The wedding and party was such a wonderful experience. I will post about it later when I get better photos. During that time, my husband and I and the groom’s parents and their relatives stayed in a family-owned hotel in a nearby little town called Hardegsen. Neither the New York Times traveling section nor Rick Steeves have been there.
After the wedding, my husband and I drove south to a town on the Rhine river called Breisach. Breisach is in the upper Black Forest across from Alsace Lorraine. It was just right to overnight there and continue to Grindelwald the following day. Breisach is a small historical town, perfect for any history buff.
The way to Grindelwald is beautiful, but driving through Basel with a car is always a challenge, with too many tunnels and always some construction going on. We were happy when we reached Grindelwald, our destination. Our little apartment at the Kirchbühl was waiting for us and Frau Brawand, the owner, gave us a warm welcome. We settled in for our six days in Switzerland.
The first day, we took the cable car to First, a mountain top with gorgeous views and a popular hiking area to a lake called Bachalpsee. There is also a thrilling cliff walk that is spectacular. Leave it to the clever Swiss to build something like this.
Another day we took the cable car to the Pfingstegg, a 10-minute cable ride up the Wetterhorn with great hikes offering unique views of Grindelwald and the glacier. There is a playground for children and a summer toboggan run. Grindelwald is the perfect spot for a family vacation. Everybody will forget about their devices and games when they are in the high alpine country. The Swiss introduce their children to hiking in the high country at an early age, just like the French teach their children to enjoy good food.
We also took our favorite cable ride from Grund to the Männlichen. Sitting in the gondola, you feel like flying above the tree tops and cow pastures with gorgeous views around you. This is something that will take your breath away. Once you reach Männlichen, you have a great place to eat and drink and a fun playground for young children. My man and I had tea and waited for the clouds to disappear before we began our walk to the Kleine Scheidegg, my favorite hike in the Swiss alps. The wildflowers had started to bloom and I was in heaven. As we got to the end of the walk, the Eigner north wall popped up between the clouds, while in the valley below was Grindelwald.
Once we reached the Kleine Scheidegg, there is a train junction for the Jungfraujoch. We took the train back to Grindelwald, although there is a spectacular hike around the Eigner, but we were too pooped. But before we took the train back, I had a piece of delicious apricot tart at the old Hotel Bellevue.
My husband, bless his heart, ran the Jungfrau marathon twice in past years, which starts in Interlaken and ends at the Kleine Scheidegg. My husband and I both had some sort of stomach virus. Thank God it was only for a couple of days. So we had very little to eat during that time. We left Grindelwald and drove to Riquewihr in Alsace Lorraine in France. This is a very touristy but cute little town. I did a little shopping by buying some linen that was spun nearby. This time, we had a great meal at a Grape D’Or . The food was great but the poor waitresses had far too many tables to serve. It was impossible to take care of that many people. I know, because I was a waitress when I was a student.
From Riquewihr, we dropped our car off in Frankfurt, Germany. In Frankfurt, we enjoyed a river cruise on the Main River. I also bought tea and some German spices. When in Frankfurt, I always go to the Freßgass (little street to “gorge”). This street is commonly regarded as Frankfurt’s culinary main street. I always buy something at Ebert Feinkost, a butcher shop that has great take-out food that you can eat outside on benches. The Grüne sauce is fantastic.
I took another trip to Germany to see my mom, but before I went to my village, my husband and I had some fun. We have our favorite places and went to some of them on this trip.
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.
You come to Grindelwald to hike . My favorite hike is from Kleine Männlichen to the Kleine Scheidegg. This hike is easy with children. The views are stunning and will take your breath away. Take the tram to the Kleine Männlichen , an experience by itself and then hike to the Kleine Scheidegg , where you can take the train down to Grindelwald or hike part of the way . The train has several stops. Many tourists take the Jungfrau-Bahn to the top of the Jungfrau. I have done it twice and it is beautiful and expensive. Don't go up unless it is a clear day.
Originally, we had planed to do some additional hiking in the Val de Herens, but there was nothing but rain in the forecast, so hiking was out. Instead, we decided to head for France, to the Burgundy to be precise. Here we are visiting some old haunts and doing some serious eating. Our five-hour drive took us through some scary mountain passes and our navigation system (we call her Missy) rerouted us over some very narrow roads because of the Tour de France. Mind you, it was drizzling rain and foggy part of the way. We made it and my sweetheart is taking a well-deserved nap before dinner. Foie gras.....here we come.
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.
Two Great days in Alsace Lorraine
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.
The last day in Alsace we had lunch at the L'Auberge DE I'LL in Illhausen. I decided to post this culinary highlight of our trip in a separate post. From Riquewihr, we drove to Assmanshausen, a village located on the Rhine River, an idyllic location lined with castles—remote and comfortable with outstanding wine and food. Assmanshausen is 10 km north of Rüdesheim. Instead of the tourist frenzy of Rüdesheim, enjoy the contemplative serenity of the northward flowing Rhine. From here, you can take river cruises, vineyard walks, funicular rides above the hills. You can combine the three of them, see Bingen, go by the Lorelei and visit Rüdesheim. At night, you come back to the peaceful setting of the river and surrender yourself to the good wine and good food and watch the tourist boats (river cruises) go by.
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.