holidays

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

When we woke up in Ribeauville on Saturday, November 19th, I looked at Facebook to see if there were any announcements about James Taylor’s show. I didn’t see any emails from the ticketing venue, or on James’s social media. That meant we’d be going home a day early.

I was a little sad to be going, since I really had wanted to go to Riquewihr at least once, if only to get macaroons. Bill didn’t want to go to Riquewihr, because it was in the opposite direction of home, even if it was just two miles. He said he’d go look for the macaroons in Ribeauville. So he went out, picked up more croissants, and FAILED to find the cookies I wanted. Instead, he bought three bags of other cookies.

Maybe I should be ashamed for feeling this way, but I was a little disappointed. What he brought back were not what I wanted. Then it occurred to me that I could probably order the macaroons, which is precisely what I did (they arrived this morning). So I got over my disappointment, and we started packing up to go home. As I was walking the dogs to the car, my hands full of whatever else I could carry, a French woman approached me, speaking rapid fire. I said in English, “I’m sorry, I don’t speak French.”

She nodded and smiled, then backed away. I soon realized what she wanted. It was mid morning and the parking lot was already pretty full. She wanted our parking spot. I saw her lurking in the lot, just waiting for us to move. I always hate it when people do this, even though I understand why they do it. I wasn’t the one driving, and we weren’t quite ready to leave. She finally gave up at some point, after Bill had done a sweep of the Riesling gite, and came back to the car. By then, there were a couple more lurkers, just waiting…

It was probably a half hour later when we were on our way home, after a quick stop at the Daniel Stoffel Chocolatier outlet on the way out of town. Bill went in and picked up some goodies for us, and his daughter’s family.

Our drive home was almost totally uneventful. Arran went to sleep, and Noyzi was a perfect gentleman in the back. Maybe we have finally broken him of his habit of barking in the car. The only strange thing that happened was that, as usual, I witnessed public urination at a rest stop. I vented about that here. Below are a few shots from the drive home. As you can see, Arran was relaxed.

When we got home, our landlord came over to tell us our off kilter dishwasher, which had come off its foundation, wasn’t fixed yet, because the repair guy needed a part. Yesterday, he said the repair guy was sick, but would be able to fix the machine when he was well again. He said we should just be careful using the machine. When I told him we hadn’t been using it, because the dishwasher had given me an error code last time I ran a load, he said if the repair guy couldn’t figure it out, he’d just get us a new one. I am still stunned by how different he is, compared to our former landlady. They are like night and day!

I did the requisite load of laundry and a few other chores, then we got ready for the show in Frankfurt. We had to pick up our tickets at the box office, I guess to thwart scalpers. I pictured a long line of people, but when we arrived at the Jahrhunderthalle, we were pleasantly surprised by the ease of parking, the short distance to the venue, and the short line to get our tickets. Then we enjoyed some libations while we waited for the doors to open.

James Taylor had a stripped down band for this show. There was no keyboard player, and no opening act. We had second row seats, which was a first for me. I saw my first James Taylor concert in 1990. In fact, that show, when I was almost 18, was my very first “rock” show– if you could call it that. I remember I went with my parents and one of my sisters, and I paid $18.50 for nosebleed seats.

For this show, I paid 82,50 euros which I thought was very reasonable to see a guy who has won 6 Grammys and spent more than 50 years enchanting people all over the world with his wonderful guitar playing and angelic voice. While we waited for the show to start, I noticed the music that was playing. I recognized songs from albums by James’s daughter, Sally, as well as backup singers Kate Markowitz and Andrea Zonn. I downloaded Kate’s album from the concert hall. I already had Andrea’s.

This was the fourth time I’d seen James Taylor play, but there was a difference between this show and the others. For one thing, there weren’t drunken, idiot women standing in front of us, dancing and shrieking the whole time. There were no huge screens showing close ups of James and his band. And while he forgot a few words, he still played and sang beautifully. I was charmed by his efforts to speak German to the crowd, as well as the encouraging message he had for anyone “in recovery” from drug and alcohol addiction, as he has been since the mid 80s.

James told us some of the stories behind some of the songs he performed, including “That’s Why I’m Here”, from his 1985 album by the same name. I remember that he had dedicated that album to Bill W., the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous. Imagine going to an A.A. meeting and seeing James Taylor there! But anyway, “That’s Why I’m Here” was a song he wrote in memory of his friend John Belushi, who died of an overdose in 1982. James was a pretty serious addict back in the day. He’s still addicted, of course, but no longer indulges. Before he started singing, he said, “If you like getting fucked up, that’s okay. I just can’t handle it myself anymore!” Everybody laughed.

At the beginning of the evening, I thought James looked a little pale, perhaps because he’d had COVID. But as the show went on, he was more and more animated, at times jumping around the stage. I enjoyed watching him interact with his band, most of whom had been with him for many years. Dorian Holley was the only one on stage I had not seen with James before. I suspect he’s the replacement for Arnold McCuller, James’s longtime backup singer who just retired from life on the road. I enjoyed Dorian’s singing. He has quite an impressive resume. James listed the people Holley’s sung with, which includes the late Michael Jackson. That actually surprised me, because he didn’t look old enough to be one of Jackson’s backup singers… but then, Michael was well known for enjoying and employing young performers for his shows.

James’s long time guitarist, Michael Landau, was well within view of us on the right side of the stage. He stood up and flexed his legs, I smiled at him, and he smiled back. That was kind of a cool moment. One thing I love about European concerts is that I seem to have a much easier time scoring good seats here. Another thing I love about European shows is that most people don’t act stupid at them… at least not at the shows Bill and I attend. And you can get a beer or a glass of wine without mortgaging your house.

At one point, James was introducing a song from his 1971 album, Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon. A man in the audience held up a vinyl copy, which James immediately offered to sign and bite. The guy rushed up to the stage with his album and presented it to James, but then they needed to find a pen. Another guy came up and said he had something that had been signed by a bunch of famous singers, including Johnny Cash. He requested an autograph, which James was happy to oblige. In fact, at the break, I ran out to go to the restroom, and when I came back, James was still on stage, signing autographs and shaking hands. I was very impressed. I wondered if he needed to pee as badly as I did! It struck me as a very humble and generous gesture toward his loyal fans.

I decided not to try to get an autograph myself. I would be honored to have James’s signature, of course, but autographs don’t really mean that much to me. Earlier in the show, someone yelled out that his dad loved James. James made a comment reminiscent of what he said on his Live album from 1993. Basically, he reminded the guy that they don’t know each other. It made me think how strange it must be for performers to be “loved” by people who don’t know them. James himself reminded us that he is a deeply flawed person, as we all are… but what impresses me about James Taylor is that he’s clearly worked very hard to become much better. He’s clearly not the same person he was in the 70s or early 80s.

At the end of the show, of course there were encores… and James and his band encouraged people to get up and come close to the stage. It was one of the most intimate concert experiences I’ve ever had. I think the only one who topped that was James’s somewhat less famous brother, Livingston, who puts on a FABULOUS live show and is extremely approachable. I remember seeing Liv in 2003 at the Birchmere in Alexandria, Virginia, a couple of months after I saw James at Wolf Trap in Bristow, Virginia. James’s show was MUCH bigger than Liv’s was, and we had those drunk women in front of us, careening around sloppily as they slurred the lyrics of James’s best songs. I remember thinking Livingston’s show was so much better, if only because there weren’t any obnoxious drunks there. But Liv also engaged the audience and was thoroughly entertaining. This most recent show by James, while slightly pared down, was akin to Liv’s show, only it was in a much larger, yet still intimate, venue.

In any case, we obviously had a wonderful time! I’m so glad we went. It was the perfect ending to our 20th anniversary weekend. And yes, even though James will be 75 years old in March, he’s still a hell of a great performer. I think the money we spent on this show, even with its delays, was well worth euro cent.

Dorian and Kate dance!

Getting out of the Jahrhunderthalle was very easy. Bill was happy about that. But then we hit a Stau, so Bill went through Hofheim to get us home. And when we got home, we were confronted by a big mess caused by Arran. He got into the basement and raided our dry goods, and peed and pooped on my rug. Fortunately, he was no worse for wear. We have thoroughly dog proofed down there, as we’re going to someone’s house for Thanksgiving dinner today. Noyzi had nothing to do with the raid. He was tucked in bed when we got home. He’s very classy for a street dog.

Well, that about does it for this series. It wasn’t a super exciting trip, but we had a good time… and it was great to have Arran and Noyzi with us. I’m so grateful to be here on many levels, and for so many reasons. I’m glad James Taylor is still with us, too. And before I forget, below are a couple of clips from the show.

The magical ending.
Auf Wiedersehen…
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A day in a parrot paradise– Vogelburg

A couple of weeks ago, I joined a German Facebook group that offers ideas for fun day trips in and around the German state of Hesse. Actually, I joined an American run version of that group, but decided to join the German version when I noticed the group admin was mostly just reposting whatever was shared in the German group. He was adding very little original content or even a US perspective as he was resharing the German group’s content. So I decided I might as well join the German group, since locals often add information that Americans don’t have.

I know I recently mentioned that I would like to take this blog back to the way it was from 2014-2018, before we were dealt the double blow of a lawsuit with our former landlady and COVID-19. In 2019, we were new to Wiesbaden and trying to get used to our new town. Then, everything shut down for a long time, so that prevented us from exploring the way we would have, otherwise. For now, we are allowed to travel freely, but it’s taken time to get back in the mood to take day trips. Part of the reason I decided to go out today is because the weather was nice. It was sunny, but not too hot. Also, I needed to take my mind off of a threatening, harassing, message I got this morning on my now defunct Overeducated Housewife Facebook Page. One of the best ways to get me to temporarily forget about trouble is to visit animals.

Someone shared a post about Vogelburg, a sanctuary for rehomed parrots, parakeets, macaus, and cockatoos in the German Facebook group. I was intrigued, since I’d never heard of it. I showed Bill the official Web site, noted that it was open today, and we made plans to visit! The sanctuary is just north of Wiesbaden, on the way to Limburg, which is where we visited a few weeks ago. We probably could have gotten there in about 40 minutes, if not for a horrific pile up on Autobahn 3. We counted at least fifteen ambulances passing us, along with cop cars, fire engines, and the doctor’s car. The Stau held us up for about an hour, as we watched people exiting their vehicles to pee on the side of the road. It was quite frustrating, as I was also a bit hangry. However, once we got to the park, it was well worth the wait.

We paid eight euros each to enter the facility, bought some sunflower seeds, and made our way around, feeding the gentle and beautiful birds, watching them preen, listening to them communicate, and enjoying their antics. We saw one pretty cockatoo sitting on a girl’s shoulder while she petted it. Others were talking, hanging upside down, or begging for food. At first, I was nervous about feeding the birds, since there were picture signs warning about bloody fingers (see my photos). But I soon got the hang of things, and really enjoyed giving the birds treats. Quite a few of them really knew how to pour on the charm, as you can see in the video below.

Listen for the cuckoo bird!

After a couple of hours enjoying the birds, who came from all over the world, we decided to have a quick lunch at the park’s restaurant, which serves things like wurst, Frikadelle, potato salad, and cake. Bill and I both had bratwursts with potato salad. I could not finish the huge serving of potato salad, but did enjoy washing everything down with a cold Weizen beer. I did notice that the facility looked like it had been around a while and could use some refurbishment (ETA: it dates from 1981). But the birds are well cared for and very entertaining. They also have a Parrot School, which I guess is a program where visitors can learn more about the birds (ETA: My German friend says that the school is for the parrots). All of the signage is in German, though, which makes me think the “school” probably is, too.

We both left Vogelburg smiling, and I decided that we need to spend more time in this part of Hesse, which is quieter and less built up than Wiesbaden is. It reminded me a little of the lovely rural areas near Stuttgart we used to enjoy regularly when we lived down there.

This is a great activity for young children, although strollers may not be the best idea there, because there are cobblestones. They even have a cool slide at the top of the hill that kids can slide down and land in a sand pit. Plenty of adults were enjoying the park, too, as the birds are very social, healthy, and friendly! On the way out, there’s a gift shop. We didn’t stop in. This park opens every year on March 15th, and the season runs through October 31st. It’s open daily, from 10am to 6pm. Parking is free!

I’m happy to report that the drive home happened without incident– no wrecks or Staus. That’s always a plus in Germany!

All in all, it was a great day! I’m so glad we went to see the beautiful birds of Vogelburg today. They really helped me enjoy the day, and forget my troubles for awhile.

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Voila! The new village toilet offers a new pot to piss in!

… I just hope it doesn’t become a place for sharing more than neighborhood gossip…

A few days ago, much to my amusement, the guy who runs our neighborhood Facebook group shared photos of the brand new public toilet that was erected in, and now proudly graces, our Dorfplatz here in Breckenheim. If you’ve been following this blog lately, you know that building this toilet has been a long and painful undertaking, and it hasn’t been without controversy. Last fall, a radio host even tried to ask me what I thought of it, but decided my opinion was irrelevant when it became clear that I’m not a local. The local reactions to this seem to be varied. Some people love it. A lot of people think it’s… shitty. Bwahahahaha! I am getting a kick out of all of the reactions and snarky comments translated from vernacular German.

The first summer we lived in Breckenheim, we had biweekly wine stands in the Dorfplatz. It was a great place for everyone to commune together and bond over the region’s star product– WINE! But then 2020 happened, and there were no wine stands or other community events. Then, last summer, a crew of men came in and took down the kiosk, from which all of the fundraising events were operating. I was sad to see the cute little kiosk come down. At the time, I didn’t know about the big plans for the Dorfplatz, and had no clue it was going to get its very own toilet! I was surprised when I found out, but now I know the reason. It’s so people don’t have to use the Rathaus toilets or go home to answer the inevitable call of nature during community events. I stopped to take a picture of it today, and noticed that it costs 50 cents to pee there. No need to hire a Klo Frau, after all…

Edited to add: I see that our local leader has said the toilet will be free to use. A free public toilet is something to behold in Germany!

Earlier this week. The powers that be are very proud of this new development, although not everyone is a fan.

Not for nothing, though, it’s taken forever to get this work done. The Dorfplatz has been fenced off for months, making the trash can harder to access. People have been putting trash in the can anyway, and it wasn’t always getting emptied, because it was behind a temporary fence. I noticed today, the whole area is open again. All that has to happen now is getting rid of the port-a-let that’s been in the Dorfplatz for weeks. I think getting rid of the port-a-let will be a huge improvement. Hopefully, this toilet will stay nice, but having seen them in other places, I have my doubts. However, I can also say with certainty that there have been many times when I have been very grateful to find one of these when I’m out and about. I like the ones that can be “stored” underground and brought out for special events. That was probably cost prohibitive, though… and Breckenheim doesn’t really warrant it. It’s just a little suburban village, after all.

I read that they’re going to rebuild the wine stand kiosk right next to the new toilet, which seems quite large for the space it’s in. I have an image in my head of people buying glasses of wine in one building, while others process it in a similarly sized adjacent building. Below are a few photos of Breckenheim’s latest upgrade, as well as a few pretty flowering trees in my neighbors’ yards. I’m impressed by how fresh and beautiful they are, in spite of the heat wave we’ve endured this week.

Of all of the things I’ve observed since our move to Wiesbaden, I think the great toilet debate has been the most entertaining. I will also admit that I wasn’t expecting this kind of toilet. I don’t know why I wasn’t, since they’re all over the place in Europe. I think I expected something more conventional. I will also note that there were many times when we lived in Jettingen that I wished for a toilet when walking my dogs. I had to pee in the woods a few times. 😉 But the woods are in much shorter supply in these parts.

Anyway, now there’s a place to pee, and soon we will have wine stands in the right place again… and weekly farmer’s markets, too! I look forward to having a farmer’s market we can walk to. We already have a grocery store and a “kwik mart” near us. As I have mentioned more than once, you get trade offs when you exchange country living for suburban living. Maybe someday, we’ll get vending machines with local produce, too. One can always dream!

In other news, today we will get a visit from the chimney sweep. In Germany, it’s legally required to have one’s chimney examined every year. They leave little notes on your door telling you when they’re coming over. We got one this week. It’s a good thing we were home. Our last house didn’t have a fireplace, but we still got visited by the cleaner, who had to check out our heating system and make sure it was safe. Here, we have a beautiful fireplace, and thanks to the war in Ukraine, I suspect we will be using it a lot more this year.

Props to my clever German friend, Susanne, for supplying this funny clip about Schornsteininspektion… 😉

Don’t know what we’ll be doing over the weekend. I’ve been sick all week, but I feel better today. And I am in need of some fun… so hopefully, we’ll find some and I can return and report.

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Strasbourg’s annual wine extravaganza! Part four

Saturday morning, we woke up after a nice night at the hotel. After a hearty breakfast that included a generous portion of scrambled eggs, we drove into Strasbourg on a mission to buy beer. I had heard the city had some really nice beer shops. Not that Germany doesn’t also have places to buy beer– they do! But Germans are very proud of their beer, so it’s not as easy to find suds from other countries. When we lived near Stuttgart, we used to visit Heinrich’s 3000, a huge beverage market near Ludwigsburg, where one could find beer from all over the place. But we haven’t yet found anywhere similar near Wiesbaden.

Bill was a bit worried about driving into the city, but it turned out fine. He made his way to the Gutenberg Garage, which is located right in the heart of the old town. It was fortunate that we got there somewhat early. Strasbourg was alive with activity on Saturday, complete with a sort of mini carnival with rides. The only thing I didn’t see, that I usually see in French cities, was a carousel. I’m sure one exists somewhere in Strasbourg.

We Googled and found that Strasbourg has three beer shops that would have what we were hunting for, so Bill grabbed his trusty Rewe bag and we headed out… but not before I made a pit stop. A lot of garages in France have public toilets, and Gutenberg is no exception. Unfortunately, it’s also no exception to my personal habit of catching people urinating. Seriously, this happens to me all the time, and not just in Europe, where public urination is common. I either see someone peeing outside, often just feet away from me, or I inadvertently open a door that wasn’t locked and catch the occupant mid stream. Believe me, it’s not something I aspire to do. I wish people would lock the door, but maybe they worry about being stuck in the toilet. I don’t know.

Anyway, I managed to see a toddler’s bare behind as his mother was tending to him. Then, while I was waiting, a man and another child joined what was apparently a party in the loo. It took a long time before they’d all done their business and came trooping out, all smiles. It turned out they were German speakers who also spoke French. The mom apologetically said, “Toute le familie” to me with a laugh. Okay, I admit it was pretty funny, even if they did hog the ladies room for about twenty minutes.

After I took care of my personal business, Bill and I headed toward the Strasbourg Cathedral. We figured we’d be loaded down with beer, so it was better to stop in there first. It was the first time I had ever been in the cathedral in Strasbourg and, I must say, it was absolutely beautiful. It’s probably one of the most breathtaking cathedrals I’ve seen yet, and I’ve seen a lot of them. I think the organ was what got me. Bill got choked up, just like he always does. Here are some photos.

After we recovered from the sheer sensory delight of the cathedral, we headed down an alley and found ourselves at a well stocked by rather small beer shop. We spent some time finding brews from everywhere from Belgium to Cary, North Carolina! We bought as much as we thought we could haul back to the car without hurting ourselves.

After unloading our beer haul, we headed to a restaurant called Au Pigeon. This place doesn’t get great ratings, probably because it offers rather run of the mill Alsatian cuisine as opposed to anything really fancy or inventive. However, we had a wonderful time eating there. Service was friendly and we could tell that it’s a favorite of some locals. While we were waiting for our lunches, I watched one of the waitresses kiss about twelve guys French style– on both cheeks– as if she was in receiving line. The guys all sat at a big table obviously reserved for them and they ordered some wonderful smelling traditional dishes. It was so much fun to watch them enjoying the food and their fellowship. They laughed a lot, talked a lot, and made the restaurant feel very festive, which probably improved our experience. It felt like we were eating with locals, which I think we were. And we enjoyed our lunches, too…

My duck leg was pretty good, although it was a little overdone. I was just glad the gravy wasn’t loaded with mushrooms, like Bill’s dish was. I guess some people really love their fungus. If I loved it too, my life would be so much easier. The service was pretty good, although I think it’s better if they know you there. I could see they were very warm and friendly to those they knew, but not to those they didn’t. I guess that makes sense, though, especially in a touristy area. I read in Trip Advisor that the restaurant is family owned and the grandfather does the cooking. Also, the lady who waited on us didn’t speak English, but she did speak German, so we had no problems. All in all, it was a nice lunch!

Dessert was excellent. I love profiteroles, and I paired mine with a little cognac. Yeah, it was extravagant, but cognac is always a treat. And when we were finished, it was time to head back to the hotel, drop off the car, and head to the expo where we could pick up some wines from all over France! More on that in the next installment!

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Parker goes to France, part two…

After taking Arran to the Hundepension, Bill, Parker, and I loaded up the Volvo and headed to France. It was cold and cloudy, as it usually is this time of year. However, it wasn’t so cold in Germany that I packed my down jacket. I eventually regretted that decision, because it did get pretty cold in France. I did at least bring a cape that I could layer over my wool sweater. Global warming is definitely a thing, though. When we were in Germany the first time, I would not have dreamed of going outside without down. The past couple of years have truly been unseasonably warm here. We haven’t even had any snow yet. Last time I saw a decent amount of white stuff was when we lived in Jettingen.

We got on the road at about lunchtime on Saturday, January 18th. In retrospect, we probably should have eaten before we left, but I was eager to get on the road. We made one pit stop before lunch, where I managed to take a few inappropriate pics. I always get a kick out of the signs and ads in the bathrooms, as well as the people who prefer to go au naturale rather than pay the 70 cents to pee in private…

We ended up stopping in Landau, a pleasant town in southern Rhineland-Palatinate, not that far from the French border. I had told Yannick we were shooting to be at his gite between 3:00 and 4:00, but hadn’t realized that lunch would take as long as it did.

As it was, we stopped very close to the “witching hour” of 2:00pm, which is when a lot of restaurants shut down for a pause. I managed to find us a Paulaner restaurant, the Paulanerstuben-Landau, which still had lunch going. That turned out to be a fortuitous stop. The food was delicious, even if came out at a rather leisurely pace.

I had the delicious half chicken, which was crispy and probably done “extra spicy”. I say that, because they used a lot of black pepper to season it. I also noticed that they offered less spicy and mild versions. I wish I had specified, because when it comes to spicy food, my tastes are very German… or British. Makes perfect sense, too. Bill had the Wiener Schnitzel and Parker had sausages. Both of them liked their choices as much as I liked mine.

The rest of our drive to France was uneventful, except for when we stopped at an unusually rustic rest stop. There was another couple ahead of me. The man used the pissoir, which was outside (on a related note, I sure did see my share of public urination on this trip). The woman was in one of the two little wooden sheds, but she’d neglected to lock the door. Consequently, I opened the door on her when she was mid piss. Sigh… sorry lady, but I didn’t know you were in there. The doors lock for a reason.

We arrived at Yannick’s gite in the heart of Ribeauville at about 5:30pm. It was dark outside, and we were still full from lunch, as well as a bit tired from the drive. Yannick came over to say hello, and we got to meet his adorable little son, Raphael, who is about 18 months old. During our last visit to Ribeauville, Yannick’s wife was in labor with little Raphael; he was born the night we departed during our last visit over Memorial Day weekend in 2018. He was very shy, but adorable. Yannick said he wasn’t used to hearing English, but after a couple of minutes, he went to work entertaining himself with the drawers full of wine corks. Yannick says his wife will be having another baby in May or June of this year; then their family will be complete. It was a real pleasure to finally meet Raphael. I have no doubt that he’ll be bilingual in no time.

We all went to the little Carrefour grocery store located about 100 yards from the gite and loaded up on wine, beer, chips, breakfast fixings, and chocolate. Parker took one of the upstairs bedrooms, and Bill and I took the usual back bedroom. Here are some photos from Riesling, which mostly looks the same as it did last time we stayed there, in November 2017. Yannick says he’s trying to upgrade, but he’s had trouble finding workmen who are available. All of his gites in the wine house are named after local wine specialties.