A marvelous afternoon at Little Italy…

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Regular readers of my main blog may notice that I’ve been kind of crabby lately. I was especially irritable yesterday, since I was trying to write the blog post I posted earlier today while listening to kids outside my window shrieking and trying to respond to a private message. I get really cranky when I’m trying to write and can’t concentrate on what I’m doing. I probably should have been on ADD meds when I was a kid because I am very easily distracted. On top of that, I had a tension headache, and Bill was bugging me about going to AAFES. We did need to go to AAFES (military run department store), even though I hate going there, especially now that everyone has to wear face masks.

Military facilities are even more anal retentive about COVID-19 protocol than other places are. Although the guards have stopped giving drivers the third degree every time they enter the gates, there’s still a very strict mask requirement, entry and exit protocol, and handwashing detail. And while it may be necessary for sparing people from getting sick, I also remember that not too long ago, it was not uncommon to find the restrooms at AAFES in pretty disgusting shape. I have pictures of ones I encountered in Stuttgart as well as vivid memories of the remnants of other people’s dumps lingering in the toilets at the food courts. So while enforcing the over-the-top COVID-19 requirements may be a very good idea right now, they seem rather disingenuous to me after a lifetime of patronizing the BX/PX (AAFES).

I finally gave up on the blog post after trying to upload a few photos. I came back to my post, only to find that over half of it was somehow wiped out. After uttering a few choice words at the computer screen, I went downstairs, where Bill was busily “beagle proofing” (although Arran is probably more of a pointer than a beagle). He asked me if I was hungry. I legitimately wasn’t, although I knew that we were about to hit the dreaded “pause” hour of 2:00pm. Bill proposed picking up a pizza from Pizza Hut, because I had mentioned getting a pizza somewhere (I meant at a real restaurant). I used to like Pizza Hut pizzas, but they have really gone downhill over the past ten years or so.

So anyway, we went to AAFES. I dutifully put on the fucking mask and washed my hands, rushing to pick up the few items I needed… expensive Lancome face cream for my middle aged face, ponytail holders for my growing grey hair, and a couple of new dog toys for Arran to replace the ones he’s destroyed. I love that Arran is ten and still loves his toys. I don’t love that he only recently quit using my favorite rug as a Hundetoilet. God help us when the new pooch moves in, sometime soon. Bill picked up some more shit bags for the dog walking, of which we could soon be legally compelled to do twice as much of at some point soon (though I doubt it will be enforced).

As we were waiting in the obnoxious checkout line that stretched down the lotion and skincare aisle, Bill asked me what I wanted to do about lunch. I had no desire to eat in the food court, so initially, I said we should go by Five Guys and get takeout. But then I remembered Little Italy, a great restaurant I’ve blogged about several times since our move to Wiesbaden. There is a Little Italy on post. That’s not the one I’m writing about now. I am referring to a small restaurant in the heart of Wiesbaden, where they serve lovely Italian dishes, nice wines, and luscious desserts. Before the pandemic, we used to go there fairly often. Yesterday was our first time back since February, I think.

Bill made a reservation on OpenTable.de, noting that Little Italy does not take an afternoon pause. We got there at about 2:15pm. The proprietor, a friendly bald guy who speaks English, looked slightly panicked when Bill announced our arrival. Bill then noticed that the entire dining room was set as if there was going to be a large party. But when Bill said we had a reservation, he told us to find a table outside. The weather was glorious, so that was a pleasure to do.

A lovely young woman came over to take our drink order and have us sign the paperwork for contract tracing. Bill got me a glass of white wine from Sicily. He got himself a white wine from Lugano. Then, we both ordered dishes from the specials, presented on a chalk board in front of us. Bill had saltimbocca made of dorade. I had a salmon filet with rucola pesto, mashed sweet potatoes, and ratatouille (pisto).

While we were waiting for our food, a large group of well-dressed people showed up. I soon gathered that this was why the proprietor had looked a little stressed when we arrived. There were bottles of bubbly chilling in ice buckets until umbrellas near us. I had mistakenly thought they had set up a little wine stand, but no, that was for the people partying at Little Italy. Hopefully, none of them were carriers of the COVID-19 virus, since they weren’t wearing masks.

A tiny little blonde girl of about three came over to play with the Champagne bottles pictured in the gallery above. She had huge blue eyes and was sincerely adorable. We smiled at her while she played with the bubbly bottles and the nearby decorative water fountain. A few minutes later, I heard her shrieking as her mom struggled to contain her. Finally, mom put her in the stroller and methodically strapped her down while she wailed. I figured it was probably nap time for her… having been cranky myself a little while ago, I could commiserate, too.

I soon forgot about being cranky as we enjoyed lunch. I mostly enjoyed the bright colors of my dish, even if I’m not the biggest ratatouille or sweet potato fan. I managed to finish most of it, with Bill’s help. Bill really loved the dorade, which was accented with sage and bacon. He said he would definitely order it again if he had the opportunity.

As we were eating, the little blonde girl came outside. I watched her pick her nose while her grandmother smoked a cigarette. It occurred to me that kids are just so unabashed and unashamed about anything. Maybe watching that tiny girl explore the world around her without a mask is why I found this morning’s New York Times article about training kids to wear masks so very depressing. The masks have the effect of making communication and exploration more difficult, especially for the youngest among us. But, with any luck, there will be an effective vaccine or treatment that will make this brave new pandemic world less ominous and irritating. I always wanted to have children, but I am grateful I’m not a parent dealing with this pandemic stuff right now. I think it would drive me crazy.

For dessert, I had limoncello sorbet with mangos and pears, while Bill had tiramisu. Neither of us really needed dessert, but the weather was just so nice, and I was enjoying being out and about, watching people celebrate in a normal way. I used to take doing stuff on the weekends for granted. Now, when we get to have lunch somewhere nice, it’s a real treat. Maybe that’s one of the silver linings to the COVID-19 situation. I’ve often said that every bad situation has its positives. I don’t take a nice meal at a good restaurant for granted as I might have in 2019…

The bill was about 89 euros. Bill gave our lovely waitress a 100 euro note and said “Stimmt”. We really had a nice time. I hope we can do it again sometime soon. Then we came home and I set to work trying to wash the stench out of Arran’s Klo on my blue carpet. It’s now outside drying… and I fear that my efforts may have been for naught. Oh well… at least we had a good meal, and hopefully, we’ll stay healthy.

A delightfully normal restaurant experience at Villa im Tal!

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My husband, Bill, has been trying to get me to go out and do stuff for some time now. I kept demurring because I didn’t want to hassle with all the new rules. It’s just as easy to stay home and play with my new guitar. Bill finally insisted yesterday, after we wasted the day drinking beer in the backyard and waiting for a package to be delivered. He booked us a table for 1:45pm at Villa im Tal, which is one of our favorite restaurants here in the Wiesbaden area. I must admit, he didn’t have to try too hard. I’ve been denying him for weeks and it was only fair.

We got kind of dressed up for our outing. Bill dressed like he was going to the office. I put on a dress and some jewelry and fixed my hair and face. It’s the most dolled up we’ve been since I can’t remember… or, it’s the most dolled up I’ve been, anyway. Bill decided to drive my Mini, since it needed some road time, especially since it was just serviced. We arrived right on time for our appointment, dutifully donning our paper masks, and a delightful and familiar waitress named Petra led us to our outdoor table. Much to our amazement, she said we didn’t have to wear masks at all! Apparently, the rules in Hesse changed again very recently. We didn’t even have to put them on to go to the restroom, although we did see a few people wearing them and the waitresses all wore clear, plastic shields that covered their mouths, but not the rest of their faces.

So I put my mask in my purse; we sat down at a table and ordered a bottle sparkling water to share and a glass of champagne for me. It was time to celebrate eating normally at a restaurant, which we hadn’t done since March. After Bill filled out a form with our contact information in case there’s a coronavirus outbreak and we need to be contacted, we were handed our laminated menus, which are definitely the norm nowadays, and we made our choices… Below the pictures of a glorious meal, both in terms of taste and of sheer normalcy!

All told, we spent just under 180 euros before the tip. Bill left a generous tip for Petra and her colleagues, too, because they really showed us a lovely time. We definitely took dining out in restaurants for granted when we could do it regularly, and it was such a pleasure to be able to sit outside at a nice place– not in our backyard– and enjoy seeing other people. I was very happy to enjoy the hospitality, once again, at Villa im Tal, which is located in a beautiful, wooded, location. The food was, as usual, excellent, and the service was top notch and delivered with a smile . I think we love this place for very good reason, and it was so good to be back. I hope this trend of not needing a mask will continue for awhile.

I am feeling so grateful to live in Germany right now, for so many reasons. As much as I loved it here last year, this year, I love it so much more. Today’s outing was a huge morale booster. Villa im Tal is a classy restaurant, but they do cater to children as well as well-behaved dogs. Someone brought their sweet female pooch with them and she never made a peep. Petra brought her a big bowl of water.

Next weekend, we’re off to the beautiful Rhineland Palatinate area of Eifel for a long weekend. The hotel where we’re staying has an award winning restaurant. I look forward to returning and reporting on that adventure, too!

My pandemic birthday… part four

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Naturally, we needed to go out to eat for my birthday. We usually like to choose a nice dinner spot, but thanks to the pandemic, that’s become a more complicated endeavor. For instance, last year, Bill took me to Ente, a Michelin starred restaurant in Wiesbaden. I liked Ente fine, but I probably wouldn’t go out of my way to eat there again.

We decided to have lunch over dinner because when we made the decision, I was legitimately hungry. So was Bill. Hanging out at the Therme had brought on an appetite. We went on OpenTable.de and I found Lucullus, in Konigstein im Taunus, an adorable little town we had not been to prior to yesterday. It specializes in fine Italian cuisine, which is definitely not necessarily what many Americans think of as “Italian”. The dress code said “smart casual”, so we got cleaned up and slightly dressed up. Bill wore a nice shirt and pants and I wore a dress. And then we went and sat on their very nice terrace and proceeded to enjoy a beautiful two hour lunch.

Lucullus was somewhat different in how it handled the contact tracing requirements. There’s a QR code on the table. You use your phone to scan it after you download an app (or Bill did, anyway). It records your info and that’s that. Very simple, and takes only a couple of seconds. With that done, we had some fizzy local water, a beautiful, leathery, tobacco-ey Montalcino, and warm bread while we decided on lunch. The menu is on a piece of paper that doubles as a placemat. Here are the photos:

The wait staff was very attentive and friendly. Everybody working wore face masks, but at one point, I got up to pee during their pause (we were finishing up) and the waiter laughed and said I didn’t need a mask because there was no one in the indoor part of the restaurant. Awesome! I really liked the interior of the place, too. It was very stylish and homey, but in a cool, Italian way.

For dessert, against my better judgment, I had the dreaded lava cake. Lava cakes taste good, but everyone does them. I give bonus points to restaurants that serve a regular slice of cake. They didn’t have that, though, so I gave in… it came with a scoop of caramel ice cream, which was a bit melted by the time it got to me. Bill loved his choice, a caramel creme with a scoop of mandarin sorbet scented with a hint of sage, which gave it a fascinating flavor…

The bill came to about 150 euros. By the time we were done eating, it was getting close to 4:00pm, so we didn’t need much for dinner. I really enjoyed our lunch. I probably loved it even more than usual, since we’ve not been able to dine out in so long. The town was full of people, too. Many were walking around maskless. I did see one elderly lady with a face shield as opposed to a mask, as well as a restaurant worker with a shield that covered the bottom half of his face instead of a mask.

I got lots of photos, too… of people just enjoying life and the beautiful sunny weather and mild temperatures.

After lunch, we went back to the hotel. Bill did a German lesson, and I tried to read a news article about Tiffany Trump and promptly fell into a deep sleep. I guess the lunch and the sudden exposure to society wore me out… But it was a delightful afternoon, followed by another night at the Panorama Bar, where we were warmly welcomed. We drank beer instead of cocktails, which seemed to disappoint the wait staff. But we had a light dinner and tipped well, and as we were leaving, the waitress asked if we’d be back tonight. We told her we live only twenty minutes away… and you know, I think I would go back to that hotel for a night or two of fun. Why not?

Trip forthcoming?

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Saturday is my birthday. Bill wants to go somewhere. Germany opened up yesterday, as did much of the rest of Europe, although we are still forbidden to leave the country under General Order #1… or whatever they’re calling it now. We are allowed to do overnights, though, and we can go anywhere in Germany. I suspect we won’t go far, since Bill is only planning two nights. I’m kind of dreading/looking forward to it, if that makes sense. I mean, I want to go somewhere, but I dread the hassle of life in a pandemic.

I wrote in my main blog about the new hobby I picked up in May. I’ve been playing guitar. Bill wants to learn too, so I’ve ordered two new guitars. One new one for me, because I wanted one with steel strings, and one for Bill. I hope they get to us before the weekend. I can hardly wait to try the new instrument, although I have been enjoying my Ortega guitar, too. It’s just that it’s a classical guitar with nylon strings and I want something a little edgier.

And finally, while we didn’t go anywhere on Sunday, we did order some food. Bill had to go on post to pick up something on Sunday, so he decided to stop by the Bamboo Asian Restaurant, which is located on the installation in Wiesbaden, meaning that it mostly caters to Americans. They do delivery on post, but I doubt they’d come all the way out to where we live. He wanted Thai food. It was the first time we’d ever had anything from there, although I was kind of curious about it.

He got me duck with peanut sauce, and he had crispy fish in red curry, which was supposed to be spicy. I didn’t try the crispy fish. The sauce was loaded with mushrooms. However, I did notice that they packaged everything separately, so if I had wanted to try the fish by itself, I could have. I liked that a lot. I enjoyed the duck with peanut sauce, too. In fact, l like peanut sauce very much, because I never see it loaded with mushrooms.

He also got some appetizers– Japanese dumplings, pork spring rolls, and shrimp sticks. They came with a sweet and sour sauce that was very gingery. I think there was a little too much ginger for my taste, although I liked the appetizers. They were nice and fried, which suits me fine! Here are a few photos:

I think Bill is going to keep our trip a secret… we could just end up in Frankfurt, which would be alright with me. I still don’t really feel like dealing with the world due to the coronavirus mess. But it would be good to get a change of scenery, I guess. And it would definitely wake up my sleepy travel blog.

It’s amazing. Every day, I look at photos from years past and remember all the fun we had, and took for granted. I hope this mess will be behind us at some point soon. But I’m not holding my breath.

Take out from Akropolis in Delkenheim…

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Germany is starting to loosen up on its coronavirus restrictions. This weekend, restaurants are supposedly going to allow people to sit at tables. The tables will be spread far apart, which will be a welcome change as far as I’m concerned, and people will be expected to wear face coverings when they are not at their table, which is not something I want to do. Yeah, I have heard all of the arguments for the masks, but I just feel too uncomfortable wearing them in public. So I’ll continue to stay home, out of sight and out of mind, not shedding viruses or anything else.

Last night, we ordered from Akropolis in Delkenheim, which Bill says is a cute little village near us. I don’t actually know if it’s cute, since I haven’t seen it yet. But anyway, he says it’s cute, so I’ll take his word for it. As of Friday of this week, Akropolis will be allowing indoor and outdoor seating, again with face mask requirements, and curiously, leaving one’s contact information. Why? In case someone gets sick? Yeah, no thanks… I’ll just stay home.

But I don’t mind ordering take out, and we did that last night. Bill ordered souvlaki for himself and gyros for me, along with garlic bread and extra t’zatziki. He definitely didn’t need to order the extra sauce, because plenty of it came with our meals. We also got salads, although I didn’t try mine because there was so much other food.

I was craving Greek food the other day. We have always lived near Greek restaurants when we were in the Stuttgart area. Up here, there don’t seem to be quite as many, which doesn’t mean there aren’t still a lot. In Jettingen, we had four Greek places within five miles of us. Here, I think maybe we have two.

The garlic bread was standard white bread dressed with oil and what appeared to be garlic powder. It wasn’t bad at all, if not sort of pedestrian. Bill’s pork skewers looked excellent and I was kind of wishing I’d had those instead. They were seasoned with Greek spices and looked fresh. The gyros were pretty standard shavings covered with onions. I did really enjoy the potato “coins”, which are a nice change from the usual pommes one finds in Germany. I liked that they were full of potato, if that makes any sense. The t’zatziki was nice and garlicky and provided a nice contrast to the pork. We have plenty of leftovers for today, too.

This spread cost about 28 euros, which Bill topped up to 30. I would order from Akropolis again, although I’ve had better Greek food. It might be more exciting when one dines in. But, sadly, I don’t think that we’ll be doing that for awhile. Anyway, I’ll keep my eyes open to see how this new “loosening” works out. Even the Army is being a little less strict now. It’s inevitable, since the world has to reopen sometime.

Takeout from Rocco’s Italian Grill and Bar in Bad Soden…

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In the interest of supporting the restaurant industry while we’re all social distancing, I suggested to Bill that he visit Rocco’s Italian Grill and Bar in Bad Soden and pick up some barbecue for last night’s dinner. Bill and I ate there several months ago, before this virus crisis started. We had a delicious Sunday lunch in full view of the restaurant’s glorious bar. We brought home leftovers and vowed we’d go back there sometime.

Last night was the night, although we had to get the food to go. Bad Soden isn’t super close to us. It’s on the way to Frankfurt, which is maybe 25 minutes away. Bill called ahead, requesting beef short ribs and beef brisket, two items that we don’t see a lot of here in Germany. He brought them home last night, along with two sides of fries. Yeah… big present for my ass! Bill says the lady who helped him spoke perfect English and was very friendly. And a big bonus is that since everyone is staying home, parking was plentiful.

Lately, I’ve been ordering shitloads of Armenian wines and brandy from an Armenian wine and brandy boutique in Brussels, Belgium. I’ve shared the boutique with people in my food and wine Facebook group. I suspect they’re getting a lot of business from Germany. I’ve also ordered Armenian wines from other vendors, like Weingood and Belvini, both online shops in Germany. Hopefully, my liver will survive the pandemic. I probably should get more into coffee drinking.

I bought us some Dutch treats, too. I got Bill lots of cheese because he’s a fan, but I also found some other goodies from the Dutch chain, Henri Willig, which we discovered during our last trip to The Netherlands in January 2019. Maybe we can’t visit these places right now, but we can at least enjoy some food and beverages, right? Who cares if my ass gets so big it has its own Web site? Seriously, I am missing traveling.

But at least we have take out, right? I look forward to enjoying more beef ribs today.

Strasbourg’s annual wine extravaganza! Part six

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Sunday morning, we had breakfast and headed back to the wine expo to pick up our wines. I was a little nervous about how we were going to pull it off, since the venue had few parking spaces locally. Bill found a parking garage a short distance from the convention center… short distance, that is, if you’re not carrying a lot of stuff.

There was a guy selling little wheeled “chariots” made in China. We bought a blue one, which helped us a little. The guy warned Bill about not putting his wallet down, since pickpockets abound. I laughed at that and the guy said he was being serious. I didn’t explain that back in December, we were victims of a tire slashing scam at a French rest stop. So unfortunately, we are all too aware that there are crooks in France, although fortunately no one managed to steal from us after vandalizing our tire.

Our “chariot”. It says Paris on it, but it’s really from China. You can take the pouch off and it will take five boxes. With the pouch on, it will take three.

Saturday night, Bill managed to break one of our souvenir wine glasses, so we only had one with us yesterday. We stopped by the Loire Valley guy’s booth, got our two boxes, which took up most of the room in small wheeled chariot we bought. Bill decided to take the Loire wines and the wines from the Languedoc to the car while I waited. When he came back, we were going to go pick up the wines from southwestern France and get out of there. It wasn’t quite as crowded as it was Saturday, but I wasn’t sure how long I could take the crowds.

We hadn’t really intended to buy more wine, but I spotted another booth that was offering Pommard wines from Burgundy. We discovered Pommard a few months ago, when we went to Beaune on our way to Nimes for Christmas. Although it’s not a cheap wine to purchase, the flavors are wonderful… spicy, complex, tasty reds are my favorite. So although it was a splurge, we ended up buying another box of six wines. Then we bought three more from Corsica… all of which fit nicely in our new chariot. We took it all back to the car at the distant parking garage, marveling at the huge hauls some other people had. One lady in the wine group I run said she bought 131 bottles!

All in all, I enjoyed our visit to the wine expo. If we’re still here next year and don’t have somewhere else we want to see even more, maybe we’ll go next year. We did have a good time, and I really enjoyed Strasbourg! I can see why people make day trips from Stuttgart, though. If you stay the weekend, you can wind up with a huge haul. One other useful but of information– the wine expo is dog friendly. I saw at least two people with their four legged friends with them. I’m not sure I’d want to bring Arran to such a chaotic place, but if you are inclined to bring your dog with you, apparently it’s alright to do so.

After our wine expo adventure, we went back into Strasbourg for lunch. I was thinking maybe we’d go to a restaurant outside of town, but Bill parked at the museum near Petite France, a charming area of Strasbourg where all the tourists hang out. We parked and walked toward the area, catching the aroma of garlic outside a Venetian restaurant called Marco Polo. Once again, according to reviews, it’s a mediocre place. We managed to have a good time, anyway.

A slender woman invited us to sit down and we ordered a couple of large draft beers. The menu consisted mostly of pizzas and pasta dishes. I thought I’d order grilled fish, but I would up with tagliatelle con salmone. Bill had basil pesto risotto with grilled shrimp. I had read that the service in this place is mediocre, but we didn’t have that experience. And the food, while nothing earth shattering, tasted fine. I’d go back, although I think next time we go to Strasbourg, we’ll make an effort to make reservations at some of the notable restaurants.

We took a brief walk around Petite France to burn off lunch. It really is a cute part of town. In some ways, it reminded me a little bit of Tuebingen in Baden-Wuertemberg, Germany, although I didn’t see any punters.

After a little more walking around, we went back to the hotel and I guess I was more tired than I realized, because I was soon sound asleep. I took a nice long nap while Bill did some reading. Then, we ordered room service from the hotel and I watched yet another crappy 80s era movie on YouTube starring Kristy McNichol, and her brother, Jimmy. I guess we’re getting old.

Our drive home was pretty uneventful. After we checked out, we headed back to Germany in the rain. The border was maybe ten minutes from our hotel, and we were back home well before lunchtime. I think we’re going to have to visit Strasbourg again, even if it’s just for a few hours. It really is a very charming city and it has a different vibe than Germany does, even though it’s so close.

As for the expo… we learned a few things about that, too. I think if we go back, we’ll bring a nice heavy duty dolly and several bungee cords with us. Maybe even one that folds up. I don’t see us buying 100 bottles or more at a time, but I could have done with a few more stops on the wine tasting trail. I also think I might plan well in advance and maybe even stay at the Hilton, even though where we stayed this time was very charming and service oriented. For serious wine buying, you can’t beat the convenience of the Hilton! Besides, we’re HHonors members and could use some points.

And finally, I think it might be time to look for another wine rack for our house… I guess I’ll do that while Bill enjoys his latest TDY!

Strasbourg’s annual wine extravaganza! Part four

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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!

Strasbourg’s annual wine extravaganza! Part three

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From the historic wine cave, it was a short walk to Taverne des Serruriers/La Schloss Brasserie. I didn’t stop there for any particular reason, other than I was in the mood for a beer or three. I hadn’t heard anything special about the place. We had a good time anyway, though, because the barmaid was friendly and they played really good music. They had a nice selection of beers in bottles and a few on draft, as well as the expected wines and liquors. We started off with a couple of the daily special– a Meteor Hefeweizen. Meteor is a French beer, and they do okay with their suds.

This bar offers beers on draft in different sizes. They have small beers, large beers, and liters. We went the large, half liter sizes, as we people watched and listened to the classic rock played. I had a good time Shazaming, using an app that identifies the cool or horrible stuff you hear in public. If I’m honest, Shazam kind of sucks sometimes because it doesn’t always recognize songs, but it was doing fine at our watering hole. I noticed the bar offered some snacks… pretzels and the like. They probably had other stuff, too, but I didn’t see it in the menu. The restrooms were typical of a bar. Not the cleanest, but not a horror show, either. We stayed for a couple of happy hours, people watching and drinking suds. After our first French brews, we moved on to some bottled Belgian suds.

After our beer stop, we decided to walk around Strasbourg and search for dinner. As I mentioned before, I didn’t have particularly high hopes for dinner. Given that it was a Friday night too, I had a feeling our dinner would probably be rather ordinary… and it was. But we did enjoy a nice evening walk around Strasbourg. I was enjoying how vibrant the city is and kicking myself for not visiting sooner. Strasbourg is so close– that’s probably why we never went there before, aside from a lunch stop back in 2008, where I ended up drinking a half liter of wine by myself. But it’s definitely a great place to visit!

Our Valentine’s dinner was at Winstub Meiselocker, a rather touristy looking establishment not far from the cathedral. We didn’t go in there for any reason other than it was getting late for us and we figured most of the other restaurants would be booked. We were seated at a rather cramped table right next to a young couple who didn’t look so pleased to have us sitting next to them.

I think they had a special Valentine’s Day dinner offered, but we didn’t go for it, since the mood in there wasn’t particularly romantic. The place wasn’t totally jam packed when we first arrived, so our food and wine arrived in a reasonable amount of time. What we had wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t particularly special, either. The wait staff worked very hard, especially the guy who appeared to be the head waiter. He was put through his paces for sure! I was impressed by his ability to hustle and not get totally confused.

I had grilled salmon on sauerkraut with a steamed potato and Riesling sauce. Bill had a cordon bleu that was full of stinky Munster cheese. He loves stinky cheeses, so it was right up his alley. I wasn’t all that thrilled with the salmon, which was kind of boring and a little overdone. But I did enjoy dessert. It’s hard to disappoint me when it comes to chocolate mousse. The worst part of the meal was when it was time to leave. As we were preparing to end our repast, the restaurant got hit with a shit ton of people.

We asked for the bill and waited a good twenty minutes or more– I didn’t check exactly how long, but it was awhile. Bill finally flagged down the head waiter, handed him 100 euros, which was 17 over what we owed, and said “C’est bon!” The guy rewarded us with a huge smile. Tipping isn’t a huge thing in France. I’m sure the guy thought we were clueless Americans, but really I just felt sorry for him and was remembering my days as a waitress on holidays. Also, we really wanted to get the hell out of there. Watching weeded wait staff gives me the heebie jeebies.

After dinner, we walked out of the heart of Strasbourg. I was expecting we’d call a cab, but Bill said his favorite taxi app didn’t work in Strasbourg. We didn’t see any taxi stands that were convenient, and having forgotten to bring the map the hotel receptionist had given us, we weren’t sure where we could find a cab. I told Bill to consult Google, but he wanted to walk back to the hotel. So that’s what we did. Luckily, the weather was balmy and I was wearing somewhat comfortable shoes. Then when we got to the hotel, we didn’t realize the door code was changed, so we had to wait for the door to open. So much for a romantic night… although it definitely could have been a whole lot worse.

I often bitch at Bill for silly things. One thing he regularly does that is especially irritating is that he has a habit of taking cabs places with no plans on how to get one back. Consequently, my retired soldier has taken me on many miles of unintentional hikes around unfamiliar cities. It’s an ongoing theme with him! One time, on a visit to Slovenia, we hiked about ten miles in the sun with no water. We were eventually rewarded with views of a magnificent gorge, but I insisted that he call us a cab back to the hotel. I know I complain a lot, but if I have to march around a city, I’d rather do it with Bill than anyone else! And yes, I know… I could call the cab myself. Believe me, the thought crossed my mind.

Lunch at Due Amici in Wiesbaden…

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Although the weather is cloudy, foggy, cold, and grim, Bill, Parker, and I decided to go to Wiesbaden for lunch. I knew a lot of places would be crowded due to the icky weather, but we still managed to find a relaxed atmosphere at Due Amici, an Italian restaurant in Downtown Wiesbaden that, prior to today, Bill and I had never tried. Due Amici is billed as an “Italian Crossover Kitchen”, and indeed, there were a few items on the menu that weren’t Italian. For instance, I noticed they had burgers, including a salmon burger with Asian accents, and steaks from Australia. But they also had pasta with black truffles and Burrata auf Caponata.

We had our usual bottle of San Pellegrino, and Bill ordered a bottle of Nero D’Avola, a lovely red that has become one of my favorite grapes/wines since we moved back to Germany. Parker had the pasta with black truffles, I had tagliatelli con lachs, and Bill had Beef Tagliata with Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and rucola. Below are some photos:

I really felt comfortable in the restaurant, which had nice bank seating with cushions and ample space between tables. I didn’t care too much for the loud, dramatic Italian pop that sounded like it was inspired by opera, but they later changed it to something a little less commanding of everyone’s attention. Service was excellent– professional and friendly, but not overly intrusive. I would definitely go back, especially since I saw a couple of the burgers and they looked very good.

After lunch, Parker said she wanted to get some locally made chocolate to take back to Texas. We took a stroll around the block, and they showed me where the new Five Guys is opening this Thursday. I hear Stuttgart also has a brand new Five Guys, which may give some of the local burger joints some competition. I suspect the Five Guys restaurants will be packed with Americans for at least a few weeks after they open! Hard to believe that, not long ago, people would drive all the way from Stuttgart to Frankfurt to get a burger from Five Guys or dine at Chipotle Mexican Grill. Now, at least, people won’t have to go so far for their American fast food burger fix.

We passed the usual buskers, Middle Easterners, who always seem to be playing on Saturdays and Sundays. I dropped a few euros into their plate and one of them covered his heart with his hand. I like to support street musicians. Parker noticed the Lindt store, but I reminded her that she can easily get Lindt balls of chocolate in America. A few stores down was L’Art Sucre Patissier and Chocolatier. Parker got her chocolate, and I got a few photos of a really nice place for desserts.

Stuttgart is a beautiful city, but I think it kind of pales when compared to Wiesbaden. Wiesbaden is a very lovely town with a slower pace. It’s really growing on me, even though I do really miss the bucolic countryside in Swabia. It’s amazing what you don’t miss until it’s gone.