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Reunited with France… and it felt so good to be back! Part nine

Sunday morning, we woke up more than ready to head home to Germany. I missed Noyzi and Arran, even though I generally enjoy it when we have a chance to take a break from the dogs. I saw so many cute dogs in France, including a couple of European styled beagles that made me want to get one of my own! Of course, I won’t be doing that until we are down to one dog again. Arran doesn’t share well, and even after about 18 months with Noyzi, he only barely tolerates him. And Noyzi is a very kind and considerate dog.

We went down to the Stammtisch to find our usual breakfast. The day prior, the breakfast lady had thought we were leaving and asked us if we wanted to pay. We had to remind her that Sunday was our day of departure. I got the impression that maybe people don’t typically stay at the Auberge au Boeuf for several nights, as we did. But actually, there’s a lot to do in the area around Sessenheim. It’s not too far to get to Strasbourg. Nancy and Metz aren’t as close as Strasbourg is, but we could have visited there if the mood struck. Of course, the Alsatian wine route, south of Strasbourg, isn’t far, either. Neither is Baden-Baden, the great German spa town.

As you can see by my posts, we did manage to find several cute and diverse eastern French hamlets. It occurred to me that north of Strasbourg is more diverse in appearance than the southern area is. Over the past few years, Bill and I have visited Alsace more than anywhere else in Europe. We almost completely missed Alsace the first time we lived in Germany together. I’m so glad we’ve had the opportunity to explore this unique, historic, and beautiful part of France. We really enjoyed visiting Sessenheim, Soufflenheim, Haguenau, Bitche, Obernai, and Saverne! Each place was different and had its own special vibe and history.

It’s not lost on me that my unexpected and unplanned lifestyle as an “overeducated housewife” has come with certain perks. If I had done with my life what I had planned to do, I might have managed a visit to Paris or Lyon… or maybe to Nice again. Those are all lovely cities, but they tend to be teeming with Americans. Thanks to Bill’s work with the Army, I’ve had some great opportunities to see “the real France”, as it was put by a British man who owned a wine shop in Cluny, France, which we visited in 2017. Cluny is a very nice city in Burgundy and we loved our time there. But I would not expect too many Americans to go, especially not from the United States. That was where Bill ate pig intestines! Talk about a typically FRENCH experience!

Anyway, we enjoyed our last breakfast, but it was time to go home. We loaded up the car and I paid for everything with my credit card– about 1600 euros ($1800 approximately) when all was said and done. That was for four nights in a beautiful suite, breakfast for two every morning, three bottles of wine, four apéritifs, and two nights of sumptuous dinners for two. Parking was free. I feel good about stimulating the local economy.

On the way out of Sessenheim, we stopped at a nearby Boulangerie/Patisserie to get some French pastries. Bill got several beignets, two pain au chocolats, and a kugelhopf. It was a lot for just the two of us. Fortunately, the kuglehopf has kept well in the fridge. I wish he’d gotten some croissants, too. French croissants are better than the locals ones we can get.

The drive back to Wiesbaden was totally uneventful and took about two hours. We had no traffic issues at all, and the weather was fine. I had to laugh on Sunday night, as we dined on Popeye’s Fried Chicken from the food court on post. It’s crazy that we went from five star dining to fast food in less than 24 hours.

I would not hesitate to book Auberge au Boeuf again. Next time, I hope we can try their Stammtisch at lunch or dinner, and if the menu has changed, I would definitely be up for another grand gourmet experience at their restaurant. We’ll see what the future holds! Below are are few last photos from our most recent adventures in France.

If you’ve been following along with this series, thank you so much for reading. My travel blog has been dying, thanks to the pandemic and moving to a new platform. I hope this series will be the first of more to come in 2022! Wish us luck!

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Reunited with France… and it felt so good to be back! Part eight…

At seven o’clock on Saturday night, Bill and I got dressed for our second gourmet dinner at Auberge au Boeuf. Having seen the menu on Friday night, I was a little nervous about what we would be having. Besides the tasting menu we had, there was also a truffle menu… and, well, I don’t do truffles. But I figured I’d find at least one item I hadn’t tried on Friday night that didn’t include the dreaded fungus.

Actually, I’m kind of glad we had two dinners at the restaurant. It gave us a chance to experience one of the other dining rooms. Saturday night was also a lot busier, with a very different crowd. There were a lot more French patrons on Saturday. Friday night, it seemed like there were more Germans.

We were waited on by the same trilingual waiter. He was a bit busier on Saturday night, so there were a couple of hiccups in the service. We ordered a beautiful bottle of Pommard to go with the a la carte items we chose. And, just as it’s been in all of the excellent restaurants we’ve visited, as well as a couple of crappy ones, our wine was “held hostage”. By this, I mean the wine was to be poured by our waiter or the sommelier. It was kept on a nearby mantle, within our line of sight.

I don’t mind having my wine poured by the wait staff, as long as they are attentive. Unfortunately, the waiter was so busy on Saturday night, we were left waiting to be recharged for several minutes. Finally, Bill discreetly made a move to get our wine, which was, again, next to our table and within sight. The waiter came over and stopped him, which I thought was kind of awkward. I mean, it was our wine… we paid over 90 euros for it. We don’t have broken hands. The waiter was clearly busy. He should have just let Bill pour the wine.

The second hiccup involved our water. We ordered a large bottle of sparkling water from Ribeauville. Somehow, a huge black fly found its way into the bottle, where we saw it doing the crawl. I stared at the bottle for several minutes before we were able to flag down the maitre d’ and ask her to take the bottle away. One would assume that in a situation like that, someone would bring us another bottle of water… or at least offer it. But no, I ended up having to ask our waiter, after we explained what had happened. I asked him for another, smaller bottle, for which we were probably charged.

As for the food, Bill and I both ordered one entree that we didn’t try on Friday. And we also had our favorite courses from Friday night, plus dessert. The meal came with the same hors d’oeuvres and amuse bouche we had on Friday night, as well as the fresh bread, sorbet, and candies at the end of the meal. Below are some photos from our second dinner. The food standard was, of course, outstanding.

When all was said and done, the total cost for Saturday night was about the same as it was on Friday night… roughly 300 euros. We don’t usually splurge that much on subsequent nights, but it had been so long since we’d last indulged in excellent food. If we visit Auberge au Boeuf again, we will make a point of trying Stammtisch.

Tomorrow, I will post about checking out and going home. See you then!

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Reunited with France… and it felt so good to be back! Part three…

ETA: I had a real problem with uploading pictures for this post. The second set of photos is actually several galleries. If you notice “repeats” when you scroll through, just move to the next gallery.

Before we went to sleep the first night, we were visited by one of the restaurant staffers. She bore a slight resemblance to the actress Elisabeth Moss, who plays June on The Handmaid’s Tale. That was how we found out that our room had a doorbell! She came bearing fresh baked treats from the kitchen, which were scrumptious. She came to ask us about our breakfast preferences and reconfirm our reservations at the restaurant on Friday and Saturday nights.

The breakfast at Auberge au Boeuf was absolutely something to behold. But as it was our first time visiting, we didn’t know what to expect and we were decidedly overfed on the first morning. The lady from the restaurant asked us what we wanted from the list of offerings, which included boiled eggs, ham, fruit salad, cheese, smoked fish, juice, coffee, tea, yogurt, jam, butter, Museli, and fresh baked pastries and bread. This breakfast, which costs 12 euros per person, is served “family style”. But we didn’t know that on Wednesday night, when we were asked when we wanted to eat, and whether we wanted breakfast at the big “Stammtisch” table, or in our room. So, we ordered two of some things, not knowing how big the portions were.

The next morning at 8:00am sharp, a tiny lady who spoke French and German brought out tons of food for us… two servings of the things we both liked. I will admit, we were able to eat a lot of it, but some things went to waste. We had two big trays of smoked fish, two big trays of ham and salami, two of three kinds of pastries, and two butters… I was grateful we were the only ones eating at 8:00am, which is when breakfast starts. It was embarrassing to get that much food! We noticed a couple who ate later got less food. Now, we know better.

However… I must admit that the breakfast at Auberge au Boeuf was one of the best I have ever had anywhere. And, at twelve euros per person, it was very reasonably priced. The pastries alone were worth the price of admission, as it was obvious to me that they were very fresh and probably house made. They were exquisite! Below are some pictures from breakfast in the Stammtisch room.

The Stammtisch is something else I must mention. The restaurant offers less fancy and expensive meals at the big table in their gorgeous breakfast/dining room. We didn’t try the Stammtisch, since we didn’t know about it before we came and decided not to have dinner on Wednesday and Thursday nights. The food offered there is mostly beef and Alsatian– and looking at their menu, I might have had some issues with it, since there are many mushrooms! I see that the Stammtisch is offered for lunch and dinner on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. On the other hand, if we go back to that hotel, we may have to try it. The Stammtisch room has a very different vibe than the gourmet restaurant does. I think if I could have found something without fungus, I would have loved it.

The big “Stammtisch” table is made from a tree– in fact, I was blown away by how beautiful that room is. It looked like the plates, cups, saucers, and serving platters were all locally produced by a potter. They were very cool looking and original. They also have a cool wine cave, as well as a museum devoted to Goethe, that I didn’t see open during our visit.

After our first night at the hotel, we took a walk around the neighborhood. First, we passed a small market, where vendors were selling local produce, rotisserie chicken, and cheeses. I noticed that the hotel even had a kiosk set up, probably so people could pick up their catering orders. Patrons can order things via the restaurant’s Web site.

During our walk, I met a very sweet and social “European style” beagle who was super friendly and wanted to chat with us. He was so cute! I wanted to take him home with me, but I know if I bring another dog home, Arran will shit on my pillow! I have noticed that beagles are getting more popular in Europe, but they look a bit different than American beagles look. They’re a bit stockier, and have jaws that look kind of square. Whatever… I think they are adorable! Below are some scenes around Sessenheim.

We also saw some pygmy goats who were hanging out in someone’s yard, enjoying the nice weather. And we visited Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s memorial, which is open and free to the public. If we’d wanted to, we could have planned a day’s activities around Goethe. There’s actually a lot around Sessenheim and its environs about Goethe, who fell in love with Frederique Brion, a French woman from Sessenheim, when he was studying law in Strasbourg. Goethe immortalized her in his memoirs.

We strolled through the neighborhoods, noticing a couple of places for sale. I started talking to Bill about whether we should look for a house in France when he retires. I noticed how beautifully the gardens are kept there, including someone’s well tended kale plants. Dr. Blair, the dentist, used to practice in the Black Forest, and he said a lot of Germans buy homes in Alsace, because it’s supposedly cheaper. And, as we can attest, it’s more laid back, too.

After we took a walk, we made our way to Haguenau, which is a small, pleasant city known for pottery. There are museums, spas, and churches, and even a microbrewery there. The city is located near the famous Maginot Line, so it attracts people who are interested in “Remembrance Tourism”. There is also a lot of Jewish history in Haguenau. There’s even a museum dedicated to baggage in Haguenau! There are also some interesting looking restaurants, bars, and retail establishments. Since we’re still a bit COVID wary, we kept our activities outdoors, with the exception of visiting one cathedral, where Bill lit a candle for his father, who was a devout Catholic and died in 2020.

For lunch, we visited a tiny Moroccan restaurant called Restaurant Côté Sud. We lucked into finding this place, which offered a few French items like faux filet, as well as tajines, cous cous, and some intriguing salads. I’ll write more about Haguenau and our Moroccan lunch in the next post. Uploading photos is problematic for some reason.

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Reunited with France… and it felt so good to be back! Part two…

On Wednesday, March 2nd, we loaded up the Volvo with our bags and our pooches. I can’t say “beagles” anymore, since Noyzi is definitely NOT a beagle. Our first stop was the Tierpension Birkenhof, where the dogs stay when we leave town. I dug out a FFP2 mask for the brief time we would be inside, settling up with the Hunde Pension. Noyzi was absolutely delighted to be back at the doggy hotel. He barked almost the whole way there. Arran, on the other hand, was pretty cranky and kept barking back at Noyzi, probably telling him in dog language to STFU. I was doing the same.

Once the dogs were taken care of, we made our way to Stuttgart, with one quick pee stop at a rest station. I noticed they already had their Easter display up. I wasn’t able to get a picture, which may be a blessing. On the other hand, I don’t remember ever seeing an Easter display put up by a rest stop in the United States.

I had to pee again as we arrived in Stuttgart, so we decided to go into a McDonald’s. As I was making my way to the restroom, I heard someone behind the counter yelling “Entschuldigung!” Ahh… she wanted to check my COV-Pass to make sure I’ve gotten jabbed. The restroom in that McDonald’s was on the second floor, so it wasn’t like I could just duck in and out. I showed my credentials, did my business, and Bill handed me a very small Coke that he bought me for the privilege of using the can.

We got to downtown Stuttgart a couple of hours early, so we decided to have lunch at the Paulaner am alten Postplatz, a German restaurant on Calwer Strasse, the chic street where Dr. Blair’s office is located. Ever since COVID hit, I’m never quite sure of what I should be doing. We went inside, and a waitress checked our COV-Passes and IDs… a step further than what the lady at McDonald’s did. I was shocked, since the first floor of that restaurant is for smokers, and plenty were doing that when we visited! Fortunately, there was a non-smoking area upstairs.

Bill and I both opted to have daily specials. I had duck leg with red cabbage slaw and a bread dumpling. Bill had pork goulash. We had beer– the only beer we had all weekend. It was our first restaurant visit in months, and, I must say, it was great. The food was good, as usual, and it was kind of nice to be around other people. I especially got a kick out of the lady with a large puppy she carried in.

After lunch, we headed over to Dr. Blair’s office for our cleanings and waited, dutifully wearing the oppressive FFP2 masks. Bill got a stern lecture about his flossing habits. I got a lecture about my hesitancy in seeing doctors. I have an area of chronically red gum tissue under my front teeth. Dr. Blair always asks me about it. Then he ribs me about being anxious. He’s a very good dentist, and I think he truly cares about his patients, but I also think he takes my anxiety personally. He really shouldn’t. I had a terrible experience with a physician years ago that has left me very reluctant to see medical people. Dentists are, generally, an exception. I do get nervous before procedures, though. He has never forgotten it, even though it’s been years since he put in my implant.

After our appointments, we made our way toward Sessenheim, which is located just inside the border of France. Even Dr. Blair knew about Sessenheim, correctly identifying it as very close to Baden-Baden. But once you cross the border, everything changes! From the beginning of our trip, checking into Auberge au Boeuf, until the end of our stay, COVID rules were much less inconvenient. We walked into the hotel wearing FFP2s and immediately removed them for the rest of our stay after we were confirmed vaccinated. The same conditions applied at every restaurant we visited. We showed our passes, and it was like 2019 again. The FFP2s were also not required. Regular surgical masks were perfectly okay.

Auberge au Boeuf only has four rooms, and each one has a name. We rented L’Idylle, which is one of the larger rooms. It has a balcony that overlooks the beautiful church next door, it’s own private sauna, a jacuzzi, a rainfall shower, and an impressively stocked minibar. Below are some photos of L’Idylle.

We were still full from lunch and pretty tired from the day’s events, so we decided to stay in. We watched French news, drank wine from the local Aldi, and went to bed early. We were off to a good start.

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Reunited with France… and it felt so good to be back! Part one…

The featured photo is of a sign in a German restaurant… I share the sentiments of the person who drew the sad face. That’s why we went to France.

Ever since we moved to Wiesbaden in late November 2018, we have used visits to the dentist in Stuttgart as an excuse to get away for a few days. Or, at least that was the original plan, before COVID-19 wreaked havoc on the planet. Thanks to the pandemic, we haven’t been back as often as we had originally planned. We did combine a trip to Stuttgart to see the dentist in May 2019 with Elton John’s Farewell Yellow Brick Road concert. We went to the Spring festival, saw Elton, and got our teeth cleaned. We also stayed at the Wald Hotel, which is our favorite Stuttgart area lodging. We even brought our dogs down to stay with their Stuttgart area pet sitter.

Then COVID struck, and we couldn’t get back down there again until August 2021. I had planned another trip to the Wald Hotel, but it was totally booked during that period. So I decided we’d visit Baiersbronn, which is a little Black Forest town known for its excellent restaurants. We loved visiting Baiersbronn when we lived near Stuttgart, so it made sense to go stay in the area for a few days, see the doc, and eat some really excellent food for a few days.

A few weeks ago, Bill reminded me that it was time to see the dentist again. We had appointments for March 2. I thought maybe I’d find us a little rental home or a cute hotel in a different part of the Black Forest, since we had so much fun in August. There are still so many places we’d like to see there. But then I noticed how strict the COVID rules are, down in that part of Germany… and I realized that having been triple vaxxed and never venturing out much at all for months, I’m pretty damned sick of COVID rules.

Or, at least I’m sick of the super strict ones. Baden-Württemberg has been requiring people to use FFP2 masks, which I find very oppressive and obnoxious. I know… I know… they’re supposedly “better” masks, and all, but I still hate wearing them. I am not a rule breaker, but if I can go somewhere else where I don’t have to wear the fucking things, I’d prefer to do that.

I noticed as I searched for places in the Black Forest, I was also getting suggestions for Strasbourg, France, which is really close to the Black Forest. I didn’t really want to go to Strasbourg, though, because that was where we went during our last trip to France in February 2020. I enjoyed Strasbourg, but I wanted to go somewhere different, especially since the wine expo is set to go on at the end of March and we may end up going there for that. We haven’t yet decided if we will go.

It was at that point that I remembered Soufflenheim, which is a little French town known for its pottery. We have a few pieces from there that we bought in Ribeauville a few years ago, but we’d never actually been to the town itself. I realized that since it was just a little bit north of Strasbourg, it would be on the way back to Wiesbaden, anyway. And this would be a great chance for us to get pottery for ourselves, and Bill’s younger daughter, who is expecting a baby boy soon.

So I searched for a place in Soufflenheim, and soon noticed ads for a Michelin starred restaurant that also has four hotel rooms. Auberge au Boeuf is located in adorable Sessenheim, which is right next to Soufflenheim. A quick peek at the reviews on Google and Trip Advisor, as well as Booking.com, told me that this was a nice play to stay. Better yet, the cost of the room in France was about half of what I would have paid at the Wald Hotel, a nice hotel in a city I’ve been to many, many times, and will no doubt go to again at least once in the future… and probably more often than that. Maybe my next Wald Hotel visit should wait until I need a dental procedure.

Then I realized that France is not nearly as uptight about COVID-19 as Germany is… the latest rules changes in Germany notwithstanding. Those changed while we were away, plus I was booking before they were still being considered. I ran the idea of going to Sessenheim by Bill. Not surprisingly, he was all about it. The fact that the great German poet, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, spent so much time there clinched the deal. Bill and I are literature lovers, too… Bill is more so than I am, in spite of my English degree.

So I booked our room at Auberge au Boeuf for March 2-6. I also booked their restaurant for the third and fourth nights of our stay. I eagerly looked forward to the trip, as I warily watched Vladimir Putin’s increasing aggression toward Ukraine. I don’t normally do this for short trips that don’t involve flights or cruise ships, but I was nervous enough about Putin that I even booked travel insurance in case Bill had to cancel and go to work. Fortunately, that didn’t happen, and now I have lots to report!

Stay tuned for my latest multi-part series about the many wonders of France! Boy, was it great to be back there! But first, it’s time for lunch.

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