June 7, 2011

Exploring the Mosel

Posted in Uncategorized at 5:58 pm by newsurroundings

My family and I just arrived home after spending a few days in the beautiful Mosel Valley in Germany.  We wanted to go somewhere that was not too far from home (our driving limit was 3 hours) and somewhere that would be relaxing and where we could go biking. This turned out to be the perfect place.

We began our journey in Trier, the oldest city in Germany, which was founded in 16 B.C.  We walked around the city and visited the Dom and the Roman ruins.  The city was a nice mix of historical sights and cute shops in half-timbered buildings.  It was a holiday in most of Europe (Ascension Day), so most of the stores were closed though.  We had a nice dinner out, complete with salads, even with the threat of the E.Coli infection looming in the back of our minds.

The next morning we packed up and drove to Bernkastel-Kues, where we would stay the next two nights.  We were thrilled when we arrived in this lovely village on the Mosel.  It has a charming square and castle ruins looming over the city, where we hiked up for some great views.

After spending a few hours here, we headed to Burg Eltz, an 800 year old authentic castle deep in the woods.  The drive was lovely, with the tranquil Mosel surrounded on both sides by steep vineyards.  This is the land of Riesling wines.  We parked and hiked for about 15 minutes through the woods until we reached the castle.  We had to wait a little while for an English-speaking tour,but it was well worth it.  The castle has been perfectly preserved and it was a very interesting sight.

We were close to Cochem, one of the main attractions along the Mosel, so we headed there for dinner.  It has a beautiful castle, which we couldn’t stop taking pictures of, and a lovely promenade.  We enjoyed some good German food (Schnitzel and apple strudel) and then headed back to Bernkastel-Kues for the night.

We had breakfast at the hotel and then walked across the street to the old train station where we rented bikes for the day.  Within the first 15 minutes, Erin and I lost the boys (my fault, because I went straight when the bike path took a turn),and were on our own the rest of the day.  It was very easy biking because we just followed the river for the next 20 kilometers.  We passed lots of camp grounds and, although I’m sure that is great family fun, I was thankful for our nice hotel room.  The Mosel is lined with bed and breakfasts and nice little restaurants where you can stop for a glass of wine or a snack.  It was so scenic that we just wanted to keep going, but we knew we had to bike back so we turned around when we arrived at the very charming town of Traben-Trarbach.

Bryan and Kevin arrived back shortly after we did and we had dinner together in Bernkastel-Kues.  We were having trouble finding a place that we all liked, so we ended up at a place that was bound to make everyone happy- a pizzeria.

There was a wine festival going on that night and the people on the ship outside our hotel room were having a grand time all night long , so we didn’t get much sleep that night.  That was ok, though, because we all had such a good time and hope we will have the chance to return someday.

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June 6, 2011

In Pursuit of the World’s Best Beers

Posted in Uncategorized at 7:49 pm by newsurroundings

My son, Kevin, is on a mission to find, taste, and purchase the world’s best beers.  Today we drove to Westvleteren, Belgium to pick up a case that he had ordered.  The beer is made by the monks and they only make as much as needed to cover the costs of running the Abbey each month, so supplies are limited.  They have a phone line set up which you must call and make an appointment to pick up a maximum of one case per month.  In order to ensure that you’re not getting more than your fair share, they record your license plate number and check it when you get there.  So, if you have two cars in your family, it is possible to get two cases each month if you call from two different phone numbers and pick up each case in separate cars.  We will not be doing that, I can assure you.  With traffic, which was worsened by heavy rain today, and ongoing road construction, it took a total of 6 hours for the trip.  The boys in the family think it was worth it.  It was a unique opportunity, so I was happy to oblige- at least once.