When I originally started planning this trip, I looked at hotels in Modena, Bologna, and Parma. I finally decided on Parma after reading a couple of blog posts written by other people and looking at the lodging available there. Originally, I chose a highly rated B&B in a suburban part of Parma, but then I read some of the reviews and changed my mind. The place was called “beautiful”, but people complained that it was in a boring suburb of Parma. I had some other doubts when I read the owner’s responses to some of the more negative comments she got.
Then I spotted what looked like a very beautiful place in Torrechiara, which is about ten miles from Parma. La Locanda del Borgo is a B&B located on the grounds of Torrechiara Castle, a manor that dates from the 15th century and sits atop a hill. For a very reasonable price, you get a tiny room with a shower and breakfast. Next door to the B&B is a restaurant, and across the cobblestoned passageway, there’s a shop where you can buy Parma ham, Parmesan cheeses, and some very delicious locally produced wines. If you want to, you can sit outside of the shop and enjoy a bottle of wine while you eat slivers of Parma ham and nuggets of Parmesan cheese. This property was significantly less expensive than the other one was, and Bill loved the idea of staying at a castle. So I booked it on Booking.com, and looked forward to our visit.
I see now, from looking at the official Web site, we were in the Bianca Room, which is a “double room” priced at 110 euros per night. I don’t know why I didn’t book a superior room, which was only 20 euros more per night. I usually splurge when I can. Maybe it was unavailable. If we ever stay at La Locanda del Borgo again, I will definitely go for the superior room, because the double room was tiny.
On the way to Italy, we stopped at one of the ubiquitous Autogrills. The one we chose was not one of the better ones, as it had an Italian fast food restaurant called Old Wild West. We should have been smarter and driven a little bit further, but we stopped there for lunch. I was reminded that not all food in Italy is delicious. But that was one of the very few places where our “green passes” were checked. On May 1, the green pass check became obsolete.
We arrived at the castle on April 24th, a Sunday. There were many people there, visiting the castle for the day, which can be toured every day except Mondays. Consequently, parking was a challenge. There are a few public lots at the bottom of the hill, but given how much luggage we had, it would not have been feasible to haul our bags up the hill. Bill actually got quite a workout when he was forced to park down there once because there simply wasn’t any parking near the castle. As it was, the day of our arrival, we had to park around the back of the castle, where lots of people’s cars lined the dirt road. On the positive side, once the castle closed, people cleared out of there and Bill was able to move the car closer.
The views at the castle are absolutely beautiful. We did try to tour the structure on our first arrival, but COVID rules were still in place, and there were too many people were already in the castle when we wanted to go. So, we decided to hit the bottle shop, instead. That turned out to be a great use of our time. The shop owner was blasting fun music from the 70s– think ABBA, the Bee Gees, and Chic. We drank two bottles of beautiful wines… I know, I know… my liver and kidneys are crying uncle just from the memory. But it really was nice wine. I wish we’d bought some to bring home with us. Below are some of the photos I took of the castle before we started drinking…
As you can see, Bill was loving the wine and freedom from work!
Breakfast at the B&B was served from 7:00am until 10:00am. On offer were cream filled cornettos (like Italian croissants), plain cornettos, Parma ham sandwiches, boiled eggs, fresh fruit, cereal, yogurt, coffee, tea, and juice. During our visit, COVID rules were still in place, so we wore masks when we were inside, except for when we were in our room.
At the bottom of the hill, there was another restaurant that wasn’t open during our visit. There was also a little plaza where there was a bar, pizzeria, and shop. Not far away was a grocery store, where Bill found us some snacks. I’d say my favorite part about our stay at the castle was the wine we drank. It was outstanding. I’m going to see if I can order some to come to our house!
Before I get started with part four of this series, I want to record something funny that happened this morning when I walked the dogs. Unfortunately, both of my boys seem to have picked up kennel cough during their recent stay at their Hundepension. Kennel cough is annoying and very contagious, but it’s kind of like catching a cold. In most cases, it goes away on its own.
Nevertheless, I didn’t want to risk giving it to another dog, and all of the articles I’ve read suggest letting the dog rest. For that reason, we took a shorter route today, which brought us through the Dorfplatz in Breckenheim. I saw two men in the Dorfplatz talking. One of them had a dog with him. Naturally, the dog noticed mine, so I crossed the street so they wouldn’t meet.
The guy with the dog walked away, and the other man came up to me. He was well dressed, speaking German, and seemed friendly. Then I noticed that he had a mic in his hand with radio call letters and what looked like a station number. It looked like the guy came from a local radio station. I quickly surmised that he was approaching me for a “man on the street segment” for the local news.
The guy continued speaking to me, so I suddenly blurted out, “Sorry, I’m American.”
The guy immediately stopped, switched to English and stammered, “Oh… the Germans wouldn’t… they wouldn’t… ” Then, after a flustered pause, he said with a smile, “Have a nice day.”
I chuckled to myself as I continued walking home. On any other day, I would have missed that guy, because we don’t usually walk through the Dorfplatz. But because of kennel cough, we went a different way… Once again, I fooled the locals. Edited to add…. Looks like the dude was there to ask people what they think about the new village toilet.
Now, back to our travels…
On Thursday, October 28th, we checked out of Hotel Ploberger and made our way to Croatia. I was kind of excited about the trip, since I had only been in Croatia once before, and that had been on an impromptu joyride from Trieste, Italy, back in 2016. I had heard nothing but great things about Croatia and I super excited to see the Plitvice Lakes. I had a nice rental house booked that looked really promising. Off we went, traveling through Austria’s beautiful Alps, then continuing briefly through Slovenia, and on to Croatia. We were slowed down at the border of Slovenia and Croatia. The border guard in Slovenia stamped us out of the country, and then we had to show our passports to the Croatian guard.
Not long after we passed through the Croatian border, we stopped at a truck stop, where we proceeded to have an excellent lunch. It was surprisingly good. If only we’d encountered something similar in Bavaria. 😉
Because of the delay at the border, I sent a quick amendment to our arrival at Peter’s Holiday Home in Korenica, near the Plitvice Lakes. We were an hour later than we expected to be. The drive was easy, as Croatia has great highways, even though there are tons of toll booths on the high speed roads. Below are some photos from our journey to our destination, which I found on Booking.com.
We finally arrived at Peter’s Holiday Home in the late afternoon. A kind elderly couple who lived across the street greeted us, as did another lady who lived in the house next to theirs. The husband spoke some English, while his wife didn’t. She showed us around the house and lit a fire for us. I could see we were well set up for our four night stay. Korenica is located very close to the border with Bosnia. If not for COVID-19, Bill and I might have visited there. But COVID has made everything more annoying and complicated. I have heard Bosnia is an interesting and beautiful country. Hopefully, someday we can visit.
We noticed a lot of apartments and homes for rent near the Plitvice Lakes. There are also lots of restaurants in the area, though a lot of them were closed. We learned that November 1 is truly the beginning of the off season, so our arrival in late October was just on the edge of when a few places were still open. For instance, we could have visited the Barac Caves, but just barely. They closed for the season on November 1, which was the day we left. Ordinarily, I would have liked to visit the caves, but I kind of felt weird about going so late in the season. Also… COVID. I also noticed a lot of outdoor activities, like horseback riding and kayaking available. I’m sure in the summer, that area is hopping. In fact, the caretakers, who said they’ve lived in Korenica since 1968, confirmed that it gets super busy in the summer. That made me glad to be there when we were. On the other hand, if you’re visiting in season, you will have PLENTY to do.
Anyway, Bill went to the nearby grocery stores, called Konzum, of all things, and picked up some food and local wines for us. We were both kind of tired from the day’s long drive, which was long, even from Austria.
I may live to regret titling this particular trip series as I have. At the moment, I’m having trouble coming up with a snappy name for my latest vacation blog series. It might be because my brain is still scrambled by the whirlwind of four countries Bill and I have traversed since October 26th. It could also be because the time has changed. Additionally, I’m still a bit peeved about today’s lunch, which I’ll probably bitch about on my other blog, since I like to keep the travel blog somewhat “PG-rated”.
People who regularly follow this blog may know that Bill and I finally took our 2021 vacation. It was not a small undertaking to plan this trip, or even decide where to go. Gone are the days when we could just choose a destination on a whim. These days, we have to pay attention to COVID-19 rules and regulations, which seem to change daily, as well as infection trends. I feel like I’m back at South Carolina’s Department of Health and Environmental Control, working for the Bureau of Epidemiology, where it was once my job to translate the results of chronic disease trend statistics into laymen’s terms. Thanks to my current career as an “overeducated housewife”, those days are long behind me… or, at least I don’t get paid to do them anymore.
As of about an hour ago, our vacation ended, as we walked into our house and I caught a whiff of the rotting avocado and mozzarella cheese in the refrigerator. At first, I was afraid someone forgot to flush the toilet before we left town! The dogs will be picked up in a couple of hours; hopefully, they are both fine. I sure have missed them… I really mean that, even though taking them with us on trips isn’t exactly easy to do, especially now that we have big Noyzi, and Arran has become a cranky old codger.
So how did I choose a trip to Austria, Croatia, and Slovenia, then back to Austria? At first, it wasn’t in the plans. Originally, I had been looking at going to The Netherlands. I kept getting enticing ads on Facebook, particularly for a very upscale looking property in Zeeland. I must admit that the prospect of enjoying some legal weed was also somewhat appealing. But then I started thinking about how much I’d like to go to France and Belgium, too. I started trying to design an itinerary that would allow us to get the most bang for our bucks and the time Bill got off from work. I kept getting bogged down in and frustrated by minutiae, as I realized that the places I wanted to go weren’t all that convenient to each other. Accommodations were also kind of pricey. And then, I had a sudden flashback to 2015, when our return to Europe was still new and exciting…
Several years ago, when COVID-19 was a mere nightmarish fantasy in the back of a mad scientist’s or Hollywood screenplay writer’s most warped mind, I saw an enticing video on YouTube made by a user who called herself heyannalise. She made entertaining clips about traveling in Europe. Back in May 2015, she made one about her visit to the Krka National Park in Croatia. I was enchanted by the scenery in her video, which I am sharing below…
Somehow, even though I was enthralled by Annalise’s video, Bill and I never got around to visiting Croatia, even though we’ve now been in Europe for ages… I kept meaning to go, and we did once take a “joyride” to Pula, Croatia while we were visiting Trieste, Italy in May 2016. But we never managed to actually book a real trip there that involved staying overnight. Time moved on from 2015, and I pushed thoughts of Croatia to the back burner, even though my Croatian friend, Boris, who organizes trips to Croatia, kept wanting me to go and blog about the experience. The timing just never seemed to work out for us, or there was somewhere else I wanted to see that was more pressing or convenient.
As I was planning our most recent trip, thinking about France, Belgium, and The Netherlands, I couldn’t help noticing a nagging thought in the back of my head, reminding me how much I had been wanting to visit Croatia to see waterfalls and lakes. Since I managed to nag Bill into taking a lot of days off work, I realized that we finally had enough time to really enjoy ourselves and see a lot, and that meant it made sense to finally take the plunge and go to Croatia. I also knew I could break up the trip into manageable and affordable blocks, and that was a real plus. My days of wanting to drive eight hours straight to cram in life experiences are long done, and I don’t need much encouragement to overspend on fancy hotels. I also have no desire to fly during the age of COVID-19 unless it’s absolutely unavoidable.
By the time I was ready to go to Croatia, I had forgotten where Annalise had actually gone. I went on Google and started searching… and somehow, instead of Krka National Park, I wound up finding the Plitvice Lakes. Now… there is absolutely NOTHING wrong with going to Croatia just to see the Plitvice Lakes. They are stunning and mesmerizing, and you will definitely get plenty of exercise and fill your camera with exquisite photos of magical scenery. But we were down there for four nights, and Krka National Park is only about a 90 minute drive from where we stayed. It would have been nice to combine the two experiences, although now we have a good reason to visit Croatia again and do a LOT more exploring. It really is a beautiful and easy to travel country, especially for English speakers. And… we haven’t been to the coast yet, to see all the towns that tourists flock to during the summer months. We have a good reason to go back to Croatia, now.
Anyway, once I’d decided on Croatia, it was time to plan for a visit somewhere else within proximity. I recalled that while we were visiting Trieste in 2016, we also visited Lake Bled in Slovenia. I remember being totally enchanted by beautiful Lake Bled and the other areas in Slovenia we visited on that trip. I also specifically remembered Slovenians telling Bill and me that we should visit Lake Bohinj, as it was even better than Bled is, and less touristy. Realizing that Bohinj was maybe 4 or 5 hours from the Plitvice Lakes area, I determined that it would be a great second stop on our trip. We could spend another four nights there.
The cities where we chose our visits in Austria were mostly down to being practical. We decided to stop in Wels, Austria on the way down to Croatia because it was about halfway to where our final destination would be, and Bill and I didn’t want to stay in Linz or Passau, which are cities we’ve both already visited. Ditto to our stop in Salzburg. Every time we’ve gone to Slovenia– we also went to Kranjska Gora, Slovenia last yearto pick up Noyzi— we’ve stopped in Salzburg, because it’s convenient. It’s also a great town to visit, although on our other two trips, we’ve only spent a night there and neglected to properly enjoy the city.
We did take a day trip to Salzburg in May 2012, when we did our very first military hop, and we got to see the city on that trip. But we visited Salzburg from Munich instead of staying there overnight, and that sharply limited our ability to see a lot. I also remember getting caught in a sudden late spring thunderstorm that day, so we ended up ducking back into the restaurant where we had lunch (ham and asparagus with Hollandaise Sauce), and drinking lots of beer and Schnapps! I remember the proprietor was quite pleased with us giving him more business. I think that restaurant has since closed down, which is a pity. We sure enjoyed going there.
Ever since that day trip in 2012, I had been wanting to go back to Salzburg. Russian buskers had made me cry there, and I saw some beautiful Friesian horses… But every time we’ve stayed in Salzburg overnight, we’ve been rushing to or from somewhere else, so this time, I decided we’d spend two nights.
With all of the cities chosen, I went looking for places to stay. Wels, Austria, it turns out, is a very pleasant and attractive city, but it’s not particularly exciting or noteworthy. I noticed they had catfish there. There are museums to see, and the downtown area is nice. But I didn’t find any cute places to rent. Consequently, we ended up booking Hotel Ploberger for two nights, which is supposedly the best hotel in town. I was amused by their very aggressive sales tactics, right on their own Web site. For the other three stops, I booked homes privately managed by hosts I found on Booking.com. Not only was that safer in terms of COVID-19, it was also more convenient. Lake Bohinj and the Plitvice Lakes areas are both chock full of apartments and homes to rent. I would say there are more private residences for renting than hotel rooms, although they do exist. And in Salzburg, I chose to rent a place owned by a musician/music producer. That was mainly because I am myself a musician. I will write a lot more about all of the properties as the series gets underway… and as we were gone for twelve nights, it’s bound to be a long one.
We had a fantastic time on our trip, and I look forward to detailing the blow by blow, even if Bill and I are the only ones who read it. So, now that the introduction is done, on with my blog series on the trip down to Aus-Cro-Slo-Aus. Hope you enjoy the ride.
Well, it’s finally all settled. Bill and I are going on vacation in about ten days. I wasted most of today planning our upcoming adventure to Austria, Slovenia, and Croatia. But it wasn’t without significant ass pain. Sorry, I know this is a first world problem. It’s just that sometimes it’s a pain in the butt to have American credit cards when you live in Europe.
The ass pain started when Bill let me know that the dogs are confirmed at the dog pension. In the past, we have taken our dogs with us on longer trips, but that was when we had Zane, who was a beagle. Noyzi is a big guy and needs a lot of room. Also, it’s just a lot easier traveling with one species. So, once we got the boys’ lodging confirmed, I went to work.
I knew I wanted to go to Plitvice Lakes in Croatia. That’s about eleven hours’ drive from Wiesbaden. I’ve been wanting to go there for ages, and it’s about the end of the vacation season. After November 1, things kind of go to sleep. I knew it would be a stretch to try to go to Plitvice without breaking up the trip. Bill had noticed Austria’s fair city of Graz, which does look really appealing. But that’s at least eight hours away without any traffic or stops, and we have to drop off the dogs before we set off, which we can’t do until about 9:00am. I knew we would get in super late, and Bill would be weird and tired if we tried to make Graz in one day.
So, I ended up booking up at a hotel in Wels, Austria. Or, at least I tried. I found a well regarded and highly rated place in Wels. I tried to book directly from the hotel’s Web site. It had a rather aggressive pop up system. But, as I was booking, I got sent to a site called Saferpay, which was supposed to make my card transaction “safer” somehow. It timed out or something. My reservation didn’t go through properly, and Bill had to book with his card.
Then, I went on Booking.com and booked a beautiful house in a village near Plitvice Lakes. I tried to use my USAA card for that booking and was immediately declined. PenFed let me book that place, and the next place, near Lake Bohinj in Slovenia. But when I tried to book our last place, in Salzburg, Austria, PenFed declined my charges, too.
In fairness, I don’t use my credit cards much. I once had a lot of credit card debt and paid it all off. I don’t want to get back into credit card debt again, so I usually use my debit card for everything. I use my credit cards mostly for big purchases and trips. Consequently, I often get these problems when I actually use credit, but USAA usually sends an alert to my phone, which allows me to accept or decline charges. This time, I got an email letting me know I had to call USAA… and it came about an hour after everything was settled. Bill and I were having a very late lunch, which I badly needed, because I was hungry and in a FOUL mood.
La Fonte is our neighborhood Italian restaurant, affiliated with the Sportsplatz. We’ve only eaten there a few times, mainly due to COVID. Today, we dined in, and we had to prove we were vaccinated. I still got a dirty look from another patron. He probably wondered why Americans were there, even though there are a number of Americans living in Breckenheim.
I ordered Montepulciano and Tortellini al Forno, which is with cream sauce, ham, and cheese. Bill ordered fettuccini with cream sauce and shrimp. The dish brought out to me was baked rigatoni with Bolognese sauce. We told the waitress, who apologized and brought out my correct order after about twenty minutes. I did taste Bill’s dish. Next time, I’m having what he had… not because mine wasn’t good, but because I liked what he had better.
I might have enjoyed dessert, but we were sitting in the outdoor area, which is next to the smoking section. They left the door to the smoking section open, so the smoke wafted into where we were sitting and clogged up my nose. Plus, as we were eating, I got that email from USAA, which really annoyed me. We paid about 43 euros for lunch, and I think we should come back to La Fonte more often. It really is a nice place, and they were doing a brisk business today. They don’t take a pause, either. We need to enjoy lunch there when I’m not preoccupied with my credit cards. Next time, we’ll sit inside the restaurant, away from the smokers.
When we got home, I took a quick shower and then Skyped USAA. I spent 40 worthless minutes waiting until the representative said I needed to call back on my cell phone. The whole time, I kept hearing the same insanity inducing hold “song”, which if you’re a musical person, like I am, is MADDENING.
After the woman told me she couldn’t help, I hung up with her and called on my cell phone. Supposedly, you can call collect if you’re overseas, but only if you’re on a landline. We don’t have a landline.
So I called… and this time, after about 8 minutes of waiting, I got someone much more competent. I explained what happened, and she removed the block. We don’t know why USAA reacted the way it did, and why they didn’t send me a text to allow me to confirm or deny the charges. But now that card, at least, is unblocked. As for PenFed, I’m not sure if that card is blocked. But it did allow me to book the bulk of our stay in the Balkans, so I’m happy enough with that.
I’m not calling them today, though. Now, I need a drink and some good music… And it’s time to plan all of the things we’re going to do, because I have a feeling we’re going to have a blast.
Lake Bohinj was suggested to us in May 2016 by several Slovenians, when we visited Lake Bled. I was overwhelmed by how many vacation homes there are there. It took forever to choose one, but I think I chose one that will make us happy for four nights.
It’s been about two years since Bill’s mom, Parker, last visited us. Parker lives in Texas and has very generous friends who used to work for United Airlines. It’s through their generosity that she gets to see us in Germany. Every time Parker visits, we have some kind of adventure.
Last time she was here was in December 2017, when we still lived near Stuttgart. Before that, she was here in June 2009, also when we lived near Stuttgart. In 2017, we took her on a blind booking trip to Berlin. In 2009, we took a roadtrip to Oberstaufen, Germany, down in Bavaria. That trip turned into a day trip to Italy, whereupon we got temporarily trapped due to flooding. I have written about those trips and they can be found in this blog, although I still need to fix the formatting on them. She also visited Bill when he was posted in Bavaria back in the 1980s, but that was way before my time.
Anyway, back to 2020… It was nice to be able to get Parker in Frankfurt and only have to drive about twenty minutes rather than a few hours. Arran, the dog, was quite happy to see his grandma again. He hadn’t forgotten her from the last time and gave her an adorable welcome. Bill had to work all last week, so Parker and I hung around the house and talked. Bill had asked me to arrange a short trip for us, since Parker hasn’t had the chance to see as much of Europe as she’d like. When she visited us in 2009, we did take the briefest of detours into France so we could have lunch and Parker could say she’d been there. Other than that, she’d never been to France before.
Regular readers of my travel blog might recall that back in 2017, Bill and I discovered beautiful Ribeauville, a little town in Alsace right next to the much more touristy Riquewihr, which is supposedly one of France’s most beautiful villages. In 2017, Bill and I visited Ribeauville three times, which should really say something, given how many awesome places there are to visit in Europe. We found a great gite (vacation home in France) there, and it was so easy, since we only lived about 2.5 hours away and the owner of the gite was so pet friendly.
Our last visit to Ribeauville was in May 2018, but then we had to move to Wiesbaden. Last year was a bit of a cluster fuck in terms of getting settled and making some decisions about the future. We never made it back to Alsace in 2019. When I saw that Yannick, our faithful Ribeauville host, had availability in his largest gite– called Riesling– I jumped on it. We spent four nights visiting Ribeauville during the dead off season. We had a wonderful time, too! Ribeauville is a place we completely missed the first time we lived in Europe, but it’s now one of our go to locations whenever we need a break from Germany.
Yannick Kopff has several gites for rent. He’s got four studio sized apartments, a one room place, and an apartment with three rooms. Bill, Parker, and I stayed in his largest apartment at the wine house he converted into super convenient lodging in Ribeauville. I usually book his places through Booking.com, but he’s also listed on other sites, including reservation-gite.alsace. I would link to it, but at the moment, it does not appear that the site is working yet.
For four nights, I paid about 425 euros, and that was without a discount. Booking through Booking.com results in higher prices because Booking gets paid for reservations made through their site. I also have Yannick’s number, though, so next time we need an Alsatian break, I’ll just send him a text.
We usually bring our dog(s) with us when we go to Ribeauville, but since we had Parker and there were some places Bill and I specifically wanted to visit, this time we put him up at the Tierpension Birkenhof. We look forward to having him home tonight. I always miss our pooches when we go on trips, even if they’re relatively short.
This was probably one of the best trips to Alsace we’ve had yet, although I did miss having the dogs with us… especially Zane, who has now been gone for just over four months. I kept expecting to see them there, and remembering the times Bill and I have visited Ribeauville alone and brought both dogs with us. Sigh… well, maybe soon we’ll find a dog who needs a home. For now, here’s my latest series on Ribeauville and its environs, truly one of my favorite places in France that spoils everyone for choice in how much there is to do there, even during the off season! Stay tuned for part two!
Last Saturday morning, we loaded up our Volvo and headed to our first stop, Beaune… the very same place where we are right now. I found our pet friendly gite on Booking.com back in October. I didn’t know at the time that the gite owners had just bought the house their rental apartment is in and that they just started their own winery. I was under the impression that Beaune was a big town. I’d seen it on other trips we’ve taken to France and a local friend had visited a couple of months ago and made it seem like a really hoppin’ “ville”. But, as it turns out, Beaune isn’t all that big, except when it comes to wine. There are several wineries located within steps of our gite.
Our drive to Beaune was mostly uneventful. There was a pretty terrible accident on the Autobahn outside of Mainz that required us to drive on a side road. It had traffic backed up for miles, and we even saw the ADAC helicopter there. But the rest of the ride was uneventful, if not a bit long. We arrived in Beaune at about 5:00pm. I tried texting the gite owners, as they had requested, when we were twenty minutes out, but I had the wrong phone number. Consequently, we had to call them from outside of the house. It’s partly because of this that we were even at the rest stop where our car got vandalized. I had wanted to contact them ahead of time, since they had requested it the first time. Bill had their number on his phone and it gave me the chance to pee. If only we had done what we did on the way in! Then we would have avoided the criminals who took a sharp, pointed object to our beloved Volvo’s right rear tire.
The husband half of the gite owners gave us the grand tour, and because we were tired, we decided to settle in for the night. That was also because I didn’t want Arran to howl… and also, we never had the chance to make reservations anywhere. I got some photos of the gite, Au Miracle du Pain Doré (at the miracle of golden bread– or French toast)…
So far, I’ve paid about 700 euros for both two night stays. The first two night stay was slightly cheaper, probably because it was a Saturday and Sunday night. Our current stay was intended to be just just Friday and Saturday, but it looks like we’ll need at least one more night, thanks to our encounter with criminals yesterday. Booking.com has it priced at 185 euros for Sunday night… not a bad deal for a whole apartment. One thing that struck me about this gite is that it reminds me a lot of the one we stayed in near the Champagne region last February, although that gite was somewhat larger. The layout and style, right down to the kitchen and tiled floors, is very similar. When I have more time and am near my big computer, I will have to post comparison photos.
This gite is very conveniently located. You can easily walk to the charming downtown area, wineries, or to grocery stores and bakeries. Last Sunday, there were a few shops open, as well as restaurants and a cute little Christmas market. I didn’t manage to venture out today, thanks to all the running around Bill has been doing with trying to deal with our flat tire and reporting the crime to the police. Maybe tomorrow, after we figure out the plan, we’ll get into the town and try another restaurant.
All too soon, Monday morning arrived and it was time for us to head back to Germany. After breakfast, we cleaned up the Rose Apartment and I sent a message to the property owner, who came by to pick up the keys and the six euros of tourist taxes we had to pay. In Lesa, the office of tourism collects one euro per person over age 14 per night. There are a few other exceptions to this tax, which the owners had posted in the kitchen. Apparently, Lesa is pretty serious about collecting this tax and will supposedly hunt you down and charge interest if you don’t pay.
It was nice to meet the owner, who advised us that next time we want to visit, we should simply give him a call and bypass Booking.com. This is not the first time a property owner has told us that. I guess Booking.com charges a lot of fees for finding guests. I would definitely not be averse to going back to Lesa if we have the chance. It’s a nice place to unplug for a few days. I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily a place to go if you want to stay super busy, but if you’re looking for peace, quiet, good food, and relaxation, it’s not a bad place at all… and it’s definitely less hectic than tonier Lake Como is.
We got on the road at about 9:30am and reached Unterjettingen by 4:30pm or so… Here are a few photos I took on the way back.
Here’s a view of where the lake is compared to where Rose Apartment is. As you can see, it’s only steps away.
Goodbye Italy… until next time!
Some guy was parachuting over the highway. I was glad when he managed to cross it without landing!
These are pictures of Lake Lugano, in Switzerland. Lugano is also gorgeous and worth a visit. There are too many places to see in Europe and not enough holidays! I had to take these as we were passing through.
A bird’s eye view of Switzerland?
Our drive back was pretty uneventful. We stopped at a couple of Swiss rest stops for pee breaks. Word to the wise. It’s a good idea to have Francs for the rest stops. Just like in Germany, you have to pay to pee, unless you stop at one of the more rustic (and disgusting) public toilets. The ones with restaurants and such usually charge. However, they are generally very clean and well stocked.
Against our better judgment, we stopped at that crappy Burger King again in Altdorf, but this time, Bill got chicken strips and mozzarella bites. No mayo! It always amazes me that such a crappy Burger King could be by such beautiful country. Right after the fast food break, you enter a tunnel and come out in insanely beautiful Sisikon, Switzerland on the shores of Lake Lucerne. I keep meaning to stop there for a photo break and lunch. Look at these pictures! Maybe sometime, we’ll rent a house there and spare ourselves the pain of traffic. Sisikon is probably around the halfway point to Italy. I have actually tried to find places near there but so far, I’ve not been lucky.
Anyway… that pretty much does it for this short series on Lesa. I can’t say it was one of our most exciting road trips, but we did enjoy our too brief time in Italy. I really would like to go back again. If anything, this trip reminded me that it’s usually worth it to book one more day than you think you’ll want or need on a long weekend. I could have used more than two Italian lunches. Oh well… there’s always next time!
Sometimes I get inspiration for blog posts from people in local Facebook groups who have a need. I think the many travel bloggers in the Stuttgart area each offer different things to our readers. I don’t have children, so generally speaking, I’m not the one to come to for advice on where to take your kids. However, I do love good food, wine and beer, unique places that are off the beaten track, and, most importantly, pet friendly lodging.
We didn’t used to take our dogs on our trips. When we lived in Germany the first time, we had Flea and MacGregor, two high maintenance beagles that didn’t travel well. Flea would get car sick. MacGregor was deathly afraid of people he didn’t know. Both of them barked incessantly. MacGregor would also howl when we left them alone. In those days, we’d take them to Hunde Hotel Haase, which was at the time being run by a woman named Kirsten. Kirsten was awesome, and she took great care of our dogs. Unfortunately, sometime in the five years between our Germany tours, Kirsten left, and took the Hunde Hotel’s good reputation with her. I started hearing some very disturbing stories about dogs who were left there.
We started using Dog Holiday for our current dogs, Zane and Arran. Dog Holiday is great, but it’s frequently booked, especially on holiday weekends. When we want to take a dog free break, we book Zane and Arran at Dog Holiday months or even as far as a year in advance. Since we don’t know how long we’ll be in Germany, that can be problematic as well.
In 2016, we decided to start taking the dogs with us on our trips. We started with a one night experiment in Riquewihr, which is a lovely French town in Alsace, not too far from Stuttgart. Although Zane and Arran had stayed in hotels before, we decided it was time we trained them to be good in hotels. I booked us a deluxe room at Best Western Le Schoenenbourg. Although the dogs weren’t on their absolute best behavior, the trip was a success. We even managed to enjoy a delicious gourmet meal in Riquewihr with our dogs in tow! After that victory, I started looking for other pet friendly accommodations. I’ve found some good ones, which I am sharing in this post.
Before I get started, I want to list my criteria for booking pet friendly accommodations. First, I look for parking– particularly free parking. That’s because we don’t take our dogs on trains, at least not yet. We have to have a place to park our SUV. Next, I look for free WiFi because I’m addicted to the Internet, but also because you never know when you’ll need to find an emergency vet or something. And finally, I try to book places that don’t charge pet fees. It’s not that I don’t want to pay pet fees or that I don’t think property owners are right to be concerned about pets staying in their rentals. It’s more because I’ve found that people who don’t charge for pets tend to be less nervous and/or anal retentive about having them in their rentals. I prefer to rent from people who like my dogs rather than just tolerate them.
So here goes with my list of nine pet friendly properties we’ve enjoyed so far. They are not ranked in any particular order.
This will be the only hotel listed in this post. I am mentioning Hotel Le Schoenenberg because they were exceptionally pet friendly. When we checked into our deluxe room (the only one they had left), we found it outfitted for our dogs’ arrival. They had included pet bowls and treats for Zane and Arran and they were super understanding when my dogs started baying on the way downstairs. My one concern about this hotel is that it’s pretty pricey. We paid just under 200 euros for one night with breakfast. However, we were also in a suite and it was during the high season. Also, I don’t think you need more than a couple of days to see all of Riquewihr, although there is much to see in the surrounding areas.
Hotel Le Schoenenberg was very welcoming to our dogs!
We booked Chalet Montana in Barvaux, Belgium for Labor Day weekend 2016. I found this house on Booking.com. It was larger than what we needed and kind of pricey, but it has the distinction of being our very first experience renting a vacation home. I see on Booking.com that Chalet Montana *may* charge for pets, but I don’t think they charged us when we stayed there. There are two master bedrooms with two trundle beds. Bring your own linens.
This property is near the charming town of Durbuy and within range of towns like Rochefort, Bastogne, and Dinant. We visited each of those towns while we were in Barvaux. I was particularly enchanted by Dinant, which is where Adolphe Sax, inventor of the saxophone, was born. We found the area very dog friendly and the house itself is very nice and extremely kid friendly. Additionally, it boasts a still water hot tub (fueled by a fire that you have to build) and a sauna. There’s an adventure park in the area, as well as golfing. We also found great beer and good restaurants nearby.
Apparently, Durbuy has a problem with human stealth shitters. However, we never encountered human poop and, in fact, thought the area was lovely! It smelled good, too.
3. Villa Moretta in Domaso, Italy (ETA: This property no longer accepts pets as of 2020)
You’d rather head south for a trip to Italy? I can’t blame you for that. We found Villa Moretta in Domaso, Italy on Booking.com and stayed there for Memorial Day weekend. I notice that the name has changed since our stay. In May of last year, it was called Casa Oliva di Domaso. I don’t know if that means the place has new owners, although I note that when we stayed there, there were no pet charges and now it looks like they *may* charge for pets.
The owner was doing work on an apartment on the first floor during our stay. It looks like he’s now offering two apartments, one of which is one bedroom and the other is two bedrooms. In any case, the two room apartment was pet friendly when we stayed there and offered stunning views of Lake Como, as well as access to some great Italian food. I will warn that this apartment requires walking up steps for access because it’s situated on a hillside. Also, there is one tiny parking space that was a challenge for Bill to fit our small SUV. However, I have very fond memories of Domaso and would love to go back! It’s a very chilled out town, perfect for relaxing and dog walking.
We stayed at Vila Verunka in Senec, Czech Republic just last weekend. It’s a little two room house on the edge of a forest, located in a residential suburb of Plzen. This house features pet friendly floors and a large, fenced in yard. The owners are very nice and did not charge us extra for Zane and Arran. Also, this accommodation was extremely inexpensive. For three nights, we paid 288 euros. The one caveat is that the tap water is not potable. It’s fine for washing and watering your dogs, but not for human consumption. The owners didn’t explain why, except to say that the house isn’t hooked up to city water. My guess is that they use a cistern to supply water to the house. Drinking bottled water is no big deal for us, but I thought it best to mention it. There’s a swing set in the yard for your kids and the house is set far enough away from other properties that noise from dogs is less of a problem.
Plzen is a great place for beer lovers, as well as aviation lovers. There is a huge, unique Air Park near the house that offers a rare chance to look at Cold War era airplanes, tanks, helicopters, and missiles. Also, Plzen has a zoo and several museums for Cold War history buffs. It’s a city that has a special fondness for America, which is evident in its street names.
This property is probably my favorite dog friendly property on this list. In 2017, Bill and I stayed at Yannick’s “wine house” three times! The three links in the description lead to my series about each stay, all of which have been fun for us and the dogs. Yannick names his apartments after different wine grapes. So far we’ve stayed in Pinot Noir (one bedroom) once and Riesling (three bedrooms) twice. Four apartments are in his wine house and the other two are located in a building on the main drag through town. I have actually seen all but two of the apartments. I have a feeling Yannick is counting on me to pitch them to my American friends in Germany.
I can vouch for how dog friendly Yannick’s apartments are. He doesn’t charge extra for pets and welcomes ours whole-heartedly, even bringing them treats. While we did encounter a cranky neighbor on our last visit, by and large, the people in Ribeauville are very dog friendly. It’s a super cute town with several great restaurants and shopping opportunities, as well as free parking. It’s also a great place to go wine tasting and visit other cute little towns in the vicinity. We like Ribeauville more than Colmar and Riquewihr because it offers a nice balance between touristy and homey. Also, it’s a relatively short and pretty drive from Stuttgart. I don’t know when we’ll be back to Ribeauville, but I’m happy to share the wealth with those who want to go.
Are you interested in being close to a beach? Like good Belgian beer? Have a big group? You might want to consider Holiday Home Bonjour Clara in Alveringem. This large old house is located in a rural area about a half an hour from the North Sea. It takes about nine hours to get to Alveringem from Stuttgart, but you pass through a few beer towns to get to it. Bonjour Clara has four bedrooms and is usually rented to crowds. We paid 760 euros in cash for four nights, which we thought was very reasonable given how many people can stay there. Besides being close to the beach, this house is within driving distance of Ghent and Bruges. There’s a dairy farm next door, where you can buy fresh milk, and the hostess, Marianne, has chickens that provide fresh eggs. We really enjoyed this property in Belgium with its huge kitchen and swimming pond. I wouldn’t mind a return trip.
I’m adding the Hexagonal Tower for Two, although this property is probably the least pet friendly on my list. First of all, the owner did charge us for Zane and Arran. I think it was 20 euros or so, but I’m not absolutely certain of the exact amount. Secondly, this house is strictly for two people. Although it’s pet friendly, it would be best if your pet was on the small side. Why? Because it’s a tiny house. However, it’s also a very cool place to stay. The owners are a British woman and her French husband, who is a master stone mason. They built this cool tower a few years ago so they could host guests. For two people, it’s probably the perfect size. For more than two people, it’s a squeeze. However, the town of Semur-en-Auxois, situated in Burgundy, is a very quaint, French town surrounded by more quaint French towns. The area is absolutely beautiful! If you need a break from Germany, it’s a great place to be.
Look how cute the town is!
This is about the size of the downstairs room. Note no handrail on the steps, which could be a problem if you have small kids. My dogs were leery of it.
This is another one of my favorite pet friendly spots so far. Located in Burgundy, a bit further south of Semur-en-Auxois, is Gite de la Maison Bleue, a beautiful old farmhouse in Saint Marcelin de Cray. The owners of this property run a snail and rabbit farm and they have lots of friendly animals, including a spunky donkey named Antoine. When Zane and Arran barked at Antoine and his friend, the Friesian horse, Antoine brayed right back at them. It was hilarious! Not only is this property beautiful, the owners are also very nice and accommodating, especially to our dogs, who were made very welcome. It was no problem at all if the dogs pooped in the yard since there were pigs, llamas, alpacas, sheep, rabbits, geese, snails, and other dogs there. I am dying to go back to this area, too, since it’s in the heart of wine country and, quite honestly, offers a look at “the real France”. Cluny is a nearby town where you can shop, eat good food, and mingle with the locals. There’s also an interesting abbey open for tours.
This tower is part of the rental property and offers a great view from the top.
Of all the pet friendly rentals we’ve tried so far, I think Anno 1499 in Rothenburg ob der Tauber may have impressed me the most. This house was not only dirt cheap to rent, it had every comfort you could want. Located on the main street into the walled city, this house had two full bathrooms, two bedrooms with double beds as well as a crib and daybed, and a full kitchen. The owner works across the street and was super friendly and welcoming to Zane and Arran. There were no extra charges for them. She also showed us where we could park for free. We had an absolutely trouble free stay at this house. I’m probably going to be sorry I shared it!
Tower in a walled city.
So there you have it… nine places Bill and I have taken the dogs and had a good enough time that we’d book again. Actually, I’m not sure I’d book the Hexagonal Tower again with the dogs, but I would for just Bill and me. If your dog doesn’t have to sleep with you and is pretty small, it would be okay. For us, it wasn’t quite enough space. However, we loved the town and enjoyed our hosts.
I hope this list is helpful for those of you who are seeking pet friendly digs while you’re in Europe. I will keep searching for new places and will probably write a sequel when I have another good sized list of pet friendly accommodations. Happy traveling!
After we decided we wanted to go to the Czech Republic, Bill and I had to determine where in the country we wanted to go. I was actually kind of wanting to visit Brno, which is a city we hadn’t seen before. It got some great write ups that made it sound like an appealing place to see. Unfortunately, we were constrained by the brevity of Bill’s time off and the fact that we’d need to bring our dogs, Zane and Arran, with us. I did consider another visit to Chodovar, but again, thought of the dogs. Although Chodovar allows dogs to stay in its hotel, Zane and Arran do better in lower density populations. They aren’t exactly quiet.
I went to Booking.com, to look for appropriate accommodations near Chodova Plana and found a couple of possibilities. The place that won our business was Vila Verunka, a little freestanding house in Senec, a suburb of Plzen. I was won over by the fact that it offered free parking, free WiFi, and didn’t charge extra for the dogs. It’s not that I mind paying pet fees; it’s just that I’ve found that people who don’t charge extra fees for pets tend to be less nervous about them staying. They’re usually dog lovers who won’t freak out over normal things that dogs do. That appeared to be the case at Vila Verunka, too. The owners were very welcoming to our dogs, which I always love to see.
A lot of people like Air BnB. I haven’t tried it yet, mainly because their Web site makes it hard for me to find exactly what I’m looking for. I tend to be specific about what I want in a rental. Although Booking.com doesn’t seem to have as many properties as Air BnB does, its search process is easy to use. And, if I end up really hitting it off, sometimes the owners will just tell me to text them personally. Such is the case in Ribeauville. We’ve stayed at one guy’s apartment three times in the past year and he’s given us his number and told us to text him next time we want to rent from him. I’m sure it’s because he makes more money that way, but if I’m honest, I kind of like having our French friend Yannick on speed dial. 😉
I could tell Senec would be a suburban location. The price was definitely right, though. For three nights in a two bedroom house, we paid the Czech crown equivalent of 288 euros. Although we paid in the local currency, it turned out we could have paid in euros or even by credit card. We didn’t have quite enough Czech crowns when we arrived because Bill stopped at the border and changed money at an exchange– something he shouldn’t have done, because they’re very expensive. The owners were cool, though, and came the next morning for the money, after Bill had a chance to hit the bank. Apparently, that house is popular with business people. The owners asked us if we were there on business or filming something. They seemed surprised that we’d go to Plzen for fun, although if you’re a beer lover, it’s a must see place.
Below are some pictures of the accommodations. Everything was very clean and appeared to be new.
The living room. There’s a gas fireplace, which we didn’t use. I liked how carefree the couch was. Very durable material that didn’t embed dog hair. I will probably be in the market for a new couch when we move out of Germany. I’m going to look for one upholstered with that material.
The bigger bedroom. The mattress was a little hard, but the bed was nice and big. There were flatscreen TVs in both bedrooms. There’s also a single daybed in this room that could accommodate another person.
This property doesn’t have a shower. Instead, there’s a bathtub with a handheld sprayer. Also, the toilet is in a separate room. The sink is in the washroom with the tub and the washing machine.
Nice kitchen, although the microwave was in a cabinet over the fridge. Bill had to get it down when we wanted to use it, which was kind of a pain. We’re both short. It would have been nice if the microwave were on a cart or a table instead of a high cabinet. There is a coffee pod machine, so Bill went out and got a cheap French press because we don’t like coffee pods. Otherwise, the kitchen was well appointed, although lacking coasters. The water in this house is not potable, though. I think it may be because the house has a cistern, which means it uses rainwater. Our first German house had a cistern that we could turn on and off.
The toilet. There was a curtained off “closet” with cleaning supplies. No sink in the WC.
The other bedroom. Somewhat smaller.
Another view of the living room. There’s another daybed for another person to sleep on. Nice flatscreen TV, though there were no English channels. We watched the Winter Olympics in Czech, which was more interesting than it sounds! WiFi in this house worked great! No issues whatsoever.
The outside of the house. The picture doesn’t show how big the yard is. It’s fenced in and has a picnic area and grill. There’s also a swing set and the owners will rent you an inflatable pool for your kids. There’s also a very small pond, which was frozen over when we visited.
Another shot of the house. It backs up to a wooded area where there are trails suitable for walking your dogs. Otherwise, you can turn them loose in the large, fenced yard.
This house is in what appears to be a developing subdivision. There are several homes being built now. In the neighborhood, there are a couple of small markets and a restaurant or two. We didn’t explore much of Senec, although we did make a very cool find on Saturday morning. More on that in the next post. Here’s a hint, though… if you like old aircraft from the Cold War era, you might want to take a peek!
It’s Martin Luther King Day and Bill and I have just come back from visiting a place that has been on my bucket list for years. A few years ago, I even drew the name of this place out of my champagne bucket; we were actually “supposed” to visit in 2014, but for some reason, our plans to get there got put on the back burner. I’m writing of the beautifully preserved walled city of Rothenburg ob der Tauber in Bavaria, Germany.
My very first view of Rothenburg ob der Tauber.
Rothenburg is located not far from Ansbach, which is a town that has the distinction of being one of the places where Bill served his very first assignment in Germany (the other was Vilseck). He has often spoken of Rothenburg during our fifteen years of marriage, making me want to see it. Now that he’s been there and seen how beautiful it is, he says he’s not sure if he actually ever did go there before this past weekend. Rothenburg is the kind of place that won’t slip your memory and he was surprised by how cool a place it is.
Because we find ourselves having to bring our dogs with us on a lot of our trips, I have to look for pet friendly accommodations. Because we have beagle mixes and they can be loud, I have to find places where it won’t be a problem if they make noise. I managed to book a fantastic place in Rothenburg. As usual, I consulted Booking.com and it was there that I found a house called Anno 1499.
Folks, it’s not often that I gush about a property, but I feel like I have to about this house, which is located just inside the medieval walls of Rothenburg and dates back to the year 1499. It truly had every comfort we could have ever wanted. I was a little unsure about how successful this rental would be, since I could see that the house was in a row that shared walls with the next property. I can now say that wasn’t a problem. In fact, I think this might have been our most carefree pet friendly rental yet.
We arrived in Rothenburg at about 4:00pm. Our hostess, who spoke a little English, told Bill where to find the keys to the house. They are kept in a code activated safe outside, making it easy for renters to access the house. Unfortunately, Bill still had some trouble finding the keys, so he had to call her. She works as a nurse at the senior living facility right across the street, so she met us within about two minutes and let us into the house. I am always nervous when I meet the landlord/landlady and I have my dogs. I did not have to worry this time. Our hostess warmly welcomed Zane and Arran! Then she showed Bill a nearby spot where he could park all weekend for free! Paid parking is also available at five euros a day.
Below are some pictures of this fabulous house…
The front door… excuse the shadow!
Living room. It has a couch, a television with German TV and CNN, a table and chairs, and a sliding door that opens to a small courtyard. We didn’t use the courtyard, but it would be very nice in better weather.
A view into the kitchen. It was fully equipped with a fridge, microwave, coffee maker, dishwasher, stove, and oven. There’s another table and chairs.
Washer and dryer.
A shot of the little courtyard. I wished we’d had weather that would have facilitated using this charming space, which you can see from the medieval wall located right behind the house.
One bedroom on the second floor. It had a small double bed.
And a huge TV!
Behind the bedroom is an office with a daybed, a crib, and a desk.
Yes, the WiFi works well, except on the top floor.
Huge bathroom. The tub was amazing… nice and big and even had lighting controlled with a dimmer switch. The hostess also provides his and hers rubber duckies!
Top floor. Another sitting area with a couch and a small TV, as well as a CD “boombox”.
And another bedroom with a larger double bed…
TV number four.
Baby gate on the top floor.
The pretty door from the inside. To the right (not pictured) is another bathroom that has a shower.
Adorable Bavarian touches…
The front of Anno 1499… At one point, someone’s cat got stuck on the roof. I’m not sure how it got up there or eventually got down, but evidently it did. Its owner knocked on our door and unsuccessfully tried to rescue it.
You would think this house would cost a bundle to rent. Well, I’m here to tell you that at least in January, this house is a steal. For three nights, we paid just 285 euros. And 60 euros of that went to taxes. We did not have to pay a security deposit or extra pet fees, either. I spent all weekend marveling at how reasonably priced this place was, yet how awesome it is to stay there. We paid our hostess in cash, as was required, and this morning when we left, we simply put the key on the kitchen table.
We could not have asked for a better place to stay and if we ever make it back to Rothenburg, I hope we can stay again. It truly was first rate. Adding to the house’s appeal is the fact that it’s only a five minute walk from the nearest Edeka. You walk out the gates, cross the street, and rejoin us in 2018… Or you walk the other way and stay in medieval bliss. I actually experienced a little culture shock this morning as we emerged from the town and I remembered what Germany looks like outside of the walls.
Regarding Rothenburg itself… well, I will be adding it to my list of places to go when I need to get out of Stuttgart and have to take the dogs with me. It really is a very cool town. I hope you’ll come along with me as I write up the rest of our trip in the posts to follow this one.