Our flight was exciting because Neil Young and his entourage were on the plane. Once we landed in Frankfurt and rented a car, we were on our way south to our destination in Grindelwald, Switzerland. We gave ourself a couple a days to get there, so we had no reservation the first night. But we had some addresses for our navigation system. Usually, there are too many variables for the first day (the plane is delayed, we are too tired to drive, traffic jams on the Autobahn.) But this time we were lucky, with no delays and my man was willing to do the driving. We ended up in a Best Western hotel disguised as a health spa in the middle of the Black Forest. We enjoyed a nice dinner on the terrace with a nice quiet room. After a good breakfast the next morning, we were on the road again. We had made reservation in an Austrian hotel with an amazing spa and view, where we had stayed before. There is a fantastic heated indoor swimming pool with jets to massage your jet-lagged body. It also has a great sauna and steam room.
The following day we reached our destination in Grindelwald, Switzerland. We love this place in the Bernese Alps with a spectacular mountain range that makes it one of the most impressive alpine landscapes in Europe. The Jungfrau and the Eiger north wall are the most well-known mountains.
We have stayed at the Kirchbühl apartments several times. The Kirchbühl is a family run hotel with apartments and houses to rent. I love this place. The location is great, above the village away from all the hassle and noise. The hotel has two restaurants that are quite good and offer a wonderful breakfast with chewy whole wheat bread, great croissants and the best Bicher Müsli. We always make sure that breakfast is included in the price of the apartment. A dinner option is available that you can choose on a daily basis. They also surprise you with free afternoon tea or happy hour another day in their cozy hotel lobby. Frau Brawand, the owner, and the rest of the staff will make sure that you are well taken care of. In good Swiss style, the washer/dryer and wifi work great. And let's not forget the stunning views! Friends in the States thought I showed them a painting on Skype.
The first night we stayed near Chagny at the Hostellerie du Chateau de Bellecroix, a place where the 15th century knights of Malta rested on the way to the Crusades. This old chateau has rooms in different buildings and beautiful grounds. We’ve stayed here before and I have to say it hasn't changed much. We had a circular tower room on the third floor of the main building. The room was small but fun for one night. The surroundings are stunning—an old-fashioned French hotel in the countryside. Our dinner was excellent, the foie gras was served with some fig jam and toast. The smoked salmon broiled on top of rich scalloped leek potatoes was also good. The creme brûlée made an excellent desert. We enjoyed our meal and and evening stroll around the castle. Nearby, in Chagny, is the Lamiloise, a three-star Michelin restaurant.
For me, Burgundy is the mecca of fantastic food where you want to eat everything. I love coming here and trying out new restaurants, charcuteries and patisseries. But oh my poor stomach and body tells me that enough is enough! This is a marathon of eating (the secret is in pacing yourself.) In other words, don't overdo it the first night. I did and now I'm paying the price, Alka Seltzer and peppermint tea to the rescue.
The second day, we continued our trip through Burgundy via Puligny Montrachet, a small village with Chardonnay grapes. We had some good wine, but the food was mediocre. But we visited Beaune for a couple hours. This is a medieval town I fell in love with many moons ago.
It is very touristy but charming town. We toured the hopitâl de Beaune, an old hospital for the poor from the 14th century. It is very interesting and worthy of a visit. As I was looking for a cappuccino and something sweet, I ran into a great patîsserie called Tavenet on 14 Place Carnot. My man loved tarte aux noix et caramel (caramel walnut tart), while I enjoyed a piece of apricot tart and took with me some macaroons and a gougere, a cheesy puff pastry served with wine tasting. It was superb.
The drive from the Burgundy to Alsace Lorraine was easy on a quiet Sunday morning. We arrived in Riquewihr at our the Hotel le Schoenenbourg , a Best Western with air conditioning, a definite plus after last night’s hot room in a charming hotel with a small room above the kitchen where the mosquitos kept us awake. We had made the reservation a couple of days ago and this hotel still had some availability. It was the Bastille Day weekend and most hotels in the region were sold out.
I liked our new hotel because it is within walking distance of one of the quaint medieval villages filled with Hänsel and Gretel houses, cellars bursting with wines of the regions, with festivals beautiful to look at and photograph. Riquewihr is a fairy tale setting. All three villages have some nice stores with pottery, sweets and embroidered fabric. It's a little kitschy, but cute. I have brought back some nice things over the years.
For sweets, I like their pistachio-filled candy. We were able to watch the fireworks for Bastille Day from our hotel and before that, we watched the World Cup soccer final (where Germany won) and before that had a fabulous dinner sitting in a courtyard at Restaurant Winstub Au Tire-Bouchon. My husband had the pork knuckle with sauerkraut and potatoes, with regional mustard. It was the best pork knuckle I ever had, soft and tender. The sauerkraut was great too, with nothing added and perfect with the pork. I ordered the duck breast and I got a huge one (the biggest I have ever seen) cooked medium rare with all the fat rendered from the skin. The sauce had pieces of orange in it and was served in a small glass. The dish came with a beet mash and a large serving of cheesy scalloped potatoes—very different from the ones I had a couple of days ago at the Bellocroix. This was a perfect meal in a perfect setting , especially when the French accordion player serenaded us with some familiar songs and we started to sing along. It started to rain just as we finished dinner, so we went back to our hotel to watch the final soccer match and fireworks for Bastille Day from our window. Life is good.
We always stay at the Hotel Schön and take a room with a balcony on the river, sip a glass of Riesling and enjoy the setting. The hotel has a wisteria-covered veranda where you can enjoy a drink, a coffee or dinner and watch the sun set behind the hills. We enjoyed our delicious dinner on the patio and celebrated our last day before my husband went home and I continued my journey to visit my mom.