Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Our Virginia trip is all booked...

We will be leaving on Tuesday, November 25th, spending a night at the Embassy Suites in Herndon, Virginia, right near Dulles Airport, and then renting a car and driving to Rockbridge County.  I had some trouble picking our lodging for the Rockbridge part of our trip.  For many years, my family stayed at the Natural Bridge Hotel.  My uncle used to run it and we got insanely cheap rates.  In the years that he ran the hotel, it was in fairly decent shape, even if it was also a bit dated.  In the years after he left, the hotel sort of fell into disrepair.

The last time I stayed at the Natural Bridge Hotel was in July 2007, when my 100 year old grandmother died.  I booked a room there because it was pet friendly.  Bill was deployed to Iraq at the time and I didn't have the time or money to arrange to board the dogs.  I ended up having a fairly miserable stay, mainly because the hotel was sort of in disrepair and the family dynamics were kind of weird.  Anyway, after an uncomfortable night, I ended up leaving early in the morning on the day after Granny's funeral and vowed that would be my last stay there.  Although now that it looks like the hotel is in better hands, I might reconsider.  The Natural Bridge is about to be turned into a state park anyway.

Since the Natural Bridge Hotel is pretty much the only game in town in the Natural Bridge area, besides a really disgusting motel and a campground, I looked at getting a room in Lexington.  But Lexington's offerings kind of suck, too.  I mean, there are plenty of two star motels and there's a Hampton Inn, which is a bit overpriced.  They just reopened the Robert E. Lee Hotel, which is right in downtown Lexington, but that was going for about $200 a night.

Ultimately, I decided to book us at The Hummingbird Inn in Goshen.  The Hummingbird Inn has the distinction of being the very first place Bill and I stayed as husband and wife.  Bill's mom paid for us to have two nights there post nuptials.  At the time, the Inn was run by a British couple... or maybe they were half British.  I know the wife was from England and she was an excellent cook.  A few months after our stay, they sold the inn to the people who own it now.  As our anniversary is also in November, it seems kind of fitting that we'd stay there for Thanksgiving.  It's not as close to the festivities as Lexington is, but at least it will provide us a good way to stay away from the drama.

The Hummingbird Inn is a beautiful old house next to train tracks.  It is liable to get noisy.  But it's also right next to a rambling creek.  Goshen is kind of a special place for Bill and me, anyway.  We went there during Labor Day weekend in 2001, the week before 9/11.  At the time, I was in grad school and Bill had just started a job at the Pentagon.  It was kind of our second in person date...  remember, we met online.  Our first in person date was in Columbia, South Carolina, which is where I was in school and Bill was doing TDY.

Goshen Pass is a really beautiful gorge and I had fond memories of visiting there as a child.  I suggested to Bill that we visit and go swimming.  We proceeded to have an amazing day enjoying a very natural swimming hole with insanely gorgeous scenery.  We had no idea that the world would change the following week.  We had no clue that Bill would actually be in the Pentagon on 9/11 and see up close and personal what terrorism looks like.

So since we're celebrating 12 years in November, and we got married in Lexington and honeymooned in Goshen, it seems right to go to Goshen for Thanksgiving, even though it's not so close to Granny's house.  I think we will be pleased with our choice... and at least we'll get a good breakfast out of the deal.  I hope we have decent weather so I can take some photos.  In the meantime, do yourself a favor and Google Goshen Pass.  It's a very pretty place.  

Meanwhile, we may also go somewhere in Europe to actually celebrate our anniversary, too...

Sunday, September 28, 2014

A lovely day at Neckarmüller

Yesterday, while we were visiting Tübingen, we decided it was time for lunch.  One of our favorite places to eat and drink in Tübingen is Neckarmüller, an awesome brewpub, restaurant, and biergarten.  Neckarmüller is blessed with a great location, right next to the Neckar River.  Although we have eaten lunch inside, when Bill and I go there, we usually sit outside in the biergarten, where there is a limited menu, lots of good beer food, and lots of smoking.


This photo doesn't look too interesting... I was trying to get a closeup of the swan in the background, who was enjoying a snack.


See that guy standing in the middle of the boat?  He's in drag...


He was putting on quite a show...


He also came very close to falling into the water.

Last time we lived here, we used to love watching the people on the boats.  There was a guy who worked the boats who had a great dog who used to jump into the boat and perch himself on the bow.  We didn't see him yesterday.  I hope he's still around.  I loved watching them.




Simple beer food... The potato salad was delicious!  The Bavarian weiss sausage was very fresh and had a delicate flavor.  I was partial to the beer brats.  The pretzel was excellent.  Very fresh and soft and went great with the mustards.  We had sweet and regular.  There's a more substantial menu inside the restaurant.  You can get a table outside or inside, with views overlooking the river.




The Neckarmüller was very well-attended yesterday.  



I wish we'd had a little more time yesterday.  I would have liked to stroll along the Neckar River.  We had great weather for it!


Line up for beer and food!  I think the Neckarmüller must have undergone some renovations.  Seems like last time we were here, the biergarten vendors were in a separate building that faced the river.  They added on a WC that was much closer and more convenient than the old one was.

All in all, we had a nice time.  As for the beer, it was pretty good.  I have had more interesting beers elsewhere, but Neckarmüller's offerings are solid and delicious.  We'll definitely be back again and again.  It's also one of our favorite places to bring guests.    

Vinum!

Tübingen is a great city, especially if you want to go shopping.  Bill and I love going to Tübingen for many reasons.  One big reason we love that city is because of a cool store there called Vinum.  Vinum carries all kinds of wines, beers, liquors, and even some gourmet foods.  It's not a huge store, but for the size it is, it has a pretty good selection!  The atmosphere is very pleasant, too.  The store is in an old, cool, cavern like building on Lange Strasse, very close to the big church in the middle of town.

Bill and I like going there for Belgian beers and unusual wines.  They also carry an impressive array of whiskys.  Not whiskey...  whisky!  As in scotch!  I just ordered two bottles of scotch from Master of Malt, a great online store out of the UK.  Otherwise, we might have restocked our scotch supply at Vinum.

Yesterday, when we were there, I noticed they were selling El Dorado, my favorite rum.  It comes from Guyana and Bill and I discovered it in a grocery store in Bequia, a charming island in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.  We didn't buy any yesterday, but I think we'll be picking some up soon.  By the way, anyone who mixes 15 year old El Dorado in a cocktail is an amateur.  That is pure sipping rum!


The front of Vinum.  



Lots of delightful Belgian beers!  We came home with a couple of big bottles!  They also have a few beers from other places.  I noticed a bottle of Sierra Nevada pale ale there, but we haven't been out of the States long enough to want that yet.


Wine taps in the back room.  You can buy a wine bottle for five euros and fill it with wine from one of the taps.  Yesterday, the prices on the wines were anywhere from 3.95 to 4.25.  You can also taste the wines before you dispense them.  We came home with some very nice syrah.    

I also picked up some mustard from France and some balsamic vinegar.  They also have pasta, pesto, some exotic oils, and several interesting looking sauces from Italy.

Now that we're back in Germany, I have a feeling we'll be visiting Vinum a lot!

More on yesterday's fun... mostly photos


Horseshit.  I took a picture of this in case someday I want to illustrate a pile of poo.


The dogs and Bill enjoy our energy burning walk...


I keep trying to get a photo of how beautiful and cool these trees look...  and it never works.  I need to play with the camera settings...


I thought these trees looked interesting.  Just after I took this shot, Zane got on a scent and he and Arran howled, bayed, and barked for the next half hour... or so it seemed.  They would not shut up.  One nice thing about living near the forest is that the dogs can make a racket without annoying others... except maybe us...


On the way to Herrenberg...  Germany is so freakin' beautiful.







Shots of Tuebingen...  






Bill enjoys driving with the top down in my Mini...


And we ran across these ladies on horseback near where we used to live...  I miss having horses!


A shot of Wurlinger Chapel.  This used to be what we'd see in our backyard.




It's wine country down here, too!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Tübingen!

Last time Bill and I lived in Germany, we lived very close to the university city of Tübingen, which is a fine college town.  We used to visit pretty often because we lived about ten minutes away.  Consequently, we got to know the city pretty well and we ended up really loving it.  In the almost five years we were in America, I can't tell you how many times I told Bill that I wanted to just spend a Saturday afternoon in Tübingen.

Well... today, we went there.  I had been dreaming of the moment for awhile and we got there in the early afternoon, as was our habit last time we lived in Germany.  We first took the dogs for a nice long walk in the woods and filled their Kongs with peanut butter... I think they are getting to the point at which our trips to local cities is becoming a treat for them.  They don't get peanut butter filled Kongs unless we go out.

We drove my Mini, which was registering low tire pressure after the long trip across the Atlantic.  Bill decided to stop by a nearby gas station and give the tires some air.  That seemed to do the trick as we made our way to our old stomping grounds.  I will be honest when I say that I felt a bit of a stab to the heart as we passed the town we lived in last time.  Looks like one of the local restaurants is now a casino.

Anyway, we got to Tübingen after passing through Herrenberg, which was another local town last time we were here and is still "local" to us now that we're back.  We parked the car, went to Vinum, which is our favorite Tübingen booze shop, and headed to the Neckarmuller, which is a great restaurant/biergarten in Tübingen.


We bought some vino at Vinum...

I took lots of photos, including a few of a guy dressed in drag who was intent on attracting attention to himself.

Beautiful...


Bill drinks a fresh Weissbier...


People in the food and beer lines.





It was a good day for beer drinking.

After we left the biergarten,  we went back to Vinum and bought stuff.  Lemme just say that I LOVE that store.  I am delighted we were able to go back.  Yes, it's smaller than Spec's, but it has all I need.  And they guys that run it understand why we love it... and they speak English, too.


They had some really good beer selections.


After Vinum shot of the church.


And then graffiti...


Vinum is awesome.  So is Chocolat, which is where you can get great coffee or hot chocolate in the city.

Then I had to pee.  So we stopped at Die Kelter, just on the way out of the city for a potty break.  Bill and I ate dinner there once in 2007 and really enjoyed it.  We enjoyed today's visit just as much.  In fact, I think the bartender in training was getting a kick out of some of my irreverent comments.  The Germans put on a show of being very strict and uptight, but I have found that a lot of them are pretty funny if you press them.


This would be Keller Teufel (cellar devil), which is a very hoppy beer from Rottenburg... not far from here.  I enjoyed it, but I think Bill would like it more.




Love Die Kelter.  Yes, they serve food too.  And we did eat there once and loved it.  Be warned, the bathroom is a hike.

We got home at about 5:00pm and the dogs were delighted.  Bill and I listened to music and ate dinner.  Now I'm writing this as he does homework.


We like Ammerbuch.



More tomorrow.