I pre-booked a tour to Heidelberg through Viator.com. I hopped in a cab to ETS Tour office at 9 am to be in time for the 9:30 am departure. I walked into the office and the nice gentleman asked me to have a seat. A few minutes later he told me that the others on my tour cancelled and I was the only one. Hmmm what does this mean? He asked me if I would be interested in taking the Rhine Valley tour instead at no extra cost to me. I was a bit concerned because I didn't really want a full day tour. He assured me I would be back by 6:30 pm to meet up with Greg so I agreed. The tour wouldn't start until 11 am so he offered me a city bus tour for no expense as well. All I could think of was what amazing customer service!!
I hopped onto the bus (it's basically a hop on hop off) and with only one other rider off we went. I saw most of the sights already through my walks but I did get to see where Palmengarten was and realized I could walk to it. More on that later in the week :-)
When I got back to the office I still had a few minutes so I took a seat again. I asked the same gentleman where the tour ends? He asked where I was staying and then he proceeded to mark my ticket with a drop off at my hotel and again at no extra cost! I am floored that a company still exists with friendly staff, efficient plans, and amazing customer service!! I highly recommend a tour with ETS Tours.
There were 10 of us on the tour plus our guide. We boarded a very nice mini-bus and headed out of Frankfurt. Our first stop was the Niederwald Monument for photographs. We then made our way to lunch. We were given the option of roasted chicken or vegetarian. The chicken was tender and very flavorful. Drinks were not included but I just had to have another Radler.
After lunch we drove further before boarding a boat for a river cruise. We had the entire boat to ourselves which was just lovely. The scenery of the region including numerous castles is breathtaking.
Finally, a nice ride back to Frankfurt. I met Greg in the executive lounge of the hotel for some beers and yummy pretzels! We walked back down to Paulaner am dom. We enjoyed Radlers (beer and lemonade) to start. I ordered the Roast Pork which was tender and in a nice beer gravy. The best part of my meal was the Kartoffel Kloesse. They are a soft and smooth potato dumpling. So delicious!! Pretty much a cross between gnocchi and matzo balls. YUM!
I walked through Frankfurt on this sunny day and headed to the Stadel Museum. In the end I have mixed feelings about the Stadel Museum. The layout is Top to Bottom (oldest to newst). The Highest level of the museum is dark and closed in. It gave me a rather eerie feeling. The 2nd floor offered well known works of art from artists such as Degas, Monet, etc. This floor was a bit brighter and definitely had more natural light. The lowest floor of the museum has high ceilings, bright lights, and offers modern art in a more modern setting. This area was actually my favorite and considering I'm not really a fan of modern art I think that's saying something.
I walked along the river and came across a peculiar sight. A large film crew were taping either a tv show or movie and it was supposed to be Christmas Time. I even got a peek at Santa :-)
I still have 4 more fun filled days in Germany to review but I got slightly delayed. We just got back from Iceland!
We had an amazing time and have lots of interesting reviews.
Here is what's still ahead:
Germany - Staedel Museum, Apfelwein Klaus, Rhine Valley Day Tour (city tour, bus tour, lunch, river cruise, wine tasting), Paulaner, Zur Germania.
Iceland - Icelandair, Reykjavik, Icelandic Fish Company, K Bar, Golden Circle Tour (Faxi, Gullfoss, North American Plate, Eurasian Plate, Parliament), South Coast Tour (Sólheimajökull glacier, Vik, Reynisfjara Beach, Seljalandsfoss waterfall, Skogafoss waterfall, Turf houses, Icelandic Horses), and Hilton Reykjavik Nordica.
The morning started out with a drizzling rain and a gloomy feel. Luckily, I packed an umbrella! I grabbed my jacket, gloves, and umbrella and set out to see Frankfurt. I walked around the Hilton Frankfurt (parks, and restaurants). Made my way to Hauptwache and Zeil Street. There you will find restaurants, stores, malls, and street performers. I walked towards the river and visited the Romer area again (no giant beer this time though).
On my way to the riverfront I stopped for a snack. I bought a soft and salty Pretzel - so yummy! It's been ages since I had a pretzel and none that I have had in the past could compare to this one!
At this point I was kind of cold and sick of the drizzle so I headed back to the Hilton Frankfurt for some warmth and lunch. For my lunch review visit here.
In the afternoon the sun finally emerged and so I headed back out into Frankfurt. I walked up the block to the Alte Opera (original opera house). The beautiful architecture and pretty sunset made for some relaxation time and fun photographs.
In Germany it's best to make reservations for dinner. We made reservations at Urban Kitchen. It's not traditional German it's more modern eclectic flavors. I had read good reviews about the restaurants and being that's it's right across the street from the Hilton Frankfurt it seemed like a good choice. For my full review visit here.
We got a very early start this morning as we needed to check out of the Hoxton Hotel, meet our driver, and get to the airport for our British Airways flight to Frankfurt. We checked in for our flight, dropped off the bags, and made it through security fairly quick. We decided to grab a quick breakfast at Giraffe. The food is always good, the service is either really good or severely lacking. This time the service was good.
The flight is under two hours so after a quick cat nap we arrived in Frankfurt. We picked a cab and 33 Euros later we were at The Hilton Frankfurt. For my full review of Hilton Frankfurt visit here.
We were in need of some rest thanks to my mother. LOL, she accidentally called us in the middle of the night. Not too funny except when you realize she's yelling at your to hang up when you are saying hello. We had a nice joke later about how we should have been the ones to be mad at her for calling not her at us for answering lol.
After our nap we decided to go wander around. We ran smack into Fasching! Fasching is a festival (similar to Mardi Gras) that happens right before lent. Kids, teens, and adults were all in costumes, there was a 3 hour parade, floats tossing out candies to the crowds, beer stands, bratwurst stands, and so much more. What a great way to start the week in Frankfurt!!
We walked down to the Romer area of Frankfurt (old town) and chose to sit outside at a restaurant. Two very large beers later and we were ready to try Currywurst! Currywurst is bratwurst in a ketchup/curry sauce. So yummy! After the parade we took some more photos around the area and headed back to the hotel to clean up for dinner.
We decided to try Paulaner Am Dom. For my full review visit here.
P.S.Don't ask me how but I am able to eat dairy in Germany just like I can in Italy. I'm sure people will say it's just in my head but how do you explain me being sick in the U.S., being sick in the U.K, and not being sick in Germany or Italy. I truly believe there are big differences in the additives and processes that go into creating milk.
I finally get to spend the day with Greg!! Luckily for him I've been exploring for a week and can pack in a lot of sightseeing for him!
We started our day with a walk from The Hoxton Hotel to Tower Bridge. We made a stop along the way at Spitalfields Market so he can see all of the cool vendors. Oh how I wish I had room for some cool antiques!
From there we walked to The Tower Bridge, Tower of London and the gift shop there. The lines were extraordinary so we decided against a tour. Walking a little further we ended up on London Bridge. When the hunger starts you just walk a little more and enjoy the bounty at Borough Market. The market was beyond packed (Greg hates crowds by the way) but there were a ton of new vendors for me to try. I see vegan cupcakes and I just have to try them!! The Spiced Plum Cupcake from The Free From Bakehouse was to die for! The cake was moist, the flavor was natural, and the frosting was the perfect texture. For an actual lunch we chose a salt beef sandwich and a roasted pork sandwich. Both were good but not very memorable.
I just had to run in to Rabot 1745. Rabot 1745 is from one of my favorite companies Hotel Chocolat. I would have loved to dine here but the lines were too long. I settled on being able to purchase Cocoa Gin. When we got home we tried a bit and it's delightful.
Back to sightseeing! We hopped onto the Tube and headed to Piccadilly Circus. From there we walked through Trafalgar Square, National Gallery, Big Ben, Parliament, Westminster Abbey, and Buckingham Palace. We walked back through St. James Park to Whitehall Palace and Covent Garden.
Before heading back to our room we stopped for drinks in the lobby of The Hoxton Hotel. I especially loved the Pornstar Martini (passion fruit with prosecco).
For dinner we made reservations at Wright Bros Spitalfields. For the full review visit here. This was the perfect ending to a great week in London!!
I intended to take a ride on The Original Hop on Hop Off Bus today. I took the Tube over to Trafalgar Square and started to look for their main office. After a brief chat with Greg (needing a favor) and looking at the traffic I decided to wander around on foot.
My first path took me down to Buckingham Palace. In the winter the Changing of the Guard takes place every other day. Today just happened to be the right day. Unfortunately, I arrived when the ceremony was almost finished. The area was very crowded and the best viewing spots were already taken. After I a while I walked through St James Park up to Whitehall Palace.
Greg's favor from the morning was asking me to find a charger for his Iphone (somehow it disappeared while at the office). Luckily, Covent Garden was pretty close by and offers an Apple Store.
What's that right across from Apple....yup yummy Laduree Macarons! Being a good wife I bought some for Greg to enjoy after work. For lunch I happened upon Balthazar Boulangerie. For my full review visit here. After my lunch I walked back to Leicester Square Station (Covent Station is exit only this year).
Tonight we had reservations at Bar Boulud at The Mandarin Hotel. Since we were semi-dressy and it started to rain we hailed a cab and drove to the restaurant. For my full review visit here.
This is when you realize how great the Tube is in London. It's dependable, clean, fast, and decently priced. Today I started out in Piccadilly Circus. It's a fun little area kind of like a more spread out Times Square. I popped into Whole Foods for some more dairy free breakfast items (for our next week in Frankfurt).
I then walked down to Trafalgar square and took some photos of the fountains, art, and surroundings before visiting the National Gallery. I should mention that all of the museums I visited are in fact free. They ask for donations which I was happy to give. If you want a map of the museum you are visiting those do have a cost associated with them. I found they were only a pound or two and that they were worth it (keep track of where you've been and as a little keepsake).
I truly feel blessed to have been able to see sets of paintings throughout my travels (Rome, London, New York, Boston, etc.). It's a great feeling to see the famous paintings by artists like Degas, Monet, Van Gogh, Renoir and more.
I have been very well behaved so far but finally I give in to Retail Therapy!! No place could be better than Harrods. Naturally Harrods offers a bit of everything but as a foodie I spent most of my time in the food halls. Restaurants, prepared foods, chocolates, teas, bakery items, jams, cookies and on and on. I spent a very long time in Harrods and I'm sure I only saw about an 1/8 of the store!!
For lunch I headed back to Banh Mi11. At this point I was feeling a bit congested and nothing is better for a small cold that some hot Pho!
Tonight we walked down Great Eastern Street (from our Hotel) to Rosa's Thai Cafe. To read my full review visit here.
Today I got an earlier start than even Greg going to work. I hopped on the Tube and headed to the Golden Tours Visitor Center near Victoria Station. Last week I pre-booked a tour to Stonehenge via Grayline Tours.
The tour departed around 8:45 am with just a driver (no tour guide). We were brought to a nice and clean bus and introduced to our driver. We drove through London and headed into the Countryside. I wish I had seen more of the area but due to the early start and long ride I ended up taking a nap.
We pulled into the bus parking lot at Stonehenge and after getting our tickets our driver walked us to the Visitor Center (we were given 1.5 hours at the site). We were immediately brought to a mini bus for the short ride up the UNESCO World Heritage Site (they also have a trolley). The day was sunny and relatively warm for February but it was very windy. How I wish I didn't wear my very short and curly hair down today!!! The site is inspiring however the highway nearby and the construction nearby are a tad bit distracting. It's a small detail but I feel an important one, the site is roped off. Naturally this is to protect the site from people destroying it but it also greatly increasing your chances of beautiful pictures (no people in your pics).
I headed back to the visitor center to warm up a bit. There I found a nice gift shop, restrooms, and a cafe. As I started to walk back to the bus I was putting away something in my bag when whoosh there was a gust of wind. Hmmm did something just fall out of my bag? Look around, look on the ground, nope I guess not. Soon we all loaded back onto the bus and drove back to London. The drop off point was near Gloucester Station (instead of Victoria). This worked out well for me as I hopped back on the Tube (and even found a post to send some post cards) and headed to Brixton. Hmmmm where is my tube pass? Oh! That would be what flew out of my bag back at Stonehenge! Here's another 9 pounds to spend! Oh well moving on!
I heard about a vegan bakery that I wanted to try. I took the train to Brixton and walked just a few blocks to Ms Cupcake. For the full review visit here.
For the 3rd night we visited The Jones Family Project for drinks! Love it! We then walked down to Poppies Spitalfield for some fish and chips! For the full review visit here.
Same start to the morning as yesterday but then I ventured to The British Museum.
The basic structure of The British Museum is amazing. Then once you are inside the exhibits are extraordinary. You have pieces from The Parthenon, The Rosetta Stone, Cleopatra, Easter Island, and so much more. Unfortunately, it's also one of the busiest museums I've ever been to. I went mid-week and can't imagine how it would be on the weekend! Even with the madness of tourists and school children the visit was well worth it!
When it came to lunch I remembered walking by a Wagamama. I could definitely go for a yummy bowl of Spicy Beef Ramen. A seat for one was easy to come by and the staff were friendly. I ordered a lemongrass and ginger drink and my Ramen. 15 minutes later my soup was delivered. Okay wait a minute, where is the rich broth? Where is the heat? Oye! This was bland, and mildly spicy (chili oil couldn't even help). Definitely not like I get at home. After this small disappointment I headed back to the hotel for a relaxing afternoon.
When Greg got out of work the lobby bar was packed so we crossed the street to The Jones Family Project. That lovely Lavender Mojito.....ahhhhhh.
For dinner we walked up the street to Banh Mi 11. For the full review and pictures visit here.