Saturday, April 29, 2017

Chinese food and high end grocery shopping in Stuttgart!

I had fleeting thoughts of attending the Spring fest in downtown Stuttgart today, but Bill and I are getting too old to enjoy big crowds and really loud music.  Besides, for a long time, we had been wanting to shop at Feinkost Böhm, which is a really nice (and very expensive) food store.  When Bill realized that Feinkost Böhm has a sushi restaurant, we decided that was where we were going to spend our Saturday afternoon.  It's been ages since we last had sushi.

We parked the car in an adjoining garage.  My Mini Cooper convertible, which we bought on the way back to the States in 2009 and which still has under 30,000 miles on it, fit very neatly between a Porsche and a BMW.  Sadly, my car is currently filthy, so it looked pretty sad between those sexy sports cars.

When we got to Feinkost Böhm, we found it teeming with people.  The sushi restaurant was packed and I was dangerously approaching hangry mode, thanks to a high carb breakfast this morning.  We walked back outside.  Bill asked me if I felt like going to a Turkish place near where our dentist's office is.  I said no, which disappointed him.  But then, as we turned onto the main shopping drag in Stuttgart, we spotted China Garden's huge sign on Königstraße.  It had also been ages since we last had Chinese food.  We walked up two flights of stairs and were promptly welcomed to sit down at a freshly vacated table by a window.


The big sign... you can't miss it!

I see on Google that this particular restaurant does not get good ratings.  That's a pity.  Today, we had a pretty good experience.  We both had hefeweizens and I had a bottle of mineral water.  Then we both ordered specials.  I had the crispy duck with asparagus and Bill had spicy chicken with peppers and onions.  The service was pleasant and the food got out to us quickly.  It also tasted good.  I felt a lot better in no time at all.


Bill checks the menu.


My crispy duck arrived quickly and was kept warm on a heater.  It came with white asparagus, bamboo shoots, carrots, and peas.  


Bill's chicken was very tender, though not really that spicy.  I enjoyed both dishes, which came with a big pot of rice.

Total damage for this lunch was about 47 euros.  We left there full and contented.


The decor is very traditional looking.  It's surprising to find this place on a higher level of an office building.  I happened to notice the music, too.  At one point, they were playing an odd Asian inspired cover of James Taylor's classic "You Can Close Your Eyes".

Fortified by lunch, we headed back to the Feinkost Böhm, which was still teeming with people.  Bill grabbed a cart and we started taking in the scene.  Lots of people with expensive tastes were walking around the place.  It was like Whole Foods on steroids.


We stopped for cheese first.  I'm not a cheese lover, so I let Bill do the choosing.  He left with goat cheese and a hard mild cheese.


I was tempted by the champagne bar... sadly, I didn't wait long enough for my camera to focus.  There's also a very impressive wine and liquor area.  Some wines are available for tasting.  We ended up getting a couple of Rieslings and a Gruener Veltliner, as well as a Sangiovese.

Feinkost Böhm is loaded with pricey goodies from all over the world.  You can find everything from escargot to mango flavored vinegar there.  I had to laugh, though, when I saw them selling things like Pepperidge Farm chocolate chunk cookies over over 6 euros a bag.  As I noticed the American goods, I was reminded that they were probably loaded with high fructose corn syrup.  Someone must buy them, though.


Your escargots...


Lots of meats...  Bill bought us a Scottish roast for about 30 euros.  It's big enough for the two of us.


Very fancy vinegars.  I took this shot because the colors were so pretty.


There's a sushi bar apart from the restaurant.  We picked some up for tonight's dinner at home.  You can also sit at the bar and have wine with your raw fish.


Fancy oils abound...


And fancy desserts, too.  We came home with a small Sacher torte and an "American" chocolate cheesecake.


And there's lovely produce, though we didn't get any.

All in all, I believe Bill spent about 180 euros on our small order of food, although it's very nice quality stuff.  We like trying different things from around the world.  We found Spanish tuna, bierwurst, Italian butter, fresh squeezed orange juice, and some exotic cookies from Scotland and Switzerland.  This store also has some very nice food baskets that would make nice gifts, although they probably cost a fortune.  Fortunately, Bill was able to use his credit card with no problem.

A less frilly shopping experience in downtown Stuttgart is the Markthalle, which also offers exotic goods, but for seemingly less money.  Every once in awhile, we like to splurge... although I don't know if I'm going to want to go back to the Feinkost anytime soon.  There are way too many people in there at any given time and shopping there is as nervewracking as it is expensive.

After driving past a protest attended by polizei in riot gear, we stopped by Patch on the way home.  I had a good laugh when I noticed one of the security guy's shoes.  He had silhouettes of curvaceous women on the sides of his sneakers.  They reminded me of the silhouettes of women one sees on the mudflaps on trucks.   

All in all, it was a nice day downtown.  It was good to have Chinese food again.  And tonight, we'll enjoy the sushi we were craving.



Sunday, April 23, 2017

I found my thrill at Monkey Hill-- Affenberg Salem


Bill made friends with a monkey today!

Sometimes I see people suggesting fun activities for people with kids.  Then I feel sad because I don't have kids, even though I am a big kid myself.  I kept seeing people referring to a place called Monkey Hill down near the Bodensee and commenting on how much fun it is to visit there and feed monkeys.  It sounded like something I'd love, even though I don't have any wee ones.  Luckily, I have a very indulgent husband.

Although the weather was a little chilly this morning and there were clouds in the sky, we decided we were going to go see some primates come hell or high water.  We left the house at about 11:30am and headed down 81.  After driving past the lake and through a few quaint towns, we arrived at Affenberg Salem at a couple of minutes past one o'clock.  The parking lot was full of cars.  Some guy gave us a dirty look because Bill accidentally turned a way he wasn't supposed to.  I returned the dirty look and laughed hysterically when the guy saw me glaring at him and reacted with surprise.


You gotta finish your smokes, food, and drinks before you enter.

We found a parking spot and paid nine euros each for admission.  Then we set off into the park, where ducks, swans, fish, water bats, and other water fowl cavort in a large lake.  Not having been to Monkey Hill before, I wasn't sure when we'd be seeing the monkeys, but I had a good time feeding the huge fish with the free food provided.


One handful, please!


Loads of huge carp in this lake.



Feeding frenzy!


Stork nests are everywhere!



They have bats, too.



I was getting a kick out of the territorial swans.


Ever present rapeseed will soon turn my nose into a faucet.

As we approached the area where the monkeys were, a lady announced the rules in German.  Somehow she knew we weren't German and offered us a book with the rules translated in English.  It was good to read them, since the monkeys are smart and engaging with them improperly can lead to disaster.  She said her trusty book had the rules translated into about 30 languages.  I guess they get people from all over the place, although I didn't think the park was super commercial the way Apenheul in Apeldoorn, The Netherlands was.  Although Apenheul is larger and has more types of monkeys than Monkey Hill does, it's also more expensive and not as interactive.  Apenheul felt more like a theme park.


The signage in the park is translated into German, French, and English.  They also use a lot of illustrations.  


This dude was sitting at the beginning of the route.  I guess he was the boss.  He got a lot of attention.


These monkeys were all sitting on the route, waiting for people to hand them pieces of the free popcorn the handlers pass out.  When you give it to them, they take it very gently.  I felt like I was handing popcorn to a small child.  



Touching family portrait.


Spot the monkey in the photo!


It's not a bad life.


This was an interesting graphic showing everybody typical monkey behaviors.  Bill got a kick out of #9.

I had only one piece of popcorn left.  It was small and one of the employees told me in German, then English, that the monkeys don't like the small pieces.  Oh well.  If you visit, I recommend rationing your popcorn.  You will run into monkeys along the trail who will be hoping for a treat and aren't at the top of the pecking order.  Also, if you understand German, you can stop and listen to the keepers talk about the care and feeding of the monkeys.  I found myself understanding snippets of things I heard.  It reminded me of tuning in to a staticky radio station.  I'd catch bits and pieces of things and the rest was all distorted.



Welcome to the Monkey House.


I didn't see any snakes.  I'm glad.




There are deer here, living a nice lifestyle.


So many storks!



After you stroll around the monkey park, you can stop by the biergarten for lunch.  There are brats, schnitzels, pretzels, cakes, and all manner of beverages.  There's also a play area for kids aged 3 to 12.




I was intrigued by the trees.








Parking and bathrooms are free of charge, too!

We had a great time at Monkey Hill, though we didn't spend too long there.  They have a few indoor activities to include a film room.  There's also a large gift shop, though we skipped it.  Obviously, this activity is very popular with kids and we saw a lot of them today, although it's also fun for big kids.  I did see some people with strollers, too, though I don't think you're supposed to take them into the monkey enclosure.  This activity doesn't have to take long, either.  We were there for less than two hours, although we could have taken more time to enjoy the park.  Afterwards, if you're not ready to head back to Stuttgart, you can always go check out the lake.  Monkey Hill is very close to the Bodensee.   

It was fairly crowded today; I imagine it gets packed in warm weather.  The park is a great activity for Sundays and holidays.  Below is a video I took of some monkeys playing.  I could have stood there all day and filmed their antics.


These monkeys were a lot of fun!