Sud Tyrol and beyond… part eleven

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Pool time and the beautiful Bodensee!

Saturday morning, I woke up and noticed the sunrise peeking through the curtains. Because I was enjoying the bed so much, I didn’t get up to take a picture of it. Instead, we slept in until the sun was up, then we went down to breakfast. Unlike the other two hotels we visited, Oberwaid isn’t doing a buffet right now. Instead, you sit down at a table and a server brings you bread and a tiered plate stand with fresh fruits, cold cuts, cheese, smoked fish, and horseradish sauce. You can then order eggs, bacon, porridge, fruit juices, or rosti if you like. Naturally, you can also get coffee and tea, although prosecco is an extra charge to the 25 franc breakfast.

After breakfast, we decided to check out the pool, which was one of the amenities that attracted me to booking the hotel. Due to COVID-19, the hotel requests that people change in their rooms instead of the locker room. That was fine with me. We went down to the indoor pool area and enjoyed swimming some laps. I noticed, with much amusement, that on the ceiling, there was a warning about the pool walls. I suppose that’s for people doing the backstroke so they don’t hit their heads. I have never seen that at an indoor pool anywhere before, but I definitely appreciated it. I have hit my head more than once while doing the backstroke (explains a lot, I know). There was also a backboard by the wall. I definitely felt like this was a health and safety inspired operation.

There was just one other couple in the pool area with us. They left and went outside to the hot tub. I must say, the hot tub at Oberwaid is very impressive. It rivals what we experienced in Gothenburg, Sweden last year at the Upper House hotel. Only four people are allowed in it at a time right now. There’s a rack where you can lie while the water bubbles, pressurized water spouts for massaging the shoulders, and my personal favorite, stations in the corners where you can get an all body massage from jets that surround you as you hold on to a circular bar that surrounds your body. There’s also a very nice walking park around the hotel, and a fully equipped fitness room, which of course we didn’t bother with. 😉

Indoors, there’s a Turkish bath, steam room, massage rooms, and a sauna. We didn’t opt to use the facilities indoors because of the whole COVID situation, but it appeared that everything was open. They also had water and a very comforting hot tea available. Spa services were available, although they required mask use for the therapist and the client.

After about an hour in the pool, we decided to visit nearby Rorschach, which is a town right on the Bodensee. If we had had another day, we would have made a point of visiting St. Gallen itself, which is very charming. But I was especially interested in getting to the lake, because even though we lived in the Stuttgart for six years over two different stints, we had never managed to visit the Bodensee up close. I got some very nice pictures after we had Italian food for lunch. We happened to stop into a pizzeria about a half hour before their pause. The waiter was kind enough to serve us anyway, although he told us in his Swiss style German that the pause was imminent.

After we walked around Rorschach for awhile, we decided to go to the COOP store– that’s a Swiss grocery store chain that we have encountered a few times. No one in the grocery store wore a mask, at all. There were markings on the floor showing where people were to stand and the cashiers were behind plexiglass. Other than that, it was pretty much business as usual in there. I must say, it was quite a surprise to see that.

We picked up some Swiss wine, dental floss, and sparkling water. Then we went back to the glorious hotel room and I watched What’s Love Got to Do With It on my computer. That is, of course, the 1993 movie starring Angela Bassett and Laurence Fishburne as Tina and Ike Turner. I was inspired to watch it because Tina Turner is now a Swiss citizen and lives near Zurich with her German husband, Erwin Bach. We didn’t bother with dinner, although housekeeping did bring us a couple of chocolates for our pillows.

I definitely would have liked to have explored St. Gallen and its surroundings more, but the trip was winding down and it was time to focus on the journey back to Wiesbaden on Sunday. I’ll wrap that up in the next post. I hope we can get to the Hotel Oberwaid again, though. It’s now one of my favorite hotels in Europe. I’m developing quite a list!

My pandemic birthday… part one

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Why did we stay twenty minutes from home?

A few weeks ago, Bill and I went to nearby Hofheim to visit the Birkenhof Farm for some fresh products from their 24/7 fridge. I wrote about that experience here. While we were picking out strawberries and farm cheese from the fridge, I couldn’t help but notice the unmistakable dome of a “Therme”. Germany has several areas that are noted for their natural hot springs where the water is rich with healing minerals. Stuttgart and Wiesbaden are both hot springs “hot spots”. Hofheim has the Rhein-Main Therme, that is connected to a hotel, which I spotted as we passed it in May. I mused that I would like to visit.

When we lived near Stuttgart, I loved visiting the Mineraltherme in Böblingen. I see it’s currently still closed due to COVID-19, although it looks like it will be opening again soon. Wiesbaden and the surrounding areas in Hesse have not been as badly affected by the coronavirus as Baden-Württemberg has been. Granted, the pandemic is still going on right now, but things have loosened up a bit. I think Bill was also a bit worried about my mental health, because I sometimes suffer from anxiety and depression and was starting to become a hermit. Until this weekend, I had not left our neighborhood since that short trip to the Birkenhof farm on May 17th… and I wasn’t really wanting to go anywhere.

Bill loves to travel, and so do I… but the whole COVID-19 thing and the constant social media uproar about it was making me very reluctant to venture out. So he decided to book a “surprise” weekend away for me. He didn’t tell me where we were going, but I kind of figured it out. The Rhein-Main Therme is located only twenty minutes away from our home in Breckenheim, but it’s connected to a comfortable hotel that offers half board options and room service. He figured that even if I didn’t want to leave the hotel, we could still get room service. And being the thoughtful guy he is, he even brought Yahtzee and Trivial Pursuit, in case I wanted to play board games. Fortunately, those measures weren’t necessary. I ended up consenting to going out, despite my hatred of face masks… so my 48th birthday turned out to be pretty epic.

After arranging for Arran to visit the Birkenhof Tierpension, where he’d get to hang out with his old friend, Celene, who always takes great care of of him (and Zane, when he was still with us), Bill booked us two nights at the Vital Hotel, which is connected to the Rhein-Main Therme. He decided to go for the “Happy Weekend” package, which included half board (breakfast and dinner in the restaurant), free admission to the Therme, and two nights in the hotel. Right now, because of the pandemic, the Therme is limiting day visitors to three hour stays, but if you’re staying in the hotel, you can go directly to the Therme and stay as long as you want.

Meanwhile, as Bill was planning my birthday retreat, I was eyeing new guitars. I started learning to play guitar a few weeks ago. I bought an acoustic guitar on Amazon.de and signed up for Fender Play, an online service offered by the Fender guitar company that uses videos to teach people the basics of the instrument. The lessons have been going so well, and Bill has been enjoying hearing me play so much, that he decided he wanted to learn, too. So, even though I had a new Ortega acoustic guitar that I picked up on Amazon, I decided I wanted a better guitar with steel strings… and I bought Bill a basic guitar, too. Since we haven’t been traveling, I had some money stockpiled.

Fender Play isn’t available worldwide, but it is available in Germany. And there is also a Fender shop in Europe. My instruments got to me by way of The Netherlands in just three days! I love my pretty blue guitar, although I like the other one for teaching me the basics! As Bill was unwrapping his birthday gift (his is on July 7th), I said I felt like Oprah… “You get a guitar, and you get a guitar, and you get a guitar…” I’m still a lot better at singing than playing guitar, but I’m making progress, and my fingers are getting tougher by the day!

I worked on my new guitar skills as I nervously awaited our first trip away from home since coronavirus fucked everything up…

Things aren’t bad in Baden-Baden… Part three

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Friday, November 16th, was our anniversary.  We woke up bright and early and decided that since it was our special day, we’d eat breakfast at the hotel.  Brenners Park Hotel and Spa offers a lovely buffet breakfast at 41 euros a person.  However, I would say that as expensive as their breakfast is, it’s probably the most economical of all of the meal options there.  You get your choice of whatever’s on the buffet, which includes breads, cold cuts, cheeses, yogurts, fruits, cereals, and an array of fresh juices, sekt, and coffee or tea.  You can also order a hot dish, like eggs or pancakes.  It’s all you can eat, so if you play your cards right, you can eat enough in the morning to last you all day.  Service is, of course, impeccable.

We were seated at a nice sized round table and served excellent coffee.  Then we loaded up at the buffet.  I wasn’t thinking too much about having anything else until the very charming chef came out and asked me if I’d like him to make me some eggs.  It so happens that I love Eggs Benedict and was about to say yes to that, when he offered Eggs Florentine.  Eggs Florentine are pretty much like Eggs Benedict– a poached egg on an English muffin with Hollandaise Sauce.  Instead of bacon, you get spinach.  He offered to shave some black truffles on the dish, too, but I told them to save them for Bill.  I am definitely not a truffle fan.

Eggs Florentine, brought out by a very friendly chef.  I liked that he didn’t give me the stinkeye when I told him of my aversion to fungus.

Christmas trees are coming out…  We happened to see them putting up decorations for the big holiday.  Ours won’t be going up until we’re in our new house next week.

 

After breakfast, we decided to visit the fitness/pool area.  Brenners Park has a very nice spa, which we did use on Saturday.  On Friday, we were content to try out the very beautiful pool area.

The water was slightly warm and the pool was pretty deep.  At one end, it was over my head.  I loved that, since so many of the newer pools in the United States are shallow now.

As you can see, the pool is empty.  A couple of other people showed up a few minutes after we did.  I believe they allow children to splash to their hearts’ content from 4:00 to 5:00pm.  I didn’t see too many children at this hotel, though… only a few.  And the ones we saw were mostly beautifully behaved.  I liked the view at the pool, which offered a lovely view of the trees and the river.

Bill takes to luxury like a duck to water.  

 

After a couple of hours lounging at the pool, we decided to have lunch.  I noticed a sign for Osteria Stomboli and decided it looked like a good bet.  I was in the mood for pasta.  I did take note that at least two times on the front door and once in the restaurant, I saw signs that emphatically stated that this restaurant does NOT take credit cards.  Did you read that clearly?  Credit cards are verboten!  No plastic!  Cash on the nail!  Just so we’re clear.

Luckily, Bill is used to carrying cash.  He brought plenty so we could enjoy wine with lunch.

I had a tantalizing tagliatelle with salmon.  It came with a creamy tomato sauce and cherry tomatoes.  The sauce was delicious and the salmon was cooked perfectly.  It wasn’t too dry and went beautifully with the sauce.

Bill went with linguini with a white wine sauce and shrimp.  He liked his dish, which was also loaded with garlic, but I think we both agreed that my dish was the winner.

 Despite how good my dish was, I couldn’t quite finish it.  The waiter looked stricken when he saw that I had left about half of the dish uneaten.  What can I say?  I wanted dessert.  Also, I get to a point at which I can’t eat any more protein.  Luckily, Bill had room to finish what I couldn’t.  He didn’t want dessert.

This was a lovely Sicilian white we had with lunch.

I took this picture of Bill for his mom, who’s always wanted him to enjoy this lifestyle.

I had Limoncello gelato for dessert.  It was perfect because it was very light and refreshing.  Bill shared it with me and had an espresso.

Sign out front.  No credit cards.  None.

We kept passing this Konditorei and I noticed all the luscious desserts.  We didn’t try any there, but I sure was tempted.  On Saturday morning, we had breakfast at the Cafe Koenig, where these delightful sweets were on display.

A sunny shot of the church.

The building near the hotel.  For some reason, I never got around to taking pictures of the Brenners Park Hotel.  It is, in and of itself, a very beautiful property.  It’s decorated with lots of BMWs and Porsches, too.  This is a town where the rich like to congregate, even if it did sort of have a sleepy feel to it.

I took this photo from the balcony in our room.  This time, the mallards had some female friends with them.

Soon, the trees will be bare.

 

We were pretty full after lunch, so Bill went out and found a couple of bottles of wine and some snacks.  We stayed in and talked on Friday night, sipping wine and reminiscing the best parts of our marriage.  You’d think we’d want to hit a nice restaurant like we did last year.  But last year, we stayed local and celebrated our 15th anniversary in Nagold.  This year, we also stayed pretty local, come to think of it.

Bill did present me with chocolate, though.  He said, “These are for you.” as he held them out to me.  This kind of thoughtfulness may be why we’re still going strong after sixteen years.

Paul Simon or bust… Our Dublin getaway! Part six

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Saturday morning, we woke up feeling pretty free, since the thing we’d come to Dublin for was finished.  Paul Simon’s concert was truly amazing and wonderful, even if being in such a large crowd and sitting in cramped seats wasn’t as comfortable as it could have been.  Still, Ireland was a great place to see Paul Simon perform, if only because a lot of the people in the crowd could actually sing. I don’t know what it’s like for other people, but I am unusually sensitive to bad singing.  I don’t know if it’s because I have perfect pitch or I’m just a perfect bitch…  It’s probably a regrettable combination of both conditions.  Anyway, I was glad that a lot of the people who were at Friday night’s show were decent singers.  If I have to listen to people singing along, I prefer them to be on key and most of the people in Friday’s crowd were.

We had no plans for Saturday, so we got up and went to breakfast.  I went with Irish buttermilk pancakes and a side of sausage.  Bill had French toast made with cinnamon brioche.

We also tried tea, which I probably ought to have more of.  

The pancakes were also offered with blueberry compote or apples, I think.  One of my British friends said I was going to gain “stones” if I kept eating like this.  My response?  “Who cares.”

But I did make sure to have some fruit, too.

My back was hurting a bit, even though we had a pretty good bed.  I think it’s because I’m used to having a feather bed.  Because my back was aching, we decided to try out the Merrion Hotel’s pool.  We found it empty and very inviting.  I appreciated that it was nice and deep, too.  We also tried the steam room.  I usually can’t stay in them for very long, but I managed to do a couple of cycles in there lasting a few minutes each.

The hotel has nicely appointed changing rooms with lockers, showers, and even a machine that wrings all the excess water out of your bathing suit.  Supposedly, they even sell bathing suits if you need one.  

An oasis of calm!  Felt great on my sore back.  The mural was painted by a Brady… Simon Brady, to be exact.

Lots of weights and machines for those who insist on truly working out.  There’s also a fully operational spa, which I probably should have made time to try.

After our swim, we went back to the room and got changed.  The weather was lovely, so we decided to take a walk.  As we were passing Merrion Square, we noticed a military regiment and an Irish piper.  We stood by to watch.  Apparently, during the summer on Saturdays, a different Irish regiment does a memorial service for fallen members of the Irish Army.  Family members are on hand to lay wreaths as their loved ones are honored.

A sign explaining… they were also passing out brochures.  Bill was interested, so we watched the whole thing, which took about 45 minutes.

Officers prepare for the start of the program.

 

Family members stand by.

The guards were giving orders in Irish.

I was more interested in the musicians.

The piper played several pieces, including “Highland Cathedral”, which was what I marched down the aisle to on my wedding day.

More than once, I caught Bill standing at attention.

The memorial after the wreaths were laid.  Behind it are several flags, including Ireland’s flag, which was lowered to half mast, then raised again.

Across the street from parliament.

And there were also dancers nearby, though they had nothing to do with the military ceremony.  They were also attracting attention.

A playground nearby.  I liked that there was a sign posted that read the area was only for adults accompanying children.  No creepers allowed.

 

Oscar Wilde again.  You can’t miss him in Dublin.

 

By the time the military ceremony was over, it was time for lunch.  We ended up at what appeared to be a nice looking restaurant but turned out to be a hotel restaurant with little character.  They also played some very annoying dance music that kind of spoiled the ambiance.  Oh well….

We were told the fryer wasn’t working, so there was no chance for fish and chips.

My burger came with a salad, which was probably better for me anyway.

 

Bill had a club sandwich.  Not bad…  and this was also the only place we had Guinness during the whole trip.  Guinness is really a winter drink, as every Irish person instinctively knows.  But you can’t come to Dublin and not have a Guinness, right?  It makes you drunk, as noted by Ireland’s greatest drinker with a writing problem, Brendan Behan.

The rest of the restaurant.  Lots of cutesy stuff written on the walls.

 

After lunch, we went across the street, where I proceeded to buy three cheap t-shirts with obnoxious sayings on them.  I’ll probably only wear them at home, although they pretty much express my sentiments perfectly.

 

After we bought the t-shirts, we passed this all purpose walk in clinic.  Apparently, they have something for everyone…  Reminds me of an old George Carlin routine–  Bud’s!  Where all the sick people go!

They have you covered!

Just around the corner is the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland.  I had to take a picture of the sign because about thirty years ago, I read a book called The Intern Blues by Robert Marion, MD.   Dr. Marion didn’t get into an US medical schools at first, so he spent a year in Ireland studying medicine before he was able to come back to the States and finish his training.  His book was about first year interns circa 1985. 

And we also found where Bram Stoker lived.

At this point, we decided we wanted to find a pub with good music and character, so we went in search of one… but not before we stopped into a couple of grocery stores to see if we could find some Irish chocolate treats to bring back to Germany with us.  We were successful at a Tesco, just around the corner from our hotel.