My pandemic birthday… part five

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I don’t have much to write about last night. It was pretty much a repeat of Friday night, only with beer instead of cocktails, although the bar was busier and they played reggae/UB40 instead of German pop and euro trance music. Most of the same staffers were there. Once again, I had a great time, because I’ve missed going out and seeing things. It was just great to be in a pretty area where I could get photos of nature and good food.

I did get a few photos of last night’s fun. But it was kind of low key…

After another good night’s rest, we got up, had breakfast, and checked out before 9:00am. I was eager to get home and do some writing, guitar practice, and sing a few songs. Bill has gone to pick up Arran from the Birkenhof. I think we could be persuaded to take another trip, possibly very soon!

All told, I think Bill spent under 700 euros for the nights in the hotel, the Therme access, two breakfasts, two dinners, and the bar… not bad at all! I would highly recommend Vital Hotel and the Rhein-Taunus Therme for a quick getaway. I think it would be a lot of fun for a “girls” trip, but it’s also good for those who need a hotel near Frankfurt Airport or those who like water fun. I don’t know that I’d necessarily call it a romantic spot, since the Therme did have a number of kids around. But… I particularly enjoyed it right now, since there weren’t nearly as many people as I’ve come to expect at the spas in Germany. And non nudists will like that it doesn’t seem to have a nude bathing area, like the Mineraltherme, Schwabenquellen, Palais Thermal, and Friedrichsbad all have. I have been to all of those spas, and you will find my write ups of them in this blog. Personally, I like the nude spas, but I know not everyone is comfortable. It appears that those who don’t like nudity will appreciate Rhein-Main Therme, although I didn’t check the saunas. You may have to be naked for those.

Anyway… I hope y’all enjoyed this brief series. I hope I can write more soon. I have missed traveling and dining out so much!

My pandemic birthday… part three

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We both enjoyed a really good night’s sleep at the Vital Hotel. The mattresses are very comfortable. My only complaint about the beds were the linens, which could have been better quality. I didn’t use one of the bathrobes because I brought my own. Bill did, and noticed one of the sleeves had holes in it. However, those are minor complaints. Again, I was glad we brought our own pillows, because like a lot of hotels in Germany, the Vital Hotel’s are a bit small and stingy.

At breakfast, a waitress took our names and room number– again, contact tracing– as she led us to a table. Buffet breakfasts are a thing of the past. Now, they give you a piece of paper with everything available listed. You mark what you want and they bring it to you. Bill ordered scrambled eggs and bacon for himself, and I had smoked salmon with horseradish. We both had fruit salad, and bread comes out automatically. You can also have an assortment of cereals, yogurt, cold cuts, cheeses, and fried eggs.

I noticed at the table near us, there was a little blond boy with his parents. He spoke English and German, but probably wasn’t too much older than three. I was impressed. That kid is going to have quite an advantage over some of his peers.

After breakfast, we donned our masks, went back to the room, and changed into our bathing suits. Then we took the elevator nearest our room to the ground floor, where we used our watches at a turnstile and found ourselves looking at very impressive pools. Well… they are impressive, for sure, as hotel pools, especially by American standards. By German standards, I don’t think this particular Therme is as awesome as a few of the others I’ve been to. However, what I did like about it is that it was not at all crowded. The chairs were all marked with signs to enforce social distancing. We easily found a couple of lounges perched on a bridge that overlooked the main, dazzling pool with its fountain.

Naturally, I didn’t bring my phone to the spa, so I didn’t get any pictures of the Therme. However, you can easily find pictures on the Therme’s official Web site. We didn’t try the saunas, although I would imagine they are textile free, like most German saunas are. The steam rooms, snack bar, and massage rooms were also closed, although the Therme has a big gym that is in operation. We didn’t use the locker rooms because we had direct access from the hotel. We did notice that they limited the number of people allowed in there at a time.

We enjoyed the wave pool and the jacuzzi, although they didn’t seem to be turning on the jets as often as usual. I noticed the water wasn’t always as warm as I thought it would be. Again, I like the Mineraltherme in Böblingen a bit more, because not only does it have a nice sized bathing suit area, but there’s also an area where you can go textile free. But it was a pleasure to be at the Therme yesterday because it wasn’t crowded at all.

I did notice a baby pool that seemed popular, although little kids were in the big pools, too. And kids were jumping when they weren’t technically supposed to be, but that was no big deal. I’m sure they were happy to be swimming, burning off some of that pent up energy. One boy was throwing a ball in the wave pool, skipping it across the surface. Under normal circumstances, he would probably not be able to do that, because the pool would have been a lot fuller.

After a couple of hours, we decided to go have lunch. But first, I wanted to try one of the waterslides. I used to love slides when I was a kid. I happily exhausted myself at Water Country USA back when it first opened. One of my friends’ dads actually helped build that park in Virginia back in the mid 1980s. But as I got older, I lost my nerve. Bill doesn’t like slides or rides, so that made me less inclined to try them. I skipped the slide at the tree walk and the salt mines in Hallstatt, Austria. Both times, I regretted not taking the opportunity. So yesterday, I decided I was going to do it. It was perfect, since it wasn’t crowded.

I climbed the stairs, getting more nervous with each flight. At the top, I noticed the green slide wasn’t working. The water on the blue side was plentiful and strong. I looked at the graphics showing the best way to slide, took a minute to steady myself, and laid on my back. Next thing I knew, I was hurtling at full speed down the twisty, windy covered slide, part of which was blackened with more plastic. I kept going faster and faster, and I was suddenly very glad for precise German engineering when I finally hit the water below and it entered my sinuses. Bill said my eyes were like saucers and I know I had a huge grin on my face. Maybe I would have done it again if not for the steep climb. 😉

I will save my comments about our fabulous lunch for the next post. It deserves it’s own post, and I think I might need to pause for a nap. You can kind of see the slide in the featured photo. Germans do not play with their water slides. Every one I’ve seen has been very impressive and fun– and very safe!

My pandemic birthday… part two

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At last, it was Friday. I was not wanting to pack a bag to go on our trip. I felt nervous, and it seemed like a waste of time and money to go anywhere. I even wrote about my apprehension on my main blog, which I will warn is a hell of a lot rawer, less positive, and more political than this blog is. Because I’ve been watching the news a lot, I got the sense that this trip would not be any fun. I had visions of people watching everyone else, giving them the side eye for any face mask infraction and maybe even engaging in shaming. Having been called out by strangers on more than one occasion when we lived near Stuttgart, I figured things could easily get hostile in Hesse, even though it seems like Hessians are somewhat friendlier and less in your face than some of their southern brethren are. I’ve seen people get yelled at, for example, when they cross the street before the “green man” is showing. One time in 2007, when I was still very new to Germany, I mistakenly walked through a children’s playground with my dogs, and some lady yelled at me for that. I didn’t understand her German shouting and didn’t know it’s forbidden to walk dogs in playgrounds, so I got very upset.

I know it sounds silly… Some people would tell me to grow up. I will admit that I don’t like confrontations and I tend to get highly pissed off when people get in my face. It takes me a long time to get over it, too… I have a long memory and a tendency to hold grudges, which I know isn’t the best way to be. But that’s how I am. It’s a hang up from my childhood. I prefer to avoid situations that will be triggering, even though I know a lot of people would make fun of me for that. And I, in turn, will hold grudges against them for the ensuing trauma caused.

One of the reasons I felt inclined to stay home was that, at home, I don’t have to worry about dealing with other people. I can do what I want, eat when and what I want, and sit around in my nightgown. But that’s not healthy, nor is it necessarily the right thing to do to people who are trying to restart the economy. If everyone felt like I was feeling the other day, a lot of businesses would fail in a hurry. It’s kind of a duty to go out and spend money and see things… and I think that as much as some people complain about tourists, once this pandemic has reached its end, more people will appreciate tourists and the business they generate. I grew up near Williamsburg, Virginia, and that is a very heavily populated tourist area. I used to do a lot of bitching about the tourists… but I also know that without the tourists, a lot of people would not have jobs. When I was younger, my own livelihood depended a lot on tourists. Tourism is also good for the soul, and it helps curb ignorant thinking. If you go out and see the world, you will open your mind.

So… with all of that in mind on Friday afternoon, Bill and I loaded up the Volvo with our overnight bags and headed off to Hofheim. Hofheim is a whopping twenty minutes away, and also where the famed Tierklink Hofheim is. Our former vet in Herrenberg said that is one of the best veterinary hospitals in all of Germany. Having taken Zane (RIP) there a couple of times, Bill and I concur. I remember when she told me about that clinic, I worried about how I would manage taking Zane there when we lived so far away. Now, we’re just a twenty minute drive from there, and the place where I turned 48 (gulp).

The Vital Hotel is located in a suburban area, with lots of hardware stores nearby. There’s an Aldi very close, although it’s separated from the hotel complex by a large field. I think it usually costs to park at the Therme, but when we left, the arm to the lot was open. Anyway, we were able to drive right into the parking lot, grab our bags, and approach the front desk. Everyone was wearing masks and there were signs like this one, reminding us to stand back.

These signs were everywhere, so you couldn’t forget.

We signed into the hotel. The receptionist took our contact information, since contact tracing is being done here. You tell hotels and restaurants your name and phone number and they keep track of the times when you are in an establishment. If a coronavirus case is detected and you’ve been exposed, they will contact you. If not, your information will be destroyed within four weeks. I know a lot of Americans don’t like this because they think it’s an invasion of privacy. Personally, I’m not bothered by it, because Germany has very strict privacy laws.

The “watch”… you get these at most water parks/Thermes in Germany. They’re very handy!

The receptionist handed us “watches” that served as our key to our room and allowed access to the Therme. Bill and I are familiar with the “watches”, since they are used at a lot of Thermes in Germany. They keep track of your time, allow you to access a locker in the changing rooms, and you can use them to pay for things so you don’t have to carry money in the Therme or the rest of the hotel. She also gave us hand sanitizer and a list of rules we had to follow because of the virus. Masks were compulsory in common areas, especially when it wasn’t possible to keep a distance. I think they also gave out disposable face masks to those who didn’t have them, but Bill and I didn’t need that. We were asked to tell the receptionist when we thought we’d want breakfast. I’m sure that was done to prevent too many people coming into the restaurant at once.

Bill booked a “deluxe” room, so we were assigned room 134. Here’s what it looked like:

The room was pretty clean, although the duvets looked a bit dingy. I was surprised it was a deluxe room, though. It seemed a bit small, and I thought the regular double sized rooms must be tiny. Bill said the difference between the double rooms and the deluxe rooms was a mere two square meters. They also have junior suites, but Bill wasn’t offered the choice to reserve one of those when he did an online booking.

Once we checked in and Bill brought everything in, I was still feeling anxious. In retrospect, we probably should have just hit the pools. Our room was right near the elevator that goes directly to the Therme and the Panorama Bar, which is on the third floor and slowly rotates so that patrons get views of the Taunus and Frankfurt city skyline. We had to take a different elevator to get to the room from the hotel. Getting to the room actually took some walking. The hotel isn’t tall, but it is kind of spread out. I get the sense, based on the construction of the Therme, that the Therme existed before the hotel did by a number of years. Consequently, they aren’t exactly seamlessly or conveniently constructed.

It wasn’t long until dinner time, and dinner was included in our rate. We went down at about 6:00 and were presented with the daily specials. The restaurant also offers a la carte items like steaks and burgers, as well as a kids’ menu. Here are some pictures of what we had in the restaurant, as well as the vending machines that were on the hall…

Cash is not being accepted at a lot of places. That’s kind of weird for Germany, which took a long time to get on the credit card bandwagon. The wine was not included in the half board plan, so Bill had to sign for that. Then we put on our masks and headed to the very cool Panorama Bar. I think that was probably my favorite thing about our weekend, despite the very loud Euro dance music. The bar slowly rotates, so you can sit in a very high backed booth and watch the scenery or sit outside on the terrace. The staff is friendly and attentive, and it was just a lot of fun to be in a bar after weeks of lockdown… I drank many cocktails! Luckily, they weren’t very strong.

I know it seems funny to be so excited about a bar, especially one that plays music I would never play at home. But– I have really missed going out, and I have missed being in bars. I also enjoyed the panorama, even though the view wasn’t so awesome as we passed the machinery on top of the hotel’s roof. It really allowed me to forget about the pandemic for awhile, even if I had to strap on a mask to go to the bathroom. But that wasn’t really rigidly enforced, either.

One of the songs played in the bar. I actually hate this kind of music, but I got a kick out of the lyrics of this song, some of which I easily understood. I ended up Shazaming it.

My pandemic birthday… part one

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Why did we stay twenty minutes from home?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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