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Turning 50 in Antwerp… Part four

One thing I noticed and really liked about Antwerp is that there’s a huge variety of different types of food available there. Yes, you can find the usual Belgian inspired cuisine, with croquettes, frites, and waffles, but there are also more exotic choices. There’s plenty of Italian food, Spanish food, Greek food, Asian food, and even some fun fusion, like Peruvian-Japanese! For lunch on Saturday, we found our way to an Israeli place called Shuk. Bill and I actually ended up eating on the backside of the restaurant. The front side was facing the street we’d need to cross to get back to our hotel. It was super close!

The weather was very hot and sunny on Saturday, so the first thing we did when we sat down was order lemonade. I had a mint lemonade, and Bill had pomegranate lemonade, plus we had a large bottle of sparkling water. For lunch, I had Za’atar chicken hummus, which came with pita bread, red onions, pickles, and tomatoes. Bill had a chicken schnitzel sandwich. Of all the places we ate during our visit to Antwerp, I think I might have enjoyed the food at Shuk the best. It was very fresh, wholesome, and interesting. Service was also good; our waitresses all spoke perfect English (as did many of the people we encountered) and they were prompt about delivering the food. I’m actually remembering that lunch at Shuk and wishing I could repeat it today. We had beer for dessert, too, although they had some tempting choices for real desserts.

Shuk’s menu offered a lot of healthy options, and would have been a good stop for vegetarians or vegans. I actually felt really good about eating there. If we ever get back to Antwerp, I’d make a point of stopping there again. I think we spent about 60 euros.

After lunch, the temperature seemed to get more extreme, so we headed back to the hotel for a rest. Bill took a nap, while I did some writing, then ended up having to chat with USAA because they erroneously put a fraud alert on my credit card. I was trying to update a subscription to Internet security, of all things, and it tripped their security system. It was irritating to have to contact USAA, but I was actually glad to have the option. I would rather wait to chat than sit on the phone, listening to their God awful hold music from Hell.

As the weather got cooler, we decided to go back into the city to see what was going on. As I mentioned in part 3, there was some sort of festival going on in the Grote Markt with radio DJs playing music, lots of dancing, drinking, and merry making. We did ask two people at the hotel if they knew what the festival was about. Neither seemed to know, although it was totally free of charge to walk through and listen to the music.

There was much merriment in the market square!
I felt like dancing.

We mostly just walked around and people watched for awhile, until it got closer to dinner time, which we enjoyed at a Greek restaurant called Griekse Taverne. Again, we entered the back way, and sat inside, instead of in the huge outdoor area. Neither of us were really hungry, but Saturdays can be crazy, especially when a fest is going on. So we decided to go ahead and have dinner, just to be sure we got it before the hour got too late. The downtown area was really slammed with people!

We enjoyed the food at the Greek place, although the servers were pretty “weeded” and we kind of got forgotten sitting inside. The outdoor terrace was really hopping. Our waiter looked like a Greek God, though…

We did more people watching after dinner, watching many Belgian youths play basketball as we sipped Omer beers. As the sun went down, we headed back to the Grote Markt, where things were really wild. We thought about sticking around for some of the party, then heading back to the hotel for bed, but then I spotted the piano bar. More on that in part five.

More music!
It’s good that we didn’t have a hotel room there!

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Chasing lakes and waterfalls in Aus-cro-slo-aus… part three

Wednesday morning, we awoke in lovely Wels, Austria, and headed down to the restaurant for breakfast. Breakfast is supposedly very highly rated at Hotel Ploberger. Many reviewers commented on how extensive the buffet is, and the varied and expensive items that can be found there. They did have breads, cheeses, cold cuts, vegetables, fruits, smoked salmon, cheeses, and even a machine that would squeeze marginally ripe oranges into juice. I will agree that the buffet was extensive, but it wasn’t particularly well-stocked when we visited. I got the sense that like all good food and beverage managers, the manager at the hotel instructed the employees to put out only a little bit, as I don’t think the hotel was particularly well populated during our visit.

I noticed that the buffet appeared to be a bit picked over both mornings of our stay. I understand that it was probably a cost or labor cutting method, but to be honest, it wasn’t a great look. The breakfast lady brought us coffee with a no nonsense attitude. It was strong and fresh, and that definitely perked up my ex Mormon husband.

It was pretty foggy and chilly the morning of our one full day in Wels. We decided to walk around the town and take more pictures. Here are some shots from our walk.

Right next to the church is Der Weinphilosoph, a bookstore owned by a genius… Or maybe not. I saw a similar concept in Rostock, Germany, where one can buy wine and books in the same place. I wouldn’t have minded going in there for a few minutes, if only to pick up a few new jigsaw for the probable tighter COVID-19 restrictions that will be in store as the weather gets colder and more folks stay inside with other people.

We continued walking until we reached an “Energy Park”, which offered lots of activities for children. Right next to the park was a kiosk and a WC, where one could get a coffee and take a piss. And there were vending machines dispensing smokes, playing cards, and other items for committing sins. 😉

Bill and I kept walking and noticing what was available in Wels. We could have visited the science museum. I probably would have enjoyed that. There was an art museum, and a spa, which I would have been all for attending. Bill is less enthusiastic about spas than I am.

For lunch, we decided to go to a well regarded Greek restaurant called Zum Kleinen Grieschen. It had been too long since our last Greek fix, and this turned out to be a good place to stop for lunch. We were the first ones there for lunch, and we were warmly welcomed. The food was excellent! I had my usual pork gyros with flatbread and t’zatziki. Bill had souvlaki. We both had large draft Gössers, a beer I used to drink in Armenia, when I had the drams to spare.

We took our time walking back from the Greek restaurant, as there’s a small park area nearby that has some interesting memorials to people who died in the Holocaust.

We decided to stop by Vom Fass, an awesome chain store that sells liqueurs, oils, vinegars, and other gourmet goodies. An English speaking associate quickly realized we were easy sells. By the time she was finished with us, we’d dropped some major euros on new items for the home bar. And by that time, of course, I figured it was time to redeem our free drinks at the wine bar… which we proceeded to do.

We weren’t hungry again after our huge Greek lunch. I wasn’t really wanting to hang out in the hotel room after dark. We thought maybe we’d go look for a place with small plates or something… but before we could venture out, I got a phone call from USAA. They wanted to talk to me about my complaint about their tendency to block my credit card at the drop of a hat. I wasn’t really in the mood to talk to them, and they had already called and missed me the night before. So I talked to the poor lady who had the misfortune of calling me.

In all seriousness, I wasn’t as pissed off on Wednesday as I had been the previous Saturday. Still, I was pretty stern as I let her know in no uncertain terms that the way they’ve changed their practices of fraud protection really suck. I don’t want to have to call the bank every time I use my money. And it IS my money, since they also block the debit card at the drop of a hat. SIGH…

After that conversation, we headed out… and ended up in a somewhat unauthentic Irish pub called Labi’s. It turned out to be an entertaining place, though, because a bunch of young Austrian guys came in and started playing darts. We sat in the dark for about an hour before they arrived, drinking Guinness, which turned out to be our dinner.

The proprietor who checked our vaccine certs seemed to be trying to cater to our musical tastes. At first, they were playing Eminem and similar stuff. Then, “You Make My Dreams”, a song by Hall & Oates, came on. I mentioned that I liked it, and it was popular in 1981. Next thing I knew, “The Best That You Can Do (Arthur’s Theme)” by Christopher Cross, also from 1981, came on. Then, the proprietor wisely switched to more Irish music by The Pogues.

We were thinking about leaving when the Austrian college lads came in and started playing darts. It was interesting to watch them and their friendly competition as they swilled Austrian beers. One of the guys was clearly an outside. He wore casual clothes, while the others had on business attire. I got the sense that the casual guy was someone’s little brother or maybe a guy they knew from the village. He was the worst dart thrower, too. The other guys were pretty players, and I alternated between feeling really old and wondering where the time went, to seriously enjoying their game.

I also noticed the urgent walk of a person about to either hurl or piss themselves, as two young ladies charged to the bathroom with the heavy gait of people who have had way too much to drink. Trust me, I know. 😉

When we settled up with the bartender, he asked us where we were from. I think he knew damned well we’re Americans. What he really wanted to know was what the hell we were doing in Wels! So I helpfully volunteered that we live in Germany. That seemed to satisfy his curiosity. With that, we headed back to the hotel to sleep before our big journey to Croatia on Thursday, the 28th.

Stay tuned for part four.

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Hofheim

Gay pride in Wiesbaden… wine in Hofheim…

I had heard a couple of wine events were going to be happening in Wiesbaden and Hofheim this weekend. Bill and I decided to check them both out. I must have gotten confused about the Wiesbaden event, because we never did find it. Instead, we ran into a gay pride parade, and had lunch at a Greek restaurant called Kavos. Below are a few photos I took of what we could see of the parade. I was sorry we hadn’t gotten there a little bit sooner, but we did see many dressed up people walking around the city with gay pride rainbow flags.

Yesterday was the second time we visited Kavos. I was in the mood for Greek food, and they had a nice lunch special going. I had pork “Spiess” (skewer) and Bill had a lamb skewer. They came with kraut and potato medallions. We also had t’zaziki, garlic pitas, and beer. In retrospect, I probably should have had water, given the wine market we attended in Hofheim.

I’m actually glad we never found the Wiesbaden wine event, since I ended up trying wine from five different vintners yesterday in Hofheim. I’m surprised I can still remember it.

Edited to add: My German friend says the chicken display is a warning to use sunscreen. One chicken says to the other to use sunscreen so she won’t look like a rotisserie chicken. Glad to have that confusion cleared up.

Below are some photos from the wine market in Hofheim. We stayed pretty socially distanced, although some people were having a great time! I must admit, I’ve missed going to these kinds of events, although my liver is probably scarred as hell now.