Goodbye, Mad Scientist…


As I have mentioned more than once in my main blog, 2020 has been a hell of a year for a lot of people. Between us, Bill and I have lost three loved ones in less than two months. I lost a cousin and a different cousin’s spouse. Bill lost his father. My cousin and Bill’s dad both died in November. Last night, we found out that we also lost a good friend in a guy we have been calling the “Mad Scientist” since 2008.

I found out about the Mad Scientist’s death by chance last night, as I was looking up his Greek restaurant, Agais, in Entringen, Baden-Württemberg, a place where Bill and I enjoyed many meals and lots of wine. It was where I tried retsina for the first time, and learned to enjoy t’zatziki, a yogurt and cucumber sauce much beloved by anyone who enjoys Greek food. It was also where I learned the Greek word “γιαμας” (pronounced “giamas”), which is roughly equivalent to the English expression, “cheers”.

I became a late convert to Greek cuisine, having tasted it for the first time in Vaihingen (a part of Stuttgart near Patch Barracks) at a little place called Taverna Faros. Taverna Faros had wonderful food, and we ate there a bunch of times during our first six weeks in Germany back in 2007. At the time, we were living in the Vaihinger Hof, a rather crappy but cheap hotel located in Vaihingen, which, over the years, has hosted many people moving to Stuttgart. I’m not sure the Vaihinger Hof is still open these days, since Air BnB has provided alternatives to living in hotels. But we were there for six weeks, and got very familiar with the restaurants in Vaihingen, since there were no kitchen facilities at the Vaihinger Hof.

Taverna Faros was where I tried dorade and gyros for the first time. Unfortunately, the proprietor was rather abruptly forced to shut down because he allegedly didn’t pay his taxes. The place where Taverna Faros once was is now known as The Auld Rogue. It’s a very popular Irish pub, and if you explore this blog, you’ll see that Bill and I visited there many times when we lived near Stuttgart from 2014-2018. Every time I went in there, I remembered that it was once a Greek place, and later became a disco, which we never visited.

Anyway, in the fall of 2007, after six weeks in the rather dirty but lovingly staffed hotel, we finally found a house in a little town called Pfäffingen. It was just a few miles west of the great city, Tübingen. Agais is located in a little village called Entringen, which we frequently drove through on our way to the military installations in the Stuttgart area. It was about 2 kilometers north of Pfäffingen.

Since I had recently discovered a love for Greek food, I told Bill I wanted to try Agais. We kept passing it every time we had to go to Patch or Panzer Barracks, and I was very curious about the food. So one night, we stopped in for dinner. It was probably in 2008, since we moved to our house in November 2007 and it took us awhile to get acquainted with the area. I remember when we walked in, there was no one there. But then a smiling Greek guy with wild, curly dark hair appeared.

Our old friend.

At first, he thought I was Greek. If you were to see me in person, you might be as baffled as I was by that. I’m short, blonde, and very buxom, with blue eyes. Personally, I think I look very Celtic, which stands to reason, since my people were mostly from the British Isles. But the Mad Scientist initially spoke Greek to me. When I reacted with a baffled expression, he realized we are Americans and switched to English. He welcomed us heartily, and we sat down at what would become our usual booth (the only one in his restaurant, actually). He turned on Greek music– from Zorba the Greek. The walls, painted white and bright blue, were covered with personal mementos.

I remember after enjoying our first nice meal at Agais, I told the proprietor that I thought we’d be regulars. He said, “I think you should.” When we got home that night, Bill said the guy reminded him of a “Mad Scientist”. So that’s what we’ve called him ever since. His wife, Renate, is German and cooks the food.

Of course, the Mad Scientist had a name. I think he went by the name John in Germany, but I found out last night his real name was Ioannis. He was born December 27, 1938 and died on November 9, 2020, just one day after we lost Bill’s dad. I don’t know what ended John’s life, but in recent years, I did notice that he was not as vibrant as he once was. I don’t know for certain, but I suspected that he might have had a stroke during the five years we were out of Germany. I say this because when we first met him in 2008, he spoke perfect English. When we saw him again for the first time, back in 2014, he struggled to speak English and, in fact, may have even had some trouble with German, which he’d also previously spoken perfectly.

During our first two years in Germany, we stopped by Agais many times. We also brought visitors there. Those first couple of years, John was quite healthy. He told us that he used to work in Canada as an engineer. He moved there with his first wife, whom I think was Greek. Their marriage broke up, so he married a German woman, who brought him to Germany to live. That marriage broke up, and he married another German woman, the one we know as Renate. They had a son who, during our first tour, was attending the university in Tübingen. Sometimes, we’d see him in the restaurant, helping out. He looked a lot like his dad, complete with the wild, curly black hair.

Although I’ve had Greek food I’ve liked better, Bill and I loved to visit Agais because we could always count on an entertaining evening. John loved to chat about all subjects, and we’d talk about everything from American politics to Greek/Turkish relations. He learned how we liked our food, and we could always count on getting pistachio nuts and candy at the end of the meal, as well as ouzo. John was also famous for giving out eucalyptus drops, which will clear out your sinuses and are great to have around whenever you’re sick with a cold or the flu. I carried them around in my purse for years after we moved the first time.

In 2009, we had to leave Germany a year earlier than we expected. We never got the chance to say goodbye to John and his wife. I always regretted that, since they’d shown us such a good time when we were in Germany the first time. The five years we were back in the States, I thought about them a lot.

Just before we moved, they had opened up a “vacation apartment”. It still operates today. I remember on one of the last visits we had before we moved “home”, we happened to dine there at the same time John and his wife were hosting several obnoxious German couples. I wrote about that incident when it happened and the story can be found on this blog. The short version is, these couples were staying in Entringen and had been dining at Agais all week. They had sort of taken over John’s restaurant, dictating which music he should play, and running him ragged. I noticed they were casting derisive looks at Bill and me.

I understood much less German then than I do now, but I could tell at least one of them was making fun of us. And we also heard them disparaging the Swiss. When they finally left, John asked us if we understood what they were saying. Bill said we hadn’t. Chuckling wickedly, John said, “Those people have been here all week for marriage counseling. They’re here in a last ditch effort not to get divorced!” Apparently, there is or was a marriage counselor in Entringen of some renown, and the annoying jerks at the table near us were there to receive services.

When Barack Obama got elected, I remember John was excited. He said he was glad to see a black man in the White House. Then he added, “But I think he might get shot.” We were shocked at the time, but given the fact that John was an older man who had lived through the Kennedy administration and watched America from afar, I could kind of see where he might have gotten that impression. Fortunately, Mr. Obama survived his time as our president.

In September 2014, Bill and I finally visited our old friend again. We walked into his restaurant, and it was unusually busy. His wife saw us and recognized us immediately, giving us a huge grin and a welcome. It took John a couple of minutes, but then his eyes widened and he smiled and said, “You are back in Germany!” It was at about that time that we realized that he was not the same man he was in 2009. But we made a point of visiting him occasionally when we were living in Jettingen, which was probably a 15-20 minute drive from where he was.

I wish we’d had a chance to see him once more before we left the Stuttgart area about two years ago. I would have liked to have been able to say goodbye. Unfortunately, we never got around to it. The last time we saw him was in September 2018. I noticed that over the years, the portion sizes were smaller and the prices were a bit higher. And he’d stopped handing out pistachios. I don’t think it was necessarily because he was trying to be stingy. I think business had gotten rough for him, especially after he got sick (and he did confirm that he was sick for awhile). But his English did improve, even if it wasn’t as fluent as it once was. And we still loved to visit his restaurant, remember old times, and make new memories.

It looks like his wife is carrying on with the restaurant and apartment, although Germany is now back in lockdown mode until at least next month. On their Web site, it says they’re doing some renovation work. I hope she can keep the place going during these tough times.

Agais is the one place that bridged our two stints near Stuttgart. It’s the one constant of both time periods, a place where we were always warmly welcomed. A lot of the restaurants we used to love to visit during our first stint went defunct long ago, but not Agais. And we could always count on John and Renate to show us a nice time. I will always remember the “Mad Scientist” fondly. He was a very good man.

My pandemic birthday… part four


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 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?

Lunch at Due Amici in Wiesbaden…


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.

Parker goes to France, part five…


Prior to Monday, I had never heard of Soultzmatt, another cute town in Alsace where wonderful locally produced wines are turned out every year. My friend, Ellen, said that she’d been buying wines from Klein René et Michel for years. As I mentioned in my previous post, I knew Ellen from Facebook. Before Monday, I had never met Ellen in person, though we have been interacting for a few years now. She and her friend, Louise, were about a half an hour behind us, so we had originally planned to visit Eguisheim. But the lure of wine was too strong to resist, and we soon found ourselves on the was to 5 Rue Ingold in Soultzmatt.

Bill was a little confused at first, once we found the winery. We weren’t sure where to park, or where to go. As luck would have it, another couple pulled up at about the same time we did, only they were French and spoke no English. Ellen had asked us to wait, but since the lady was already opening the tasting room for the French couple, we decided to go ahead… We knew we’d still be tasting wines when Ellen and Louise showed up. Sure enough, we were!

The lady who was running the tasting didn’t speak any English at all, so things were a little awkward at first. But then Bill told her he speaks a little German and, lo and behold, she spoke German, too! We’ve found that a lot of people in Alsace speak German, especially among the older folks. There’s a guy in Ribeauville who sells liqueurs and wines who speaks no English, but has happily carried on conversations with Bill, despite Bill’s limited German proficiency.

By the time Ellen and Louise showed up, the French couple had left with three boxes of wine– probably about 18 bottles worth. And Bill, Parker, and I had already tried about three… Ellen speaks French and German, so things got a lot easier after that! We left with twelve bottles of wine ourselves.

Ellen did manage to get a nice shot of us enjoying our wine…

This was a very successful stop!

It’s always a pleasure to meet online acquaintances offline. After all, that’s how Bill and I came together. We used to be strictly online friends. Ellen and Louise were delightful company. It turns out we have some things in common, too. Louise is a horse person, and I was a horse person for years before I grew up… and out. Louise lives in Mobile, Alabama, which was where my horse lived after his very first owner in Baton Rouge, Louisiana sold him with his mom. Louise is also the name of my former riding instructor. 😉 And Ellen was especially great company, especially since we lived in the same community and have husbands who do somewhat similar work. I was most impressed by her ability to speak French and German. Time for me to get back on the stick, I guess.

After we tasted and bought our wine, we headed back to Ribeauville. Parker stayed in while Bill and I went searching for dinner. We found only one open restaurant, though it was one we’d never tried before… Restaurant Le Ribeaupierre. I see it gets pretty low Trip Advisor ratings, although I can honestly say I have legitimately had worse dining experiences in Ribeauville. We were the only ones in the restaurant, but the waiter was still very pleasant and the food wasn’t bad.

Restaurant Le Ribeaupierre is quaintly decorated and seems like a somewhat popular lunch spot, despite its low ratings on Trip Advisor. It looks like they mostly serve pizzas. I had some trouble choosing what I was going to have, mainly because the presence of mushrooms pretty much spoil my meals (not that I can’t afford to have some spoiled). Lasagne is one of those items that is hit or miss. Sometimes people use mushrooms in them. Sometimes they don’t. Anyway, this meal was alright. The Irish Coffee made up for it, and Bill enjoyed his “colonel”– lemon sorbet with a shot of vodka. We noticed that the waiter locked up right after we left, at about 8:00pm. Like I said, Ribeauville is dead in January, but plenty of fun can still be had if you look hard enough.

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.

We like to stay at Yannick’s place, mostly because he’s very nice and loves dogs. But his place is also very convenient to Ribeauville, has access to free lot parking, and has most everything you’d need. It’s also reasonably priced, and Yannick makes checking in and checking out a breeze. You just access the lockbox, for which he sends a code before you arrive. It’s super easy and convenient. In fact, about an hour after we left, he texted me to see how we enjoyed our time. It was, indeed, a great time! Now… on with what we did in Alsace this time! Stay tuned for part three.

Our first French Christmas, part three…


Sunday morning, we awoke to rainy skies and wind that made the shutters clatter against the gite. I am not a fan of walking around in rain, but when the skies finally cleared, Bill and I decided to head into town. Arran protested loudly when we tried to leave him alone, so we took him too. Au Miracle du Pain Doré is a very short walk from town, so we enjoyed a good stroll to Beaune’s center. A small Christmas market was going on, and we got to try salami and Bill tried cheese. I was tempted to get some of the salami, but Bill worried about how it would fare during our trip to Nimes. I think if the market is still going tomorrow, maybe we’ll pick some up.

Arran met a couple of dogs who appeared to be truffle hunters. The market actually had a small booth dedicated to truffles and they had pictures of the dogs they use to find them. I don’t get the appeal of truffles at all. I wish I did, since people who love them make them sound so good and worth the money. Unfortunately, most things fungal make me want to run away screaming.

After we walked around, admiring the cheeses, homemade sausages, breads, and mulled wines, we noticed some stores were open, even though it was Sunday. Then, we ended up eating at what, according to Trip Advisor, might be one of Beaune’s worst restaurants. Fortunately, we had a good experience there. The weather wasn’t too bad, so we sat outside with Arran at La Concorde, which offers all meals at apparently most times.

This song was playing at the market. I first heard it on National Lampoon’s European Vacation circa 1985. 80s music was big last Sunday.

I was surprised to read the poor reviews of this restaurant. I had fish n’ chips and Bill had a burger with Epoisses cheese, and we shared a carafe of wine. The waiter was a bit slow to greet us, but he was charming and charmed by Arran. I think a lot of complaints seem to come from a three course deal they offer and confusion over the bill. We didn’t have a problem, although perhaps the prices were higher than they should have been. I was just glad Arran behaved and wasn’t freaking out about the other dog sitting at the table next to us. The French lady enjoying lunch, complete with escargots, was complaining about the bill.

Beaune is very cute, easy to walk, and has lots of food and retail shopping… and I think we’ll be back again, despite the asswipes at the rest stop who fucked up our tire. I noticed some wine stores I wanted to check out last week. Now that we are stranded, maybe we’ll drop in tomorrow… if they’re open this week, too.

Another discovery I made just now is that Aldi has partnered with Trader Joe’s, which I guess must be part of the Aldi group. We got cashews with the Trader Joe’s logo. If Trader Joe’s is in France, it would be worth it just to come back for that. I’m dying for some of their frozen “crack” n’ cheese, which is even better than mine is.

On Monday last week, we checked out of Beaune and made our way to Nimes… what this whole trip was about… to see my friend and “sista” Audra. But clearly, our adventures in Beaune are still going. More on that as the story evolves.

Another Sunday shopping trip…


Bill and I are taking a road trip to France for Christmas. We’re bringing Arran with us, so we’ll be staying in self-catered places. My friend, Audra, lives in Nimes, and we’ll be seeing her and her family, as well as stopping in Beaune on the way there and back.

I wanted to pick up a few things on the installation at Hainerberg yesterday– stuff like supplies for wrapping Christmas presents and such, and a few groceries, since I felt like making a dessert I hadn’t had in years, a cherry cream cheese pie. So we took the Mini out of the garage and went to AAFES and the commissary. The Mini needed to be driven, since it gets less action thanks to the new car. We ran into one of Bill’s co-workers at the PX, while we were standing in line to pay. Then we picked up our stuff at the commissary, and headed into Wiesbaden for lunch.

I wasn’t in the mood to screw around as we looked for lunch. It took awhile to find a parking spot. It was impossible at our usual garage, which became “Besezt” as we were driving up and down looking for a free spot. We were successful at the next garage, at the Kurhaus. We had to park on the second floor, though, because that garage was also packed. I was a little worried that it would be hard to find a restaurant that wasn’t crowded, but I needn’t have fretted. Little Italy was wide open at about 1:30pm. Better yet, when we walked inside, were immediately recognized and warmly welcomed!

I was impressed by the waiter, who even remembered what Bill had the last time we were there. To put this into perspective, without looking it up on the blog, I don’t even know when we were last there! I guess it was a couple of months ago. Little Italy has become a favorite restaurant, though. The food never disappoints; the service is good and very friendly; and it’s not hard to get in and out of there. Here are some pictures from our lunch.

Our lunch at Little Italy was nice and leisurely. At one point, they cranked up the music by mistake, and the older Germans that were in there with us started laughing. I’ve noticed that Germans seem to enjoy quirky, slapstick humor, and people who act like fools. I think it’s because the culture here is a lot more serious and uptight than American culture is. In many ways, I like it… but I do get a kick out of what they find funny.

Arran was happy to see us when we got home. After we let him out and fed him dinner, he went to lie down in the living room. Bill went upstairs for a moment, then came back downstairs looking a little pale. He said, “For a split second, I could have sworn I saw Arran upstairs, flitting past me, but he’s down here. So now I wonder if it was Zane.”

“So you think that was Zane’s ghost?” I asked.

“Yeah.” Bill nodded. “I guess he’s going to hang around until we find a new dog.”

We usually get new dogs within a month of losing one, but it’s easier to do that in the United States. There, people don’t hold it against us that we’re Americans affiliated with the military. We also don’t travel as much or as often there. We decided to wait on getting a new dog until after our road trip to France, since we’re going to need to take time breaking it in. To be honest, as much as I want another dog, I feel a little apprehensive about the process of getting one. I guess that when the time is right, the right dog will show up.

It’s always heartbreaking to look at Facebook memories at this time of year. In December 2009, Zane joined our family as a young dog. In December 2012, MacGregor was dying of cancer. Both are gone now, and they were both wonderful dogs. I miss them… and I don’t know how another dog will fill Zane’s pawprints. But I also know that I’ve never regretted a single dog we’ve taken in, and somehow they all manage to be wonderful in their own special ways. I much prefer dogs and other animals to most people, too. Pets love you for who you are and don’t screw you over.

Bill’s mom is coming here next month, so I don’t know how much searching we will do in January. I suspect we might have a new friend in the spring… We’ll see.

Welcome back to Stuttgart… part 1– lunch at Mikomi in Vaihingen and rug shopping


About six months ago, Bill and I moved from the Stuttgart area to Wiesbaden.  We’ve lived in the Stuttgart area twice during our marriage– from 2007-09 and 2014-2018.  It has the distinction of being the place where we’ve, so far, spent the most time during our married life, followed closely by the D.C. area.  It’s starting to feel a little like home.

We wouldn’t ordinarily go to Stuttgart for a fun trip, especially since we just left there a few months ago.  On the other hand, it’s absolutely possible to have a lot of fun in Stuttgart, especially if you know where to go.  We needed to go down there for both business and pleasure.

On a whim, back in February 2018, I bought tickets to Elton John’s “Farewell Yellow Brick Road” concert, which took place last night at the Hans-Schleyer Halle in Bad Cannstatt.  It was the first of a string of tickets I’ve bought for concerts in 2018 and 2019.  I think I’m trying to make up for all of the years I didn’t have enough money to go to shows.  That, and a lot of my favorite artists are retiring and this is the last chance to see them.

I was really looking forward to last night’s concert.  Not only did I buy the tickets over a year ago, I actually had to wait a year to get them.  Although I have loved Elton’s music ever since I was a tiny child many years ago, this was the first time I had ever seen him perform live.  I’m glad we made it to the show.  Last night, I was beginning to think it wasn’t going to happen.  More on that later.

We also needed to go see Dr. Blair, dentist extraordinaire, to get our teeth cleaned.  I know we should probably find a dentist in Wiesbaden, but we really like Dr. Blair.  He’s the best dentist either of us have ever seen.  Besides, there’s every chance we’ll one day wind up living near Stuttgart again.

I had a bunch of wine corks to unload to a lady in the food and wine group I run on Facebook.  I always like to offer them to crafters before recycling them.  I also wanted to buy some more rugs for our house with the brand new floors.

The spring fest was also going on, and while I’m probably getting too old for festing, we decided we’d try to hit that, too.

On Thursday, May 9th, we loaded up our two dogs, Zane and Arran, and took off for Stuttgart.  On a good day, it takes about two and a half hours to get from Wiesbaden to Stuttgart.  Thursday wasn’t a good day.  The weather was crappy and there was a lot of traffic.  It ended up taking us about four hours, and we were racing against the clock, because Max at Dog Holiday closes his doors at noon to have lunch.  He’s pretty strict about time and Bill likes to be respectful of other people’s time, so he was getting pretty stressed out as we hit Stau after Stau.  There’s a good reason Stuttgart is often referred to as “STAUgart.  Traffic is often a nightmare there.  I had forgotten how bad it is, even though we haven’t been gone that long.

I really haven’t missed this shit.

After we dropped off the dogs at Max’s, we headed for the Schwaben Galerie, the mall every American affiliated with the U.S. military gets to know intimately.  We were hoping to find lunch before we went to Panzer to purchase our rugs.  Once again, I was feeling whimsical as we decided where we were going to eat.  I went to see if the pseudo Mexican restaurant “Chilli’s” was still there.  I reviewed it once in 2016, right after it took over the space from the defunct Neuer Ochsen restaurant that was there for years prior.  I had liked the Neuer Ochsen and was sad to see that it was supplanted by a pseudo German Mexican place.  If I recall correctly, I didn’t hate our meal at Chilli’s, but it definitely wasn’t authentic Mexican food.

As I turned the corner, I noticed that Chilli’s was gone.  In its place is a new sushi restaurant and grill called Mikomi.  Bill and I love sushi, so we decided to stop in and see if the new place was any good.

I learned that this restaurant has only been open for about a month.


A very pleasant Asian lady invited us to sit down.  I was taking note of the new decor in this restaurant space.  It’s been interesting watching it go from the Neuer Ochsen to Chilli’s to now Mikomi.  I like what they’ve done with it.  There are lots of comfortable booths and the ambiance is calming.

I really liked the look of these booths.  You could host a good sized party there.


They have regular tables, too.


Bill tries to figure out the menu.  There were a lot of choices.

A young English speaking waiter explained the restaurant’s Bento Box deal, where you can get a main dish, two sides, a drink, and a dessert for a low price.  Or, alternatively, you can order one of their sushi deals for an equally low price.  I was really thirsty, so I ordered a beer.  A small beer would have been included in the price of the Bento Box, but I ordered a large.  I ended up drinking both.  Bill went with a Japanese brew.

“Goldilocks and the three beers?”

I went with one of the sushi Bento Boxes.  This was very satisfying.  The salmon was especially fresh and tasty, as was the spicy tuna roll.

Bill’s Bento Box was a good deal.  He got noodles with vegetables, pickled cucumbers and carrots, and shrimp skewers.  I loved the noodles and had to steal a couple of bites.

After we finished, we were invited to partake of the dessert buffet.  They had little cakes like this or fresh fruit.  I also saw donuts.

All of this was priced pretty reasonably.  I think we got out of there at under 30 euros.

 I think Mikomi will be more successful than Chilli’s was.  I didn’t hate Chilli’s as much as some Americans did, but I definitely didn’t need a second visit.  Mikomi, on the other hand, I would dine at again, given the opportunity.  I would recommend it to those who like Asian food– especially sushi.

After we finished having lunch, we went to Panzer and loaded up on new rugs for our house.  Our new landlord just put in brand new floors, so we’re doing our best to keep them as nice as possible.  Also, I like having rugs on the floors because they help cut down on echoes and are nicer to walk on than cold parquet.  The Turkish guy who runs the carpet shop was playing Rabiz– a type of Turkish pop music.  I was telling him about my adventures in Turkey and Bulgaria back in the 1990s, and how I had gotten used to hearing it in Armenia.  He said I had been to more parts of Turkey than he has, probably because my trip took me through the east.  The northeastern part of Turkey is truly some of the most beautiful scenery I have ever seen.  It rivals Switzerland…  or, at least it did in 1996.  I’d love to go back to Turkey again someday, when it’s safe.

Once we dropped some euros on new rugs, we headed to our favorite Stuttgart area hotel, the Wald Hotel.  More on that in my next post.

Argentinian steak in downtown Wiesbaden…


Our good luck with the weather continued today, so Bill and I decided to go to Wiesbaden for lunch.  I had noticed an Argentinian steak house when we had lunch downtown a couple of weeks ago, so that’s where we headed.  Lots was going on in Wiesbaden today, including an Easter market and a craft fair.  I didn’t inherit my mom’s gifts for needlework or crafting, so we just cruised through there. I also got a few pictures of the beautiful Evangelical church downtown.  We didn’t enter, because services were going on.

German churches put most American ones to shame.

I was surprised by how crowded this market was.  Lots of people were looking for bargains on sewing materials and fabrics.

Bill got a kick out the sign warning against pickpockets– “Langfinger” (long finger).  I guess that’s one way to describe petty thieves.

They had rides…


Lots of kids and dogs were out and about, enjoying the sunny weather.


You could even get a balloon animal if you wanted one.  A lot of shops were open, as today was a Sunday when businesses could operate.  It was a beautiful day for retail shopping and plenty of people were taking advantage.

And they were also selling/demonstrating cars.  We are about to be in the market for a new set of wheels, but none like the ones on display today.  Incidentally, we did notice that there were Fords for sale.  I remember Trump claimed that Germans don’t sell American cars.  Not true… but a lot of what he says isn’t true.

Casa del Sabor Argentinian Steakhouse is located in sort of a restaurant row.  As I mentioned before, I noticed it when we ate at La Cantinetta a couple of weeks ago.  I wouldn’t have minded having lunch at La Cantinetta again, but I wanted to try someplace new.  Besides, I had a feeling we’d be easily sucked into a big, long meal.  I love long lunches, but we had other things to do today.

Although the sun was shining, we decided to eat inside, because neither of us wore sunscreen or brought sunglasses, and the sun was very intense today.  We had a nice view of Scotch and Soda, a rather popular bar.  We’re going to have to try them next.

Bill decides on lunch.  We both had beer today.

The waiter, who spoke excellent English, brought out very fresh bread and garlic aioli.  Bill loves garlic, so this was a hit with him, especially.  I also enjoyed it, but had to be disciplined about eating too much of it before lunch arrived.  

Bill had grilled chicken with a mango sauce.  It came with rosemary potatoes and onions.  He enjoyed his dish very much…

But I was especially happy with my 200 gram rib eye, which was Argentinian beef.  It was cooked to medium and was excellent.  It’s not often I get steak in Germany, unless I know where the beef comes from.  German beef tends to leave a lot to be desired.  This steak was the real deal from Argentina, and it was outstanding.  

I also got a baked potato with sour cream and garlic.  I don’t usually like sour cream very much, but I did enjoy it today.  I think the garlic helped.

Besides steak and chicken, you can also get burgers, fajitas, and even a couple of vegetarian dishes, as well as fish.  I noticed they had fresh fruit juices, too, and a variety of exotic cocktails and shots.  We were too full to consider having dessert, especially since the place was filling up as we were finishing lunch.  We’d definitely go back.  Next time, I’ll try the fajitas.

Need a haircut?  Wiesbaden’s AVEDA has English speaking stylists and they even take VAT forms!

A Feinkost in downtown Wiesbaden we are going to have to check out.


After lunch, we went by post and bought some gardening supplies, skin cream, and eyeliner.  Then we gassed up and hit the commissary for our monthly stockup on American stuff we can’t live without.  Actually, we buy most of our groceries on the economy, but sometimes we need Cheetos and stuff…

On post, they were warning about DUIs… This car was apparently wrecked while someone was driving drunk.


I almost opted out of the commissary run, but I need to get out more.  I’ve been such a hermit these past few weeks, and it’s time for us to start exploring again like we did last year.

“Looking for trouble” on President’s Day weekend in Robert-Espagne, France… part three


We decided to venture into nearby St. Dizier to see if we could find a nice place for lunch.  St. Dizier is a small commune with about 26,000 residents, located not far from where we were staying.  It has sort of a grimy look to it and, if I’m honest, isn’t a very exciting place.  However, we did manage to find a great lunch spot.  We were lucky we got there right at noon, too, since almost every table in the place was reserved!

The restaurant we chose was called Le Gourmet du Jard.  Besides traditional French dishes, it offers pizzas and “plats du jour”.  I was glad to find it, because we had looked at a menu at another place and I said, “That looks too French for me.”  The menu was loaded with fois gras, escargots, mushrooms, and andouillette.  Bill had a bad experience with andouillette in Burgundy, although I know many people love to eat it.  Le Gourmet du Jard had more things on the menu that I recognized and knew I’d want to eat.

Outside of the restaurant.


We shared our table with a French couple.  Yes, we were the only Americans in the place, and no one spoke English.  Still, I managed to order a lovely salmon and cod en croute.  Bill had a salad with shrimp, smoked salmon, hearts of palm, and artichoke hearts, among other things.

We shared a half bottle of red wine…

The place is obviously still decorated for Valentine’s Day.


I had a lovely salmon and cod dish, enrobed en croute (in pastry), with mixed vegetables, rice, a potato, and a savory sauce.  It was very good, and I was relieved that there was nothing originating from intestines on my plate.

Bill had a Salad Pacifique, which was quite a production with shrimp, smoked salmon, and a variety of fresh vegetables.  He said it didn’t really stay with him, although it tasted great.  We got bread and a snack mix made of crackers and peanuts, too.  This salad also was part of a three course meal that was available for a reasonable price.  This restaurant had a number of such three and four course deals going.  I didn’t want that much food, but if I had been hungrier and more daring, I might have tried one.


For dessert, I had a huge cup of chocolate mousse!

Bill had the tart of the day, which was cherry.  It was excellent!


Le Gourmet du Jard was staffed by a group of hardworking teenagers.  The dining room was small, but busy.  They did a great job of making sure everyone was happy.  Service was friendly and professional.  We’d go back.

After lunch, we walked around the town and I took a few photos, before we had to head out to take care of a special errand for my sister.  Here are a few photos of St. Dizier, in all its glory.

I liked this statue, too.

The cathedral was kind of interesting.  It looked sort of “mod”.

This ad with the piglet caught my eye…  especially since it mentions Vegas.

Yeah, there isn’t a whole lot to this town.  It was sort of sleepy.  But the weather was so pretty that if we’d wanted to, we could have gotten a table on the square and people watched for awhile.

We decided to leave and hit the grocery store.  My sister, Becky, had asked me to find her French laundry detergent called Mir.  That chore actually took some time, since the first store we went to was closed and the second one, a Lidl, didn’t have what we needed.

No Mir in the laundry aisle…

But we did find booze.  Actually, the Lidl was stocked with all kinds of weird stuff.  They had things like gifts, tights, clothing items, and toys, but the selection of things like food or detergent was pretty slim…

And worst of all, they had no public restroom.

Yes, there was beer and we brought some back with us.

This abbey– Abbaye Trois Fontaines— is very close to where our rental house was.

Bill eventually dropped me off and went to a larger store, where he did manage to find the Mir for Becky.  It will get mailed to her at some point.

I PM’d this photo to my sister and she was very happy.  I may have to try it myself, to see why it excites her so much…  Interestingly enough, it looks like it’s made by a German company.