A Travellerspoint blog

San Sebastian, Spain. Basque country!

Pintxos, beach time, and great views.

Beautiful San Sebastian

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After another long six hour drive, we arrived in San Sebastian around 5pm. We rented a three bedroom flat which was about a 20 minute walk from the old town. The owner of the flat, who spoke almost no English, met us and helped us park the car at a nearby lot. He spoke in rapid Spanish (or Basque?) and we missed a lot of the information he gave us. We still managed to get by. It was a hot evening but we decided to walk to the old town to experience pintxos (Basque tapas) for dinner.

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The beach was beautiful at twilight. We were surprised at how many people of all ages were out walking in the evening. Most women wore dresses or skirts and even folks into their 80s and 90s were out enjoying the summer evening.

We were quickly overwhelmed at the number of bars and restaurants in old town San Sebastian. It was difficult to choose a place to start! Many people poured out of restaurants onto the pedestrian-only narrow streets. Our first pick was so-so. Luckily, the second one was much better. We tried such a variety of foods: octopus, mussels, iberco ham, shrimp, other random seafood, croquettes, and much more. Most of the food was not labeled and set out on the bar counter for self-service. You simply grabbed what looked good and enjoy.

We laughed a lot, found a neat old square that used to host bull fights (the balconies were still numbered for special ticketing seating), and slowly made our way back through the crowds and somewhat deserted beach.

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We were especially excited to buy beautiful paintings on the street from a man who paints with his fingers. Each painting took him about 2-3 minutes. And they're gorgeous!

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We got back to our apartment late and eager for a full day in San Sebastian

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Old Town, Mount Igeldo, Beach Time, & More Pintxos

We walked to the Old Town and had churros and chocolate for breakfast. The chocolate was as thick as pudding! Such a healthy way to start the day.

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Today was a hot one. Over 90 degrees. We walked nearly three miles to the Mount Igeldo funicular. This old cable car took us up the steep hill for some incredible views.

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Once at the top, DD#2 and I climbed a tower for even more views.

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The girls and I rode an old time roller coaster with incredible views. You can see the part of the scenic track in this picture.

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We had a snack and rode the funicular back down before heading to a somewhat calm spot on the busy beach. The girls and I jumped right into the Atlantic for an afternoon swim. The water was cold at first but was much warmer than Oregon's frigid coast! The beach was packed with people of all ages, shapes, and sizes. I think I was the only one wearing a mom tankini. Most women wore bikinis, with or without the top section! DH and my mom enjoyed some people watching while we swam.

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We dried off, found some ice cream, and had a short break at our apartment before heading out for dinner.

We took a taxi to a different part of town called the Gros District. We went to a recommended restaurant for the best pintxos of the trip. Delicious! We still didn't know what we were eating most of the time but it was sure yummy. After dinner, we found a nice social square with a playground in the center. The kids happily played for nearly an hour (they met some kids from Texas) while the rest of us enjoyed an outdoor drink.

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DH and DD#1 were exhausted and headed back around 10pm. The rest of us were eager to see the sunset and what old town was like after dark. We found a restaurant that served shark! We couldn't resist trying that!

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We had a very full day. DD#2 was ecstatic to reach her fitbit record of 40,000 steps in a day! Needless to say, we all slept pretty well.

Mount Urgull & More Wandering San Sebastian

On our last day in San Sebastian, I knew I had to run. I went for one of the most scenic six mile runs ever! Afterward, we got a late start and found a cafe and playground to help us get motivated for the day.

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We encountered many lovely churches and parks. We took so many pictures.

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DH and I loved hearing this unique bassoon trio. They had serious chops!

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We began a slow hike up Mount Urgull. There was a large statue on the top along with even more views of the ocean and city below. Some clouds had rolled in so it was a different view from the day before.

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DD#1 was seriously worn out after all the walking.

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Check out the man-made giant cube rocks along the shore and jetty!

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We made our way down the mountain and had to find a place for a late 3pm lunch. We settled on our last pintxos experience. The small tapas thing is fun, but I think we were all eager for a normal meal. DD#1 and DH headed back to the room for some R&R while the rest of us did some shopping and more beach time. DH has had to trek to the car every evening to reload the parking pass (good for 24 hr).

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We have enjoyed buying fruit everyday from local markets. The white nectarines have been everyone's favorite. Eventually, we all connected back at the flat for pizza and much-needed sleep. Off to Salamanca tomorrow!

Posted by familyineurope 22:58 Archived in Spain Tagged beach san sebastian pintxos igeldo urgell Comments (0)

Amboise - a room with a view, castles, and the zoo

First time in the Loire Valley. Beautiful despite the weather.

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Drive from Germany to France

Today was our longest driving day of the trip - just over six hours. We stopped for picnic items in Germany. DH worked his tetris magic with trunk packing, and off we went. It poured rain on our drive but we still made decent time on France's expensive toll roads. We were especially excited when we saw the chateau in Amboise. We were even more excited when we saw our apartment with a priceless view of the castle. I saw pictures online but seeing the view in person was remarkable.

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The host of our apartment was a friendly and spunky woman who did an excellent job explaining the town of Amboise as well as the features in our apartment. It's such a charming little place! We decided to cross the river to see the old town.

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A pharmacy vending machine. That's a first!

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We found a grocery store and stocked up on some breakfast items before having a nice pizza dinner. DH and I sneaked next door to Shaker Bar where even our drinks had a great view of the castle.

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We were all tired and eager to wake up to our first full day in France.

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Chenoncaeux, wine tasting, and a fancy dinner

After a very scenic run and an easy breakfast (French yogurt is so good!), we made a short 20 minute drive to the famous Chenonceau chateau. It's amazing how the castle is built over the river. The kids really enjoyed taking pictures from many different angles. The inside of the castle was beautiful and DD#1 was excited to see real-life examples of the Renaissance, which she'd learned about in school last year.

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We spent around two hours wandering the interior, exterior, and gardens surrounding the castle. It is a very unique castle.

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We found a nearby boulangerie for lunch. We had simple and tasty baguette sandwiches (mom had a pizza). DH was able to make a reservation at a recommended restaurant, l'Ilôt, for dinner. My mom agreed to stay at the apartment and eat with the kids. We stopped at a large French supermarket, E.Leclerc, for dinner and various things we didn't know we needed. They were making fresh crepes in the bakery and the aisles of cheeses and yogurts sucked me in! It was a much longer (and more expensive) stop than anticipated.

Before heading back to Amboise, we made one final stop at a winery for a quick tasting. The kids groaned but were instantly happy when given fancy sparkling grape juice in a champagne flute.

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Leonardo da Vinci retired in Amboise and is buried in the chateaux. We were impressed by his statue which was just down the street from our apartment.

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The nearby park wasn't too bad either.

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My mom and I decided to do a little more shopping and exploring in the cute town of Amboise. After not really buying a thing, we ended up at a typical little bar for a glass of wine. Although Amboise is touristy, it seems most of the visitors are French.

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We made it back in time for DH and I to leave for our 8pm dinner reservations. L'ilot was exceptional! This small French restaurant had its kitchen in the center. We were seated at the bar where we had a great view of the chefs in action. What a treat to eat a slow meal in courses! The seafood starters were exceptional and my pork dish was amazing. The pretty strawberry and chocolate mousse dessert with glass sugar decor was a perfect ending. We were so full! My mom and the kids were good sports and ate a simple meal in the apartment. After a busy day, they really didn't seem to mind.

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Amboise Market, Castle and Beauval Zoo

My mom and I started off the day at Amboise's Sunday market. The food section was so colorful and diverse. The non-food items felt more like a flea market with products made far from France. I was hoping there would be more locally produced items.

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We decided to split up for much of the day. My mom offered to take the kids to France's largest zoo. Admission prices were steep ($30 per person) so we were more than happy to save a few Euros and find an alternate activity. We drove about 40 minutes on windy and narrow backroads to the somewhat remote zoo. DD#2 was extra excited to see the pandas. Sadly, they only spotted one of the two pandas and he slept the entire time.

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When DH and I made it back to Amboise, we decided to keep it simple and tour the castle that we'd been staring at out our window for the last two nights. Although much simpler that Chenonceau, Amboise Chateau was still beautiful.

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DH and I wandered the town and were amazed by the homes built into the hillside (troglodyte homes). After a simple snack of cheese and baguette in our apartment, it was already time to pick up the rest of the family at the zoo.

We stopped in a smaller less-touristy town called Montrichard. The kids played at a park and we hoped to find a recommended restaurant for dinner. No luck. On Sundays, most everything is shut down.

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We decided to continue eating the groceries we'd already purchased and added a couple more things from the local Carrefour. It felt good to enjoy our apartment and take numerous pictures on our last night in Amboise. The sun was finally out so we enjoyed out last evening views of the castle. We will never forget this place!

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Tomorrow, we are off to Spain!

Posted by familyineurope 22:40 Archived in France Tagged zoo chenonceau amboise beauval Comments (1)

Rhine River, Darmstadt, Frankfurt, Mom Arrives, Black Forest

Last days in Germany. Boats, chairlifts, gondolas, luges, zip-lining, and more!

Circle tour around Bingen & Rudesheim

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We began another sunny day with C & R. I started with a short run around the countryside before heading to a yummy bakery. We drove about 40 minutes to the riverside town of Bingen. We were eager to buy the "ring ticket" which combined a boat ride, a mini-gondola, a hike to a famous statue, a chair lift, and a boat back to where we started. We had a little time to kill before the first boat departed so we found a convenient beer garden.

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After the first boat ride, we arrived in the adorable town of Rudesheim. We walked down a popular skinny street to the gondola lift. Each gondola only fit two people. We were so happy to have such a beautiful day to ride over the vineyards lining the Rhine River.

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After the 10 minute gondola ride, we hiked up to a famous statue with amazing views over the valley and river below.

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We hiked another 30 minutes to the chair lift that took us back down to the riverside. It was a slow and quiet lift except for the noisy birds. I could listen to German birds all day long. Such sweet singing!

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Finally, we took our boat back to the starting point after going past a castle or two. We had a quick pizza snack before concluding the ring.

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The guys decided to head back to the house while the girls headed to a fun outdoor pool in Wiesbaden. The pool was chilly but the slides were awesome and we took some great pictures of the kids hurling themselves off the diving boards.

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We ordered doner kebab for dinner. Delicious! R took each kid for an adventurous ride on his 4-wheeler. They spotted deer, bunnies, and stork on their rides. We sat outside and visited until too late once again.

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Darmstadt, World of Beer, Mini-Golf, & Last BBQ

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On our last full-day in the Frankfurt area, we decided to take it easy. R and I walked to the nearby bakery for a few breakfast goodies. We weren't in a hurry to go anywhere today, which was really nice. We decided to check out the nearby town of Darmstadt. We explored the HUGE Maruhn beverage store before hitting the center of town. So many beers from all over the world!

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We really liked the livable town of Darmstadt. I'm so impressed with the pedestrian areas in every German town I've visited. We had ice cream, did a little shopping, found a local brewery for lunch, and went to a grocery store to buy a few German snacks.

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We also went to a park just outside of town where DH, C and the girls played mini-golf. R and I went for a walk on some pretty trails.

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We had another BBQ with yummy meats and salads. C went to the trouble to prepare white asparagus, spargel, two different ways. Spargel is only available during this season. We also had a yummy cocktail that seems to be very popular around here - an aperol spritzer. They made fantastic ones! It was a very nice last evening in Dornheim. We are so lucky and thankful to have spent such wonderful time with family. They really showed us a great time!

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Frankfurt, Mom Arrives, Drive to the Black Forest

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After some goodbyes to family, we drove to Frankfurt to check out the city and eagerly await for my mom to arrive at the airport in the afternoon. We parked at the airport, took the train into the city, found a bakery for breakfast, and explored several parts of the city.

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We climbed 323 steps up to the top of Frankfurt's largest church. Stunning views of the city from the top.

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We found more ice cream, walked across a pedestrian bridge that was filled with love locks, and took the train back to the airport.

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We waited a long time for my mom to arrive. The Frankfurt airport is huge so there was a mix-up in finding the right meeting place. Once we were finally reunited, we drove south toward the Black Forest. We made a quick stop in Baden-Baden for dinner at a traditional (touristy!) biergarten.

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We were very happy and relieved to finally arrive at our cute farm apartment at 9:30pm. What a day!

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Zip-lining and Luging through the Black Forest. Woohoo!

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After waking up to more bird singing, we made our way to the nearby town of Hornberg for another bakery and coffee. We sat on a picturesque square and looked up at a castle above. We decided to drive up there to investigate. Great views of the valley to start our day.

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We stopped at a grocery store for breakfast foods and a few random snacks. Then it was time to split up for separate adventures. My mom, DH, and DD#1 went off on a zip-lining excursion while DD#2 and I went to a nearby luge and outdoor folk museum. (DD#2 was too small for the zip-line.) Both activities were such an adrenaline rush! My mom was so brave and loved racing above the Black Forest. The luge was very fast with sharp turns. We went as fast as we could!

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We all reassembled for a few more luge runs. My mom and DD#2 got the fastest clocked speed - 51.6 km/hr with me and DD#2 at 51.3 km/hr in 2nd place. Still can't believe my mom beat me!

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Our guesthouse gave us a free pass to use the train system so we decided to take advantage. We took a 1/2 hour ride through the forest to a small town called Alpirsbach which has a highly-rated brewery and biergarten. We relaxed outside and shared smoked trout and more sausage before taking the scenic train back.

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After this adventurous day, we were more than happy to return to our little farm cottage to watch the cows and listen to the birds.

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Steinwasen Amusement Park and Freiberg

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I went for a run and we had a quick breakfast in our little apartment before making an hour drive to Steinwasen Park. The roads were so hilly, narrow, and windy. We're relieved that no one got car sick! The amusement park was fantastic. There were no lines or crowds and the rides were unique and just plain fun! We were able to go on every ride multiple times. It did rain pretty hard at one point and we were all soaked. But we were having so much fun that it didn't really bother anyone. The amusement park had a bobsled, a luge, a chairlift, a cool water rafting ride, a couple fast indoor rides, a 4D theater ride, as well as lots of play structures, animals, and scenery. I am a big fan of these little German amusement parks. Three years ago, we visited Bayern Park which was a little bigger but had a similar vibe.

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We had a quick lunch at the park before going on even more rides. (I finally tried the famous Black Forest cake.)

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After we finally wore ourselves out, we made a short drive to the very pleasant town of Freiberg. We found a brewery for a beer (yes, there is a pattern) and did a little shopping and exploring before picking an amazing doner place for dinner. Euphrat Restaurant had a line out the door and it was easy to see why. Yum! We had more ice cream, drove a different way back to our apartment, and called it a day.

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The girls jumped on the trampoline in the rain for nearly an hour. Finally, I had the time to work on this blog. I will be sad to leave Germany tomorrow but am eager to return to France. We have a long drive to Amboise, France ahead.

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Posted by familyineurope 22:27 Archived in Germany Tagged germany frankfurt luge rudesheim darmstadt freiberg dornheim gutach zip-line Comments (1)

Wurzburg, Heidelberg & Dornheim, Germany.

Even more castles, swimming, hiking, eating, and exploring!

A perfect afternoon in Wurzburg

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We left our hotel just outside of Bamberg around 10am after a quick breakfast from the nearby bakery. We made the relatively short drive to the Marienberg Fortress in Wurzburg. It towers impressively over the beautiful city. We wandered the site for at least an hour snapping pictures and exploring. We stopped at the fortress cafe for another coffee and were shocked to see a family that we knew from our hometown in Oregon. Truly amazing! DD#2 and their daughter both sang in the same choir last year. What's more shocking is that we ran into the same family when we were visiting Washington DC last March. What a small world! Here's DD#2 and her choir friend along with other pictures of the fortress:

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We reparked the car in the city center and ate at a pizza place recommended by a friend who lived here for a while. Great recommendation!

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We happily wandered this very pleasant city, looked inside of at least three churches, and walked across the old bridge, Alte Mainbrucke. The views were spectacular all over this picturesque town. When I move to Germany in my dreams, Wurzburg is at the top of the list. I know we will come back to this charming town someday.

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We refueled the car for the first time and headed to Dornheim to stay with family for the next four nights. Soon after arrival, we drove to the nearby swimming lake for a quick swim on another hot day.

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Finally, we were treated to a wonderful BBQ with friends and family. There were amazing salads, meats, bread, beer, and great company. No one seemed in a hurry and we sat and visited until nearly midnight.

Heidelberg

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DH and I were surprised to wake up at 9am. Oops! I guess we needed some sleep. We had a relaxing breakfast outside with C & R before taking two cars to Heidelberg for the day. We found parking right in the city center and even the car had a good view.

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We rode two separate funiculars up to the top of Heidelberg's hill - around 2000 ft. It was such a beautiful day and it felt great to be out in nature.

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There were amazing views from the top and we took a steep walk back down to the down through the trees.

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We wandered around the castle for a while soaking it all in and taking pictures. At so many of these castles, I stop and think of how in the world they were built! Every brick had to be hauled up a hill without modern machinery. I'm sure many laborers never even saw the project finished in their lifetime.

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We saw the world's largest wine barrel. Incredible!

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After a quick sausage snack, we wandered the lower part of the town and took more pictures from the old bridge. We also managed to get a picture of the six of us.

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The kids found the lucky monkey symbol of Heidelberg and we rubbed him for good luck.

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After a little shopping and walking along the very long pedestrian drag, we drove to a restaurant along the Rhine River for dinner. Schnitzel. Yum!

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Another day in the books! We are so thankful to have family show us around Germany.

Posted by familyineurope 23:33 Archived in Germany Tagged germany heidelberg wurzburg dornheim Comments (1)

New car, Nuremberg, & Bamberg!

Finally got some sweet wheels, castles, gorgeous towns, more swimming & more beer gardens!

BMW European Delivery!

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We left our hotel early and headed to the BMW Welt to collect our new car. Again, we are feeling incredibly lucky and spoiled to have such opportunities. We had a light breakfast in the lounge area and got a thorough explanation of the car from a knowledgeable guy named Rudolph. The car is wonderful and DH couldn't be more happy. We relaxed for a while in the lounge before making the relatively short drive to Nuremberg for lunch.

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It is so handy having sim cards in our phones for google maps, messaging, phone calls, Facebook, etc... Every time we travel, it's a little easier to stay connected. I admit that I miss the aimless wandering that I've always enjoyed. Sometimes it's too predictable to have the google lady tell you about every turn. I think we will have to turn her off at some point! We found the famous Nuremberg sausage place - Bratwursthaustl. We could see the famous finger-sized sausages cooked over open flames.

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We walked in the heat uphill to the Nuremberg Castle. Nuremberg was seriously bombed in WWII. They have rebuilt much of the city and construction and restoration was still going on at the castle today. We climbed the tower for some lovely views and got to see the old castle's well. The guide poured water into the well so you could hear just how deep it was. She also lowered candles that were surrounded by modern cameras so you could view the interior of the well on a screen. We didn't understand the German commentary but it was still interesting.

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We found ice-cream, a few more photo-ops, and a grocery store for some supplies before driving a bit further to our hotel. We are staying at Gasthof Schilller just outside of Bamberg. It's a smallish hotel with a popular beer garden outside. We noticed that we were the only English-speaking people at dinner. We opted for salad and fish after many pork and sausage-heavy meals.

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DH and I happily enjoyed a beer while the girls went up to the room to hang out. All and all, a really pleasant day in northern Bavaria.

Bamberg

After a nice run, in the countryside, we started our day with another typical German breakfast. The kids are most fascinated with the cool automatic espresso machines. I admit that they are pretty nifty! We drove about 20 minutes to the Bamberg Altenburg Castle. It had yet another tower to climb with beautiful views overlooking Bamberg. I might just attempt to climb a tower a day on this trip! This tower was especially interesting because it had been turned into a cell phone tower. A little blending of old and new, I guess.

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After wandering around the beautiful castle for a while, we drove to a very different attraction - Bambados. Bambados is an amazing swimming center with both indoor and outdoor pools and slides. Temperatures reached the low 90s today so swimming was a priority. DH decided to go for a drive in the new car while the rest of us swam. The waterslide area was the favorite. We were the only people on the slides! Unbelievable! There were some challenges with understanding German instructions. No one yelled at us so I consider that a good day. At one point, the kids took a break for a blue slushie while I had a beer. Shocking, I know.

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DH kindly picked us up before heading to Mahrs Brewing for lunch. Mahrs is imported to Oregon sporadically so we knew we wanted to try it at the source. We had a simple lunch of salad and sausages. Unfortunately, it was getting very hot.

Still, we persevered and parked near Bamberg's center. We wandered, shopped a little (DD#1 got Birkenstocks), and took pictures. It's really a gorgeous town. I hope to return someday. Bamberg seems to have escaped much of WWII's bombs unlike nearby Nuremberg. It's easy to see why it's a Unesco Heritage Site.

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We were wiped, sweaty, and tired. So after a quick stop at a grocery store, we headed back to Gasthof Schiller for more chill-out time in the biergarten before calling it a night.

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Posted by familyineurope 14:21 Archived in Germany Tagged germany bmw munich nuremberg bamberg Comments (0)

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