The Sahara and Us Morocco 2011

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Besancon, Moselkern, and Returning to our Roots

The Citadel

Besancon France

Next day we moved on to Besancon since on previous trips we'd see the “Citadel” on a hill over the town. We walked up to it and while it was interesting, and a WHS, we found an ancient gate dating back to approximately 175 AD, built in honor of Marcus Aurelius’ far more intriguing.
Marcus Arelius Gate
To think the Roman Empire extended this far in 175 AD. This is a beautiful town in eastern France we’d highly recommend people visit. We also had one of the best Mussels and Fries we’ve ever had by using Google Maps and Google Plus and following directions to a place that looked deserted but was a very good restaurant.














Moselkern and Roots


On the move again we arrive in Moselkern and hike to Burg Eltz. If you said we’ve been here before you’d be correct. Back in 2004 we visited Moselkern and Burg Eltz and we wanted to get back to funky back country villages and scenery. Here we hike back into the Castle for the picturesque walk that it is, and later go to a nearby winery and purchase an amazing bottle of Riesling wine from this Mosel region. The wine is so good in fact we drive back to the village to purchase another bottle. As we talk later we comment that this has taken us back to our roots of how we have traveled in the past.
Burg Eltz

Our accommodations aren't a 4 star hotel, they are a Gastehof on a back street in Moselkern,owned by Fam. Heirlich with very comfortable beds, and feather comforters that keep you warm, and no noise except for the church bells at 7:00 am. At any moment you can just turn back over and go back to sleep. Travel doesn’t need to be any more comfortable than this! And a typical hearty German breakfast and he explains that what you don't eat to make sandwiches with to 'picnic' later. Hard to argue with that!

As we walk to Burg Eltz , a 7 km round trip and later along the Mosel river in the beautiful Sunday sun Sandra says to me, "You know, we still could have done even this trip with the bike". And you know she is right.


Volendam

As we finish our trip in Volendam we are treated to another spectacular day. We are at a 4 star hotel within easy access to the old town. Weather is still holding at 14C and sunny!
Van Der Valk Hotel view Volendam
Statue of Small boy looking at cats in a window.
What trip to Holland doesn't include a photo of a windmill









Monday, October 10, 2016

Annecy Region

Lacets High in French Alps
Last year we came to the Annecy region for the first time and really enjoyed the beauty of it.  This time it was to use a great hotel we had found to stage a re-visit to the LACETS from the 2015 Tour de France, and have a picnic there at a place we knew. It just so happened a local bike club was riding by at the time we were there.
Popular since Tour De France came through

















On the return trip to Annecy we saw a Chateau in the distance, and drove to it. It was Chateau Miolans a chateau that later became a prison for celebrity prisoners like the Marquis de Sade. On the road to Albertville, so interesting when you gunkhole.
Chateau Miolans

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

ZERMATT and the Matterhorn

The Matterhorn
In all of time we have ridden Europe we have never been to Zermatt and the Matterhorn. Last year we had it scheduled if weather permitted, and it didn’t so this year we followed the weather and a nice window opened at just the right time for us to seize it; so we did.
The drive from Mennagio to Domodossola was extremely difficult since it crosses back and forth Between Italy and Switzerland and roads are in many case 1 lane in width for a couple of kms. At a time around some difficult terrain, but we made it to Tasch, the base of getting the Zermatt and the Matterhorn. We arrived just early enough to be able to do our ascent and hike down that afternoon, under crystal clear blue skies, absolutely no cloud and excellent temperatures. The 1 ½ hr descent was a lot tougher than expected though with our calves and thigh muscles burning a lot then and today.
Sandra on the Descent
On our drive to Martigny in southern western Switzerland today we marvelled at the orderly way that Swiss have their vineyards. It is almost to the point that if you pick a grape it will have a serial number on it. We finally buy a bottle of Cote du Rhone red wine to enjoy as a salute to this beautiful region.

Lake Como

Almost same picture as 10 years ago Hedges are taller is all
After a great meal at the Locanda de Convento, the very best Gnocchi I have had, though the Hungarian Bistro’s was superb as well, and an overnight stay there, we drove across the top of Italy and headed to Mennagio on Lake Como. A nice lunch on a vista overlooking the lake and then Gelato in Mennagio we headed just west of town to a hotel we had stayed at 10 years earlier. 

That story is so memorable for us since it was truly “a dark and stormy night”. 

We had on that occasion around the 22 May 2006, chosen to ride over the Gotthard Pass from Switzerland into Italy. Rain turned to snow, the Gotthard was closed and we detoured with the rental moto to take a lower pass that snow hadn’t accumulated on. Because of the storm everything had closed down, no gas stations and I was running out. The trek from Lugano to Mennagio I always characterized as driving inside a firehose, super dark and wet. 
Finally we saw the lights of this hotel and before we ran out of gas we pulled off for the night. Soaked, the hotel staff asked if we had eaten since their kitchen was closing and it was about 8:30 pm. They prepared a great meal for us that night and the next day we had a splendid breakfast before seeing Lake Como for the first time. 3 weeks later crossing back over on a more eastern pass we saw snow still piled up on the side of the road. They explained that the snow of 22 May had closed the passes for nearly 3 weeks and they had just re-opened.

The weather was so nice that we sat out at the pool for the remainder of the day and again ate supper there before heading to bed and the Matterhorn the next day.

Budapest

Budapest Parliament Buildings at Dusk
After our visit to Esztergom is our 48 km drive into our hotel in Budapest. We arrive before rush hour and getting settled was pretty easy. Out for a bit of a walk and a nice meal before bed we realize we are really well situated for taking in the sites.
As most already know Buda   Pest is made up of two cities with Buda being the west city (older) and Pest the east city (newer). Buda has the old castle, St Matthias Church
St Matthias at Dusk
and the Fishermans Bastion.
Parliament from Fishermans Bastion
Pest has more modern hotels, restaurants etc.
From our experience now, we would say Pest is much busier, noisier, with Buda being more congested, and slower.
Shoes on the Danube Jewish Memorial
The best treat of our stay was a small restaurant called the Hungarian Bistro. It was so good the first day we ate there after seeing the “Shoes on the Danube”,

about 4 blocks away, that we made a special trip back there a second day . The first day we had Duck, and the 2nd time Goulash soup, and then an appetizer of Hungarian Gnocchi with sour cream and fried bacon bits. This place was outstanding! And they even give away in a nice folder, a copy of the soup recipe.
From our hotel/apt. we visited the chain Bridge, St Matthias Church, the Bastion, the old Castle, and used the vantage point for taking pictures of the Parliament buildings, the most common picture in Budapest.
Parliament Buildings by Day
Then back over the Chain bridge to the Shoes on the Danube, another reminder of the Nazi era where they had the Jews take off their footwear since it was valuable, before they shot them and pushed them off into the Danube river.
That evening we retraced our steps again to see the city at night and enjoy the night lights and activity.
Chain Bridge at Night
Our 2nd full day saw us attend the Market hall where we bought spicy paprika and a jar of very hot sauce made from paprika. This was after having sampled it at the Hungarian Bistro. From there after lunch we hiked out to Heroes Square. Originally we were going to go out to the Baths there as well but learned that the outdoor baths had closed the day before. Even though the weather was 25-27C each day we were there the outdoor baths were now considered closed for the winter.
St Matthias at Night

After 3 nights we headed back out toward Esztergom and to cross back into Slovakia to follow the Danube for a while on its way upstream to Bratislava. This was a Saturday morning and everyone in Budapest was heading out there was well. The 48 km drive was bumper to bumper most of the way, but after Esztergom on the Slovakian side it was a nice drive into Bratislava.

Bratislava



String Orchestra in Bratislava playing "Let It Be"
Bratislava is a Slavic city only 60 kms from Vienna, but a world apart culturally. When I worked in the International Security arena, I spoke frequently to a Czechoslovakian woman, from the former Soviet state, who escaped across the border into Austria, and she told me about her final call to her mother when she got cold feet and wasn’t going to go through with it. Her mother told her to stay strong and go, and, afterwards she realized how fortunate she was to escape at that time. She never did see her mother alive again unfortunately.
One girl lost her way and wondering "Are we Done yet?"

We got into our hotel early in the afternoon, checked in, tram tickets bought and we were on our way to the old town. 20 mins later we were in the town centre where we toured the old castle/palace, the old town and most fortunately on a gorgeous sunny hot afternoon took in a free concert in the old town square just in front of their Opera house. Our highlight of the day was this 65-70 strong, string orchestra , accompany a rock musician in a rendition of the Beatles, Let it Be.  https://youtu.be/xFqKiZKa6F0
Bratislava has a vibrant arts community as well and that comes out with all the modern sculptures and brass works that can be seen around town. And we ate at our Son and daughter-in-law’s recommended pub, The House of Beers.
Us at the Opera House listening to them play

It was always at this point that we had said our plan was going to be fluid, we wanted to see Zermatt and the Matterhorn, but it really was weather dependent, so we were considering routes since the weather forecast was good.
Why are all the Soldiers Head-less?
Man at Work

Esztergom




Esztergom Hingary Basilica From Slovakia
Difficult to gauge magnitude until you realize how big the Cruise ship is
 Esztergom you say? Never heard of it. Well I hadn’t either until I had started watching the CBC TV series “X Company”. I learned from the background to the show that Esztergom was substituted for Paris in the WWII series drama. 
When I searched it out online I found out that Esztergom has the 3rd largest church in Europe, sits on the Danube, was the original capital of Hungary and where King Stephens,
Crowning of King Stephen 1000 AD
later St Stephens was crowned Hungary’s first king on
Christmas day 1000 AD. If driving up to Spis HRad was awe inspiring so was approaching this mammoth cathedral on a promontory bend on the Danube River.

We enjoyed the hike up to the church and took the additional hike up nearly 400 steps to the Dumo 


where you get an amazing view of the Danube some 800 feet up and look back over some of Slovakia. 


Old Soviet Erector Set apartments falling into decay
View down from Dumo, those people look likes Ants!
Sandra making Sandwiches at Lunch


Us 800 ft in the Air on the Dumo
After our touring around the town we head out for Budapest and run across a large Suzuki vehicle manufacturing facility just on the outskirts of Esztergom. For more information on what they make there here is a link to the site information.