Champagne Bucket trips, Latvia, Regent Seven Seas Cruise Lines

Riga, Latvia… a place I will need to see more of someday…

Monday, June 26th, we had plans to call on Riga, Latvia. Bill had been there a couple of times before, back when we were living in Germany the first time. That would have been in 2008, or thereabouts. Things have changed a bit since then. As for me, I had never been to Latvia, although I had been wanting to go. I was curious about Riga. Bill said it was a beautiful city. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see very much of it, because of the “free” excursion I chose that day.

Actually, I’m not sorry we went on that excursion, as it was very interesting and we saw some beautiful countryside in Latvia. But, we didn’t have much time to explore Riga, as the excursion took over five hours. It was the longest of all of the ones we experienced last week. Turaida and Sigulda are two castles that are located about an hour outside of Riga.

The plan was to drive to Sigulda Castle and visit the renovated ruins, visit Kropotkin Manor House, see Gutmana Cave, and visit the Turaida Castle and sculpture park. At the end of the tour, we’d have a brief stop at Riga’s Town Hall square for photos, then drive back to the port.

One critical mistake that Bill and I made was not having lunch before we left the ship. The tour began around lunchtime. We weren’t that hungry when we left, and figured there would be a stop for something, given how long the tour was. We were wrong. There was a cafe near the Sigulda Castle ruins, but we didn’t have a lot of time to visit it. One thing we learned on that trip is that Regent will put a plate and silverware icon on trips where there is food involved. That trip didn’t have that particular icon in its description. Actually, now that I’m looking at it, they didn’t use that icon on our Tallinn tour, either, even though that one did include lunch and beer.

Fortunately, at Sigulda Castle, there were also vending machines, so we were able to get some snacks before we went back to Riga. It really was a good thing, because I got very irritable at the end of our visit to Sigulda Castle. Bill… bless him… knows this is an issue of mine. I get “hangry”. I usually try to carry some candy or something with me for emergencies. It usually happens kind of suddenly, and I’m fine once I have something to bring up my blood sugar.

I enjoyed the Turaida and Sigulda trip, in spite of my “hangry-ness”, for a few reasons. Once again, our guide, named the Latvian version of Eva, talked a bit about the Soviet era and the Latvian attitudes about being in the Soviet Union. Here’s a hint. Most people didn’t like that time and wouldn’t go back to it! We also passed Riga’s KGB Museum (the Corner House), which Eva told us was a good thing that came out of a building where there was once a lot of tragedy and sadness. If we ever get back to Riga, I am going to try to go there.

But I also enjoyed our excursion because I liked visiting Latvia’s largest cave… which isn’t so very large. As you will see in my photos, Gutmana Cave is covered with carvings done hundreds of years ago. It’s also got a stream running through it that, legend has it, bestows eternal youth and good health on those who drink or bathe in its waters. I didn’t drink the water… I already had a cold, and have also known the hell of having a stomach bug on a cruise ship. But I did rinse my hands in the cold water.

Below are some photos of our trip through Riga, and Sigulda Castle… You can see some of the art deco buildings that managed to survive the Soviet era.

As for the castles, they were interesting to look at, but we didn’t have that much time for exploring. And, to be honest, by the time we got to the ruins, I was really tired. It’s tiring listening to someone talk and paying attention. We also did a fair amount of walking, and by the time the tour was ending, I was super hungry and cranky. However, I did enjoy hearing about the legend of Turaida Rose. Click here for more information on that.

Here are some more photos from our excursion, mainly of Gutmana Cave, and a very old country church…

We walked back to the entrance of the huge park and I dug into my purse for the many euro coins I was carrying for this occasion. I got a leaded Coke, some sparkling water, and a package of a Latvian snack product called Long Chips. This snack, which is kind of the Latvian version of Pringles, comes in several flavors. In the vending machine, they only had the cheese and mashed potato varieties. We got one package of each, and after I’d had a few chips, I felt a lot better.

Interestingly enough, I just read that Long Chips are actually a relic of Latvia’s Soviet era, having been first made in 1986. The company that made them, once owned by the Soviet government, was eventually purchased by a private company in 1992, and is now available in 25 countries. They sure were a lifesaver last week!

I enjoyed seeing what little I did of Riga’s town hall, especially since there was a man with a beautiful baritone voice singing there. He was singing arias very well, and when I dropped a couple of euros in his hat, he bowed graciously and thanked me in English. I took a lot of photos and recorded a little of his performance, but mostly I sat on a bench and enjoyed listening to him sing. I found it inspiring.

A lovely singer…
Town Hall doesn’t suck, either.

I also liked that excursion because it included some good shopping, especially at Sigulda. I bought some beautiful silver earrings from a designer there, as well as a wallet for me, and a new leather bound notebook for Bill, and a walking stick for Bill’s granddaughter. Prices were very reasonable. And, I also loved the Latvian folk music playing where I bought my earrings, so I downloaded that, too.

When we got back to the ship that afternoon, I realized that it was karaoke night in the Splendor lounge. I usually love karaoke, although I was a little skeptical of how good it would be on Regent Splendor. SeaDream had karaoke on one of our cruises and it was honestly the worst karaoke show I’d ever attended. But, in spite of that, I sang a few songs and met my friend Meryl and her parents, who have now sadly passed on to the great beyond. Meryl is in the music business. In fact, she and her husband work with a major rock star. She asked me if I was in the music business! So it wasn’t a total loss. Meryl and I are still friends today.

The other thing that gave me pause is that karaoke started very late at night and only ran for about 90 minutes, which didn’t seem long enough. And I was also dealing with the remnants of my cold, and my voice was, frankly, a bit fucked.

In any case, Bill and I got dressed up and went to dinner in the Compass Rose. Unfortunately, dinner was a bit of a disappointment. I decided to have scallops, which were billed as a main course. But my dish only had three scallops on the plate, and it wasn’t really enough to satisfy me, even with the roasted quail starter I had. Dessert, too, was a bit of a disappointment. I had rum cake that was much too sweet, and lacked a promised scoop of Tahitian vanilla ice cream.

Yes, I know I could have and should have complained, and/or ordered more food. But everyone seemed so harried, and I was still feeling kind of crabby after our excursion. So we just beat it out of the dining room and went back to the Splendor Lounge, where Aldo and Dimas were playing music. We were the only ones in there at first, but Ger and Gail soon joined us, having decided to abandon the show in the theater. Bill and I never did make it to a show, so I can’t comment on the quality of the productions on Regent Splendor. But Gail and Ger said they weren’t impressed. During that time, I also learned how to use the “jukebox” in the Splendor Lounge.

After a little while, some teenagers showed up in the bar, obviously wanting to do karaoke. It got very busy, and Gail and Ger very abruptly beat a retreat when the place filled up. We probably should have done the same thing! I did get to sing a song. I chose “When You Say Nothing At All”, by Alison Krauss. To be honest, I think the only reason I chose that song was because I usually do it in the piano bar on SeaDream and I know it pretty well. Unfortunately, due to my cold, my voice wasn’t quite 100 percent, and I botched the high notes.

There were some really good performers, though… people with genuine talent. One guy sang a dead on rendition of “Valerie” by Amy Winehouse. Another guy did a hilarious version of “America” by Neil Diamond. Bill and I stayed for most of it, but left about a half an hour before karaoke ended. It was way past our bedtimes! I don’t think the teens ever did get up to sing. They might have been overwhelmed by the size of the crowd. There were a lot of singers, which is why I think karaoke should have been longer. I also didn’t like that it was run by theater people. It needs a real host. But that’s just my cranky opinion as a karaoke snob. Actually, I think I might prefer a piano bar, which Regent doesn’t have.

I was troubled enough by my own performance that on Monday, I decided to record my version of “When You Say Nothing At All”. It turned out great, if I do say so myself. Or, at least I didn’t mess up the high notes. Being healthy again is a good thing!

I wanted to dedicate this to Bill on Regent Splendor, but I’ll just have to do it on YouTube…

I did also get some photos of the top decks on Regent. Below are some pictures I took. It was the one day we ventured up there… These photos are all from the top of the ship. You can play tennis, mini golf, bocci, or shuffleboard.

One last thing. When we got back to our stateroom on Tuesday night, we found the door standing wide open. No harm was done, but we don’t know how long the door was left open. It seemed like a pretty serious slip in service. We did speak to the steward about it, and it never happened again during our sailing.


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

As we got closer to the Slovenian border, the skies grew cloudier and rain threatened. We slowed down to a crawl at the border, as border agents stamped our passports and Slovenian officials wanted to know where we were going, and if we were vaccinated. Earlier that day, when Bill and I had stopped at a Croatian rest stop, I had suggested that we eat lunch. I knew it was early for Bill, but I also knew that Bill has a terrible habit of not stopping for lunch until I become a raving lunatic. In fact, I had even laughed at him and teased him about his habit of waiting until 2:00pm to stop, and that’s when a lot of places stop lunch service.

There was a time, long ago, when I used to regularly skip meals on purpose. It was when I was a lot younger, more resilient, and body image conscious. I’d get kind of bitchy in those days, too, but I could physically handle it better than I can today. I’ve found that as I’ve gotten older, when I get hungry, I really need to eat. If I don’t eat, I get very cranky and ill tempered. Then, after a period of severe bitchiness, I start to get fearful and confused. It’s uncomfortable for me, and very unpleasant for anyone who has to be around me.

Sure enough, as we crept into Slovenia and were stuck in a single lane, my mood took a steep dive. The skies darkened even more and it started to drizzle, as Europe had changed to standard time the day before. Bill decided to drive into the city of Novo Mesto to see if we could find a restaurant. Of course, it happened to be All Saints Day, which is a holiday in many European countries, particularly the ones that are heavily Catholic, which Slovenia is. The exit he randomly chose took us past a large pharmaceutical factory and into a city center that appeared to be undergoing massive reconstruction. Wherever we were, we didn’t find any open restaurants there.

Bill pulled off at another exit, went into a gas station and came out with a Coke, a candy bar, and an ice cream bar. Sure enough, it was almost 2:00pm. I was really pissed, and let him know… but then sighed and ate the ice cream bar, which brought my blood sugar up high enough so I was no longer frothing at the mouth.

The rain got harder as we turned northwest and headed toward Lake Bled. We were familiar with the road, having traveled it in May 2016. This time, it was dark, cloudy, and wet. I smirked as we passed a campy looking place called Dinopark Bled, which was freshly closed for the season and offered a dinosaur park for kids. They also had a restaurant. I don’t know what they served there… Brontosaurus Burgers? Who knows?

Soon, we were headed into Bled itself, which was as pretty as I remembered it, even with the clouds and rain. We passed the hotel, Vila Bled, where we stayed in May 2016. It had once served as Tito’s presidential palace. Now, it’s a four star hotel that is decidedly old school. I found myself wishing we could pull off and check in there, since I was still hungry and crabby, though not quite as much as I was before I ate ice cream for lunch. I know I should probably carry food with me. I did do that on the way out of Slovenia.

Then we turned toward Lake Bohinj, an area we had missed during our first visit to Slovenia. Despite my irritable mood, I could not help but marvel at how incredibly gorgeous the area was. I thought Lake Bled was beautiful. Bled is charming and gracious, and well appointed with shops, hotels, and restaurants, even in the off season.

But Lake Bohinj and its environs are wild, rugged, splendid… everywhere I looked, there were striking fall colors on the black Julian Alps, and waterfalls EVERYWHERE. They seemed to spurt out all over the place. I couldn’t help thinking to myself that as incredibly awe inspiring as Switzerland is, it has nothing on Slovenia, or the Triglav National Park, which is Slovenia’s only national park. Slovenia is also much cheaper than Switzerland is, and you don’t have to buy a vignette for the whole year to use its high speed highways. Vignettes in Slovenia can be purchased for a week at a time.

We got closer to Lake Bohinj, which is very different than Lake Bled is. For one thing, it’s much larger. It doesn’t have a walkway that surrounds it, nor is it surrounded by hotels or restaurants, although the area near it is plenty touristy. The lake itself is majestic, quiet, and incredibly gorgeous. It’s a paradise for hikers, rock climbers, mountaineers, kayakers, canoeists, or anyone else who just loves wildlife and wild surroundings. And in November, it’s practically deserted. There are few restaurants open, so we almost got the sense of having the whole place to ourselves.

We booked four nights at a house called Villa Stare, which was affiliated with a small hotel in an area called Ukanc. When we arrived, it wasn’t clear where we should go. We found our way into what turned out to be where the reception and breakfast room was. We did book breakfast there every morning, which turned out to be a wise decision, since there weren’t any open stores or bakeries near the house, although there were a couple of small grocery stores in town.

The proprietor greeted us and welcomed us into the manor, which sort of screamed 1986… yet it was large, comfortable, and warm. It looked like it was once home to a family with children, as there were little painted designs on the windows in the kids’ rooms and the master bathroom. The master bathroom, by the way, was something else. It had a balcony, and a wall of windows that looked into the woods. There was a large jetted tub that was big enough for two. It looked a bit old– 80s or early 90s era, and I only say this because my parents had one in the 80s, as did the house we rented when we lived in Georgia. The marble shower had six jets on the walls that would spray water from the sides. There were his and hers sinks and a bidet, too.

The master bedroom was humongous, with a huge bed, built in cabinets, a walk in closet, and a large balcony, which faced the lake, about two hundred meters away. The property was surrounded by huge, imposing mountains, covered in trees of different colors, and marked with waterfalls. I counted three from the kids’ rooms, which also had a shared balcony.

The downstairs had a sitting room with a fireplace, a living room area with a TV, a guest toilet, and a fully equipped kitchen. There was also a terrace. We didn’t really use the kitchen, because there was a rather threatening notice there threatening charges if we didn’t clean well enough. Remembering our painful experience with our ex landlady near Stuttgart, we decided not to risk it. Same went for the fireplace, but we really didn’t need it anyway, since the house stayed warm with regular heating. We hung out in the bedroom more than anywhere else.

The proprietor gave us a list of restaurants, although a lot of them were closed, including a pizzeria that had just closed for the off season the day prior to our arrival. When I mentioned wanting wine, he said he’d bring us four bottles and we could pay for the ones we drank. We drank and enjoyed all four, bringing one back with us to Germany. They were all good choices. Bill later found a pizzeria a little bit further into town and that was enough to soothe the savage beast until the next morning.

In spite of my comments about the mauve 80s vibe in the house, we really enjoyed our stay there. It’s a beautiful home, and we were very comfortable, even if it did feel like we were somewhat in a time warp. But then, we had a similar experience staying at Vila Bled in 2016, so there you go.

Stay tuned for part nine.


Our time in Die Schweiz was definitely not Scheißig… part five

We had big plans for Saturday. As I mentioned before, Bill has an interest in the work of Carl G. Jung. His home and museum is located in Küsnacht, which is on Lake Zürich. Jung died in 1961, but his home is still in the hands of his descendants, who live there. Because of that, Carl Jung’s museum is not open every day. In fact, it’s only open on Thursdays and two Saturdays per month during the summer season. We were very fortunate that we happened to be visiting at a time when Jung’s house would be open. Bill purchased our tickets online prior to our visit, thus guaranteeing us a spot on the tour. You can buy tickets on the day of your tour, but only if space allows. The first floor of the exhibit is self-guided, but the library and Jung’s office can only be visited as part of the tour, which is about fifteen minutes long and conducted in German or English or both.

Also on the agenda was a stop at the Fraumünster church in Zürich, home of stained glass windows created by Marc Chagall, a French-Russian artist of Belarusian origin. I’m not a particularly religious person, but I do like visiting European churches and admiring the architecture, windows, and pipe organs. Our friend Meg had suggested seeing Chagall’s windows, as well as a few other places that, sadly, will have to wait until the next visit!

After breakfast, we headed downtown, which was very close to the hotel, but was made more complicated by the construction zone I mentioned in part one of this series. Then, once we got to the city, we had to find parking. Unfortunately, Bill chose to park at a garage owned by an upscale department store, not realizing how very expensive it would be. A whole day’s parking at Jelmoli’s garage cost about 49 Francs! Bill was impressed when the machine spit out a paper to help him remember which level he parked on… well, there’s a price for that kind of service, isn’t there? 😉

Anyway, we were blissfully ignorant of that when we parked and set off toward the church. It was five Swiss Francs to enter the church, but it was fine to take pictures and visit the crypt museum. I liked Chagall’s windows fine, but I actually preferred the other windows, which were made by Augusto Giacometti. The crypt museum was just opened in 2016, having previously been sealed from the public. The pipe organ, which consists of 6959 pipes, is the largest in the entire canton of Zürich. The church itself dates from July 21, 853! Below are some photos from our visit to Fraumünster.

After we left the Fraumünster, we went to the Grossmünster, which is very close by. On the way there, we ran into a wedding party… actually, there were a bunch of them on Saturday. I saw at least three brides in dresses having pictures taken and quaffing champagne. Augusto Giacometti also made windows for the Grossmünster. Below are some photos from that period between churches.

Once we were finished looking at the windows, it was just after noon. I wanted to eat lunch (and pee), mainly because I have a tendency to get “hangry” when I get hungry, and our tickets were at 2pm, which I figured would put me over the line of hostility. I suggested lunch after our church visits, but Bill looked at his watch and said he was concerned about the time. I reminded him of what I’m like when I’m hungry. Again, he said he was worried about missing our appointment at 2:00.

At that point, he wasn’t sure if we were driving or taking a boat to the museum. I told him to make up his mind. He told me it was my choice. I got pissed off and said, “You’re always trying to lead until it’s time to make a decision. Either lead, or don’t lead. This museum visit is important to YOU, and you’ve done the research, not me.”

So then we headed toward the dock… and I said, “So, hot dogs for lunch, then?”

Bill tried to deny that was what was coming… but when we got to the dock, sure enough, that was what was available. So I made him pose for a photo. The short lake cruise takes about 90 minutes to go round trip, or you can do one way trips or get off at stops. And, for the curious, yes– there are concessions on the boat, and bathrooms. I think Bill paid about 6 Francs per adult for our tickets. It’s a pretty good deal, especially for Switzerland. Below are some photos from our pathetic hot dog lunch and our cruise to Küsnacht.

I almost forgot to mention, while we were waiting for the boat to arrive, we wound up standing near a group of obnoxious young Americans. One was a guy, who looked to be about twenty or so, and there were also three or four young women, who looked to be the same age.

The guy was very obnoxiously smoking a pipe, trying to look cool and failing miserably. I wanted to grab the pipe from him, because it was bad enough we were all standing in line, waiting to board the boat in masks. He had to pollute the air with a pipe, too… and he looked really stupid in the process. And making matters worse was that they were loud, talking about their adventures in Geneva and other areas of Europe. I did agree with one of the young ladies, who said the weather was agreeable. I’m sure that wherever they came from in America, the temperatures were a hell of a lot higher. The pipe smoking guy, though… he was making my temperature rise with temper. What a clueless jackass! I was glad they didn’t follow us to Jung’s house and we didn’t bump into them again.

In part six, I’ll write about our visit to the museum. Stay tuned!


Ribeauville… AGAIN! Part 1… knotty gets snotty over a pile of pork

A couple of weeks ago, I asked Bill if he’d like to go somewhere for Memorial Day weekend.  He said “sure”, so I went looking for places to stay.  I tried to find a place we hadn’t been yet.  In retrospect, there were a few places I forgot to consider, places in Germany I’ve been wanting to visit and haven’t yet.  But, for whatever reason, they didn’t cross my mind.  I started thinking of Alsace again and how much we always enjoy our visits to northeastern France.  Plus, I just love France and Alsace is so convenient and so pretty…

I realized our old friend Yannick, who has rented us apartments in Ribeauville three times before, had space available.  Granted, it was one of his “studio” apartments, Muscat, which I knew would be a lot less spacious than “Riesling”, the three bedroom apartment we have stayed in twice so far.  The first time we rented that apartment in February 2017, it was because we were planning to bring Bill’s mother with us.  She ended up not being able to visit us due to an injury and the sudden need for surgery, so we stayed there on our own.  It was awesome.  Then last November, we came back and stayed in Riesling again because it was available and inexpensive.

The other apartment we’ve stayed in is “Pinot Noir”, which is a “one bedroom” apartment.  Actually, it’s more like a big studio with a curtain that divides a back area from the living area.  That was the first apartment we rented from Yannick, back in January 2017.  So, you see, we’ve been to Ribeauville before and we keep coming back, mainly because Yannick is so easy to deal with and Ribeauville is such a cute town.

Yesterday, we got on the road to wine country and had to stop at a German gas station to pick up some motor oil.  Our 2006 Toyota RAV 4 needs an oil change, but Bill never got around to it.  The engine was about a quart low.  We stopped three times before Bill finally found the oil he needed.  The car still needs an oil change.  Oh well… it handled itself fine crossing the mountains.  I snapped a few pictures of the stunning scenery.  We usually come through this area in the winter, so it’s glorious to see it when the weather is nice.  Before are a few blurry shots of the beguiling Black Forest as we passed through it.

Finally, at about 4:30 or so, we entered France.  It seemed we went over a different bridge over the Rhein than we usually do.  It confused Bill, who had some issues getting out of the very congested Strasbourg area.

Bonjour again.


Bill got confused at one point and ended up in a nightmare of a traffic jam heading toward the city.  He started cussing and my bladder started screaming for a rest stop.  We had to get off at an exit near a mall and were immediately accosted by a group of Syrian refugees panhandling on the side of the road.  I actually felt sorry for them, since it was rather hot outside and the women were completely covered in black.  Bill says it’s time for Ramadan, though, which is probably why they were out there.  Fortunately, we found a gas station… and, how refreshing, not only did one of the guys there say “Bonjour” to me, but I didn’t have to pay 70 euro cents for the privilege of peeing.

Once we finally started heading south, we got caught in another Stau.  We were behind one guy who was checking his phone as he was creeping along.  Bill went into retired Army officer mode and barked, “Get off your phone, Sir!”  That put me in a silly mood and I started asking him ridiculous questions about what he was like when he was still in the military.  One thing about Bill… he almost never yells unless he’s in traffic.  He was definitely bitching yesterday, but then I started asking him about how he dealt with guys in the company he commanded, trying to imagine him yelling at some guy in basic training.  That’s always good for a laugh.  Bill is probably one of the most mild mannered people I know.

We got to the parking lot near our French gite just before seven o’clock and lucked into a good parking spot.  Thanks to the traffic, it took us an extra hour to get to Ribeauville.  Then, once we got to the outside of the apartment, I had some trouble finding the code to open the lockbox.  We tried calling Yannick, but got a recording.  Later, he sent me a message telling me he was in the hospital with his wife.  I’m not sure, but it sounds like she was having a baby.  He says he’ll visit today, so I’m sure we’ll get the scoop.  Below are pictures of Muscat.

A big, king sized bed that is pretty comfortable, although my back is used to a feather bed, so this was a little painful.  I don’t expect feather beds in rental properties, though, so I don’t fault the bed for my back.

And the rest of the tiny apartment.  There’s a small bathroom with a shower and a tiny little kitchenette area.  Yannick left us a bottle of sparkling wine, which we put in the dorm sized fridge.  There’s a stove and a microwave, coffee makers, and of course, a raclette grill.  The apartment is kind of microscopic, but would be fine for one or two people.  It would also work well for a group renting the Riesling apartment next door and needing a little extra space.  Actually, I think this wine house would be awesome for a family reunion, if you managed to rent the whole thing.


View from our window.  It’s a bit noisier in this apartment, because it’s right by a busy thoroughfare.  There’s a group of very pleasant German ladies staying in the Riesling apartment we’ve rented twice before.  They were pretty cool with Zane and Arran.


After we settled in, we went searching for food.  Since we’ve been to Ribeauville a few times now, we’ve been to a lot of the restaurants on the main drag.  I wanted to try a different place.  When we were here in November, I noticed Hotel du Mouton’s restaurant.  They had “cock” on the menu and that always excites me.  But first, we stopped at a restaurant right next to it.  We moved on when I noticed some guy giving me the side eye when I spoke English.

We approached Hotel du Mouton’s restaurant, where there were three tables open on the terrace.  A couple of waiters were standing there, looking casual.  They seemed inviting, so I started to a table, which they said was reserved.  Then, they pointed to another table at the end of the terrace.  We headed for that one and they said that one was also reserved.  We finally ended up at the first table, where we were finally invited to sit down.  I must admit, this did not leave me with the best first impression, especially since it seemed like all eyes were on us.  But we sat down… and proceeded to wait for about ten minutes before anyone bothered to speak to us.

I used to wait tables myself, so I tend to be pretty forgiving and patient when it comes to service issues while dining out.  Still, I was hungry, tired, and in need of a drink.  I was also annoyed by the seating rigamarole and watching as the waiters casually walked past us, filling wine glasses and not even inviting us to go screw ourselves.  It was off-putting, and I gave some thought to leaving.  Then I started humming inappropriate songs I learned from Red Peters’ song snatch program.  But then, a man wearing a leather apron finally stopped and asked if we were ready to order.

Bill looks at the menu.  It would be a long time before he got to give his orders.  Hmm… wonder if it was like that for him in the Army, too.


Bill ordered the first selection.  I was very tempted by the cock, but asked for an entrecôte…  I got the Choucroute Garnie.


The restaurant had a number of asparagus dishes offered on special.  I might have ordered one, but I couldn’t read the sign, since it was mounted on the wall.  Some guy was sitting in front of it and blocking the view of anyone who might be interested.  I decided on an entrecôte, which is a rib eye steak.  It was supposed to come with either pepper sauce or morel sauce.  Bill decided on marinated salmon with potato pancakes, a dish I had been eyeing myself.

The waiter came over and Bill started trying to speak horrible French.  Then he switched to German.  The waiter finally indicated that he spoke English, so Bill switched to that.  He ordered us a bottle of wine, some sparkling water, and the salmon pancakes.  Then I ordered the entrecôte, but was surprised when the waiter simply said “Okay,” collected the menus, and quickly left without asking me the temperature or which sauce I preferred.  After he served the wine and the water, we didn’t see him again for some time.

While we were waiting for our food, I noticed the restaurant was offering a special Wagyu beef entrecôte from the United States.  I wondered if maybe that was what I was going to get, since it made no mention of sauces.  It was 42 euros and I figured they’d just bring it out super rare, since a lot of French people seem to like really bloody meat (though I don’t).

I also noticed that they were holding our wine hostage, a practice I really hate.  Everyone’s bottles were kept on a table and the waiters were pouring the wines as they had the opportunity.  In some restaurants, this practice is considered good service, and it is, if the wait staff is attentive.  When they are weeded, it becomes a real nuisance.

After some time passed, a different waiter showed up with Bill’s dish and one that was unrecognizable to me.  It was basically a pile of pork with sauerkraut.

“I didn’t order that.” I said when the waiter tried to give it to me.

He looked confused, went to his colleague, and clearly upset the man.  Our original waiter came back and said, “Yes, you did order the choucroute.” he said, checking his notes.  “Because if you had ordered the entrecôte, I would have asked you the temperature and which sauce you wanted.”  It was as if because he wrote down the wrong thing, in his mind, the matter was settled.  Obviously, he couldn’t have mistaken choucroute for entrecôte, right?  And yet he did!  And he was trying to blame me for his error.  Bullshit!

At that point, I was becoming extremely annoyed and was quickly getting over the whole experience.  I snapped, “I ordered the entrecôte.  And you’re right that you didn’t ask me the temperature or which sauce I wanted.  In fact, I wondered why.”

I can’t say for sure, but it’s very likely that I had one of my trademark venomous expressions on my face.  I usually do when I get pissed off.  I do know that my voice became quite sharp and I could tell the guy was worried that I was about to lose my shit right there at the table.  I was a bit hangry and really tired of the bumbling service.  I just wanted to eat and get out of there.

The guy scurried away with the food, then came back and offered me the pile of pork again.  He said, “If you don’t take this, you’ll have to wait for the entrecôte to be cooked.”

I was thinking to myself, Duh… of course I would have to wait for a steak to be cooked to order.  This isn’t a McDonald’s.  I probably would have preferred McDonald’s at that point.

Then Bill, sweet gentleman that he is, said “I’ll take the choucroute.  You can have the salmon and potato pancakes.”  That was alright with me, since I’d been thinking about ordering the pancakes anyway.

The waiter looked relieved as he served me the pork.  He actually smiled as Bill and I switched plates.  It probably appeared that the awkward bullshit was about to end.

I was sitting there wondering why in the hell that man was arguing with me over what I ordered.  Why would I lie about that?  I don’t go out to restaurants, order stuff, and then change my mind after I’ve ordered.  That doesn’t make any sense.  I understand that people make mistakes.  I made a lot of them when I waited tables.  But I felt the waiter was very rude to argue with me about what I ordered.  The correct response is not an argument.  The correct response is, “I apologize.  What can I do to fix the problem?”

So these were the potato pancakes.  They were served with pieces of marinated salmon, which are not too visible in the photo because they are under the pancakes.  One of the endive leaves was filled with a horseradish dip.

And this was the erroneous pile of pork farts the waiter tried to serve me.  Bill says the sauerkraut wasn’t all that good.  There was a lot of it, so it’s good that I didn’t actually eat this.  It would have been very windy in our little apartment if I had.  I don’t think Bill was able to eat the wiener.  That was too much protein.

The good news is that after the waiter got a load of my bitchface, he released our wine from custody and put it on the table.  The wine was probably my favorite part of the meal.  It was full of the essence of dark berries and, when I tasted it after eating a couple of peanuts, it tasted a little like a PBJ sandwich.  Better yet, I could keep my glass filled.

Alas, one of the potato pancakes arrived a bit scorched.  Fortunately, the other two were unscathed and I was plenty full.

Instead of having dessert, we decided to have after dinner drinks.  Bill enjoyed a very lovely Japanese whiskey.  Props to the second waiter, who did a very professional presentation, complete with showing us the bottles from which he was pouring.

While I had a snifter of Armagnac from 1973… just a year younger than I am.  The Armagnac was dangerously smooth and at 16 euros, not exactly cheap.  However, it did leave me with a smile on my face.  We noticed the rest of the service was done by a different waiter wearing a leather apron.  He had piercings in his chest and was a lot more professional than the other guy was.


The bill came to 92 euros.  It’s probably the only bill we will ever be presented by Hotel du Mouton because I don’t think we’ll be going back there.  That was probably one of the least comfortable dining experiences I’ve had in a good long while.  It’s a shame, too, because the hotel is in a cute area and gets fairly good reviews on Trip Advisor and Google.  I saw the owners there last night with their adorable little girl.  I would be very surprised if this is the impression they’d want to leave with their guests… and any potential guests who happen to read this review.

Hotel du Mouton… looks inviting enough, but looks can be deceiving.  Oh well.  We’ll find a better place today.


Mid-day meal at Maredo in Stuttgart…

This morning, Bill and I decided we’d visit Robinson Barracks to look for a new chair for me.  The one I’ve been using for the past three years ago has a problem with the hydraulic.  I pump it up, sit down, and sink.  I’ve come to realize that this happens because I abuse the hell out of my office chairs, sitting in them for hours at a time every day.  After two or three years, I need to replace them.

Anyway, though we figured there wouldn’t be a great selection at RB, we also knew we could pick up a few items at the commissary there and then maybe have some lunch.  It had been a long time since our last visit and I wanted to see what else was there.  So off we went, and I did manage to find a chair that will probably do for now.

About halfway through our quick trip to the commissary, I started feeling hungry.  By the time we were done shopping, it was almost 2:00pm.  I commented that we should have had lunch before we went shopping as Bill drove us toward downtown Stuttgart.  I know there are places to eat around RB, but we so seldom go there that we aren’t familiar with the best places yet.  Besides that, we always end up there just as the lunch hours are winding down.  We needed to find a place that would serve lunch in the mid afternoon.

We parked downtown, initially thinking we’d go to the Paulaner Bar, where I knew I could get some killer chicken.  We turned away when we saw how packed it was, especially since it was also full of smokers.  Then we wandered around a few other places, eventually ending up at the Christmas market.  I might have been interested in walking through there, but my blood sugar was dropping and I was starting to get a bit hangry.  My brain turns to shit when that happens.  Instead of enjoying the festive sights and sounds, I was getting really crabby and indecisive.

I wouldn’t have minded walking around some more, if I hadn’t been ready to drop.  The crowds were alternately confusing and annoying me.

Finally, Bill spotted a Maredo restaurant.  Interestingly enough, I had mentioned the one located next to our parking garage, but Bill mistakenly thought they were closed.  They weren’t.  He just hadn’t stopped to read the big sign hanging in the door, which said they were closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Another location, maybe two or three blocks away and visible from the one at our parking garage, was clearly open and ready for our business.  To be honest, steak wasn’t really what was on my mind for lunch today, but I really needed to eat.  There were plenty of tables open and and the price is right.

Just after we sat down, we heard a big thud.  An elderly lady traveling with what looked like a younger married couple tripped and fell down by the door.  Bill got up to make sure she was okay.  After a few minutes, she was fine and their party left without incident.  For a minute there, I was afraid someone was going to have to call for an ambulance.

In any case, Maredo is a Düsseldorf based steakhouse that has been in business since 1973.  Though the name sounds vaguely Spanish, it’s actually comprised of the names of the three founders, Manfred Holl, Karl-Heinz Reinheimer, and Udo Schlote.  It operates 57 restaurants in Germany and three in Austria.

Bill and I ate at a Maredo once at the Cologne airport back in May 2012.  Back then, I thought steaks in Germany were universally yucky.  That was before I made the fortuitous discovery of Tommi’s Bistro.  Anyway, during that first visit, I stuck with a wienerschnitzel.  It tasted fine, but I wasn’t all that impressed by the chain.  Maredo specializes in steaks, but there’s a nice variety of dishes on the menu.  They have everything from fajitas to baked potatoes.

Today, by the time we were seated, I was in serious need of protein.  Maredo was offering a rib-eye special.  I ordered that and Bill had spareribs.  In the meantime, we sipped weizenbiers and ate fresh bread that came with some kind of creamy spread with garlic and chives.  Though white, creamy stuff often gives me the heebie jeebies, I’m starting to be braver since I’ve been in Germany.  After Bill assured me there was no funky or strong cheese in the spread, I tried it and liked it.

Loud music played over the sound system as I fortified myself.  Bill smiled when he saw the color come back to my cheeks and a smile slowly form on my lips.  I usually recover quickly from being hangry.

Our friendly waiter brought us our meals.  Bill’s very juicy spareribs did not come with anything but a side of barbecue sauce and a tomato tapenade.  My 300 gram rib eye, on the other hand, came with green beans and potato wedges with a sour cream dip.  I normally don’t like sour cream, but I did like the dip that came with my wedges, especially since it was in a ramekin and I could control how much I used.  In my opinion, when it comes to condiments, less is more.  I shared my beans with Bill and we each tasted each other’s dish.  The ribs were surprisingly good– very juicy, flavorful, and with plenty of meat on them.  My steak was cooked perfectly to a medium temperature.  It was tender, juicy, and well seasoned.  It was very good. The green beans were nicely seasoned, but a little mushy.

Bill’s juicy spareribs.

My surprisingly good steak…  I won’t need to eat again before morning.  I loved the potatoes and the side of dip, too… though I could definitely call this meal another “present for my ass”.  Those who follow me on Facebook know that that’s what I call any fattening food that soothes the savage beast.  I could have paired this steak with a nice wine, had I wanted to.

Although they had some nice looking desserts, I wasn’t even able to finish everything on my plate.  I came somewhat close, though.  What can I say?  I was hungry!  Service was competent and friendly.  We got out of there with a bill for 44 euros and a reminder that you really can get a nice meal at a chain restaurant.  I left Maredo feeling much better than I did when we arrived.  Next time I’m hungry and a Maredo is handy, I won’t hesitate to drop in.

There is another Maredo within sight of this one in downtown Stuttgart.  Though I’ve seen places with 7-Elevens and Starbucks on alternate corners, this is the first time I’ve seen that phenomenon in Germany.  

Friday of this week, Bill and I are going to come back to Stuttgart and try Christophorus, which we have been told is the best steak restaurant in the area.  I look forward to seeing how it stacks up in our book.  Stay tuned!


Beer and Fucking Tour… Hangry on the way to Lermoos…

The drive to Lermoos took a long time.  Our side trip to Fuckersberg took us off course.  Then we had to stop for gas and a potty break, happily at a truck stop instead of on a snake’s nest.  We got back on the autobahn and headed west.  The route took us through Munich.  I was getting hungry and suggested that Bill just park somewhere so we could eat.  He was in a hurry to get to Lermoos, though, because he had a paper due for an online class he’s taking.  The slow Internet at the Moorhof, and the beer spa, had sort of distracted him, and he needed to get to our next hotel so he could get his work done.

As my blood sugar dipped, I became more fatigued and annoyed.  Bill could tell.  He looked at me and could see my facial expression darkening by the second.  But we were stuck in slow moving Munich traffic; then he made a couple of wrong turns.  I commented that Munich reminded me a little of Charlotte, North Carolina, for some reason… not that I think Charlotte and Munich look alike.  It was more the traffic than anything else.

Anyway, the Munich traffic sucked.  My mood was souring.  Bill was nervous and irritated.  He programmed the GPS to find us a restaurant.  He got off at some exit not far from Munich and the first gasthaus he got to was closed.  In frustration, he started cussing, which for some reason annoyed me.  I guess I don’t mind when he does it casually, but when he’s annoyed and swearing, it bothers me for some reason, especially when I’m “hangry”.  So I told him I’d just eat chocolate… or he could find me a McDonald’s or something that doesn’t close on Sundays or have a “pause”.

Then, just as he was about to turn onto the road taking us back to the autobahn, I spied a busy looking Italian restaurant called Ristorante Il Brigante.  What a God send that place turned out to be!  Bill pulled into the parking lot.  We walked into the restaurant and were immediately seated on the very busy covered terrace outside.  The people next to us had little kids and while I normally like kids, I was in a shitty mood.  They were playing Uno and I was secretly hoping I’d either get some wine and bread pronto or they’d finish up and move on.

This was waiting for me when I got back from the bathroom.  Bill rocks!

By the time I got back from the ladies room, Bill had ordered a half liter of primitivo and San Pellegrino.  The folks with the urchins had left and I tried to figure out what I’d be having for lunch.  I might have chosen one of the specials had I had the chance to read the whole board, but as it turned out, I had spaghetti carbonara.  Bill had pizza.  All the waiters were Italian and the one who took care of us was very charming.  He walked around singing.

Heart attack on a plate!  But it was delicious!  I probably should have had something with more protein, though.

Bill enjoyed his pizza.  I have to admit it was very good.  

I took this picture wanting to capture the cows in the field right next to the patio… I caught something else instead…


If you look at the above photo over Bill’s right shoulder, you might notice an interesting looking man.  I didn’t see him at first, until I had gotten over my “hanger”.  The guy sitting behind Bill is apparently a Buddhist monk.  He was with a young German woman who seemed absolutely enchanted by him.  I watched the people at the table give him a pair of what looked like hand knitted green socks.  He bowed and smiled and, I have to say, he had the most peaceful and gentle countenance I’ve seen on a person in a very long time.  Just looking at him put me at ease.

I mentioned it to Bill who explained what he knows about Buddhism.  I still don’t know much about it, but I was really moved by his presence and how kind and decent he seemed to be.  It’s not often you run into someone with such a peaceful and pleasant aura.  He seemed like a very special person just by his manner.  I didn’t even speak to him, but his body language said enough.  I forgot my initial annoyance and relaxed, truly inspired by just watching the monk interact with his companions.  He left before we did, with the German woman who seemed so enchanted by him.

Edited to add…  My German friend, Susanne, says that the monk is Toyoshige Sekiguchi from Japan. He is rather famous and is currently a guest at a farm in Hohenschäftlarn, which is the town where the restaurant where we had lunch is located.  It turns out the reason I thought the monk was so peaceful is because his life’s work is all about promoting peace and nuclear disarmament.  Of all the places we could have eaten…  How amazing.

After lunch, we had a round of espresso and some heavenly tiramisu…


Bill paid the check and we got back on the road.  I put the top down on the Mini and we headed south.  I love watching the Alps as they rise on the horizon.

First awe inspiring look at the Alps…


As we continued driving, the beautiful weather turned to clouds and the temperature dropped.  And… I had to pee again.  So we pulled off the road and I found another wooded spot.  We put the top back up and headed into Garmisch-Partenkirchen, which is every bit as pretty, touristy, and crowded as I remembered from our last visit in 2009.  We passed the Edelweiss Lodge and got on the beautiful road through Tirol that we used to drive on the way to Edelweiss.  Lermoos is really not far from Garmisch, so we were soon at the Zugspitze Silence Sporthotel, a very quaint and traditional hotel offering great views of the mountains.

The view from our room…

Bill enjoys it…

I took a bunch of pictures because the mountain kept changing as the weather did…

Horses grazing peacefully outside the window…

I entertained myself taking pictures while Bill worked on his schoolwork.  Later, we had beer for dinner in the hotel restaurant.  It was then that I noticed yet another tourbus in the parking lot.  The hotel was hosting a large group of seniors, one of whom was having a birthday.  The very organized leader of the group led everyone in a German birthday song that I had never heard before.  It was kind of cool.  They all seemed to be having a great time, though I did feel a little like I had stumbled into a Hoveround convention.


Cruising around Calw…

Last weekend, when we visited the Baumwipfelpfad Schwarzwald, we were forced to detour through Calw.  I kept seeing signs for this town and had heard it was pretty.  Bill wanted to go out for a few hours, so we took a short outing to Calw, which is about 18 kilometers from our home in Unterjettingen and was Hermann Hesse’s hometown.  Hermann Hesse won the Nobel Peace Prize for literature in 1946.  He was born in Calw on July 2, 1877.

We left the house at about 1:30 or so, prior to having lunch.  By the time we got to Calw, it was about 2:15.  I was hungry.  The first order of business, once we parked at the huge Kaufland parkhaus, was to find lunch.

Hermann Hesse’s town…


Unfortunately, Calw was pretty dead yesterday and a lot of the restaurants there do the traditional pause, meaning their kitchens close at 2:30.  We wandered around looking for a place that didn’t close at 2:30 and saw a couple of cafes and ice cream shops.  We were turned away at one restaurant and a helpful German guy advised us to come earlier “next time”.  Duh.  I guess I should have been flattered that he didn’t immediately see us as Americans and assume we were “on holiday”.

I was getting crankier and crankier as my blood sugar dropped and Bill was apologizing to me for dragging me to such a quiet place when we ran across a gasthaus in the main square.  A smiling man was standing there with three huge chalkboards.  They were still serving lunch.  Success!

As much of the gasthaus’s sign as I could get with my iPhone while sitting down.  

Yesterday’s menu…

My salad.  It did the trick…

And the rest of our lunch… served on Hermann Hesse commemorative plates from 2002.

We sat down at an outdoor table overlooking what appears to be a massive construction and
restoration project.  Many elderly people were standing in groups.  I wasn’t sure what was going on.  I almost thought maybe there was a protest, but no one looked pissed off enough for that.  I was too focused on eating to investigate, but I think maybe they were hanging around after the weekend market.

The menu at the gasthaus included several dishes featuring asparagus and Hollandaise sauce.  I ordered the ham and asparagus plate for 11 euros and Bill had the turkey breast and asparagus plate for 13,50 euros.  Both dishes came with a trip to the self service salad bar and salted potatoes.  We washed lunch down with hefeweizen.  The food was good and hearty and it took about three seconds for me to stop being so hangry.

Cool buildings in the main square…


Bill enjoys a little more wheat beer.  It was surprisingly chilly yesterday.


Although we had come to Calw to see what was there and maybe find something fun to do, it was really pretty quiet yesterday.  So we decided to people watch.  It was an interesting way to pass the time.  I noticed that Calw seems to have a resident cat.  I’m not sure if it was a male or female, but I saw it three or four times.  It was a grey striped kitty with white “socks” and a crooked right ear that seemed to be perpetually cocked to the side.  The cat was distinctive looking and appeared to be quite a character as it followed people and wandered around the main square.  I never did manage to get a picture of the kitty.

I also noticed that Calw appears to have a lively music venue.  Roger Hodgson, former lead singer of Supertramp (one of my favorite 70s and 80s bands) is due to perform there soon.

Concert posters visible from where we sat.


We continued to watch the world go by from our table.  I saw the smiling proprietor of the restaurant warmly embrace an elderly lady as if they were dear friends or perhaps relatives.  I saw lots of kids go up to the fountain and dip their water guns into the water.  They’d fill the guns and shoot at the lion sculpture on top of the fountain.  Shopkeepers would get water from the fountain and water the potted shrubs in front of their stores.  It was a scene one wouldn’t necessarily see in the United States.

As we finished eating lunch, I noticed a small sign by the door at the gasthaus…

Nette Toilette?  What the devil is that?


I heard two girls talking about needing the WC and a man said, “Nette Toilette”– “nice toilet”.  So I looked it up on my iPhone.  Apparently, it’s a program in certain German cities where restauranteurs allow their toilets to be used freely by the public.  I think that’s a nice idea.  The reason behind this program is that there aren’t enough public toilets and it would cost money to build, maintain, clean, and protect them from vandalism.  Public toilets are also usually only in the center of the city, leaving necessary facilities out of reach for those who venture out further.  In exchange for allowing people to use their toilets, restauranteurs get money from the city and they may also get the odd impromptu guest who decides to stick around for a meal.  Calw is just one of many German cities with this program.  It’s good to know that if I see the red and yellow sign and need to pee, I can do so guilt free!

Our lunch tab was about 38 euros, which we thought was a good deal.  After we finished eating, we decided to wander around a bit.  I took a few photos of Calw’s beautiful old downtown district.

At one point, we heard lots of drums and Turkish horns.  I looked down an alleyway and noticed a large number of Muslims standing near a building as the noise continued.  It was obviously a wedding.  I think it was the first Turkish one I’ve ever seen in Germany.  People stood around, looking on curiously.

Someone’s pretty yellow roses.


When we got back to Kaufland, I realized nature was once again calling.  We went into the massive store and I found a clean and free WC.  Calw’s Kaufland is very nice as opposed to the one Bill visited in Herrenberg.  It’s very big, clean, and offers most anything you’d need.  We decided to pick up a couple of items.

I couldn’t resist taking this photo…  German quality written in English!


I never knew McDonald’s made ketchup.  I thought they just used Heinz.  Learn something new every day…  No, we didn’t buy any.  


Scary wine drink consisting of merlot and cola flavoring.  You’re supposed to drink it iced.  Nein, danke.

This was taken from the parking garage.  You can see the popular brauhaus across the river.

Street sign…

Our trip to Calw wasn’t long on structure or activity, but it was interesting nonetheless.  Calw is a really pretty town.  Next time, we’ll have to get there earlier and check out some of the museums and other restaurants.  At the very least, I got to learn a little about Hermann Hesse and the Nette Toilette program, right?

I was feeling pretty good about our little impromptu trip to Calw until we got home.  It was obvious Zane and Arran had engaged in a little scuffle in our absence.  Zane had a couple of bite marks on his face and it looked like he’d also thrown up.  I think they got in a fight over their Kongs, which they had been successfully using for months.

I cleaned up the mess and felt kind of bad for leaving them, while at the same time I was grateful that no one got seriously hurt.  I am forever fretting about the dogs.  Maybe it’s time we started taking them with us like Germans do.  That might necessitate a new blog all on its own.


Human error at Neuer Ochsen…

Bill and I decided to take a break from our usual Sunday haunt.  We went to the Neuer Ochsen, which is a restaurant we like, but haven’t been to since October.

A very handsome young man invited us to sit at a table near a window.  I had decided to try something different today instead of the “fitness salad” I usually get (and, between you and me, doesn’t seem so fitness oriented).  I ordered a lentil and sausage plate and a dark beer.  Imagine my surprise when I somehow ended up with a Wiener Schnitzel instead of what I ordered.

It turned out the waiter had put in the wrong order.  Fortunately, I didn’t mind.  A Wiener Schnitzel is a good standby and the one they serve at Neuer Ochsen is reasonably sized.  So though they offered to get me the right dish, I said it was okay that they brought me a schnitzel.  They gave us a round of espresso on the house for our trouble.

Partially eaten wrong meal…  Luckily, it was pretty good.  I liked the side of jam, too.  It tasted like cranberries (I have since learned that the jam is actually Preiselbeer marmalade  but it’s unusual to get that with a Wiener Schnitzel.  They usually serve it with game or turkey).  Bill had something that tasted a lot like my schnitzel, except the breading was seasoned with mustard and it came with potato salad instead of fries.

This espresso came with a little glass of fizzy water.


It’s good that I wasn’t “hangry” today, either.  I handled the mistake with charm and grace rather than frustration and bitterness.  Good thing I had a handful of cashews before we left the house.  Otherwise, this might have turned out differently.  ;-D


Hangry in Ludwigsburg…

My niece Elise stayed with us for most of this past week.  Today, we had to take her to the train station.  After dropping her off, we decided to go to Ludwigsburg to drop off a bunch of beer bottles that have been empty since December.  Though we had a nice breakfast this morning, we were out and about at around lunchtime.  By the time we got to Heinrich’s Drink Market 3000, I was starting to feel moderately peckish.  I knew my blood sugar was starting to dip when I was barely interested in perusing the international beers.

I happened to mention to Bill that I needed to eat something.  He agreed, so we headed toward our usual haunts in Ludwigsburg’s main square.  Bill usually knows when I’m getting hungry.  I start getting flushed and irritable.  Then I get pale, shaky, and have a resting bitch face.  Finally, I get snappish and start looking confused, nervous, and even frightened.  If I let it go too long, I start to feel very emotional.

Bill wanted to shop around for a place we’d never been before, but I was feeling more and more bitchy until I was in full on hangry mode.  After rejecting one place that looked like it had good food but was very crowded, we finally ended up at an Italian restaurant where we’ve dined before.  It was kind of busy in there and a charming waiter showed us to a table very close to two ladies who were finishing up.  I sat down, buried my face in my hands, and tried not to be too noticeably pissy.

I must have looked seriously irritated, especially since the waiter didn’t give us menus when he seated us.  I just wanted something to get my blood sugar up and was immediately frustrated by how busy the restaurant was.  After a few minutes of us watching him bustle around, tending to a large party of friendly looking Germans, he finally gave us menus.

I quickly decided on a pepper and potato soup, a glass of Montepulciano, San Pellegrino, and basil risotto.  The guy came over to take our order and as soon as I opened my mouth to order the wine and got out two syllables of a six syllable word, he said, “English!”  Before I could say anything else, he dashed away to get us English menus that we didn’t need.

“No! No, that’s not necessary!” I said as he scurried off, further pissing me off, causing more frustration, and making me even more hangry.  I actually felt like crying as he walked away without our order.  He came back a few minutes later and we finally ordered lunch.

While we were waiting for lunch, I went to the ladies room, where I was confounded by the toilets.  In my anxiety-ridden, nervous, flustered, hangry state, I forgot how to tell when one was occupied.  Some very tall lady who was in there with me said in German that the middle stall was free, but that was all I understood in my haste to pee.

I didn’t need to go that badly, actually… just thought it was a good idea…  until I realized there was no toilet paper.  So there I sat, dripping dry.  I stood up and realized that besides being hungry, I was also very dehydrated.  Then when I went to use the sink, I couldn’t get the water to turn off.  It was one of those automatic jobs that make me miss plain old faucets that are easy to figure out when I’m hungry and angsty.

Fortunately, when I got back to the table, the wine, water, and my soup were there.  Bill watched intently as I tried the soup, which was a little bland, but otherwise had just what I needed.  He smiled as the color returned to my cheeks and I very soon stopped looking so tense and upset.

“It never fails.” he said, amused as I perked up.  “It’s like that Snickers commercial was written for you.  It doesn’t take much… just a little bit and you’re back to normal again.”

I turn into a monster when I’m really hangry.

I finished the soup and felt so much better once I was fortified.  As a younger waiter carried the bowl away, I noticed him flash a thumbs up and a smile to the older guy who had seated us.  I kind of wondered if he thought I was a raving bitch or just realized how badly I needed some food.

The second course of risotto for me and ravioli for Bill was equally tasty.  After lunch, we had a round of espresso, and I left the restaurant smiling and feeling a whole lot better.  We detoured through the mall and stopped at the drug store to get some dental floss, which was in and of itself an adventure.

We parked in a different parking garage this trip to Ludwigsburg and, to get to it, we had to pass through a little park that was once the site of a synagogue.  It was destroyed on Kristallnacht on November 9, 1938.  The outline of the building is marked and there’s a commemorative stone tablet there explaining what happened.  People have left flowers and pebbles and in the center of the outline, there are suitcases bearing the names and lifespans of Jews who died in the Holocaust.  I think it’s a very poignant memorial.  For more reading about this synagogue, click here.



We’re home again and I’m enjoying wine, comforting music, and watching the melting snow.