November 25, 2017

9 Reasons to Visit Le Mans France

Over the weekend my husband was watching the 24 Hours of Le Mans car race. He’s the race fan, so while he was giving me a little education on the cars and watching the race, I set out to discover more about Le Mans itself.

 
Le Mans France is situated about 113 miles south west of Paris in the Pays de Loire region. Sitting along the banks of the Sarthe river, Le Mans dates back to Roman times which gives the city a vast and varied history including ties to the Plantagenet royal family. Geoffrey V. d ‘Anjou (Plantagenet) was born in Le Mans during 1113, married Mathilda, daughter of Henry I of England, in Le Mans and his tomb is here too. The marriage of Geoffrey and Mathilda gave us Henry II a future King of England.

Here are 9 reason to visit Le Mans!

1)  All car enthusiasts will be interested in visiting Le Mans. There are 2 race courses in the city but the most famous race is the 24 Hours of Le Mans which has been taking place since 1923. A visit to the Musee de l’Automobile is enjoyable for everyone.

 

Gallo Romaine Walls Le Mans France

Le Mans Gallo Romaine Walls by OldLion

2)  The fortified Old Town is surrounded by Gallo-Roman walls which were built during the 3rd century to defend the city and are some of the best in all of France. A stroll through the Old Town is delightful as you pass many cobbled streets and half timbered houses.

 

Cathedral St. Julien Le Mans France

Cathedral St. Julien Le Mans France 080804 467 by juergen.mangelsdorf, on Flickr

3)  The Cathedral St. Julien rivals the magnificent cathedral in Chartres. Visitors are quite taken by the cathedral’s Gothic flying buttresses, Romanesque portal and stained glass windows. The oldest part of the cathedral dates back to the 11th century. The cathedral is also where Geoffrey married Mathilda and the resting place to the wife of Richard the Lionheart.

4)  The Sarthe River cuts a beautiful image through the city. Overlooking the river is Le Menhir, a monument to Celtic beliefs that has been looming over the town for 5,000 years.

 

Palais des Comtes du Maine Le Mans France

Palais des Comtes du Maine and brithplace of henry II Le Mans by Benchaum

5)  Today the city hall is in the Palais des Comtes du Maine which is the birthplace of Henry II.

6)  The Tunnel was built in the 19th century to make access to Le Mans easier but it also has some interesting lighting and landscaping along with a monument dedicated to Wilbur Wright.

7)  Besides the Roman walls, there are other items attesting to Le Mans’ Roman heritage including the Crypte Archeologique des Thermes Romains. In other words, remains of the Roman baths have been discovered near the river and are open to visitors.

 

Abbatiale de l'Epau near Le Mans France

Abbatiale de l'Epau by Benchaum

8)  Just at the edge of town is the impressive Cistercian Abbey of l’Epau. Founded by the wife of Richard the Lionheart, the medieval Abbey is situated along the Huisne River and offers a sanctuary for those seeking peace and calm

9)  Le Mans is home to many museums. Museums full of natural history, Automobile history, aquariums, Egyptian artifact and art. But to learn more about Le Mans and its history from Roman times through the 15th century, don’t miss the Museum of Archaeology and History of Mans on Plantagenet Square where you’ll be able to explore the vast history of the city dating all the way back to 50 BC and its Roman settlement.

 

Old Town Le Mans France

Le Mans, France by Sue Elias, on Flickr

Looks like there’s much more to Le Mans than cars! No wonder it has also been the site of many movies including Cyrano de Bergerac, Man in the Iron Mask and The Three Musketeers.

Next time I’m in the area I’ll be stopping by,

Will You?

Remembering World War I

Last week we remembered D-Day and the troops who risked their lives to liberate France from German occupation .  The D-Day beaches in Normandy France are a huge tourist draw but it seems as if time has forgotten those soldiers who lost their lives during World War I.

There are not many sights left in Europe that remind us of the First World War but in Eastern France travelers can learn about the war and remember those who gave their lives during heated battles taking place from 1914 to 1918.

Known as the “Western Front” this region is full of beautiful rivers, Gothic cathedrals and picturesque villages but it is also dotted with grim reminders of the devastation that took place here during World War I.

Battelfield Verdun France

1916 Battelfield of Verdun still retains traces of shellimpacts from wikimedia

Besides the craters and trenches that are still visible, the area is home to many cemeteries, museums and memorials that will help you appreciate the extent of battles that took place in the area.

Some of the fiercest fighting occurred near Verdun and the Somme Region of France and today there are many museums and memorials honoring those that served.

Verdun France

The Battle of Verdun lasted 300 days and left 300,000 dead. The Memorial de Verdun was opened in 1967 to remember French and German soldiers as well as civilian citizens lost during the siege. The museum displays military armaments, vehicles, uniforms and equipment and is built on the site of Fleury, a village that was wiped out during fighting.

Memorial de Verdun France

Memorial de Verdun by Wolfgang Staudt

Also in the area are Fort Douaumont, which was a strategic command post and gives a real sense of the conditions the soldiers endured, and Fort Vaux which includes a memorial to the carrier pigeons used during the war.

Fort Douaumont Ossuary France WWI Battle site

Douaumont Ossuary by Gordon T Lawson, on Flickr

The French National Cemetery commemorates the 130,000 unknown French and German soldiers killed at Verdun while the Douaumont Ossuary holds the bones of these unknown soldiers. This moving location will definitely leave you thinking about the war that left so many dead or wounded. Climbing the bell tower overlooking the cemetery with its rows of white crosses or visiting the Trench of Bayonets, where an entire company was buried alive, brings home the horrors of war.

Somme France

The Somme region was the site of one of the bloodiest battles on the Western Front. Over 620,000 French and British soldiers died here along with over 600,000 German soldiers. The remains of the dead were not transported back to their countries which is why the area has 280 plus graveyards and memorials.

Thiepval Memorial to the Missing France

Thiepval Memorial to the missing by Chris Hartford from London, UK

The Thiepval Memorial honors the missing and is a beautiful red brick arched structure. This is “the largest British battle memorial in the world” and the names of 72,000 missing soldiers are engraved on the walls. Occasionally, the remains of a soldier are found in one of the former battlefields.  If the remains are somehow identified, the name is then removed from the list of the missing and the soldier is given a full military burial.

Entrance to Museum of the Great War Peronne France

Entrance to Museum of the Great War at Peronne by mifl68, on Flickr

Peronne is a lovely French town very near many of the battle sites in the Somme. It is also home to the Museum of the Great War. Located in a castle, this museum strives to show the common suffering of not only the soldiers but the impact war has on the citizens.

This portion of France is a must see to any history and/or war enthusiast. Next year marks the 100th anniversary of World War I and the region will host many ceremonies and events commemorating those that served.

 

Do you visit battle sites while traveling?

Less Crowded Options for European Summer Travels

School is almost out which means summer vacations are right around the corner. If you’re able to vacation any time of year, you might not choose summer to visit Europe but many vacationers only have summertime for a European family vacation.

So how do you beat the summer crowds in Europe?

In my local Sunday paper I found a list of travel options that are less crowded than the more popular destinations. Here are their suggestions for quieter summer destinations in Europe!

Budapest Hungary instead of Paris France

Danube and Parliament Building Budapest Hungary

Budapest by ** Maurice **, on Flickr

Paris is probably one of the most well known travel destinations in the world so it’s not surprising Paris is crowded during the summer! While Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, Seine River, the Louvre and the Champs Elysee bring people to Paris, Budapest also has its well known sites. People come to Budapest to see the Fisherman’s Bastion, Parliament Building, the grand boulevard Andrassy Ut and its Spas. Some even say Budapest is the most beautiful city in Central Europe and with the beautiful views over the Danube River I can see why Budapest has earned this label. Budapest and Paris both have long and tumultuous histories, grand architecture covering a vast array of time periods, beautiful cathedrals and gobs of cultural opportunities!

Korcula Croatia instead of Corfu Greece

Panorama of Korčula Croatia

Panorama of Korčula by Zupec on wikimedia

Korcula and Corfu are both stunning islands that offer warm weather, crystal clear waters and beautiful beaches but the comparisons stop there. Sitting off the coast of Greece, Corfu has been the playground for the rich and famous for eons. The island also has a rich heritage dating back to 1300 BC and is full of historic monuments and museums displaying archeological finds from the temples and ancients cities on the island. If you’re looking for a quieter vacation centered on water and beaches, then Korcula may be the perfect place for you! Relax on one of the beautiful beaches, kayak around some of the other islands or snorkel in the clear cool waters of the Adriatic. Korcula also offers great views back to the Dalmation Coast of Croatia!

Baltic Coast of Germany instead of Bavaria Germany

National Park Jasmund on Rugen Island Germany

National Park Jasmund on Rugen Island by Thomas Wolf on wikimedia

If Germany is your destination, you really can’t go wrong visiting either Bavaria or the Baltic Coast.  But if you’re looking for a quieter seaside trip, then the Baltic is an excellent option. When I wrote Warnemunde – A Baltic Beach Resort the number one comment I received was people were surprised Germany has beaches. Yes Germany has glorious beaches and Warnemunde is just one of them! The Baltic coast had been a popular resort area with the aristocrats for years and since reunification, this coastline is gaining in popularity but is still a peaceful respite from the summer crowds found in the more popular tourist destinations. Germany’s Baltic coast is full of long sandy beaches, rugged cliffs, sand dunes, popular resort islands, nature reserves and quaint seaside towns with centers that are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The Baltic coast still maintains a very definite maritime feel and is a great place to relax while watching sailboats or enjoy a walk or bike ride along the miles of sandy beaches!

What other less-crowded European destinations can you suggest?

Humorous Gargoyle of Freiburg

Anyone traveling in Europe has seen Gargoyles staring down at you from high atop cathedrals like Notre Dame in Paris France.

Gargoyle Notre Dame Paris France

Gargoyle Notre Dame Paris France

They do have a menacing look to them and, in fact, part of their lore says they protect the churches from evil spirits. In actuality, they have a very useful function. Gargoyles are water spouts which keep rainwater away from the sides of the building where the forces of water would damage them in the same way rivers carve canyons.

Gargoyles on the Munster Freiburg Germany

Different types of Gargoyles look down on you in Freiburg!

Although we usually associate Gargoyles with medieval time they were used during other times until architects started using gutters. We also usually associate Gargoyles as being scary and grotesque but some Gargoyles depict monks, animals and some are even very humorous.

Horse Gargoyle Munster Freiburg GermanyHuman Gargoyle Munster Freiburg Germany

I ran into a humorous Gargoyle while visiting the Munster in Freiburg Germany.  As I was looking up at the church, I noticed many Gargoyles dotting the sides.  Then I ran into this one.  After a double take, I realized I was right.  This Gargoyle seems to be mooning everyone!  Since it rained while I was in Freiburg, I actually got to see it work too : )

Humorous Gargoyle Munster Freiburg Germany

Look closely at the Gargoyle on the left, it is mooning you!

Have you seen a humorous Gargoyle?


These pictures are part of Travel Photo Thursday! For more great pictures,make sure to check out Budget Travelers Sandbox.

Exploring the Alps via National Parks

One of Europe’s greatest mountain range is The Alps which stretch 750 miles from Slovenia in the east through Austria, Italy, Switzerland, and Germany before ending in France in the west.  These mountains are known for their towering peaks, expansive glaciers, green meadows, wildflowers and wildlife.  There may be no better way to experience the Alps than in one of the protected National Parks.

Here are six National Parks you’ll find while exploring the Alps!

Lake Bohinj with church Triglav National Park Slovenia

Lake Bohinj with church by Rosino

Known for its scenery, hiking and skiing is the Triglav National Park in Slovenia.  This area is full of picture postcard moments including craggy mountains, glacial Lake Bohinj, Soca and Sava Rivers, wild flowers and waterfalls.  Experience the park through the Slovenian Alpine Museum or its hiking and biking trails.  Mountaineering is also popular.

Nationalpark Hohe Tauern - Krimmler Wasserfälle Austria

Nationalpark Hohe Tauern - Krimmler Wasserfälle by thisisbossi, on Flickr

Crossing into Austria you’ll find more amazing mountains as you enter the Alpine region.  One of Austria’s National Parks is the Hohe Tauern National Park.  Covering 708 square miles the park is the largest nature reserve in the Alps and home to beautiful glaciers, valley’s, tundra, clear lakes, gold mines and waterfalls.  The mountains, lakes, rivers and meadows are home to chamois, alpine ibex and golden eagles.  Enjoy the park on one of the wonderful hiking trails or by a guided tour which are offered during the summer.

Valle Imperina Dolomati National Park Italy

Valle Imperina by Andrea Omizzolo, on Flickr

The Dolomiti Bellunesi National Park in Italy is most known for the varied hiking, flora, wildlife, cliffs, ravines and stunning mountains.  The park is home to springs, two lakes and streams full of trout.  The Dolomite’s are some of the most beautiful and dramatic mountains in all of Europe.  This park located in the south east Alps and is also home to many Karst formations including the largest cave in Italy.

Autumn in Berchtesgaden National Park Germany

Autumn in Berchtesgaden National Park by springm / Markus Spring, on Flickr

On the border with Austria is the Berchtesgaden National Park.  The southern corner of Germany is home to one of the country’s tallest mountains, the Watzmann, which shadows over stunning Lake Konigsee.  The park is full of wonderful hiking and cycling trails both in the valley and at high altitudes where you may see ibex, eagles and marmots along with beautiful wild flowers.  Berchtesgaden National Park is known for its stunning alpine scenery and there is no better place to experience this than taking the Jenner cable car up to the edge of the park!

Swiss National Park Switzerland

Swiss National Park by Hansueli Krapf

The Swiss National Park is known for its hiking trails and alpine scenery.  The only national park in Switzerland has over 21 hiking trails spread over 50 miles.  The routes range in difficulty from easy to Alpine trails requiring technical equipment.  While enjoying the park keep your eyes open for golden eagles, bearded vultures and chamois.

View from the Roc du Tambour Vanoise National Park France

View from the Roc du Tambour by Matthieu LIENART, on Flickr

One of the most popular outdoor areas in France is Vanoise National Park.  The beautiful mountain scenery is splendid during any season. The park is a haven for skiers during the winter while summer is a delight to hikers.  While in the park you may see alpine ibex, chamois and other animals.

Would you visit a National Park in the Alps?

This post is being shared in celebration of Earth Day as part of a Nature Travel roundup. Check our more “Natural” adventures at the Green Global Traveler!

Art Around Town – Statues & Fountains

I’ve got good news for those of you that don’t like museums!  To see art you don’t have to enter a museum.

Walking around a town you will run into all kinds of interesting and beautiful pieces of art.  As with all art, they can and do evoke all kinds of feelings and are a great way to learn a little history including who or what is important to the citizens.

I’ve found Statues and Fountains  wandering Europe that . . .

Honors Brave Deeds as the the Girondist column and fountain in Bordeaux France!  This beautiful column celebrates a small group of revolutionaries who banded together to save the republic.

Girondist Column Bordeaux France

Added to the peace and beauty of a garden as do all the statues and fountains found in Mirabell Gardens.  These Gardens are one of  the most popular places in Salzburg Austria and the artwork really adds to the beauty of the gardens (IMO)!

Mirabell Gardens Salzburg Austria

Told a tale of unrequited love depicted in the lovely Matthias Fountain found on Budapest’s Castle Hill.  The Fountain depicts a hunting scene where the young King met and fell in love with a peasant girl.

Matthias Fountain Budapest Hungary

Honors a beloved ruler like  Kunigunde.   King Heinrich and his wife, Kunigunde, made Bamberg their home and are one of Bamberg’s favorite rulers.

Kunigunde Bamberg Germany

Impressed me with the artistic ability of the craftsman.   At the southern entrance to the Hofburg Palace in Vienna Austria are statues depicting “The Labors of Hercules” by Lorenzo Matelli.  I found them all to be amazing and this is just one!

Labors of Hercules Vienna Austria

Even add a lighthearted feel to a city street.  Look who I ran into on a corner in Potsdam Germany – The Green Family! No clue what the significance is, I just found it interesting 🙂

Green Family Potsdam Germany

Even if you’re someone who doesn’t feel they like art, I think we’ve all been impressed by some of the Statues and Fountains we’ve stumbled into while traveling.

 

What Statues and Fountains have impressed you?

 

These pictures are part of Travel Photo Thursday! For more great pictures,make sure to check out Budget Travelers Sandbox.

Signs of Spring

I have a love-hate relationship with spring. My allergies hate it but in every other way I love spring. Spring is a rebirth. The sun comes out a bit more, snow starts melting, rivers fill up, trees come back to life and flowers start blooming. There are a lot of destinations where you can enjoy the signs of spring one of which is Europe.

Here are a few of my favorite European signs of spring!

Trees bloom and push green leaves,

Spring Trees in London England

Spring Trees by celesteh, on Flickr

Driving is a joy as the wild flowers crop up,

Wildflowers in Loire Valley France

Wildflowers in Loire Valley by celesteh, on Flickr

But its not just wild flowers. Spring brings color popping up everywhere!

Daffodils in Kensington Gardens England

Daffodils in Kensington Gardens... by Paul-in-London, on Flickr

Which brings me to one of my fondest spring memories. Back in April 1984 my husband and I were in London England wandering through Kensington Gardens and were awestruck by all the daffodils coming up, literally everywhere, all while it was ever so lightly snowing. If you’ve never been to London in spring, I highly recommend it!

Tulips in the Flevopolder Holland

Tulips in the Flevopolder by ingo.ronner, on Flickr

Tulips are definitely a sign of spring and there isn’t a better place to enjoy them than in Holland. In the small town of Lisse, just south of Amsterdam, is the biggest and best known Tulip festival. From mid-March to late May Holland celebrates everything about the tulip. The tulips stretch for miles and miles making such a beautiful sight!

Along with flowers comes better weather which pushes people outside. Whether its for the Paris marathon or a walk in the park, people just start moving more. This must be why it is also the start of festival season!

Both Munich and Stuttgart Germany have Spring Festivals that are similar to Oktoberfest but much smaller. Those Germans like to celebrate their beer at every season, don’t they?

Almond Blossoms near Neustadt Germany

Almond Blossoms near Neustadt Germany courtesy of Neustadt a.d. Weinstrasse, Tourist Kongress und Sallbau GmbH

But the Germans don’t just celebrate beer! The first wine festival of the year, the Almond Blossom Festival, is held in Gimmeldingen every March and April. During spring, the entire area is bathed in a beautiful pink hue from the blossoming Almond trees. Gimmeldingen is in the Rheinland-Pfalz region and is also known for its wine so don’t get so taken by the blossoms that you forget to have some of the local wine!

Trimming White Asparagus in Mannheim Germany

Trimming White Asparagus in Mannheim Germany by Andrew Cowin

One of my favorite times to visit Germany is during Spargelsaison (White Asparus Season). This spring event is brought on by the warming sun which brings White Asparugus to villages all over the country! Once only eaten by nobility, today the lovely asparagus is enjoyed by everyone. There is even a Baden Asparagus Route where you can enjoy a lovely drive through the countryside providing most of the asparagus plus encounter an Aspargus Festival or two! Maybe you’ll run into the Asparagus King or be the champion asparagus peeler!

These are a few of my favorite signs of spring,

What are yours??

 

 

This post is part of the spring-themed blog carnival hosted at Traveling with Sweeney.
Be sure to check out all the spring related posts!

Royal Crypts – The Burial Places of European Monarchs

One of the reasons I love visiting Europe is its vast history. I am always awed by the depth of European history. This history is definitely intertwined with the lives of European Kings and Queens and I not only learn by visiting the places they lived but by seeing where they rest today.

This is one of the reasons I enjoy visiting cemeteries and royal crypts.

If you’re like me and enjoy visiting royal crypts, here are 6 that you may find interesting.

Speyer Cathedral, Germany

What Clovis I began in 1030 is today a symbol of Imperial power. Between this date and 1308 the cathedral became the burial site of 8 Emperors, Kings and their wives. The UNESCO World Heritage site is known as one of the most important Romanesque sites in Germany and the crypt is actually the largest Hall Crypt in Europe.
Speyer Cathedral Hall Crypt Germany

Speyer Cathedral Hall Crypt by Mussklprozz at de.wikipedia

Church of Our Lady in Laeken Belgium

This neo-Gothic Catholic church contains the Royal crypt that is the final resting place of the Belgian Royal family including the first King and Queen of Belgium, Leopold I and Louise-Marie. In fact, it was King Leopold I that originally had the church built in memory of his wife, Queen Louise-Marie. Built during the 19th century, today the Royal crypt holds the remains of all Belgian Kings.

Imperial Crypt Austria

The Imperial Crypt in Vienna has been the main burial site for the members of the Hapsburg family since 1622. It was Anna of Tyrol who, in her will, gave the funding for the crypt. Today it is one of the most visited places in all of Vienna. As I mentioned in The Hapsburgs: Living Large in Life and Death, this is the final resting place of 12 Emperors and 18 Empresses. The sarcophagi range from rather plain to very ornate and the amount of decoration seems to correlate to the importance of the person.
Crypt Charles VI Holy Roman Emperor Vienna Austria

Crypt of Charles VI Holy Roman Emperor

Roskilde Cathedral Denmark

The Roskilde Cathedral was constructed during the 12th and 13th centuries and is located on the island of Zealand. Besides being the main burial site of Danish Royalty this is the first Gothic cathedral to be built of brick. There are many burial chapels within the cathedral containing the remains of Danish royalty.
Roskilde Cathedral Crypt Denmark

Roskilde Dom by Fingalo

Westminster Abbey England

The oldest part of Westminster Abbey dates from 1050 and until 1760, this mainly Gothic church in London, was the burial place for English and British monarchs. The monarchs are buried inside the chapels of the church while other significant persons are buried in the cloisters and other areas on the grounds. Queen Elizabeth I and Bloody Queen Mary are among the monarchs buried in the Abbey.
Tomb Effigies of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York Westminster Abbey London England

Tomb Effigies of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York by lisby1, on Flickr

St Denis Basilica France

Located near Paris, this medieval Abbey was a burial place of French Kings and their families from the 10th – 18th centuries. In fact, all but three Kings of France are buried here many in “cadaver tombs”. These double-decker tombs have the person’s effigy on top and a decomposing effigy underneath. Among those buried hear include Clovis I and what remains of King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.
St Denis Cathedral France

St Denis by Roi Boshi

Do you visit Royal Crypts?

European Lodging – The Choice is Yours

George Bernard Shaw said “The great advantage of a hotel is that it’s a great refuge from home life”. This too true statement is indicative of why the choice of hotel when traveling is so difficult and important!

Luckily Europe has many different lodging options which will add to the enjoyment of your escape! Here are a few that I’ve been lucky enough to have stayed at.Alpenrose Hotel Mittenwald Germany

Hotels can be wonderful traditional guest houses like Gasthof Fraundorfer in Garmisch-Partenkirchen or Hotel Alpenrose in Mittenwald Germany. Make sure you know whether they have elevators and are prepared for stairs if they don’t! Also make sure you know whether there is a bar or restaurant on the first floor. This may mean it may be a bit noisier than expected.View Schloss Hotel Rheinfels Germany

They can be Luxury class beauties set on the shores of an equally beautiful lake as with Palace Hotel on Lake Lucerne and Suisse Majestic Montreux Switzerland or seaside in the Hotel du Palais Biarritz France or even have amazing views of rivers like the Schloss Hotel Rheinfels in St. Goar Germany. I don’t have the opportunity to stay in luxury hotels often since the price is not usually in my budget but can say I’ve enjoyed staying in luxury accommodations even if I wonder if they are really me.

Gasthof Fraundorfer Garmisch-Partenkirchen Germany

Gasthof Fraundorfer by Q-BEE, on Flickr

There are 4 star large basic properties conveniently located for train travel such as the Intercity Hotel in Mainz and Hotel Excelsior Erfurt Germany. Not usually my first choice but I really did enjoy how close they were to the train station and the city centers of both were easily reached.

Green hotels like Hotel Victoria Freiburg Germany which boasts they are the “most eco friendly hotel in the world” and they just might be! All electricity and heat come from renewable sources like solar, wind and wood pellet heating. The thermal solar panels on the roof and the natural materials used throughout hotel make for a wonderful experience and the Victoria is also convenient to both the train station and city center!BarockHotel am Dom Bamberg Germany

Historic architectural treasures in perfect locations – Old Town city centers – but not completely convenient for train travel BarockHotel am Dom Bamberg Germany and Kasererbraeu Salzburg Austria. The beautiful building housing the Barockhotel dates back to 1520 while the Kasererbraeu is from 1342 and was once a monastery and brewery before becoming protected by UNESCO!

Hotels I’m glad I read the online reviews of so I wasn’t completely frightened by the entrance, Panorama Central in Budapest. A wonderful oasis once you got inside but honestly a little unsettling getting to! Moral to this story, READ online reviews!

Known for its history and spa, Schwarzer Bock Wiesbaden. I’ve been lucky to stay here two times and can say this is one of my favorite hotels. Dating back to 1486, the Schwarzer Bock is a classic beauty- luxurious and yet very comfortable. And in a wonderful location!

Hotel I fell in love with because there was a heat wave and it was air conditioned refrigerated, Grauer Baer Innsbruck! I would stay at this property again because it was very convenient to Old Town and train station.

While my preferred type of lodgings are guest houses and architectural and historic beauties, in some way, all of the hotels I’ve stayed in have added to my enjoyment and experience I had in their cities and villages.

What do you look for when choosing a hotel for your trip?

European Dreaming in 2013

Now that the pages of the calendar have slipped into a new year, it’s the time of year to reflect back and dream forward (and start back to the gym!).  I’m not going to rehash the places I visited in Europe during 2012 but just need to say, if you’ve not been to Germany you must put it on your list for this year.  Make sure to cover the touristy areas such as Munich, Ludwig’s Castles and the Rhine River but also leave time to explore the country’s lesser known jewels as this is where Germany shines!

Make sure you visit those small Bavarian villages, be amazed by the wines Germany offers, taste beer  fresh from the keg, follow Luther’s footsteps into Erfurt and beyond, travel along the many scenic routes like the Romantic Road, explore the beaches of the Baltic and North Sea for a taste of sea side Germany and don’t forget the diamonds in the rough that were once part of East Germany.

But now that we’re a few days into January, I’m dreaming of my travels in 2013. I have not made any travel plans yet but I am dreaming of where I’d most like to go and have narrowed down my list to these 5 areas.

Canoeing Dordogne River France

Dordogne by Jos Dielis, on Flickr

Dordogne Valley France

Small villages, rivers, canoes, hot air balloons, wine and prehistoric history all combine to make the Dordogne Valley call to me. I could see myself spending time driving from village to village enjoying the lovely markets, wines and cuisine along the way.  Adding in days lazing in a canoe along the Dordogne river or visiting the national parks and gardens.  There are many castles and churches to be visited  too!

Adare Manor Ireland

Adare Manor Ireland by Jerzy Strzelecki

Ireland

When I think of Ireland I see green rolling hills, smiling people, lochs, fog, turbulent oceans, pubs, beer and music…  and castles waiting to tuck me in at night! Along with general sight seeing, I’d most like to enjoy evenings in those famous Irish pubs drinking the local brew while humming to wonderful Irish music.  I’m not a huge whiskey fan but I would enjoy touring a whiskey factory and sampling this distilled wonder.  I’ve always thought I’d probably like whiskey if I was drinking it in Ireland J Besides this, I’d love to drive around the country gazing at the scenery and learning about her history while spending of my nights in some of the many bed and breakfasts that dot the countryside (when I’m not staying in a castle, of course!).

Karlovy Vary Czech Republic

Karlovy Vary Czech Republic by Bobak Ha'Eri

Czech Republic

I’ll admit it, pictures and movies talk to me!  So as I was watching “The Last Holiday” before Christmas I was reminded of how much I’d love to visit Karlovy Vary and even stay at the Hotel Pupp! But that would just be a start to my visit of the Czech Republic.  Of course, I couldn’t leave without visiting Prague but I really want to visit the areas outside the capital city.  Plzen for its beer would definitely be on the itinerary along with the castles, forests, gorges, mountains, caves, architecture and history that Bohemia and Moravia are known for!

Dolomites in Sud Tirol Italy

Dolomites in Sud Tirol Italy by Alesvp

Sud Tirol Italy

I’m a mountain girl and those gorgeous and jagged peaks of the Dolomites have beckoned me for years. I would love to stand in an amazing green meadow surrounded by the soaring mountains.  Of course, I’d also love to sample the local wine, enjoy the cuisine, learn about the history and legends and visit the small villages that sit so cozily at the foot of the Dolomite’s.  There will also be time for a little hiking which would only make the trip complete.

Berchtesgaden Germany

Berchtesgaden Germany by Eric Sorenson

Germany

You didn’t think I could make a potential travel list without including spots in Germany did you 🙂 There really is so much of this country I haven’t been to but I think I’d really love to travel along the Alpine Road into Prien visiting Chiemsee, Berchtesgaden and any number of small lovely villages along the way.  Or maybe I should finally break down and visit those lovely Christmas markets!

Boy this is going to be a tough decision!

 

What are you European travel dreams for 2013?