Our pandemic dog rescue story… part one

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As of yesterday, our home became a two dog household again. I never thought we’d get there, but we have. This series is about our quest to adopt a dog in Germany, which took us all the way to Slovenia and back over the weekend. Before I write about our travels, I want to offer a quick backstory about our experiences with dogs as a married couple. Please bear with me! It’s all about preserving history.

Bill and I have been dedicated dog rescuers since 2002. I grew up with dogs in rural Gloucester, Virginia, but mostly focused on horses until I went to college. Bill never had dogs, but his mom had many cats when he was growing up. Bill can’t have cats because he’s allergic to them. But he can have dogs, and he is a natural dog “parent”. In May of 2002, I had just finished graduate school at the University of South Carolina and it was time I had a dog in my life again. I told Bill I wanted a beagle. He agreed that sharing our home with a dog would be most acceptable, and beagles have been in our lives ever since.

All of our previous dogs have been beagle mixes of some sort. The first one, blue-eyed CuCullain (CC) was a beagle mixed with husky and he had incredible ice blue eyes. We adopted him in May 2002 and lost him after sixteen months when he contracted Mycobacterium Avium, an extremely rare and fatal disease in dogs.

All the dogs we’ve loved before– CC, MacGregor and Flea, Zane and MacGregor, Zane and Arran, and Jonny, whom we never got to pet.

Next, in November 2003, we adopted a dog named Flea, probably the closest we ever had to a purebred beagle. He was found on the side of a road in Chester County, Virginia, starving, covered with fleas and ticks, and heartworm and Lyme Disease positive. We had Flea for six years, and along with our third rescue, MacGregor, Flea came to Germany with us the first time. We lost him to prostate cancer when he was about twelve years old, two months after we moved to Georgia from Germany.

MacGregor, Flea’s sidekick, was a beagle-basset hound mix who was incredibly smart and funny, but terrified of people he didn’t know. He adored Bill and loved performing on camera. We adopted him in 2004, mainly because Flea badly needed a “second banana”. After a few weeks of “working it out”, Flea and MacGregor became best friends. We loved him for 8.5 years, until he developed a spinal tumor. We said goodbye to MacGregor in Raleigh, North Carolina a week before Christmas 2012, when he was about ten years old. CuCullain, Flea, and MacGregor all came to us from BREW in northern Virginia.

Zane, who was my very special friend, came into our lives a month after after we lost Flea in November 2009. We had just moved to Georgia and he was turned into Atlanta Beagle Rescue. His first owner had bought him at Petland and said she didn’t have the money to take care of him. Personally, I think she gave him up because she was too busy and he was in his destructive “teen puppy” phase. It took us about six months to turn him into a civilized pet, but once we did, he was an amazing gentleman. Zane was with us for almost ten years until we lost him on August 31, 2019 to lymphoma. He was almost eleven years old when he died. I think Zane was mostly beagle with a dash of Labrador Retriever. He never met a stranger and loved to play. I adored him and was crushed when we lost him.

We got Arran in January 2013, when MacGregor passed. He came from Triangle Beagle Rescue out of Raleigh, North Carolina, and appears to be a mix of beagle and German Shorthaired Pointer. He’s about eleven years old, and he’s sweet, cuddly, emotional, soulful, and very jealous. Bill is his favorite person, as evidenced by the many pictures I’ve shared of him on social media. Arran is a wonderful dog who doesn’t need a “second banana”. But I needed one.

We usually adopt a new dog within a month of losing one. Since we live in Germany now, it’s not as easy for us to adopt dogs. There are a lot of reasons for this. One of the main reasons is because local pet shelters don’t like to allow Americans to have dogs. Too many military folks have abandoned animals in the shelters here, to the point at which they don’t trust us anymore. Some rescues also don’t want to adopt to Americans because there have been cases of adopted animals being abused, abandoned, or neglected. Certainly, not all Americans are abusive to animals, but unfortunately enough of them have been that we all get painted with that broad brush in some parts of Germany. I didn’t want to buy a dog from a breeder, because I know there are so many dogs who need homes. So we waited about six months after losing Zane to try to adopt from a German rescue organization. That attempt to adopt was successful in that the rescue didn’t mind that we were Americans. Unfortunately, it ended with a needless tragedy.

Our brand new canine family member, currently named Noizy, was a much anticipated arrival. Noizy came into our lives in April 2020, a couple of weeks after a dog we tried to adopt escaped before he made it into our house. We were absolutely devastated about what happened to Jonny, the dog who was supposed to join us last March. You might say that, in a weird way, Jonny was a casualty of COVID-19 and extreme negligence. But when he died, he also helped save two canine lives– Noizy, and Max, an elderly cocker spaniel who found himself abandoned at our Tierpension when his owner died. The proprietor offered him to us, but since we had already committed to Noizy, I ended up sharing his story in a local Facebook group and Max was adopted by a teacher at the American school in Wiesbaden. I take comfort in knowing that losing Jonny meant that two dogs got new homes. Still, it was horrible what happened to him.

We were approved to adopt Jonny, a beautiful beagle mix from Sardinia, in mid March 2020, right around the time COVID-19 was getting really bad in Europe. Originally, we planned to drive up to northern Germany to pick him up from his foster family’s house. But before we could make travel plans, the local command issued General Order #1, which forbade us from leaving the Wiesbaden area. We let the rescue know that we couldn’t travel and offered to pay Jonny’s expenses until we could go get him. The rescue wouldn’t agree to that, but proposed that we could pay for a pet taxi to have him brought to us. Long story short, Bill ended up agreeing, and after hasty arrangements were made, Jonny was picked up by a pet taxi and driven to Wiesbaden overnight.

The woman who had brought Jonny to us had driven all night from northern Germany. She was exhausted, having told Bill that she had been driving for seventeen hours. For some reason, she had not properly secured Jonny with so much as a collar and a leash before she took him out of her pet taxi. She put him down on the ground, completely naked, and tried to use a lasso leash on him. The dog backed out of the lasso before it tightened, took off running, and soon found his way to the Autobahn, where he eventually got hit by a car. We found about it the morning after we lost him. The pet rescue found out first, because Jonny had a chip. I also got contacted by a club in Germany that helps the police inform people of their pets’ deaths. That was weird. Especially since he wasn’t really our pet yet. There’s a club for almost everything in Germany.

Complicating matters was the fact that a couple of people in Bill’s office were sick with COVID-19, and we found out about it the morning Jonny ran away from us. Bill was forced to quarantine just a couple of hours after Jonny escaped. We couldn’t look for him ourselves, but even if we could, he didn’t know us at all. He’d never even so much as sniffed us. We never petted him. I don’t think we would have been able to catch him, even if we could have found him. It was just heartbreaking; he was only about ten feet from our front door when he escaped.

I will never forgot how absolutely horrible that experience was… I definitely learned some lessons from it. In fact, as I type this, Bill is heading to court to testify about what happened to Jonny. The rescue sued the pet taxi driver, who refused to take any responsibility for what happened. (Edited to add: I just learned that at the last minute, the pet taxi driver decided to settle and Bill didn’t even have to be at the courthouse today… so basically, we rushed back to Germany for nothing. Oh well. At least she finally took responsibility. Wish they’d told us sooner.)

Anyway, last spring, I was feeling distraught about the Jonny’s sudden death. Bill and I don’t know how much longer we’ll live in Germany, and it seemed impossible to get another dog. I’d had my heart set on Jonny. Thanks to COVID, my reluctance to buy from a breeder, and German prejudice against Americans adopting dogs from Tierheims (even if it is justified), it seemed like we’d be a single dog household until we eventually depart Germany, and I have no idea when that will be. One day, I posted on Facebook that I really wanted another dog.

Within minutes of my post, my friend Mary sent me a message. She said she could put me in contact with an American woman who rescues dogs. Before I knew it, I was chatting on Facebook with Meg, who had lived in Kosovo, a tiny breakaway nation that was once part of Yugoslavia and is not recognized as its own country everywhere. Meg now lives in Germany, but still has many dogs in Kosovo who need homes. She is very committed to seeing that the dogs she rescues all get the sweet life off of the streets of Kosovo.

My heart was already kind of leaning toward adopting a dog from the East, even before we lost Zane. I have another Facebook friend named Trish who used to live in Stuttgart and was also living there when we had our latest Stuttgart stint. Trish adopted a beautiful female dog from a shelter near Dubrovnik, Croatia. Trish had said her dog, Phoebe, was the “best souvenir ever”. I had watched in delight as she posted pictures of Phoebe, who went from homeless Croatian street dog to beloved canine family member. I was inspired, even if I’m really used to beagles.

Anyway, after establishing contact, Meg sent me pictures of the dogs she had… and when I saw Noizy’s face, he made an immediate impression on my heart. I asked Meg about Noizy and she gave me some of his details. I told Bill about him and shared his story and photos. But we knew it would take awhile before Noizy would be part of our household.

First, he’d need to pass a blood test. Then there would be a four month waiting period after the test. There was also COVID-19 to consider, with borders opening and closing at varying intervals on a weekly basis. COVID-19 also made it temporarily impossible to export Noizy’s blood sample to a veterinary school in Germany, where it would be tested. Planes weren’t flying for awhile in the spring, and that was the only way to get the sample out of Kosovo. I think that logistical hassle added a month to the wait. Then the transportation had to be arranged.

All told, we’ve waited almost six months to bring Noizy home. There were times when it seemed like he’d never get here. Sometimes, I wondered how we were going to coordinate everything to get him to Germany, especially given the COVID-19 situation and the grim news reports about how there will be a second wave.

Noizy arrived last night after a very long, yet whirlwind, two day journey from his homeland. This series I’m going to start today is about that journey. I’m going to include the usual hotel details, as well as what little I got to see of the places we stayed, but this trip wasn’t about sightseeing. It was about expanding our family to a very special dog whom I hope will have a long and happy life with us. I’m sure this is just the first of many stories I’ll have about our new family member, a big dog from a tiny country… who came to us all the way from Kosovo and has already made a home in our hearts.

European pet friendly lodging I have known…

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Zane on a road trip to Belgium!

Arran begging for a belly rub.

Sometimes I get inspiration for blog posts from people in local Facebook groups who have a need.  I think the many travel bloggers in the Stuttgart area each offer different things to our readers.  I don’t have children, so generally speaking, I’m not the one to come to for advice on where to take your kids.  However, I do love good food, wine and beer, unique places that are off the beaten track, and, most importantly, pet friendly lodging.

We didn’t used to take our dogs on our trips.  When we lived in Germany the first time, we had Flea and MacGregor, two high maintenance beagles that didn’t travel well.  Flea would get car sick.  MacGregor was deathly afraid of people he didn’t know.  Both of them barked incessantly.  MacGregor would also howl when we left them alone.  In those days, we’d take them to Hunde Hotel Haase, which was at the time being run by a woman named Kirsten.  Kirsten was awesome, and she took great care of our dogs.  Unfortunately, sometime in the five years between our Germany tours, Kirsten left, and took the Hunde Hotel’s good reputation with her.  I started hearing some very disturbing stories about dogs who were left there.

We started using Dog Holiday for our current dogs, Zane and Arran.  Dog Holiday is great, but it’s frequently booked, especially on holiday weekends.  When we want to take a dog free break, we book Zane and Arran at Dog Holiday months or even as far as a year in advance.  Since we don’t know how long we’ll be in Germany, that can be problematic as well.

In 2016, we decided to start taking the dogs with us on our trips.  We started with a one night experiment in Riquewihr, which is a lovely French town in Alsace, not too far from Stuttgart.  Although Zane and Arran had stayed in hotels before, we decided it was time we trained them to be good in hotels.  I booked us a deluxe room at Best Western Le Schoenenbourg.  Although the dogs weren’t on their absolute best behavior, the trip was a success.  We even managed to enjoy a delicious gourmet meal in Riquewihr with our dogs in tow!  After that victory, I started looking for other pet friendly accommodations.  I’ve found some good ones, which I am sharing in this post.

Before I get started, I want to list my criteria for booking pet friendly accommodations.  First, I look for parking– particularly free parking.  That’s because we don’t take our dogs on trains, at least not yet.  We have to have a place to park our SUV.  Next, I look for free WiFi because I’m addicted to the Internet, but also because you never know when you’ll need to find an emergency vet or something.  And finally, I try to book places that don’t charge pet fees.  It’s not that I don’t want to pay pet fees or that I don’t think property owners are right to be concerned about pets staying in their rentals.  It’s more because I’ve found that people who don’t charge for pets tend to be less nervous and/or anal retentive about having them in their rentals.  I prefer to rent from people who like my dogs rather than just tolerate them.

So here goes with my list of nine pet friendly properties we’ve enjoyed so far.  They are not ranked in any particular order.

1.  Best Western Hotel Le Schoenenberg in Riquewihr, France

This will be the only hotel listed in this post.  I am mentioning Hotel Le Schoenenberg because they were exceptionally pet friendly.  When we checked into our deluxe room (the only one they had left), we found it outfitted for our dogs’ arrival.  They had included pet bowls and treats for Zane and Arran and they were super understanding when my dogs started baying on the way downstairs.  My one concern about this hotel is that it’s pretty pricey.  We paid just under 200 euros for one night with breakfast.  However, we were also in a suite and it was during the high season.  Also, I don’t think you need more than a couple of days to see all of Riquewihr, although there is much to see in the surrounding areas.

Hotel Le Schoenenberg was very welcoming to our dogs!

2.  Chalet Montana in Barvaux, Belgium

We booked Chalet Montana in Barvaux, Belgium for Labor Day weekend 2016.  I found this house on Booking.com.  It was larger than what we needed and kind of pricey, but it has the distinction of being our very first experience renting a vacation home.  I see on Booking.com that Chalet Montana *may* charge for pets, but I don’t think they charged us when we stayed there.  There are two master bedrooms with two trundle beds.  Bring your own linens.

This property is near the charming town of Durbuy and within range of towns like Rochefort, Bastogne, and Dinant.  We visited each of those towns while we were in Barvaux.  I was particularly enchanted by Dinant, which is where Adolphe Sax, inventor of the saxophone, was born.  We found the area very dog friendly and the house itself is very nice and extremely kid friendly.  Additionally, it boasts a still water hot tub (fueled by a fire that you have to build) and a sauna.  There’s an adventure park in the area, as well as golfing.  We also found great beer and good restaurants nearby.

Apparently, Durbuy has a problem with human stealth shitters.  However, we never encountered human poop and, in fact, thought the area was lovely!  It smelled good, too. 

3.  Villa Moretta in Domaso, Italy  (ETA: This property no longer accepts pets as of 2020)

You’d rather head south for a trip to Italy?  I can’t blame you for that.  We found Villa Moretta in Domaso, Italy on Booking.com and stayed there for Memorial Day weekend.  I notice that the name has changed since our stay.  In May of last year, it was called Casa Oliva di Domaso.  I don’t know if that means the place has new owners, although I note that when we stayed there, there were no pet charges and now it looks like they *may* charge for pets.

The owner was doing work on an apartment on the first floor during our stay.   It looks like he’s now offering two apartments, one of which is one bedroom and the other is two bedrooms.  In any case, the two room apartment was pet friendly when we stayed there and offered stunning views of Lake Como, as well as access to some great Italian food.  I will warn that this apartment requires walking up steps for access because it’s situated on a hillside.  Also, there is one tiny parking space that was a challenge for Bill to fit our small SUV.  However, I have very fond memories of Domaso and would love to go back!  It’s a very chilled out town, perfect for relaxing and dog walking.

View from a trail going up the hillside.

I loved the donkey!

Watching storm clouds roll in from the balcony.

4.  Vila Verunka in Senec, Czech Republic

We stayed at Vila Verunka in Senec, Czech Republic just last weekend.  It’s a little two room house on the edge of a forest, located in a residential suburb of Plzen.  This house features pet friendly floors and a large, fenced in yard.  The owners are very nice and did not charge us extra for Zane and Arran.  Also, this accommodation was extremely inexpensive.  For three nights, we paid 288 euros.  The one caveat is that the tap water is not potable.  It’s fine for washing and watering your dogs, but not for human consumption.  The owners didn’t explain why, except to say that the house isn’t hooked up to city water.  My guess is that they use a cistern to supply water to the house.  Drinking bottled water is no big deal for us, but I thought it best to mention it.  There’s a swing set in the yard for your kids and the house is set far enough away from other properties that noise from dogs is less of a problem.

Plzen is a great place for beer lovers, as well as aviation lovers.  There is a huge, unique Air Park near the house that offers a rare chance to look at Cold War era airplanes, tanks, helicopters, and missiles.  Also, Plzen has a zoo and several museums for Cold War history buffs.  It’s a city that has a special fondness for America, which is evident in its street names.

Zane was very much at home at Vila Verunka!

5.  Gîtes de la Maison Vigneronne in Ribeauvillé, France

This property is probably my favorite dog friendly property on this list.  In 2017, Bill and I stayed at Yannick’s “wine house” three times!  The three links in the description lead to my series about each stay, all of which have been fun for us and the dogs.  Yannick names his apartments after different wine grapes.  So far we’ve stayed in Pinot Noir (one bedroom) once and Riesling (three bedrooms) twice.  Four apartments are in his wine house and the other two are located in a building on the main drag through town.  I have actually seen all but two of the apartments.  I have a feeling Yannick is counting on me to pitch them to my American friends in Germany.

I can vouch for how dog friendly Yannick’s apartments are.  He doesn’t charge extra for pets and welcomes ours whole-heartedly, even bringing them treats.  While we did encounter a cranky neighbor on our last visit, by and large, the people in Ribeauville are very dog friendly.  It’s a super cute town with several great restaurants and shopping opportunities, as well as free parking.  It’s also a great place to go wine tasting and visit other cute little towns in the vicinity.  We like Ribeauville more than Colmar and Riquewihr because it offers a nice balance between touristy and homey.  Also, it’s a relatively short and pretty drive from Stuttgart.  I don’t know when we’ll be back to Ribeauville, but I’m happy to share the wealth with those who want to go.

Zane loves Yannick’s Riesling apartment, too.

6.  Holiday Home Bonjour Clara in Alveringem, Belgium

Are you interested in being close to a beach?  Like good Belgian beer?  Have a big group?  You might want to consider Holiday Home Bonjour Clara in Alveringem.  This large old house is located in a rural area about a half an hour from the North Sea.  It takes about nine hours to get to Alveringem from Stuttgart, but you pass through a few beer towns to get to it.  Bonjour Clara has four bedrooms and is usually rented to crowds.  We paid 760 euros in cash for four nights, which we thought was very reasonable given how many people can stay there.  Besides being close to the beach, this house is within driving distance of Ghent and Bruges.  There’s a dairy farm next door, where you can buy fresh milk, and the hostess, Marianne, has chickens that provide fresh eggs.  We really enjoyed this property in Belgium with its huge kitchen and swimming pond.  I wouldn’t mind a return trip.

This beach is maybe thirty minutes away.

The boys in the kitchen.

Bill enjoys the pond.

7.  Hexagonal Tower for Two in Semur-en-Auxois, France

I’m adding the Hexagonal Tower for Two, although this property is probably the least pet friendly on my list.  First of all, the owner did charge us for Zane and Arran.  I think it was 20 euros or so, but I’m not absolutely certain of the exact amount.  Secondly, this house is strictly for two people.  Although it’s pet friendly, it would be best if your pet was on the small side.  Why?  Because it’s a tiny house.  However, it’s also a very cool place to stay.  The owners are a British woman and her French husband, who is a master stone mason.  They built this cool tower a few years ago so they could host guests.  For two people, it’s probably the perfect size.  For more than two people, it’s a squeeze.  However, the town of Semur-en-Auxois, situated in Burgundy, is a very quaint, French town surrounded by more quaint French towns.  The area is absolutely beautiful!  If you need a break from Germany, it’s a great place to be.

Look how cute the town is!

This is about the size of the downstairs room.  Note no handrail on the steps, which could be a problem if you have small kids.  My dogs were leery of it.

The tower!  For couples or singles only!

 
8.  Gite de la Maison Bleue in Saint Marcelin de Cray, France

This is another one of my favorite pet friendly spots so far.  Located in Burgundy, a bit further south of Semur-en-Auxois, is Gite de la Maison Bleue, a beautiful old farmhouse in Saint Marcelin de Cray.  The owners of this property run a snail and rabbit farm and they have lots of friendly animals, including a spunky donkey named Antoine.  When Zane and Arran barked at Antoine and his friend, the Friesian horse, Antoine brayed right back at them.  It was hilarious!  Not only is this property beautiful, the owners are also very nice and accommodating, especially to our dogs, who were made very welcome.  It was no problem at all if the dogs pooped in the yard since there were pigs, llamas, alpacas, sheep, rabbits, geese, snails, and other dogs there.  I am dying to go back to this area, too, since it’s in the heart of wine country and, quite honestly, offers a look at “the real France”.  Cluny is a nearby town where you can shop, eat good food, and mingle with the locals.  There’s also an interesting abbey open for tours.

This tower is part of the rental property and offers a great view from the top.

Antoine the donkey!

View from the balcony.

Zane and Arran are feeling at home.

Of all the pet friendly rentals we’ve tried so far, I think Anno 1499 in Rothenburg ob der Tauber may have impressed me the most.  This house was not only dirt cheap to rent, it had every comfort you could want.  Located on the main street into the walled city, this house had two full bathrooms, two bedrooms with double beds as well as a crib and daybed, and a full kitchen.  The owner works across the street and was super friendly and welcoming to Zane and Arran.  There were no extra charges for them.  She also showed us where we could park for free.  We had an absolutely trouble free stay at this house.  I’m probably going to be sorry I shared it!

The house!

Tower in a walled city.

So there you have it… nine places Bill and I have taken the dogs and had a good enough time that we’d book again.  Actually, I’m not sure I’d book the Hexagonal Tower again with the dogs, but I would for just Bill and me.  If your dog doesn’t have to sleep with you and is pretty small, it would be okay.  For us, it wasn’t quite enough space.  However, we loved the town and enjoyed our hosts.

I hope this list is helpful for those of you who are seeking pet friendly digs while you’re in Europe.  I will keep searching for new places and will probably write a sequel when I have another good sized list of pet friendly accommodations.  Happy traveling!

Last minute getaway to Ulm: Part two

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We had intended to eat breakfast at the hotel.  It was included in the price of the room.  Unfortunately, luck was not on our side yesterday morning.  We all got in the elevator.  It stopped on the second floor, where we were confronted by the old guy who had checked us in.  He had a cart full of dirty dishes and seemed to need the elevator more than we did.  We got off the elevator and started down the stairs.  When we got to the lobby, standing by the elevator was a woman with a big boxer.  Zane got one look at the boxer and started barking.  Arran joined in with his own deafening howls.  Once again, I was dragged out of the lobby by my two crazy dogs.

I suggested to Bill that we go find a McDonald’s or something.  If worse came to worse, we could eat in the car.  Bill figured we’d stop at the one we passed on the autobahn, not realizing until it was too late that there was a McDonald’s in the next town.  We spotted its golden arches as we were getting on the autobahn.  Rather than turn around and go back to Mickey D’s, Bill headed for A8.  It turned out the McDonald’s we thought we were going to was located further away than we realized.  Spotting a Burger King, we pulled off at a truck stop, thinking we might score a Croissan’wich or something.

The boys enjoy a truck stop.  Lots to smell there.

The truck stop was located in Aichen and it was pretty disgusting.  The air smelled bad… kind of like a combination of garbage and sewage.  There was trash all over the place, especially near the picnic tables.  Nevertheless, Bill went in to find us some breakfast while I tended to Zane and Arran.  What we didn’t realize is that apparently some Burger Kings in Germany don’t offer breakfast.  The Burger King at the Aichen truck stop definitely didn’t.  So Bill ended up getting a true truck stop breakfast, which took some time.  I was standing out there with the dogs, wondering what was going on, not knowing that Bill was getting us a full on breakfast packed in styrofoam and accompanied by plastic utensils.

He got me fried eggs and bacon and himself scrambled eggs with potatoes.  The scrambled eggs were supposed to come with ham, but the guy didn’t have any on hand.

That’s a lotta eggs!  The orange juice was excellent, though.  It was fresh squeezed!

Bill’s deficient eggs.

We sat down at a picnic table and I remarked to Bill that there had been a steady stream of guys headed for the wooded area behind the truck stop.  Obviously, they didn’t want to pay 70 cents to use the toilet.  I couldn’t blame them for that, I guess.  However, there were a few fellows who didn’t want to take the time to walk to the woods.  I saw at least two of them take a whiz right in front of everyone.  It’s not uncommon to see people doing that at truck stops, though most people at least try to be a little private about it.

Germany sure is beautiful, isn’t it?

 

After we ate, I decided to use the restroom.  As I walked into the truck stop, I was confronted by a family of four with no sense of urgency as they headed down to the facilities.  They were blocking the pay station, fishing for change.  I reminded myself that we weren’t in a hurry because we had nothing planned.  I still wanted to do my business and get away from the nasty truck stop, though.

I suppose seeing this ad for desperate pregnant women was worth 70 cents.

 

Finally, we got back on the road and headed into Ulm.  Ulm is a very nice city.  I would definitely like to go back there sometime without the dogs.  It reminded me a lot of Munich in some ways.  In other ways, it reminded me of Tuebingen.

One of the first things we saw were signs for a wine fest…

It was to open at 11:00am!

A farmer’s market was also going on.  Unfortunately, Bill forgot to bring our shopping bags.  It’s a shame, too.  We even had our cooler that plugs into the car and makes a little fridge.

The produce looked beautiful!

We did not go inside the cathedral because we had the dogs.  Had we gone in there, I think we would have climbed up the steeple.

I had to pause at this corner where three skilled musicians were busking.  Fiddle, guitar, and upright bass conspired to touch my heart as we wandered around the market.  In fact, even though we were only there for a couple of minutes, their music actually brought tears to my eyes.  I am a terrific sap when it comes to music.  We ended up giving them some euros.

We finally made our way toward the river and wandered through a very charming part of old town Ulm.  As we crossed over one of many bridges, I saw something puzzling…

Someone apparently decided to take a seat.

But really, much of the area near the fish market is just lovely, with waterfalls and ducks…

The people here very kindly left a water bowl out for passing dogs.

We should have stayed in Ulm.

Some guy stopped Bill to ask him a question.  A lot of people do that.  It’s probably because he has a very kind face.  While he was struggling to speak German, I busied myself by taking this photo.  

Right about at this point, I decided I needed to make a pit stop.

 

We ended up at a Coffee Fellows.  I had hot chocolate that tasted more like hot chocolate milk.  Bill had a cafe Americano.  The boys got a rest.

I ended up being amused by this ad that was by the restrooms.  Look closely at the guy’s underwear.  You’d never see that in the States!  I also thought the music at this particular coffee shop was pretty bad.  They were playing songs where N bombs were repeatedly dropping.  

Once we were finished with our coffee break, we started thinking about what we wanted to do next.  My German friend Susanne had given me some tips on a local place where there were pretty trails and biergartens.  I figured that might be a good place for us to take the dogs… but then as we rounded the corner, we realized it was 11:00… The wine fest was then open!

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

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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.

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

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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.

An overnighter in France with dogs…

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We’ve got one planned this weekend.  I have a terrible case of wanderlust and our dogs’ usual hotel is fully booked until September.  Yesterday, while I was ruminating about how much I’d let to get away for a night or two, it occurred to me that we live in an area where dogs can go places.  My dogs are hoodlums, but they can’t learn to behave in public if they never go anywhere.  Besides, I want some French wine.

So… we are headed for Riquewihr and Ribeauville on Saturday and we’ll stay a night.  If all goes well, we may start doing more quick overnights so I won’t have to feel so cooped up.

Wish us luck!

It’s tough being in a German hotel with dogs…

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Zane and Arran are, by and large, a lot easier going than their predecessors, Flea and MacGregor, were.  They don’t bark or bay as much as Flea and MacGregor did, and they tend to nap more.  Still, it’s stressful being in Germany with dogs because our dogs haven’t been trained the way most German dogs have.  I’m in a hotel right now, trying very hard to keep them quiet and contained.  The hotel is in a rather busy area compared to the hotel we were in last time we moved here.  There aren’t as many places to walk them in peace.  I just took two laps around a relatively busy city block to give the maid time to clean the room.  I’m glad that’s over with, since I’m always afraid they’re going to do something offensive.

Hell, just a little while ago, Zane took a dump outside.  I cleaned it up, then hesitated before I threw it away.  Germans are very particular about trash.  I think it was alright to put the crap in the outdoor trash receptacle, but I’m always afraid someone is going to yell at me in German.  We also seem to have chosen a hotel that is not long on English speakers.  It’s actually a pretty nice hotel and somewhat reasonably priced, but it’s not ideal for pets.  Zane pitches a fit whenever both of us leave him alone, so that makes it hard for me to get things done.

We ran out of dog food yesterday, so I’m hoping Bill will be able to stop at the commissary and pick up some more.  This morning, they’ve had pizza crusts and peanuts to eat.  Poor things.

Some lady at the Frankfurt airport had a beautiful daughter and an equally beautiful beagle.  She approached me yesterday and started speaking German.  I answered that I am American.  She told me about her dog, then expressed concern about mine, since they were in their carriers whimpering.  I explained that they had been in their carriers for about twelve hours and wanted to get out, but otherwise they were really fine.  I think many Germans can’t fathom bringing animals with them on such long trips, but the alternative is to be jobless or rehome the dogs, which Bill and I weren’t willing to do.  We love our dogs and want them with us.

Ironically, since a lot of American servicemembers abandon their pets in Germany, a lot of German dog pounds don’t allow Americans to adopt their animals unless a German friend can vouch for them.  We all get painted with the same broad brush.  Bill and I are devoted dog lovers, though we probably should have spent more time in hunde schule with our pooches.  😉

Arran passed out in our German hotel room…