Thursday, October 23, 2014

Storknesting Sightseeing: Neuschwanstein Castle & Fussen, Germany

We jokingly called this trip a fairy tale trip, but in all reality it kind of was (mainly because mama got to drink champagne at breakfast - I kid - actually no I don't haha!). 

I had been wanting to see the castle that inspired Disney's Cinderella castle, but when we didn't make the 4 hour drive before the baby came, I gave up hope and put it on my wish list for a later trip.

Reason # 492,751,063 that I love my husband - he doesn't let much stand in the way of his need for adventure (even if it requires a little work sometimes - like managing a week old newborn), and taking his new little princess to see the ultimate fairy tale castle was an experience he wasn't going to pass up. 

After a few days of research we decided to stay in Fussen, a picturesque (<-- huge understatement) town located about 5km from the Neuschwanstein castle, in the heart of Bavaria.

We stayed at the Hotel Sonne which ranked #1 on Trip Advisor for the town. We soon learned that the breakfast alone was probably enough to win the #1 title. We enjoyed it so much that immediately after breakfast the first morning, Will went directly downstairs and extended our stay another night.

Breakfast (included in the price of the hotel) was a spread of about everything imaginable you could want. A hot bar with eggs, quiche, and breakfast meats. A selection of cold cuts and sliced cheese. Fruit and yogurt. Smoked salmon and cured meats. Gourmet soft and hard cheeses. Cured sausages. Marinated olives. Fresh pastries. 

And best of all...champagne and a machine that would squeeze fresh oranges at your command. 

No longer pregnant, and starting to get over all the afterbirth pains, sitting at this beautiful hotel, surrounded by breathtaking scenery, and sipping champagne to my heart's content felt like an absolute dream. I could kiss my husband again right this second for make that a possibility. I needed it more than I realized. 

We spent the first afternoon walking around Fussen and looking for a good place to eat. The town itself is almost too perfect to be real. Sporting all the bright colors of the rainbow and fitted just so with blooming flowers at every doorstep and window, it really looked like something out of a child's picture book.

For dinner that night we ate at Restaurant Aquila which turned out to be a hidden gem. I had a dish of venison medallions and spaetzle covered in a rich, brown gravy, and Will had wild boar roasted till it fell off the bone. I think we talked for a solid 24 hours after that about how good it had been, and marked it down as our new 2nd best meal we've ever had (our number one remains Brasserie Ten Ten in Boulder, CO). 

The next morning we made the short trip to the castle. The place where the castle sits is almost too pretty for words. It's almost too pretty that it hurts your eyes to see such beauty. It's so pretty that Will and I decided if we ever come into astounding wealth, or if the zombie apocalypse ever comes to fruition, we will be moving here and taking over the castle so we can just spend our days looking at God's beautiful creation.

The castle tour was a short 30 minute stint, and they didn't allow pictures in the main areas unfortunately. It never ceases to amaze me the amount of detail and craftsmanship that people were capable of before they had today's modern technology and machinery. Although we did learn that King Ludwig II was on top of the latest modern amenities for his time, and even had running water in the castle! 

He also had a weird obsession with swans. I think they told us there were over 100 different depictions of swans found throughout the castle. Some of the rooms had swans painted repetitively across all four walls!

The view was...well, you can see for yourself.

Thanks to the lifesaver that is the Boba wrap, Aubrey slept the entire tour making it possible for mom and dad to relax and enjoy it.

I may have oohed and ahhed out loud when I saw this kitchen. They had those beautiful copper pots tied down with metal cable or I might have tried to take one (or ten) home with me :)

Our last night in town we went out for a beer at what we determined to be a local hangout (and man did it feel good to be able to do that again!). 

Then we grabbed dinner and spent the evening walking around one last time...and grabbing some gelato.

We were pretty sad to leave, and were SO glad that we were there during the Fall season. I really don't think we could have seen a better display of all the beautiful colors. 

This ended up being our last trip while we were storknesting. We had a list of about 10 other places we would have liked to have gone, but time ran out (as did my energy). I don't know how we deserved to get to have such an amazing, once in a lifetime experience of having our baby girl and getting to travel as much as we could find time to fit in, but I am so, so grateful. Beyond grateful. I don't think I've spent one minute not thanking God for it. 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Storknesting Sightseeing: Lembach, France

Will and I have a number of travel bucket list items we hope to check off in our lifetimes. One that I didn't know of Will's was to see the Maginot Line. 

I'm embarrassed to admit it, but I did not do a great job of paying attention in my high school history classes, so I had no idea what the Maginot Line was. 

It turns out it's a pretty interesting piece of history. After World War I the French built a system of underground bunkers to prevent a German invasion. However, the Germans ultimately came in through the Belgian border, conquering France in about 6 weeks time, causing the intricate structure to become one of the biggest military failures in history. 

We missed the tour, but were able to see some of the structures and tanks.

The historic site was located just outside of a town called Lembach, where we decided to stop for lunch.

The town was dripping in the most colorful flowers, and looked like something out of a picture book.

We stopped at a quaint little restaurant and dined on a massive lunch of duck, roast beef, and creme brûlée. 

It was one of the best meals we have ever had, and felt so special to us. Sitting at a little corner table, listening to the rattle of French as conversations filled the air around us, eating delicious food, and feeling the love between was a special moment.

We couldn't believe the color of these flowers, and were convinced they were faked somehow. But then we saw them for sale a few weeks later and the colors look real! No idea what they are.

I think somehow we knew it was our last date before our lives changed forever. That sounds morose, and I don't mean for it to. I'm so glad that we spent our last few days as a family of two doing the things that we love best. It couldn't have been more special, and made me feel more complete and ready to welcome our little one.

Not to mention we've always had a soft spot for France :)