Friday, August 28, 2009


Well, the weather sure has been amazing here this summer. We have to admit we haven't missed the Texas heat a bit.

When my Aunt and Mom were here in March, my Aunt was kind enough to get us a gift certificate to a restaurant in Wiesbaden for our anniversary. Shea and I held onto it until the weather got nice this summer so we could head over to Wiesbaden and enjoy it.

We went on a Saturday in July and had a great day. Only 45 minutes away by train, Wiesbaden is the capital of the German state of Hessen and is known for fashion, it's elegant spas, and ritzy casino. We ventured over and took in the sites and enjoyed an outdoor lunch at the wonderful restaurant (Thanks Aunt Marianne!). After that we indulged in an hour massage just to completely pamper ourselves. We really enjoyed our visit there and will definitely be back.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Romantic Road

Hugs and Smooches await you if you completely read this post....that should set the stage and put you in the right mood for the tale of our trip down the Romantic Road.

The Romantic Road is a series of small two lane roads that run from the Main River (about an hour East of Frankfurt) south all the way through Germany into the Alps. The trip takes you through river valleys, beautiful fertile fields, through vinyards, over crystal blue lakes, through forests, and then into the breath-taking mountains. Along the way you drive through numerous medieval towns and small villages, and you are rewarded with stunning views of castles and peeks into quaint German life.

We rented a car and left Frankfurt on Wednesday, June 17th, in the afternoon. We got out of town a little later than we had hoped so that meant that I had to do my part and see what this little rental car could do on the Autobahn. As it turned out, it wasn't much, but we were happy to be together on an adventure. The Romantic Road-Warriors consisted of Shea, her Mom...Elaine, and Dad...Rob, and me. (Her parents have been party to our adventures before...See Hola Barcelona post and posts around Christmas 2008)
Once you turn onto the Romantic Road from the Autobahn, you are immediately amazed at just how dramatic the landscape is. We were greeted by the most beautiful open fields that stretched as far as you could see. Pretty soon we started to recognize that the entire way of living is different from what we are used to. About every 5 miles you entered a small little village that probably wasn't home to more than 250 people. There would be several homes, a beautiful church that dominated the village, maybe one local restaurant, and a Bed and Breakfast. That was it. Adjacent to the people's homes would be there their barns where they kept their farming equipment and tractors. Almost all of them were open this time of year and we could see people working together and filling their lofts with hay. It made us realize how peaceful it was here, and we were all amazed at the beautiful simplicity. Farmers pedaled their bicycles in their overalls down the road, who knows, maybe to check their fields or to go drink a beer with someone in the next village over. Super cool.
After traveling for about two hours, we made our first stop in the medieval city of Rothenburg ob der Tauber. It is a well-known city that sits atop a hill overlooking the Tauber River, and it is completely surrounded by an enormous stone wall. We parked and went inside one of the gates and were struck by the beauty of this place. It is the ideal romantic image of ancient living. Historians have been drawn to this place for hundreds of years, and it is easy to see why. We only had about an hour and a half to spend here because we had a Bed and Breakfast reservation to make 2 hours down the road. We were all a bit hungry, though, so we decided to eat here. We found a marvelous little restaurant and were told the only available seating was inside at the "English Conversation Club" table. We all looked at each other and said, "We certainly have the prerequisites down" and were ushered to the table. We made room for ourselves and were quickly engrossed in conversation with people from all over the world. We came to find out that every Wednesday night this club has been meeting at this restaurant for the last 25 years. Started by local Germans from Rothenburg who wanted to work on their English, the famous travel personality from PBS Rick Steves stumbled upon this club many years ago and writes about it in his travel books about Germany. The German members of the club were very proud of that fact and told each of us about it close to a dozen times.
I was more intrigued to hear the stories from the two elderly German men in their mid-80's seated next to me. I spoke with them several minutes when they started talking about "the War". They were very open and honest and told us about their time in the Nazi Army and what their jobs were and where they were stationed. They told us matter-of-factly about their time in American prison camps and later French prison camps, and how they came to arrive back in Rothenburg. They both expressed admiration for the United States, its military, and its way of life, and I felt amazing pride. Thanks "Greatest Generation"!
We all ordered dinner and thought that if we could eat quickly we would be able to get out of town and make our reservation. One of the 80 year olds leaned over and said to me "Oh, you ordered dinner? Guess, I will see you here next week", we all then knew we might be here for a while. Dinner finally arrived and we ate quickly and made for the door. Though it took a bit longer than we expected, it certainly was a night filled with stories we will remember.
We hit the road and called our Bed and Breakfast in Donauworth (about the half-way point of the Romantic Road) for the night. Fortunately for us, the owner was extremely generous and waited up for us as we ended up not arriving till well after midnight due to my amazing ability to get us lost and then even more lost.
The next day we continued our road trip south and started entering some different landscape with tree filled rolling hills and grazing land for cattle. Rob is an honest to goodness Oklahoma cowboy, so he was in heaven seeing the cattle surrounded by such a beautiful backdrop. The weather was amazingly clear on Thursday and as we drove south checking out the scenery...all at once it seemed that we were struck by the panorama of the Alps laid out before us. Simply breathtaking!
We continued driving until we reached the town of Fussen near the German and Austrian border. Fussen is home to the castle Neuschwanstein, which is the castle Walt Disney based the Disney World castles on. We took our time and stopped at the most cystal blue mountain lake in Fussen and took some stunning pictures of the landscape, before heading into the town and then on to tour the castle.
We ate some lunch and then made it up the mountain to the castle for our tour. The castle is pretty remarkable but the views from it and its surrounding trails are just as exquisite. After taking some time to soak it all in, we headed back down to the car and drove from Fussen, through Austria, to Garmisch, Germany. Garmisch is the home to the tallest mountain in Germany, the Zugspitze, and a cable car is available to take in the Alps from the summit.
We were all looking forward to the views but didn't quite make it in time to be able to get to the top on Thursday. Come on Friday weather!
{Bass drum rolls and cymbals crash} Unfortunately the clouds started dumping buckets early on Friday and prevented us from our summit possibility. We asked around and everyone said that it would be a complete waste of money to go up because we would be encased in clouds, so we missed being able to take in the mountain view. So…looks like we will have to make the trip again in order to see it? Anyone up for it?
We hung out in Garmisch for a while on Friday and then decided that since it was going to rain all day, a trip to Munich would provide ample opportunity for Rob and Elaine to take in a giant beer and scratch their Polka music off we went. We drove into Munich and hit the big sites quickly, Glockenspeil-Check, Dom-Check, Haufbrauhaus-Check. During lunch we devised our gameplan, back to Garmisch to gamble on the weather for Saturday or back to Rothenburg...All in favor-Rothenburg. Everyone had so enjoyed it there that we wanted to go back and get to tour the entire city. So, a hotel reservation was made and off we were. We got back into Rothenburg and spent Friday evening and Saturday morning walking the cobble stone streets and touring the town with its wonderful sites.
After lunch on Saturday, it was back to Frankfurt to pack up Rob and Elaine to send them back to the States road weary and German beer drunk.
All in all, it was a wonderful trip, and we would love to take some time to tour it again.
As promised for those of you who finish this blog here our your coupons for your Hugs and Smooches…please see Shea for reimbursement.

Hola Barcelona!

I know, I know...I've been slacking off and this post has been a long time coming- Sorry for the delay.

So, on Thursday, June 11th, Shea and I met her parents in Barcelona, Spain, for a few days of sightseeing and sunbathing.

Let me start by saying that Barcelona is incredible. There is so much to see and do...and when you throw a beach in the mix the mathematical "This place is really cool" quotient jumps up a few points. Barcelona is located in the Catalunya area of Spain, were you are just as likely to hear Catalan as Spanish. It is home to around 3 million people and is nestled between the Mediterranean Sea and Collserola mountains, making for a picturesque city with many beautiful views. It is most famously known as the home of the architect Antonio Gaudi and his masterpiece La Sagrada Familia Cathedral, the 1992 Summer Olympics, and lots of Sangria in our tummies.

We arrived a little after lunchtime and caught a taxi to our hotel set on the boardwalk of the Mediterranean. Perfect spot to enjoy the beach and easily catch a bus into the heart of downtown. We met up with Shea's parents at the hotel and decided to head for a walk down the boardwalk. We caught a late lunch and a pitcher of Sangria. Delicioso!

We then headed to the beach and quickly noticed that even my vast Speedo collection would be over dressing for this beach. Shea's Mom turned about the color of our recently imbibed red-wine Sangria's. Hola Bare-buns-celona!

After we all took in the sights for a few minutes (wink-wink), we decided to head back to the hotel to freshen up before going downtown for a few hours of sightseeing and dinner. We took a bus to the center of town and enjoyed walking through the beautiful buildings and fountains. We walked for a bit and came across the historic Catholic cathedral in the center of the city. It was undergoing a lot of renovation so we meandered on by and zig-zagged our way through the small streets of the older areas of the city. We discovered the main government buildings, as noted by the large demonstration going on out front. Everyone was a little tired and jet lagged from the day's travel, so we headed back to the hotel and called it a night.

Friday was beach day! So, after a nice breakfast on the boardwalk we headed down to soak up some rays. I got to swim in the Mediterranean for the first time and Shea got to sunbathe in the warmest weather we had seen in 10 months. With the surfside bar serving Sangria less than 50 feet away, we may have been heard uttering,"this is the life" a time or two. The sun was definitely hotter than we were used too, as it did a pretty good burn number on Shea's Dad. So, after a few hours we headed back to the hotel before heading downtown for another nice meal in the city. We made our way into a tucked away restaurant with a large courtyard. We enjoyed a quiet meal together...that is until a marching band made its way into the courtyard and started serenading what seemed like the whole city. We finished up dinner and strolled through some shops were the ladies did only a little damage, wrapping up a wonderful Spanish evening.

On Saturday, we took a hop-on/hop-off bus tour. There was so much to see and we certainly didn't want to miss anything. We started the tour bright and early at 9 and didn't finish until 5. A full day at the office. We saw all the beautiful sites of the city including the Olympic area, the National Museum, a Castle of the royal family of Catalunya, Futbal Club Barcelona's home stadium, the Port area, and numerous parks. We decided to take the special tour of La Sagrada Familia Cathedral. The Cathedral has been under construction for over 120 years and still has another 30 to go. It will be the tallest Cathedral in all of Europe once completed. Gaudi was inspired by nature and his designs for the church make it like none other in the world. It was really amazing (but they still have a long way to go!) We also saw numerous other buildings designed by him as well.

On Saturday night we followed a suggestion and tried a seaside restaurant called La Fonda Del Porto Olimpico. It was an amazing meal, and we all truly enjoyed our last night in Barcelona before our early departure on Sunday.

We had a great time and would love to get back and travel around outside the city and enjoy more of the Catalunya culture.