Andalusia – here we come

During our last visit to Spain in April this year we looked at a variety of apartments, with a view to ‘considering’ a purchase. To cut a long story short, we made an offer on a two-bedroom apartment in the same block we share a single bedroom apartment with nine other partners. This was accepted and the purchase was completed early July.

We are now driving down there to pick up the keys and finalise the ‘stuff’ that our solicitors cannot.

We have chosen to drive as the flight costs are so expensive at this short notice. We therefore thought we’d make a trip/holiday of it and take some of the larger things we have that we would like down there, but which could not easily be flown in. So we decided to set off on Monday 27th and booked hotels in Boulogne-sur-Mer, Angouleme, (both France), Segovia and Jaen (both Spain) – with a hope of arriving on Friday – hopefully before siesta-lunch.

Day one was a disaster. I’d hurt my back doing nothing more than lay the table on Sunday, so was pretty much incapacitated most of Sunday (for packing and preparation) and Monday (for driving). Poor Sharon had to pack the car and then drive all the way to Boulogne. That might have been OK had we not got caught up on a 90+ minute delay en route (one hour on the A14 waiting for police to turn us all around and join the now horrendous A1 London bound traffic, and then congestion along M25). We were in fact late for our book-in at the Shuttle terminal, but managed to scam a drive straight on to the train. Wonderful.

We’d booked a Premiere Classe hotel for this night, knowing that we wouldn’t get there until 11.00pm ish and that they did at least have a gated car park (remember, we have a car full of ‘stuff’).  I’d forgotten how nasty these places can be. And, the WiFi didn’t work. And, we had to park in the not gated, car park opposite as the hotel one was full. The saving grace was that it was cheap. 

Tuesday night, after another day of Sharon’s heroic driving, we’re in Angouleme, in a Campanile Hotel. This chain are a step up from the other (although by the same group) and don’t cost too much more.  We’ll see how the evening goes :-) At least we have WiFi and a/c (although it is overcast and raining).

Tomorrow – Spain.

Homeward bound

Saturday.

We departed Blaichach after relaxing over breakfast in the local konditorei and retraced our route to Lindau and then on to Ludwigshafen (our destination for the night) via Meersberg. Meersberg was very busy and very ‘touristy’.

I know that is a crass thing to say, when we ourselves are tourists, but there’s a difference to independent travelers such as ourselves and the bussed in hoards; half with selfie-sticks and half with walking sticks; catered for with kiss-me-quick hats and sticks of rock (not actually, but the German equivalent).

At Ludwigshafen we were disappointed to find that our 4-star hotel did not have air conditioning.  It was >38ºc outside with no wind and no clouds to reduce the built up heat. Sharon and I had been given an attic room with south facing velux windows – it was horrendous. So, the short story is – we had to be moved. Despite saying they were full, faced with two angry Armstrongs (one of whom speaks German like a native, the other who can be unreasonably tenacious) we were given what turned out to be better rooms in the hotel next door. It appears that this hotel was owned by our hotel but didn’t have the 4-start rating required by our Booking.Com reservation. It also turned out that this particular hotel reserves the smaller, less desirable rooms for Booking.Com customers and advises them to ‘find us’ on the site and then contact direct.

Breakfast was a laugh a minute with stereotypical German correctness on the one hand (“no, no, you cannot have THAT coffee, I will bring you a different one”) and idiotic food v personnel placement planning on the other. Staff and customers were using the same narrow throughways (and therefore bumping into one another) and the breakfast buffet was in what could be described as a cave, where only one or two people at a time could gain access. Whilst Ludwigshafen is a pretty place, we have no desire to visit there, or, especially, the hotel again.

Sunday.

Today we drove to Freiburg (Freiburg im Breisgau) via Schaffhausen, adding another country (Switzerland) to our tally for the trip (5). Schaffhausen was more or less en route so we all wanted to see the falls – http://www.rheinfall.ch/en/. As we drove into the car park and as we saw the falls through the trees, we all uttered ‘wow’. It was a magnificent sight.

I’m not sure that I can describe the views, or the noise, suffice to say that if you ever get the chance to visit the falls at Schaffhausen – take it.  It’s worth the time and moderate parking fee.

We took one of the many boat trips available, a round trip taking in a bit of history with facts and figures via an audio-link-up and sailing close up (REALLY close up) to the falls. I had been advised to take a trip to the island in the middle but when booking we really didn’t see that option, although it was there. It’s not really clear what is available on site so visit http://www.maendli.ch/ first and check out what’s available.

And then, heading up through the Black Forest, we called in at Titisee.  It was by now blisteringly hot again and the going was tough. The lake is obviously used as a major leisure resource and it reminded me of Ambleside, without the narrow streets. Again there were the busloads of tourists, the kiss-me-quick stuff (like I said – German equivalent) and lots of food outlets. We had stand-up food (sausages, bretzles etc.) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pretzel.

Our hotel in Freiburg had been hastily arranged by the Armstrongs and it DID HAVE a/c.  So that was a relief.  We were here for two nights and slept well, unlike the previous few evenings.

No one felt like eating the first night, as it was so hot. It cooled a little the day after so we drove around the Black Forest and headed for Triberg, where we could see the falls and sample the ‘original’ Black Forest Gateau.

Tuesday – From Freiburg, it’s only about an hour to France and our first stopover there, in Colmar. Once again the girls had re-booked a hotel so that we had a/c. This hotel, The Hotel Europe: http://www.hotel-europe-colmar.com/uk/index.php is situated out of town but has everything we needed, including our first hotel pool of the trip. What’s more it is just u[p the road from a huge E. Leclerc Hypermarket where the diesel was around 6 cents per litre cheaper than anywhere around.

We were disappointed with Colmar.  The pictures and information had promised so much, but the waterways were dirty, the town itself wasn’t as ‘appealing’ as we’d hoped and the waiter who served us for lunch was downright rude and surly. So we spent a good bit of our Colmar time in the hotel pool.

The weather eased somewhat overnight, following the storm that passed over.

Wednesday – Our next stopover was at Chalons en Champagne. En Route, we stopped for a coffee in Nancy, in Stanislas Square. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Place_Stanislas. This is a large pedestrianised area, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Our hotel in Chalons was undergoing some repairs and renewals, so upon arrival we went out for a walk around the town. We had our evening meal just down the road from the hotel and in the morning set off for Calais.

Thursday –

We were in Calais for 14:00, just in time for the hotel to allow us to book in. Sharon and I then went out for a walk and found lots of interesting places we’d never had time to find before.  We also saw many more of the elephants we first noticed on our first evening in France way back in June.  There are 21 elephants to be found – I managed to catch 11 of these.

 

Kempton

(Days 13 and 14) – 02/07/15 and 03/07/15Meat and cheese platter

We spent most of Thursday just lounging around. The temperature was up in the mid thirties – so we just soaked up what we could. We all walked down to the local bakery in the morning but then failed to move out at all until that evening.

In the evening we went just up the road to enjoy the meat and cheese platters available at Sennalpe Derb http://www.alpe-derb.de/.

And beer – although I only had alcohol-free :-)

The alcohol beers over here are served everywhere and all taste so much better than anything I’ve had at home in England. Thursday night’s AF beer was strange tasting (weissen beer) but still better than at home.

3 kingsOn Friday, we awoke once more to the rising sun shining through the meagre blinds and had our cup of tea on the sunny terrace (as usual) at 06.30am.

We’d decided to visit Kempten today. http://www.bavaria.by/allgaeu/a-kempten-bavaria-germany En route, it started to rain. And not just rain as we know it but rain like we’re told it rains by everyone here. It bounced down. Once we’d parked we just sat in the car and waited for it to (sort of) stop. Massive bolts of lightening, loud bangs of thunder and hailstones like bullets, were our welcome to Kempton.

The rain eventually stopped and we investigated the busy town. However, we’d only parked for two hours so we decided to eat elsewhere. 3-kings-lunchWe wound our way through the little towns south of Kempton and eventually ended up in Immenstadt, where we had a delightful lunch at the Gastof Drei König – http://www.drei-koenig.de/cms/index.php?kat=86. I had (what turned out to be) Roast Pork with Serviettenknödel. See: http://www.food.com/recipe/serviettenkn-del-bread-dumplings-467470

We bought cakes (and pretzels for me and ‘tmissis) for our evening meal, in Blaichach and settled in for our final evening here in the apartment. 

The car said it was 39° outside!

IMG_4644

Southern Germany

Blaichach – w/c 29/06/15

As I said on the previous post:

The apartment is in-between Sonthofen and Immenstadt, in a village called Blaichach. We’re on the top floor of a large three-storied house. There are three bedrooms; we’re using one as a sitting room, two W/Cs, one with bath and one with shower and a huge kitchen-diner. All rooms have magnificent views over the mountains just to the south and west.
See: http://www.urlaub-alacarte.de/index.php/en

Sharon, hidingWe spent most of Sunday loitering around the apartment. I had, as stated previously, walked into Blaichach to forage for bread but then later in the day Sharon and I walked up and over the hill opposite us, back down into Blaichach and back to the apartment in what was turning out to be a cracking day weather wise. I made a ratatouille pasta for tea, with salad and it was right delicious.

On Monday, we decided to try out Immenstadt for size. It’s not a huge town and seems to be fairly work-a-day; busy but not especially tourist orientated. We did a little shopping and then drove further up the road to Alpsee. We parked up down the river and went for a walk, (not quite) around the lake. The weather was now gorgeous and looked like setting in for the week. We then had to take Sharon and Jo to a place where they could throw themselves off a mountain. See: http://www.alpsee-bergwelt.de/spass/neuer-alpsee-bergwelt-film.html

Mike, still suffering with his back, and I, stayed at the bottom and had the most unlikely, fart inducing German sausage so far – Landjäger.  You have to remember that our translator had gone to throw herself off a mountain, so given the option of weiner (hot dog) or weiss (mostly yuk) we thought we’d picked winner. It turns out that landjäger is a cross between jerky and pepperami – not the most sought after food in my culinary universe ;-(

Anyway, once the wanderers had returned we moved back into Immendstadt to go up the Mittagbahn. This is a ski-lift thingy that took us to the top of Mittag, the mountain we can see out of our apartment’s western looking window.  This takes you up in two stages and the views from the top are magnificent, we thank only thank our lucky stars that the weather was kind to us, or it might not have been so good, or so warm ☺

Jo_Mike_Chair_lift-2

Tuesday, we lounged around again until we thought the sun might have cooled a little. Then we went into Blaichach, parked and took a walk along the river towards Immenstadt. This is a lovely walk, with river on one side, the German version of allotments on the other, and for part of the way a small lake. Bought bread and then back for tea – salad I think.

Today, Wednesday, we drove to Lindau, to spend time on Bodensee, or what the Swiss (and most other countries) call Lake Constance. It’s only about an hour away from us, so not a great hardship, and we were under way just after nine. We parked on Lindau Island, had a coffee and then strolled around the Island until time for lunch. We’d booked tickets on a 90-minute boat trip, which en route, passed by Switzerland and took us into Austria before returning to Lindau. These boundaries are, by the way, apparently, arbitrary!

All the time, the sun shone brightly and all in all, this was a great day.  To see the mountains behind the mountains that line the southern shores is quite a thing to see and to see the River Rhine at its point of entry to the lake is quite surprising. You can easily see the flow as it enters and there is a difference of the water’s colour at that point. Interesting.

Diesel has been around €1.20 – €1.21 throughout most of Germany and France (we paid more in France, but that was because we were on a motorway) but in towns like Lindau and Fussen the prices rose to around €1.24 – €1.25. Sneaky. The car is averaging just less than 50 mpg, it would be more, but the first fill up, after driving through the UK, was not so good.

Tirol and Alps

Arrival – days 8 and 9 (Saturday and Sunday)

Previously:

Days 6 and 7 https://dsugdenholidays.wordpress.com/2015/06/27/head-for-the-hills/

Days 4 and 5 https://dsugdenholidays.wordpress.com/2015/06/25/477/

Days 2 and 3 https://dsugdenholidays.wordpress.com/2015/06/23/the-hard-bit/

Day 1 https://dsugdenholidays.wordpress.com/2015/06/19/setting-off/

Schwangau is a great place to visit if you want to see the two castles, to explore lakes, to cycle, to walk and/or to climb (or hang glide – but then, that’s sport and I don’t do sport J). It is situated just outside Fussen, which is recognised as the last stop on the Romantische Straße.

We stayed at the Weinbauer hotel/guesthouse, which is pleasant enough – but badly placed on the main road. If like us, your rooms are at the front (rooms 1-6), you will find yourself battered by the constant barrage of noise from passing traffic. It quietens a little during the night but you HAVE TO HAVE your windows closed, which is no good if it’s warm. Also, although there is WiFi Internet in these rooms, it is intermittent and weak. We ate in the hotel restaurant, which is open to the public and very busy. I had a delicious goulasch, which was on the special board, Jo had schnitzel, Sharon had a big salad with chicken goujons and Mike had what was described as meat loaf on the ‘English’ menu – but turned out to be spam! (Actually it was a type of leberwurst – http://www.foodgeeks.com/recipes/german-homemade-leberwurst-pork-and-liver-sausage-20324)

Weinbauer hotel

We set off for our final destination on Saturday morning, 27th June.

Although not as good weather-wise as Friday, it was still a nice day and only rained a little as we crossed the mountains into Austria. We hadn’t far to travel (we are now based near Immenstadt) so we detoured through the Austrian Tirol and German Alps (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allg%C3%A4u). Although very twisty, the roads are good and the views are terrific and well worth taking the extra time. [If you’re interested >>>]: We went from Schwangau to Reutte, to Weißenbach, to Nesselwängle, to Oberjoch and almost to Sonthofen, which describes itself as the most southerly town in Germany. However, we detoured again and went on to Oberstdorf – which to me seems to be further south than Sonthofen. Who knows!

Oberstdorf

Oberstdorf, is a winter sports destination but also has many hiking trails to please walkers throughout the year. It rained again while we were here to so we didn’t bother.

The apartment is in-between Sonthofen and Immenstadt, in a village called Blaichach. We’re on the top floor of a large three-storied house. There are three bedrooms; we’re using one as a sitting room, two W/Cs, one with bath and one with shower and a huge kitchen-diner. All rooms have magnificent views over the mountains just to the south.

Breakfast, Sunday.

Because we’ve eaten out for more than a week now, we decided that Saturday night and all day Sunday would be home-cooked/prepared and on Saturday night we sat down to a huge salad with feta cheese and lots of German bread. Sunday breakfast was similarly fabulous with sliced ham, boiled eggs, strawberries, freshly caught bread (I walked into the village and caught it myself) prune mousse jam [pflaumen-mus] and freshly ground coffee we’d bought earlier in Dinkelsbühl. Delicious.

We spent the rest of Sunday relaxing and getting a feel for the area.

Head for the hills

Friedberg – Day 6 and 7 (Thursday and Friday)

On Thursday and Friday we toodled further down the Romantic Road.

We kept off the beaten track as much as we could and found some wonderful roads to drive on and a couple of pretty towns we would otherwise have missed. The weather had begun to change on Thursday and although it still rained, it was only a little and we saw much more sun.

We stopped en route, for a walk and for coffee, at Dinkelsbühl. This is one of the road’s famed walled towns and was the beginning of our off-the-beaten-track detour. It is a lovely town, with many old-fashioned, well kept houses and a walking route around the outside of the walls. By now we had seen all shapes, sizes and colours of old-fashioned central-European buildings (Rotherberg had more than it’s fair share) and it was a pleasure to see that someone had restored one of the tiniest here in Dinkelsbühl.

We stopped for lunch at Harburg, where there is a Schloss/Berg/Castle on the hill (according to the link, Michael Jackson tried to buy the castle, calling it “the castle of my dreams”). The town itself, which is beautiful and well worth a visit, was cut off from the main route because of road works. Yet, because the Castle said it was still open, we were able to ignore the road signs and then (after visiting the castle) cut through into town. The Castle entry was €3 each, which we thought was OK, but in fact gave us access to nowhere other than the restaurant and castle grounds. If we’d paid the full €7 we could have had an hour long escorted tour of the castle and learned a little more of it’s history. Yorkshire born tight-wads!

Because we didn’t think Mike’s back would stand the walk down through woods into town, Sharon and I went alone. We ate in Harburg and they, Jo and Mike, ate in the Castle restaurant. We spent the night at Hotel Zum Brunnen in Friedberg. If you ever go to this hotel, you will find it behind and above the street it says it’s on. This is not a bad thing, as it is in a quiet position, but it confuses the SatNav completely.

Friedberg is a busy little town just outside the much bigger city of Augsburg and right on the Romantic Road. We had a good walk around here, then had a few drinks and then had dinner.

I had the weirdest thing I’ve ever eaten. I didn’t photograph the food because the picture would have just looked like slices of meat, egg and tomato floating in a bowl of clear brown soup. Which it wasn’t! The dish had been described to me, both by Jo and by the waiter (interpreted by Jo) and I honestly thought they were describing brawn or the French Pate de Tete. What it ACTUALLY was; was slices of meat, egg and tomato SET in a well-spiced, acidic aspic jelly! This came with sauté potatoes laced with lardons of bacon. It was OK – but … weird. The picture here (from t’internet with thanks, is the nearest image i can find to show what I had :-) ) I think it was called Tellersulz.

Friday was a gorgeous day with lots of sunshine and lots more of the narrow, winding country roads, which are the REAL romantic road. We stopped along the way and sat watching swans and all manner of water fowl flying in and out of a lake formed along the River Lech and then had lunch in Schongau, where there is another walled town. Here, we were able to eat our lunch in the sun, in the town square and watch he Friday market packing up for the day.

Schongau

We arrived in Schwangau, the day’s destination, in time for a good walk around the town and time to relax. The hotel http://www.hotel-weinbauer.de/ is well placed to see the nearby http://neuschwansteincastle.net/ perched on a not too distant mountain, and https://www.hohenschwangau.de/556.0.html which is not perched quite so high.

Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Rothenburg ob der Tauber. Days 4 and 5.

Today was a better day weather-wise, not much – but better. And, it was the first real day of our holiday, with only a little traveling involved – just enough to take us from Veitshöchheim to Rothenburg ob der Tauber, only around 50 miles on the motorway. But we detoured.

After breakfast we drove into Wurzburg for a few hours ‘looking around’. It was in the car park that we first encountered the Wurzburg ‘personality’ (or possibly the second, if the woman who said we were speaking too loudly in last night’s restaurant was a local). There was lots of standing around and shaking of heads and tutting. “Just think – an English car is trying to park in a German car park”. Tut tut.

Sadly, Mike had woken today with a debilitating back pain – so we explored the town as best we could while checking out a few Apothekes. It is probably worth spending more time exploring this city and maybe we will on another day, on another trip, but for now we had to get under way to see other places along our route. Next stop was Weikersheim.

This is a pretty little village just south of Wurzburg. We parked outside the town and followed a sculpture trail around the edge to get in from the top of town. All of the exhibits are by Gunter Stilling – see: https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gunther_Stilling and made (mostly? All?) of bronze. And mainly body parts!

We stayed in Rothenberg ODT for two nights.

Rothenburg city wallsThe first evening was spent in the delightful company of our friends Christoph and Edith, who live quite nearby. We’d arranged to meet them in one of the town’s hotels for a drink and to then drive out to a local restaurant they knew, just a small way back up towards Wurzburg. However, because Mike was still ill and had decided to stay in, we were all able to go in Christoph’s car. The food, the drink and the camaraderie was wonderful. Because it was a known venue, and we were with locals, we had the best advice for both food and for drink. I tried two Frankish beers; dark beers, which were delightful, and a local wine – Bacchus (halbtrocken).

 Sharon had Calves cheeks braised in beer, with potato dumplings, Jo had a trout dish that looked lovely and I had a HUGE pork chop with Spätzle and cauliflower. We had such a fabulous evening – thank you Christoph and Edith.

We spent the entire second day walking around the town walls (covered walls), drinking coffee and eventually, beer; and shopping. The town is ‘oldie worldlie’ quaint, but that disguises a keen eye for the tourist $$. The town was heaving with far eastern (Japanese? Chinese? Korean? Other?) and American tourists – all with full shopping bags and selfie-sticks. There are Christmas shops, open all the year round and who export to all parts of the world. Similarly, there are numerous toy and teddy-bear shops stocking all variety of old fashioned and new toys. I saw some really unusual and strange Steiff bears. I even bought a couple :-)

On Christoph’s recommendation we ate that night at Hell. http://www.hoell.rothenburg.de/ Sharon had a schnitzel, whilst Mike and I had a special chanterelle dish with flour dumplings and meat (I chose bratwurst, but cannot remember what Mike or Jo had). Another great night with great, local, beer and wine.

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