I spent Sunday to Tuesday of last week in Stuttgart, a city I hadn’t previously visited. I made new friends and lasting memories.
For the whole of this year, I have been working with STEPPER, the spectacle frame brand. I write a bi-monthly article for the STEPPER blog and I’ve mentioned them often here on my own blog and on social media. They invited me and several of their UK stockists to Stuttgart to visit their headquarters and to see a little of what their beautiful city has to offer.
I couldn’t say yes quick enough, especially because my dear friend Liz was also going. (And because the trip involved a visit to the Cannstatter Volkfest, the Stuttgart beer festival). Liz and I met back in 1996. I was a newly-qualified optometrist straight out of university and she worked at the practice where I did my pre-registration year, in Sutton Coldfield. We became friends immediately and although our paths diverged because of geography and logistics, we were always in touch. She has worked as a business development manager for STEPPER for 13 years and was instrumental in introducing me to them.
I stayed at Liz’s the night before we flew. And as a birthday treat, she booked us into the airport lounge for a champagne breakfast.
We flew from Birmingham to Schiphol and then on to Stuttgart.
Hotel Der Zauberlehrling
We stayed at Der Zauberlehrling, (which means sorcerer’s apprentice, the literal translation being the learner of magic).
It’s beautifully quirky. Each room or suite is different and has something that sets it apart from the others. I stayed in Titanic, which has, you might guess, a nautical theme.
The bath and basins are in the room.
The sun was streaming through when I arrived and it looked really quite ethereal. I flopped onto the bed and realised it was a water bed! I’ve never slept on one before and it was absolutely fab! I slept very well on both nights I was there and enjoyed the experience.
Drinks And Supper
The weather was beautiful. Warm enough to be outside in the evening without a jacket. We met for drinks and introductions at the restaurant across the road from the hotel.
This is Hans Stepper, the 83 year-old founder of STEPPER, who still works full-time and his daughter Saskia. Do read my interview with Saskia. She is a brilliant woman with a sharp mind and a great sense of style and humour.
Dinner was an informal affair with an open kitchen and casual seating. Perfect for chatting and socialising.
We went to STEPPER HQ the following morning and took the opportunity to photograph my outfit while we were waiting for the coach. I love this polka dot tie-neck shirt which I bought recently for work. I knew it would work well with my flared, cropped jeans and flats for the smart casual look, appropriate for this particular occasion.
We listened to a presentation given by Head of Brands and Marketing, Alex Davis. There are exciting times ahead.
STEPPER is a true family business with an excellent ethos. It was lovely to actually meet and socialise with the owners of a global business and to see the family dynamic.
Hans and Saskia are inclusive and approachable and made everyone feel welcome.
As always, I was in my element trying frames on.
And, also as always, I was in my element drinking fizz at 11 am. Well, it was my birthday.
How fabulous too that STEPPER produce their own wine.
Lunch And A Walk Around Stuttgart
After the presentation, we had a few hours of free time, so we went for lunch and a walk around the city centre. A change from shoes to trainers and we were off.
The weather was glorious and just sitting outside at this cafe for an hour felt like a holiday.
My sunglasses are STEPPER SI-30120 in navy. with grey lenses. They go with everything, and, because they’re titanium, they’re very light and comfortable.
The Stuttgart Beer Festival
The Stuttgart beer festival, the Cannstatter Volkfest, is one of the biggest of its kind in the world. It was the highlight of the stay and we couldn’t wait to get ready. Liz and I decided to embrace the evening wholeheartedly, so wore a dirndl.There were about 400 people in our tent, (which as you can see below is actually like a huge log cabin, the sort you see at the German Christmas markets we have here). But much larger.
There’s huge fairground there too.
We went on the haunted house ride…
And on the high bumpy slide, (I’m sure it must have a proper name, but you know what I mean!) The view was spectacular.
The vast majority of people at the Stuttgart beer festival were in their late teens and twenties. Gorgeous young people, having a ball. And all of them wore a dirndl or lederhosen, or a variation of, and they looked stunning. It was so good to see.
The beer was flowing all evening. There was a live band and everyone got up and danced on the benches or tables. I have to say too that Liz and I were the first up to dance on the benches and next up was Hans’s 83 year-old wife!
The Stuttgart beer festival was one of the most memorable nights of my life. So much fun, a fantastic atmosphere and not a bit of trouble, despite the copious alcohol consumption. I’d love to go with Ian, my children and my parents and I recommend it to everyone. (And they do serve alternatives to beer if that’s not your thing).
The next day we had a guided tour around the Mercedes-Benz museum, which along with Porsche is also based in Stuttgart. There were so many eye-catching cars and the architecture of the museum itself is almost as spectacular.
The tour guide told us all about the history of the motor car from the late 1700s, and we saw examples of Mercedes cars throughout time up until the conceptual designs of the future. I know that some of them look like small models on the photos, but they’re all full-sized original/genuine cars.
We finished with a three-course lunch in the restaurant there, another culinary treat.
It was a brilliant few days and it was an utter privilege to have been invited. Stuttgart is a beautiful city and STEPPER is an excellent company. Their frames are excellent- I have several pairs of reading glasses and a pair of sunglasses. And now, I have my eye on some frames from the STEPPER S range which has Saskia as its face.
I’m very grateful to have a career that offers these fantastic opportunities. It was an utter privilege and I would like to thank everyone from STEPPER and everyone in Stuttgart for their outstanding hospitality. I would also like to thank Liz for being the best travel companion I could ask for. We laughed from the moment I arrived at her house, to the moment I dropped her back off. 22 years of friendship and memories to last a lifetime.