Sunday, July 31, 2016

A "two dog night" in Riquewihr, France... part four

We took another stroll around the city last night, after we enjoyed drinks at the hotel.  I got more photos of the picturesque environs and the dogs enjoyed another long stroll.  I think Zane got a little more than he bargained for with this trip.  He seemed a little sore this morning when we got up.

After we took our walk, we had dinner at a very touristy but pet friendly restaurant with an extensive outdoor seating area.  Restaurant Au Relais de Riquewihr is a large place that seems to cater to tourists.  We opted to eat there because of the dogs.  Our friends the super blond Dutch kids were also there with their parents, as well as a couple of American women who had a little boy with them.  The Americans were obviously familiar with the staff.

Bill posing for a photo again.

The waiter, a man with a wonderfully engaging personality, was chatting with the Americans as if they were friends.  We later discovered the Americans had come from Ramstein.  One of them was in charge of outdoor recreation at Ramstein and really looked the part.  She was super fit.  She came over to talk to us and let her little boy pet Zane, who was begging for pieces of my chicken and Bill's white pizza.

The dogs were doing great at dinner until a lady with a dog came over to a nearby crepe stand.  Arran saw the dog's feet and it was all over, even though he'd been around other dogs all day.   He let loose with a loud bark.  Zane joined in and for a couple of long minutes, the two of them proceeded to draw a lot of attention to us.  It was kind of embarrassing.

The food at Restaurant Au Relais Riquewihr was decent and, I think, very suitable to people with kids and, of course, obnoxious dogs.  However, when I used their bathroom, I couldn't help but notice the strong smell of stale urine.  In a restaurant, that's definitely a turn off.

The funny thing is, that smell took me back to 1980, when my parents moved us to Gloucester, Virginia, a then very rural county in southeastern Virginia.  I was then eight years old.  I made friends with a couple of girls who lived on the same dirt lane I did.  They were from Oregon and their mom was divorced from their dad.  They lived in a trailer that always reeked of stale human piss.  They moved maybe a year later and I never saw them again.  I had pretty much forgotten about them, but that smell of pee just brought it all back.  It's crazy how smells can spark vivid memories.

Anyway, our dinner came to about 52 euros including a carafe of wine and sparkling water.  Bill tipped the friendly waiter handsomely for tolerating our loud dogs, even though he originally brought me the wrong order (beef and fries).  It looked really good, though.  Also, it may be worth mentioning that this restaurant has a mister for those steamy summer days.  They turned it on to amuse the little American boy who was visiting.  Later, we watched his mom kiss the waiter on both cheeks and say she'd see him in September.  Oooh la la!

White pizza for Bill...with mushrooms, blecch!  They also had flammkuchen.  We shared a 50ml carafe of a local pinot noir.  It was a decent wine, though maybe a bit overpriced.  

Chicken skewers for me.  These were a daily special prepared with lots of lemon... maybe a hair too much for my taste.   But the frites were fabulous.  They reminded me of frites from Belgium.  This dish also came with a salad and bread, neither of which I had room to eat.

This fountain had lots of goldfish in it.

I was curious about this little stand.  I think they were selling homemade apple juice.

We went to bed early last night and left lovely Riquewihr right after breakfast.  It was stormy and rainy this morning and our dogs were a bit tired.  Zane, in particular, seemed kind of sore from the walking.  Our drive back to Stuttgart was totally uneventful and took a little over two hours.  It's hard to believe that a place with such a different vibe is so close.  

We'd call this trip a success and I'm already starting to think about making these one night trips more of a regular thing.  I need to get out more; the dogs could use the practice in being out in public; and who knows if and when we'll live in Europe again?  We made the mistake of not seeing enough when we lived here the first time and I don't want to do that again.

In any case, I highly recommend Riquewihr and I hope we can go back, stay a little longer, and see more of the area.  It really is beautiful there, very tourist and pet friendly, and so close to Stuttgart.  I'm so happy we ran off to France this past weekend and I hope we can do it again very soon!

These photos were taken as we were departing...  

A "two dog night" in Riquewihr, France... part three

After we ate lunch at L'Originel, we headed over to the hotel and checked in.  As I mentioned in the first post, I got one of the last available rooms at Best Western Hotel Le Schoenenbourg, which turned out to be a suite.  It was humongous!  There was a large sitting room, a bedroom with two TVs, and a huge bathroom with a separate toilet. The bathroom had a deep soaking tub and a large shower stall.  Our beds were originally twins, but they kindly pushed them together for us, although the beds were still dressed as twins underneath the bedspread.

Have a look at the photos!

I had my first bath in awhile thanks to this awesome deep tub.  I brought my own toiletries.   I didn't try the ones offered by the hotel.

Twin beds pushed together.  The bed was comfortable enough, though I was kind of glad I brought my own pillow.  It would have been okay if I hadn't, though.  These pillows were more generous than some I've found in other hotels in these parts.

A little couch in the sitting room.

A water bowl and treats for the boys!  

This was a nice surprise.

They also left us a complimentary bottle of water.

The minibar.  I didn't check the price list, but Bill said it wasn't that expensive.  There is also a bar in the lobby that serves drinks and hot snacks like quiche.

As you can see, the boys were very comfortable.

While I took a leisurely bath, Bill went shopping for stuff to bring home with us.  He tasted several wines at a couple of wine shops in town.  He also ran into a very aggressive cheese vendor who ended up selling him four different types of cheese and sausage!  I don't eat a lot of cheese, so I hope his work friends don't mind if some of it's stinky.   He bought macaroons and cookies, but no chocolate.  :(  Darn.  For this excursion, Bill bought a cooler that plugs into the car and keeps things cool without the need for ice.  It also provided a handy platform for Zane to stand on during the drive.

Best Western Hotel Le Schoenenbourg has a pool that was being used extensively yesterday.  They also have bikes available for rent.  I brought a bathing suit, but didn't end up going for a swim.  Later, while Bill and I were enjoying drinks at the bar, I started wondering if the pool at the hotel had a rule about men wearing Speedos.  Apparently, many pools in France require women to wear bathing caps and men to wear skimpy bikinis.  I blogged about that last year and it's one of my most popular travel posts.  

The dogs were welcome at the bar, though that Astro Turf did a number on Zane's paw.

Alsatian beer.  It was a surprisingly good wheat beer. 

And a local Jupiler on draft.

While we were drinking and enjoying the sunshine, we were charmed by an adorable little boy and girl who were siblings and appeared to be two and four years old.  The boy was older and clearly looking after his sister.  They spoke a language we didn't recognize.  It turned out they were Dutch and they both had stunning platinum blond hair, giving them an angelic appearance.  Their parents were very fit and spoke perfect English, asking us if it was okay that their kids were hanging out near us.  I could tell the kids were enchanted by Zane and Arran and probably wanted to pet them, but were too shy to ask and didn't speak our language anyway.  We ran into them at least three times, including when we had dinner.   They were so cute and kind of made me lament that I never had children.   

A map of Riquewihr.

Breakfast tray.  The coffee was very disappointing.

My only complaint about the hotel was the breakfast.  They have a buffet that costs 13 euros a person.  I'd read that it was a ripoff.  We opted to have breakfast delivered to our room for 9 euros a person.  For that, you get a basket of breads, butter, jam, honey, Nutella, coffee and juice.  The breads were excellent and very fresh.  There were croissants, baguettes, and chocolate chip brioches.  The juice was adequate.  But the coffee, I'm afraid, SUCKED.  It was barely drinkable and much too weak.  Consequently, when we drove home this morning, Bill and I were both still very sleepy.

Other than the breakfast, I had no real complaints about the hotel.  It was super convenient and pet friendly, even when Zane and Arran got on a scent on the way downstairs this morning and started baying.  For our one night with drinks at the bar and breakfast in our room, we paid just under 200 euros.  Parking outside and WiFi are free.  If you want secure parking, you can use the parking garage, which costs 10 euros a day.

Part 4

A "two dog night" in Riquewihr, France... part two

After we walked around Riquewihr in the afternoon heat, I told Bill I was hungry.  It was too early to check into the hotel, so I suggested that we get some lunch.  Our hotel was located right next to a quiet looking place called L'Originel.  At first, I was a little hesitant to venture inside, since we had Zane and Arran and it appeared to be an upscale eatery.  Also even though it was almost one o'clock, the restaurant was empty.  But they welcomed us and the dogs, so we sat out on their balcony and proceeded to have a beautiful midday repast.  It was way beyond what I'd hoped for at lunchtime.

Obligatory shot of Bill checking the menu.  We started with sparkling water and glasses of Cremant, a lovely sparkling wine made in the Alsace region.

The boys were accommodated with water.

The amuse.  It was a challenge for both of us.  I don't like white truffles or anything else obviously fungal.  Bill is not a fan of soft or, as in this case, raw eggs!  Actually, we were presented with the yolk served with horseradish and a cracker.  It was surprisingly good, though I let Bill have the truffle.

We both ordered the set menu, which was priced at 23 euros and came with a starter, entree, and a dessert.  Yesterday, the starter was shrimp salad with fresh greens, melon balls, and colorful cauliflower florets.  It was just the right size and not too heavy.  We sipped a nice local Riesling.  Since moving back to Germany, we have become fans of Rieslings, which are much drier here than in the States.  This course came with very fresh white bread.

The shrimp salad was followed by this lovely dorade filet with potatoes, peppers, asparagus, celery, and carrot.  It was topped off with a reduction of white wine and broth from the fish.  Again, not too heavy and beautifully presented.  This dish came with a grain bread that replaced the lovely white from the previous course.

Dessert was a refreshing dish of raspberry and strawberry sorbet, served with wild berries and nuts.  The little white dollops are meringues.

And this sweet little ending-- a lemon pudding with berries-- came with the check to help soften the blow.

A picture of the business card for future travelers who want to dine there.

Before the tip, this lunch came to 92 euros.  It was worth it.  And I was so proud of the boys, who handled themselves so well, even when a few other diners showed up.  I couldn't help but ask Bill why the hell we hadn't done a one night trip sooner.  I think we will definitely do more of them for as long as we live here in Europe.


A "two dog night" in Riquewihr, France... part one

A few days ago, I was sitting in my "office" feeling distinctly cagey.  When Bill and I live in Europe, I get especially antsy if I don't get a trip in every once in awhile.  Unfortunately, Max at Dog on Holiday advised us that he's booked solid until early September.  What's a wanderlusting blogger to do when the urge to skip town is so great?  Why, take the dogs along, of course!

Though Bill and I dearly love our dogs, Zane and Arran, we don't usually take them with us when we travel. They are sweet dogs, but they're hounds and they tend to get on scents and make a lot of noise.  Also, because they aren't accustomed to going to restaurants and hotels, they don't always behave in a way that is conducive to having them with us on trips.  Despite that, I really wanted to get out of town.  An added bonus was the new fence and gate our landlords wanted to put up on Saturday.  It would make it easier for them to get that work done if we weren't around.

So I told Bill about my idea and he agreed.  We'd take a quick trip to Riquewihr, about which we'd heard so many wonderful things, and Zane and Arran would join us.  As it turns out, I made a great choice in Riquewihr.  Not only is it recognized as one of the most beautiful towns in France,  it's also very dog friendly and not far from the Stuttgart area.  So, if it turned out our decision to travel with the dogs was a disaster, we could always come back home without too much trouble.

The drive to Riquewihr was mostly stunning.  We took B28 through the stately Black Forest and drove through the winding switchbacks that offered some beautiful views of the German countryside.  Then when we got to Strasbourg, we were confronted by a bunch of police officers.  No one asked to see passports, but there were plenty of weapons being brandished.  I later heard that Strasbourg was a bit walled off this weekend.  I was glad I hadn't decided to go there; Strasbourg had been my initial planned destination.  We passed through Ribeauville, which also looks like a nice place to visit, though not as quaint or touristy as Riquewihr is.  More than once, I wanted to stop and take pictures on the side of the road.  In retrospect, I should have done just that.

It turned out I got the last room at the Best Western Le Schoenenbourg, a super pet friendly and convenient hotel.  I actually ended up booking a suite, because all of the regular rooms were occupied.  We arrived at the hotel about 90 minutes before the check in time of 1:00pm, but it was fine for us to park the car in the hotel lot and walk into town, which is maybe a five minute walk from the hotel.

Riquewihr is a beautifully preserved walled city with grape vines growing on a the surrounding hillsides.  It mostly looks as it did in the 16th century and was fortunately one of a few towns that wasn't decimated during World War II.  Yesterday, the weather was hot and sunny and the place was teeming with tourists.  Zane and Arran behaved very well, but I was especially pleased and surprised by how accommodating the city was to dogs.  At least one shop owner set out a water bowl, of which my dogs were happy to take advantage.  The restaurants were all fine with the dogs joining us; in fact, every place we went to offered water for the dogs.  And even the hotel, noting that I had mentioned the dogs in my booking, set us up with a water bowl and treats for our boys.

I'll write more about the hotel and restaurants in my next post.  For now, here are our first glimpses of beautiful Riquewihr.  It was much prettier and more charming than I expected.  Our main goal was a change of scenery, practice being guests for the dogs, and maybe a small load of wine, cheese, and macaroons.  We definitely scored on all accounts!

I thought this sign was pretty funny.  Clearly, people had been using someone's patch of grass for a doggie toilet!  My dogs decided to just dump in the middle of town, right in front of everyone, including a Dutch family with two white blonde angelic kids we ran into again and again.

Bill and I were last in France back in October and May 2014.  Although we only live about two hours from the French and Swiss borders, we rarely venture over them.  After seeing how easy it was to visit Riquewihr yesterday, I think that is a trend that will change.  It really was easy to get to a completely different country with a different vibe.  On our last visit to France, we visited Colmar.  To be honest, although I thought Colmar was pretty and quaint, our trip was a bit weird.  Even still, I've often thought about going back there, though now that I've been to Riquewihr, I think we'll stick to the smaller, cuter towns nearby.  I think we both really prefer them to the bigger cities.

Part 2