Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Vaduz, Liechtenstein and Bregenz, Austria

Liechtenstein, really, is there much to see in Liechtenstein? Nope, but we could not live right next door to this tiny little country and not make an effort to visit. Plus, it's one more country to add to our list of travels! 

We happened to borrow a car for the weekend in hopes of driving to Fussen, Germany to see the old castles and enjoy the country. Unfortunately, the cards were stacked against us with those plans, so we made a quick decision to head to Vaduz. (In reality, we had promised Ella that she was going to visit some castles in the morning, and after deciding that we couldn't make it to Fussen, we had to find another castle to visit so we wouldn't disappoint her.)

This was the castle we visited. We parked in 'downtown' Vaduz, and walked up the hill to the castle. Ella was a little disappointed that we couldn't actually visit the inside of the castle, but the castle is still an actual residence, they are not really keen on letting visitors tromp through their home. The castle is currently home the reigning prince of Liechtenstein and the Liechtenstein princely family.

 
Ella insisted on wearing her 'princess dress' (Because is has sparkles on it) and her 'princess crown' to visit the castle.



Looking over Vaduz. I know, I know, you're in awe.



Hiking back down the trail.







We came across some pretty flowers in bloom. I was hoping they were edelweiss, but I was wrong, just a little white flower.



After our short trip to Vaduz, we decided to head north in search of more castles and a nice drive. The weather had other plans for us. With low fog/clouds/rain there were no other castles to be seen. So, that landed us in Bregenz, which turned out to be the best part of the trip. After a quick drive through town, we walked right into this Gasthaus for a German (read: good) beer.




We were greeted with local Bavarian folks also enjoying their beer and playing some fantastic Bavarian music. Ella was in love. She went up and danced during their songs, twirled around in her dress, and clapped when they were finished. She got some big smiles out of those men. After they were done playing, we went up and said thank you. They got their accordions back out to play a song just for Ella - too sweet!  For those of you living in Portland - we compared this to an authentic visit to the Rheinlander!


Little Chapel next to the Gasthaus


Looking over Lake Konstance

I was in love with the flowers lining the waterfront!


Monday, May 10, 2010

Arth- Goldau -Natur und Tierpark

On a particularly lovely weekend in April, we woke up to sunshine on a Saturday morning. We didn't have any set plans for the day, so John did some quick research and discovered that the train station was offering a ticket deal to see the Natur-und Tierpark in Arth-Goldau. It was a 45 min ride south of Zurich, with a short walk to the park, and a great excuse to visit a town we had not been to yet. We ended up having a great family day in the park, soaking up the sun and seeing some animals. It was so easy to get to, very stroller friendly and the park is big enough that even when it's crowded, it's not too overwhelming. However, I wouldn't say it's worth paying the for a full price ticket, great for a train ticket special on a sunny day.

Ella is looking for boats in the duck pond

The mountain goats have an open area for visitors to feed and mingle with them

Ella is not quite ready to be best buddies with this guy just yet



Ella insisted on having her own map, consulted it many times throughout the trip, and instructed us on the direction to go. Usually sounded like this, "I am just checking my map. Yep, it says go this way, then turn left."



Think they could break through the fence?

The Big Horn Sheep decided to come down for some snacks...

While taking this picture, I was trying to act brave in front of Ella, but secretly I was hoping that he wasn't going to knock me over




Saturday, May 8, 2010

Alsace

I started this blog after a few people had mentioned to me that it would be a great place to put our travels and experiences throughout the year. They were right! Along with logging all our travels and experiences, being a blog-writer in Switzerland has also led me to many other Swiss Ex-pat blogging websites that I may not have otherwise found. I have come to rely on many of these other bloggers to read about their travels, what were their favorite restaurants, sites to see, etc. These Swiss bloggers have guided us all through Switzerland, Germany, Italy and right into Alsace, France. 

Alsace is the 4th smallest region in France, located next to the German and Swiss borders. I would say (as would most other visitors to the area) that Alsace is generally 'confused.' The region has changed hands between Germany and France so many times, that it doesn't really know what part of it's heritage to celebrate, so it celebrates all of it. "Germanic traits remain in the more traditional, rural parts of the culture, such as the cuisine and architecture, whereas modern institutions are totally dominated by French culture" (wikipedia.com) What Alsace does know, is their wine. We went for a visit to see the gorgeous country, the quaint towns, and taste the wine. Colmar and Strasbourg are the main cities in the region, and Colmar was where we had planned to spend the most time. However, we also really enjoyed driving through all the villages and admired the architecture, the hills, and the vineyards along the way. I think we really enjoyed this weekend visit because Alsace is a region that most American travelers don't go to because they just don't have the time when they're on their European vacations. And we would never have learned about and visited Alsace had we not lived here for awhile. We also loved the trip because the weather was gorgeous, we had a great time playing with Ella in all of the little towns, and the wine was GOOD! 

We saw these ceramics in a few shops in Alsace. These were a tip from a fellow Swiss blogger. I was in love with them before we ever arrived, and yes, I left Colmar with a pretty, red dish!





One the churches in Colmar (I know, I should know which church...)




Enjoying the weather during our outdoor lunch at Jupiler Cafe. 




The beginning of our Alsace Wine tasting- a sweet Gewurztraminer to start off lunch time.


The local fare- every one of our friends insisted that we try the Flammkuchen. It is a 'tart flambee' that the area is known for. The traditional toppings generally include creme fraiche, ham and onions. Delicious!


Couldn't pass up the mussels in a red wine sauce

Our first wine stop - Maurice Schoech. A very small family run winery, good wines, and their cat kept Ella entertained during our tasting




To me, this picture captured the villages in Alsace. The beautiful buildings, the flowers, the hills and the castle above the village. 




Most of the pictures below are from the town of Colmar















Think this was in Kaysersberg