Dienstag, 9. April 2013

ALPEN TRAVEL TIPS & PICKS: A European Adventure - Alpen Schatz Style: Spring 2013

SNEAK PREVIEW
of my upcoming annual trip back to my old home:
Europe - Spring 2013

PART I:  LONDON
I usually begin my Euro trips flying into Heathrow Airport in England...going home to where I began my love affair with Europe as a college student studying abroad.

Note the BLUE sky! In all of the countless trips I have made back to the UK, I have always been greeted by the sun and blue skies. No kidding! England always gives me the perfect red carpet welcome when I arrive.

TRAVEL TIP: I typically take the quick 15 minute Heathrow Express train from the airport to Paddington Station, a no hassle and inexpensive way to get into the heart of London after the long flight. I don't recommend renting a car and driving into London, as they have quite a steep Congestion Charge and parking is also expensive. I always take the train in and when ready to leave London, then rent my car either back at Heathrow or in downtown London on the day of my departure.
















ACCOMMODATION TIP:
I recently discovered the RHODES Hotel in Sussex Gardens, a newly refurbished, clean and reasonable hotel not far from Paddington Station and a short walk to Hyde Park (above right) where I love to take leisurely strolls in my first few days back in the UK. Check out their specials directly on their web-site where you will get the best deals. They also give repeat visitors appreciation vouchers towards future visits!

To avoid Jet Lag, I recommend checking into your hotel, and NOT taking a nap. I recommend going out for a stroll and an afternoon cup of tea and scones. Then go back to the hotel to freshen up and go out for an early dinner. Whatever you do, try to stay up until at least 9 or 10pm. Then allow yourself to go to sleep. You will wake up refreshed on UK time and ready to tackle your Itinerary for Day 2.

Afternoon Tea Tip: Of course there are many fine cafe's serving up scrumptious scones, strawberry jam and clotted cream with one's choice of a fine tea. However, if one wants to "do it up in style", I highly recommend booking a table for an Afternoon Tea at Brown's Hotel...one of London's finest and most famous afternoon tea's to experience. A bit pricey, but the sandwiches, scones and fine tea cakes keep on coming, not to mention the soft tunes being played on the baby grand piano and the cozy, classy atmosphere all around.

Shopping Tip: There are a multitude of great areas to shop in London, but I prefer to avoid the hectic and touristy Oxford & Regent Streets, opting for the more "local" shopping neighborhood of Kensington High St & Kenstingon Church Street. Here one can find some of the larger names but also some super cute boutiques offering the latest fashions with much more individual style and pizzazz.


Culture Tip:  Every time I am in London, I seek out a new cultural event or activity to attend. On my last trip, I visited for the first time the Guildhall Art Gallery and London's Roman Amphitheatre in the heart of London's City Centre.The Guildhall is a beautiful structure built in Victorian times, housing many fine contemporary 19th Century paintings. When the hall was being expanded in 1987, the Museum of London Archaeological Service discovered the remains of London's Roman Amphitheatre. They designed the new structure to incorporate this fascinating piece of London's history for visitors to see.


On my upcoming trip commencing on Wednesday of this week, I will be found soaking in 2000 year old Roman life at the new exhibition at the British Mueum: Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum.

This is the first major exhibition of its kind to be held in the British Museum for 40 years. I have always wanted to visit Pompei, and here it is, brought to one of my favourite cities for me to learn from and relish. I am excited to report back after the exhibition its highlights and what made it so special and worth a visit. Stay tuned!
 
PART II:  OXFORD

Ahhh! The dreaming spires of Oxford ... home of the oldest University, not only in England but in the English speaking world. This lovely, historical bustling town was my home for many years when I lived in the UK.

I shall be going "home" to Oxford for a week for both business and pleasure.

ACCOMMODATION TIP: To make my week long stay that much more gemütlich, I have opted to stay in my own little self-catering one bedroom Hauschen called The Belles in St Clements (a great neighborhood near to the City Centre).

Here I can both work and entertain,  eat out as well as stay in and cook up my favourite cuisine with ingredients purchased at the 200 year old Covered Market in the City Centre. Just like I used to do when I lived there.

PART III:  MANCHESTER AREA: CHESTER

After a week of visiting  my  wonderful "southern" English friends and reliving Oxford and the surrounding Cotswold country life, I will drive north to visit my oldest friend in England.

I will visit with him for the weekend and just get caught-up on life. We shall spend the weekend exploring the historical town of Chester, a picturesque ancient town, founded in the year 79 by the Romans.

Chester is a town rich in history and is well worth a visit if traveling North West on your way to the rugged beauty of Snowdonia in Wales, the rocky splendor of the Lake District or the dramatic West Coast of Scotland.


ACCOMMODATION  & DINING TIPS Chester:
Coming...


ENGLAND DINING TIP:
Besides discovering and dining at many fine restaurants and pubs with award winning cuisine, I always end up having a number of my evening meals at Indian restaurants in various towns during my travels. There is nothing that beats the offerings and the quality of English based Indian restaurants (much different than American Indian restaurants)...and Indian being the #1 ethnic cuisine in the UK, one can find (a good one) in just about every city or town in England, Scotland and Wales.

PART IV:  IRELAND

From Manchester, I will fly directly to Shannon where I will collect a car and drive up to Galway. In Galway, I will meet with one of the Irish Celtic manufacturers whose beautiful keepsakes I import and sell in my Boutique: Royal Tara/Clara Glass.

This will be my first trip to the Irish City of Galway, and I look forward to doing a historical walking tour of this famed Irish west coast town. I tend to typically either hire a guide or purchase a historical self-walking tour pamphlet at the Tourist Information in any historical European town I visit for the first time. This gives me my initial bearings and also insight into to the town's rich history.
ACCOMMODATION TIP:
I will be staying at the HARBOUR Hotel, a Galway luxury hotel, located on the picturesque waterfront yet only a five minute walk away from Galway's lively City Centre full of shops, restaurants and music pubs.

Ancient Tomb
After my Galway visit, I will drive down through The Burren, where this 5000 year old ancient Portal Tombstone called Poulnabrone Dolmen  is well worth a visit. I also highly recommend visiting the Burren Purfumery where one can watch perfumes, creams and soaps  being made from the extensive wildflower species found in the area. They have a free Audio Visual presentation which is higly informative. Who would know that one does not have to travel to Paris to discover Perfume in the making! Ireland has it all.


Dingle Sunset

My ultimate goal is to return to my beloved Dingle for a couple of days of pure R&R. The Dingle Peninsula is the most remote part of Ireland, where the Irish language (an ancient form of Gaelic) is still spoken and whose rugged and rocky countryside and dramatic cliffs and sandy beaches adorn the Atlantic coastline.


Gallarus Oratory, Dingle
The Peninsula is littered with a rich archaeological history dating back 6000 years to the first pre-historic tribes to inhabit the area through to the Celtic, then Christian and early Midieval movements thousands of years ago. There are ancient pilgrimage trails that one can walk, discovering ancient structures as well as the first churches of the Christian Crusaders and Priests trying to convert the "heathen" Celts.

Dingle Cliffs

There is also a very famous walk along the coastline of the entire peninsula called The Dingle Way, on which one can walk in segments or in its entirety.

GUIDE TIP:
I highly recommend Colm Bambury of Dingle Guided Walks who is a local expert in the area. He is very knowledgeable and I always enjoy his guided walks which are rich in information about the geology, history and ancient architecture one finds along the way. Please tell him I sent you when you contact him. He will take excellent care of you.

I always stay in An Daingean or Dingle Town, which is a quaint seaside town on the peninsula and a great base for scenic  and historical walks as well as the the popular scenic drive around the Peninsula.

When one ends their day exploring the natural beauty and fascinating archaeology of the Dingle Peninsula, one can be reassured to find a cozy pub with a "session" playing, as Dingle is also known as one of the leading Traditional Irish Music meccas in Ireland.

Dingle Harbour
ACCOMMODATION TIP:

View from Greenmount House
I love the ocean. And therefore, when I stay in Dingle, I seek out a room which overlooks the sea. I also like a place which is within a short walk to town. On my upcoming trip, I will be residing at John and Mary Curran's lovely hotel style guesthouse called Greenmount House.

Perched high on a hill in its own divine gardens, Greenmount House offers breathtaking views of Dingle Bay and is a short 5 minute walk to the restaurants and pubs of Dingle Town.


IRISH DINING TIP:
I will be posting  more during my trip regarding my favourite pubs and restaurants that I will be frequenting in Dingle, however a must to try is their locally made Soda Bread and if one is brave enough, their Black (or White) Pudding served with breakfast.

PART V:  SWITZERLAND

One of the lovely things about Europe is within an hour or so flight, one can be in another country, another culture and completely different geographical environment. I will fly from the green grass of Ireland to the breathtaking beauty of the Swiss Alps to begin the  Continental Europe segment of my trip.

For this segment of my trip, I have chosen to fly into Geneva, in the French part of Switzerland. I will be meeting an old friend of mine who will be flying out from England to join me for a long weekend on the beautiful Lake Geneva. I have never been to this region of Switzerland, and am greatly looking forward to exploring the ancient city of Geneva and subsequently  the beauteous wine growing countryside around Lausanne.  Did you know that Geneva was originally founded by Celtic tribes, before being taken over by the Romans and subsequently by the Christians after the fall of the Roman Empire? I can't wait to visit such a city with such a rich and colourful past!

ACCOMMODATION TIP Geneva :  For our night and day of exploring Geneva, we have chosen one of the top small hôtels in the city: The Tor Hôtel  just steps away from the lake, restaurants and shops. Indeed, one can access just about everything by foot, although the hotel gives its guests a free travel pass to use if needed. Located in a classical old building, with high ceilings and wooden floors, the hotel offers comfortable beds and modern furnishings as well as a nice continental breakfast delivered to your room. For the excellent price they offer in combination with its locality and quaintness, it has everything to offer for our first night in Switzerland.

Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues
DINING TIP Geneva : For my one night out in Geneva, I thought we would dine in one of the most sophisticated and elegant hotels Geneva has to offer, not to mention that it is the oldest hotel in the City: The Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues. Before dinner, we will be given a tour of this classy hotel and find out about its rich history beginning in the year 1834 and some of the famous statesmen and personalities who have stayed here over the years. More exciting information on this Geneva landmark in my write-up post visit!                 

Following GenevaI will be meeting one of our Swiss craftsmen on the outskirts of Lausanne, a short drive from Geneva. Apart from our meetings, he and his lovely wife will also be acting as our tour guides to the region for the weekend. What better way to see the countryside but by a long term local resident.

ACCOMMODATION TIP & Lausanne Countryside:  To come...

Appenzell

After a long weekend exploring the "Nappa Valley" of Switzerland, I will drive to the colourful village of Appenzell, where our Swiss Collars and Cowbells have been made for over 7 generations.




Heading up the Säntis
I love Appenzell and the dreamy countryside surrounding it. I will meet with the craftsmen I have been working with for many years, and probably take a trip on the Luftseilbahn up to the top of the Säntis, the highest mountain in this region of Switzerland. It has breathtaking views and on a good day, one can see six European countries: Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Luichtenstein, France and Italy.


Alpabzug - Fall procession through Appenzell

ACCOMMODATION TIP APPENZELL: 











For my stay in Appenzell, I have chosen the Hotel Freundenberg. Sitting on a hill overlooking the charming village of Appenzell and a scenic blanket of green grassy rolling hills, the Hotel Freudenberg is but a mere 10 minute walk down the hill into town. The hotel has charming rooms (some with balconies) that boast traditional hand painted Swiss  "farmhouse"  furniture. It also has a restaurant that serves local Appenzeller fare which I look forward to experiencing. I imagine the sunsets and sunrises from the Hotel Freudenberg are stunning. More pictures and comments to come once I have arrived and have experienced.


PART VI:  AUSTRIA

Lichtenstein
After the peaceful rolling hills of Appenzellerland, I will drive over Lichtenstein to Austria, where I plan on meeting a handful of my suppliers and spending  a couple of nights in the dramatic splendor of this rugged Alpine country. 

One supplier whom I will be meeting will be Mathias, creator and yodel behind our cute dancing and singing Alpine Marmots. Mathias is not just the yodel behind our Marmots, but one of Austria's top professional yodelers who has his own band called "Kuhl and the Gang"! He performs regularly dressed in cow patterned apparel (the German word for Cow is Kuh) all over Austria and it is always a delight to have him yodel for me when visiting him.

Edelweiss Römer
Following a pleasant luncheon with Mathias, I will pop onto the Autobahn and drive north of Innsbruck to spend a couple of days in one of Austria's "most picturesque" regions, the Alpbachtal Seenland.  

Here I will visit what we feel to be one of the finest Crystal makers in Austria:  Kisslinger Kristal in Rattenberg. Ratteberg is known as Austria's glass blowing capital. Here is where our exclusive Alpen Schatz line of beautiful Crystal wine and beer glassware is blown and etched.


Schloss Matzen
Europe is such an old continent with such an extensive and colourful history. Therefore why not combine history with accommodation?

On most of my European trips, I like to book a stay in at least one Castle or Country House Hotel. There is nothing like waking up in a Zimmer where some King, Queen or Lord slept centuries before. 


Yrsch Superior Suite
ACCOMMODATION TIP AUSTRIA:  On this trip, I discovered a gem of a classic Castle Hotel: The Hotel Schloss Matzen, situated high up on a hill overlooking the charming village of Reith in Alpbachtal

I am excited to review this magnificent property and share with all of my readers its rich history and the luxurious accommodation it lavishly offers its guests. What I do know is that Schloss Matzen was built in the 12th century upon already ancient fortress grounds of a Bronze-Age Settlement and subsequently a Roman Fort. Imagine what these walls have seen over the years and into the present... My full review to come post visit.

PART VII:  MUNICH, Bavaria





The last segment of my trip takes me back home to Munich where I lived for many years. I will be meeting some of my Bavarian suppliers, visiting friends and family as well as re-living my favourite restaurants, beer gardens, and haunts in what I dub "the cleanest, safest, greenest and most casual cosmopolitan" large city in Europe.

Things I like to do whilst in Munich:
Seehaus, my favourite beer garden in Munich

  • A stroll in the vast Englischer Garten and a visit to my favourite Beergarden called Seehaus, translated lakeside house. Be sure to get one of their LARGE Bretz'n (or Pretzels). Nothing beats an authentic Bavarian Bretz'n with perhaps Obatzda to dip it in. Yum! 
  • Shopping on the Marienplatz (clothing) and Viktualianmarkt (Vegetables, Fruits & Condiments) By the way...they have a GREAT Honey Shop, das Honighäuselon the Viktualianmarkt, where I always find new and exotic honeys to bring home.
Viktualianmarkt, Munich
Fresh Berries - Yum!

  • A bikeride down the Isar River to the popular jazz beergarden, the "WaWi" or Waldwirtschaft in Großhesselohe south of Munich.
  • Have a great Greek dinner at the Paros Greek Tavern in Haidhausen
  • Have one of the best and most famous Italian Pizza's in Munich at Mario's by the Universität


 ACCOMMODATION TIP:
I have stayed in a variety of places over the years in Munich, however in the past 6+ years I have been staying in what I believe to be the quietest and quaintest Gästhaus in the City: Hotel Gästehaus Englischer Garten

The hotel is situated in the vibrant bohemian quarter of Munich called Schwabing, but is located on a quiet street and backs up against the wall to the Englisher Garden. One awakens to birds chirping rather than cars honking and weather permitting one can have a delightful breakfast in their own magical walled garden behind the property. Ask to stay in the main Tudor house, as they also have an annex that is not as quaint, yet also very quiet. They also offer underground parking and bikes to rent. Munich is a city made to cycle in and the Gästhaus is where I get my bike to ride through the Englischer Garten or down the Isar to the WaWi Beergarten.

TRANSPORTATION TIP:  To get places quickly, I highly recommend taking the U-Bahn, or Underground Subway. It is clean, safe and easy to navigate.

PART VIII: LONDON &  HOME

Following my nostalgic visit to Munich, I will fly back to Heathrow where I will spend one last night before my departure back to America the next afternoon. For my last night, I typically choose a B&B near to Heathrow and hire a cab to take me there and also to take me back to the airport the next day.

ACCOMMODATION TIP:

My pick for the past few years is the Oakwood Guest House Heathrow, a reasonable Bed and Breakfast a mere 5 minute drive or cab ride from Heathrow. The Oakwood B&B is also reasonably quiet as it is not on any flight paths. They are a short walk from a great Indian restaurant and also pubs and other restaurants in West Drayton. They have free parking if you have a car or are a short walk from the West Drayton train station with direct trains to London. It makes the perfect place to stay on the final eve of one's trip. Quiet, yet close and convenient to get to Heathrow Airport on the day of departure.

SUMMARY

Well, this is my trip that I have planned for this spring. I will be updating and adding as I continue to organize this year's European adventure over the next few weeks. I will also be adding and updating whilst travelling, making note when I come across some great restaurant, pub, or adventure to recommend.

Feel free to EMAIL me with any questions on any aspect of this trip OR for help with planning your own trip. I offer services from helping to book one's trip through to being a personal guide.

Viel Spaß und Auf Wiedersehen!

Mary Dawn DeBriae

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