More favorite European luxury hotels…

Happy Saturday, blog fans. I usually try to update my travel blog on the weekends with reports on restaurants, fun activities, or travel. This weekend, Bill is recovering from two back to back TDYs, some kind of respiratory infection that isn’t COVID, and irritable bowel syndrome. He is out shopping for food right now, but I have my doubts that we’re going to get out and about today.

Although we have lovely fall weather, we’re both kind of tired… Bill from sickness, and me from tending to Arran all week and repeatedly getting up in the middle of the night. Arran is doing okay today, except for his rancid, atomic farts, and being a little sleepy from his chemo. He did get a chemo pill today, as well as Prednisolone; the Endoxan pill makes him want to snooze. And two days post Vincristine infusion is also when the side effects tend to kick in. He was a little low energy this morning, and threw up a little of his food.

This is actually kind of a bummer, though. I’d rather Arran not be dealing with side effects on Saturday, which is the one day Bill and I can go anywhere and things will be open. Maybe we should try to change the day of the infusions. We’ll have to do that anyway, if Arran is still with us next month. We still have plans to visit France, starting on Wednesday, the 16th, which is our anniversary.

But maybe it’s not so bad that we aren’t going out today. I’ve been wanting to write another post about some of my favorite European luxury hotels. We’ve been to some good ones since the last time I did one of these posts, in February 2017. Our fortunes have improved since that time, five years ago, when I wrote about our favorite luxury digs. These aren’t necessarily ranked in order, nor are they even my favorite lodgings of all time. They’re just luxurious European places we really enjoyed and haven’t forgotten. So here’s another post about some of my favorite hotels when we want to drop a load of euros. Here goes.

10. Grand Hotel du Lac, Vevey Switzerland

From the very first moment, we were impressed… until we ate in the restaurant and our waiter sold us 40 CHF glasses of Cristal Champagne, and waved a truffle under my nose!

Bill and I stayed at this five star hotel in Vevey, Switzerland in December 2015. I went with him on a business trip to Vicenza, Italy, and we decided to stop in Switzerland on the way home, so Bill could visit the Giger Museum in Gruyeres. I noticed the Grand Hotel du Lac the first time we lived in Germany, but in those days, our finances made it impossible to book such a place. Switzerland is expensive no matter what, but a five star hotel there is quite a splurge. Still, I decided to go for it, and even sprang for a lake view, as the hotel is right next to Lake Geneva. The lake view was a waste of money, though, because there was fog the whole time we were there during waking hours. The one full day we were in the area, we spent in Gruyeres. Still, the hotel is absolutely beautiful and comfortable, and I remember our stay there fondly– with exception to our experience in the restaurant, which was not as impressive. Vevey is a pretty town, too. I’d love to go back! And I would definitely stay in this hotel… though I might go elsewhere for dinner.

9. Merrion Hotel, Dublin Ireland

Merrion Hotel is wonderful! And it’s close to lots of authentic Irish pubs, too…

In 2018, I whimsically bought tickets to see a bunch of concerts, one of which was in Dublin, Ireland, and featured Paul Simon, James Taylor, and Bonnie Raitt. Yeah, that was a great show, and it lasted about six hours! We obviously needed good digs, so we could get proper rest. I decided to book Merrion Hotel, which is supposedly Dublin’s best… or, at least it was when we were there in 2018. Anyway, we didn’t have an upgraded room, but the room we had was nice enough. Bonus was that they gave us lots of chocolate– like three huge bars of it– milk, dark, and white. I remember loving the breakfasts at this hotel, which were cooked to order and absolutely amazing. Plus, there was a beautiful pool area, and top notch service. Highly recommended!

8. Europäische Hof Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany

This was a very tastefully decorated and comfortable room. The owner of the hotel obviously takes great pains to make her hotel special.

In June 2021, Bill and I decided to pay a visit to Heidelberg, Germany, a city not that far from where we currently live. At the time, COVID-19 cases, and the restrictions that accompanied the pandemic, were in full swing. We decided we wanted to stick close to home. I booked a few nights at Europäische Hof Heidelberg, a beautiful five star hotel with a long history and high service standards. The hotel has been family run for generations, and the attention to detail and care for guests are obvious. The owner of the hotel was very attentive and visible during our visit. Afterwards, when I wrote a review on TripAdvisor, she responded personally, and even sent me an email. We had a gorgeous, comfortable room, and the location was very convenient to the downtown area. I still get email offers from this hotel, and I’d love to go back sometime. Yes, it’s expensive, but it’s not a rip off.

7. Park Hotel Sonnenhof, Vaduz, Liechtenstein

The view from our patio. What a beautiful place! I could stare at those mountains all day!

Bill and I visited Vaduz, Liechtenstein in May 2022, on our way home from a trip to Italy to taste wines. Originally, I had planned to stop in Lugano, Switzerland, but determined that Lugano wasn’t close enough to home. We had visited Liechtenstein once, back in 2009, and I thought it might be interested to visit the tiny country one more time. When I saw that it had a very highly regarded hotel with beautiful views, I was definitely onboard with booking. We had a lovely time in Vaduz, and delighted in tasting even more wines there! Park Hotel Sonnenhof is a very restful hotel with an excellent restaurant. It’s great for a splurge.

6. Hotel Bareiss, Baiersbronn, Germany

The view from the hotel. So pretty!

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you might know that Bill and I only recently stayed at the Hotel Bareiss in Baiersbronn, Germany. It’s probably the most expensive hotel we’ve ever stayed at, but it’s important to remember that the price of the room includes breakfast and dinner, as well as an afternoon cake buffet. At this hotel, food is front and center, but it also offers classic, quaint Black Forest inspired rooms, a petting zoo, daily activities, walking trails, several restaurants, and a first class pool and spa area. I LOVED the pool and spa areas, actually. We were there at a great time to enjoy them, too, because it wasn’t crowded at all! I wish we’d had a chance to try the a la carte restaurants, because the items that we had that weren’t part of the board menu were truly very special. Service is also outstanding at this hotel! Baiersbronn is a great town for foodies, as there are quite a few exquisite Michelin starred restaurants there. It’s also a fine place for hikers, especially if they want to see waterfalls.

5. Upper House, Gothenburg, Sweden

Coolest pool ever! This is jutting out from the building on the 18th floor, and has a glass bottom.

In late June 2019, Bill and I went to Gothenburg, Sweden to pick up our brand new Volvo at the Volvo factory. Although we could have stayed at a hotel chosen by Volvo, I wanted to go to the Upper House, a hotel in Gothia Towers. Why? Because of the pool. It juts out from the side of the building on the 18th floor! Also, the hotel is very swanky and beautiful, and offers beautiful views of the amusement park next door. Bill and I both loved the breakfasts, which were very unusual and cooked to order with fresh ingredients. If you’re going to Gothenburg and looking for something special, The Upper House is a good bet. The spa area is dreamy, but so is the bar… and I distinctly remember loving the bed. I wish I’d thought to find out where the mattress came from. That was a pretty epic trip. We combined it with stops in Copenhagen, Rostock, and Leipzig, and saw Mark Knopfler, both in concert, and at the bar in the Leipzig hotel where we were staying!

4. Auberge au Boeuf, Sessenheim, France

The pastries alone were worth the trip! The room was nice, too!

In March 2022, we had to go see our dentist in Stuttgart. At that time, COVID-19 rules were in full effect in Germany, and things were feeling a bit dystopian. We decided we wanted to get out of Germany for a few days, so I looked for a place just over the border. That’s when I discovered tiny Sessenheim, a little village near Soufflenheim, where a lot of French pottery is made. Sessenheim boasts a marvelous Michelin starred restaurant called Auberge au Boeuf, which also has four rooms to rent. This isn’t a big hotel, but the room we stayed in was the only one I have ever stayed in my lifetime that had its very own private sauna. It also had a jacuzzi bath. But the most impressive and memorable part of our stay at this hotel was the breakfast, which included the most delicious pastries I’ve ever had! They were obviously made on site, and served on special pottery that appeared to be locally made. Breakfast also included cheeses, smoked fish, cold cuts, and a variety of other goodies, all of which were brought to us. No breakfast buffet!

3. Hotel Oberwaid, St. Gallen, Switzerland

Beautiful pool area. There are also great spa facilities on the ground floor.

If you ever feel the need to feel “safe”, Hotel Oberwaid is a good bet. This hotel, located within sight of Lake Konstanz, is also a health sanitorium. There are physicians on staff for people who go there for health reasons, but it’s also a very comfortable hotel. From June until December, children are not allowed at the hotel, so it’s a very restful, adult oriented place. The restaurant serves excellent local cuisine, and there’s a fantastic pool and spa area. What I loved most about this hotel, though, was that they went to great lengths to make guests comfortable. After four nights at a noisy resort in Italy, I was definitely in the mood for a peaceful, quiet couple of nights at a place that was climate controlled and had good beds. Hotel Oberwaid had that, but it was also a very classy place. I can see why people go there for their health, even though I didn’t feel like I was staying in a hospital. The focus is on health and wellness, but in a comfortable, visually appealing setting. I’d like to go back sometime, if the fates allow.

2. De Witte Lelie, Antwerp, Belgium

A birthday surprise!

This is the hotel Bill chose for us when I turned 50 in June. It’s not the most luxurious of the properties where we’ve stayed. It doesn’t have a spa or a pool. However, it is beautifully and stylishly furnished, and offers every comfort, and it’s very convenient to downtown Antwerp. What I loved most about it was the service, which was very warm, personal, and professional. They brought out a beautiful strawberry tart and some fizz for my birthday morning, and we stayed in the funkiest room I’ve ever seen. I like this hotel because it’s so hospitable; we were so pleased with everything! One caveat I would mention is that if you have mobility issues, you might want to call the hotel for advice on which rooms are best. Our room required climbing a couple of flights of stairs. The other side of the hotel has elevator access for that part. The featured photo is of the hotel’s iconic red front door!

1. Brenner’s Park Hotel & Spa, Baden-Baden, Germany

A room truly fit for royalty…

In November 2018, Bill and I celebrated our 16th wedding anniversary. We were also preparing to move to Wiesbaden from the Stuttgart area, in what would turn out to be a very stressful relocation, particularly considering that we were moving within Germany. I wanted to find us a really beautiful place to spend our anniversary, and I found it in Brenner’s Park. One of my former professors from Longwood University recommended this hotel, calling it “a little slice of Heaven”. Indeed, that’s what we found when we got there, especially since they upgraded us from a deluxe room to a junior suite… and that room was palatial! Brenner’s Park has a resident cat named Kleopatra, a fantastic spa, beautiful pool area, delicious food, and a classy bar. I would LOVE to go back there, even though it’s not very far from where we live now. Maybe on a future dentist excursion, we’ll book Brenner’s Park… but I don’t know if we can spring for a junior suite, and it’ll be hard to downgrade after staying in one. In a word… WOW.

I won’t deny it. Bill and I have been living a pretty sweet life over here… and I am very grateful we’ve had these opportunities to enjoy some of Europe’s loveliest hotels. I hope we can visit a few more before it’s time to retire and settle somewhere permanent. For now, we’re going to keep splurging for as long as we can. You only live once!

If you’re curious about any of these places and want more details of our visits, be sure to search the blog. I have done extensive review series of each place listed in this post!


Ten things I learned in Switzerland, Italy, and Liechtenstein…

Now that my latest travel series has been completed and up for a few days, it’s time for my usual “ten things I learned” post. I like to do these posts after most trips, if only to offer a quick recap of our travels and make myself feel better for all the money we spent. 🙂 I also think these top ten posts are a bit easier for the casual reader to get through than the heavily detailed, blow by blow accounts. So, here goes…

10. Italy was actually stricter about COVID rules than Germany was!

Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised that Italy was strict about masks and “green passes”, since Italy was one of the first countries hard hit by COVID-19. However, Italy is typically “slacker” about a lot of things than Germany is, so it was a bit strange to be allowed to visit a rest stop maskless in Germany, but not in Italy. By the time our trip was over, the mask rules and green pass rules were dropped, anyway, in most places.

9. But Switzerland and Liechtenstein were both pretty “slack” about the COVID rules.

I wasn’t that surprised that Switzerland and Liechtenstein were liberal about masks. In 2020, when the pandemic was just getting started, we visited Italy, Austria, and Switzerland, and were very surprised that of the three countries, Switzerland’s rules were the least strict. Since Liechtenstein is basically a tiny country akin to Austria and Switzerland, it’s not too surprising that their rules were more like those in Switzerland.

The drive was breathtaking!

8. Modena and Parma are refreshingly non-touristy.

I was especially surprised by Modena, which really felt like an authentic Italian town. I didn’t hear any other American accents during our visit there. Parma was maybe a touch more touristy than Modena, but we didn’t get the sense that a lot of Americans were there during our trip.

7. Cortona is a super cute town, perfect for Tuscan getaways and fans of the film, Under the Tuscan Sun.

The 2003 film, Under the Tuscan Sun was partially filmed in this very lovely town, which also boasts at least one excellent winery.

6. Liechtenstein is a fine place to be if you want peace and quiet… and if you have money.

Like neighboring Switzerland, Liechtenstein is very sedate and civilized. It’s also expensive! But it was nice to be there for a couple of nights, if only to decompress a bit and gaze at the Alps. You can also find some nice wines there, with grapes from Austria, Switzerland, or even locally.

5. Andermatt may be halfway between Wiesbaden and Florence, but it’s not easy to get there!

We had to climb a mountainside with our Volvo to get to the ski town. I saw so many bikers who looked like they were in the seventh ring of Hell, trying to get up the steep incline. I alternately felt sorry for them, and felt glad I no longer have to ride a bike to get from point A to point B. It’s a pretty place, but not what I would call super beautiful. I probably wouldn’t make an effort to go back, although we did like the hotel we stayed in.

In Liechtenstein, you might see cows from your office.

4. If you need to pee in Switzerland, you can use euros at the rest stops.

I probably already knew that, but we so seldom go through there, I might have forgotten.

3. It’s possible to have a bad meal in Italy.

Avoid fast food joints called Old Wild West at all costs! Or, maybe just avoid fast food joints altogether.

2. But if you need to buy groceries or gifts, the rest stops in Italy have you covered.

And you will have to run the gauntlet when you leave the rest stops, too. There’s no other way to exit without walking past all the wines, olive oils, vinegars, and whatever else.

Italy is always beautiful!

…and .1 Bo and Luke Duke are still famous in Italy.

Actually, we saw a lot of 80s era TV shows in Italy, but were especially surprised by The Dukes of Hazzard. No wonder we’ve seen the rebel battle flag in Italy so many times! It obviously doesn’t mean the same to Italians as it does to us Americans. Back in the 80s, it was everywhere in the US, too. Maybe Italy is still kind of stuck in a previous era.

Sure, there were other things we learned while we were on our trip. But, this particular journey involved drinking a lot of wine, and my memory is probably a little fuzzy due to that. We had a wonderful time during our travels. I’m already looking forward to our next trip, which will probably be next month when I– gasp– turn 50.

It still snows in late April in Switzerland.


Food and wine in Switzerland, Italy, and Liechtenstein… part fifteen

Landing in Liechtenstein…

As I prepare to write the last two parts of this series, it does occur to me that I need to work on my titles. At least no one can accuse me of writing “click bait” titles, right? What you see is what you get. Ah well, I’ll work on it.

On Monday, May 2, Bill and I made our way to our final stop on our spring tour– Vaduz, Liechtenstein. Originally, we had planned to go to Lugano, Switzerland, for the last two nights. I have been wanting to go to Lugano forever. But I realized that Lugano was too close to Florence and not far enough away from Germany. Staying there would potentially mean arriving too early for check in on May 2, and having to drive all day on May 4, when we made our way back to Germany. Also, I couldn’t decide on a hotel in Lugano. There was one that really attracted me, but was quite pricey. Another one was less expensive and got very high ratings, but didn’t lure me like the other one did. I finally got frustrated and decided to change plans.

I decided on Vaduz because of something that happened in 2009, when Bill and I lived in Germany the first time. It was June, and Bill’s mom had come from Texas to visit us. We were going to be PCSing (permanently changing stations– moving) in September of that year, so we were trying to cram in some last minute travel. At the time, Bill’s mom had never been to Austria, Switzerland, or Italy, or really, anywhere in Europe except for Germany and Ireland. I got the bright idea to book us a long weekend at an apartment in extreme southern Bavaria. On the second day, we went exploring, and eventually found ourselves in Italy, where we literally got stuck for hours, due to a sudden rainstorm that flooded the roads.

On our way to our joyride mishap in Italy, we stopped in Vaduz, Liechtenstein for a look. It was novel to be visiting the tiny country bordered by Austria and Switzerland. Parker got her passport stamped. I remember thinking that Vaduz was a pretty town. I took a few photos, since we were fortunate enough to have, at least at that point, beautiful weather. Hours later, I wished we’d turned around after we visited Liechtenstein… or even Chur, Switzerland, where we had lunch.

Remembering how pretty I thought Vaduz was in 2009, I went looking to see if there were any nice hotels there. I kind of wanted a splurge, since I knew we’d be tired after a week in Italy. I love Italy very much, but being there has a tendency to wear me out. But that might be because we often stay in somewhat busy areas.

I was also looking for peace and quiet, and very comfortable accommodations. That’s when I found the beautiful 29 room Park Hotel Sonnenhof, which also has a well-regarded restaurant called Maree. I noticed all of the enthusiastic reviews of the hotel, and found myself lured by the idyllic photos of the snow capped mountains and green lawns around the hotel. Then I noted that it was about a six hour drive from Florence, and maybe five hours or so from Wiesbaden. Perfect! That would split up our drive home nicely, and give us the chance to experience something novel– a tiny German speaking principality (62 square miles) with Swiss currency and ties to Austria. As small as Liechtenstein is, there are three other countries in Europe that are even smaller! Liechtenstein is also one of only two double landlocked countries in the entire world, the other being Uzbekistan. That means that it’s surrounded by countries that are also landlocked, and reaching a coastline requires crossing at least two national borders.

Below are some photos from our drive out of Italy… It was a very beautiful journey, although there are even prettier routes through Switzerland. We crossed over some majestic mountains to get to Vaduz.

When we arrived at the hotel on May 2, I was immediately struck by how beautiful and peaceful the surroundings were. The parking lot was mostly empty, and it was very quiet and calm as we approached the front door. A Tesla charging station was located at the front of the parking lot. I would later see many very expensive cars at this hotel. It’s clearly the “best” hotel in Vaduz.

An efficient receptionist who spoke flawless English checked us in, reminding us that Maree is currently closed on Mondays, but a small snack menu is available for hotel guests. I was glad of that, since it was mid afternoon when we arrived, and we were both tired of being in the car. It is possible to walk to the city center of Vaduz from the hotel, but it would have been a stout stroll, as the hotel is in an residential part of town.

We were assigned a junior suite– room 33– which has an African theme. The rooms are individually decorated. The room was very nice. The bed was especially comfortable, which was great after our week in Italy. We had a small terrace that overlooked a serene “park”, and offered majestic views of the Alps. I could have sat there all day, watching the mountains change with the sun and clouds. I had picked up a sandwich just before we arrived at the hotel, but Bill was hungry, so we ordered from the snack menu. It was just enough to satisfy us for the first night. Bill turned on the water cooler (air conditioners are illegal in Liechtenstein), and we enjoyed a peaceful night’s sleep.

On Tuesday morning, we slept in a bit, then had a nice breakfast at Maree, which is where we also had dinner reservations. After breakfast, we walked around Vaduz, took pictures, and talked about everything. When it was time for lunch, we made our way to the Cellars of the Prince of Liechtenstein and the Hofkerllerei, which is a winery and restaurant. We hadn’t planned to visit this place in advance, but decided to go there because it looked like the menu was promising. Besides, we had spent our entire vacation drinking Italian wines. What better place to cap off the vacation? Below are some photos from our day in Vaduz.

And more pictures from Vaduz, lunch, and our wine tasting…

I think the next post will be the last in this series. Time to wrap up this trip and move on to other things.


Food and wine in Switzerland, Italy, and Liechtenstein… part two

Onward to Andermatt, Switzerland…

When Bill gave me the parameters of time he would have to take this trip, I started considering where we should stop, and for how long. I usually don’t like to do overnights, unless it’s a place we’ve already been. I like to have the chance to look around a place and get a feel for it… and decide if I want to go back sometime. Nevertheless, we had eleven nights, and I knew I wanted to visit Parma, Italy. Parma happens to be near Modena, where excellent balsamic vinegar comes from, and Bologna, which I’ve heard is just a lovely city with great hotels and food. Originally, I thought we’d stop somewhere in Switzerland for a couple of nights, but then I realized I’d prefer more time in Italy.

Then I consulted Google to find the best place to stop. I determined the halfway point between Wiesbaden/Frankfurt and Florence (Firenze). It turned out to be Göschenen, Switzerland, which is a cute ski village. For some reason, I didn’t find any suitable hotels in Göschenen. I see now that I could have also planned a stop in Innsbruck, Austria, which is at about the halfway point between Wiesbaden and Parma. But we’ve been to Innsbruck; in fact, we were just there two years ago. So I decided on Andermatt, a ski village in the Alps. There’s a super expensive hotel there called The Chedi, but even though I love expensive hotels, I decided to book us a room at the Radisson Blu, a brand new facility that is impossible to miss once you get to Andermatt. Getting to Andermatt isn’t all that simple, either.

Göschenen, Switzerland was on the way to Andermatt.

I was actually considering a different hotel in a nearby town, but Bill vetoed it because getting there would have required traveling on a super curvy road that would have added an hour to our travel time. Mountain switchbacks in Switzerland are no joke! We stopped at a rest stop that looked like a ski lodge. The pay toilets took Swiss francs and euros, and looked like little chalets. It was probably the nicest public toilet I’ve ever seen.

I didn’t know a thing about Andermatt before our visit. I looked at photos and could see that it’s a very beautiful place. I had no idea that we’d basically have to climb to the top of a mountain to get there. But it was actually kind of cool that we did that, since it snowed while we were visiting. As if the snow capped mountains weren’t striking enough on our arrival, they were stunning on Sunday morning, April 24th, as we were getting ready to continue our journey to Torrechiara, Italy. I was glad I brought sweaters!

Since we were only in Andermatt for a night, I didn’t get a chance to do much exploring, but we did have a somewhat mediocre dinner at the hotel’s restaurant, Spun, which is the Romansch word for “spoon”. We also had a round of Swiss beer at the bar, which was very nice. The Radisson Blu in Andermatt has lots of nice facilities, including a pool and sauna, which we didn’t have time to try. Spun was so named because of the unique mixture of cultures in Switzerland, and the fact that Andermatt is near the French, Italian, and German regions of the country. I can’t say that I necessarily got the mixture of cultures in the dish I had, which was a rather ordinary Zander filet. Bill had beef cheeks with polenta, which he enjoyed. He did say it was more of a winter dish, but then it was snowing in Andermatt, so there you go.

Our drive to Andermatt was mostly uneventful, save for running into the homeless looking guy in Germany on a bike. He wore an orange safety vest and medical mask under his chin as he raided the trash cans. After a lunch of Schnitzel and warm beer, I watched in horror as he pulled several bottles out of the trash, looked in them, and drank out of them before he put the bottles in his bag to be traded for euro cents. The only other thing that was notable was the bottleneck to reach the road to Andermatt. There’s a tunnel where drivers are allowed two or three at a time. It took some time to get through it, then we drove up the steep mountainside, passing several furiously pumping bikers who appeared to be on a journey to Hell.

The staff at the Radisson Blu was very professional and… Swiss. 😉 Everybody spoke perfect English and was very polite. The hotel was immaculate, and there’s a very handy parking garage adjoining the hotel. All in all, it was a very convenient place to stop. Just be sure to bring your Swiss plug adapters! Switzerland uses type J. I did invest in a couple of them years ago.

The bed at the hotel wasn’t too bad. It was firmer than what we’re used to, but it was basically comfortable. I don’t usually like to stay in corporate hotels if I can help it, but in this situation, the Radisson Blu was the best option. Below are some photos of our basic room. It was about $250, which seems expensive, until you remember it’s Switzerland… and a brand new hotel.

Andermatt itself isn’t very convenient to get to or leave from, and I don’t ski. I don’t know that we’ll be back, but at least we got some pretty snow before we went on our way. Feast your eyes. I could watch the mountains all day from our French balcony. But we had to get going to Italy, so after breakfast, we checked out. Breakfast at the Radisson Blu is fine, though pricey. There’s definitely something for everyone.

We checked out at about 9:30am and got on our way to our next stop… a castle in Italy. Check out the switchbacks! People were riding bikes up this! Ouch!

booze tourism, tours

Food and wine in Switzerland, Italy, and Liechtenstein… part one

How did we end up in Italy and Switzerland again?

Yesterday, Bill and I got back from our eleven night food and wine odyssey, which mostly took place in Italy, but also included a night in Andermatt, Switzerland, and two nights in Vaduz, Liechtenstein. We also spent three nights in a castle in Torrechiara (near Parma), three nights in Florence, a night in Cortona, and another night in Florence. Our trip was busy, as it included a very intense, but brief, wine tour, as well as visits to places we’d never been, and a revisit for lunch in the coastal town of Viareggio, which I had last seen in 1997.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I had initially demurred when this trip was proposed. We hadn’t been planning to go to Switzerland and Italy for our spring vacation, but had to be convinced that it would be a good idea to go there. Left to my own devices, I probably would have chosen to go somewhere else, mainly because I like variety, and we’ve been neglecting other countries because of COVID-19. We are way overdue for a trip to Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Poland, for instance. We went to Switzerland and Italy in 2020, and we visited Zurich, Switzerland last summer, so it seemed too soon to be going to those places again.

I also wanted to go somewhere where COVID-19 policies were less onerous, because frankly, I’m really tired of the rules and restrictions. I know this might not be a politically correct thing to admit. Many people still think we should be wearing masks and locking down, but having been in Germany the whole time COVID has existed, I am, quite frankly, fed up with the rules. In fairness, the rules have been much stricter in Europe than they have been in the United States. And yet, in spite of the stricter rules, people have still gotten the virus.

Anyway, Tom De Vries, a Florence based member of the Facebook wine group I run, owns a business selling beautiful Tuscan wines and leading wine tours in Tuscany. We’ve purchased a few wine boxes from Tom’s business, Sommelier’s Choices. While the boxes are not inexpensive, Bill and I have genuinely enjoyed the wines he’s sent to us. One day a couple of months ago, Tom sent me a private message, asking if Bill and I would be interested in joining his tour starting April 28th.

I have to confess that my initial reaction to his query wasn’t particularly positive. At the time Tom made his pitch, there were still a bunch of people arguing about COVID-19 and what should be done about the rules. I don’t always do well in groups, because I have the kind of personality that people tend to love or hate. I like to do things at my own pace, and I can be particular about food and accommodations. I also didn’t want to be stuck in a vehicle or touring wineries wearing a face mask. I legitimately hate wearing masks, and I go out of my way to avoid situations in which I have to wear them.

If anyone is offended by that statement, keep in mind my comment that I do my best to try to avoid situations in which masks are necessary. I do wear the masks when I’m required to, but I don’t like having to do it, and would much rather not. I figure that I don’t have to like wearing masks, as long as I comply with the rules. Vacations that require face masks aren’t fun for me, and I was afraid they would be required for the wine tour, either due to local laws, or because of other participants who preferred to wear them and imposed their preferences on everybody else.

I’m happy to report that face masks weren’t an issue at all on the tour, though masks were required for a good portion of our time in Italy. I’ll get more into that further into the series, since I did make some observations about COVID prevention measures in Italy that I haven’t seen in Germany. I was also surprised that Italy did away with masks in most public places later than Germany did. I would not have expected that, since Italians seem to be more laid back about a lot of things than Germans are. In some ways, Italy’s mask rules are stricter than Germany’s are, although to be fair, Italy got hit really hard with COVID-19 when the pandemic began.

I finally changed my mind about taking the trip because it was very obvious that Bill wanted to do it. He has become quite the food and wine aficionado, and he really has enjoyed Tom’s wine boxes. Bill also BADLY needed a vacation. He had leave to burn up, and was really jonesing for a trip somewhere. Before COVID, we used to do a lot of short breaks, which gave him a chance to recharge. We have been doing less of that over the past two years. But, I have to admit, for many reasons, I actually kind of wanted Bill to drive us in our own car on the tour. Again, I’m not very good at groups… Of course, now I know that wouldn’t have been a great idea. 😉

In spite of my initial misgivings, this trip turned out to be a good one, because we went to some places I’ve been wanting to see for a long time, and we returned to a couple of places to where I’ve wanted to return. I also finally got to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa, which I know many of my fellow military community friends have visited. In spite of my years living abroad and extensive travel, I had not had a chance to visit Pisa before last week. It was also great to walk around Viareggio, which I had the pleasure of visiting back in 1997, at a time when I thought I might never have a chance to see Europe again. And we spent two nights in Vaduz, which we had previously visited very briefly in 2009. Since Liechtenstein is technically a country, I was happy to add it to the itinerary– even if it does bear a strong resemblance to Austria and Switzerland.

So yes, even though I had some doubts about this trip when it was initially proposed, we did have a great time. I would also highly recommend Tom De Vries as a tour guide, especially if you’re into wines. He did a great job introducing us to some wonderful small wineries and great food. Again, more on that as the series progresses. This will probably be a long series, due to the length of the trip and its many facets. We stayed in SIX different hotels. I hope some people will follow along, anyway. I know of at least a few who will. So, let’s get down to it, shall we?


An uneventful evening in Switzerland…

Our latest travel adventure has now officially begun, as of yesterday. We set off for Switzerland yesterday morning, stopping to drop off a reluctant Arran and an excited Noyzi. Poor Arran would prefer to stay with us all the time, but Noyzi is all about hanging out with other dogs and being in the company of his beloved Natascha, who works at the Hunde Pension.

Arran wasn’t having any of Noyzi’s mess. I halfway expected him to take off his belt and give Noyzi a whoopin’.

We got to our hotel at about 5:00pm. Bill very kindly brought our portable GPS with us, instead of using the car’s built in GPS. I hate the car’s GPS, because it interrupts me when I’m talking and mutes my music. Also, the portable GPS can give live traffic updates, while the car’s built in GPS doesn’t, because Bill has yet to get a SIM card for the car. The Volvo is capable of providing Internet access, but we just haven’t gotten around to it. But God forbid we go anywhere without using the GPS… On the rare occasions when I drive, I don’t usually use the GPS.

It was cold and rainy when we arrived, so there wasn’t a lot of beautiful scenery to behold. My guess is that this town is kind of manufactured for skiing. I’m sure there’s a history here, but from where we sit, it just looks like a ritzy ski village for wealthy people. Still, there’s snow here, which is different.

We had a quiet evening, because actually getting to the town was an ordeal. There’s a tunnel that only allows a few cars to go at a time, which causes backups. Since the tunnel is just minutes away from the hotel, it was a bit of a pain. Once we got through it, we had to climb a mountain, which had lots of switchbacks. All the snow and rocky scenery reminded me of something out of a sci-fi movie. But as soon as we got to the top of the mountain, there was our hotel. Bill hadn’t been able to find it on the GPS, since it’s a new place, but honestly, if you drive into Andermatt, you can’t miss it. It’s plain as day.

After checking in, we had a beer at the bar, and then decided to eat in the hotel restaurant. If it hadn’t been rainy outside, I think we would have done better to look for a local restaurant, but I didn’t feel like getting a sweater. After dinner, we watched British TV and went to bed. Bill woke up at about 2:00am to pee, and somehow tripped one of the new fangled motion detector lights in the bathroom. The light came on, and flooded through the window by the shower, which lit up the room, and woke me up.

Why are so many newer hotels putting in windows in the shower? I mean, yes, you get the benefit of daylight in the bathroom, but if someone has to get up early, or needs the toilet in the night, the whole room is going to wake up. Ah well, this is a very nice hotel, and a less expensive option than the hotel I found for $900 a night. It IS Switzerland, you know… This place was only $250 a night. 😉

Anyway, we’re going to pack up after breakfast and head to Torrechiara, outside of Parma. That’s where I expect the real fun will begin. Or, at least the real eating… Good thing I brought fat pants. Not that I own any skinny pants. I don’t think we’ll see any snow in Torrechiara.

The one strange thing I did see yesterday, besides the Swiss rest stop that reminded me of a ski lodge and charged 1 euro to pee in (or the equivalent in Francs), was this… We were at a rest stop near Karlsruhe, having a schnitzel break. As we were getting ready to get back on the road, I noticed an older gent on a bike. He had a full beard and long hair, and he wore a bright orange safety vest, but no helmet. He stopped at the trash cans, and that was when I noticed the surgical face mask hanging under his chin.

He then started digging through the trash. Bill commented that he was probably scavenging for bottles. That’s not so strange. I used to do that when I was a very little kid in Northern Virginia. But then, this dude shocked me as I watched him hold the bottles up to eye level, look inside, and DRINK the contents! Then, he nonchalantly put the empties in a bag. I guess he’ll be turning them in for euros.

The whole thing struck me as kind of absurd, though. He was wearing an orange vest… maybe to make him look “official” and safety conscious, like so many Germans are. He also wore a mask, though under his chin. These were clearly “safety measures”. And then he DRANK strange liquids from someone else’s bottles. I was just grateful that at least he didn’t take a piss in front of me, which is what more commonly happens to me at German rest stops.

Well, we’ll see what strange happenings and funny things we’ll experience today. I won’t promise to write every day, but these short jots will help when I write up the whole trip when we get home!


Spring lunch at Villa Im Tal, and more travel plans!

Bill decided he wanted to go out to lunch again this weekend. Villa Im Tal, one of our favorite restaurants in Wiesbaden, was closed last weekend, so we went to Landhaus Diedert. This weekend, however, Villa Im Tal was open. Bill noticed that their menu appeared to be leaning more toward Italian cuisine. We are planning a big trip to Italy at the end of this month, so we made reservations for 1:00pm. Villa Im Tal is easily booked on OpenTable.de.

Some readers might recall that on April 2, Hesse dropped most of its COVID rules. However, I remembered that last weekend, when we dined at Landhaus Diedert, everyone was wearing masks in the restaurant. Although I threw out all of the masks in my purse, I made sure to carry a new one for today, just in case. On the way down the country road where the restaurant is, we passed a lady on a beautiful piebald pony who looked like he was about to start shedding his winter coat. He was still fluffy, like a teddy bear. SIGH.

We showed up right on time and donned masks, since the hostess/server was wearing one. She checked our vaccination statuses, which I understand that a lot of places are no longer doing, since it’s no longer required by law. Once we proved that we are up-to-date on our shots, she led us to our table. We noticed people were a lot more casual about masking this week. Some people wore them, but most people didn’t. The dining room is very spacious and there was plenty of room.

We usually sit in the front dining room when we visit Villa Im Tal. The one exception was in 2020, when we ate outside on a beautiful spring day. Today, it looked like the front dining room wasn’t set up. We were seated in the back, which was kind of interesting. It has a different ambiance, and offers a nice view of the lovely meadow that made me long for the days when I still had a horse and could go trail riding. Or, barring that, I would just like to hang out in a meadow with horses and smell their intoxicating aroma. Maybe someday…

In any case, Villa Im Tal is in the thick of “Spargel season”. It’s time for fresh asparagus, and they offered plenty on their menu. They also had their own version of the wonderful wild garlic soup so prevalent in Germany in the spring. Bill decided to have an asparagus heavy lunch, while I went with surf and turf. And we both had the garlic soup for our starters. Dessert consisted of a strawberry rhubarb tart with white chocolate ice cream for Bill, and an almond “cannelloni” filled with chocolate mousse and a small scoop of blood orange ice cream for me. The ice creams were house made.

Total damage for today’s lunch was about 215 euros, but it was well worth the cost. Service was, as usual, excellent. We were enjoying the space with a number of happy locals and a couple of very well behaved dogs. One dog was so good that we didn’t even notice her until the end of the meal, when her people led her out. Maybe someday, Noyzi will be good enough to go to a restaurant.

Below are some photos from today’s lunch. It’s always a pleasure to visit Villa Im Tal. It was funny, though, because the young woman who waited on us wished us a “pleasant journey”. I kind of laughed and said, “You mean, back to Wiesbaden?” She was surprised to find out that we live here. I guess they don’t get a lot of Americans in that part of town.

This week, we also made some decisions about our upcoming vacation. I hadn’t been really wanting to take this deal, offered by a member of my wine group on Facebook. He’s a sommelier in Florence who offers tours and sells wine. We’ve bought a number of his monthly boxes, which don’t come cheap, but are of excellent quality. He hit Bill up for a trip to Florence. I had originally said no, but then in the wake of the loosening COVID rules, decided what the hell. So, on April 23, we will be off on our next trip.

So far, our itinerary is this: One night in Andermatt, Switzerland, on the way down to Italy. Three nights in Torrechiara (near Parma) for three nights. Three nights in Florence, with one night incorporating the wine tour we’re taking. We will get there early because Bill wants to go to the Uffizi, a very famous art museum. He had wanted to go during our last visit, back in May 2013, but we weren’t able to arrange it. This time, we will make a point of making a visit happen. The third night, we will be having dinner and a wine tasting, and the weekend will consist of the rest of the tour, which will include visits to wineries and castles, and lots of wine tasting and probably a fair amount of wine buying. We will spend a night in Cortona, then come back to Florence, where we’ll spend another night before heading northward to Vaduz, Liechtenstein, where we will spend two nights before coming home again.

I had originally planned for us to go to Lugano, but I realized that it was too close to where we were coming from, and the timing might be tricky. Also, I have a feeling that we’ll be kind of ready for some quiet and decompression. Lugano will probably be a little too happening for us at the end of the trip, when I know I’ll be anticipating coming home. Vaduz is very beautiful. We went there for a few hours in 2009, with Bill’s mom, and we ended up literally getting trapped in Italy later. In any case, Vaduz is closer to home than Lugano is, and it’s not so close to Florence that we have to kill time before check in.

We WILL get to Lugano at some point. I do still want to visit there. I just want to do it at the beginning of the trip instead of the end. Maybe we’ll spend my birthday there in June.

We still need to nail down the hotel situation in Florence, but that will be sorted out soon. I hope to come home with lots of cheesy comestibles, wines, hams, olive oils, and pasta. I always look forward to Italy, so I think this will be a great trip. This will be my third time in Florence. The first time was in September 1997… and in fact, I was there when I heard that Princess Diana had died. I actually saw her picture on an Italian newspaper with the headline that she’d died. I thought I was looking at a tabloid. I am probably one of the few people in the world who heard about her death on September 2, 1997, rather than the day it happened. Ahhh… the days when we weren’t plugged in all the time. I remember listening to her funeral on French radio while riding a train through the South of France, en route to Spain.

Anyway, I think it will be a great foodie trip, and I look forward to writing it up. Stay tuned.


April snow and new travel plans…

We didn’t have much snow to speak of all winter. Unlike down in the Stuttgart area, we don’t seem to get much winter weather up here in Wiesbaden. I have missed snow, although I enjoyed last week’s beautiful spring weather. Mother Nature obliged us yesterday with one last winter blast. It snowed for most of yesterday and part of today, although it wasn’t cold enough to stick around. I did use the opportunity to build a fire and use up some of the logs from the tree we lost on New Year’s Day, when the myrtle fell in the backyard. That will probably be the last fire until the fall… although it’s still chilly here today.

Because of the weather, we opted not to go out today. Instead, I spent some time looking for places to stay in Switzerland and Italy. I run a wine group on Facebook, and one of the members is a wine seller in Italy. We’ve bought several of his curated boxes of Italian wines. He also organizes tastings and trips. He proposed to us that we go down to Florence and Chianti for a three day wine trip.

At first, I didn’t really want to do it. I don’t like guided tours, and I don’t want to deal with COVID rules. But as of today, Germany has loosened restrictions. And it also occurred to me that the way things are in Russia, we might not have the chance to travel again for awhile. So we’re going to drive to Florence, stopping at some location yet to be determined in Switzerland for the night of April 23, then spending three nights in Parma, where we’ll visit Modena and Bologna. Then we’ll go to Florence for two nights, and hopefully, Bill can visit the Uffizzi. I’ll go with him, of course, but I care less about it than he does.

We’ll meet our guide a couple of days later, have dinner and a wine tasting at a hotel in Florence, where we’ll also spend the night. We may go there for the nights before our tasting. Then we’ll go to Cortona for a night, tour wineries and visit places, spend the night, do a little more touring on Sunday, then come back to Florence, where we’ll probably spend another night. On Monday, we’ll make our way north, stopping in Lugano before getting home on Wednesday.

I think we’ll have a great time. At the very least, we’ll probably come home with lots of wine, cheese, ham, and prosciutto. Maybe we’ll even make friends. I hope the dogs will also be okay. I know it’s hard for Arran when we travel, though Noyzi loves being boarded.

This will be my third time in Florence and Bill’s second. He loved it last time we went. I love it, too. It’s a beautiful place. Maybe we’ll even run into the enchanting Polish guitar busker we met there last time, Piotr Tomaszewski. I bought a CD by him after hearing him play. He made me cry. I even made a video, back in 2013.

Piotr’s music. Hope he’s still busking in Florence, so I can make a new video.

Ten things I learned in Die Schweiz!

Back when I used to take a lot of trips– that is, before this COVID-19 bullshit began– I often summed up my blog series with a “ten things I learned” post. Basically, they served as summaries of my trips and reminders of new things I learned. I haven’t written one of those “ten things I learned” posts in awhile. There are a few reasons for that.

I used to have a larger readership than I have now. When I moved the blog to WordPress, I lost a lot of readers. A lot of former readers simply never found out where the new blog was, and some lost interest for any number of reasons ranging from leaving Europe to finding me an insufferable bitch. Then, COVID struck, I quit going places. I haven’t completely quit, mind you, but I haven’t been enjoying the travel perks of living in Europe like I used to. And the places we’ve been going are places we’ve been before– at least the same countries, anyway.

But I think I would like to revive my habit of writing “ten things I learned posts”, to keep this blog updated, and also to give people who don’t want to wade through the whole series a condensed version. So here goes… ten things I learned on our latest trip to Switzerland. Hope someone enjoys it.

10. Carl G. Jung was an amazing person… but he had lots of help.

Bill and I visited Jung’s home and museum during our trip to Zürich. We learned a little bit about the accomplished man he was. Last night, Bill was telling his Jungian therapist about how amazing he thought Jung’s accomplishments were. He read so many books, spoke so many languages, dabbled in art, practiced as an analyst, wrote books, smoked, and developed theories. He did this while raising a family and carrying on with his mistress. Bill’s therapist pointed out, “Yeah, he did all those things, and those things require energy. But he had lots of women around to help him.” It’s true. He had a wife, a mistress, and colleagues who worked with him. That freed up some of his time.

9. Jung’s family still live in the house he built on the shore of Lake Zürich.

When Bill and I were outside in the backyard, I looked up at the house and noticed people on the third floor. Later, when I read the official Web site for the museum, I read that some of Jung’s descendants still live in the house. No wonder it has such limited operating hours.

8. Swiss mac n’ cheese is pretty good. Ditto to Swiss wines!

Up here in Germany, particularly down in Swabia, a lot of people like to eat Spätzle, which is a type of pasta often served with cheese. I never really got into Spätzle myself, so I was a little skeptical when I spotted Älplermagronen on the menu at a restaurant. But as I didn’t really want a Schnitzel or a pork knuckle, I decided to order it. It was absolutely delicious, and even included potatoes! That did my Celtic heart proud!

I also really enjoyed the wines. I don’t know why they surprised me, given that Germany and Italy produce wines. Why wouldn’t Switzerland?

7. Zürich is a very lovely city… not boring at all.

One of the reasons it took so long to visit Zürich is that we lived close for several years. And I had heard from a lot of people that it was kind of a boring city that was mostly dedicated to banks. I should have known better, since I heard the same thing about Luxembourg (both the country and Luxembourg City), which I found to be untrue. The person who mainly passed on these opinions to me is an Italian friend I don’t get to talk to so much anymore… I guess compared to Italy, Zürich may seem kind of bland and dull. But I didn’t find it that way at all… of course, my Italian friend would also frown on the fact that I ate Swiss style mac n’ cheese. 😉

6. I finally know the names of the little towns near all those beautiful lakes we always pass on the way to Italy!

I think the reason I didn’t know them before is because I was always so busy looking at the scenery that I forgot to look at the signs. Now that I know some names, maybe we’ll plan a trip to stay somewhere really gorgeous next time! I am dying to rent a lakeside apartment or hotel room with a lake view where I can drink wine and enjoy peace and quiet.

5. The Swiss dialect renders my German skills useless.

I’m not saying I have great German skills to begin with… Luckily, many people speak English… and several other languages. Switzerland has four official ones. I also didn’t know William Tell was a legendary Swiss folk hero.

I’ll never think of the William Tell Overture in the same way… Here’s Bill’s distant relative playing it on the guitar. 😉 My own guitar skills aren’t this advanced yet. Incidentally, this was piece was composed by Gioachino Rossini, who was Italian.

And that was so good I have to add this video from 1974, which features Glen Campbell playing an acoustic guitar. I’ll keep practicing.

4. Watch where you park in Switzerland…

It’s best to choose a city garage rather than one affiliated with a fancy department store. Yes, we should have realized… now we know for certain! 49 CHF for a day’s parking! Whew!

3. The Swiss apparently don’t “do” naked spas…

In Germany, it’s not uncommon to find textile free spas, or at least textile free areas of spas. That means everything is “textile free”– not just the saunas. Evidently, Switzerland doesn’t do that, which is okay with me. But it’s good to know what to do, just in case. You don’t want to bare it and share it unless invited to do so…

2. Switzerland has a soul after all…

I’m finding that the more I visit Switzerland, the more I like it. I had the same reactions to New York City and Paris. Switzerland has always seemed kind of sterile to me… but now that I’ve been to a few places, I’m finding myself liking it more and more.

And finally, 1. but it’ll drain your wallet!

I actually knew this before our most recent visit. We have yet to enjoy a budget holiday in Switzerland, although I’ll bet we could arrange something cheap if we put our minds to it. Frankly, though, I tend to want to go to Switzerland for rest and relaxation… pampering, if you will. So I’m prepared to drop some money on those trips. I’m never sorry I did so… although that’s probably because I’m not the one briefing generals and spending weeks working in Bavaria to pay for these trips.

So that about does it for my “ten things I learned” post. I hope I can write another one soon. I think our next trip will be to Stuttgart, and I’ve already written a shitload about that city.


Our time in Die Schweiz was definitely not Scheißig… part eight

Sunday afternoon, after our visit to the Lindt Home of Chocolate and rainy drive next to the shore of Lake Zürich, we found ourselves in need of lunch. I had spotted a cute pizzeria on our drive, but parking was a challenge and it was really pouring rain. I was enjoying the misty views of the lake, but the heavy deluge was making us nervous. So instead of continuing around the lake, we decided to head back toward Zürich.

By the time we got back to the city, the rain had stopped and the sun was coming out. As we walked out of the parking garage, I spotted what looked like a promising lunch spot. They were advertising “craft” burgers and beer. I’m generally kind of wary of burgers in Europe, but this place did look like it might be okay– especially given how many people were there. Unfortunately, they were “complete”, so we kept looking. We finally ended up at Restaurant-Boucherie August, a place that was attached to a hotel.

We stopped at Boucherie August because it looked open, and because the lady cleaning off the tables outside was friendly. It smelled good, too. When we walked in, it was about 2:00, and the place was packed. An hour later, when we’d finished, we were the last ones in the dining room. The dining room was all checkerboarded and the tables were close together, but had plexiglass partitions on either side to discourage the spread of germs. The hard chairs were a bit uncomfortable– they were the kind with arm rests that don’t actually allow for resting one’s arms, yet limit the width of the chair. Service was a little slow, but it was friendly enough. We enjoyed our food, too, although I think their Web site is a bit over the top in what people should expect.

Getting to and from the restroom was a little confusing, since we had to go into the hotel area to find it. And then, once we were finished eating, it took awhile before we could find anyone to bring the bill. But we were just looking for something to eat. What we had was enough that we didn’t need anything else for the rest of the day… except, of course, wine. 😉

As it was our last day in Switzerland, we were ready to wind things down. We rationalized that if we got hungry later, we could just order something from the hotel. Their menu is a bit limited, but offers small plates. I couldn’t see myself wanting more food on Sunday night. We hung out in the pleasant foyer for awhile, enjoying more Swiss wine. I must admit, I had very limited exposure to Swiss wines prior to this trip, but we found several that we enjoyed while we were staying at B2 Boutique Hotel. I definitely saw some ideas for future trips, too, if we’re lucky enough to keep living here. Bill tells me we’ll probably be here at least another year, but we’ll see what happens. As I’ve recently and poignantly learned, there are never any guarantees about the future.

Bill’s work with his Jungian therapist has him thinking about other things he might like to do with his life besides planning military exercises. One thing he has been considering is taking classes at the C.G. Jung Institute in Küsnacht. I think that would be very exciting for him. He’s an unusually empathic person, with a warm, kind, heart and a keen intellect. Jung fascinates him, and that interest was a major reason why we decided to go to Switzerland in the first place. If Bill decides to take any courses, we might be spending more time in Switzerland.

As for me, I was just really happy to get out and travel again. I have really missed going to new places and having things to write about. Last night, I shared a few posts from this series in the Facebook food and wine group I run, since there were a few people in the group who had expressed interest in the hotel. Someone gave me a “laughing” emoji and commented that my “blog is bigger than Switzerland.”

I’m not sure what that woman meant by her comment; but here’s what I assumewhich I realize could be a mistake. She might wonder what compels me to write these long posts about my travels, since a lot of people don’t like writing. She might wonder why I would share them, since she probably doesn’t care about what other people do when they travel. Maybe she’s turned off by the name of my blog, which I’ve discovered many people in the military community are.

Here’s a hint, though– I don’t really care if you think my blog title is offensive or bragging. If you take the time to get to know me, you’ll find out why I call my blog(s) The Overeducated Housewife (– I am a housewife with three university degrees, which means I am literally overeducated for my lot in life. If I had known this was what I’d be doing with my life, I would have skipped grad school.) I also don’t really care if you think my decision to share the posts is annoying. I share the posts for the interested. Those who aren’t interested can simply keep scrolling.

What is the biggest reason why I blog?

I mostly blog for ME…

When we lived in Germany the first time, I wasn’t a blogger. I wrote product reviews and articles for content mills. I’m sorry I didn’t blog in those days, if only because I could have kept better access to some of the photos I took back then and some of the stories I took from those experiences. I switched from a PC to iMac in 2011, which made a lot of my photos and videos from that time incompatible with my machine. If I had blogged in those days, I would have curated some of those memories. Sadly, most of the stuff I wrote during our first Germany tour is lost, thanks to Epinions and Associated Content (Yahoo Voices) tanking. I do have some stuff I saved on Facebook, but it’s a fraction of what it could be.

But I also blog for YOU…

I’ve been in Germany this time for seven years, and I’ve gained a lot of experience. I write these posts for people who might find them interesting or useful. I write them for people who are looking for trip ideas or reviews. I have benefited from people who have taken the time to write about their experiences. Their posts have contributed to my memories. So I’m simply trying to repay the favor.

In any case, I realize there will probably be a day when I can’t have these experiences as easily as I can now. So I want to preserve the memories, mainly for myself, but also for those who might find them entertaining. They’re free of charge to read, and maybe some people think that being “free of charge” is about what they’re worth. But to me, these blog posts represent priceless and precious memories. And again, I actually enjoy writing. My mom expresses her creativity through cross stitch and knitting. I hate doing those things. For me, writing and making music are creative pursuits that are truly enjoyable. So that’s why I write these “bigger than Switzerland” blogs. But I realize not everyone likes or appreciates them. I can’t please everybody, and would go crazy trying.

And now, to end this series…

We spent our last night watching Olympic coverage while drinking wine. In the morning, we got up, had our last breakfast, and were delighted to see that someone in the hotel had already brought up our Volvo from the parking garage down the hill. We packed up our stuff and I waited by the car while Bill went to settle our hotel charges. I was afraid we were really going to have an enormous bill– I was thinking maybe 3 or 4 thousand Swiss Francs. But it turned out our bill was only about 2,700, which is still a lot, but it included four nights in a junior suite, one dinner for two, many bottles of Swiss wine, valet parking, and spa for two. Breakfast, Internet access, and minibar were all included with the room. So, overall, I left the B2 Boutique Hotel pretty contented, even about what we spent for our trip.

Our drive home was completely unremarkable. We didn’t even encounter any Staus… nor did we eat anything interesting. We stopped at the “Erotic McDonalds” off the Autobahn near Heidelberg… same place we stopped on the way from Stuttgart to Wiesbaden when we moved up here in late November 2018.

Now… one last detail. I mentioned in my second post that our old dog, Arran, was going to be having a dental. Before we set off on our trip, Bill took him in to the vet to be evaluated and get some antibiotics for tomorrow’s procedure. Well… after we got home, Bill went to get some stuff from the grocery store. I was doing laundry. As I carried clean clothes up from the basement, my eyes landed on what looked like a piece of off white plastic on the floor.

I picked up the strange looking item, which I really thought was something that had broken off something inanimate. A few seconds later, much to my horror, I realized that I was actually holding one of Arran’s “fangs”. It must have snapped off on Thursday, before we took him to the Tierpension Birkenhof. I immediately felt dread. Arran is Bill’s baby, but he’s getting old, and we worry about his health. Last time we took a trip (to Heidelberg in June), Arran injured himself under a bush and had to visit the emergency vet. Seven hours and 800 euros later, he came home with stitches. And now he had a broken tooth.

I immediately started wondering if he’d spent the weekend in agony. I remembered an earlier dog, Flea, had broken a fang when we were here the first time. A couple of weeks later, Flea was diagnosed with prostate cancer, so the tooth never got fixed. We were a lot less acquainted with German vets at that time, plus we moved back to the States. This time, we were somewhat prepared, at least. Arran already had a dental appointment set for tomorrow, and Bill took him in yesterday, just to make sure he’s not in pain. And hopefully, he doesn’t have prostate cancer, too… (which he shouldn’t– I certainly haven’t seen any signs of it). Arran actually seems more chipper than ever, which makes me wonder if that tooth was hurting before it broke. He had tons of energy on his walk yesterday and has no trouble eating. I expect that after he recovers from his dental, he’ll be even spunkier. Maybe he’ll even be nicer to Noyzi. We’ll see.

Well, if you’ve been following along on this blog series, thanks for reading and your patience. I’m through sharing, now. Until next time…