A weekend of honey dos…

I mentioned in my main blog that we didn’t really do much this weekend in terms of “travel.” Bill and I have a big, expensive, Nordic trip scheduled for next month that has eaten up a lot of our disposable income. We also have a U.S. holiday coming up this weekend during which we’re hoping to do a few day trips from the Wiesbaden area. Plus, we had some chores that needed to be done in the backyard.

I had been contemplating planning a dog friendly trip for the holiday weekend, but then I realized how much we’re spending to visit Norway, Sweden, Finland, Latvia, Estonia, and Denmark next month. Then I remembered that we were denied the opportunity to see a lot of our local environs due to the COVID pandemic.

There are quite a few somewhat local places I’d like to visit, and Bill has some leave time he needs to take, anyway. So he’s going to take a few days off this week and next and we’re going to try to explore. He also needs to go see Dr. Blair again for a tooth repair, so that might get done this week or next. It sucks getting old! ETA: as I’m writing this, Bill says he has an appointment for tomorrow at 2:15PM. Guess he’ll take the ICE train. I think it takes about an hour to go from Frankfurt to Stuttgart on the train.

As for what we did this weekend… well, we tried Galliano liqueur for the first time and Bill made us a round of Harvey Wallbangers. It’s not a bad cocktail, but I probably wouldn’t order it at a bar. Maybe I’ll try one on Regent Splendor next month. 😉 Ours were missing cocktail cherries, because we didn’t have any on hand. Bill also shaved his beard and left tiny hairs all over the bathroom. I cleaned that up.

Bill went to the local “bee bomb” vending machine and bought six more capsules of seeds. We planted them in some empty planters we had. With luck, they’ll sprout and bloom, and we’ll have pretty wildflowers that will also feed the bees. I’ve never particularly been a big fan of bees, but I know they are essential to life. I read some sad stories in summers passing about bees not having enough to eat. So I’m hoping we can do our part in helping them out. I already started some bee bombs a couple of weeks ago, and we have some pretty good sprouts already going now. If you look at the featured photo, you can see the capsules of seeds in the background.

I pulled some ivy vines down off our garage and gave the patio furniture another layer of teak oil. Bill charged up my car’s battery, which I’m sure will be dead in a month. I really need to drive my car more.

Bill gathered more old clothes for the bins by the grocery store. I need to do another round of that myself. I have tons of clothes that won’t fit in my dresser, and some others that won’t fit me. 🙂

I did more yardwork, though I can hardly call it work, since we have a robot to mow our tiny backyard. I do have to use the weed whacker, though. I didn’t do much yard work yesterday because it was Sunday. We aren’t supposed to make a lot of noise on Sundays. It probably would have been okay, though. Our neighborhood is pretty chill about that kind of stuff. I wouldn’t dare use power tools on Sunday in Baden-Württemberg. That would be sure to earn me a good tongue lashing from a neighbor or the Polizei. In Hessen, it’s probably cool.

I spent some time moving more of my massive music collection from my old computer to the new one. It’s a very tedious and annoying undertaking reminiscent of when I moved this blog from Blogspot to WordPress and had to reformat a bunch of old posts… some of which are still not properly formatted.

And we also enjoyed some barbecue… spareribs last night and chicken on Saturday. It was quite yummy!

I did think wistfully about going out somewhere fun, but I really have fun with Bill wherever we are. It’s so nice to have him home again. This will be a short work week for him, so I’m hoping to have some good content later this week. We won’t be doing the “honey do” stuff this weekend… although we might do the “honey do me” stuff. 😉

I’m kidding about that… sorta. 😀

I would like to do a dog friendly trip soon. Maybe we’ll do one to pick up a new friend for Noyzi… We’ll see what the future holds.


The Eagles sure didn’t stink in Cologne… part 1

Last October, as Bill and I were preparing for our big move from Stuttgart to Wiesbaden, I found out that the Eagles, one of my favorite bands of all time, was going to be playing two dates in Germany in 2019.  2018 was our summer of concerts.  We saw The Rolling Stones in Stuttgart, Paul Simon, Bonnie Raitt, and James Taylor (all at one show) in Dublin, Roger Hodgson in Stuttgart, and the Irish Folk Festival in Stuttgart.  I also knew we were going to be seeing Elton John in Stuttgart in May 2019.

Given that we’d already spent so much money on shows and knowing that a move always requires more spending, I hesitated slightly before I bought the tickets.  When we go to concerts, they usually turn into major spending events.  I usually book us a nice hotel, so we don’t have to worry about driving far to get to the venue or trying to park (although we made the mistake of driving to the Elton John show).  I also don’t bother with “nosebleed” seats.  There was a time when those were the best seats I could afford, but now I want to sit closer, which always means more money.

I asked Bill what he thought about seeing the Eagles, even though the band’s legendary frontman, Glenn Frey, passed away in January 2016.  After some thought, Bill was okay with attending the show.  Now it was time to choose a city.  I had a choice between Cologne and Munich.

We had been in Cologne once before, back in May 2012, when we took our very first Space A military “hop”.  I remember we stayed at the Ibis in the train station, which was fine for a night when we were totally exhausted, but probably wouldn’t do now that I’m older and richer.  I also know Munich is expensive, since we did a blind booking out of Cologne on Germanwings (now known as Eurowings) during that same Space A hop and got Munich.  Don’t get me wrong– Munich is so much fun; but it’s super pricey.  Even average hotels down there cost a mint.  Munich is also further away from us, now that we’re in Wiesbaden.

Both of the shows were on work nights, but the Cologne show was the day after Memorial Day, so we decided it would be easiest to go to Cologne.  Bill would use up one less vacation day, and both the concert tickets and the lodging were less expensive than Munich.  Now that we’ve been back to Cologne, I can say that we’ll probably go there for more shows.  Not only was it super easy to get to the concert venue, it’s also super easy to get to Cologne from where we live.  And, as a bonus, we discovered an amazing hotel in the Excelsior Hotel Ernst!  As long as we can afford it, I think the Excelsior Hotel Ernst has effectively ended our Ibis days in Cologne.

This trip was also important, because it provided an excellent opportunity for our dogs to try out a new doggy pension.  When we lived in Stuttgart, we used Dog on Holiday, which I would absolutely recommend to anyone.  In fact, we’ve decided that anytime we need to go to or through Stuttgart with our dogs, we will try to have them stay with Max and Christine.  But it wasn’t practical to take the boys to Dog on Holiday from Wiesbaden, so we needed to find a place for them closer to our new town.  In February, we visited the Tierpension Birkenhof, and arranged for our boys to have their first stay during this quick trip to Cologne.


I got us fifth row seats!


With all of the arrangements made, we set off for the “city of pleasant smells” on Monday of this week– Memorial Day.  Since our hotel was super close to the train station and the train station had a stop near Cologne’s Lanxess Arena, which was where the Eagles would be “crying”, we decided to take the Inner City Express (ICE) train from the Frankfurt Airport.  The Tierpension Birkenhof is fairly convenient to the airport, although not as convenient as Max’s pension is to the Stuttgart airport.




The Tierpension Birkenhof was recommended to Bill by one of his co-workers.  It’s always interesting to see the differences in the “doggy hotels” in Germany.  When we were in Stuttgart the first time, we used to use Hunde Hotel Haase, which was a beautiful facility in Bad Niedernau, a very country hamlet south of Stuttgart.  Kiersten, the  lady who ran it back in those days, was absolutely awesome.  But, when we came back to Stuttgart in 2014, she’d left and took the hotel’s good reputation with her.  We used the Hunde Hotel Haase a couple more times, but kept hearing horror stories about dogs that were left there.  That’s when we switched to Dog on Holiday, which has been universally great, despite it’s somewhat urban location.


Tierpension Birkenhoff is a rather large facility that cares for dogs and cats.  It’s located in a somewhat suburban area, yet it’s near farmland.  The owner doesn’t accept VAT forms, and we haven’t yet met him.  We have met two of his employees, both of whom seemed very kind.  


I have noticed that each German dog facility has its quirks.  At the Birkenhoff, you’re not allowed to bring your own dog bed.  I’m not sure exactly why this is… I think it’s because the other doesn’t want to have to worry about the owners’ beds getting dirty.  Nevertheless, it does make things somewhat more convenient for us, since we’re about to trade in our RAV 4 SUV for a Volvo SUV and will probably have to bring the dogs in my Mini Cooper next time they stay.  Mini Coopers are small.  Dog beds take up a lot of space.


Frankfurt Airport train station to Cologne Messe


Once the dogs were dropped off, we made our way to the Frankfurt Airport.  Bill had reserved parking with ACS at the airport, which turned out to be very convenient, once we figured out where P4 was.  The reserved spots are reasonably priced and located near the terminal, so there’s no need to haul heavy bags long distances from far away lots.  Frankfurt Airport is a bit more confusing than Stuttgart Airport is.  It’s huge, and finding parking can be super confusing and annoying.  But now that we know where the ACS parking is, I’m sure we’ll use it all the time.  It really made parking super easy.


Frankfurt Airport also has a big train station, making it easy to access a lot of cities.  If we had left from Wiesbaden, it would have taken a lot more time, required us to park in the parking garage from Hell, and we would have needed to change trains at least once.  From Frankfurt Airport, it was a straight shot to Cologne.  


I like how, in Germany, “bullshit” isn’t a bad word.  You’ll even see it on billboards.


We had time for lunch, so we stopped at a restaurant called Little Italy, not to be confused with the Little Italy in Wiesbaden, which has become one of our favorite Sunday lunch stops.  The Little Italy at the airport is in the shopping area called The Squaire.  It’s not long on ambiance, but the food and service are good.

Mmm…  food!

Bill went vegetarian with spaghetti and fresh vegetables, tossed in a little olive oil and washed down with a tempranillo.


I had a very lovely tagliatelle salmone.  The salmon was cooked to perfection and melted in my mouth.  I love salmon that isn’t overcooked, and they did a really good job with this.  However, I probably would have preferred about half this much food.  


With lunch sorted, we headed down to the platform where we’d catch our train to Cologne.  But then, about ten minutes before we were to depart, our original train was cancelled due to some people on the tracks.  Don’t ask me what that means.  I have no idea.  Bill ran up to the Deutsche Bahn (DB) information kiosk, where he was advised that we should take another train. 


Instead of dropping us directly at the Cologne Hauptbahnhof, would go to the Cologne Messe stop.  That would require us to take a city train one stop over the Rhein River.  The nice thing about the train we took was that it went directly from Frankfurt to Cologne, with no stops.  It was also practically empty, which was a good thing, since changing trains also erased our seat reservations.  Within an hour, we were whisked to Cologne, having flown past beautiful scenery at about 280 kph.


I was surprised by how fast our trip from Frankfurt to Cologne was on the ICE train.  It was also very comfortable, since the train has clean toilets and a restaurant.  We did not use the restaurant during our trip to Cologne, but it was nice to have had the option.



Bill checks the schedule…


This is the life.  First class all the way.  Second class probably would have been fine, too.


We could have taken a more leisurely train to Cologne and probably saved some money, but this was a really nice way to get where we were going.  It’s been too long since our last train trip.  I think we need to take them more often.


It was a simple thing to take the S-bahn over the Rhein River to get to Cologne’s main station, home of the city’s majestic Dom and our hotel, the Excelsior Hotel Ernst.  



President’s Day weekend in Regensburg, BY, Germany… Part 1

After our trip to Hamburg in January, Bill and I went back to the champagne bucket for another draw.   Rothenburg ob der tauber ended up “winning”, but after asking around about that famously well preserved medieval town, we decided we’d rather go somewhere a little less touristy.  Don’t get me wrong.  I still intend to visit Rothenburg.  I just want to do it at a time other than February.

Someone on a local travel Facebook page mentioned Regensburg, which is a lovely city in Bavaria.  Bill and I had both visited Regensburg before on separate occasions.  Bill went during his first German assignment back in the late 80s/early 90s, long before we knew each other.  I went on my month long train trip after my stint in the Peace Corps.  I think Bill decided to visit because he was posted in Ansbach, which isn’t too far from Nuremberg or Regensburg.  I went because I was on a train with a Eurail pass and wanted to get off.  I knew nothing about Regensburg when I got there and, frankly, didn’t spend much time looking the place over.  If I recall correctly, I only spent a night there and then got on the train south to Passau.  I did, however, remember that it was a very beautiful city.

I asked Bill if maybe he’d like to visit Regensburg again.  He said that would be alright.  I booked us a room at the ACHAT Plaza Herzog am Dom Regensburg via  Bill got us first class fare saver train tickets on Deutsche Bahn.  Away we went for our long weekend in Bavaria!

We were originally going to park our car at the Herrenberg train station, but it occurred to me that it might be more convenient to drive closer to Stuttgart.  A ride on the S1 to the Stuttgart Hauptbahnhof takes about 40 minutes and tends to be crowded and obnoxious.  We ended up parking at Osterfeld, which has a generous parking garage and is just a few stops from the main train station, which can be reached via S1, S2, or S3.

By the time we got the train station, it was early afternoon and I was getting very hungry and cranky. The main train station offers plenty of dining options.  We had a choice of everything from McDonald’s and Burger King to Thai food and seafood.  We ended up eating at a place called Sylt, which had really nice seafood dishes and plenty of beer and wine.  After almost getting run over by a janitor who wasn’t watching where he was going (and who got a death glare from yours truly), I was definitely ready for something to fuel me for the four hours we’d be traveling.

Beer makes everything better.

Zander filet at Sylt.  This was very good!

Bill had sort of a mixed grill pasta dish.  Nice to find good eats at the train station!

For some reason, there was no ICE train from Stuttgart to Regensburg.  We took an IC train– which is older and less plush– from Stuttgart to Nuremberg.  From Nuremberg, we enjoyed a 55 minute ICE train ride to Regensburg.  I think, from now on, I’m going to make a point of using ICE trains whenever possible.  They’re faster and somewhat more comfortable than the older IC trains are.

Bill settles in for the journey from Nuremberg to Regensburg.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  Beer makes everything better… especially on the ICE train after a long ride on a less well-equipped IC train…

We probably pissed off at least one German dude on the IC train.  He and his daughter were in our compartment and was sitting in one of the seats I reserved.  He got up and it looked like he was moving, so I claimed it.  When he came back to the car, he tried to take it back… but then Bill showed him our seat reservation.  So he and his daughter split.  Sorry guy.  If we hadn’t reserved the seat, I wouldn’t have sat there.  Later, another guy joined us and rode with us to Nuremberg.  The guy who shared our compartment on the IC train came prepared with a can of beer and some chips.  Next time, I’m doing what he did.

The journey was pretty uneventful, though the weather in Regensburg was the kind of damp cold that seeps to your bones.  I had considered wearing my big down coat but ended up deciding against it.  That was a bad decision.  It was COLD in Bavaria.  Because it was so cold, we ended up doing a lot of beer drinking.  The good news is, if you’re going to drink beer, Bavaria is not a bad place to do it.


France and Germany… a send off from the Army– Part 9

After two nights in Nice, Bill and I hopped a flight to Frankfurt.  We flew from Nice on Niki, an Austrian budget airline that collaborates with Air Berlin.  Bill and I flew on Air Berlin in 2009, when we took our Scandinavian cruise.  Let me just say, European carriers are a hell of a lot nicer than American carriers are.  You go on the plane and they offer you a newspaper.  You get a drink and a sandwich that is actually edible.  The seats are somewhat comfortable, too.  I would definitely “fly Niki” again if we ever get back to Europe and have the opportunity.

The flight attendants were kind of oddly dressed on Niki.  The top half of their uniforms were very formal and businesslike, with a blazer, blouse, and perfect makeup and hair.  The bottom half was jeans…  nice jeans, but still jeans.  It was like the fashion equivalent of a mullet– business up top and party on the bottom.

Flying over Vienna…

Our flight routed us through Vienna, another city that was on my 1997 European tour.  I have yet to visit Vienna with Bill.  I hope someday we’ll get there together.  As we were getting on the flights, I was all wound up about the term “dependapotamus”, a slang expression used by certain people in the military who bash family members… aka “dependents”.  There was a young guy sitting in front of us on the plane who must have overheard me and I think, told his two female companions about it.  They reminded me of a reincarnation of ABBA, minus Bjorn.

Upon entering Frankfurt, we approached a guy who appeared to work for the airport.  We were trying to find the train station in the massive airport.  The guy was obviously American and spoke German with a heavy accent.  He directed us to the right place and we arranged for a train to get us to Landstuhl, where I had booked us a room in a cute, family run hotel in town.

It was quite an ordeal to get to Landstuhl, though, because we had to change trains three times to get there and it happened to be rush hour.  We got on the first one, a high speed ICE train, for a twenty minute ride to Mannheim.  The train was packed and I was grumpy about it, as usual…

Waiting for train tickets at Frankfurt’s airport…

We stood near the bathroom between cars and Bill then very gallantly decided to get me a snack at the onboard bistro.  He came back with a beer and a container of curry wurst, which was basically a sausage with a curry sauce.  It smelled good and was piping hot, but I couldn’t eat it and balance at the same time.  I appreciated the gesture, but told Bill he should have gotten me something less labor intensive.

At one point, the train lurched and both Bill and I lost our balance.  I was holding the currywurst and it almost tipped on me.  Thankfully, a very kind German lady noticed and saved it before it spilled.  I said “Thanks”, but it probably came off sounding annoyed rather than grateful.  I’m sorry about that.

While we waited for the next train, Bill and I shared the curry wurst.  I started to feel less grouchy as my blood sugar came up a bit.  We got a seat on the train from Mannheim to Kaiserslautern, but it was also pretty crowded.  I remember one guy in our car was a cop and he seemed like a nice person.  When he got off the train, he said “Auf wiedersehen.”

On the third train, a local s-bahn from Kaiserslautern to Landstuhl, we were in a car with a large German family with several kids.  Then an American woman with her four kids and mother in tow got on the train.  She said, “Ramstein?”

Bill told her she had the right train, so she and her family took a seat and struck up a conversation.  They had just gotten back to Germany after a trip to Paris.  They’d gone on a military tour, then broke away to take the kids to Euro Disney.  The young mother’s husband was posted at Grafenwoehr, which is an Army post in Bavaria.  They had parked their car at Ramstein.  The trains were apparently a new experience for them.  Bill and I explained about how the trains worked, then told them how lucky they were to live in Germany.

Grandma asked us where we were from.  I told her I’m from Virginia and Bill is from Texas (more or less).  She looked surprised.  I told her that we met when I lived in South Carolina and he lived in Kansas.  I guess she has never heard of the Internet and how people can meet that way.  I said I’d love to move back to Germany and Grandma said, “Yeah, but how do you raise a family there?”

I said, “It’s just us and two dogs.”

Grandma looked utterly shocked that we don’t have kids.  I posted this story on my other blog as part of a rant.  Here, I will just say that it’s apparently unusual to run into military couples who don’t have kids.  Fortunately, our stop at Landstuhl came up before we had time to talk more.

Bill and I got off the train and walked to our hotel.  It was obvious that the proprietor had been waiting specifically for us, since the place was pretty much locked up when we arrived.  He quickly showed us to our room and beat it.  Our very full day of traveling left me ready to relax and wind down, which I proceeded to do.  Bill went to a Turkish place and got us a couple of Wiener schnitzels with fries and some beer.