holidays

Mr. Bill and I celebrate 20 years of marriage… Part one

I’ve been looking forward to November 16, 2022 for twenty years. That’s the day Bill and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary. As some readers already know, I am Bill’s second wife. On some levels, I would say he and I have had a fairly easy time of marriage. We get along very well, and we genuinely love spending time together. We aren’t just husband and wife; we are best friends. But that doesn’t mean we haven’t had our share of dramas.

All year, I’ve been thinking about what we should do to celebrate our big milestone. Normally, I would come up with a fancy vacation of some kind, or at least a trip to somewhere we’ve never been, even if it’s not a luxurious destination. But then in September, I discovered that our beloved dog, Arran, had swollen lymph nodes. The diagnosis was B-cell lymphoma. We are now in our last days with Arran, who is a very special family member, and has a particularly close bond with Bill.

Originally, we thought it would be best to ease Arran into palliative care, but he’s repeatedly showed us he wants to fight. So he’s now undergoing chemotherapy, which has been kind of miraculous. He started treatment October 13th, and on November 20th, he’s still happy and spunky. Nevertheless, I didn’t want to board him. For one thing, we’ve come to realize that Arran doesn’t enjoy being boarded anymore. He’d much rather be with us. For another, I didn’t want to burden the Hund Pension with dealing with his medications, which aren’t that complicated, but do involve some risk. He takes a drug that requires gloves to dispense safely, and it’s not safe for his poop to be accessible to other dogs.

Finally, when we were celebrating our tenth anniversary in Scotland, Arran’s predecessor, MacGregor, had an undiagnosed cancerous spinal tumor that caused an emergency while we were traveling thousands of miles away. I didn’t want anything similar to happen this time. We lost MacGregor a week before Christmas 2012, just a couple of weeks after our return from our big anniversary trip. Arran, who joined our family on January 12, 2013, is named after a Scottish island we saw on that first trip to Scotland.

I decided we’d spend our big day in Ribeauville, France, which is about a three hour drive from us. We have been there half a dozen times since 2017, staying in apartments owned by Yannick Kopff, a Alsatian native and excellent host. Yannick is extremely dog friendly, and since our favorite of his apartments, Riesling, was available for our dates, we decided that was a good place to celebrate. I booked four nights– from Wednesday, November 16th until Sunday, November 20th, at Yannick’s Gites au Coeur de Ribeauville.

Meanwhile, we were also looking forward to seeing and hearing James Taylor perform a concert. Originally, the show was supposed to go on in February 2022. But COVID-19 numbers were too high at that time, and there were many restrictions in place. So James decided to reschedule his European Tour dates for later in the year. In our case, the Frankfurt show was rescheduled for November 8th. Perfect– a Tuesday night, over a week before our anniversary trip.

On November 7th, we got the news that James had to postpone several concerts, including ours. He finally got COVID, and was advised to rest in Zurich, Switzerland for a few days. We watched anxiously, as four shows were eventually canceled because they couldn’t be rescheduled. However, Frankfurt’s venue was open for November 19th… last night. We were supposed to be in France last night, but we decided to come home a day early to catch James’s show… and I’m really glad we did that, because it was a great show, in spite of James’s brush with COVID.

I don’t have a lot of exciting stories to tell about our most recent trip to Ribeauville. November, just before the Christmas markets, is the “off season”. A lot of places were closed in preparation for the frenzy that is about to hit the village. I don’t know how big their market was in 2021, but I’m pretty sure it was canceled in 2020. I have a feeling this year’s markets will be bigger, and I could see that people were preparing. But, in terms of having a lot to do while we were there… I can’t say that we did. On the other hand, we did try a couple of restaurants we had never tried before, and Bill tried a dessert that is a local speciality that we never had before.

This was also Noyzi’s very first trip with us, aside from when we went to Slovenia to pick him up in 2020. Ribeauville was a good choice, because it wasn’t too far away, and because Yannick is so good with dogs in his properties. It was a fruitful trip for Noyzi, too, since he finally learned to poop while on a leash. This is a big deal, because it will make traveling with him much easier and less worrisome. Eventually, we may have to take him back to the States, which means for his own health, he needs to know how to relieve himself when he’s not frolicking in the backyard. He did seem to learn the lesson on our trip.

Aside from taking pictures of the always beautiful village of Ribeauville, binge watching Netflix and cheesy French game shows, eating lots of French comfort foods, drinking Alsatian wines, and being together, we didn’t do much on this trip. It was a good opportunity for Bill to sleep. We also picked up some gifts for his daughter and grandchildren. The beauty of Ribeauville is that we’ve been there so many times that not doing anything doesn’t seem too much like a hardship. By now, the village feels like a second home, even if our last visit was in January 2020.

So… over the next couple of days, I’ll write up this trip and James Taylor’s concert. I don’t think I’ll binge write today, because frankly, I just don’t feel like it. The weather is kind of crappy and I feel like hibernating. But we had a great time, and I’m grateful we could do it. I hope we can do it again.

If you’re interested in reading about our latest trip to France, I hope you’ll watch this space for updates… Meanwhile, here’s a video I made a few days ago in honor of our anniversary and James Taylor’s show. He didn’t do “Secret O’ Life” last night…

This song has really grown on me over the years. It seemed like a good one for 20 years of marriage…

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Health, Schwarzwald

Baiersbronn in the Black Forest– Bareiss Style! Part three

Thursday morning, it was time to try breakfast at the Hotel Bareiss for the very first time. As it was our first time, we weren’t sure what the process was. A huge, full, breakfast buffet is available in the hotel restaurant, but a few folks also took advantage of the small, continental breakfast in the pool area. We didn’t do this on any morning we were at the hotel because we were staying in the Landhaus. If we stayed in the main hotel, I might have enjoyed eating down there.

On the first morning, the staff told us to sit where we sat the night before. Like other resorts with board programs, the Hotel Bareiss has assigned seating for meals. There, on our table, was a basket for picking up bread. We ordered coffee, and then tackled the enormous selection in the buffet. I counted over 20 kinds of bread, plus pastries, fruits, vegetables, shrimp, smoked salmon, smoked trout, and a huge meat counter, where there were many different cold cuts and sauces. There were lots of juices, sparkling and still water, and of course, Sekt! There were cereals, crepes, heart shaped waffles, and sausages. Eggs can also be made to order. I took advantage of that option on two of our five mornings at the hotel. Most days, my eyes were bigger than my stomach… which is quite a feat!

After breakfast, we decided to make our way to Stuttgart, figuring we would be arriving in time for lunch. Our dentist has an office on Calwer Strasse, which is a pretty nice address downtown. It so happened that the Historic Volksfest was going on. Bill and I had attended this fun little festival in 2018. Like the Cannstatter Wasen, the Volksfest has rides and attractions, but it’s much smaller and tamer than the big fest is. It’s located in downtown Stuttgart, rather at the Wasen grounds, which are in another part of town. Don’t get me wrong. We love the Wasen, but I prefer the calmer, more sedate, and less hectic mood of the Volksfest. An added bonus is that it was taking place within walking distance of the dentist’s office.

Before we hit the Volksfest, Bill and I both needed bathrooms. He took a chance on one of the pay toilets in the city. I was smarter, and used the much cleaner and better equipped toilets near the Markthalle that were also FREE of charge! I did get some funny footage in the video below… plus some footage from the Volksfest. We went there for lunch– half a chicken each, plus potato salad and Festbier!

Some musical fun we had in Stuttgart…
I enjoyed the bandleader! He was having fun!

Below are some photos from Stuttgart and the Historic Volksfest.

After lunch, we went to see our dentist and got our teeth cleaned. Our dentist, who is probably the best one either Bill or I have ever had, saw issues for both of us. In my case, I have a remaining baby tooth that needs a new filling. Six years ago, our dentist in Stuttgart placed an implant for another baby tooth that he had to pull, because it was abscessed. The matching bottom tooth, also a baby tooth, will probably also have to be pulled and replaced with an implant. But, he’s willing to try refilling it to see if it will continue to work. In Bill’s case, there’s a tooth with a crack in it that needs to be repaired. So, when we visit in the spring, we’ll probably just stay in Stuttgart, because I expect we’ll want to go to the hotel and relax after we get the work done. We do have a favorite hotel in Stuttgart, so hopefully we will be able to book it. Last year, when we wanted to go there, it was totally full!

At about four o’clock, we started making the journey back to the Hotel Bareiss. It was bittersweet, driving back through the same area where we used to live. Because of construction going on in the route from Baiersbronn to Freudenstadt, we went through a few towns we hadn’t seen before, and one or two that we did visit, back in the day. It’s definitely true that we liked living in the Stuttgart area, in spite of everything that happened when we left there in 2018.

Dinner on Thursday night was Italian themed, so the huge buffet had Italian salads. The menu was Italian themed. I was feeling a bit irritated after our dentist visit, so I decided to order a rib eye and steak fries, with Bearnaise Sauce instead of trying the themed meal. Bill did try some of the dishes… which I may or may not remember! There was just so much offered! We had the same waitress as we did on Wednesday, as well as a very sharp young man who is likely up and coming. I liked him so much that I took note of his nametag and mentioned him positively in the questionnaire I filled out on exiting this morning.

Below are some photos from dinner…

We decided to skip drinking at the bar on Thursday night, so that meant we got in before turn down was done. We figured out that they do turn down at around 9:00 or 9:30pm. It consists of closing the drapes, setting down mats by the bed, and turning down the split duvets. They also leave programs for the next day, and delicious chocolates! We found the programs and the chocolates hanging on our door the next morning. More on that in part four.

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Turning 50 in Antwerp… part six

We woke to cloudy skies and cool temperatures on Sunday morning. My German friend told me that “back home” in Wiesbaden, the temperatures were pretty high. But in Belgium, I had to put on a pair of pants. I’m glad I thought to bring them. Bill was wishing he’d brought a long sleeved shirt or a light jacket.

Because of the inclement weather, we ate breakfast inside the hotel’s breakfast room, instead of outside in the courtyard. We deliberately ate less, even though we were paying 30 euros per person to have breakfast. I was hoping to enjoy lunch somewhere interesting.

After breakfast, I did some writing, and then Bill and I walked to the Scheldt River, where we explored Het Steen, a castle like structure that now houses the tourist office, but was once used as a gatehouse and a prison. Het Steen is Antwerp’s oldest building, and it’s been used as a saw mill, residence, and museum. Until 2008, it was the site of the National Maritime Museum. According to a sign outside of Het Steen, a “striking detail above the Steen Gate is the Semini statue, an ancient fertility statue. The Jesuits maimed the statue in the sixteenth century, hacking off the penis.” I have to admit, I didn’t notice that!

More loud guys singing, pedaling, and drinking.

After we walked around Het Steen, we walked along a boardwalk next to the Scheldt River, then made our way back into the Grote Markt. On the way there, we encountered a processional of religious folks, led by a brass band! I managed to get a video!

Religious parade!

By the time the parade passed us, it was about time for lunch, at which point we soon found ourselves sitting outside at a restaurant called Elfde Gebod (The Holy Place), which is billed as Antwerp’s oldest and most reviewed restaurant. This is one place where I would have liked to dine inside, as it was very cozy and cute, with tons of religious relics and angels. Alas, we sat outside, where I was downwind of a smoker. About five minutes, later, we were joined by a group of twelve young men who were pretty rowdy. Some of them were smoking, and most were drinking Australian Rose wine. I got the sense it was a “fraternity” thing.

Elfde Gebod had a pretty good selection of beers, as well as comfort food. I love comfort food, so it was my kind of menu, and I had some trouble deciding what to have for lunch. I ended up having Apostle Fish Stew, which was a very nice concoction made of cod, mussels, and shrimp, and it came with a side of mashed potatoes, which went very well with the stew. It was more of a chowder than a stew, to me… and it reminded me of what I found in Dublin a few years ago. I loved it. Must be all that Celtic heritage I have.

Bill had rabbit stew, which came with excellent frites and mayo. I didn’t try his stew, because even though I’ve had rabbit before and it “tastes like chicken”, I’m not trying to develop a taste for other kinds of meat. It’s bad enough that Bill introduced me to duck, which I love. I ventured inside the restaurant to use the facilities and was surprised by how interesting it was inside. If we ever get back to Antwerp, I would definitely try to dine inside Elfde Gebod. The decor is something special.

As we were eating lunch, the weather took a turn for the worse. It started to rain. The restaurant staff turned on heaters, which was very welcome! By the time we finished lunch, it was time to find somewhere else indoors. I said I was in the mood to find a bar, listen to good music, and drink some exotic suds.

Bill suggested a cozy bar called Billie’s Bier Kafétaria, which got great reviews on Google. That turned out to be a very successful stop. The bartender was a pretty young woman who knew her beers, and they were playing good music. In fact, I even downloaded an album as we were sitting there. I can see why Billie’s is a popular place. I would happily visit again, especially since the bar carries a lot of beers one will likely never find in Germany. I was particularly happy with the excellent Kriek (cherry beer) I had.

We didn’t feel like looking for dinner, so we stuck around Billie’s for a long time, and eventually ordered some snacks to tide us over through my very last night of being in my 40s. Then we went back to the hotel and turned on the TV… and it was TLC! We watched Dr. Pimple Popper, again in English with Dutch subtitles. Somehow, I didn’t throw up. I had forgotten how gross that show is!

Silliness at Billie’s! If you click the link, you can see the video.

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Turning 50 in Antwerp… Part four

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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We’re in Antwerp, Belgium!

I don’t have time to write a long post right now, since we’re here to celebrate my birthday, which is on Monday. I did want to take a moment to upload a couple of videos from today, since Facebook is a real pain about copyright.

Antwerp is a beautiful, artsy city with friendly people and great food. We’re in a beautiful, quirky hotel, too. The only thing we’ve found so far that sucks is driving in the city, which is a real nightmare. But I’ll get into that when I write up my series, which will probably happen Tuesday, when we get home.

This lady had the most beautiful voice. I actually cried when she sang…

A bunch of guys were singing “Don’t You Want Me” while peddling and drinking beer… They were funny!

So far, today, we have visited the cathedral, the “View” ferris wheel, and a great Israeli restaurant called Shuk.

Right now, we’re taking a short break, cooling off, and resting for a bit until the sun goes lower and it’s not so hot outside. I look forward to seeing more of the city in awhile. Until then, later!

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Christmas, Germany, Wiesbaden

Christmas morning 2021…

Merry Christmas, everyone… or happy holidays… or whatever! It’s now 12:30pm on Christmas Day, 2021. Bill and I have had breakfast, and we unwrapped presents. As usual, I got Bill a lot more gifts than he got me. But I got him stuff like clothes, books, and a few things for the kitchen. He got me tech gadgets… a new gadget for my amp, a stool for playing guitar, since it’s not optimal to sit on a computer chair with non-removable arms, and AirPods Max. He also bought me a jigsaw, as did his mom, who took one of my pretty photos from our latest vacation and had it made into a custom puzzle. I just bought two new puzzles for myself, so I expect I’ll be busy over the crappier weather days in the winter.

I bought tons of Christmas music yesterday. I don’t even really like to listen to Christmas music much, except on the day itself. There are a few exceptions to that rule. I love Kenny Loggins’ 1999 album, December, for instance. I love James Taylor’s Christmas album. I also really like Amy Grant’s Christmas to Remember album, from 1999– the one that has fewer synthesized numbers on it than her other Christmas albums. That album has a fantastic version of “Highland Cathedral”, which was my bridal march music.

I also downloaded non-Christmas music. I got on a roll. What can I say? As I write this, I’m listening to an awesome album I bought unheard. I just ordered it because Keb’ Mo’ is on it. I LOVE Keb’ Mo’, and have been waiting to use my tickets to see him play since 2020. His show has been postponed three times because of COVID-19. Hopefully, it will finally happen in May 2022. Anyway, this album, from January 2020, is called The Juice. It’s by G. Love & Special Sauce. Where have they been all my life?

Speaking of music, and gifted musicians, last night, while Bill talked to his daughter on Skype, I watched Natalie MacMaster and her husband, Donell Leahy, their band, and their seven amazingly talented kids. They performed a pre-recorded Christmas concert from their home near Ontario, in Canada. As usual, I cried when they performed. It cost about $20 Canadian to watch the show. Below is a link to Donnell Leahy’s ad on Facebook. For some reason I can’t get it to center. Sorry.

It really is a great show!

Anyway… the weather is rainy and it’s cold outside. Bill is cooking Cornish hens for dinner, and yesterday, he made a quiche for dinner and trifle for tonight’s dessert. We’re making up for our lame ass Thanksgiving meal and “that damned ham”.

Below are some photos from this morning. I’d say it was a nice haul.

In January, I’ll probably buy myself a new cordless vacuum. I may write another post tomorrow, after we have our Christmas dinner. We’ll see how well it turns out. For some reason, this blog gets unbearably slow when I add photos.

Our landlord brought over chocolates and three bottles of wine. He’s very generous and kind. The dogs are happy, although Arran gets crankier as he ages. He still loves to play, though. And he still loves his walks and food. Hopefully, he’ll stick around a long time.

I hope everyone has, or had, a great holiday… or day.

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dogs, Germany, live music, weather

A few spring photos…

I took these this morning on our walk… A male mallard was enjoying the creek that runs through Breckenheim. He was a little shy, and I was juggling Arran and Noyzi, so please forgive the lack of artistic merit in these!

I also managed to catch a rather epic play session between Arran and Noyzi. Arran still growls at him a lot, but I think they’ve developed a wary respect for each other. Nice to see them playing, anyway. It’s especially nice to see Arran playing, since he’s officially an old man with the rancid farts to prove it.

I love running into water fowl. I especially like ducks a lot, and we see them very occasionally here in our village. I like creeks, too. The one in Breckenheim is often polluted, though, which is a real shame. I guess it just goes to show you that even rule abiding Germans can be disrespectful to Earth when no one is looking.

Could they be bonding at last?

And last but not least, I made a new video for my YouTube channel. I haven’t shared it anywhere else, because it seems like a pointless exercise… but I think it turned out okay.

I woke up yesterday and felt like trying this… it was a mood booster. I needed one, because I was not in a great mood over the weekend.

My vaccination site is officially back to normal. There’s no more pain, itching, or swelling, and the redness is minimal. I don’t look forward to feeling yucky when I get the second shot, but maybe it will turn out okay. Either way, the first shot wasn’t a problem. Glad to have it behind me, especially now that Germany is officially relaxing the rules for vaccinated people and those who have recovered from COVID-19. I’m ready to reclaim some of my life.

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dog rescue, dogs

Noyzi’s TV terrors…

Noyzi, the Kosovar street dog, is getting braver. Yesterday, he came upstairs and actually stayed for a few minutes. In the past, he’d come up the stairs as if to look for me, but would never actually stay up there. I think he was excited after he had a walk.

I was sitting on the bed eating a sandwich and Noyzi came to the doorway and stood there. He wanted to come into the bedroom, but was looking worriedly at the TV. It occurred to me that he’d probably never seen one on before yesterday. We don’t have a television in our living room, and that’s where he spends most of his time. He doesn’t like men, either. So, I guess seeing Alan Thicke on TV scared him.