settled and making some decisions about the future. We never made it back to Alsace in 2019. When I saw that Yannick, our faithful Ribeauville host, had availability in his largest gite– called Riesling– I jumped on it. We spent four nights visiting Ribeauville during the dead off season. We had a wonderful time, too! Ribeauville is a place we completely missed the first time we lived in Europe, but it’s now one of our go to locations whenever we need a break from Germany.

Yannick Kopff has several gites for rent. He’s got four studio sized apartments, a one room place, and an apartment with three rooms. Bill, Parker, and I stayed in his largest apartment at the wine house he converted into super convenient lodging in Ribeauville. I usually book his places through Booking.com, but he’s also listed on other sites, including reservation-gite.alsace. I would link to it, but at the moment, it does not appear that the site is working yet.

For four nights, I paid about 425 euros, and that was without a discount. Booking through Booking.com results in higher prices because Booking gets paid for reservations made through their site. I also have Yannick’s number, though, so next time we need an Alsatian break, I’ll just send him a text.

We usually bring our dog(s) with us when we go to Ribeauville, but since we had Parker and there were some places Bill and I specifically wanted to visit, this time we put him up at the Tierpension Birkenhof. We look forward to having him home tonight. I always miss our pooches when we go on trips, even if they’re relatively short.

This was probably one of the best trips to Alsace we’ve had yet, although I did miss having the dogs with us… especially Zane, who has now been gone for just over four months. I kept expecting to see them there, and remembering the times Bill and I have visited Ribeauville alone and brought both dogs with us. Sigh… well, maybe soon we’ll find a dog who needs a home. For now, here’s my latest series on Ribeauville and its environs, truly one of my favorite places in France that spoils everyone for choice in how much there is to do there, even during the off season! Stay tuned for part two!

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Our first French Christmas, part nine…

Yesterday morning, Bill got a phone call from ADAC. The person who called him wasn’t a very good English speaker and made it seem like we might have to wait another day for tires. The owners of our gite told us they had a booking for Tuesday night and I knew that if tires had to be ordered, we would possibly be stuck in Beaune for a couple more days. Then, just after ADAC called, the owners of the gite told us that they’d gotten a last minute booking and needed us to check out. In retrospect, I probably should have just booked the two nights myself through Booking.com, but I hadn’t expected them to give us a free night. I thought we’d just book directly.

Since we didn’t know if we’d be able to get our tires in time, I hastily decided to book a night at La Maison de Maurice, another dog friendly property in downtown Beaune. It was a non-refundable booking, so we were committed. Then ADAC called and said they had tires for us. Bill took the car to a tiny French garage and we were set to go by 11:30am. Figures.

We could have just eaten the cost of the hotel room and gone home yesterday, but Bill and I were a bit exasperated and in no mood to travel. Another night in Beaune would give me the chance to see and review another lodging, and we could just relax and unwind.

La Maison de Maurice turned out to be a really nice place. It’s an “apart-hotel”. I think they have a couple of apartments and a suite/loft. They also sell wine and offer tastings. For 120 euros a night, it wasn’t quite as economical as the other gite, which was pretty much a whole house with a couple of bedrooms, a kitchen, and a living room. But it was in a great location and the owners were very friendly. The female half of the brother and sister team greeted us and spoke very limited English, but managed to get us set up.

We stayed in a loft, which was very comfortable and kind of cool, except for the very tight spiral staircase. I wondered how in the world they got furniture in that room! It was really tight and steep. Anyway, here are a few photos from yesterday… which proved to me that we missed a lot of Beaune. There’s a whole ‘nother section to the town that we didn’t get to during our tire fiasco or the weekend prior.

As you can see, La Maison de Maurice is right in the thick of town, while Au Miracle du Pain Dore is more on the outskirts. Both are good places to stay for different reasons. La Maison de Maurice is perfect if you want to stay right in town and be near shopping and restaurants. Au Miracle du Pain Dore is great if you need more room and don’t mind walking a few hundred meters to town.

Bill went around the corner to a burger place called Gaspard. It gets dreadful reviews on TripAdvisor, but we were actually very pleased with the burgers. They were served hot and promptly, were fresh and juicy, and tasted good. I’d go back for sure. I’m going to have to write them a positive review to counteract all of the one star ratings they have. I’d love to have a Gaspard in my town, although next month, we’ll be blessed with a Five Guys in Wiesbaden (Stuttgart is getting one too).

Bill took the dog out for a walk last night and was pleasantly surprised by a light show. The tall metal columns that I thought might be toilets were projectors scattered around the city. And they were shining beautiful, colorful holograms on certain buildings. Here’s a link to one woman’s pictures, which are a lot brighter and prettier than the one Bill shared with me– the featured photo. Now I wish I’d gotten up and gone walking with them. I bet I could have gotten some shots with my real camera, which rarely gets used thanks to how easy the iPhone and iPad are to use and carry.

I ended up watching ER, Grey’s Anatomy, and a weird French series that involved a French woman going to St. Petersburg, Russia and working for a circus at Christmas time. I don’t speak French at all, and all three of these shows were in French. I had seen the ER episodes, but never watched Grey’s Anatomy, and was mostly guessing with the French series, which was oddly entertaining.

This morning, we got up and enjoyed a very fresh French breakfast of croissants, bread, yogurt (for Bill), fresh fruit, coffee, butter, jam and juice. The proprietor seemed very taken with Arran, who was a perfect gentleman. I was so proud of him. We went to check out and he didn’t ask for my credit card, which was surprising to me. Booking.com had not given me the chance to pre-pay for the room; I could only reserve it. But it said if we didn’t show up, we’d still have to pay. I was under the impression that they had my card info, since he seemed to be saying goodbye to us, but the guy came running after us after we left. So Bill went back and paid the hotel, then we got on our way.

It was about a six hour drive, completely uneventful… we made a stop in Moselle, where we found a KFC and had no problems with tire punchers. KFC in Europe isn’t as good as it is in the States, not that it’s all that good there, either. But at least it wasn’t a burger… I meant to take a picture of the Bob’s Big Boy statue a restaurant on the outskirts of Beaune had out front. It was very campy! Those of us who remember Bob’s Big Boy in America will get a kick out of it. Maybe next time!

By the way, straws in France are now made of paper. But they don’t seem as gung ho about recycling their bottles as Germans are.

Anyway… that about does it for my French Christmas series. I will follow up tomorrow with my usual top ten things I learned post… and this time, although we didn’t go to a lot of restaurants or visit a lot of sights, I sure as HELL learned a lot. I might have to make it a top fifteen things I learned post. Stay tuned!

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Ribeauvillé trois… Pt. 1

Last week, Bill told me he wanted to get away for Veteran’s Day weekend.  However, because he started his job with a new company back in late July, he’s still pretty short on vacation time.  I didn’t want to go away for just two nights, so Bill arranged to take off work two hours early on Thursday.  I knew that meant we’d need to stay close to Stuttgart.

I went to Booking.com and realized that our favorite apartments in Ribeauvillé were wide open this weekend.  At 365 euros for a three bedroom pet friendly apartment right in the thick of town, the price was right.  It takes three hours or less to get to this part of Alsace from our home in Unterjettingen.  So, although we’ve now been to Alsace three times in 2017, I decided to book Ribeauvillé again.  This place is beginning to feel like a second home to us!

Bill got home from work at about 3:45.  It was dark and cloudy and I knew it wouldn’t be long before it was downright dismal outside.  The drive to wine country is usually very beautiful, but not at this time of year.  Nevertheless, we arrived less than three hours later.  Yannick, the guy who owns the apartments we use, has a system where he gives you a code and you can get the keys to your place yourself.  His place is also next to a large, free parking lot.  It couldn’t be more convenient.

We unloaded our stuff in the apartment… the same one we used when we were here back in February.  We have also stayed in one of Yannick’s smaller apartments.

Cozy little place in town… tiny dining room, but charming food.

Once we settled in, Bill and I ventured out to dinner at D’baecka Ofa Stub, a small restaurant on the main drag through town.  There were only a few people eating when we walked in.  French pop music played in the dining room, including a very odd dance cover of the Chris Isaak’s hit, “Wicked Game”.  I decided to have duck with honey sauce and frites.  Bill had a type of local ravioli made with celery, carrots, and onions.  My dinner was delicious and I ended up taking half of it back to the apartment.  I will probably finish it tonight, since we’re a little ready to wind down.

Storks are a thing here.

Bill checks out the menu while we snack on pretzels…

This duck was delicious.  It came with a huge bowl of frites.  I liked that they put the sauce on the side.  The white stuff is cauliflower, which I can take or leave.  That duck was so good.  I noticed several locals seem to love this place and it’s very friendly and charming waiter, who spoke German to us the whole time.

Bill enjoyed his dish, too.  Don’t ask me to name it…  It was basically ravioli done French style, with carrots, celery, and onions.  We shared a bottle of locally produced Riesling, too.  Riesling is widely produced in this part of France.  I used to think I hated Rieslings, but that’s only because I drank California’s version, which is too sweet for my tastes.

 

Back in the 90s, I waited tables in a nice restaurant in Williamsburg, Virginia.  I wasn’t a wine drinker then and didn’t know much about it.  I used to hate it when people would ask me for suggestions because I was so ignorant.  I remember one time, a couple asked me for a recommendation of a Riesling.  I said I didn’t like Rieslings  because I thought they were too sweet.  They proceeded to rip me a new one for saying that Rieslings are sweet.  Naturally, they knew more about wine than I did at the time.  Anyway, allow me to say that I’m now a fan, especially of the Rieslings that come from Germany and France.  I used to hate German wine, too, but that has changed.

This cake was calling me like a beacon.  I made room for it.  Good thing Bill and I shared it.

After dinner, we shared a local style Black Forest cake that was slightly different from what we’ve found in Germany.  The bottom didn’t have the cookie crust or Kirschwasser.  It was all chocolate, very light, and delicious.  Our waiter was very entertaining.  I’d probably go back for him alone, although the duck was also fantastic.

Ribeauvillé is the kind of place where the sidewalks roll up early, especially during the off season.  After dinner, we made our way back to the apartment and went to bed nice and early.  It was great to be back!

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France

Alsace and Burgundy… Snips and snails and puppy dog tails! pt. 5

Last October, Bill and I spent Columbus Day weekend in a cute little Hexagonal Tower in a town called Semur-en-Auxois.  While I was searching for that property, I saw another gite located further south that interested me.  The place is called Gite de la Maison Bleue and it’s located in a tiny little town called Saint Marcelin-de-Cray.  Now, before we visited this charming area, we had no idea of what was in Saint Marcelin-de-Cray.  In fact, having grown up in Gloucester, Virginia, I could almost say that our visit was kind of the equivalent of a French person vacationing in my hometown.  It’s what one might call “The real France”.

Anyway, I chose this particular property because it got amazing reviews on Booking.com and the pictures of it were awesome.  Also, it’s very dog friendly, which we needed because we brought Zane and Arran with us.  When I booked the property, it was going for just 90 euros a night.  There was supposed to be a 90 euro “security deposit”, but I don’t think our hosts ever collected it from us.

To get to Saint Marcelin-de-Cray, we had to drive about four hours south of Alsace, mostly on high speed roads.  Then, we drove for another hour or so on a smaller road through many quaint towns on Burgundy’s wine route.  I would have loved to have stopped for a couple of tastings.  Maybe next time, if we don’t have the dogs with us.  Or maybe even if we do.  Sophie and Jean Pierre, the people who own the gite where we stayed, were fine with us leaving the boys alone while we went out for lunch.

We did have problems actually getting to the gite.  Our GPS was not finding the property.  We had to call Sophie, whose heavily accented English is a bit rusty.  Jean Pierre speaks no English whatsoever. Fortunately, our years of living in Germany and visiting France have made us pretty good at figuring things out.  After driving around for awhile, we finally found our accommodations at the top of a serene hill.

There’s no need to worry about parking or poop bags.  Gite de la Maison Bleue is a working farm, so there’s poop everywhere.  Animal lovers will delight in the three horses, three llamas, nanny goat, donkey, rabbits, two dogs, cat, two sheep, chickens, ducks, geese, and a pig who currently has seven little piglets.  This place is also a snail farm and in the summer, you can go and get your fill of escargot.  As a matter of fact, we had occasion to try snails during our visit.  Much to my surprise, they didn’t gross me out.  In fact, I even enjoyed them.

This was one of the two bedrooms.  We slept on this bed in the beautifully decorated room.  I’m happy to report that both beds are king sized and comfortable.  A local artist has placed a number of his pieces throughout the gite.  You can purchase them and they are reasonably priced.  I spotted a couple I wanted to buy and I will be hitting up the artist’s email and making the request.

 

The other bedroom, which we didn’t use.  There was a flatscreen TV in there and down in the kitchen. WiFi is free, but rather spotty.  Also, the password is the longest I have ever seen!  

The kitchen was outfitted with all you’d need, except a freezer.  I’m sure if you needed to freeze something, the hosts would oblige.  Right off of the kitchen is a terrace, where you can sit and gaze at the beautiful view pictured below.  There is also a wood chip heater, which came in handy.

A view of the super cool “tower”, which you can climb to the top of for even better views of the valley and mountains.  The shower in this place is great, too.  It has a rainfall head, as well as three jets and a handheld nozzle.

Some of the animals we shared quarters with…

This morning’s sunrise was lovely.

 

We had a bit of a mishap during our first night.  Jean Pierre brought over some snails for us and came into the gite to help us prepare them.  On his way out, he wasn’t quick to close the door.  Our little rascal, Zane, managed to escape.  It was getting dark out and the air was thick with new smells.  We spent about twenty scary minutes trying to round up our wayward dog.  Fortunately, Zane got distracted by a light and a big hunk of French bread.  He had it in his mouth when Bill brought him inside.  I swear Zane was smiling, too.  As much as it scares me when he gets loose, I was actually glad to see it on one level.  A few months ago, he didn’t have nearly the energy level he’s had lately.  A change of diet and some medicines have given him new life.

So these were the snails we had.  They had lots of garlic butter in them and reminded me a bit of haggis.  I probably wouldn’t order them as a matter of course, but they weren’t bad at all.

I kept taking pictures of the valley, but I don’t think I quite captured how beautiful it really is.

The boys loved the terrace, where they could hang out.  There is no extra charge for pets.  In fact, they are warmly welcomed, even if they’re loud and try to escape.  

Our hosts gave us fresh eggs from their chickens.  

I had to get a picture of the sound system.  It had a turntable and a CD player.  

This is not a great picture of the top of the tower, but it’s a super cool feature of this property.  You can look at the splendor of the countryside from every direction.

Our first breakfast.  Bill went to the next town for the croissants and clementine juice.

A picture of the house from the pasture.  The gite is attached to Sophie’s and Jean Pierre’s home, but that’s not a problem at all.  

I have much more to write about our experience in the next post.  If you’re an animal lover, stay tuned!

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France, restaurant reviews

Alsace and Burgundy… Ribeauville again! pt. 2

Our host in Ribeauville, Yannick, knew we already knew how to access our gite, since we rented from him in January.  We parked in the same free parking lot we did last time we visited, punched in the code for the box that held our key, and let ourselves in.  It was Sunday, so things were kind of quiet.  Yannick asked if we minded if he saw us the second night.  We were fine with it.

The Riesling gite was nice and warm when we arrived, a contrast to how it was in January, when the weather was colder.  We took a quick tour of the apartment, marveling at how much room we had to roam this time.  The apartment has a rather steep stairway that the dogs had to learn how to negotiate safely.  At one point, my dog Arran came close to crashing.  Zane caught on to the steps quickly and enjoyed sneaking up them to take a nap in one of the spare rooms.

Zane gives Bill a kiss in the living room.

The guest room we used was on the main floor.  You have to climb a flight of stairs to get to the apartment, then there are two levels to the Riesling apartment itself.  This apartment has two king beds and two twin sized beds.

Another shot of the living room.  There’s a TV, but we really only used it to distract the dogs while we were out.

Eat in kitchen, complete with full sized fridge, dishwasher, oven, and range.  The door leads to a bathroom with a rainfall shower.

Bathroom #2 on the other side of the kitchen has a bathtub.

Twin beds.

King bed #2 on the second level.

Rainfall shower.

And a welcome bottle of wine!

 

I don’t know what Yannick’s summer rates are, but both of the well-equipped apartments we stayed in were very reasonably priced.  In fact, the Riesling apartment was really not much more expensive than the smaller Pinot Noir apartment we stayed in for MLK weekend.  And again, these apartments are right in the thick of Ribeauville’s action.  It’s a three minute walk to the main drag.  The two new apartments are even closer than that.  There’s also a small grocery store maybe five minutes walk from the apartments, as well as several excellent bakeries.

Since Yannick was going to see us on our second night, we decided to go out to dinner.  We stopped at a place called Restaurant L’Arbalete.  It was fairly empty when we got there, but was packed by the time we left.

Bill checks out the menu.

Our first bottle of wine in Ribeauville (this time).

I went with grilled ham, potatoes, carrots, sauerkraut, and a little salad.  I managed maybe half and took the rest back to the apartment, where it became dinner our second night.

Bill had a gratin made with Munster cheese, bacon, and potatoes.  He loved it, although the cheese was a little strong smelling for my tastes.  I did taste it, though, and it tasted less assertive than it smelled.

We had no room whatsoever for dessert!

 

We enjoyed this restaurant, with its charming little dining room and many local patrons.  We did hear one rather loud American group in there, but they were probably the only ones we’ve run into all week.

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France

Running away to Ribeauville, France… part one (apartment review)

A couple of weeks ago, my husband Bill told me he wanted to get away for the long Martin Luther King holiday weekend.  Although there are a lot of places we’d like to go, we were somewhat hampered by the fact that our dogs, Zane and Arran, would have to come with us.  Our regular pet boarder was full.  That would mean wherever we went would need to be dog friendly and close enough to drive to conveniently.

Last July, we took an overnight trip to Riquewihr, which is a picturesque little village in Alsatian wine country.  I had noticed charming Ribeauville on the way there.  I also remembered how extremely pet friendly Riquewihr is.  With that in mind, I went searching on Booking.com for a “gite” in Ribeauville.  Actually, I looked for gites in Eguisheim first, but didn’t find anything that met our needs.  I chose Gîtes de la Maison Vigneronne, au Coeur de Ribeauvillé.

We enjoyed a very nice drive to France, taking a slightly different route than we usually do.  Although the weather was forecasted to be snowy, it hadn’t really started coming down during our drive.  It wasn’t until just until we got over the French border than the snow got to be noticeable.  Below are some photos I took on the drive to France.

Yannick, the guy who runs Gîtes de la Maison Vigneronne, au Coeur de Ribeauvillé, had told us we could check in after three o’clock.  Since he also works a different job, he said he’d meet us after six o’clock.  He gave us directions for getting the key to the apartment, which allowed us to check in slightly earlier than we meant to.  You just punch in a code by the gate and collect the key by yourself.  There is free parking near the apartments, so we found a spot and unloaded.  It was no problem whatsoever.

We rented “Pinot Noir”, which is one of the four apartments Yannick has.  It’s a one bedroom apartment with stone walls.  I noticed the other one near us was called Gewurtztraminer.  It was rented by a couple of American ladies who showed up Saturday, but we neither saw nor heard them.

One thing I loved about Yannick’s apartment was that it was very pet friendly.  I never felt like I had to be especially careful in the apartment.  When Yannick came by to meet us, he made it clear that he’s a dog lover.  If we go back to Ribeauville, we will rent from him again.  I would recommend his places to anyone who needs a place that is especially pet friendly.  Yannick also didn’t take the 300 euro deposit Booking.com said we’d need.  He said he trusted us.  He also left us a nice bottle of local wine.

A gift from our host.

We even had a Christmas tree!

A washing machine if you need one, although there is no dryer.  There is a drying rack.

Bathroom sink.

Rainfall shower.

Living area.

 

Kitchen (part of the living area).  There’s a table for four, a microwave, oven, stove top, refrigerator, and dishwasher.  It was well stocked with cooking and eating utensils.  I didn’t get a photo of the bedroom, but it had a king sized bed that was surprisingly comfortable.

Little courtyard in front of the apartment.

 

My only big complaint about the apartment was that it was really cold in there at first.  Yannick had turned the heat on, but no one had used the apartment recently, so due to the stone walls, it was pretty chilly in there when we first arrived.  It took several hours for the apartment to heat up after we put the heat on the highest setting.  If you are tempted to rent this apartment during the off season in winter, I recommend bringing warm clothes.

The little alleyway that leads to the main drag through the village.  The apartment is maybe fifty meters from town.  There’s a bakery and a small supermarket very close.  There are also lots of restaurants, although many were closed over the weekend because the proprietors had gone on holiday.

We spent about $360 to rent the apartment for three nights.  I thought that was a fair price.  And again, Yannick is super laid back and loves dogs.  He made ours feel very welcome.  Yannick has a couple of studio apartments, as well as a three bedroom one that sleeps six.

As we were leaving this morning, Yannick showed up.  He was going to get the Christmas tree.  He bid us a cheery farewell and the dogs gave him kisses.  Seriously… if you have dogs and want to go to France, look up Yannick.

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