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Have you been following "When You Give a Girl a Trip to Europe" ? ~ Well- Here's my TRIP REPORT! :)

I started a thread last year about my first trip to Europe. I want to sincerely thank all of you that have given your thoughts and advice on all my questions. It meant so much to me. I really appreciate it! My husband and I truly had the trip of a lifetime!!!

I began writing about it on that thread, and it was suggested to me (Thanks-Pam!) to copy and paste it into a new thread here.

So here you go!

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2575 posts

Ummmm, are we missing something? I don't think the 'paste' part worked😊

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136 posts

"Oops! There are problems with your reply.

You've already posted this reply recently and you may only post it once. If you meant to make an edit, please use the "Edit" link alongside your reply."

I got the above error message, so... I will link to my original post, then continue the trip report on this thread.

https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/general-europe/when-you-give-a-girl-a-trip-to-europe#bottom

Jump to the bottom of the thread, and then scroll up to 7/31/2019, to my post about my trip

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The following day, we walked around our neighborhood in Paris, went to mass, and rested up before meeting our tour mates for the first time!

It was funny looking back on this day, all 28 of us in a room off to the side of the lobby, not talking to each other much, all not sure what to expect, waiting for our Rick Steves' tour guide, Jennifer, to arrive.

She led us to a meeting room, and we made our introductions. It turns out there were 2 other people in the group that were also celebrating their 50th birthdays. There was quite a mix: couples and families, young and old. A good mixture of energy and wisdom! :) After going over tour guidelines, etc. We were supposed to pick a buddy. I chose a fellow 50 year old -Sherri. I really like the buddy system RS uses.

We regrouped and took a walking tour of our neighborhood and had dinner together. My husband and I tried several new things.

Escargot (not bad), veal stew (I wish I didn't like it so much), and pate (ugh-not a fan!) The desserts were amazing! It was fun getting to know some of our tour mates over dinner.

After dinner, we met our local guide, Elizabeth, a no-nonsense mature Parisian woman. She was a hoot. We took a tour by bus, and made a couple stops. It was great!

The next morning, after breakfast, we took a walking tour and ended at the Louvre. We saw so many incredible things that day. Unfortunately, Notre Dame was closed, but we could see it from a close distance. The Sainte Chapelle was so beautiful, and I really like seeing some "retro metros". Again, I wish I could post pictures. After visiting the Louvre, we were on our own for the rest of the day. After learning about riding the Metro earlier that day, we felt brave enough to give it a try on our own, and went to Montmarte. We planned to have "linner" in a restaurant recommended to us by the family we met at La Placette. We passed by the famous Moulin Rouge, and ended up in an area with porn shops. (Yikes!) We weren't sure at that point what kind of place they recommended, but decided to keep going. Eventually we made it. The food was great! It was a good recommendation.

After eating, we headed to Sacre Coure Basilica. We climbed quite a few steps to get there, but it was so worth it! The view was magnificent, and the basilica was breath-taking. We went back to our hotel after a little more walking, and got a good night's sleep to prepare for the next day!

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7606 posts

Oh thank you so much! More people will see your Trip Report this way! Sorry...I forgot about the thing the webmaster has done to combat serial spam!

What a fun first tour day! Elisabeth is excellent, isn't she?

Posted by
1400 posts

So far so good for us readers too. Waiting for the rest. PS, my first trip to Europe was to Amsterdam, I remember everything and enjoyed my return trip 30+ years later just as much.

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3931 posts

Stacy, was your guide Jennifer Gouge? She's great! She was our guide on our 2011 BOE tour. Also, I suspect the mature, no nonsense local guide Elizabeth van Hest, who is actually Dutch, but she's lived in Paris for decades. Very classy dresser. She was our guide on Best of Paris in 2012, and our local Paris guide in our 2018 BOE tour.

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7109 posts

stacy, so glad you had such a great trip!!
I got chills when you said “Paris captured my heart”... mine too.
Loved the “Oh What a Night” and dancing story... what a great way to start!
What’s the name of the restaurant in Montmartre?
And yes, the stairs at Sacre Cœur!! Good for burning off Paris pastry calories - lol.

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136 posts

Yes! I'm sure we are talking about the same Elisabeth. I really enjoyed her!

Yes! Jennifer Gouge - she is absolutely AMAZING! She taught us so much and made this such a wonderful adventure for us!

The name of the restaurant in Montmartre is Bouillon Pigalle.

I am loving all of your comments. :)

We were up early the next morning. One last espresso for me on the balcony. The breakfast at the hotel was wonderful. A very nice variety - something for everyone. We met our bus driver Hilde. Hilde is from Belgium, and we loved her. Our next destination was Beaune. On the bus, Jennifer taught us all about the different foods and wine of the region - she was making our mouths water!

(I have to cut this short, as I have an appt, but will be back this evening.)

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3931 posts

Stacy, what was your hotel in Paris? Just curious.

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69 posts

We were very impressed with Elizabeth's matching orange bag and shoes in 2015.

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1757 posts

Was anyone in the group aware of your original thread on here?

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1835 posts

Oh my gosh! What a wonderful beginning to your amazing trip. I love the way you write, eurostacy (and I get the reference to "When You Give A Mouse A Cookie"-one of my favorite children's books). I am so enjoying your trip right along with you. I love your wonderfully descriptive passages, especially this:
"There was a band playing outside of a restaurant - we recognized the song "Oh What a Night" (Dec. '63) by the Four Seasons. They were singing in French. A crowd had gathered, dancing, and took up the entire sidewalk. We had no choice but to dance our way through them, as the street was busy. As we danced our way through, people cheered us. I started to cry. I was so moved. Maybe it was because the lyrics moved me... Oh what a night, indeed! Or maybe it was because I was finally in Europe. But they were tears of joy, and I will never forget that moment." THIS moves me; it paints such a vivid picture. I can feel what you have written and absolutely remember through your words my very first time in Paris and how that felt to me. Thank you for taking the time to post and I will be watching for further posts.
****I originally posted this to your original post-I'm confused but want to follow your trip report so hopefully this will find you!....😳

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187 posts

What happened to the rest of the report? Must be busy planning a return trip! : )

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136 posts

Thank you for the nudge, roubrat! It was just what I needed to get back over here and keep writing. I apologize for the delay. We had a small family crisis, I went back to work, and sent my baby off to college. Life has been busy! I wish I was busy planning another trip!

Our hotel in Paris was Hotel Tilsitt Etoile (sp), Jane.

Richard, I don't believe so. I didn't mention it. A little shy, I guess.

Thank you, andi, for your kind feedback. :)

Continued...

On our way to Beaune, we stopped at a rest area with pink toilet paper and no toilet seats. I'm tellin' ya, everything about this trip was a new adventure! :) Today was another hot day, 87*. Upon arrival, we took a small tour of the town, then on our own to eat lunch and explore. We met back up with the tour group later in the afternoon to take a tour of the medieval hospital. It was really interesting! Next, we toured a family owned winery, and had a wine tasting. Fun, entertaining, and the wine was excellent!

We were on our own for dinner. My husband and I were interested in trying the Beef Bourguignon that Jennifer had told us about earlier on the bus. We found out that 4 other couples in our group were also interested, so the 10 of us set out to find a restaurant. It was such a wonderful evening. We really had a great time getting to know these tour mates! The food was excellent. My husband and I each ordered from the fixed price menu, and actually ordered all of the same things. Looking back, it was so much food, that we really could have split one, but it was so delicious, so I'm kind of glad we got our own. Haha!

Our "entree" was a green salad with escargot, ham with parsley, poached egg, croutons, cheese, tomatoes and dressing.
Beef Bourguignon was the plat. It was in a gravy like sauce with potatoes and a carrot.
Next came a cheese platter. And I mean platter! It was 3 big chunks of cheese per person. Omgosh! Sooooo yummy!
Last was dessert, creme brulee with vanilla bean specks... To die for.
What a fun experience, and great time bonding with other couples. Dinner lasted about 3 hours, and then we walked "home".

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We had an early breakfast in the courtyard, and DH and I took a little walk to the store nearby for water and more toothpaste. Then we headed to the farmers market which was really cool. There were all kinds of fresh fruits and vegetables, cheeses, and handmade items. Beaune such a neat little town.

We got on the bus around 1030, and sang happy birthday in French to one of our young tour mates. Then Jennifer treated us to a chocolate tasting. A Chocolate tasting? Yes, you read that right. A chocolate tasting! This is my kind of tour!!! Don’t be jealous! Wink ;)

I have to stop right here and say we are 100% impressed with Rick Steves’ Tours. It was the perfect balance of time with the group and time on our own free to explore. We were given so much background on history and culture and food specialties of the region. We never would’ve discovered so much if we had tried to do this on our own.

Switzerland was BREATHTAKING!!! Sooo much beauty. The Lauterbrunnen valley was like Yosemite on steroids. So much glorious beauty!

A week earlier, my husband had fallen at work and needed stitches in his lip. He needed to have them removed when we were in Switzerland. Jennifer got him an appointment with the local doctor. The bus dropped him off there, and the rest of us stayed on the bus for a short tour of the valley.

Next, we checked in to our rooms. This hotel didn’t have any elevators or air-conditioning. No complaints from us though- the view from our balcony was absolutely incredible! I just loved gazing outside and relaxing, feeling so fortunate to be on this dream come true trip!

We had a fondue demonstration and ate dinner as a group. Then we played a little name game, gave buddy introductions, and had some time on our own.

It was so lovely to sleep with our balcony door wide open and listen to the river and the waterfall lull us to sleep.

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We awoke to the sounds of birds chirping, running water and a moon set over the cliffs.

After another delicious breakfast, we met at the front at 8:30 for the bus to take us to the gondola that would take us up to the Alps. This was an optional tour that we decided to do on our free day - most everybody in the group went along.

We rode from the valley floor to the top of the Alps, switching cars four times and ascending 5000+ feet. It was gorgeous! We were at 9800+ feet, and DH with his fear of heights and me feeling lightheaded with a headache - pretty sure because of the altitude we decided not to hang out the hour and a half with the rest of the group but to go ahead and venture out on our own. We took the gondola down two levels and stopped in the Alpine town of Mürren, and took a half hour walk to the village of Gimmelwald. Rick Steves features Gimmelwald in at least two of his shows that I know of, and I really wanted to see it. It was a half hour and zigzaggy walk down the huge mountain. The village hugs the side of the mountain - it’s a wonder how people live up there but they’ve been following this tradition for hundreds of years. They are mostly all farmers, and sell cheese. They have a really great on your honor pay system up here in this little village! You can buy cheese and milk and eggs.

We came upon some grazing cows and could hear their cowbells! Heavenly!

It was pretty hot and we came across a trough with a spigot so went ahead and refilled our water bottles. LOL! We saw a collection of cowbells hanging on the side of a barn, along with a row of hanging milk cans. The cowbells can be pretty fancy and cost up to $2000. The farmers treat their cows like pets and love them like we love our dogs and cats.

We saw signs for a craft beer made right there in Gimmelwald, and decided to pop in and try it. Black monk is one of the mountain peaks facing Gimmelwald, and that is what they named the beer after. It was my first dark beer. The bartender told us Rick Steves was there updating his book about a month ago.

After the bar, we took the gondola to the valley floor – it seemed almost straight down. Then we walked almost 3 miles along the valley floor back to our hotel. We saw three cows at the bottom of a waterfall. One was drinking from a creek, one was scratching on a tree, and the other was just chillin’! So cute!

It was awfully hot and shade was hard to come by – but we made it!

We ate “linner” at 3:00 at our hotel’s restaurant. I had a chicken and bacon Caesar salad. DH had vegetable beef soup and a repeat of last nights salad.

Then DH wanted an iced coffee so we walked over to the fun little coffee bar next door and he ordered a pistachio-almond iced coffee. It was made with pistachio paste, almond milk, and espresso. Sounds like an odd combo, but it was delicious! It was blended with ice, and the consistency of a thin shake. The barista told us they were popular in Italy. We have something else to look forward to over there! (We never found anything like it in Italy!) :(

Then we came back to the hotel, took a little nap and I sat on the balcony catching up on my journals. Temp finally fell to 82* and there was a gentle breeze. Things had been so fast paced, that it was nice to just relax this evening.

We slept again with our balcony doors wide open, listening to the soothing sounds of nature.

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187 posts

Thanks for continuing your story, eurostacy. Your trip sounds beautiful, and I think you've inspired me to journal on my next trip. I'd love to have such detailed memories.

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136 posts

Thank you,roubrat. It’s definitely worth it to take the time to journal! :) I’m so glad I did. I never would’ve remembered all these details otherwise.

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136 posts

Over the mountains to Munich

An early start this morning on winding roads and tons of tunnels brought us to the land of my people.

We left Switzerland, entered Austria, drove near Lichtenstein-close enough to see it, and into Germany. Scenery was gorgeous! Jennifer played the soundtrack of The Sound of Music after we started rolling, and was encouraging us to sing along-

We saw lake Lucerne, Lake Zurich, and a couple others which I didn’t recognize the names of.

We stopped at 3 “pay to pee” rest stops. You put coins in and get a ticket which you can use in the store, so you sort of get your money back if you buy something afterwards. I was surprised to see what they have for sale in the ladies room, and I can’t help but wonder how many they actually sell! I won’t mention it here- you’ll just have to take the tour! ;)

Well, the next part is hard to talk about so I won’t elaborate too much, We stopped at Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial. I worked myself up about it before the trip and decided I just wouldn’t go. I talked to a few others on the tour who convinced me to go, and my husband said he felt like he should go to honor the people who went through it. That made sense to me. So I decided to go. I decided to focus on the liberation of the camp, the only good part.
I remember Trump’s State of the Union Address where a prisoner and US soldier (?) were reunited, and the chills I got when I heard their story. But boy - when it was all right there in my face, I couldn’t handle it. I should’ve just trusted my gut, and stayed on the bus. I am way too sensitive, and visiting Dachau deeply disturbed, saddened and depressed me.

We made it to the hotel. Not much of a view at this one and no a/c but Rick Steve’s Travel arranged for every room to have a fan. We slept with our window open again. So far, we have not stayed anywhere that uses screens on their windows!

We took a short walk around the neighborhood and had dinner at a restaurant which was supposed to be a beer hall, but didn’t seem like one- more of a restaurant. I was super disappointed that they were only serving Lowenbrau. I didn’t want something I could drink at home.

Haufbrau Haus is the place I’m really looking forward to. It’s been on my bucket list since I was 20 and planning my trip to Europe with my best friend that I spoke of on my original thread. DH and I will go there tomorrow during our free time.

After dinner, we went to a bar to watch the World Cup. USA played France. I tried a pear schnapps. A brand that must’ve been German. Good but super strong. There was a cute little German boy at a long bar table by himself and our group joined the other end of his table. My husband and I were trying to talk to him. He had a Deutschland soccer shirt on. He was cheering for France. He was about 7. There were a lot of locals in the bar. We watched until half time and headed back to the hotel. I think I’m really going to like it here!

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Germany by far has had the biggest and best variety for breakfast. Oh my goodness! Such delicious food!!!

We met our local Tour Guide, Anna, at 8:30 in front of our hotel. She was amazing! Her family has lived in Bavaria for over 600 years. She taught us so much culture and history as we toured Munich.

Today was a special day. It was Brewers Day- a holiday and big celebration for the 6 brewers in town. We saw decorated horses and parade vehicles that normally only are seen during Oktoberfest. So that was a special treat! I think we saw a total of three of the six breweries floats.

We had a little tour at Hofbrauhaus, visited government buildings and churches. Another special thing happened when we were inside Saint Michael’s. The choir and musicians were practicing. They sounded Heavenly! Anna’s grandmother helped rebuild the church after WWII.

Next we visited Marienplatz with the giant animated glockenspiel. I didn’t take many pictures. I just wanted to live in the moment. Our tour ended here and then we were on our own.

We went back the the Viktualienmarkt, the outdoor market with Munich’s Maypole, across the street from our hotel. The fruit looked so beautiful!

Next, my husband and I went to the Hofbrauhaus. We shared a giant pretzel and a liter. Everyone sits at big tables- so you can’t be shy! We sat with a couple from Northern Germany and talked to them a little bit. They finished and left, and a young couple from Russia joined us. They were on a 6 hour layover enroute to visit her friend in Spain. We had a good conversation. I don’t think I’ve ever talked to someone who currently lives in Russia. I kept thinking how different their lives must be from ours. They live 30 miles from Moscow. She was cute with a great sense of humor. He was a bit stand offish and guarded, but came around. We really had a lot in common. We all want the same things. The world is small and I’m so thankful for the beer garden experience. I’m thankful we met this sweet couple.

We ventured off again, seeing the sites, churches, and did some people watching. We went to mass at Saint Peter’s at 6 PM. Not sure what was going on, but it was a two hour mass – an hour more than what we are used to. There was an orchestra playing and opera singing – not sure what the hoopla was about. We had arrived 15 minutes early and there was no seating in the regular area so we sat off to the right behind a large pillar. Since we couldn’t see the altar it was hard to understand what was going on. It was all in German and sounded beautiful. When it was finally time for communion, we knelt in a row (my first time ever receiving the Holy Eucharist this way).

When mass ended, it was 8 PM and we were starving. We went to the beer garden at the Viktulienmarkt. I ordered a traditional German meal that my grandma and mom used to make: Pork Roast, onion gravy, sauerkraut, and a dumpling. It didn’t taste like the dumplings I’m used to. I had a half liter of Paulaner beer. This city biergarten rotates breweries so it’s fair. During our stay, I got to try three of the six different beers served in Munich. We walked around after dinner. Another amazing day!

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Munich to Venice

We were in the bus after breakfast and drove through the Dolomites (Italian Alps).

Jennifer handed each of us a Mozart ball. It was chocolate with marzipan filling. I like these fun little bus surprises.

We stopped for an included Italian lunch at a family run restaurant in a little Italian village. It was salad and wood fired pizza. Each table of four got 3 different pizzas. They were thin and crispy and pretty good.

We drove by many wineries on the way to Venice, beautiful countryside and saw a few castles.

After parking the bus in Venice, we took a Vaparetto (water bus) to near our hotel and walked a little ways with our luggage. We settled into our rooms then met the group for our orientation walk and included dinner.

We had salad, a pasta main course of our choice, dessert of choice, and red wine, white wine, sparkling water and tap water all included.

DH ordered lasagne. Our waiter muttered “American” under his breath. I ordered squid ink spaghetti (can’t recall real name) and the waiter was delighted with me. Haha! I figured- when am I ever going to order this at home? I thought we were getting another course anyway, but I was wrong so it kind of backfired on me. I had tiramisu (delicious!) for dessert and DH had a limoncello slushie thingie.

Next our group walked to one of the gondola stands.

26 of us were split between 5-6 gondolas. An accordion player and singer rode along and entertained us with live music. It was so amazing! When we docked, Jennifer surprised us with a small celebration with little cups of Prosecco. We toasted each other, Birthdays, anniversaries, cancer survivors, the bus driver and Jennifer for the amazing tour they are giving us. Then we went to St. Mark’s Square and listened to three different bands. Magical night! Truly wonderful! I was really living a dream come true!

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Venturing into Venice

Well, Italy isn’t as impressive in the breakfast dept as the other countries have proven to be. I found enough protein, but it was a little disappointing. I guess we are getting spoiled.

We met our local tour guide, Carrina, at 830 in front of the hotel. Today the tide was coming in from the Adriatic Sea, making the water a beautiful green color. When the tide goes out, it looks brown and dirty.

Carrina took us to see a local mask maker, who has been making a living at it here since 1972. We got a demonstration and he chose volunteers to wear certain masks, and it was pretty funny. He made jokes in Italian and Carrina translated them.

We saw many historic places, and the beautiful St. Mark’s Cathedral. It’s just breathtaking- but we weren’t allowed to take pictures inside. We paid €2 to go to the altar and see St.Mark’s tomb. I need to google to verify because I’m going by memory - but the clock/bell tower in st marks square is either 400 or 600 years old. It’s a 24 hour clock, with the worlds first digital clock right about it, that changes every 5 minutes. I’m so blown away by how old everything is.

Speaking of being blown away, there’s a warm African wind blowing into Venice making it unbearably hot. The original plan was to take the Vaparetto/train/bus to Padua to visit St. Anthony’s Basilica during our free time this afternoon, but I was feeling pretty wiped out. We went back to our room, cooled off in the a/c, I elevated my swollen feet and we took a nap. I decided if Saint Anthony really wanted me to come see him, he would “find” me a way. 😉

We ventured outside, looking for our first gelato. We went to a family owned place that makes it handmade. There were so many flavors to choose from- it was so hard to decide. We each had 2 scoops and shared a little. DH had coffee and cherry. I had pistachio and the other was supposed to be lemon, but she misunderstood my Italian and gave me watermelon instead. It was all really good! Then we stopped for lunch. (Yes! That was backwards!)

I ordered an aperitif- a spritz made w Campari. It’s a Venice thing that Jennifer told us about. It was very bitter. I decided I should try the milder one next time- the aperol. Neither of us wanted pasta, and we found a main dish of grilled steak over green salad. DH ordered a side dish of roasted veggies and I ate his eggplant. It was good!

We walked some more and found a pretty spot along a canal with a cool breeze and sat there for about 1-1/2 hours, gondolier and people watching. After it got too hot again, we bought a six pack of water and headed back to our hotel. It’s just too darn hot to be sightseeing and the pavement really retains the heat. I caught up on some journaling.

I’ve been taking a lot of pictures of
windows and flowers & balconies and walls with contrasting paint colors. Everything is so unique. There are many bridges in Venice, some have a lot of charm.

It has been very hot and humid and it’s disappointing that we can’t do more, but we just aren’t up for it.

We left out air conditioned room at 730 to look for a small dinner. One of the things Rick Steves recommends is to “get lost” in Venice. Since it’s an island, you eventually get to where you need to be. The streets meander all around without any rhyme or reason, and they don’t have any complete maps here! We did a lot of wandering!

We stopped at a little restaurant and I ordered my spritz - this time made w Aperol. I had a “mixed” salad and DH had caprese and some wide pasta w meat sauce. We shared a tiny tiramisu and got back to our room around 10:45.

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187 posts

Shame Venice was so hot. What were the crowds like?

Great descriptions of Munich, took me right back to the food/atmosphere.

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27 posts

Hi Stacy...I just found your reports as we are getting ready to depart on our 21 day BOE trip in just two weeks. I am so excited and it is a trip of of lifetime for me too! I already can hardly sleep at all thinking about it :-) I would love to hear which hotels you stayed in and especially liked. It all sounds so wonderful so far and I can't wait to hear about the rest of your trip. Thank you so much for taking the time to share with us!

One thing I might add is that one way to make a trip more affordable is to use air miles for the flights. I would guess that many people on here are doing that. I have been charging everything I possibly can for years and it is paying for nearly the total cost of our flights from the west coast. We use the Alaska Airlines card and also get a companion fare for only about a $100 each year when we use it domestically. It has helped us get to Hawaii a few times over the years.

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136 posts

We met at 9:00 this morning to head to Tuscany. We got back on the Vaparetto. It’s so hot, humid and icky today. I’m trying not to get grumpy. At least our bus is air conditioned!

My phone was charging when we arrived at our agriturismo. they grow olives and red and white grapes here and make wine and olive oil. I left my phone in the room when we went to the pool, and during our happy hour and cooking demonstration and dinner. We dined al fresco under a big shade tree.

Antipasti: caprese

Primer course: pasta with pesto

Main: lemon sage chicken, green beans, green salad

Dessert: slice of watermelon

All delicious!

Then we did one load of laundry €12

Needless to say, we’ve been doing a lot of sink laundry by hand.

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Tuscany/Florence

Fabulous breakfast here! Lots of variety!

We rode the bus to Florence and met our local guide, Marcello Bellini, an older gentleman who has lived in Florence his entire life. He was a hoot! Very informative and funny. All of our local tour guides have been great. DH and I have mentioned several times on this trip that we sure are glad we decided to take a Rick Steve’s tour. We never would have seen/done/known a quarter of all weve experienced this trip if we had gone on our own. It’s been worth every penny! Anyway- Marcello showed us all around town, and then “all the things to see” in the Uffizi Gallery. We were with him for 3 hours, then we had 3 hours on our own.

Of course my husband and I went looking for gelato. This time I had pistachio and coffee and he had chocolate, vanilla, and coffee. We skipped lunch.

Next he and I went to the Galileo Science Museum. It was super interesting! We could’ve spent more time there, but had to reunite with the group at 3:00. Florence is so rich in art and history!

It was another hot and icky day! 99 degrees. I was feeling pretty crabby and trying to hold it together. We went to Accademia with the group and got to see Michaelangelo’s David. Quite impressive.

The museums we were in today weren’t completely air conditioned- only in certain parts. Just too hot to be walking 5+ miles today!

Jennifer treated us all to gelato after the museum on the way to the bus. I got lemon and strawberry and husband got strawberry and hazelnut. (Gelato twice in one day! Worth it!)

We cooled off in our rooms when we returned to the agriturismo, then met under the shade tree for another scrumptious dinner.

Appetizer- prosciutto and melon

1st course- pasta w sausage tomatoes and mushrooms

Main- thin sliced roast pork with a yummy artichoke, carrot and other stuff gravy/sauce, green salad and white beans.

Dessert- panna cotti

Now I’m trying to catch up on my journal, and get enough rest for our completely full, hot, busy day tomorrow!

Arrivederci!

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Subject: on the Road Again

This is the first night I slept all the way through- must be the fresh farm air. DH woke up at 4 am to the sounds of a wild boar family (about 8 in all) He thinks they were after the apricots that had fallen from the tree right outside our room. He tried taking pictures but it was too dark.
Breakfast again was fabulous!
After the bus started rolling on our way to Rome, Jennifer played Willie Nelson’s “On the Road Again” The lyrics got me:
“Going places that I’ve never been. Seeing things that I may never see again....”
She wanted us to sing along – I think I was the only one who did. When the song was over she said, “that was your Fourth of July in Tuscany!”
I’m dressed subtly patriotic today without being obnoxious. I don’t want to stand out as an American and get targeted by pickpockets. But I’ve still got my red white and blue!
We had some traffic delays on our way into Rome. I guess Putin was visiting the Pope and causing traffic jams.
We checked into our hotel, went to the convenience store for some water and cashews, reunited with the group at 1:30, and rode the metro to the Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel, and Saint Peter’s Basilica. We met another local guide there. A helicopter flew over the courtyard and she muttered something about Putin. Maybe it was his, or a decoy. I have to say I was surprised at all the Roman god statues that we saw at the Vatican museum. For some reason, I was thinking it would be all Christian.
The Sistine Chapel was absolutely beautiful but extremely disappointing. There were so many looky-loos that forgot they were in a church. Guards kept yelling, “Silencio!” But people were so rude and just kept talking. I couldn’t focus or reflect on what I was seeing, so that was a bummer- but I gotta say, it was still pretty amazing!
Oh my goodness! By the time we got to St. Peter’s Basilica, we only had 45 minutes. I told DH right away that we would need to return- hopefully Sunday.
The Pieta was stunning. Next, I came upon the tomb of Saint Pope John Paul II. I was instantly moved to tears and got chills. Such an amazing moment! I knelt down and prayed.
There was a private mass going on and the front section of the basilica was roped off. I made my way to the other side as mass was ending and we had to wait for the procession of priests. There was really not enough time there at all. On our way out to meet the group, we stopped at the Vatican Post Office. Once we joined the group, we headed to dinner. We packed on to an already crowded bus. It was icky. I really value my personal space- and that was not an option. Once off the sardine can, it was a little walk to dinner.
The restaurant was owned by an Italian man that loves Americans. There was an American flag outside, and another one hanging from the ceiling, along with American college football banners. There were pictures of Pope Francis, Trump and Obama, and a crucifix hung over the bar.
This dinner was not included on our tour, but Jennifer arranged it for us knowing we’d have a long tiring day. 20 € got us unlimited red and white wine, fizzy water and regular water, an appetizer, 3 kinds of pasta,green salad, and watermelon in our honor for the 4th of July. He also threw in a quite few bottles of sparkling strawberry wine, and insisted on sending the unopened bottles back with the group. The owner, Mikky, had us gather out front outside and gave us a pep talk. He told us to respect Trump, for all of us to get along and be united because America is so great and we should feel fortunate. He doesn’t like seeing the division on TV. He told all the men that they needed to buy the women flowers the next day. Then he talked about playing baseball for Tommy Lasorda but hurt his arm and had to stop playing. Don’t know how much was true. Then he kiss

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Then he kissed all the ladies hands and reminded the men to buy us flowers. He was a hoot. Dinner and entertainment all for €20!!!
Jennifer bought us all a gelato after that! I tried black licorice and pistachio!
Then we took our Roman stroll at night by the Pantheon, ran into an orchestra playing in a piazza- but it also had an electric guitar and electric bass. We stayed for a couple songs, walked to make our wishes into the Trevi Fountain, where we heard cheers after a proposal just happened, then walked up the Spanish Steps.
I’m loving this tour! Not the heat- but the rest is awesome!

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Today was miserably hot and humid in the high 90s. We met our local tour guide to do a tour of Ancient Rome. It was too hot to be walking all over Rome, and I really couldn’t concentrate. All I could think of was getting back to the room and a/c.

Our first stop was the Pantheon. It was originally a pagan temple, turned into a Christian church. The dome is open to the sky at the top, and there is a drain in the floor for the rain water. Its architecture is amazing! I’m blown away by all the ruins we saw today- the forum and coliseum. These were built 2000 years ago without modern conveniences and are still standing.

Next we toured the forum. Fascinating! We were on our own for lunch and found a great little place that was blasting their a/c. We split a caprese and crostini. I know I write a lot about food, but that’s such a huge part of every culture, and we are experiencing a lot of culture! Haha!

We met back with the group and toured the coliseum. So hot. All of the stone was retaining the heat and there was no shade. (Sorry- I’ll try to stop whining now- I am after all in Italy and fortunate to be here!)

We were on our own for the afternoon and given several suggestions. We decided on Peter in Chains church. This church contains the chains that St. Peter was held in while in jail- the story in Acts of the Apostles where God put the guards in a deep sleep and an angel helped Peter break free. The chains are on display in a see through case. I got instant chills the moment I saw the chains.

We took the Metro toward the hotel, stopped for 2 big bottles of water at the convenience store and went to our room and sat in the a/c for 2 hours.

Tonight was our final dinner of the tour and our last night together. We met in the piazza in front of the opera house across from our hotel and had another Prosecco toast, compliments of Jennifer. She also gave each of us a St. Christopher medal- the patron saint of travelers. She said she’s not Catholic, but appreciates Catholicism and wants us all to keep traveling. A lot of people spoke, but I was too teary eyed. It really has been a wonderful trip!

Dinner consisted of another Prosecco toast, natural and sparkling water, red and white wine, salad with anise (a first for us), risotto made w raddichio and gorgonzola cheese and bacon. Next: pork roast with potatoes. Dessert was a partially frozen pistachio dessert with chocolate sauce- so yummers! Then a shot of espresso...
We went back to the piazza to say our final goodbyes with another toast, this time, limoncello! Guess who got teary eyed again? This was such a great group. Everyone got along. We wouldn’t mind traveling with any of them again.

Off to bed!

Plan for tomorrow- Saturday, July 6- go to Assisi - but this heat! Will we make it?

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Subject: Follow that Friar!

AKA: Adventures in Assisi

So in case you didn’t know- my favorite saints in no particular order are:

Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Saint Pope John Paul II

Saint Anthony of Padua

Saint Francis of Assisi

I missed my chance of going to St. Anthony’s Basilica in Padua (near Venice) because of the heat.

I was wavering back and forth about taking a 2 hour train ride from Rome to Assisi to see St. Francis’ Basilica for the same reason.
Good ol DH researched for me and made it happen.

After our late night dinner and drinks celebrating our last night with the tour, the thought of catching the first direct train of the morning didn’t sound very appealing. So we slept in til 630, showered, ate breakfast and walked to the train station and got tickets for the 9 something train with a connection. That was an experience! Very BUSY train station in Rome, known for pickpocketers preying on newbie travelers- and we had no idea what we were doing. But we took the bull by the horns, figured it out and boarded our train, all important stuff still in our possession, with 20 minutes to spare! (Jennifer would be proud!)

Our train was very slloooooowww, and we missed our connection which was starting to stress us out, but then we decided that it would be part of our adventure!

As we arrived at our stop, 8 minutes after our connecting train was to depart, we heard a message in Italian about Assisi. We figured they held the other train. We had no idea where to go once we were off the train. I caught sight of a monk getting off our train, assuming he must be going to Assisi, I hollered DH, “Follow that friar!!!”

Sure enough, he got on the Assisi train, and we made it! Next we needed to catch a bus- but from where? We spotted our friendly friar again, and followed him, and he led us right to where we needed to be! Haha! “Follow that Friar” became the quote of the day!

We climbed the hill to St. Francis’ Basilica which was on 2 levels. We ran into some fellow travelers from our tour group and they gave us some pointers on what else to see, which was another walk up a steep hill. We stopped about 1/2 way for “linner”. It was the worst meal of our trip. I guess we’ve been pretty lucky with excellent food this entire trip, so we really can’t complain. The bread was stale and tasteless, the green salad was just a bowl of lettuce. They didn’t even try to put a tomato or slice of cucumber on it. They ought to be ashamed of themselves. Really! The pasta didn’t look right and we were supposed to get beef but pretty sure it was pork chops.

We kept seeing groups of nuns, and followed them to St. Clare’s Basilica. We saw a group in front of a “bar”. It makes for a funny picture- it was actually a gelato and snack bar.

There are so many churches in this tiny town! One was a first century pagan temple that was converted into a church, just like the Pantheon. Most churches we saw today didn’t allow pictures.

We saw a lot of old ruins today too- wish we had a local tour guide! We took the bus back down to the train station and walked to Saint Mary of the Angels Catholic Church.
This is the church that Jesus told St. Francis to build. 😊

Francis was praying in front of a crucifix (which we saw in St. Clare’s church). He said Jesus told him, “Francis build my church”. Francis took this literally and built a little church.
Jesus meant the people- be “fishers of men”, bring people to Him. Well, it turned out Francis accomplished both tasks.

When we walked into St. Mary of the Angels church, and I saw that little chapel, it was instant chills and tears again. We also saw the room where St. Francis died. Chills!

We spent some time looking at many beautiful frescoes then walked across the street to get a (guess what?) gelato. I had pistachio and strawberry, DH- cherry.
Then it was back to the train station with 45 min. to spare.

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PAPA! VIVA!!!

We woke up and headed straight to mass at Sacred Heart of Jesus church by the Termini rail station. There was low attendance. Mass was in Italian and was less than 50 minutes. Back to the hotel for breakfast then to the metro on our way to see “Papa”.

It was a bit of a walk to Saint Peter’s Square but at least the temperatures were now in the low 90s. We got to the Square, had a short security line wait and had our spot by 11 AM. We had a great viewing area! We were next to a fountain with a railing - no one could stand in front of us and standing by the fountain felt 10 to 15° cooler than other areas. Also when the breeze picked up, mist and droplets would blow on us and refresh us.

There was a priest there energizing his group - and the rest of us with chants of:

Papa! Viva!

Priest: Papa!

Everyone else: VIVA!!!

It got louder and louder.

Promptly at 12 noon Pope Francis appeared.
Papa Francesco looked tiny and far away, speaking from his window, but his soothing voice boomed through the speakers. It was so super cool! We’ve now officially been blessed by Pope Francis!

Then we went back to Saint Peter’s Basilica to see what we missed on Friday. Unfortunately, we still couldn’t get to the front altar area as one mass was going on and people were lining up for the next one. I got chills again on my way through Saint Peter’s Basilica, and wouldn’t you know it I looked to the right and there was Saint Pope John Paul II’s tomb.

I was meandering around, trying to avoid crowds and found a marble spiral staircase. It led below the church to an area full of tombs of previous popes. What a holy place. Chills again! This must be what Heaven feels like.

After seeing all we could see at Saint Peter’s, we left and walked by an old castle, over a bridge over the Tiber, and to a coffee roasting place near the Pantheon.

Iced coffee doesn’t really seem to be a “thing”over in Europe. We only found one decent one, and it was in Switzerland. The lady told us the almond pistachio kind was popular in Italy, but maybe it’s in the southern part. We had some blended type drinks that were made with coffee, but not at all what we were expecting. Still hit the spot on a hot day! Oh- and at some point we stopped for gelato again!
We walked a little further. The heat was swelling me up, and we decided to take a taxi back to our hotel. Completely worth the eight euro. We rested for a couple hours in our air-conditioned room. DH found good reviews on a restaurant about 1 1/2 blocks from our hotel, Ristorante Amedeo. What a great find! We lived it up on our last night in Italy. I had a Bellini (Prosecco with peach juice) and DH had an Aperol spritz.

My appetizer was a flan pecorino (type of cheese) with squash blossom (see picture) DH had a crostini. We each had a huge salad. His was chicken and mine was salmon. I didn’t know mine would be served raw. That’s out of my comfort zone – but when in Rome…

Of course we had to indulge in dessert. We shared another tiramisu and crème brûlée. Easily one of the best meals of our trip! Rock me, Amedeo!

Then back to the hotel to rearrange our bags and throw out the clutter to prepare for our flight to Frankfurt tomorrow. It was a fabulous day!

From this point on, our vacation is in Germany in search of the towns of my ancestors.

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Stacy, are reservations or tickets needed to see the pope at the Sunday noon appearance?
And thanks for the restaurant recommendation. We're going to be staying near Termini before our next RS tour next May.

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Jane- we didn’t need any reservations or tickets. We just showed up. Having only been there once, I don’t know if that’s the norm. I hope you enjoy Papa and the restaurant as much as we did. Have a wonderful trip!

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Interesting trip report. Thanks for posting.

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Rome to near Frankfurt ...

We skipped breakfast today and caught the shuttle bus to the little Rome airport. (only two airlines fly out of it) The bus driver was talking on his cell phone the whole drive, but we made it safely to the airport – checked in our bags (since it’s a budget airline, size restrictions only allow for a small carry-on) and went through a very lax security check, and then ate breakfast.
So this budget airline is Ryanair. Our flight was from a tiny airport in Rome to a tiny unknown airport near Frankfurt. It was only $52 per person, but they try to nickel and dime you for everything – but we weren’t falling for it. They emailed me our seat assignments before we left. DH and I were 10 rows apart but we could sit together for an extra €20. we decided we’d be OK sitting apart for the two hour flight since we’ve been together so much anyway!

There was a large Greek family on the airplane and their seats were scattered. They were pulling all sorts of shenanigans before the plane took off trying to get people to trade seats. An announcement was made forbidding seat changes and one lady tried to bully me into changing. Her husband was working on my husband. We didn’t budge. Three of the women were bad mouthing me in Greek but whatever. I found it comical that they were trying so hard. Once airborne, this group’s shenanigans continued. (All part of the adventure- and makes for a good story!)

After about 20 minutes, the flight attendants announced that they’d be coming around with drinks and snacks for sale. Nothing is included on this budget flight. After they passed through, they made another announcement about all the gadgets and perfumes they had available for sale. After they came through with their gadgets, they made another announcement about selling lottery tickets. DH and I were wondering what was coming next! It was entertaining to say the least!

We landed and collected our luggage, Which had some kind of lotion (we think) smeared on both our bags. Gross! We cleaned them up with some napkins and headed to our taxi.
I had no idea how small this airport really was. When I inquired about transportation ( airport shuttles) there were three companies to choose from. The two that answered me back tried to get me to make a reservation. I didn’t. I thought once there, we might get a better deal. Turns out, there’s only three taxis total and one bus that goes in the opposite direction. We got the very last taxi of the day. Lucky! The driver was a nice man. Kind of big and scary looking, but friendly. We talked all the way to our car rental in Koblenz.

Our car didn’t come with GPS and this was a little problem, because by the time we got to Munich - 1/3 of the way into our trip, I got a text from Verizon that I had used all of my data. Impossible! I called the international number for Verizon. Turns out every time I took a picture it instantly loaded to the cloud and used all my data. I had no idea that could happen! I was able to fix it, but no data for me for the rest of the trip and DH only bought half a gig because we were going to use mine. Anyway~ on to the rental.

It was a small Toyota Aygo- a gutless little car. I printed directions to everywhere we were going before we left home, but they were all kind of screwy. Navigating was a little stressful but part of the adventure. DH did very well on the autobahn.

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Our hotel was on the little town of Cochem on the Mosel River. My printed directions failed us. We parked in the lot near the tourist information office and I stayed in the car because we couldn’t figure out the pay machine. DH went into the tourist information office - it was 15 minutes before closing. Luckily, we made it! So our hotel was up on a hill, but we knew they had parking. It was all very confusing, and a bit of a blur to me as I write this so many days later. We had to drive through what looked like a pedestrian only section- Over cobblestone streets and having to wait for pedestrians to move out of our way. We parked somewhere I can’t remember exactly and grabbed our bags.

The front desk was unmanned so the door was locked. We pushed button on a speaker box. The man told us our keys were on the counter and he opened the door remotely. A room key card was there along with a tennis ball with another key attached and a map - not to scale. I had an email written in broken English which didn’t make sense at the time, but made sense after a looong scavenger hunt. We went to our room, dropped our bags and then tried to figure out the car situation.

We couldn’t figure out what the tennis ball and the extra key was for so we left it in the room and walked around looking for where we were supposed to park. Everywhere we looked, we struck out. We found some garages that were locked and realized that must be what the tennis ball was for. DH hiked back to our room to get it. The key didn’t fit. We looked at my phone - at the screenshot of the map and realized we needed to walk further.
I tripped and fell scraping at my knee and shin through my jeans (yes! jeans! The weather was cooler yay!) and I scraped up the palm of my hand. I had enough! I started to lose it. I was annoyed that there wasn’t a person at the hotel that could help us and we were wasting so much time! DH calmed me down. I’m glad he kept his cool. I sucked it up and got over myself.

It truly was like a scavenger hunt! We found a cemetery. (It was on the map) so we knew we were getting “warmer”. We looked at the map again – but it was odd. There was a big garage door and a side door under a school playground. But it was actually on our level. (Not underground from where we stood) We tried to open the side door. It was locked. well, let’s try the tennis ball. Voilà! It worked. There was a button to push the big rollup garage door open. We walked back to our car and we parked in a spot with our hotels name on it, inside the very dark garage. (I sure am glad we didn’t have to leave at night!)

We headed back to our hotel room. Almost 2 hours had passed since we got to Cochem! We can look back on it now and laugh, but it wasn’t very fun at the time. When we got to our room, church bells were ringing right outside of our window. They rang from 8 AM until 8 PM every day. But we were out exploring for most of the time and rarely heard them. We headed out to find somewhere to eat. This little town sure is beautiful and at €99 a night for the room which included breakfast, I’d say we scored a pretty good deal.

Right across from where we parked was a really old (maybe Roman?) wall and an old castle up on the hill. It was a neat little walk to our hotel. Back to dinner – we ate on the upstairs patio of a restaurant with a river view and grape vines growing all around. DH had an Aperol and I had my very first hefeweizen. Dinner was good but “nothing to write home about” (even though I just did. ha ha!) then we walked around a little more and called it a night.

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Wow! What a day! One of the reasons I always want to stay in a hotel instead of an apartment or airbnb is because there's always someone there to help. Well, evidently not!

But you persisted, and now you can laugh about it. Good for you!

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Yeah- it was a little family run hotel- a man and wife with a toddler. Must’ve been busy...

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Subj: 7 fountains

We got up and had another fabulous German breakfast. Everything has been all you can eat buffet style for breakfast so we’ve been skipping lunches or snacking. Our first stop on our adventure was today was Luxembourg . Luxembourg is a small country bordered by Germany, France, and Belgium.

We drove through the countryside. It was clear to me how so many German immigrants settled in Minnesota and Wisconsin.(That’s where my ancestors settled). The landscape is almost the same. Farms and forests! Not as many lakes – and lots of grapes near the Mosel – but otherwise very similar. OK back to Luxembourg. We took an exit off the freeway that let us down one country road after another. I took pictures along the way of different signs and such. Off on a tangent again – back history~

I’ve always been curious about my roots and have always wanted to go to Germany to find them. I asked my parents about it and they told me everything they knew and each referred me to a brother of theirs who would know more. Uncle Jerry, my dad‘s brother, told me about two great grandpas and then I joined ancestry.com, and dove even deeper into my family history. These beautiful towns did not disappoint! Some were better than others and it was really cool to see them. I’m very thankful for this opportunity my husband gave me.
So back to Luxembourg – my great great great grandparents Peter and Elisabeth M were born here, in Septfontaines. There are still relatives living in the family home. I found this out by reaching out to a distant cousin on ancestry. We share a third great grandfather. the name of the town translates to “seven fountains” it has also been called Simmern when under other rule. By talking to my fourth? cousin (who I contacted/“met” on ancestry, and seeing his research, I see that my fourth great grandpa was also from here.

When we rolled up to the church and parked, opened our doors, and stepped out, the church bells began ringing welcoming us at exactly 12 noon. It made me cry and gave me chills. It was like God created this special moment just for us. I couldn’t have planned that perfect timing if I tried! We walked through the cemetery and I found the headstone of my third great grandparents Peter M and Elisabeth N.
I also found a Philippe M. and a Familie N. I’m probably related to both of them in one way or another - I’ll have to log back into ancestry and do my research.

The beautiful church next to the cemetery was consecrated in 1317. I believe the outside is all original but the inside looks mostly new. There’s a door I took a picture of that looks very old, it’s no longer usable but I bet it was in grandma and grandpa Peter and Elizabeth’s day. There is a wall around the cemetery and church also with old dates. It was a pretty cool place and I just had chills the whole time. I walked where my ancestors did before me! I stood in the church where they worshipped! (Also there were castle ruins behind the church)
Next, we drove around looking for the seven fountains – more like seven spigots but I’ll take it!
Again- wish I could post pics- but it was a brick wall with 7 pipes trickling water out of them!
Septfontaines ~

The next town we drove through had an “on your honor” vegetable stand and critter signs marking bus stops.

Back in Deutschland!
Several PSA signs about texting and driving showing cracked and bloody phones usually with the name of the person and date of death. Powerful!
To be continued...

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My apologies for an extra long delay. There was a death in the family, surgery and a new job. I’m going to try to finish this up!

Trier
My 2nd great grandmother, was from Trier.
Trier is one of the oldest towns in Germany. It has 1 of 4 Roman gates and part of a wall still standing, called Porta Negra. There are also Roman ruins in the town. My 2nd GG undoubtedly saw those ruins! It was very touristy – and we never found parking, so I took pictures out of the window. We did however find an Aldi’s there along the river and we bought some water and some snacks. (I truly would have benefited from doing more research before leaving, but I ran out of time and we just winged it. I guess that just means I’ll have to go back someday and see all there is to see In Trier!)
This is a short installment, but I don’t want to mush all the info. together. And each town mostly deserves their time in the spotlight. Some more than others!

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Kyllburg

My 2nd great grandpa on my mom’s side, was born in Kyllburg in 1834 and died in MN.

When I googled Kyllburg it didn’t look like much of anything, but when we got there, I was pleasantly surprised. Beautiful countryside and a cool train tunnel that looks like a castle. There was a display in German near that tunnel with a lot of old pictures - it was very glary, so the pictures didn’t come out good. One of the dates shows that whatever it is that happened - was in 1835 – when 2nd GG Wilhelm was a baby.
One of these days I’d like to try to translate these neat old historic signs I’m finding in the land of my ancestors.

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Bernkastel-Kues

Back to my Dad’s side-
another 2nd great grandpa- he lived in Bernkastel-Kues.

BK was another beautiful but overrun with tourists towns. You can see the vineyards growing on the hills as you drive in. We saw several tourist buses entering and leaving town. There’s a beautiful big castle on the hill overlooking the town. Again – there was nowhere to park. DH dropped me off in a park, and I took a video of the area, and he swung back around to pick me up. The next town over, I can’t remember what the name is, but it started with a W, was also very cute. We stopped at the church there. Maybe GG Jacob had a friend over here or maybe he attended a wedding or baptism here.
I wish I would’ve had more time to research these towns before leaving home, but there just aren’t enough hours in the day. We flew by the seats of our pants, and I was very pleased by everything we were able to see, even though we couldn’t “see it all”. I have a pretty good idea of where my roots are.

That was it for ancestor towns today.
To be continued...

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After BK- we could’ve gotten back on The freeway but DH decided to be adventurous and we drove along the Mosel River. We knew if we followed it, we’d eventually get back to Cochem.

Everywhere we looked there were vineyards on the mountains, old ruins, castles and quaint little towns. We stopped in a few towns looking for dinner - we were being picky and that’s good because we ended up somewhere AMAZING!

We pulled over in Ediger-Eller as we saw a couple restaurants with lots of people- usually a good sign.

We stopped at a family run place – a couple in their late 60s or early 70s ran it, with the son working the bottom floor and some girls in the kitchen that may have been daughters. You could tell most of the customers were locals and friends with the owners. All of them were older than me and DH too! All the old ladies were shaped just like my Grandma . We were definitely with my people! :-) We were upstairs on the patio with grape vines growing over our heads with grapes on them. The food was absolutely delicious – but I didn’t like that mine was served with french fries.

The Mosel region is known for their riesling wines. I tried a dry one, DH had a sweet one. His was a little too sweet, mine was perfect. We took a little walk along the Mosel river after dinner, and sat for a bit. What an amazing day!
Then we drove “home” taking in more beautiful sights.

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Butzbach and Limburg an der Lahn

Getting ready to fill my 2nd cup, I noticed a heart shape left behind by my 1st cup. Someone was sending me love right to my coffee cup!

Our first stop of the day was Butzbach, on my moms side, my grandma’s relative- (her dad’s grandma going way back) my 15th great grandma, Ursula Fisch (meaning fish in German) was born in Butzbach in 1470!

We arrived in Butzbach and pulled over at a bakery and had a treat and some coffee. Afterwards, I asked to use the restroom, explained that we were traveling , and the unfriendly woman that worked there wouldn’t let me. I know my grandma Ursula would not approve of the way her 15th great granddaughter was treated and was probably rolling in her grave! I don’t know why I let that annoy me so much- but it did. Kinda ruined the town for me. Right outside the bakery was a cigarette machine. We would see these periodically throughout Europe. It really is so strange to see one these days!

We continued driving and drove by something that looked like old ruins. There wasn’t much to see in this town. It was a little more modern than what we’ve seen lately, a little disappointing as this is the furthest back I’ve traced an ancestor.

Our next stop was supposed to be Limburg an der Lahn– on my dad’s side, a 6th great grandpa died there in 1762. Limburg is a big city and I wouldn’t know where to begin to look. Travel to Butzbach had taken a big chunk of our day already, so we drove past the city, I waved, and we headed toward Münstermaifeld– to be continued…

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10 Münstermaifeld

Anton was another 2nd great grandpa on my Dad’s side.

Anton was born in Münstermaifeld in 1830 and emigrated to the United States in 1854 with his brothers. My uncle Jerry told me about this one before all of my ancestry research.

After passing the Münstermaifeld sign, we saw a very fancy old church. (One of the many things I love about Europe is that the churches are the tallest buildings and sometimes on a hill so they are easy to spot. They believed these religious buildings should be closer to God than the rest of the town.)
We parked. I wanted to go inside, but something was going on, probably a funeral. We spotted a tourist information center and went inside. I told the lady about grandpa Anton. She said my maiden name was not common in Münstermaifeld but “not unheard of” in Pillig, the next town over.
She said that beautiful church behind us was for the monks and the church that Anton most likely attended had burned down. That was kind of a bummer, but I know he had to of seen this one from the outside at least.

Not in our original plans, we decided to check out Pillig (next installment)

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Pillig / Burg Eltz
We headed to Pillig. It’s been around since 1212 and was just down the road from Münstermaifeld. It was a one lane farm road for part of the way. (We encountered this a few times in the land of my ancestors) I asked DH to pull over at the cemetery. I found a variation of my maiden name there. Sometimes it is spelled without the first e and has a u with two dots over it instead. (I’ve been told that letter is called an umlaut.) This may have been the original German spelling of our name, and changed at Ellis Island. I say this because while doing research on ancestry, I found that variation of spelling quite often. Josef was born in 1923, 10 years older than my dad, possibly of his generation. This man Josef and I could possibly share some DNA.

Well that’s it for the towns of my ancestors. It sure was cool to explore this area – and it seems so preserved, like stepping back in time. So amazing!

Next, we drove to Burg Eltz castle. It has been occupied by the same family for over 800 years and still inhabited. I was disappointed in how “touristy” it was, and I opted not to take the tour just for that reason. I got some pictures of the outside. Grandpa Anton grew up just a few miles from here, so I’m sure he saw it.

As we were leaving, we noticed a hiking trail to Münstermaifeld.

(More to come...adventures in Cochem, staying outside of Frankfurt, and coming home)

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We headed back to Cochem. There was an old mustard factory there that I thought would be fun to to tour. Unfortunately, we got there after the last tour, but they let us sample about 15 to 20 different kinds of mustard. We bought a huge brat for only two euro. It came with a hefty blob of mustard of our choice. We stood outside eating half a weenie each. A little snack to hold us over ‘til dinner. We would’ve loved to have gone back to last nights restaurant, but we checked and they were closed today –

I snapped some more pictures of the area we were staying in, the nearby church, and our hotel. I wish we would’ve been able to spend a little more time in this town - seems like every day we were out exploring other towns.

We never had sheets in Europe – everything was duvets. France, Switzerland, and Italy had one big duvet on a full or queen size bed, but wherever we were in Germany, we each got our own. I kind of liked being able to stick both feet out from either side if I wanted to and DH didn’t hog my covers. Ha ha!

We went back out exploring our little town on foot in search of dinner. We found another great place and sat upstairs on the patio again. This restaurant and last nights were both owned by wineries. Since Riesling is the specialty here, we each ordered a glass. DH’s this time was not so sweet, and I ordered the dry again and they were both perfect for us. We both wanted something a little “lighter” tonight. The portions were huge! I had some kind of beef with mushrooms and really good salad and DH had a burger (he had been without one for three weeks- so it was time!) and he substituted fried potatoes instead of french fries. He really loves those German fried potatoes! his was served with a mayonnaise herb sauce that was to die for! I wish I had the recipe. We shared our meals. We do this a lot now and it’s a good way to try more new things.

One other thing this area is known for is red peach likör. We stopped by a little pub near our hotel and each ordered one. We got friendly with the bartender. There were five other locals inside that all live in Cochem and us. Some of them seemed a little rough around the edges and didn’t take kindly to strangers. But the bartender was really cool and treated us well.
The bartender explained that the red peaches are too bitter to eat, but make a great little liquor. Each shot was only €1.80. I finished mine and asked for another. The bartender kept the “tab” on DH’s coaster, written in pencil. DH was good with just one but the bartender gave him a free one. Then he gave him some clear stuff (probably homemade) that was really strong. He didn’t like it. Not wanting to be rude and leave it behind, I finished it when the bartender had his back to us. Lol!

The drunken unfriendly local next to DH finally warmed up and spoke to us a bit. He and his girlfriend and the bartender were playing a dice game when we got there. He wasn’t so scary after all. He wanted to talk politics!

Our total bill for four shots of red peach liquor and one clear something only came to €5.40. And no hangover the next day! LOL
I got a picture with my “cousin”, Matias the bartender, and we headed back to our room for our last night in Cochem.
:(

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The next morning we got up enjoyed another delicious breakfast put on by our wonderful host and chef, Ingo. We settled our bill, checked out and headed toward the Rhine River. Our first stop was Bingen. The plan for the day was to take a Rhine River cruise, and see all the sites there was to see along the Rhine. Unfortunately, it was a cold, wet, rainy, blustery, day. We ended up not taking the river cruise because of the weather and walked around a few small towns.

Next we headed to our Holiday Inn Express Hotel, just outside of Frankfurt, near the airport.
We researched places to eat dinner online and ended up at another family run restaurant, in an old house. The food was absolutely delicious. And it was homey like my grandma’s house!
From what we gather, it’s a popular spot for bicycle tourists. It was inexpensive and hearty and definitely a great last dinner in Germany!
I had the green sauce on my steak which Jo had mentioned in a previous post that I had asked her about Frankfurt foods. Delicious!

There was a park nearby which we walked around in afterwards but there was goose poop everywhere so that combined with the mud from the earlier rain we didn’t last there very long. It was very pretty, though!

The next morning we drove to the airport, turned in the rental car, boarded our plane, and spent the next 2 1/2 hours sitting on the tarmac because of the thunder and lightning. It felt like we would never get home! Eventually we did though, and my luggage was lost. We had done carry-on on our flight to Paris but we checked our luggage on our way home because the Condor airline restrictions were a little bit tighter for carry-on size. Oh well! I got it back eventually!

This trip was absolutely amazing! It was all I dreamed it would be, and more. I went with a childlike sense of adventure, and an open mind. I highly recommend a Rick Steves tour if this is your first time traveling to Europe! My husband and I decided if we are able to go back again we would definitely do another Rick Steves Tour. It was the perfect combination of seeing all the great things there are to see with wonderful history and culture lessons from the guide, and just enough free time on our own, to get away from the group, and do exactly what we wanted to do - Even if that was just grabbing a drink and doing some people watching.

It might cost a little more to do a Rick Steves tour, but absolutely worth every single penny! We really feel like we got our moneys worth, and the customer service exceeded our expectations.

Sadly, this is the end of my trip report. I want to thank all of you who gave me such wonderful advice, and encouragement. I pray the kindness you’ve shown to me comes back to you tenfold.

As my buddy Rick says, “Keep on Travelin’!”

❤️ Stacy

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Thank you, Stacy, for returning to finish up your trip with us. Sounds like you were able to accomplish everything you wanted to ancestry-wise and had a wonderful time in the 'doing'. Thanks for taking the time to post.