Bare Necessities

22523AEA-49A2-43D5-A29E-158E7EFA0C91I love planning a trip, packing for a trip and heading out the door on my next adventure. Mind you I am not talking about safaris, National Geographic excursions or back packing along the Appalachian trail. No, my travel involves trips to France, Italy, and the occasional cruise. Tame by some standards but challenging as well.

For the most part, my travels do not present imminent danger, but they do require some bare necessities. There can be obstacles to face, decisions on logistics, where to go, how to get there and where to stay are critical.

Often my solution is to delegate: I let my husband sort through the multitude of travel guides and on-line resources to narrow options down to a reasonable list. It gives him purpose to his retired life style and he loves doing it. We don’t require fancy accommodations; a good location that is clean and safe can suit our needs. Yet, when traveling internationally, there can still be unplanned situations calling for forward-thinking travel savvy.

I am only fluent in my native English language but have made a good effort in learning the basics in French, Italian and German to maintain proper greetings and ask for directions. Two suggestions for those planning your first trip to anywhere.

Learn the words for foods you do not like to eat. This will save you uncomfortable gastronomic experiences when served a meatloaf in a pig’s belly vs the pork chop you expected.

Learn how to ask for directions.

Où sont les toilettes s’il vous plaît?
Per favore, puoi dirmi dove è il gabinetto?
Bitte, wo ist die Toilette?

Yes, simple little phases that can make your life much more comfortable no matter where you are! Keep in mind, once you have mastered these phases, your challenge is far from over. You will need to take careful note of the hand signal directions and quick words returned in answer to your question. Often, I would recommend a repeat of the hand signals just to confirm you got it. If the moment is urgent you do not want to head off in the wrong direction.

3EF5A390-424B-4CAB-9B4D-2CAB5C9DAA0A
In a small (or huge) town, using the WC of a restaurant should not be a problem. It is recommended that you become a patron of the establishment before you embark on your search for the restroom. We think it is worth the price of a café, a glass of wine or beer to avoid using the public toilets or a big tree.

IMG_4272

Once you have located your destination, you will need to figure out the facilities which can have varying degrees of complexity, cleanliness or lack thereof. All obstacles that can make or break the moment. For example, there is one style of toilet where you push a button and the seat cover automatically advances to a clean spot. To avoid injury, don’t sit down until it stops.

7E7B0915-9A4D-4794-AC4F-9966446B0F90
One of the more interesting facilities has two places for your feet with a hole in the middle. This unit is great for practicing your aim while attempting to keep your clothes out of the target area. It may take some getting used to but you have no worries of a dirty seat cover! My advice, ladies, do not travel in a jumpsuit. You will never get out of it in time to use this type of toilet!

 

 

Beyond these standards, there are facilities with no toilet seat, I suggest hovering on this one. Occasionally there may be pay toilets, have your change ready.

On my recent trip to Germany, my friend Christl gave me a handful of change. It came in handy more than I expected to gain access to the WC or to pay a hovering attendant for a scrap of toilet tissue.

424B12CE-EA17-4F22-93F0-780B839A0DF1
You might run into public facilities where the men and women’s restrooms are very close together. I say, get in, do your business and get out.

Last but not to be overlooked, are the hotels with the bathroom down the hall, I avoid these accommodations.

 

One final complication to moments of urgency are the roadside conveniences. It is more common all the time to find large, clean facilities on major highways. But if you are traveling what we call the scenic goat roads, you may go miles beyond your capacity to hold it. During one experience, my husband was set on showing me a most interesting cemetery. I mean no disrespect to the dead but I did find a quiet, clean little spot beyond the cemetery stonewall to make my peace.

706176DF-F03A-4D62-A226-869F0B60080D
Traveling anywhere can be an adventure. Before the call of nature becomes the call of the wild, remember there is relief on the road ahead. Just be prepared with realistic expectations to meet the challenges of your “bare necessities”.

 

Route du Vin

IMG_0282

 

I have to admit, on our trips we may be on a Route de la Chèvre, but we are ALWAYS on the Route du Vin. Traveling with Bill, a seasoned traveler and  knowledgeable winemaker, he often guides our travels into food and wine decadence.

 

 

 

Bill, Nancy and most of our wine drinking friends prefer a dry wine experience. As a lesson in wine selection, the label or your server should provide you with some basic information: vintage, grape variety, origin and whether the product is dry or off dry. Here are some clues for searching for a dry wine.

France – Vin sec
Germany – Trocken wine
Italy – Vino secco
USA – Dry

From there you can match your choices to your varietal tastes and budget. For myself, I put down my menu and ask Bill to select something I will like. He is seldom wrong on this.

Beginning our trip in Bavaria, Bill spent an afternoon chatting with a charming Winzer or wine grower. The topics are all similar wherever we go, climate, soil conditions and environmental threats to the grapes.

German Wine Law requires 6 items to be included on the label. Unfortunately vintage and grape variety are not required. The best option is to decide white or red and the level of “Trocken” you desire.

We came home with two bottles of German wine, a Riesling and a Merlot from Gehrig in Weisenheim am Sand and the labels were clear that the Riesling was “Trocken” or dry and the Merlot is a Blanc (White) de Noir.

IMG_4281

We are both looking forward to tasting the Merlot. The Riesling we might save for a warm summer afternoon.

 

 

 

Alsatian wines are unique and some of “Bill’s favorites”. We visited the Wolfberger Winery in Eguisheim which has a beautiful tasting room, Sipp Mack in Hunawihr and a few others along the way. From Alsace we brought home a Riesling and several bottles of Gewürztraminer. The Gewürztraminer with a little creme d’ cassis makes a fabulous Kir, a popular aperitif at our house.

Incidentally, on the back label of the Alsatian wines, there is a chart which helps you identify the level of “vin sec”. Very helpful.

IMG_4283

 

071D0C45-023E-401F-B450-1CF2CF2FDF71

The Burgundian wines, mainly chardonnay and Pinot Noir are typically sorted out by the area the grapes are sourced from. A single winery can produce Grand Cru, Premier Cru and a Village wine. We were able to taste all levels of wine on our visit to Imaginarium in Nuits-Saint-Georges, where they had a cruvinet that allowed us to taste some higher end wines.

 

It is possible to also look for opportunities in restaurants that might be serving some better wines by the glass. We like to confirm the bottles are stored correctly, optimally in a machine that will protect the open wine from oxidation. The O’Chateau wine bar in Paris offers a great selection of wines by the glass at all price levels and a knowledgeable server to explain the source and characteristics of the wine.

IMG_0158As far as what we like, our go to wine of choice is a Cotes du Rhone. It is reasonably priced and most of the time proves to be a good pairing to the food we enjoy. Our white wine selections are typically a higher priced variety and a special treat for us. Sancere is a particular favorite from the western part of the Loire Valley, primarily associated with Sauvignon blanc.

While considering your wine palate, think of your preferences of dry or sweet, red or white, grape variety and when you have the bottle in hand, be sure the read the label, front and back. There is always something to learn.

A couple of other beverages I also enjoyed along the way.

fullsizeoutput_231

 

The “Tango” or “Monaco” – Beer with a splash of grenadine or in this case a BIG beer. Some also have French Lemonade added to them.

 

 

 

 

IMG_3585

 

The Aperol Spritz – Aperol with prosecco or sparkling water and an orange slice. Yum!

 

 

 

 

IMG_4272

 

The very popular double espresso

 

 

 

 

And when you just are not sure of what you want, there is always this fall-back from home available down the street with free WIFI.

IMG_4227

Cheers!

My Favorite Things

It is the end of the trip but not the journey. We arrived home with two full bags of dirty laundry, seven bottles of wine and two bad colds. This was a memorable trip where we saw new places and revisited places we love. My Favorite Things fall into two categories.

  1. Sites
  2. Food and Beverage (Stay tuned for our favorite foods, wines and the places that serve them)

In this blog I will cover sites as apparently, according to our traveling partner Larry, the food and drink choices would be too big to cover in one blog along with the sites. I am sure he is kidding, isn’t he?

IMG_2962

 

The Bavarian Experience: Just to recap, on September 6th we landed in Munich, Germany to be greeted by our Bavarian friends, Herbert and Christl. This was a special time we will long remember.

 

 

 

Beaufiful, historic Regensburg, the Danube River and Weltenburg Abby

 

cof

 

The search for an old friend: We drove our rented car to Weisenheim am Sand, Germany. This was a visit that rewarded us with meeting Gerhard Friedemann and locating Arnd.  Truly a bit of magic in this trip.

 

 

Visiting the picturesque Alsace region, France: Degustation (wine tasting), photo ops and unique cuisine abound in this region.

 

Getting high in the French Alps: The Chamonix valley is located in the French Alps and has striking views of Mont Blanc. There is a exciting set of 2 funicular cable cars that whisk you up the mountain. The station of the Aiguille du Midi has several terraces where visitors can take in the spectacular views of the French, Swiss and Italian Alps. This was a thrill at 12,600 feet.

 

Cruising in Annecy: Next we traveled to the pre-alps lake town of Annecy. This is a big-little town with a great, historical old town and a beautiful lake.

 

Burgundy, an area that brings tears to the eyes of all wine lovers: The  slopes of the Côte d’Or produce the world’s finest and most expensive Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wine. The tears must come from not owning a couple of acres of this land or viewing the cost of the Grand Cru wines. We have had the opportunity to visit this area in the past, and always enjoy Beaune and the country side in the heart of Burgundy.

 

The Paris Experience: From Beaune we moved on to our final destination, Paris. We met the rest of our traveling crew, Larry, Lynn and Kathy and headed for our rented apartment near the Eiffel Tower and close to the pedestrian area of Rue Cler.

One of our favorite things is visiting the markets. It is a meandering trip through fresh produce, meats, cheese and seafood, displayed in typical Parisian art form.

 

1EDFE6BA-E79A-4664-BEAD-816549E0B031Something’s are ready to eat, many things you would like to take home and a few things I would never eat.  C’est la vie 

 

An hour train ride to Medival times: We made a field trip from Paris to Provins where we enjoyed a fabulous Birds of Prey show and the well preserved medival sites of this city.

 

 

Navigating the Paris Canals: Back in Paris, we took the Paris Canal boat through the canal St. Martin which terminated at the Musee d’ Orsay.

 

 

So Many Museums and so little time:

 

The Musee d’Orsay, converted from a train station is a must see in Paris where one can visit all the favorite impressionists, Monet, Manet, Renoir, Degas, Van Gough and more.

Small and stately, the Jacquemart-Andre museum, housed in a lavish mansion is an enjoyable way to visit the art we love. This site has permanent and temporary exhibits and a very nice cafe making a visit a special experience.

 

Marmottan-Monet museum is largely dedicated to the art of Monet and his impressionist friends. Located on the outskirts of Paris, it has a fabulous collection of the father of Impressionism, Claude Monet and a good collection of Monet’s impressionists friends.

 

My traveling crew:  My very favorite, Bill, our neighbors, Larry and Lynn and our very good friend, Kathy. Where you go and what you do in greatly enhanced by who you share it with!

 

 

If you have reached the end of this post, I just want to say there were many more sites and experiences we enjoyed. These stand out as sites I would recommend to all my traveling friends.

Paris is a city that kind of attacks you and I doubt one can ever see it all. As we travel home we are already contemplating our next trip! Where shall we go and what will we see?

image000000

Until we meet again, Gerhard

IMG_0176

Traveling is a great opportunity to meet new friends. I found there are three different types.

There are the folks you meet for 20 minutes or so, trade travel tips and stories, then go on along your way, unlikely to cross paths again.

Occasionally you can meet someone you know will become a life long friend such as Herbert and Christl, the Bavarian couple we met on a Panama cruise last year.

The last type of encounter is meeting someone you can only hope to meet again. This is Gerhard; the charming man we met in Weisenheim am Sand. He was sitting near our table in a coffee shop and Bill asked him if he might know what happened to the Neckerauer Winery and our friend Arnd. Gerhard proceeded to call a local winery, get the phone number and contact Arnd to create a magic reunion for us.

FullSizeRender

During our conversation, Gerhard shared a little about his life and asked us to do the same. He was fiercely proud of the local wine industry and nearing the end of our visit he jumped up, told us to stay put and walked around the corner to his friend’s winery, returning with two bottles of wine. The kindness he shared with us will long be remembered. Until we meet again, Gerhard.

 

image1As you travel far and near, look around; is there a Gerhard waiting to chat with you?

Auf Wiedersehen

 

 

Bavaria – Favorites

IMG_3252

Herbert and Christiana – our wonderful Bavarian hosts and good friends

image

The beautiful city of Regensburg, on the Danube River. Rich with history and Bavarian traditions.

IMG_3235

Weinschorle – Weiss oder rot – This is a refreshing mix of wine (white or red) with water. Great treat to have during a stroll through Bavaria or anywhere!

 

Amazing sites along the Danube River – King Ludwig I Liberation Hall and Walhalla.

 

Wonderful and unique food – Christl’s Pumpkin Soup, Schnitzel and Kaiserschwarrn. There is a interesting story for each traditional food.

IMG_2977

Our fantastic tour guide, Stefan. He speaks very good English, has great knowledge of Regensburg and loves to play the guitar. He is also very fond of a good Bavarian beer. Thank you Stefan!

 

The Sausage kitchen with tasting special mustard, yum!

 

A winemaker’s tour of the Bavarian Wine culture.

Thank you Herbert and Christl, Thank you Bavaria!

Auf Wiedersehen