Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Grevenmacher, Luxembourg: A Travel Recommendation

With friends in from London over the weekend, we decided to explore a new city, Grevenmacher, Luxembourg. I read a few things about it in our Luxembourg travel book, as well as the Panther Paws, so we decided to give it a go. Turns out, the city is closer than we thought, only 18 km from Trier, and a perfectly cute, close place to take visitors! The town itself is nothing too different than the German villages along the Mosel. It too sits on the Mosel River, has a walkplatz with a little shopping and eating (that closes in the late afternoon - after lunch/before dinner - FYI - we learned the hard way!).

The town boasts many family run wineries, but also a famous Champagne/Sekt House and cellar (Bernard Massard) as well as a large Wine Tasting House along the Route de Vin with many local wines.

We were hoping to taste as both the Bernard Massard and Route de Vin house, but we only had time for one and we chose the Bernard Massard! The cellars, tour, tasting, wine-making process, all happen in this enormous pink house that sits right on the Mosel. There is a picturesque terrace covered with flowers where at the end of your tour, sit and taste the Sekt(s) of your choice. After visiting the Champagne Region of France only recently, I had relatively low expectations of the tour in Grevenmacher (only because we had seen 'the best of the best'), however I was very pleasantly surprised. Not only did the Sekt itself compare to the much celebrated and grossly overpriced Champagne in France, but the tour itself was informative (one can really grasp the process of sparkling wine making after this), the tour-guide easily understood (not the case in Champagne), the price affordable (we all 4 went in Luxembourg for the price of only ONE in Champagne), the staff friendly and helpful, the Bernard Massard House gorgeous, and you were able to PICK the Sekts you wanted to try at the end (you paid for a tasting of 1-3 flutes and then were able to choose which Sekts you actually tried). The ONLY area Bernard Massard failed to compare were the actual cellars. The champagne cellars in France were dark, but picturesque, lit only by candles and dim lights, obviously displayed for tourists, while the cellars at B.M. were painted white, with the wine still sitting in the metal palettes and obviously left as is for practicality purposes.

Overall, it was a great afternoon trip, we would definitely go back and recommend for others to visit as well, especially those living or visiting Trier and/or Luxembourg (We might be taking Jesse & Shannon there when they visit in December!). Also, we wound up coming home with three cases of Sekt (enough to last for a little while at least!) and will continue to buy Bernard Massard in the grocery store here!

Bernard Massard House sits right on the Mosel


The tasting, which followed the tour

Emily & James - visiting from London

Sekt (German/Luxembourgish version of Champagne...Sparkling wine) Shopping

The streets of Grevenmacher, Luxembourg

Outside of Bernard Massard

Monday, August 29, 2011

Manderscheid Medieval Festival

Emily & I

The fest below





Castle Climb

Climbing through the lower castle (Niederburg), with a few of the upper castle (Oberburg).

End of night/End of Festival. The outline of the lower castle lit with torches. This picture does NOT do it justice - it was gorgeous

Thursday, August 25, 2011

swimming holes

"Beach" does not necessarily mean a large, open, sandy area leading to water for people to lay out, swim, play volleyball, etc. That's what I picture, what I assume, when I hear that word. Rovinj, Santorini, Cinque Terre (and more) prove otherwise).

Rovinj has beaches, but not Beaches. I'd categorize them more along the lines of swimming holes... They say beaches. On our side of Old Town Rovinj, there were two main swimming holes/beaches. These areas were filled with locals (old, young, really old, really young) - spending their day off or just their lunch break. Pick a flatt-ish rock (or concrete slab) depending on which swimming hole you're at. Lay out. Swim.

Along Zlatni Rt National Park there were thousands of swimming holes and these swimming holes were being used. Since you could only get there via bike or foot, the path was lined with the parked bikes of those visiting. Same thing. Pick a flatt-ish rock. Lay out. Swim. Here there was also more snorkeling. Zlatni Rt National Park is lined with trees, huge, old, beautiful trees (the park hosts 10 different species of Cypress Trees), so you can choose between sun and shade... and when it's 36C outside, trust me, you want that option.

These swimming holes are rocky underneath, not sandy (chacos would be a good idea). There is no sand. But, you can layout. You can swim. It's a beach.

Another little guy taking full advantage of the awesome swimming holes

Old Town Rovinj swimming hole

See... Beach. You lay out. You read. You jump in the water. No sand here.

Swimming hole right near our apartment.. I'd say my favorite of the 3 or 4 we visited

View from one of the many swimming holes along Zlatni Rt National Park, Rovinj

Swimming hole in Rovinj, 2 minutes walk from our apartment

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Rovinj, Croatia: A Travel Recommendation

First things first... you do NOT pronounce the 'j' in Rovinj. Good to know.

When A found the dirt cheap flight to Pula, Croatia a few weeks ago, he bought it, and I immediately started researching where we should go. It was obvious just from a simple Google Image search that I did not want to stay in Pula. So I looked on Google Maps, looked up the cities, searched them, and set my sights on Rovinj. What a great choice, if I do say so myself. Rovinj was an absolutely great place to vacation! It is set in the Istrian Peninsula of Croatia and is THE best city the peninsula has to offer. While there, we learned it was settled by the Romans and later, bounced around under the rules of Austria, France, Italy, and more. From the architecture, you definitely get an Italian feel... Venice like, but better. Why better?

Must See: Balbi Arch, Church of S. Eufenia, Old Town (where we stayed and spent all of our days/nights - no need to go outside of it, really).

Must Do: BE OUTSIDE!! Rent a bike (for cheap) and bike through and stop in the Zlatni Rt. National Park (this is a relatively large national park that is ONLY for bikes and pedestrians - all along the Rt. are swimming holes, places to lay out, and even some make-shift bars), walk through the gorgeous marble alleys (and be careful, they are slick! just ask A!!!), eat fresh seafood (you even see the fisherman come back from their early morning catches and mend their nets around lunch time), set up in a swimming hole to sunbathe and swim with the locals, eat late dinners (A's favorite!), explore by night which is just as gorgeous and much cooler than in the day.

Eat/Drink: Istrian wine, Istrian olive oil, sardines, and MOST importantly, truffles! The area is known for their delicious truffles so you definitely have to try at least one meal focused around the truffles. I had Angler's Fish in Truffle sauce which was to die for!

Don't: Rent a car, stay in a hotel, or go to Pula. You cannot drive in the Old Town of Rovinj and there is no need to go outside of the Old Town of Rovinj. It is not cheap and not worth it - it won't be used. As for hotels, there are a few in the Old Town which was WAY, much more just outside Old Town or even further. It is worth it to stay in Old Town and the best, most convenient, most efficient, and most cost-effective way to stay is in an apartment. While I usually use HomeAway or VRBO to find apartments, Rovinj was different, having their own website of information and apartments. For apartments, go to for all info regarding Rovinj, but particularly, (cheap!) apartment listings. Also, if going in the summer, make sure there is AC in your apartment!! It is HOTTTTT!!!

Public Transportation: We go to and from the airport different ways, both worked out and saved us a ton of money compared to a taxi. A taxi from Pula Airport to Old Town Rovinj is anywhere from 50-60euros. I am all about saving money. When we arrived in Pula, we walked to the bus station and there were no busses to Rovinj (we were confused because we looked up the bus info online before going). I decided it was our best option to grease the palm of a bus driver who was in charge of a tour around Croatia. For 20 euros total, we got a 40 minute bus ride to Rovinj. On the way home, we were planning on sucking it up and taking a taxi, but found the bus station (which we had not seen, but read about). There was a bus from Old Town Rovinj to Pula Bus station, which was about 3km from the airport. 10 euros to the bus station, 20 euro taxi ride to the airport.... again, money saved! Once in Rovinj, no need for any transportation!

In case you were wondering, here are some other Croatian tidbits of information we learned along the way. The Croatians look DIFFERENT. Often times I can pick out zee Germans and Italians, but other Euro-nationalities look similar enough that you can't just tell by looking at them. Well, not the Croatians. You can pick them out, for sure (not in a bad or good way, you just can). Also, in Rovinj, there is little to NO English spoken (yes!! I just love these places!). The people who we rented an apartment from, all the wait-staff at the restaurants (and gelaterias) we stopped at, everyone we encountered assumed we were German (yes!! We were not labeled the Americans) and started speaking to us in German. If you try to speak English, they assume that you assume that they can't speak German, so they whip out their German (which is pretty good.. especially for CROATIA?!!!). Desperate times call for desperate measures and we one time tried to speak English.. unsuccessful. Their German is obviously better than their non-existent English!

All in all, an awesome (but too short of) a trip to Rovinj. It was our first trip to Croatia and it REALLY got me pumped up to sail through the Dalmatian Islands & see Dubrovnik in 2012 (you ready, Anna?!). We spent three full nights there and could've stayed longer. It was a city with the perfect combination of relaxation/sight-seeing/stuff to do/swimming holes/sun for us! I already want to go back and would recommend for anyone/everyone to go!!

Angler's Fish with Truffle Sauce - the best thing we had that night!

A's Meal: Scallops with Shrimp & Asparagus Risotta (he ordered 2 meals, they did not come together). You could order as many scallops as you wanted.. I like that idea.

Appetizer: Sardines with Onions, Capers, and Lemons. DELICIOUS!! As good as, but different than Cinque Terre.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

just a teaser...

of pictures from Croatia. More to come tomorrow! I know I say how I love to travel and love all the cute little cities we visit, but man, I really loved Croatia. Wish we were still there. Might be my new favorite (I know, I know, I say that a lot!). My (very last) semester started yesterday and I spent it walking around the incredibly picturesque city of Rovinj/taking pictures/laid out in a swimming hole. Not a bad life :)

Thursday, August 18, 2011


It has been a blackberry kind of summer. Everywhere I go there are (free) blackberries to pick.. so I pick them!! Remember my blackberry pie and blackberry muffins?! Both delicious. This week, added to my blackberry repertoire: blackberry jam, blackberry-basil sprudel (fizzy water), blackberry-riesling spritzers, and spinach/goat cheese/blackberry & more salad. All delicious.

In other news, we have had 80F weather for the past two days which has been awesome. I have been taking full advantage by sitting outside on my awesome deck (or the beautiful courtyard) reading, going to the pool (within walking distance of our house and right in the middle of the vineyards!), riding bikes (we took a Romantic Mosel bike ride last night!), etc. It is supposed to go into the 90s this weekend (ew) and thankfully, since we are AC-less, we are missing it - these two Rapaljes are Croatia Bound!

Basil-Blackberry Sprudel

Being thrifty and reusing my Deutsche-Honig jars (german honey is bomb...seriously).

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Romische Weinstrasse

Taking full advantage of the BEAUTIFUL weather and spending the majority of the day OUTSIDE. Yesterday, Mary and I hiked the Roemische Weinstrasse (Roman Wine Street). Gorgeous views of the vineyards and Mosel, my favorite. Along the way were hikes, but it was also a bike trail. I'm thinking this might be a great thing to do when Emily & James visit next weekend. There are tons of wineries and biergartens along the way to stop at for a drink or essen! Also lots of blackberry picking going on :)

Romische Villa Rustica - a stop along the way in Mehring - An old Roman manor dated to 355 AD (possibly older) that was partially reconstructed for us tourists

Romische Villa Rustica

Picnic view

Mosel + Vineyard = Perfect

The Mosel River Valley

Don't get me wrong, the Riesling grapes are gorgeous, but the purple ones? I think they are just beautiful with the green leaves!

Purple AND Green! Mistake?!

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Valley of the Seven Castles

Since A and I didn't travel over the weekend (unusual for us!), we decided we still needed to sight-see on our free day, Sunday. We looked in our travel books and decided on somewhere in Luxembourg since it's super close AND we love it there! I read about the Valley of the Seven Castles and picked it! It was near our house, a driving tour WITH hiking, something we had yet to see, AND in our favorite country! We packed a picnic (homemade hummus wraps, veggie chips, and Gma's granola) and went on our way. Turns out, it was a good choice, but we could've used a little less rain. Good thing we could see all the castles/chateaus (at least from afar) without the 37km total hike!


Lunch - buckled in!