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Monday, December 02, 2013

2013 Trip to Germany - Nuremberg, Bad Windsheim, and Heidelberg

When I was in Germany in September, I visited Nuremberg for the first time. I had posted a picture on Facebook, and Mom commented "I'm homesick for Germany."

That pretty much wrapped up the plans for our annual Thanksgiving trip. I imagined the Nuremberg Christmas Markets would be wonderful because the town was so picturesque. My parents had also expressed interest in returning to Heidelberg, where they had lived for 16 months after they were married. We had visited in 2005, but one of the lingering questions was whether or not the older German couple they lived with was still alive. Their name was still on the door in 2005, but they weren't at home the two times we stopped by. So, a return trip to Heidelberg was also in order.

So, here's mom's account of our trip, with some asides from me thrown in:

On the way!

F. T. and I left for Frank’s on Tuesday, Nov. 26th.  Had my hair done first.  Left beauty shop around 9:30 a.m.  The trip to Atlanta was our worst trip ever.  Rained all the way, stuck in traffic 3 hours.  After 10 hours we arrived at Frank’s.  We celebrated Frank’s birthday, we had steaks at the Colonade restaurant.

Frank did not have to work on Wednesday so it was no rush to get to  the airport. We left for Frankfort at 4:30 p.m. and arrived 6:30   a.m. their time.  Picked up a rental car and drove to Nürnberg, Germany.  Had to wait for room so we walked around while waiting.  We had lunch at Behringer’s Bratwursthausl, 

Das Bratwursthäusle
Nürnberg is known for their grilled sausage. They are small; this restaurant grilled them over an open flame.  F. T. and Frank had grilled sausage with sauerkraut, I had pork knuckle with potato salad, shared this with Frank and F. T. and they shared grilled sausage with me (very good).

[Frank adds: After lunch, we walked through Nuremberg and up to the Castle.]

Outside of the Castle

We had to buy distilled water for F. T.’s breathing machine, it was 5 Euros for one liter. Drinking water at restaurants was very expensive, about $4.75 a glass.

After eating we walked back to Le Meridien Grand Hotel and checked in. F.T. stayed in the hotel to catch up on email and Face book (and to rest) while Frank and I went shopping in the Christmas Markets. [Frank adds: We may have also had a bit of Glühwein - hot, mulled wine.]

Enjoying the Nürnberg Christmas Market

Le Meridien Grand-Hotel at night

Nürnberg is known for it Christmas markets. There, we bought croissants, cheese pretzels, ham, bread, cheese spread stuffed with peppers and olives all together.  It looked really good, but not 26 Euros good. We had no idea it would be this much.  I was going to tell them we didn’t want it, but Frank reached for his money and paid it.  This was our supper so we shopped a while more then back to the hotel.  Talked to Angela on the phone for a few minutes.   

Our Thanksgiving Spread from the Christmas Market

On Friday we has pastries for breakfast at a very cute sidewalk café.  We really enjoyed it.  We took the tram to Reichspartitagsgelande museum to see the gigantic remains of the former Nazi party rally grounds. The grounds cover 11 square kilometers.  This museum provided information about the causes, context and consequence of the National Socialist reign of terror. Photographs and documents illustrate both the buildings on the grounds and the history and background of the party rallies.  

Mom and Dad at Dokumentationszentrum Reichsparteitagsgelände

Inside the never completed Kongresshalle (Congress Hall)

Construction on much of the rally grounds stopped when WWII started
In the museum: a picture of our hotel in 1935
Our Hotel (Le Meridien Grand Hotel) and the adjacent hotel  now

Came back to the hotel and dined on our leftovers.  We went back to the Christmas Markets and and had supper at Barfusser.  F. T. had braised beef with potato dumpling, I had grilled pork knuckle in sauce with potato dumpling and Frank had weiner snitzel with potato salad. 

Pork Knuckle

Braised Beef

Wiener Schnitzel

Stayed at the Christmas markets for a while then back to the hotel.  The Christmas markets are a must see for everyone.  As you can see we love them.  As you can tell from my house, I love Christmas decorations and these are the most beautiful one you will ever see.  We like the mulled wine, all the mulled wine dealers work with a reusable cup system.  At the Christmas markets they have rides for kids.  They had 2 story carousel.  We also saw Santa Claus playing an accordian with a dog on his lap.  Gingerbread is another must have, Nuremberg is home of gingerbread.  Nuremberg has the largest punch bowl in the world.  It is located directly on the river.  It is where hot red wine and rum are brewed over an open flame.

Scenes from the Nuremberg and the Christmas Markets:

Alice and Frank in Nuremberg

Largest punch bowl in the world

Saturday we drove to Weigenheim about an hour from Nuremberg to visit Fritz and Helge and Gertraud and Friedrich Noth. We visited in their home for a few minutes and drank some orange juice before driving to Bad Windsheim with Fritz, Gertrude, and Fredrich.

Friedrich, Fritz, Mom, Gertraud, and Hilde at Fritz and Hilde's

We had lunch at Wirtshaus am Freilandmuseum.  F. T. and  I had cordon bleu and Frank had salad with filet steak.  All was very good.

Restaurant where we had lunch at Fränkisches Freilandmuseum

Then we toured the Museum of cultural heritage.  A very large area around 50 acres.  It documents the history of Franconian rural communities, how they lived, their crafts and how they built their homes.  One of the youngest museum of its kind in Germany.  All these buildings and homes were torn down in other parts of Germany and put back together here with original furniture.  We had homemade Gingerbread, coffee, and punch in one the houses.  Watched them cook on the wood stove (thought it was my mama, Mollie cooking on the stove).  We bought different kinds of cookies for our bed time snack.  

Homemade Gingerbread

This house was in the village where Friedrich grew up.
He could attest that it was rebuilt exactly as he remembered it, including the dog house out front. 
Mom and Gertraud with a pot in which Saurkraut was made

Then we went shopping at NKD in Bad Windsheim for Angela and Chris.  When we went in the store the clerk gave me a 40% off coupon. This was my kind of store.

Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas Market) in Bad Windsheim

F.T. and Alice at the Bad Windsheim Christmas Market
We also visited their Christmas markets and then drove to Heidelberg (about 2 hours). Bought diesel fuel at $7.27/gal.  Oil light came on during our drive to Heidelberg.  We arrived at our hotel, the Marriott, and had supper from our snacks that we brought with us.  We took a taxi to old town Heidelberg to see all the Christmas markets.  Our hotel was right on the Neckar river and we walked alongside the river back to the hotel, it was a beautiful walk.

Our view of the Neckar from our room at the Marriott Heidelberg

Sunday morning we had croissants for breakfast and then took the train to Am Rohrback Strasse.  This is where F. T. and I lived in 1966 - 1967.  Went to the old house and a new name was over the door.  We rang the doorbell and the lady told us the Scheurmann’s had moved.

Dad knocking on the door of their old house

She told us that Mrs. Scheurmann was still alive and was 89 years old but Mr. Scheurmann had died in 1980 at the age of 56.  The teenage daughter was living in Rothenberg, about 10 miles away.  She gave us her phone number and address and she was going to call her and tell her we had been by.  

We went back to the Christmas markets on the tram and I bought some souvenirs and we had lunch at the Café Extra Blatt. I thought this was the best restaurant we had eaten at.  So good we had supper here too. 
Cafe Blatt - so good we had lunch and dinner there. 

While we were eating lunch we called the daughter and Frank talked 15 minutes or more to her. She had already left 2 messages at the hotel.  She was so happy to talk to us. She is no longer a teenager, she is 64 years old.  We did not get to see her because she had plans for Sunday and we had to come home Monday. We have emailed her and are now Facebook friends.  She wants us to come back and see her - (another trip to Germany).

Heidelberg Christmas Market

Christmas Market under the Castle in Heidelberg

The last night in Heidelberg, Liam, one of Frank's younger fraternity brothers from Quinnipiac University who was studying in Heidelberg met us out at the Christmas Market.

Liam, Alice, and Frank
I was over charged 10 Euros at one of the Glühwein stations (it had to happen to me) they gave it back to us. (I can count euros)  They also bought fries instead of salad.  Everywhere I go this happens to me. (Thought I was at home.)  Back to the hotel, pack and get ready for airport on Monday.

We had to spend an hour trying to find out what to do with the oil light being on in the car.  Hertz closed on Sunday so we had to talk to their Emergency Roadside Assistance and was told to put oil in it and they would pay us back, but then to find out what kind of oil.  Got to the airport to return the car and find office for Hertz and get our $25 back.  At last back on the plane to Atlanta - 10 hour flight back.  On our plane was a dead soldier being escorted back home by an Army Sergeant.  They were going to Ft. Bragg.  This was very touching to see a flag painted on the luggage cart to carry the body to a connecting flight to Raleigh-Durham airport.

A very nice trip.  Enjoyed it so much.  Hope someday Angela, Chris, Catherine and Carrie can go with us.  On Tuesday we left Frank’s and headed for home. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Vacationing in the South of France

When my friends Julien and Sarah moved from Paris to the Southwest of France, where they were originally from, they told me that there was a room with my name on it. A few months ago, I decided that mid-August would be a good time for a holiday in France, so I made arrangements to take them up on it.

I left Atlanta for Paris on Saturday evening, and arrived Sunday morning in Paris, connecting to an Air France flight to Pau-Pyrenees airport, where Julien, Sarah, and Matthieu met me. First, we went to Julien’s mother and father’s house nearby, with beautiful views of the countryside. This gave me the chance to take a quick shower after the long flight and to freshen up a bit.

The view from Julien's parents' terrace

Afterwards, we stopped by an outdoor church sanctuary where there was a mass going on. It was beautiful. The creek behind it used to be Julien’s playground, he said. Then, we went into central Pau where we saw the Chatâteau de Pau where King Henry IV was born.

Chatâteau de Pau

We met Julien’s sister Sarah and her boyfriend Sebastien for a wonderful lunch at Brasserie L’Aragon, with spectacular views of the Pyrenees as we sat outdoors.


Walking to the beach
After lunch, we drove to the coast to La Plage des Cacernes near Seignosse.  We all played in the huge waves, and I napped some on the beach.

La plage des Casernes, Seignosse, France
Julien and Sarah's house
When we got to Julien’s and Sarah’s house in Mont-de-Marsan, I was greeted by Grispoil, Sarah’s cat who I had met years before in Lille. She really liked me – I think she remembered me.


Julien cooked a dinner of pasta and steak, and we sat outdoors to dine around a table that would become quite comfortable and familiar over the next few days.

The next morning, Julien and Sarah prepared ratatouille with all fresh ingredients, as well as a mushroom omelet with incredible mushrooms porcini mushrooms, called cèpes in France.  (The mushrooms cooked slightly then stored in a jar with sunflower oil for years.)

Preparing lunch
Lunch is served!
After lunch, we drove just just east of Mont-de-Marsan to Arthez-d'Armagnac to visit Domaine d'Ognoas, about 1600 acres of farmland used for winegrowing and growing oaks for the oak barrels. The wine produced is distilled to make Armagnac, a kind of brandy distilled in this region. (This was the first region of France to begin distilling.)

The distillery
After touring the distillery, we go to taste some of the final product (barreled in 1994, and served from the barrel.)

Serving from the cask

Afterwards, we tried to do a three hour walk around the grounds, but somehow took a wrong turn. That armagnac must have been strong. So instead we stopped at a nice little brasserie for some beers before heading back home for dinner.

Tuesday morning, we drove to Col D'Ibardin in the Basque region of Spain. On the way up the hillside, we had to stop to let goats cross the road.

Once we got to the top, this was our amazing view, looking back towards Saint-Jean-de-Luz, France.We had lunch outdoors overlooking this spot. Afterwards, Julien and Sarah did some shopping for what would be an incredible dinner.

On the way back to Mont-de-Marsan, we spent the afternoon in Bayonne, France - a beautiful city in the Basque region. (Interesting side note, Bayonne is the birthplace of the bayonet. Soldiers running out of bullets shoved their knives into the barrels of their guns.) Bayonne was a fortified city during the Roman occupation of Aquitaine. It's fortifications are part of the Unesco World Heritage sites, and the Cathedral there, the Notre Dame is part of this, though the spires (pictured below) were added in the 19th century.

Inside the Cathedral:

We walked around town, saw the river (the Grand Bayonne) had some drinks at a brasserie, then stopped by another outdoor cafe by the Cathedral, where we sat under huge magnolias and enjoyed another beverage.

The Grand Bayonne
Sarah and I in Bayonne

That night, Sarah and Julien cooked an amazing meal using all of the fresh ingredients they bought in Spain, and Julien's sister Sarah and her boyfriend Sebastien came over for a wonderful dinner.

The next morning, we were joined by one of Sarah's coworkers for lunch, then traveled to Léon to a lake there (le lac de Léon) where we rode a boat down "Le Courant d'Huchet, a coastal river that runs from the lake to the ocean. It was a wonderful four hour trip -- very beautiful and peaceful.

Boats leaving the lake

Duck hunting cabin on the edge of the lake

Matthieu as we make our way out to the river

Swamp Hibiscus 
Roots of the giant bald cypresses

Reaching the dunes of the ocean
The ocean 

That night, we had a fabulous dinner for my last night in France. We drove out to Morlanne to a fantastic restaurant called Cap E Tot.

Ravioles de lapin au citron
(or Rabbit Ravioli with creamy citrus sauce)
Magret de canard aux poires et foie gras
(Duck breast with roasted pears and foie gras)

This amazing seven course meal was a fantastic way to end an amazing trip. Julien drove me to Bordeaux the next morning and I flew back to Paris for my return flight to Atlanta. For my first time in the southwest of France, I covered a lot of territory!

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