holidays

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dorian and Kate dance!

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

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

The magical ending.
Auf Wiedersehen…
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Parker goes to France, part three…

Sunday is kind of a rough day to be in some parts of Europe, especially in January. January and February are very much the “off season” in Alsace, so a lot of places are closed. I’m actually kind of glad to be in Alsace in the winter. Yes, a lot of shops and restaurants are closed, but there are no crowds whatsoever and you get a feel for the place as a local might. Bill and I visited Ribeauville for the first time over MLK (Martin Luther King Jr. weekend) weekend in January 2017. I remember how it was then… and then we came back in February of that year. We had meant to bring Parker with us that time, but she was unable to visit because of an unexpected injury. It was interesting to see that some of the places that were closed in January were open again in February, and places that were closed in February were open in January. Anyway, in 2020, it was no different than it was in 2017, although I did notice that a couple of businesses had either closed altogether or changed hands.

Sunday morning, we decided to go to Riquewihr, since it’s super close to Ribeauville and quite touristy. I knew we’d find a few things open and maybe score a nice lunch. As it turned out, we did have a nice meal at La Grappe D’Or, a restaurant I had been wanting to try on previous visits, but we never got around to it due to the dogs. I see from Trip Advisor that this establishment gets mixed reviews. We had a really nice meal there, and I got a kick of all the Michelin bric-a-brac decor.

Here are some photos from lunch…

The family who sat at the table next to us brought a cute little French bulldog in with them. She only got a little bit agitated when someone walked past with an active looking retriever. I really enjoyed La Grappe D’Or. We’ll have to go back there, if we make it back to Riquewihr. We probably will, but you never know what the future holds.

Here are some more photos from our walk around town. Riquewihr was still decked out for Christmas and I was imagining how pretty it is there during the holidays, even if the snow was absent this year.

After a couple of chilly hours walking around Riquewihr, which wasn’t totally dead, but was a lot less populated than usual, we headed back to the gite. We were all pretty tired, and the cloudy weather kind of made us want to hibernate with some wine. Luckily, that’s easy enough to do in Ribeauville, too. I remember the first time we visited Riquewihr, I was really surprised by how beautiful it is. Every time I go back, I am surprised anew. It really is a unique village that, unfortunately, way too many visitors to France miss. I’m glad I’ve had the opportunity to visit several times. It never gets old.

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France, restaurant reviews

Alsace and Burgundy… Eguisheim and Riquewihr! pt. 4

On Tuesday, Bill got up and went to the bakery, where he picked up an Alsatian delicacy.  The Kugelhopf, also served in western Germany, is a light, yeasty marble cake.  I noticed it the last time we visited Ribeauville, but we never got a chance to try it then.  This time, Bill made a special effort to score one for us.

It’s light and not very sweet, despite the optional powdered sugar on top.  There were raisins on the bottom and almonds studded the top.

Bill and I decided to go to Eguisheim, mainly because my Facebook friend Sarah, who left Germany last year, had posted a picture that made it look like a great place to visit.  Eguisheim is just a little bit south of Colmar, but it’s worlds apart in terms of the mood.  The town is positively medieval, with its concentric circles and old timbered homes.  We didn’t really have an agenda in going there, other than to take in the atmosphere and have a good lunch.  We managed to do both.

Right before lunch, we watched more storks.  They were everywhere in Eguisheim!

There were helpful signs all around the town in French, German, and English offering information.

The houses in Eguisheim have coats of arms on them depicting what the person who lived there did for a living.  If you click the photo above this one, you can read about the coat of arms pictured above.

An impressive church.

A couple announcing their marriage.

And a very dramatic work of art.

After we walked around Eguisheim, we found ourselves at a gay friendly restaurant called Caveau Heuhaus.  I only mention the fact that the restaurant is gay friendly because it had a very prominent rainbow flag on the menu posted outside.  I chose the restaurant because it smelled really good and so far, my nose has never let me down.

We walked into the place and I immediately thought the decor reminded me of a yard sale gone amok.  But it was all arranged in a very endearing way.  The restaurant was not full when we sat down, but it was full by the time we got our meals.  Our waitress was extremely charming and didn’t speak much English, but she did speak German!  So that was a bit of a help, although my German is still terrible.

Bill checks out the menu.

This was a special wine of the day.  It was about 20 euros and delicious.

Should have brought some home with us!

I ended up with an entrecote.  It came with frites and garlic butter.  It was perfectly cooked, by far the best steak we had all week.

Bill went with a big plate of meat.  There were two different sausages, three types of bacon, and sauerkraut done French style, along with boiled potatoes.  We also had excellent bread.

For dessert, I had creme brulee.  This restaurant has a very impressive way of serving it.  The waitress brought it to me and lit it at the table.

The flame died down at just the right time!  Bill had coffee because he was too full from his big plate of sausages.

If you come to Eguisheim and are looking for good food, Caveau du Heuhaus is a good bet!  We really enjoyed our meal there.

After we finished lunch, we drove to Riquewihr, which is just a few kilometers from Ribeauville.  I wanted to stop there and pick up some macarons and madeleines, as well as more wine.

On the way into Riquewihr, we were treated to a glorious rainbow over the grapevines.

We visited Riquewihr in July of last year.  It was still somewhat busy in February, but not nearly as much as it was in the summer.  A lot of restaurants and shops were closed.  It was okay.  We still managed to get what we wanted.

We stopped into the Hugel wine shop, where we tasted several lovely local wines.

We happened to be there at the same time as four generations of the Hugel family.  They are pictured outside, as they were posing for a publicity photo.

And I took note of the sign showing how many Facebook likes the Hugel winery has right now.

 

For dinner on our last night in Ribeauville, we stopped at a small wine/beer bar.  I think we got off on the wrong foot with the proprietor because Bill said “Bon jour” instead of “Bon soir.”

Still, I took note of the provocative sign for the local brew and ordered it.

Sans culottes…  the beer caused us to have an interesting conversation about how I was on a forum for fundamentalist Christians and they were looking for culottes.  Someone warned not to searched for them online, since apparently culottes are pornographic in some circles.  As for “sans culottes”, it is apparently a statement about the poor versus the rich.  Poor people did not wear culottes (silk britches) because they couldn’t afford them.  They were for the wealthy.

I wasn’t very hungry, so I had what is known as a flammkuechen here in Germany…  onions, bacon, and cream on a very thin crust.  

Bill had chicken and salad.

 

The proprietor’s attitude toward us seemed to brighten when we praised his cute little granddaughter, who was learning the tricks of the trade at about five years of age (or maybe younger).  She was super charming!

Wednesday morning, we woke up bright and early and packed up for our trip to Burgundy.  Checking out of our gite was super easy.  We just put the key back in the little code operated lockbox by the door.  Later, Yannick sent me a text thanking us for staying with him and wishing us a good trip.  I think we made a new friend in Alsace.

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France

Running away to Ribeauville, France… part four (very pet friendly and final thoughts)

I wish we’d had the chance to stay a little longer and do a little more.  I’m not sure I would necessarily recommend visiting Ribeauville in the dead of winter unless you just want peace and quiet.  The town was a bit devoid of people during our stay.  On the other hand, if you like quiet coupled with a change of pace, January might be the perfect time to see this very charming town on the Alsatian wine route.  As much as I liked Riquewihr, which we visited during the summer, I think I prefer Ribeauville.  It doesn’t seem as touristy as Riquewihr does.  Besides, if the weather had been better, we could have walked to Riquewihr.  It’s only four kilometers away.

 

Bill and I made a pact as we were leaving that we’d try to get back to Alsace soon… and try more restaurants, visit more places, and even enjoy how dog friendly the whole area is.  France strikes me as more dog friendly as a whole than even a lot of places in Germany.  We even met another beagle during our first walk.  I think the owner was perplexed when he did a “package check” and noticed our dogs are missing their balls.  I don’t think spaying and neutering is as much of a thing in Europe as it is in the USA.  And in France, it seems especially odd.  Twice, we’ve been there with our dogs and people have been confused by our dogs’ lack of testicles.  It makes for interesting conversations in our pitiful French.

This sign gave us a laugh.

 

There are plenty of waste receptacles and bags…  

And if you cross this bridge on the edge of town, you will find grass.

As we drove on B28 back to Germany, it became clear that we missed a big snowstorm.  Where we were, there were just low temperatures and constant flurries.  The drive back home was absolutely gorgeous, though… especially in the spa towns we passed through on the way toward Freudenstadt.  I wanted to stop, check into a hotel, drink mulled wine, and have a couple of treatments.

I wish I could have gotten more pictures of this… it was just gorgeous with all the evergreens heavy with snow.

According to this truck, Christ lives!

 

We are indeed blessed to get to live in such a beautiful area in Germany so close to such a beautiful and different area of France.  If you have the time and the means, I highly recommend a visit to Ribeauville or Riquewihr.  They are both lovely towns, especially if you enjoy wine and good food.  By all means, bring your dogs!

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France

Running away to Ribeauville, France… part one (apartment review)

A couple of weeks ago, my husband Bill told me he wanted to get away for the long Martin Luther King holiday weekend.  Although there are a lot of places we’d like to go, we were somewhat hampered by the fact that our dogs, Zane and Arran, would have to come with us.  Our regular pet boarder was full.  That would mean wherever we went would need to be dog friendly and close enough to drive to conveniently.

Last July, we took an overnight trip to Riquewihr, which is a picturesque little village in Alsatian wine country.  I had noticed charming Ribeauville on the way there.  I also remembered how extremely pet friendly Riquewihr is.  With that in mind, I went searching on Booking.com for a “gite” in Ribeauville.  Actually, I looked for gites in Eguisheim first, but didn’t find anything that met our needs.  I chose Gîtes de la Maison Vigneronne, au Coeur de Ribeauvillé.

We enjoyed a very nice drive to France, taking a slightly different route than we usually do.  Although the weather was forecasted to be snowy, it hadn’t really started coming down during our drive.  It wasn’t until just until we got over the French border than the snow got to be noticeable.  Below are some photos I took on the drive to France.

Yannick, the guy who runs Gîtes de la Maison Vigneronne, au Coeur de Ribeauvillé, had told us we could check in after three o’clock.  Since he also works a different job, he said he’d meet us after six o’clock.  He gave us directions for getting the key to the apartment, which allowed us to check in slightly earlier than we meant to.  You just punch in a code by the gate and collect the key by yourself.  There is free parking near the apartments, so we found a spot and unloaded.  It was no problem whatsoever.

We rented “Pinot Noir”, which is one of the four apartments Yannick has.  It’s a one bedroom apartment with stone walls.  I noticed the other one near us was called Gewurtztraminer.  It was rented by a couple of American ladies who showed up Saturday, but we neither saw nor heard them.

One thing I loved about Yannick’s apartment was that it was very pet friendly.  I never felt like I had to be especially careful in the apartment.  When Yannick came by to meet us, he made it clear that he’s a dog lover.  If we go back to Ribeauville, we will rent from him again.  I would recommend his places to anyone who needs a place that is especially pet friendly.  Yannick also didn’t take the 300 euro deposit Booking.com said we’d need.  He said he trusted us.  He also left us a nice bottle of local wine.

A gift from our host.

We even had a Christmas tree!

A washing machine if you need one, although there is no dryer.  There is a drying rack.

Bathroom sink.

Rainfall shower.

Living area.

 

Kitchen (part of the living area).  There’s a table for four, a microwave, oven, stove top, refrigerator, and dishwasher.  It was well stocked with cooking and eating utensils.  I didn’t get a photo of the bedroom, but it had a king sized bed that was surprisingly comfortable.

Little courtyard in front of the apartment.

 

My only big complaint about the apartment was that it was really cold in there at first.  Yannick had turned the heat on, but no one had used the apartment recently, so due to the stone walls, it was pretty chilly in there when we first arrived.  It took several hours for the apartment to heat up after we put the heat on the highest setting.  If you are tempted to rent this apartment during the off season in winter, I recommend bringing warm clothes.

The little alleyway that leads to the main drag through the village.  The apartment is maybe fifty meters from town.  There’s a bakery and a small supermarket very close.  There are also lots of restaurants, although many were closed over the weekend because the proprietors had gone on holiday.

We spent about $360 to rent the apartment for three nights.  I thought that was a fair price.  And again, Yannick is super laid back and loves dogs.  He made ours feel very welcome.  Yannick has a couple of studio apartments, as well as a three bedroom one that sleeps six.

As we were leaving this morning, Yannick showed up.  He was going to get the Christmas tree.  He bid us a cheery farewell and the dogs gave him kisses.  Seriously… if you have dogs and want to go to France, look up Yannick.

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A “two dog night” in Riquewihr, France… part four

We took another stroll around the village last night, after we enjoyed drinks at the hotel.  I got more photos of the picturesque environs and the dogs enjoyed another long stroll.  I think Zane got a little more than he bargained for with this trip.  He seemed a little sore this morning when we got up.

After we took our walk, we had dinner at a very touristy but pet friendly restaurant with an extensive outdoor seating area.  Restaurant Au Relais de Riquewihr is a large place that seems to cater to tourists.  We opted to eat there because of the dogs.  Our friends the super blond Dutch kids were also there with their parents, as well as a couple of American women who had a little boy with them.  The Americans were obviously familiar with the staff.

Bill posing for a photo again.

The waiter, a man with a wonderfully engaging personality, was chatting with the Americans as if they were friends.  We later discovered the Americans had come from Ramstein.  One of them was in charge of outdoor recreation at Ramstein and really looked the part.  She was super fit.  She came over to talk to us and let her little boy pet Zane, who was begging for pieces of my chicken and Bill’s white pizza.

The dogs were doing great at dinner until a lady with a dog came over to a nearby crepe stand.  Arran saw the dog’s feet and it was all over, even though he’d been around other dogs all day.   He let loose with a loud bark.  Zane joined in and for a couple of long minutes, the two of them proceeded to draw a lot of attention to us.  It was kind of embarrassing.

The food at Restaurant Au Relais Riquewihr was decent and, I think, very suitable to people with kids and, of course, obnoxious dogs.  However, when I used their bathroom, I couldn’t help but notice the strong smell of stale urine.  In a restaurant, that’s definitely a turn off.

The funny thing is, that smell took me back to 1980, when my parents moved us to Gloucester, Virginia, a then very rural county in southeastern Virginia.  I was then eight years old.  I made friends with a couple of girls who lived on the same dirt lane I did.  They were from Oregon and their mom was divorced from their dad.  They lived in a trailer that always reeked of stale human piss.  They moved maybe a year later and I never saw them again.  I had pretty much forgotten about them, but that smell of pee just brought it all back.  It’s crazy how smells can spark vivid memories.

Anyway, our dinner came to about 52 euros including a carafe of wine and sparkling water.  Bill tipped the friendly waiter handsomely for tolerating our loud dogs, even though he originally brought me the wrong order (beef and fries).  It looked really good, though.  Also, it may be worth mentioning that this restaurant has a mister for those steamy summer days.  They turned it on to amuse the little American boy who was visiting.  Later, we watched his mom kiss the waiter on both cheeks and say she’d see him in September.  Oooh la la!

White pizza for Bill…with mushrooms, blecch!  They also had flammkuchen.  We shared a 50ml carafe of a local pinot noir.  It was a decent wine, though maybe a bit overpriced.  

Chicken skewers for me.  These were a daily special prepared with lots of lemon… maybe a hair too much for my taste.   But the frites were fabulous.  They reminded me of frites from Belgium.  This dish also came with a salad and bread, neither of which I had room to eat.

This fountain had lots of goldfish in it.

I was curious about this little stand.  I think they were selling homemade apple juice.

We went to bed early last night and left lovely Riquewihr right after breakfast.  It was stormy and rainy this morning and our dogs were a bit tired.  Zane, in particular, seemed kind of sore from the walking.  Our drive back to Stuttgart was totally uneventful and took a little over two hours.  It’s hard to believe that a place with such a different vibe is so close.

We’d call this trip a success and I’m already starting to think about making these one night trips more of a regular thing.  I need to get out more; the dogs could use the practice in being out in public; and who knows if and when we’ll live in Europe again?  We made the mistake of not seeing enough when we lived here the first time and I don’t want to do that again.

In any case, I highly recommend Riquewihr and I hope we can go back, stay a little longer, and see more of the area.  It really is beautiful there, very tourist and pet friendly, and so close to Stuttgart.  I’m so happy we ran off to France this past weekend and I hope we can do it again very soon!

These photos were taken as we were departing…

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A “two dog night” in Riquewihr, France… part three

After we ate lunch at L’Originel, we headed over to the hotel and checked in.  As I mentioned in the first post, I got one of the last available rooms at Best Western Hotel Le Schoenenbourg, which turned out to be a suite.  It was humongous!  There was a large sitting room, a bedroom with two TVs, and a huge bathroom with a separate toilet. The bathroom had a deep soaking tub and a large shower stall.  Our beds were originally twins, but they kindly pushed them together for us, although the beds were still dressed as twins underneath the bedspread.

Have a look at the photos!

I had my first bath in awhile thanks to this awesome deep tub.  I brought my own toiletries.   I didn’t try the ones offered by the hotel.

Twin beds pushed together.  The bed was comfortable enough, though I was kind of glad I brought my own pillow.  It would have been okay if I hadn’t, though.  These pillows were more generous than some I’ve found in other hotels in these parts.

A little couch in the sitting room.

A water bowl and treats for the boys!  

This was a nice surprise.

They also left us a complimentary bottle of water.

The minibar.  I didn’t check the price list, but Bill said it wasn’t that expensive.  There is also a bar in the lobby that serves drinks and hot snacks like quiche.

As you can see, the boys were very comfortable.

 

While I took a leisurely bath, Bill went shopping for stuff to bring home with us.  He tasted several wines at a couple of wine shops in town.  He also ran into a very aggressive cheese vendor who ended up selling him four different types of cheese and sausage!  I don’t eat a lot of cheese, so I hope his work friends don’t mind if some of it’s stinky.   He bought macaroons and cookies, but no chocolate.  🙁  Darn.  For this excursion, Bill bought a cooler that plugs into the car and keeps things cool without the need for ice.  It also provided a handy platform for Zane to stand on during the drive.

Best Western Hotel Le Schoenenbourg has a pool that was being used extensively yesterday.  They also have bikes available for rent.  I brought a bathing suit, but didn’t end up going for a swim.  Later, while Bill and I were enjoying drinks at the bar, I started wondering if the pool at the hotel had a rule about men wearing Speedos.  Apparently, many pools in France require women to wear bathing caps and men to wear skimpy bikinis.  I blogged about that last year and it’s one of my most popular travel posts.

The dogs were welcome at the bar, though that Astro Turf did a number on Zane’s paw.

Alsatian beer.  It was a surprisingly good wheat beer. 

And a local Jupiler on draft.

While we were drinking and enjoying the sunshine, we were charmed by an adorable little boy and girl who were siblings and appeared to be two and four years old.  The boy was older and clearly looking after his sister.  They spoke a language we didn’t recognize.  It turned out they were Dutch and they both had stunning platinum blond hair, giving them an angelic appearance.  Their parents were very fit and spoke perfect English, asking us if it was okay that their kids were hanging out near us.  I could tell the kids were enchanted by Zane and Arran and probably wanted to pet them, but were too shy to ask and didn’t speak our language anyway.  We ran into them at least three times, including when we had dinner.   They were so cute and kind of made me lament that I never had children.

A map of Riquewihr.

 

Breakfast tray.  The coffee was very disappointing.

My only complaint about the hotel was the breakfast.  They have a buffet that costs 13 euros a person.  I’d read that it was a ripoff.  We opted to have breakfast delivered to our room for 9 euros a person.  For that, you get a basket of breads, butter, jam, honey, Nutella, coffee and juice.  The breads were excellent and very fresh.  There were croissants, baguettes, and chocolate chip brioches.  The juice was adequate.  But the coffee, I’m afraid, SUCKED.  It was barely drinkable and much too weak.  Consequently, when we drove home this morning, Bill and I were both still very sleepy.

Other than the breakfast, I had no real complaints about the hotel.  It was super convenient and pet friendly, even when Zane and Arran got on a scent on the way downstairs this morning and started baying.  For our one night with drinks at the bar and breakfast in our room, we paid just under 200 euros.  Parking outside and WiFi are free.  If you want secure parking, you can use the parking garage, which costs 10 euros a day.

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A “two dog night” in Riquewihr, France… part two

After we walked around Riquewihr in the afternoon heat, I told Bill I was hungry.  It was too early to check into the hotel, so I suggested that we get some lunch.  Our hotel was located right next to a quiet looking place called L’Originel (now closed).  At first, I was a little hesitant to venture inside, since we had Zane and Arran and it appeared to be an upscale eatery.  Also even though it was almost one o’clock, the restaurant was empty.  But they welcomed us and the dogs, so we sat out on their balcony and proceeded to have a beautiful midday repast.  It was way beyond what I’d hoped for at lunchtime.

Obligatory shot of Bill checking the menu.  We started with sparkling water and glasses of Cremant, a lovely sparkling wine made in the Alsace region.

The boys were accommodated with water.

The amuse.  It was a challenge for both of us.  I don’t like white truffles or anything else obviously fungal.  Bill is not a fan of soft or, as in this case, raw eggs!  Actually, we were presented with the yolk served with horseradish and a cracker.  It was surprisingly good, though I let Bill have the truffle.

We both ordered the set menu, which was priced at 23 euros and came with a starter, entree, and a dessert.  Yesterday, the starter was shrimp salad with fresh greens, melon balls, and colorful cauliflower florets.  It was just the right size and not too heavy.  We sipped a nice local Riesling.  Since moving back to Germany, we have become fans of Rieslings, which are much drier here than in the States.  This course came with very fresh white bread.

The shrimp salad was followed by this lovely dorade filet with potatoes, peppers, asparagus, celery, and carrot.  It was topped off with a reduction of white wine and broth from the fish.  Again, not too heavy and beautifully presented.  This dish came with a grain bread that replaced the lovely white from the previous course.

Dessert was a refreshing dish of raspberry and strawberry sorbet, served with wild berries and nuts.  The little white dollops are meringues.

And this sweet little ending– a lemon pudding with berries– came with the check to help soften the blow.

A picture of the business card for future travelers who want to dine there.

 

Before the tip, this lunch came to 92 euros.  It was worth it.  And I was so proud of the boys, who handled themselves so well, even when a few other diners showed up.  I couldn’t help but ask Bill why the hell we hadn’t done a one night trip sooner.  I think we will definitely do more of them for as long as we live here in Europe.

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A “two dog night” in Riquewihr, France… part one

A few days ago, I was sitting in my “office” feeling distinctly cagey.  When Bill and I live in Europe, I get especially antsy if I don’t get a trip in every once in awhile.  Unfortunately, Max at Dog on Holiday advised us that he’s booked solid until early September.  What’s a wanderlusting blogger to do when the urge to skip town is so great?  Why, take the dogs along, of course!

Though Bill and I dearly love our dogs, Zane and Arran, we don’t usually take them with us when we travel. They are sweet dogs, but they’re hounds and they tend to get on scents and make a lot of noise.  Also, because they aren’t accustomed to going to restaurants and hotels, they don’t always behave in a way that is conducive to having them with us on trips.  Despite that, I really wanted to get out of town.  An added bonus was the new fence and gate our landlords wanted to put up on Saturday.  It would make it easier for them to get that work done if we weren’t around.

So I told Bill about my idea and he agreed.  We’d take a quick trip to Riquewihr, about which we’d heard so many wonderful things, and Zane and Arran would join us.  As it turns out, I made a great choice in Riquewihr.  Not only is it recognized as one of the most beautiful towns in France,  it’s also very dog friendly and not far from the Stuttgart area.  So, if it turned out our decision to travel with the dogs was a disaster, we could always come back home without too much trouble.

The drive to Riquewihr was mostly stunning.  We took B28 through the stately Black Forest and drove through the winding switchbacks that offered some beautiful views of the German countryside.  Then when we got to Strasbourg, we were confronted by a bunch of police officers.  No one asked to see passports, but there were plenty of weapons being brandished.  I later heard that Strasbourg was a bit walled off this weekend.  I was glad I hadn’t decided to go there; Strasbourg had been my initial planned destination.  We passed through Ribeauville, which also looks like a nice place to visit, though not as quaint or touristy as Riquewihr is.  More than once, I wanted to stop and take pictures on the side of the road.  In retrospect, I should have done just that.

It turned out I got the last room at the Best Western Le Schoenenbourg, a super pet friendly and convenient hotel.  I actually ended up booking a suite, because all of the regular rooms were occupied.  We arrived at the hotel about 90 minutes before the check in time of 1:00pm, but it was fine for us to park the car in the hotel lot and walk into town, which is maybe a five minute walk from the hotel.

Riquewihr is a beautifully preserved walled city with grape vines growing on a the surrounding hillsides.  It mostly looks as it did in the 16th century and was fortunately one of a few towns that wasn’t decimated during World War II.  Yesterday, the weather was hot and sunny and the place was teeming with tourists.  Zane and Arran behaved very well, but I was especially pleased and surprised by how accommodating the city was to dogs.  At least one shop owner set out a water bowl, of which my dogs were happy to take advantage.  The restaurants were all fine with the dogs joining us; in fact, every place we went to offered water for the dogs.  And even the hotel, noting that I had mentioned the dogs in my booking, set us up with a water bowl and treats for our boys.

I’ll write more about the hotel and restaurants in my next post.  For now, here are our first glimpses of beautiful Riquewihr.  It was much prettier and more charming than I expected.  Our main goal was a change of scenery, practice being guests for the dogs, and maybe a small load of wine, cheese, and macaroons.  We definitely scored on all accounts!

I thought this sign was pretty funny.  Clearly, people had been using someone’s patch of grass for a doggie toilet!  My dogs decided to just dump in the middle of town, right in front of everyone, including a Dutch family with two white blonde angelic kids we ran into again and again.

Bill and I were last in France back in October and May 2014.  Although we only live about two hours from the French and Swiss borders, we rarely venture over them.  After seeing how easy it was to visit Riquewihr yesterday, I think that is a trend that will change.  It really was easy to get to a completely different country with a different vibe.  On our last visit to France, we visited Colmar.  To be honest, although I thought Colmar was pretty and quaint, our trip was a bit weird.  Even still, I’ve often thought about going back there, though now that I’ve been to Riquewihr, I think we’ll stick to the smaller, cuter towns nearby.  I think we both really prefer them to the bigger cities.

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