Friday, March 21, 2014

Munich, Germany and Salzburg, Austria - Weekend Escape

It wouldn't be living if we didn't hit the road every 2 weeks or so. This trip: Munich, Germany and Salzburg, Austria.
Munich is a cool city: culturally diverse, friendly, pretty architecture, historical, modern, good markets, big beers, walkable.

A Few Musts:

Stroll through Englischer Garten (English Garden) - possibly stop at the lake for pint and lunch or afternoon nap in one of the many lawns

 Viktualienmarkt: the outdoor market great for picking up fresh cheeses, produce, fish, meats, flowers 
Schrannenhalle: the indoor market which is a great place to stop for a glass of wine and snack at one of the many cafes or a little shopping in the market

Marienplatz: Stop and enjoy the Rathaus-Glockenspiel - walk into the main square on one of the pedestrian only shopping streets

Churches and Historical Sites: One of our favorite things to do when walking around is to visit churches. It has some of the best free art and no matter how many you walk into, they all are a little different - also cool to pick up on regional differences.

The Opera House, not a church
Hofbräuhaus: Cap off the night with a beer, music and chance to meet some cool people from around the world. Known for their beer, but you may or may not be able to order wine too (yes, I did that at a beer hall but in all fairness, I drank some beer too)

There is so much to see in Munich and the best is just to get out and walk. Also, they have a great variety of cuisine there so if you are like us and need a fix of good ethnic food and fish - which can be hard to come bye in Eastern Europe - this is a great place to fill that void.

Also, for anyone visiting Munich, the Bavarian region is running a promotion with the local trains and offering round trip tickets to a few cities within the region for 23 euro for the 1st ticket and the second ticket for 4 euro. We were originally planning on driving to Salzburg but with round trip tickets at only 27 euro for the two of us - we took the train. You get to see the country side and don't have to worry about parking or gas which was an extra plus. Tickets can be purchased at the train station.

Day Trip to Salzburg, Austria

Salzburg to me was perfection. It was beautiful. The town is so tiny and posh. Every corner is another quaint street with darling stores. They were decorated for Easter which made the town feel like spring is upon us.We strolled along the river until we hit the main area but not before stumbling into the local Saturday farmers market.You can learn so much about a place by their farmers markets.

We enjoyed in some of the local sausages and then picked some local cheeses and fruits and headed to the river. It was a perfect day so we found a nice spot and posted up for awhile.

Salzburg is an easy day trip. You can see pretty much the whole town in a few hours and even have some time left over to wander around until the train leaves.

All in all, Chris and I say - we both like both locations but he liked Munich more than I did and I liked Salzburg more than he did.
Travelers Tips: When looking at where to stay in Munich - it is true, most of the hotels are by the train station. There are some closer to Marienplatz but when we were looking, those tended to be the very high end hotels for a slightly exaggerated price of 700 euro a night (not our budget).  

Also, if driving into Munich it is pretty awesome because there are a ton of hop fields in the country. They look similar to a vineyard but the stakes are super tall and have vines growing up them and a net at the top. I didn't know what they were before so had to Google it. Worth seeing if driving past.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

To love and be in love in France: Burgundy Region & Paris

Have you ever dreamed of traveling the French countryside? Enjoying little villages that are producing some of the best wine in the world?

I have and I dreamed of doing this with my love. What could be more romantic, right? But since I had it built up in my head and heart, I was a little worried it wouldn't live up to my expectations. I am happy to share, it was better.

Chris and I flew into the Beauvais Airport, about an hour north of Paris. We rented a car and headed to the Burgundy region. With so many small towns to choose from, we decided on Beaune based on it's size, distance from Paris and proximity to other smaller villages we wanted to see. It was a nice location - about 3 hours drive from Paris and you can hit some other small towns on your drive to or from.  Beaune is in the heart of Burgundy and we recommend it to those interested in touring the wine country/french countryside.
Chris walking through the vineyards on the way to Pommard
Beaune was delightful! Since we went in the off season, it felt like we had the town to ourselves. It seemed the people coming and going were locals and we were among only a few other travelers passing through.

Beaune itself is charming. Small shops, cute restaurants, wandering streets, wine caves, vineyards all within a few minutes walk.
Wine tasting in the wine caves of Patriarche
Patriarche Wine Caves, Founded in 1780 - The largest cellars in Burgundy
The Notre Dome of Beaune
Inside the Notre Dome of Beaune

Part of the Wine Museum in Beaune - how they used to make wine

Saturday Farmers Market
Saturday Farmers Market - Beaune

Chris and I swear our favorite meals are the ones where we pick up local food and wine and find a romantic place to eat outside together. This trip, we ended up walking from Beaune to Pommard through the vineyards - just a few km walk. As we walked between towns it was just us and people tending to the fields. We picked a stone wall that looked perfect for a rest and enjoyed our lunch watching the workers, talking about life, love and wine.

Once we arrived in Pommard and toured the little village - we stopped in for a wine tasting

If you have a bike, which you can easily rent in the spring and summer, we highly recommend riding even further than Pommard. Since we were on foot, we stopped here for a wine tasting and quick walk around the village and opted to drive to some of the other small wine villages.
Our car

After a few great days in Beaune, we headed back to Paris but not before hitting some other small towns along the way. And since we had time on our drive, we opted to stay off the highway for a portion of the drive and go through the back roads (which run parallel with the main highway) - and see some other towns. It's easy to get swept away in the beauty of these towns.

Auxerre, France - another cute town we were looking at staying in - worth visiting
So we arrive in Paris and to be honest, last time Chris and I visited, we didn't fall in love with the city as many travelers do. So we were hoping to have a difference of opinion this trip, and we did. Maybe because it was nostalgic and a walk down memory lane this go around - but we loved Paris this trip. We walked around the city, hearts full of love and remembering past times.

For dinner - we opted for our favorite way to eat, stinky cheese from a local store, meats and a bottle of wine along the Seine River, behind the Notre Dame - just as we had done in 2011. Same bench and all. It feels like our spot just waiting for our next return. 
Our spot

Our last morning in Paris, we woke up early, picked up a coffee and headed to Luxemburg Park. The sun was just coming up, taking the chill out of the air - and only a few others walking around. It was a perfect way to end the trip.

Travelers Tips: The discount flights to "Paris" actually fly into Beauvais. We call this the worst aiport ever! The airplane is bigger than the airport. It doesn't appear any other airlines besides WizzAir and RyanAir fly out of here. On our day, there were two flights leaving at the same time so it was too busy for their staff. They are making improvements so my guess, in a year or so - they will have their act together but until then - brace yourself for an under prepared airport. There is a bus that takes you into Paris if you aren't renting a car.
The front door entrance to our hotel