Saturday, November 18, 2017

Herrenberg... and lunch at Cafe Atelier...

The weather is a bit gloomy again today, so Bill and I decided to keep today's outing low key.  We went to Herrenberg for lunch and tried a place new to us, but not to the city.

The morning market was just finishing up when we arrived.

Herrenberg is such a cute little city.

We came upon Cafe Atelier, a cute little place I'd noticed a few times over the years but had never tried.  They had a bunch of chalk boards and a menu outside that made the place look inviting.  I could also see a large display case full of desserts.  Desserts will lure me every time, so we ventured inside. 

A cute little cafe with lots of yummy looking baked goods out front.

When we walked in, we noticed a man standing behind the counter reading the paper.  There were two tables with ladies sitting at them, conversing animatedly.  I get the sense this cafe is very popular with ladies who lunch.  The inside is very feminine looking and cute.  Bill wondered if maybe the front room was only for people having coffee and pastries.  He walked toward the back room and the guy behind the counter stopped him and told him we could sit in the front room.  

The encounter was a little bit awkward... but we had a seat.  I knew what I wanted immediately, a glass of Greek cabernet and the gyrosteller.  Bill ordered a different red.  The guy took our menus before we had a chance to order food.  Below is Bill's expression at that...  

Actually, he had a funnier one, but I was too slow on the draw to capture it.

Lots of good looking desserts!  We didn't try any, though, because lunch filled us up.

The guy came back over after pouring my wine and told Bill that his choice was not available.  So Bill had a glass of the same cabernet I ordered.  We both settled on the gyrosteller.  I guess I must speak my limited German with a terrible accent, because I had to repeat myself a couple of times.  I should get someone to teach me to say "gyros" at the very least.  Happily, I no longer pronounce it "guy-rohs" like I did many years ago.

The little salad that came with the gyrosteller.  It had a rather strong mustard vinaigrette that was oddly sweet.  It wasn't bad, but the flavor was more intense than I would have expected.  I appreciated that the salad wasn't really big.  I prefer little salads.

While we were waiting for our gyros, I noticed the man behind the counter, who seemed to be a little bit over it.  He sneezed.  I was relieved when I saw him go to the sink.  But then I watched him rinse his hands without soap.  The public health educated side of me cringed a little.  A few minutes later, he blew his nose.  Then he went back to the sink and rinsed his hands again.  I guess I should be that grateful that he did that much.  Some people don't.

Behold... the gyros with pommes and tzatziki.  These weren't too bad.  They were well seasoned, at least, and I didn't get the sense that the pork was really intended to be a schnitzel.  However, I don't think the gyros were prepared the way they are at my favorite taverna, on a spiese.

We had a leisurely lunch and when it was all said and done, it cost just 29 euros before the tip.  Hopefully, we won't be catching a cold.  Bill visited the restroom and noticed that the proprietors are okay with non customers using their toilet if you give them fifty cents.  I figure that's fair, as long as the toilet is clean and stocked, which it evidently was.  I didn't visit it myself.  We walked around the corner and passed a fruit and vegetable market, where there was some excellent looking fresh produce was offered.

I should have gotten one of these.

Produce worth getting excited over.

If we hadn't purchased over two pounds of cheese in Alsace last weekend, maybe we would have stopped in...

Unique gifts for Christmas!

We decided to walk back to our car via Edeka.  Herrenberg has a large, impressive one that sells all manner of food, drinks, bras, and underwear.  They also have beer Advent calendars.  I already have a calendar full of liquor that I ordered from Master of Malt.  I like beer calendars, I guess, but German beers mostly taste the same to me in each of the few styles available.  But I can see why people get excited about them.

We bought ice cream instead.

A very considerate lady noticed we only had one item, so she let Bill go ahead of her.  It always makes me feel good when people are unexpectedly kind like that.  On the way home, I noticed the very dramatic skies...  Winter is on its way.

Looks like a spaceship is about to land.

I love it when sunlight streams through the clouds like this.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Liability insurance... a small investment pays off...

Although I've been blogging about our travels since before we lived in Germany for the second time, I am aware that my "travel blog" has somewhat turned into a German living blog.  Many of my regular readers are Americans who live in the Stuttgart area.  Quite a few "local" readers are also somehow affiliated with the U.S. military.

A couple of months ago, I decided to leave several of our local Facebook groups.  I had a few reasons for doing so.  The main reason was that some of the drama in the local groups was causing me annoyance and distress.  However, I am grateful that I was in one of the local groups long enough to be talked into buying German liability insurance.  (Edited to add: as of today, I'm back in Stuttgart Friends 2.0).

One of our local Facebook groups is run by Gerhard Koch, a German who sells insurance for a living.  He very frequently advertises his products to group members.  He even hosts information dinners to talk up his insurance policies.  More than once, someone has accused him of using the group to bolster his business.  

It seems that many Americans assume that the insurance they can get through USAA or another American insurance company is enough for living here in Germany.  For all I know, that could be true.  Bill and I do have renter's insurance through USAA that we've never had to use.  We recently had a situation in our rental property that we could have tried using our USAA insurance to cover.  However, I will go on record to say that I'm glad we didn't have to go that route.    

A couple of years ago, I told Bill that I thought it would be a good idea to invest in German liability insurance.  Although at that time, we had not experienced it personally, I had read a lot of horror stories from people who had mishaps in their rental houses or had otherwise damaged someone's property.  Germans are every bit as litigious as Americans are.  I know one woman who had a guest stay at her home in Germany and he somehow flooded and ruined their kitchen!  She and her husband did not have liability insurance and ended up having to use their life savings to cover the damage.  It amounted to many thousands of euros that they had to cover personally!

After hearing about that, I nagged Bill to buy the policy.  Actually, we got policies for personal liability and for our dogs, since both dogs and accidents are unpredictable.  Together, I think we spent a couple of hundred euros for a year's coverage under both policies, which I believe cover us into millions of euros of potential damage.  It made me feel better to have that coverage.  For most of our marriage, Bill and I have been rather broke.  We are now pretty financially comfortable and, for the first time ever, don't have to worry much about money.  In less than a year, my student loans will finally be paid off years ahead of schedule.  We can finally think about settling in a home of our own.  The last thing I want to deal with or pay for is damage to our rental house in Germany.  So Bill bought the policy and made me happy.

Sure enough, in late August of this year, we had occasion to use our policy.  We had an old awning attached to our house.  I didn't use the awning that often, except on days when the sun was especially brutal.  The awning helped keep our living room from getting too hot.  For some reason, this year the awning had started to list a bit.  One side hung lower than the other side did.  We told our landlords and the husband came over to "fix" it.  He did manage to temporarily fix the problem, but our landlady said she didn't know how long the repair would last.  She did not tell us not to use the awning and, I note, did not have a qualified repair person fix it.  Our landlord is very handy, but I'm not sure he's an expert on awnings.

For a few weeks, all was fine.  I used the awning a couple of times on hot days with no issues.  Then one warm day in late August, I had cranked out the awning and gone upstairs for a bit.  The wind suddenly gusted and the awning collapsed.  I heard it hit the patio with a resounding thud and I hear a loud scrape as the awning violently pushed our outdoor furniture aside.  I went outside to inspect the damage.  The awning is very heavy.  I'm really glad no one was standing under it when it fell, because I'm pretty sure someone could have been seriously hurt or even killed if it had fallen on their head.

The landlady immediately accused me of negligence because I used the defective awning on a hot, "windy" day.  It was not windy when I unrolled it.  The gust of wind had been swift, sudden, and unexpected.  But because I wasn't sitting outside when the wind blew, and it fell, she claimed I was at fault.  Then she asked about liability insurance after she bitched about some dog hair in the doorway and complained that I wasn't taking good enough care of the new windows and doors she had installed right after we moved in.

Now... I don't actually have a problem with using liability insurance for the awning.  After all, insurance is supposed to be used for unintended events like random awning failures.  My issue is that she accused me of negligence.  She brought a repair person over who said the awning couldn't be fixed.  At the same time, we also happened to be having a problem with the electric rolladens.  I got blamed for that situation, too.  She said we weren't using them often enough, and that's why when we pressed the button to get them to come down, one of the rolladens wouldn't budge.  The actual problem was that rolladen came off track somehow in the wall above the door.  After the repair was done, the landlady eventually admitted that it wasn't installed properly in the first place.  However, the awning remained a sticking point... she continually sent Bill emails nagging him about the insurance money.  

I have to admit, we were both really pissed off and even considering moving over her insistence that we were "bad tenants".  I'm still pretty angry with our landlady for the way she handled this situation.  However, we did learn yesterday that, after having inspected the damage last week, the insurance company decided to give our landlords 540 euros.  That amount more than covers several times over what we paid for the insurance.  Moreover, if I hear another word about the awning, I can tell the landlady that I wasn't negligent.  It's because of me that we even had that liability insurance in the first place.

I don't think she or her husband want us to move.  If we moved, she'd have to vet new people and it's likely they wouldn't buy insurance because they think it's a scam.  Moreover, while we have had a couple of mishaps in our house, we pay our bills and the neighbors seem to like us.  We represent a dependable flow of a lot of euros for a house that isn't all that great.

The truth is, we don't want to move, either.  Moving is a pain in the ass.  Finding a place to live in this area is an even bigger pain in the ass.  There's no guarantee that the next landlords would be any less irritating.  Also, we like the neighborhood where we live.  People are nice here and not overly uptight, as they were in the first neighborhood we lived in when we were here from 07-09.

However, if there's one thing I learned from this situation, it's that I'm ready to be a homeowner and because we had insurance, that will be an easier goal to attain.  Folks, if you live in Germany, you really should consider buying liability insurance.  It's very cheap and if you have an "Unfall" like we did, chances are it will be covered.  I'd rather pay a hundred or so euros for an insurance policy than several hundred euros for a piece of shit awning that collapsed due to a sudden breeze.  Just something to think about.



Insane 15th anniversary celebration at the Alte Post in Nagold!

Yesterday, Bill and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary.  Although last year, we went on vacation to Ireland for about ten days, this year we needed to stay in town because Bill is still earning time off from his new job.  At the very least, it's always been our habit to go out to dinner on our anniversary.  We've enjoyed some wonderful anniversary meals over the last fifteen years.  However, last night's glorious repast will definitely be a tough act to follow!

Initially, we considered finding a really nice restaurant in Stuttgart, like we did two years ago.  In 2015, we tried the "surprise menu" at Five.  As cool as that restaurant is, I think Bill and I have determined that we don't always like surprise menu concepts, mainly because there are a few things I can't abide, like truffles and mushrooms.  Also, the prospect of driving all the way from the edge of the Black Forest to Stuttgart was unappealing to both of us, since Bill is working today.  After trying and failing to find the right place to eat, I finally said, "Why don't we go to the Alte Post's gourmet restaurant again?"

I have written about Nagold's Alte Post a few times.  This beautiful former hotel is now split into two restaurants.  There's the more casual and less expensive Luz Bistro & Bar, which is on the first floor and open daily (except Mondays) for lunch and dinner, and then there's the more formal and expensive Alte Post Restaurant on the second floor.

Bill and I eat at Luz Bistro somewhat regularly, and you'll find many posts about those experiences in this blog.  Last night was only our second time in the gourmet restaurant, Alte Post, which takes eating to a whole new level.  The Alte Post gourmet restaurant is only open Wednesday through Saturday nights from 6:30pm until 11:00pm.  The "deadline" for coming in for dinner is at 8:30pm, although I recommend making a reservation rather than just walking in.

We tried Alte Post's gourmet restaurant for the first time in March of 2017 and had some very interesting and expensive new food experiences.  I really broke some boundaries on that visit and was eager to try it again.  I am so glad I did.  Although we dropped a large load of euros on our anniversary dinner, it was money well spent.  Every course was positively orgasmic and I say that as someone who can be picky and isn't necessarily impressed by culinary gimmicks.

We only live about four miles from Nagold, so getting there is usually easy.  However, last night there was a very bad accident on B28, which is the road that usually takes us to Nagold.  We were met by the police, who directed us to detour.  We drove back through our town and went via Mötzingen, a little village adjacent to Jettingen that we usually only see when we're being forced to detour.  Even after the detour, we arrived about fifteen minutes ahead of our reservation time of 7:00.

Although there was a function going on in another private dining room in the restaurant, we were the first of two couples to arrive for last night's multi-course extravaganza!  Yes, that's right... one of the lovely things about Alte Post's gourmet restaurant is that your table will be relatively private.  There's one dining room with a large table in it and the smaller room with four tables set for two.  Only two of the four were used last night, so you get plenty of room to spread out and enjoy.

We were personally attended to by Marina Hentsch, who along with star Chef Stefan Beiter, runs the whole operation.  Every time we've visited the restaurant, we've seen her waiting tables or otherwise attending to guests.  Besides providing stellar front of the house service, she is also a wine expert (sommelier).  Thankfully, Hentsch does speak some English (and French, apparently), though she claims her English isn't good.  We found her very charming as she seated us and offered us an aperitif.  Since it was our anniversary, we started with a round of champagne.  And she brought us a little snack, pictured below...

This is tuna rolled in a little "cone" and topped with radish slices and caviar.  Although I was a little timid at first, this set the tone for a perfect evening of fine dining.

Bill looking sharp as we decide how we're going to do things...

The first thing to know about Alte Post's gourmet experience is that a set menu is offered.  You can have up to seven courses, but you can't simply pick the courses you want.  Last night, there were courses featuring tuna, lobster, quail, salmon, beef, duck, and dessert.  We opted to have five of the seven courses because the quail included truffles, which I knew I wouldn't like.  The other couple who came in later (and spoke French the whole time) apparently had the full seven courses.  

We also had the wine pairing, which I highly recommend if you like tasting different wines with foods.  Marina Hentsch does a great job choosing wines and explaining them, although it helps to know a little German in that case.  I surprised myself by understanding a fair amount of what she said.

The menu is offered in both German and English.  You can also check it out online and outside the restaurant's front door.  If you have any food idiosyncrasies, I recommend checking the menu before you book your table.  Otherwise, you may find yourself trying and enjoying calves' brains, as I did the first time we tried the gourmet restaurant!  The menu does change regularly.

Not the best lighting, but this is an example of one of the tables.  

Last night's menu in English.  Bill took a German menu.

Once we ordered our five course feast, Marina Hentsch went back to the kitchen and returned with the amuse, pictured below...  It was actually in two pieces.

These little bites were mindblowing.  There was a tomato and tuna bite, sushi with goat cheese and shrimp, and a tempura fried shrimp on a rice cake.

They were followed by hollowed out eggshells, painted black, and filled with a warm curry spiced soup.  It had a bit of a kick to it, which Bill especially loved.  Our hostess also brought us delicious potato bread with salted butter.  It was so good!

Our first course-- fresh tuna with beetroot and green apple.  The beetroot reminded me of a very dry Fruit Roll Up.  It crackled and was very sweet, almost like candy.  I don't normally like beets much, due to their earthy flavor.  I have to admit this was kind of a treat.  Under the beetroot curl, there was a little dollop of what tasted like apple flavored ice cream.  You wouldn't think this would go with tuna, but it all worked surprisingly well.  It was paired with a steel aged chardonnay that was crisper than I was expecting and delightful.

Bill's reaction thus far...

Next, we had Norway lobster served on top of mashed potatoes with bouillabaisse (fish stew) and beautifully decorated with a flower petal.  This was served with another chardonnay which was aged in oak and imparted buttery notes.  Sorry this photo is a little blurry.  I took two shots and they both turned out this way.  :(

It was followed by my favorite of all of the courses, the salmon.  Salmon is one of those dishes that I tend to love or can take or leave.  A perfectly cooked piece of salmon is a delight to me, but when it's dried out or dull, it leaves me underwhelmed.  This particular presentation was very exciting.  The chef paired it with sweet potato curry, avocado, and mangos.  I don't usually like sweet potatoes much, but paired with the curry and Asian spices, this course practically exploded in my mouth.  I loved it!  This was served with a locally produced Riesling, that had a lovely essence of peaches that married beautifully with the curry.

Next, we had the duck, which was Bill's favorite course.  It was served medium rare in pepper sauce with Preiselbeeren (cranberries).  I told Bill that I think I'd love a Thanksgiving dish of duck with cranberries and he immediately started talked about getting out his Anova precision cooker.  Again, beautifully done, though the duck had the misfortune of following the spectacular salmon.   

Finally, we enjoyed dessert... a panoply of chocolate.  There was a truffle that was full of warm chocolate "lava".  I don't really go for lava cakes much, but this was nicely done.  There was a little cloud of foam on top, along with a smidge of chocolate ice cream topped with mousse and garnished with walnuts, grapes, and something that reminded me of very high end Cracker Jacks minus the peanuts.

Once we finished dessert, we were offered a digestive.  Bill declined, since he was driving, but I tried a locally produced Mirabelle (made in Nagold for the restaurant).  I had a Mirabelle last week in France, so it was interesting to try it here in Germany.  It was not served chilled, as it was in France, which I think made it easier to detect the subtle flavors of plums. 

Then we had a round of espresso, which was served with yet another two part treat, pictured below...

Four little candies-- a marshmallow, a peanut chew wrapped in edible "plastic" (which I still peeled off, but didn't have to), a very intense spiced jelly gumdrop, and a little chocolate cookie.

And this amazingly exquisite half lemon filled with light cream and topped with crispy, curry flavored flakes that reminded me a little of shredded wheat.  It was surprisingly delicious.

So, by now, you may be wondering how much this dinner set us back.  Well, folks, I will confess that hospitality at Alte Post doesn't come cheap.  Our bill came to 346 euros before the tip.  However, I think it's important to bear in mind that we were two of only four people in the dining room and both the service and the food were impeccable.  We were both raving about how excellent everything was as we walked back to the car, still bowled over by some of the exotic flavors we encountered last night.  It all worked so amazingly well!

As I mentioned, this was only our second time in the gourmet restaurant.  It really should be reserved for special occasions or nights when you just want to sit for a few hours and enjoy very fresh food creatively prepared.  Yes, it's very expensive, but I think of it as one of life's little experiences... ones that make putting up with all the bullshit worthwhile.  I can see why Chef Beiter is a "star".  If you like gourmet food, I highly recommend visiting Nagold and trying Alte Post.  Bring a credit card and an open mind, and be prepared to spend a couple of hours.

A bonus was that last night, I managed to wear my contact lenses without pain...  By the way, we did dress up because we like to, but there is no need to do that if you don't want to.  The other couple who joined us were wearing jeans. 

Next week, we will be visiting Delice in Stuttgart.  I understand that will also be a culinary adventure.  I look forward to returning and reporting!

Monday, November 13, 2017

Ribeauvillé trois... Pt. 3

We awoke to more rain on Saturday.  I was kind of bummed out about that, since there are a couple of other little villages in the area I want to visit.  I had designs on seeing Kaysersberg and Bergheim, both of which are reputed to be very charming places.  Despite having visited Alsace several times since 2014, we still haven't visited all of the cute towns.  Of course, that just gives us a good reason to return to the area.  On the other hand, time in Europe is precious and there are so many other places to see.  We probably should have just manned up and gone.

Another activity I had considered was visiting the spa in Ribeauvillé.  On the outskirts of town, there is a large resort hotel that has a spa and a casino.  I read up on the Balneo before our visit, but like most French pools, the guys have to wear Speedos.  Although Bill has been able to bring himself to go naked in German spas, he is still unwilling to don a maillot.  So we didn't go to the spa... I'll keep working on him, though.

One thing we did do this time that we haven't really done much of on previous visits is go shopping.  Yep, we stayed in Ribeauvillé and spread around some euros.  The town has a lot of cute little shops where it's easy to part with money.  We started by visiting what was advertised as an "art exhibition". It was free of charge and set up in what appeared to be a very old church no longer in use.  They had maybe a dozen or so abstract paintings set up, as well as lots of what looked like handmade crafts for sale.  There were Christmas tree ornaments, purses, knitted ponchos and gloves, and lots of other items.  We did end up buying a new ornament for one of our Christmas trees.

It wasn't a big exhibition, but the inside of the little church was well worth looking at.  

After we took in the "exhibition", we walked further down the street and notice a guy standing in a doorway offering cheese samples.  I don't actually like cheese that much, unless it's melted and in something.  Bill loves cheese, though, so we went into this place that had nothing but some sausages and huge cheese wheels.  Bill only wanted about 100 grams, but he walked out with about $100 worth of cheesy comestibles.  The two young people selling the cheese had trouble cutting small pieces and cut two big slabs of the stuff.  Fortunately, Bill is easy going and had plenty of cash on hand.  My guess is that his cheese loving buddies at work will get a treat this week because there is no way we can eat as much as he bought.

Bill says the cheese is very good... kind of like Gruyere, which I do happen to like in small quantities.    Guess we'll be making potatoes au gratin or something...

Beaucoup Fromage!  

Once we were done with the cheese shop, it was getting close to lunchtime.  A lot of businesses close for two hours starting at noon, which gives people the perfect opportunity to have a leisurely lunch.  I have also noticed that every time we visit this town, at least a couple of restaurants are closed for a holiday.  It's almost like they take shifts.  I noticed two places we visited last time were closed this time.  And places that were closed last time were open this time.  

I took another enchanting shot of Ribeauvillé...  Next time, we will have to broaden our horizons.

Every time we've come to Ribeauvillé, we have passed a restaurant called La Flammerie.  Our host told us it's a very popular place, especially at night.  Indeed, it's always packed at lunch and dinner and we were lucky to score a table at lunchtime on Saturday.  When we sat down, there were tables available, but they filled up very quickly.

Bill checks out the offerings and we both decide to try a local beer called Meteor, which they had on tap.

La Flammerie seems to specialize in "ham knuckles", known in these parts as schweinshaxe.  I was tempted to get one, since they seem to be prepared differently in France and they had a number of them listed on the menu.  But then I realized that I can never finish pork knuckles.  They usually end up being two or three meals for me.  Then I considered having a "faux filet", which is basically just a steak.  But I can get steak anywhere...  So I finally opted for more duck, since duck isn't always easy to find.  It was prepared with a pinot noir and honey sauce.

My duck tasted good, though if I'm honest, the pinot noir and honey sauce wasn't very appetizing looking.  My dish also came with sauerkraut and roasted potatoes.  I'm not exactly sure what the little ramekin was full of.  It looked like it could have been anything from fruit to kidneys.  I didn't want to risk it, since the restaurant was crowded.  If it was something that made me feel nauseated, it would be hard to get to the bathroom!  I have a feeling that ramekin was probably offal of some sort...  How awful!

I must edit to add that my German friend, Susanne, checked out the menu for me and she says the contents of the ramekin were "Quetsche" (a type of local plum).  I like plums, so I probably would have enjoyed them.  Unfortunately, an unfortunate incident from our last trip to France is still fresh in my mind.  While we were in Burgundy, Bill ordered what he thought was a type of sausage.  It turned out he ordered pigs' intestines, complete with the colon.  Since I have a weaker stomach than he does, I decided it was better to be safe than sorry!  

Bill had "roesti", which is another local favorite.  It's basically Alsatian comfort food-- roasted potatoes with cheese.  His dish came with a salad and some bread.

Instead of dessert, we decided to have local digestives.  I had Mirabelle, which is a spirit made with local plums.  Bill had another local liqueur called Marc.  It's kind of like grappa.

The menu posted outside.

After a quick potty break at the apartment for us and the dogs, we continued our shopping spree.  I decided to buy the blue suede cap, pictured below...  It's actually a German made product, but it came in handy because of all the rain.  

Is it me?  Damn, I am really blonde now...  No bottles involved; just getting old.  I like the cap, though I rarely wear head gear.

The picture speaks for itself.

We stopped inside this charming little shop where a guy was selling homemade liqueurs and wines.  He didn't speak English, but he and Bill were able to converse a bit in German.  We bought some raspberry liqueur, creme de cassis, and a bottle of Cremant.

Our next stop was at a bottle shop... they were advertising a huge wine tasting.  We didn't end up going because the weather sucked and we didn't want to be hungover for our drive back to Germany.  However, we did buy a couple of nice reds.

This was a pretty cool little shop.  It's not very big, but there's a little bit of everything offered there, from spirits to wine related gifts.  The proprietor spoke very charmingly accented English, too.  I was intrigued by a staircase that obviously once led to an upstairs but is now simply used for displaying stuff, since the top of the steps met with the ceiling..  I guess there must be another staircase in the building.

This bottle of dessert wine was priced at 345 euros!  No wonder it was behind bars.

A good bet for wine lovers...

Last time we were in Ribeauvillé, we stopped at a winery for a tasting and walked out with six bottles to take home with us.  This time, we went to Louis Sipp, which is a well-known winery in town.  For five euros, you can try three wines.  Or, if you make a purchase, they don't charge for for the tasting.  We tried six wines and left with six bottles.  If we'd wanted to, we could have spent the day tasting wines.  There are a number of places on the Alsace Wine Route, but it would be just as easy to just walk around any of the little towns.

I can't believe he was a teetotaler when we first met.

A group of French youth joined us while we tasted wines.  

Finally, we stopped by a pottery store.  I have my share of Polish pottery, which we bought when we lived in Germany back in 2007-09, as well as stuff we've found at AAFES.  Alsace also has nice pottery.  We stopped in one store that had many pieces crafted in Soufflenheim, a well-known pottery town just over the French border with Germany.

I bought a few pieces... as many as I could get away with before Bill objected.  Unfortunately, we don't have a lot of space in our current house for cookware.  Otherwise, I think I might have picked up one of those casserole dishes.  

We were pretty full from lunch, so we spent Saturday evening watching TV.  Bill took the dogs out for an early evening stroll and I guess the dogs started baying again, because a guy staying in a building next to ours stuck his head out of his window and started berating Bill in French.  Bill is a very mild mannered and non confrontational person.  It's probably a lucky thing that I wasn't walking the dogs because I probably would have started yelling back at him in English, and I would have included some choice universal swear words that wouldn't have needed any translation.

I get that it's annoying when dogs bark, but ours don't bark constantly.  In fact, they usually only make noise for a minute or so.  Moreover, we weren't the only ones with dogs in the area.  We heard lots of barking from other canines.  If that guy actually lives in that place, he probably hears a lot of barking all the time, which might account for his unpleasant disposition.  Yannick, the guy who owns the apartments where we stay, is very dog friendly and he told us that there have been times when all four of his apartments in the wine house (he has seven total, but the others are in a different building) have had dogs in attendance.

Anyway, yelling at people whose dogs occasionally bark is really not productive.  We do the best we can not to let our dogs disturb others, but sometimes shit happens.  They're animals, and sometimes they are unpredictable.  Fortunately, we didn't have to take the boys out in the middle of the night on our last night in town.  However, during yesterday's morning stroll, someone driving a Porsche SUV that had been parked in the same lot where our car was, went screaming past Bill.  And my sweet, easygoing husband screamed, "You fucking ASSHOLE!" at the guy, who was either the one who yelled at him or someone trying very hard to convince everyone else how big his penis is, and failing miserably.

Too bad we had to end our trip on that note...  We did bring home some nice stuff, though, and hope that during our next visit, we will see and do more.  Really, though, Ribeauvillé feels like another home by now.  It's great to go there on a long weekend and just have some different food and a change of scenery.  Not only is a beautiful area with a different vibe, but it's so easy to get there and doesn't take all day to reach.  We are able to make it in under three hours and a round trip uses about half a tank of gas.

Yannick, once again, reminded me to text or email next time we visit so he can be spared paying a commission to and we'll get a special rate.  I don't know when we'll go back to Alsace, but I do know it makes for a convenient first stop into France.  It could be sooner rather than later.

We drove home yesterday in the driving rain and I couldn't help but notice that the rivers that flow through the Black Forest were very high and even flooding in some areas.  I got a few shots during our drive.

Look carefully and you can see the brown water.  If we were living in that area, I might be a little scared.

Anyway... I wish we could have done more exciting things on this trip, but it was great to get away for a few days.  Next trip with the dogs, we'll be sure to stay in a more rural locale.  Luckily, there are plenty of places like that in Europe.