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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 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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