Christmas, Germany, holidays, staying home, Wiesbaden

Christmas victuals…

After we opened our presents and cleaned up all the pretty paper and bows, Bill got to work on making dinner. He had plans to sous vide a couple of Cornish hens stuffed with wild rice and clementine dressing, using the Anova Precision Cooker I got for him a few years ago. Accompanying our hens would be mashed potatoes, peas, and homemade cloverleaf rolls. For dessert, we had the trifle Bill prepared on Friday. Of course, there would also be plenty of wine, music, and canine company.

The sous vide process took about four hours, and involved sealing the chickens in special bags, which Bill found under the tree yesterday, along with a handy stand for the precision cooker when he’s not using it. After four hours at 150 degrees, Bill would put the hens in the oven to broil, so the skin might crisp.

I think I prefer the baking or broiling method of cooking Cornish game hens. But Bill only uses the precision cooker for steaks, most of the time, so he really wanted to try this method. Supposedly, it keeps the meat from getting too dry.

The end result of Bill’s experiment turned out to be basically okay, except I thought my hen was a little underdone. A little more time in the oven quickly fixed that issue, and I’m perfectly well today, so I obviously didn’t get sick from eating underdone chicken. I do think the chicken stayed moist and flavorful, but the glaze Bill used got a little too brown. I guess I’m a purist when it comes to these things. We also enjoyed a couple of nice Italian wines we purchased through Sommelier’s Choice, an Italian purveyor. A representative is in the wine group I run.

I think my favorite part of the meal were the rolls, which were perfect. I’m proud to report that I taught Bill how to make rolls. When we met, he could cook only a few things. Now, he’s become a real chef. Or, at least in our house, he’s a chef. I seem to have retired from cooking. I used to be pretty good at it, back in the day. I also loved the dessert, although I didn’t come close to finishing it! We have leftovers.

We used the good china and silverware, which we probably ought to break out more often. We also lit candles and a fire, which made the living room look cozy. However, curiously, I neglected to wash the tablecloth. It got a good cleaning this morning.

I got Bill a fondue and raclette grill for Christmas. I did hesitate on that, since I don’t eat a lot of cheese. I do like very specific kinds of cheeses– they have to be mild and melted (it’s a texture issue). If you go to Switzerland for raclette, the whole restaurant smells like ass. I do enjoy fondue, though, and would probably love raclette made with cheese that smells less like ass or a barnyard. Maybe we’ll have a chance to try it today.

I bought Bill a fondue cookbook, as well as a really beautiful cookbook with Alpine recipes, featuring Austrian, Swiss, French, and Italian favorites. Actually, I went a bit nuts on cookbooks, just like I always do. There were SIX of them under the tree! I just couldn’t just pick one or two. I buy them, but we don’t use them very often. I just like to have them around. Some of them are genuinely fascinating. For instance, a few years ago, I bought Bill a copy of The Flavor Bible. He loves it, because it offers a scientific look at cooking. Anyway, now we’re going to need another bookshelf.

I would count this year’s Christmas as one of the better ones. Bill got to talk to his daughter on Skype, and he got to see his cute grandchildren… especially his granddaughter, who is apparently quite a ham. And his daughter is expecting another baby in 2022. Bill told me that when he was talking to her, it felt like everything in the world was alright. That’s a wonderful way to feel, especially in these troubled Corona times.

Below are some pictures from our Christmas dinner…

I hope you all had a nice holiday meal! I look forward to 2022… and some exciting new travels.

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anecdotes, Germany, wine

We finally made it to another local wine stand!

Those of you who have been following this blog for awhile might remember that a couple of years ago, before the COVID-19 plague began, my currently adopted town of Breckenheim would have wine stands during the warmer months. Naturally, that tradition had to pause last year, as the threat of the coronavirus among unvaccinated people was too great. We didn’t have them for most of this year, either, and the local powers that be even dismantled the permanent kiosk that used to be set up in the Dorfplatz.

In August, the wine stands finally started again, although not with the same regularity that they were held in 2019. We had to miss the first one in August, because we were in the Black Forest visiting the dentist. 😉 They had another one two weeks ago, but I got sick with my cursed stomach bug and we couldn’t attend. Finally, last night, the stars aligned, and Bill and I managed to make it to the wine stand, located just down the hill from where we live.

I was wondering what the stand would be like in the COVID era. I brought my purse with me, just in case masks were required. As it turned out, they weren’t. I also thought to wear warmer shoes and a wrap, because I had a feeling it would get chilly as the sun set. Here are a few photos!

Last night’s wine stand turned out to be especially interesting. At one point, a lady came up to us and asked in German if she could sit down with the two adorable children with her. Bill answered in German. She continued speaking German, but Bill misunderstood her. She wanted to push in the bench so the kids wouldn’t get soup all over them. He thought she was just asking to sit down.

It turned out she was American, and had moved to Germany over forty years ago when her father was in the Air Force and stationed in Wiesbaden. She married a local and is now a very convincing German Oma to the two kids, who looked to be about 4 (boy) and 6 (girl) and were absolutely charming, with blond hair and blue eyes. They had these little bags of what looked like puffed rice cereal that they poured into the pumpkin soup. They reminded me of Trix, only they weren’t colorful. The American lady said they were salty. I had never seen them before, but I was curious. It looked like maybe she got them at a bakery. I’m not sure they were puffed rice, either. She said they were a type of grain.

I never did learn her name, but we traded a few stories. Her family is back in the United States, but I could see that she was totally integrated here– and I would have imagined so, after forty years! The folks at our table knew her and she was chatting easily with them. In fact, the locals were even friendlier than usual to us, too. Oma asked where we were from, and we told her– Arkansas for Bill, and Virginia for me. She didn’t know either state… although she does know Texas, and Bill spent a lot of time in Texas. I got a sense that maybe she kind of missed the US a bit, but that was only due to a fleeting look of wistfulness on her face.

Oma and the grandkids left, and the very friendly lady across the table, who didn’t really speak much English said she wanted us to meet someone. She kept mentioning that he was a gardener. Next thing we knew, a British guy was standing near us, chatting. The guy’s name was Steve, and he came from the northwest of England, which gave me a thrill. It turned out that before he had moved to Breckenheim, he had lived in Nagold, down at the edge of the Schwarzwald (Black Forest). Nagold is, of course, the town that was closest to us when we used to live in Jettingen! Bill and I used to go there all the time before we moved up to Wiesbaden! It was one of our favorite places in our old stomping grounds.

Steve said he’d lived in Nagold for about fifteen years. We sat there and talked about all of the little restaurants we visited, and Steve told us about how, back from 2008-2010, the city of Nagold did a massive beautification project because they were hosting a garden show there. We lived in Germany from 2007-09, also near Stuttgart, but that time we were in a little town called Pfaffingen, which is closer to Tubingen. We never discovered Nagold during our first German stint, although I do remember hearing it mentioned.

For all of the crap we went through in our last home near Stuttgart, I am still glad we lived there, because it did afford us the opportunity to visit a lot of places we would have missed if we’d lived closer to the military installations. I still miss Nagold a lot. It had a lot of what I love about cute towns, without the huge crowds and obnoxious traffic. If we ever move back to that area, I wouldn’t mind finding a home in Nagold… as long as the landlords are fair and respectful.

Steve was telling us that he really missed living in Nagold. I could relate. Wiesbaden is a nice area, and there are things about it that I enjoy, like wine stands. But I find the area near Stuttgart to be more authentic and interesting. It offers more of a pure German experience– or, actually, more of a Swabian experience, which is something else entirely. Up here, people are friendlier and more laid back, and there’s not as much thriftiness, but housing costs more and it’s a bit more built up. Curiously, despite being more built up, the traffic is much less terrible up here. Steve explained that a lot of the people in Breckenheim are politicians or are involved in finance. I can tell this neighborhood is kind of well-heeled. It has a different feel than either of our previous German towns. Down in BW, the atmosphere is more agrarian, although that doesn’t mean the standard of living isn’t high.

I think a big reason why the Frankfurt area seems less charming and authentic is because a lot of historic buildings were destroyed during World War II. And the ones that were rebuilt don’t have the same old world quaintness that the destroyed buildings had. But, I am glad we moved up here, if only because I can compare and contrast my German experiences, now. And wine stands are one nice tradition that Bill and I really enjoy.

Hopefully, this weekend, we will continue to have some fun, especially since it’s technically a holiday weekend. I think Bill is going to work on Monday, though, so we can take a trip soon.

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anecdotes, coronavirus, Germany, staying home

This weekend is pretty much ruined…

A few days ago, I was really looking forward to this weekend. The weather looked like it was going to be beautiful. There were several wine centered events going on, to include our local wine stand that takes place in the town square. Before COVID-19 messed everything up, we would have those wine stands every other week during the warm months. They were a lot of fun, and a great way to get to know the neighbors.

There was a wine market in Hofheim yesterday, and a wine festival in Ingelheim, which I really wanted to go to. Fortunately, the fest will continue all week until next Sunday. Hopefully, by then, I’ll be well, and Bill won’t have to work.

That’s right… I am sick this weekend. I don’t know how it happened, but it has put a real damper on our fun. Thanks to a big work exercise, Bill also had to work this morning. He arranged to do a four hour shift early today, so we could have had the rest of the day to do something fun. Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ll be going anywhere today, either.

I spent most of yesterday in bed with gastroenteritis. I don’t know how I got it. I don’t spend time around anyone other than Bill, and he hasn’t had it. It’s possible I ate something that made me sick. It came on Friday night, when I suddenly developed a fever and chills. Of course I was worried about COVID-19, even though I live like a hermit.

As Friday night went on, my stomach started to feel weird. I actually wanted pizza for dinner, though, and was relieved that when Bill made it, I could easily smell it. Unfortunately, the pizza didn’t last. After dinner, the vomiting started. I spent the whole night shivering under two duvets.

Yesterday, Bill made breakfast and, once again, I was relieved that I could smell it. In fact, the aroma of bacon was almost overwhelming. But breakfast also didn’t stay with me. I resolved not to try to eat anything else, other than a waffle syrup cookie, which is pretty bland. I managed to hang onto that and the two sodas Bill brought me. Then I watched movies and took a nap.

This morning, my stomach feels marginally better, but I can’t trust my sphincter. A good sneeze, fart, or cough could make quite a mess, if you catch my drift. So I don’t think we’ll be doing anything today, because I don’t want to crap my pants.

I did have Bill go out and get a COVID test, just to make sure that wasn’t the source of my discomfort. At first, before the diarrhea set in, I thought it might be possible that the virus finally found me. He paid two euros for a Chinese COVID-19 home test. We tried to use it last night, but somehow didn’t do the test right. So I ended up with no result.

I did think to take some photos, though… the directions are in German and include pictures. Bill later said he saw there was a video we could have watched for instructions. It reminded me a little of a pregnancy test, except the sample to be tested came from my nose.

Oh well… I guess I’ll do more reading today. I do feel somewhat better than I did yesterday, at least. I think the fever went away, and I haven’t had to puke since yesterday morning. So there’s some bright news…

SIGH.

I’ll end this post on a positive note. Four years ago, I was also sick. That time, it was with a very nasty cold that I picked up when we cruised in Scotland. I wasn’t surprised that I got the cold, since there was a visibly sick woman on the boat who kept sniffling all week. By the time the cruise was almost over, I had her cold. Although that beat the everloving hell out of the norovirus infection I got in Scotland in March of 2016, having that cold was pretty miserable.

Bill and I came home to our driveway torn up, since our former landlords decided to renovate it. The work wasn’t completed while we were gone. Then, the day after it was done, while I was still sick, the landlords came over unannounced. I opened the door to get the mail, dressed in my nightgown. There they were, standing there on the driveway, inspecting the work. I had an awkward conversation with them, not just because I wasn’t dressed and had a bad cold, but also because by that time, our relationship had gone sour. A few weeks prior to our trip to Scotland, an awning that the landlady’s husband had “fixed” collapsed on a windy day. They tried to blame me for it, and the wife got very irate and screamed at me in my living room, specifically blaming me for other things that were wrong in the house.

The next day, the landlords showed up unannounced and started cleaning the gutters, right outside my bedroom window. I was in bed, still sick with the cold, and FUMING, because it was yet another unexpected visit. I had told them I was sick, and was trying to rest. Of course they never thought to consider my feelings. I was just someone whose husband they were deigning to let rent their house. Clearly, in their minds, I was not entitled to any respect, privacy, or consideration. I literally wanted to throttle them. (I am not the most patient patient) But instead of telling them to come back another day, like I should have, I just tried to ignore them.

Well… I didn’t quite ignore them. I posted on Facebook that I felt like choking them. I noticed yesterday that I had written that. I was really upset. Later, Bill did ask them for more notice, and was met with a rather rude response. But if you know what happened in the end, you know that we eventually came out on top in that situation, although it took some time.

Anyway, it occurred to me yesterday, reading that past Facebook status, that I have much to be grateful for. I don’t get sick very often in Wiesbaden. Bill doesn’t have to travel to Africa, so he doesn’t bring home weird germs. When I do get sick, I can recuperate in private. The landlord lives next door, but he never bothers us, and would never do loud work on our house without planning ahead. And I just really prefer this house on so many levels. In fact, yesterday, it occurred to me how glad I was to be resting in my own bed and using my own bathroom. When I last had a stomach bug, I had to deal with it while traveling. It was awful. So I’m glad to be at home, and glad to be living somewhere where the landlord isn’t an inconsiderate jerk.

And hopefully, the rest of this virus will “run its course”… I just ate a banana, so we’ll see how that goes. Looks like the fever may be done, too.

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Germany, Hofheim, Wiesbaden, wine

Gay pride in Wiesbaden… wine in Hofheim…

I had heard a couple of wine events were going to be happening in Wiesbaden and Hofheim this weekend. Bill and I decided to check them both out. I must have gotten confused about the Wiesbaden event, because we never did find it. Instead, we ran into a gay pride parade, and had lunch at a Greek restaurant called Kavos. Below are a few photos I took of what we could see of the parade. I was sorry we hadn’t gotten there a little bit sooner, but we did see many dressed up people walking around the city with gay pride rainbow flags.

Yesterday was the second time we visited Kavos. I was in the mood for Greek food, and they had a nice lunch special going. I had pork “Spiess” (skewer) and Bill had a lamb skewer. They came with kraut and potato medallions. We also had t’zaziki, garlic pitas, and beer. In retrospect, I probably should have had water, given the wine market we attended in Hofheim.

I’m actually glad we never found the Wiesbaden wine event, since I ended up trying wine from five different vintners yesterday in Hofheim. I’m surprised I can still remember it.

Edited to add: My German friend says the chicken display is a warning to use sunscreen. One chicken says to the other to use sunscreen so she won’t look like a rotisserie chicken. Glad to have that confusion cleared up.

Below are some photos from the wine market in Hofheim. We stayed pretty socially distanced, although some people were having a great time! I must admit, I’ve missed going to these kinds of events, although my liver is probably scarred as hell now.

I think the wine event in Wiesbaden is going on today, too. I had the wrong location yesterday. I’m not sure if we’ll go. Unfortunately, I just went outside to clean up Noyzi’s business and it grossed me out so much that I puked. I love that dog, but he really takes humongous craps and I no longer have the strong stomach I once had. In any case… I’m glad we got out yesterday. It was really fun. Nice to have some normalcy for however long it lasts.

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Germany, restaurant reviews

Our Heidelberger Birthday Holiday! Part three

After our walk, I decided to take a cold shower. I noticed the generously sized tub had jacuzzi jets. Alas, the stopper didn’t work properly, so taking a bath was impossible. I know we should have called for maintenance, but I decided it was just as easy to take a shower. Afterwards, Bill took his turn washing off the sweat and dirt from our walk and we put on nice clothes. It was my first time in something other than shorts and a t-shirt or a nightgown in ages. I probably should have taken a selfie, since I even wore makeup and curled my hair… which is due for another homemade whacking.

While we were relaxing before dinner, Bill found these books in the desk. We had the New Testament in German and English, and The Teaching of Buddha!

When we got the dining room, we ran into the barman, a friendly young man we got to know better after dinner. We were told when we booked that the outside area was fully booked, so we were expecting to sit inside. After some confusion– they apparently couldn’t find our reservation– we took a seat in the dining room. The menu was pretty fancy. If I’m honest, it was probably a little too fancy for me, since I am kind of a picky eater about certain things. Like, for instance, I don’t like fungus– no mushrooms or truffles or morels for me. Unfortunately, nice restaurants often use fungus a lot. They also had lamb and veal, which I also don’t eat. Bill, on the other hand, loves both. They did have the ever popular asparagus with Hollandaise and optional add ons. I thought about ordering that, but realized that I don’t love asparagus as much as many Germans do. And I like green asparagus more than white… either way, it makes my pee stink!

Fortunately, I did manage to find a couple of delicious items as we enjoyed aperitifs– champagne for me and a Campari with soda for Bill. Service was impeccable. The staff was friendly and professional, rather than stuffy. And the highlight of the evening was the sommelier, who talked Bill into ordering the Rhein equivalent of a Grand Cru Riesling. Our waitress noticed we ordered the Rings Riesling and also commented that it was a favorite of hers, too.

Total damage for dinner was about 312 euros, which is not the most we’ve ever paid for a meal, but comes pretty close. About a third of that was because of the Rings Riesling from the Pfalz. Naturally, you pay a premium for wine in a restaurant, and that bottle would not have been so expensive at the winery, even though it was a special, limited edition bottle. I was glad we ordered it, though. It was not the usual… I enjoyed how the flavor changed as the wine was exposed to oxygen and the ambient temperature. And it was a special occasion– our first gourmet meal in a sit down restaurant in many months. Boy, how we’ve missed dining out! I think we made the sommelier’s night, too. But as nice as Friday’s dinner was, Saturday’s was even better… and it cost significantly less.

After dinner, we stopped by the bar. It was empty, although the friendly young barman was there. He made me a strawberry mojito and poured a Japanese whiskey for Bill. We got to talking and found out that he was born in Germany, but spent the first thirteen years of his life in New Zealand. Then, he came back to Germany and hailed from– Freudenstadt! Bill and I lived near Freudenstadt when we lived in Jettingen, so we know that town pretty well! It was nice to talk to bartender again… yet another reason why we were so prepared to spend money. Anyway… there are pictures of Freudenstadt in this blog, because we visited there more than a few times when we lived near Stuttgart the second time (2014-2018). I liked going there, and just hanging out in the Black Forest in general. I miss it.

After our nightcap, we came back to our room to find the turn down fairy had visited and left us chocolates. That was a nice cap off to our first day outside of Hesse on a leisure trip since last summer. Onward to part four.

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day trips, Germany, road trips

A drive to Kallstadt…

Recently, I read and reviewed Mary Trump’s book, Too Much and Never Enough, a scathing expose about the Trump family, particularly her Uncle Donald Trump. I read in Mary’s book that the Trumps originated in Kallstadt, a wine producing hamlet located about an hour’s drive from where Bill and I currently live. Because we had nothing better to do today, and we’ve spent far too many weekends at home since the pandemic struck, Bill and I decided to drive to the village of Kallstadt to check it out.

A German Facebook friend wrote that she lives close to Kallstadt and that if we visited the cute little wine town, not to mention Trump. Apparently, the locals aren’t all that pleased to be associated with the current U.S. president, even though remnants of his family remain in the area, especially in the cemeteries.

The Inside Edition’s take on Kallstadt.

We had the best intentions of actually getting out and walking around there once we arrived. Unfortunately, parking was in short supply today. We also brought Arran with us. I did get some photos, though, and we took a drive through nearby Bad Dürkheim, a nice looking spa town that’s a bit bigger than Trump’s grandparents’ stomping grounds. If we’d wanted to, we could have spent time trying and buying different wines produced in the area.

Kallstadt is currently in Rhineland-Palatinate (or Rheinland-Pfalz, if you prefer). When Trump’s grandparents, Friedrich and Elisabeth Trump, were living there, back in the 19th century, it was part of the Kingdom of Bavaria. Looking at a German map, it’s surprising to see just how far north Bavaria stretches. I guess I’m used to being down near Stuttgart, which is a couple of hours’ drive from the closest Bavarian border. Up here in Wiesbaden, we’re close to several other German states.

The weather didn’t turn out to be the best for walking around today. We’re about to reach Fall, which can be glorious in Germany, but can also be a bit “iffy” in terms of the weather. Anyway, I did get some photos, although that was pretty much all we got on today’s journey… I would definitely be up for another visit when the sun is out and maybe if we didn’t bring Arran. There are many Weinguts to try in the area, plus some tempting looking restaurants.

I truly meant to write more about this. I hoped we could walk around and see a lot more of the area. It just wasn’t the right day to explore Trump’s grandparents’ stomping grounds. We’ll have to go back and spend more time… and at least taste a few of the products of the region. I’d like to know Kallstadt for the products it can truly be proud of, rather than our current leader. Kallstadt is a really cute little town, though. I can see why people visit.

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Germany, Wiesbaden, wine

When the Wine Stand delivers…

One of the things we have up here in Wiesbaden that we didn’t have in Stuttgart is the bi-weekly wine stand. Starting in March and running through October, my community allows clubs to do fundraisers in which they sell wine and food to people who congregate in the Dorfplatz. Of course, this year, that’s not possible due to the coronavirus and the need for “social distancing”. They did have one wine stand in March, but Bill and I didn’t attend because the weather was terrible.

Last week, as I was walking Arran, I noticed a sign posted on the gate of our local restaurant, the Alt Breckenheimer Stübchen. That restaurant is within stumbling distance of our house, although we’ve only managed to eat there once, because it’s always packed.

Ten euros a bottle for wine we could have been drinking at the wine stand.

A local winery was advertising for their “wine stand”, which would have been held last night, since today is a holiday in Germany (Labor Day/May Day). Schools and businesses usually close and people take long walks. Some folks observe the night of April 30/May 1 as Witches or Walpurgis Night (WalpurgisnachtHexennacht). They light bonfires and prepare the Maypoles, which in some areas, people dance around to celebrate spring…

I have not seen this in person yet… but I liked the video made by the Reflections Enroute channel.

Well… sadly, none of this is happening this year. Even Germany’s beloved Oktoberfest in Munich has been cancelled, as has the Canstatter Volksfest in Stuttgart. And we’re not having wine stands with the local Breckenheimers, either. But Bill and I did get to try some rustic local wine, which we ordered after I saw the flyer advertising it at the Alt Breckenheimer Stübchen. Last night, two chilled bottles of white wine were brought to our home. We drank one of them, then switched to an Italian red.

Bill says he thinks this wine might be what’s known as a “Landwein”, which is basically wine made by farmers. They’re usually tasty, but kind of rustic. We went to a Landwein tasting a couple of years ago, when we still lived near Stuttgart. I know the people who delivered this yesterday live nearby and either bottle the wine or produce it. They held one of the wine stands at their place last year, but we didn’t attend that one. I think we might have been out of town.

This was pretty good. It had the slight taste of apricots.

The weather was kind of yucky yesterday anyway, so I doubt the wine stand would have been too popular even if we didn’t have the virus. I was glad to see the rain. We really need it.

The added bonus to the wine delivery was that I could listen to music and pee with ease. When we do the wine stands, we either pee at the Rathaus or at home. If we pee at home, we might as well stay there. I do miss the wine stands, though, because it’s a fun way to practice our terrible German and meet new people. I enjoy watching the neighbors who have known each other for years congregating and hanging out. I’d love to see this kind of thing in the United States… once we aren’t so worried about contagion.

Germany, by the way, is doing pretty well in the coronavirus fight. Well… it’s doing better than the United States is, anyway. I miss being able to go out to lunch and tour places… I definitely have the itch to travel and to get a new dog. But in our case, the lockdown isn’t so bad. At least Bill and I still like each other. I’m also getting pretty good at giving him haircuts.

I’m amazed by how weird things have become, but Germany is starting to loosen the restrictions somewhat. Hopefully, there won’t be a huge wave of infections, now that the playgrounds and churches are reopening. Not that Bill and I hang around those very often anymore…

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France, wine

Strasbourg’s annual wine extravaganza! Part two

Now that I’ve described the hotel, on with the rest of the trip. I was actually kind of dreading trying to find dinner on Friday night. I used to wait tables, so I know what dining out on Valentine’s Day can be like, both for wait staff and patrons. We were unable to make dinner reservations anywhere special, so I had a feeling dinner would be spectacularly un-special. And that’s what ultimately came to pass…

But before dinner, we were keen to visit the The Historic Wine Cellar at Strasbourg Hospices. My German friend, Susanne, told me about this historic wine cave, which was created in the year 1395. The cellar was used for storing wine, but it was also used for storing other perishables like grain. Today, visitors can visit the caves free of charge and pick up a bottle or two of wine. Very old wines are stored there now, including three historic barrels dating from 1472, 1519, and 1525. The barrel from 1472 even still has 350 liters of wine from 1472 in it– the oldest in the world aged in a barrel. It’s only been served three times in five centuries:

  • In 1576 to Zurich, when the Swiss proved that they could come quickly to help their friends in Strasbourg.
  • in 1718 for the reconstruction of the main building ravaged by a fire two years prior.
  • in November 1944 to General Philippe Leclerc de Hautecloque, liberator of the city of Strasbourg.

In 1994, the wine was tested by local oenologists who determined that even though the wine is over 500 years old, it’s still wine, and in fact, has “a very beautiful bright, very amber color, a powerful nose, very fine, of a very great complexity, aromas reminiscent of “Vanilla, honey, wax, camphor, fine spices, hazelnut and fruit liquor …” I wonder how much longer they’re going to age it and what made them decide to keep that particular wine for so long!

Bill and I took a taxi to visit the museum, because Bill thought maybe we’d be tasting some wine there. Alas, wine tastings are only done for special events. However, we did enjoy some beer after our visit to the cave. Here are some photos of the museum.

We really enjoyed our visit to see the historic wines. If we had driven to the museum, we probably would have picked up a few bottles of their current wines, too. Maybe if we go back to Strasbourg, we’ll stop in again. Incidentally, the cave is closed on Sundays and public holidays. If you visit, you can either read the signs, as we did, or get a headset, which will provide more information and stories about the history of the wine cave and its relation to the historic hospital complex. It doesn’t take long to see this attraction. We were there maybe a half hour, and that was because we were reading everything, taking pictures, and going slowly. It’s still pretty cool to visit there, though.

After our visit to the museum/cave, we decided to find ourselves some beer in town. We didn’t have to walk far before we reached our first destination, a bar called La Taverne des Serruriers/ La Schloss Brasserie. More on that in the next post.

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France, hotels

Strasbourg’s annual wine extravaganza! Part one

Well, we finally did it. After a total of 7.5 years of living in Germany, Bill and I finally visited Strasbourg, France, for more than a couple of hours. And we finally went to the annual wine expo I’ve been hearing about for years, now. Although I run a local food and wine group on Facebook and I’ve never made a secret of my love for wine and beer, Bill and I have somehow always missed Strasbourg’s big wine convention, which takes place every February. This yearly event, which has been going on since 1994, brings together hundreds of vintners from all over France. And since we never know when our time in Europe might end, Bill and I decided this year we’d attend.

We weren’t sure we were going to make the expo until the last minute. Bill has to go away this week and will be leaving in a few hours, after he picks up Arran from the Birkenhof Tierpension, which has become our go-to dog hotel since we moved to Wiesbaden. Then I was concerned about where we were going to stay, since I wasn’t at all familiar with Strasbourg and I worried that hotels would be full. But it all came together nicely and I am happy to say we had a great weekend, complete with extraordinarily warm, sunny weather. I had originally given some thought to staying on a house boat in Strasbourg, but I figured the weather wouldn’t be good. As we were leaving this morning, I told Bill that we could have had a great time on the boat. We had sunny skies and balmy temperatures in the 60s! I didn’t even need to wear a sweater!

The first thing we did to prepare for our trip to Strasbourg was order a sticker for the car. France, like Germany, now requires stickers for cars traveling in certain cities. Strasbourg is one such city that requires the sticker. It costs 7 euros, and comes in the mail, but since our trip was coming up so soon, we had a printout of our proof of purchase on the dashboard of the car.

Bill took Friday, Valentine’s Day, off from work, dropped off Arran at the Hunde Hotel, where he was left in capable hands and the promise of hanging out with a beagle girlfriend he’s had since we lost Zane. I was glad to hear she’d be staying at the pension, too, since they make good roommates. Then we loaded up the Volvo and got on our way. Strasbourg is only about 2.5 hours from Wiesbaden, which makes it a super easy place to get away to for a weekend break. We were actually closer to Strasbourg when we lived near Stuttgart, but always wound up being lured by Alsatian wine country. Now that I’ve spent a weekend in Strasbourg, I think it’ll be hard to choose between the two areas when we need to get out of Germany but don’t want to travel too far.

Our trip to France mostly took place in Germany. We made just one stop, at a truck stop that was a lot closer to France than we were expecting. In retrospect, we probably should have just continued to France and had ourselves some Alsatian goodies. But we did stop, and I took a few photos…

Our lodging…

I booked Hotel des XV for our three night stay, a four star establishment on the east side of town. I booked the hotel because it got really excellent reviews on Trip Advisor and Booking.com, but it also had more of what I was looking for than other places I researched. Since Bill and I not getting any younger, we like to stay in nice hotels with good service. We don’t mind paying a bit more for better quality.

Hotel des XV is located in a quiet residential area, very close to the Orangerie Park and several consulates. It’s not in the thick of town, and there aren’t any restaurants closeby, although there is at least one grocery store within reasonable walking distance and, in fact, it’s possible to walk into town in about 30 minutes or so. There’s also a bus stop right outside the hotel’s gate, although the bus stops running at 9:00pm.

Hotel des XV has just ten rooms. There’s a free parking lot next to the hotel, although I think it’s for the neighborhood, and not just for guests. I read that the hotel also offers a private garage where one can purchase the right to park, but we never needed to use it.

Breakfast costs 19 euros per adult and includes a buffet with the usual fruits, cereals, breads, cold cuts, and cheeses. They will also make bacon and eggs, if you like. Breakfast for children is 9,5 euros. It’s served in a lovely front room that also serves as a fully stocked bar, which also offers small plates and room service.

Two classes of rooms are available, superior and deluxe. I booked us a deluxe room, and we were in #3. It was not a big room, but it was nicely appointed with a king sized bed, desk, free WiFi, and a flat screen TV. The bathroom had a good sized glass enclosed shower with a wide head. We were very comfortable there for three nights.

From the moment of our arrival at about 3:00pm on Valentine’s Day until our departure at about 8:30am on President’s Day, we got mostly friendly, attentive service from the staff at Hotel des XV. I was even greeted in a welcome card, written in German. I guess they thought I was German because we booked from Germany. All of the staff members spoke excellent English, though, so kudos to them for that!

The only hiccup in service was when we came back late on Friday night and couldn’t get into the hotel. They had changed the code to the lock since we’d checked in that afternoon. Consequently, the door wouldn’t open and we had to call reception at about 10:30pm… it made a racket and took the guy several minutes to respond. Edited to add: I see now that they sent me an email about the new code, but it went to my spam folder.

I was already pissed because Bill made me walk back from town, so I was a bit irritated about having to wait outside for the door to be opened. More on that in a later post. For now, here are some pictures of the property!