advice, anecdotes, cruises, Germany

Sailing with Sea Cloud cruises…

Last week, I was hanging out on SeaDream Yacht Club’s messageboards on Cruise Critic and someone mentioned the Sea Cloud cruise line.  I think I had heard of Sea Cloud before, but never really explored it.  Since I have loads of time on my hands and enjoy luxury cruising on small ships, I thought I’d take a look.


When you sail with Sea Cloud, you’re actually sailing.  Both of these vessels have masts and actual sails on them, making them very unique in the cruising world.  The original Sea Cloud has a long and celebrated history dating from 1931, while Sea Cloud II is a much younger and more modern ship built in 2001.

I requested information from Sea Cloud cruises, which is based in Hamburg.  I just received a package special delivery.  I was expecting an envelope with a brochure that maybe included a DVD or something.  What I received what a box of stuff.  And it’s all in German!

My German skills are still evolving, so it may be hard to understand all of this…  I may have to use Google Translate.  Fortunately, I can look at their Web site, which does offer English translation.

From what I can see, it looks like a lovely, albeit expensive, vacation possibility.  It’s also not all inclusive, though beer and wine is included at lunch and dinner.  Of course, if I’m going to be spending four or five figures on a cruise, I prefer not to have to worry about signing chits.  On the other hand, it looks like this line would offer a very unique and exciting experience.  I have heard that onboard, both German and English are spoken.

Sea Cloud also gets very good reviews, both from the professional reviewer and regular folks who have sailed with them.  I may have to get Bill to check this out with me and see what he thinks…

For now, I think I will just be tickled by the box of information they sent me and the opportunity to practice my German as I plow through it.  I see on Cruise Critic, Sea Cloud is sometimes chartered by Lindblad cruises, too.


Ten things I learned in Hamburg, Germany…

Whenever Bill and I do a trip somewhere, I like to do a “post-mortem” kind of thing where I think about what I learned during my trip.  Hamburg is a city neither Bill nor I never visited before.  In fact, it was our first trip to “northern Germany”, though I hope there will be more.  So here’s what we found out during our travels.  Hope you learn something, too.

1.  Alsterwasser is basically the same thing as a Radler (or a shandy).  Basically, it’s beer mixed with lemon/lime soda or lemonade.  Alsterwasser is the “northern” version, while Radlers were born in Bavaria.

2.  My German isn’t good enough for me to be able to tell that the Schwabisch dialect is way different than the Hamburgisch dialect.  What little spoken German I understand sounds the same in both areas.  That could change sometime.

3.  Hamburg is a great place to go shopping.  There are lots of big name stores there, especially from well known clothing designers.

4.  Hamburg is a great place for eating, too… though there seems to be a huge number of Italian restaurants per capita.  Bill and I saw many Italian places followed by Portuguese restaurants.  We didn’t see many German restaurants.  But then, we might not have been looking in the right places.

5.  Hamburg has many bridges, supposedly more so than Amsterdam.

6.  Hamburg has a “red light” district.  There are even signs on the red light streets (which are actually public places where women can legally walk) “prohibiting” women and men under age 18.  I read that was because women may run the risk of being harassed by working girls.

7.  If you want to get to the Fischmarkt on Sunday, you need to get there early.  By 11:00, they’re closing up shop.  By noon, you might as well go somewhere else.

8.  If you go to Hamburg in January, bring a hat and gloves.  A scarf helps too.  It may not snow much there, but there’s quite a chilly northern wind coming off the water that will chill you to the bones.

9.  Don’t be surprised if you see someone in a convertible with the top down in freezing cold weather.  Germans will take their sunshine when they can get it.  😉

10.  Sometimes it’s a good thing to stand in a two hour security line for a one hour flight.  German strikes are pretty civilized.  Or… at least the one I was involved in was.

If you don’t have a dick, stay away from the danger zone…


And finally, part eight of our Hamburger tales… coming home!

After we dined at O Cafe Central for lunch, Bill and I went back to the hotel to pick up our bags and get a cab to the airport.  I could hear Bill talking to the concierge guy, who asked where we were from.  Bill said he’s from Texas, which is kind of true, since he’s spent more of his life there than anywhere else (but since he’s a military guy, that’s not saying much).  The concierge guy beamed at him and said, “Ah!  That’s where Mr. Bush is from!”

It turned out the guy was from the Turkish part of Kurdistan.  The war in Iraq was a good thing for the Kurds, who finally got rid of Saddam Hussein.  Many Kurds think of George W. Bush as a hero.  I know a lot of people hate former President Bush.  Personally, I don’t think he was any better or worse than a lot of presidents.  Yes, America took a downturn when he was in office, but there’s plenty of blame to go around for that.  At any rate, Bill’s conversation with that gentleman was a reminder that perspective is everything.  Not everyone thinks the Iraq War was a disaster and not everyone thinks George W. Bush is the son of Satan.

Our cab ride back to the airport was slightly less expensive than the ride into Hamburg was, probably because the cab out used a fixed rate.  For those who are thrifty minded, there is a train that will take you to and from the airport from Hamburg as well.  We probably could have just as easily done that, since we had only small backpacks with us.  But the cab ride gave me a chance to see more of the city and take a photo of a classic Mini Cooper!

You don’t see many of these anymore!

Compared to checking in and getting through security at Stuttgart, getting through Hamburg’s security was a breeze.  We dropped my bag with Air Berlin, then took all of two minutes to get through the security line.  Then we found a little cafe where we sampled a couple more of Hamburg’s beers and I paid five euros for an hour of Internet access.  I would have just used my regular cell phone, but I let the battery die and the SIM card locked.  And then I couldn’t remember the stupid code to unlock it.

The McDonald’s at the Hamburg Airport has a nice play area!


Flensburger Weissbier and a Pils…  Nice diversion while we waited for our quick flight back to Stuttgart.

Our flight was perfect, other than my unfortunate decision not to pee one last time before we took off.    By the time we were airborne, I was in agony.  But once I had a good whiz, all was well.  And then as we got off the plane, we were presented with yummy Air Berlin chocolates.  Any airline that rewards me with decent chocolate upon landing gets my vote.

All in all, we had a great time in Hamburg.  I wish we’d managed to get to a museum or something, but just the people watching and food was enough to make me want to go back.  Better yet, the city is quite affordable, much moreso than Munich was (at least in our experience).  I recommend Hamburg.  If we have a chance to get back there, we’ll make a point of seeing and doing more and eating and drinking less…

We drew from the champagne bucket last night and the winner was Rothenburg Ob Der Tauber.  Guess that’s where we’re going next!


Part seven of our Hamburger saga!

Yesterday, we decided to try Sofitel’s extremely expensive breakfast.  Though there are plenty of places around the hotel that we could have tried, I like to see what hotels offer, especially when they charge 30 euros a person!  And I have to admit, Sofitel’s breakfast was very impressive, even though we didn’t come close to eating 60 euros worth of food.

The hotel offers a vast array of juices, cereals, breads, cheeses, cold cuts, and even champagne if you want it.  They also have a buffet that includes scrambled eggs, baked beans, sautéed mushrooms (yuck), several kinds of sausages, bacon, and soft and hard boiled eggs.  They have fruit, yogurt, smoked salmon, smoked trout, and other breakfast delicacies.  Yes, you can have most anything you want at Sofitel’s breakfast, though I didn’t see anything being cooked to order.  Service was pretty good, but not 30 euros good.  Still, they were doing a brisk business.  If we stay there again, we’ll go to one of several local cafes and/or coffee shops.  Starbucks is close; so are several Ballzac outlets (whenever I saw the name Ballzac, it made me think of ball sack– not so appetizing!).

We had several hours to kill before our flight at 4:25pm, so we checked our bags at the hotel after we checked out and did some more walking around Hamburg.  I took more photos so my iPhoto slide show will be more interesting.  One thing I noticed in Hamburg is that many people there are very tall.  It must be the Nordic influence up there because I saw quite a few women who were at least six feet tall and a lot of men who were even taller.  Bill and I are of Celtic descent and we’re shorties.  I’m about 5’2″ and he’s 5’7″.  We felt like we weren’t done growing.

I also noticed that Hamburg is heavy on designer stores.  I’m sure there are plenty of wealthy people there.  In fact, on the way to the airport, I noticed some very impressive “Victorian” looking homes on the outskirts of town.  But I have to wonder if there really are that many people wanting to spend so much money on clothes and other luxury goods.  I guess there must be, though I didn’t see too many people actually shopping in the stores.  I did see a lot of bored looking security guys standing around in the stores.

I mentioned to Bill that though Hamburg has more bridges than Amsterdam does (and I haven’t yet really seen Amsterdam, other than the airport), the city reminds me a lot of Oslo.  Fortunately, it’s not as expensive as Norway’s capital is, but it is just as cold!  Or at least it was when we were there.  We were told Hamburg doesn’t get so much snow, though, because it’s so close to the water.

After we walked around Hamburg some more, we decided to have lunch.  I noticed a cute little Portuguese place near The Funky Fish and Le Plat du Jour that I wanted to try.  Bill and I headed over there and, boy, did that turn out to be a great ending to our Hamburg adventure!  I think there must be a number of Italian and Portuguese folks in Hamburg because we saw a lot of restaurants featuring either cuisine.  Italian restaurants were especially plentiful.  Curiously enough, we didn’t see many Greek restaurants at all.

Anyway, we headed over to this little Portuguese place called O’ Cafe Central that is well liked by Yelpers and Trip Advisor.  We didn’t check Yelp! or Trip Advisor before we went there.  I just had a good feeling about the place, which was offering a very economical three course lunch special for 10 euros.  We had plenty of time to enjoy a leisurely lunch and when we arrived, I think there was maybe one other party in the place.  By the time we left, it was pretty full.  Obviously, it’s very popular with the local business crowd.  After our lunch yesterday, I can see why.

Service is very prompt and friendly, though I don’t think either of the two ladies who helped us were English speakers.  To be honest, though, I found that kind of refreshing.  It forced me to use my fledgling German skills.

The view from our table before the place got busy.

Yesterday’s special included a white bean soup with bacon.  This soup was delicious and filling!  It reminded me a little of peanut soup, though I didn’t see peanuts listed as a starring ingredient.  It was still a very nice soup for such a chilly afternoon.  

We had a choice between a salmon filet or turkey medallions.  I had the salmon, while Bill had the turkey.  We both really enjoyed our main courses.  My salmon came with some kind vanilla scented fruit.  I’m not sure what it was (ETA: it was pumpkin).  Bill thought it was squash at first, but it was too sweet for that.  It could have been apricots.  Honestly, all I know was that whatever it was, it was delicious!

Bill’s turkey medallions were more savory, served with snap peas and rice.

Our specials came with dessert.  My mouth is watering looking at it right now… They were like little eclairs with raspberry coulis and cream.  Very nice!

We finished up with espresso… all told, our check for our lunch, which included a half liter of house red wine and a bottle of San Pellegrino, was about 32 euros!  That made up for our overpriced breakfast!

Outside the restaurant…

O’ Cafe Central was bustling by the time we left.  That’s another restaurant I would not hesitate to enjoy again in Hamburg.  Had we not liked the lunch special, we could have ordered off the menu.  We saw people doing that and what was being served looked excellent.  Service was fast, friendly, and very pleasant.  Yet another culinary jewel!  And if you like Portuguese beer, you’re in luck… they have Sagres!


Part six of our Hamburger saga! Trendy cocktails…

People who are reading this blog will likely come away with the idea that I am a terrible lush.  And if I’m honest, I have to agree that I am a bit of a lush.  I do enjoy my booze very much.  So does Bill.  Despite my love of beer and wine, it’s actually not that often that I drink hard liquor.  That is more Bill’s department than mine.  Give me a beer or some vino and I’m golden.  Nevertheless, every once in awhile, I like to try new cocktails.  When I stay in hotels, I also like to try stuff out so I can blog about them.

Since Bill and I weren’t so successful at Sofitel’s nice restaurant, Ticino, and we had such a lovely late French lunch, we decided to try the bar, interestingly named Seven Heads.  If you want to, you can order food at the bar.  I was thinking it could be possible that we’d do that.  But then we sat down on a stool and a very cheerful bartender started chatting us up.  You’ll understand that my memories are a little fuzzy.  Of course, they give you spicy snacks so you’ll drink more, too.

I was thinking I might have a glass of bubbly… or maybe try a wine flight.  Seven Heads actually has an impressive menu filled with cocktails, beers, and wines.  But the bartender was eager to have me try a new cocktail.  First, he made me a Cucumber Gin Mule.  Okay, it actually has a different name… but I can’t remember it now.  The drink is made with gin, ginger beer (the non alcoholic-soda kind, not the British alcoholic beer kind), lime juice, simple syrup, and cucumber.  He served it in a copper cup with a straw.  It was very refreshing, though I think it would be even better during the hot summer months.  Bill had a gin cocktail made with celery bitters and garnished with cucumber that he also liked.

My “mule”…

Bill’s cocktail…

I liked the “mule” just fine, but I wanted something with tequila since I am very partial to it.  Bill wanted to try a gin basil smash, which is apparently a “hot” cocktail in Hamburg because it was supposedly invented there.  So I ordered an Agave Basil Smash and he had a Gin Basil Smash, made with Hendrick’s gin.  I must say, I liked my drink better than Bill’s.  The agave and basil blend beautifully together, probably because tequila has sort of a limey tart flavor.  The gin smash was also very good, but more subtle.

Our “smashes”.  My cocktail is on the left.  

I still wasn’t ready to call it a night after our second cocktail, so Bill had a gin and tonic made with Monkey 47 dry gin, made right here in our area…  I had a ginger beer margarita made with tequila and mint.  The bartender who was making us these pricey designer cocktails was great at his job and was telling us about the local gins being made in Germany.  Aside from Monkey 47, the Sofitel also had Munich’s The Duke gin, and Gin Sul, which is made in Hamburg.  Bill was totally into the lesson, since he loves exotic gins.  I was content to drink the nectar of Mexico.

This was pretty good.  I still finished it before Bill finished his gin and tonic.

I ended up having a Jever beer while Bill finished his drink.  I know… I drink like a fish.  Still, all was not lost.  I learned about German gins and got to try a few very nice designer cocktails.  It’s not often that we get to go to bars.  Even when we do go, Bill rarely drinks much because he’s usually driving.  So since we were staying in the hotel, we took full advantage.

I don’t even want to think about the check…

Germany, restaurant reviews

Hamburger saga part five! Le Plat du Jour!

We got back to the Rathaus area in the early afternoon, just in time for lunch.  I was determined not to overdo it on food Sunday, though we managed to walk enough that breakfast was effectively burned off.  Several of the restaurants near the Sofitel were closed on Sunday, but we did manage to find an excellent lunch anyway when we found Le Plat du Jour.  On Sundays, they offer a three course meal for 33 euros.  Judging by the number of people sitting in the quaint front dining room, we could tell the place was a favorite with locals.  We decided to see if they had a spot for us.

I was thinking there wouldn’t be any tables available, but it turned out they had another dining room in the basement of the restaurant.  Since we didn’t have reservations, we had no issues with sitting in the “less desirable” part of the restaurant.  To be honest, I kind of liked it down there because it was somewhat more private, although there was a large group of Germans down there when we arrived– four couples with a cute little blond boy who appeared to be about four years old and tiny twin infants who looked like they had been born within the past few weeks.

Our waitress was a lovely young woman who greeted us in French and cheerfully offered us an English menu.  We mostly understood what was on the German menu, though there were a few words we didn’t know that turned out to be important, given the French penchant for serving organ meats.  Neither Bill nor I had any trouble picking out suitable dishes.  The waitress even laughed when I asked her if there were any mushrooms in the dishes I chose.

Bill tastes the wine…

I started with a fish soup.  It was velvety smooth, with the essence of fish rather than big chunks of flesh in the broth.  It was served with little pieces of toasted bread and a mustard sauce that reminded me a lot of Hollandaise if Hollandaise were made with mild mustard.  I really enjoyed the soup and was raving about it as much as Bill was enjoying his salad, which was full of very fresh field greens and lightly tossed with a creamy dressing.

Soup and salad…  Next to my bowl is a little plate with the toast and mustard sauce.  

I chose the Scampi Provencal for my main course.  It consisted of five grilled shrimps served on top of a light butter, garlic, and herb sauce and a small mound of herbed rice.  I did see very thin shavings of mushrooms in the rice, but they were easily removed and didn’t affect the way the rice tasted.  Bill had ox tail on noodles with a red wine sauce.  He had never had ox tail before and his first taste was a resounding success.  The meat was tender and succulent, shaped into medium sized balls that featured well with the tagliatelle style noodles.  We washed lunch down with a very nice French Bordeaux, expertly served by our server, and a bottle of sparkling water.

My shrimp…

Bill’s ox tail with red wine sauce…

For dessert, I had lemon mousse with orange garnish.  Bill had a cheese plate.  We capped off our meal with one last thing– double espresso for Bill and a cognac for me.

Dessert for me… cheese for Bill.

And the final bow…

Our leisurely lunch lasted a couple of hours and was a true delight.  We didn’t leave stuffed because the portion sizes were not too large and we were able to pace the meal.  The company was also delightful.  The Germans who were eating at the same time we were had brought a very well behaved dog with them who was no bother at all.  I was raving about that lunch as we left the restaurant.  When I looked it up on TripAdvisor, I saw that out of 2755 restaurants in Hamburg, it was ranked in the top 5%.  I can see why.  Yelpers loved it too!  If we ever go back to Hamburg, we must eat there again… and next time, we’ll make reservations.

If you come to Hamburg and like French food, this unassuming little bistro is a great place to dine!

fests, Germany

Part four of our Hamburger saga!

Sundays in Germany are usually very low key and kind of boring.  A lot of places are closed.  There is no shopping to be done because retail stores aren’t open.  You may find some open restaurants, but by and large, it’s pretty dead in a lot of places.  Hamburg does have one special thing they do on Sundays… that is the Fischmarkt.

The sign… lots of empty liquor bottles near it.


Seagulls were helping to clean up the debris…  They were everywhere.  It was kind of disgusting.

During the warmer months, it starts at 5:00am and goes until 9:30am.  In colder months, it’s from 7:00am until 9:30am.  You can find fish, produce, clothes, and even music there.  As we were walking toward the fish market, we even felt like we were back in San Antonio, as there were a bunch of dark haired guys who could have been Mexicans playing very loud salsa music and dancing to it.  I had quite the flashback.

As we walked toward the market, I found plenty of photo ops, including one building that had “Je suis Charlie” in every window, political ads, and ads for upcoming shows.

Je suis Charlie!

I think this was some kind of bar.  There was a menu posted by the door.

Might have to get back to Hamburg for that Mark Knopfler concert.  It’s right around my birthday in June!

I’ve seen this posted in other cities, too…  I noticed a lot of signs about immigration and a lot of anti Islam political posters.

Sadly, Bill and I didn’t get there in time for most of the action.  We got up kind of late, went to Starbucks for breakfast, and then walked the three miles from our hotel to the market.  By the time we got there, they were breaking everything down.  We did, however, manage to catch the last twenty minutes of a band called Curtain Call performing in the market itself.  I was glad to go in there just to find a bathroom, which took some doing to locate because it was on the second floor and the stairs were behind a curtained off area.

Curtain Call performs in Hamburg!

After successfully finding the bathroom, we enjoyed a beer while watching the last of Curtain Call’s final set.  They were a pretty good cover band and it was fun to watch the folks dancing.  There were people of all ages and some had come decked out in costumes with wigs and everything.  It was a civilized but fun party and we really enjoyed it, even though we were very late getting there.

Expensive but tasty…


Wine bar near the market… 

Inside the market. It was very clean and pleasant.


At noon, the market closed down.  We were going to walk back along the harbor, but then I noticed signs for the Reeperbahn.  I had read a little about that part of Hamburg, so I decided I wanted to see it.  We walked up some stairs and were soon in a very sexually explicit part of Hamburg where there were head shops, sex clubs, and adult movie theaters aplenty.  In a weird way, it reminded me of Key West, though not as quaint, hot, or clean.

More filthy seagulls.

The Reeperbahn and the Saint Pauli section of Hamburg were great places to get photos.  I had some fun walking around as snow flurried around us, snapping shots of things I don’t see every day.  Bill gets a little nervous in places like that, though, so we didn’t stay too long.  Besides, the weather was still frigid.  We walked back to the Rathaus area via the Reeperbahn.

I saw the same thing spray painted on a building in Dresden back in 2008.

Entrance for men under age 18 and women prohibited!

Bill is truly the king of something… though it’s doubtful that it’s St. Pauli.

Jesus lives!  Even in places like St. Pauli!

No tell motel?

The cops warn against drinking too much, lest you look like the young man above.

Condoms?  And then have some Chinese food after a romp between the sheets.

The things you see posted on light posts.

I think people must rub her finger for good luck.  It’s polished a lot more than the rest of her is.


Our Hamburger saga… part three

After spending Saturday walking around frigid Hamburg, eating fried fish, and drinking lots of beer, Bill and I went back to the hotel for a short rest.  Actually, I rested and Bill worked on a paper he had to turn in for his most recent graduate course.  I kind of wasn’t feeling like going out to dinner, so I suggested we eat at the hotel, which has a restaurant called Ticino.  Bill was agreeable.

So we went down to the restaurant, where only a couple of folks were having dinner.  The very charming maitre’d asked if we had reservations.  We didn’t, but that was okay.  He showed us to a table by the wine storage.  We sat down and perused the French inspired menu.  There was also a “light” menu, meaning light on calories, not light on portion or price.  Actually, I wish I had selected something from that menu because it turned out I was a lot fuller than I realized.  I ordered a sirloin and Bill ordered an Indian inspired dish with naan, very tender beef, and rice.  We both had red wine, which was brought out to us in little pitchers.  Bill’s was Spanish and mine was French.

Once the food was brought to me, I suddenly started to feel a bit queasy.  I managed to eat the potatoes, which had been artfully cut into flower petals, and a few bites of the steak, which had been cooked with thyme and rosemary.  I wasn’t able to enjoy the parsnips on the side.  In fact, as the meal went on, I started to feel like I might need to hurl.

I excused myself and went to the bathroom, where I didn’t end up getting sick.  Meanwhile, our very attentive and solicitous waiters were worried about whether the food was okay.  It was.  I was just really full.  Had we had the facilities to store the leftovers, I would have taken the steak to our room for later.  Unfortunately, that was not an option.

Finally, we ended the meal and the maitre’d brought out some complimentary dessert wine.  We went back to the room early.  I took a shower and went to sleep.  The next morning, I felt much better.  I need to remember that I’m getting old and can no longer eat and drink like I could when I was younger.  Fewer calories make me gain weight and I just physically can’t do it anymore.  However, I will say that had I not been so totally full, the food at Ticino would have been very satisfactory.  The service was outstanding and, for what we ordered and the service we received, it wasn’t that overpriced… which is more than I can say for breakfast.

The steak I barely touched…  Shame on me! 


Hamburger saga part two!

On Saturday morning, we enjoyed sleeping in with no dogs to disturb us in our cushy Sofitel hotel room.  After living in and visiting Germany so often over the past few years, I have decided that I really like the split duvet set up.  No one hogs the covers that way; not that I have any problems with Bill doing that.  I just like having my own covers.  I seem to sleep better that way.  Though, it could also be because we don’t have dogs squirming around us, either.

Good place for breakfast if you stay at the Sofitel…

We decided not to partake of the very expensive Sofitel breakfast.  The least we would have paid for the most basic of repasts was 14 euros per person.  Since we weren’t in a hurry, we decided to look around for something less expensive.  We ended up finding Cafe Melange, another Italian place located a couple of blocks from the hotel.  It was an interesting experience if only due to the music that was being played in the restaurant.  I heard a very odd country version of ABBA’s “Dancing Queen”.  Later, I found out it was done by Solal and Melonie Cannon…

Bill watches seagulls.

Nice breakfast!

Bill had scrambled eggs, bacon, brotchen, and a very fancy cup of coffee.  I had a “Parisian breakfast”, which was a brotchen, a croissant, fruit salad, and raspberry jam.  I washed it down with hot chocolate with whipped cream.

After breakfast, for which we spent about half of what we would have spent at the hotel, we walked around some more.  As we passed through a shopping arcade full of cute shops and little cafes, I spied a huge pile of excrement.  It was located very close to some tables that were set up near an adorable konditorei.  Bill commented that we should have breakfast there.  I said, “Only if they clean up that big pile of shit.”  I said it loudly enough that some German guy who was passing by turned and looked at me in surprise.  It was rather funny.

Hamburg by day… lots of bridges!

Sometimes I try to get too artsy for my own good…

Though the sun was out, it was bitterly cold and kind of windy in Hamburg on Saturday morning.  The wind was blowing and I neglected to bring a hat or gloves.  Bill also forgot, though he’s a macho man, so he was willing to do without the extra cold weather clothes.  After strolling around for awhile in the cold, we decided we needed to look for some gear to keep me warm.  We went in a department store first, but everything they had there looked like it was more for style than functionality.  After we warmed up a bit, we headed to the North Face store in one of the shopping areas.  I bought a pair of expensive name brand gloves that allow me to wear them while using my iPhone.  I also got a new hat.  It’s good that I got these items because they made a huge difference in how we were able to deal with the frigid weather.

We had lunch at a little place called The Funky Fish.  They served English style fish and chips as well as pizzas and fried candy bars.  What drew us to the Funky Fish was the promise of craft beer.  They had some interesting looking soft drinks, too.  I would have liked to have tried the fried Snickers and/or fried Mars Bars, but the fried fish was more than enough for me.  I thought the fish and chips were pretty good; so were the mushy peas, which tasted like they’d been gussied up a bit with some kind of funky spices.  I even enjoyed the tartar sauce, which I usually don’t bother with.

The Funky Ale was pretty good! Made for the restaurant and only 4.9% ABV.


What a bargain!


Yummy fish and chips and mushy peas!

After lunch, we ended up at a brewpub called Joh. Albrecht, which is a chain that had a location near our hotel.  We tried all of their beers.  There were only a few available.  I also learned what an alsterwasser is.  Basically, it’s the same thing as a shandy or a radler… lemonade or lemon/lime soda mixed with beer.

We really should have relaxed with the beer drinking, because between it and the fish and chips, our appetites for dinner were pretty much ruined.  More on that in the next post…  We did at least take a long walk and I got lots of pictures!

I found lots of graffiti.

Interesting buildings…

Weird stickers…

Political ads…

An Irish pub, which we didn’t try…

Very old Apple computers!

People fishing in the Elbe.

And you can rent a bike, too…


Part one of our Hamburger Saga…

Bill and I arrived home tonight at about 8:00pm.  I should probably just cool it and wait until tomorrow before I start writing up a storm.  But the dogs are still being boarded, so I have nothing to distract me.

Things got off to a somewhat rocky start on Friday morning as I was waking up.  I checked Facebook, as is my habit most mornings, and Stuttgart Friends was abuzz about the strike at the airport.  Bill and I knew nothing about this strike, which involved the security people.  I don’t know what they were striking for, only that my fellow Americans who were also flying were talking about how backed up the airport was in getting through security.  Some people were reporting lines that were taking 3 hours to get through.

The security line from hell…

In the distance, you can see the flag waving strikers…

Bill and I gave some thought to canceling Hamburg and just driving somewhere.  I had purchased optional trip insurance and would have been allowed to change our plans.  But then we decided to tough it out and see how bad it was at the airport.  It turned out the lines were still pretty long when we got there, but as strikes go, the one on Friday was pretty civilized.  Airport employees were handing out free juice and water.  One guy was even given a chair to sit on.  And those who had flights that were about to board or small children were escorted to the front of the line.  Even still, we did hear of some people missing their flights.  It took us two hours to get through, though the process of getting through the line wasn’t too bad.  People were mostly lighthearted about it.  Even the lady who screened me was nice when she realized I wasn’t a German speaker (I’m working on it, though).


A handy stop in the Stuttgart Airport. 

It was good that we got to the airport when we did.  We allowed three hours and got through the security line in two.  By the time we were done with security, I was really hungry.  We had a snack of beer, a pretzel, and weiss sausages.  The sausages were very fresh, but kind of bland.  Still, I felt restored after our little repast.

Our flight to Hamburg on Air Berlin was supposed to be 75 minutes, but actually lasted less than an hour.  It was a very pleasant flight, if not a bit crowded.  No nickel and diming on luggage (one bag can be checked free) and a beverage and snack, even though the flight was very short.  And once we landed, I felt like I was back in Raleigh, North Carolina.  The Hamburg Airport, at first blush, reminded me a lot of RDU.

The cabbie who took us to the Sofitel Alter Wall was very friendly and talkative.  He was from Sicily and even showed us the beachside town where he came from as he was driving.  He held up an iPhone with a photo.  I was kind of glad Bill is such a safety fanatic, since the guy was talking on the phone and using an iPad while driving as well as showing us pictures of Italian beaches and playing U2’s latest album and music by some Italian guy named Vasco Rossi.  Actually, I liked the music the cabbie was playing.  He had good taste.  His driving, though, was a little scary.

Check in at the Sofitel was a breeze.  We were given a room on the first floor, though it was actually on the second floor and was even numbered with a two.  Our room was very nice and I got it for a great price on  Unfortunately, because I was so focused on the strike at the airport, I forgot to pack a bathing suit.  That was a real bummer, since the Sofitel in Hamburg has a really nice spa and indoor pool area.  Worse yet, Bill remembered his bathing suit.  Usually, he’s the one who forgets.  Anyway, if we ever go back to Hamburg, I would happily stay at the Sofitel.  It’s a very nice hotel and the employees are super nice and very professional.



We ate dinner at an Italian restaurant past the shopping district.  But before we got to the restaurant, we were accosted by a tall woman who asked in German if she could “ask us a question”.  I got the heebie jeebies, especially since I don’t really speak German and had only been in town for an hour.

Bill peruses the English menu…


Our entrance at “Ponti“, the Italian place where we had dinner on Friday night, was memorable.  Somehow, we managed to knock both sets of silverware to our two-top onto the floor.  The ladies at the table next to us were amused and said something I didn’t quite understand.  That’s probably a blessing.  Ponti is in a charming old building and our waitress was very beautiful and friendly.  Her English was perfect, too.  I thought the food was pretty good, though I did notice they were turning people away for some strange reason.  Based on the way the waitresses were talking to people, I got the feeling maybe they ran out of something.  It looked like they were telling people something and they were deciding to leave, rather than being told they couldn’t be seated.  But the issue didn’t affect us, so we didn’t ask about it.

Bill had penne pasta with mushrooms and chicken and I had cannelloni with spinach and cheese.

After dinner, we were tired and I was dying to try out the very nice rainfall shower in our room.  It was also very cold outside.  We made our way back to the hotel.  On the way there, we ran into another woman– perhaps the same one who tried to talk to us before.  She had another woman with her and I got the sense that perhaps she was a prostitute, based on her aggressive behavior and the way she was dressed.

We got back to the room.  I took a shower; and then we collapsed into the very nice king sized bed.  One weird thing about the Sofitel was that there were colored “spotlights” over the bed.  There was also a photograph of a man and his toddler aged son posted in a frame on the left side of the headboard.  I have no idea who the guy was.  Maybe he’s the Sofitel head honcho or something?  It was weird, though.  And so was the staff’s insistence in greeting us in French and German.  The desk doubled as a vanity, too.  You could lift up the top of the desk and there was a mirror under it, as well as a bunch of German magazines and an ethernet cable in case you needed one.  WiFi is free, though they also have a paid Internet service that supposedly offered faster speeds.

Note the weird framed photo…

I liked that egg shaped ottoman thing… it was like a very firm pillow covered with felt.

Spotlights… and they put off red and pink lighting.


The TV welcomed me.  And the little drawer on the right had a split bottle of pinot noir in it… obviously way overpriced.  Leave it to Sofitel to make a special drawer for a bottle of wine.  The cabinet above it was the minibar.

The rainfall shower rocked, though… once I figured out how to turn it on and adjust the temperature.

Nice tub.  We didn’t use it.

And a nice sink with a cool trash can that folded out from under it.  

Near the Rathaus…