About Me

3 months ...................................... adventure - explore - challenge

Sunday, 3 June 2012

The journey home and end of a chapter

A sad morning today, in that our trip is coming to an end, although there is a growing excitement in catching up with friends and family again. Can't believe where the last 8 weeks had gone!

We rose early and after an excellent breakfast, we headed off towards Calais, a trip that would take us out of Germany, through Holland, Belgium and then on to France. Thoughts of getting an earlier ferry were thwarted when we hit several long traffic jams, but thankfully after about 6 hours driving, we arrived bang on time for our ferry back to Dover and England.

2 hours later we arrived back in Canterbury to greet Rob's parents, for our first of two family welcome home get-togethers. We spent two lovely days with them in glorious sunshine and had our first English BBQ of the year.

On Tuesday 29th May, we embarked on our last few miles back to Surrey and finally after 3030 miles and just over 8 weeks, we arrived back where we set off at the end of March.

We've had a truly amazing journey, where we've met so many lovely people and learnt so much. It has shown us the joy to be experienced from travel and has teased us into someday heading off to other shores.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Behind the wheel…………………

View of Alpbach from our apartment balcony 

Time to move on again, homeward bound. With the car packed, our picnic prepared and satnav programed, we headed out of Alpbach and began our two day drive back to England. Our two-day journey would take us via German, The Netherlands, Belgium and France. But for today, we drove for eight hours in the blazing sun and finally got to our Hotel at 6pm.

Yet another fantastic piece of planning from Sonja, it pains me to admit. She found us a great hotel in a quaint little square of a small town called Bad Honnef. Adjacent to the hotel was a lovely bar / restaurant which had a terrace in the prime time evening sunlight.  And so, on our final night of the tour, we sat back in the sunshine, tucked into dinner, sipped beer and chatted about our wonderful last eight weeks.  

Friday, 25 May 2012

Our balcony.

This morning we woke to beautiful sunshine again. The lush green mountains beckoned, and before too long we were off on another picturesque Alpbach walk.  We followed a great new unfamiliar path out of the village centre, along a stream and then up through the forest on a steep ascent leading us to Rossmoos, the venue for our wedding ceremony four years ago. The balcony, where we made our vows was free from other people, so for a minute or two we took a trip down memory lane in the peace and quiet. Over a coffee, we chatted to the owner and reminisced over our special day and remembered all our friends who’d come out to join us.

We then head off to continue our walk along mountain roads, soon turning to paths . We slowly meandered our way to Inner Alpbach cheered on by cows, horses and our new favourite animals, the goats.  We made it to the bus stop and looked forward to a lift back to Alpbach only to realise that we’d just missed one and the next one was in forty minutes. No sweat, we’ll walk!!!! With the sun still beaming down on us, it was always going to be a pleasant walk. We got back to the village before the next bus would have arrived…result!

On our final evening in Alpbach, we decided to eat at the Rossmoos. The sun was shining on ‘our’ balcony like it did four years ago, and we enjoyed delicious long overdue salads, served by the busty blond waitress in her Austrian attire! On that note, we shared a Germknodl for dessert. If you don’t know what it is, look it up on the internet! Our long journey home would start tomorrow and so we headed back to the apartment for an early night, very content with our time in Alpbach.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

A stroll down memory lane.

There was need to race to breakfast this morning as it’s our own apartment and we call the shots! After a leisurely wakeup and yummy breakfast, we headed for a walk. The plan was to do a 2-3 hour walk taking in the Bischoferalm, a fantastic, seriously cute mountain restaurant with views to die for. However, the walk ended up being 6 hours, and it was our favourite walk ever. We made it the Bischoferalm after 90 minutes and enjoyed a well-deserved coffee whilst enjoying the views.

After a breather and a long debate with the map, we headed off on a rather treacherous circumnavigation of the Gratlspitz mountain. This entailed walking on paths ready to land-slide down the ravine and snow filled gullies, requiring a steady foot and nerves of steel! Any negative thoughts were erased as we were looking forward to the famous Zottahof pancakes that Sonja’s Mum talks of. 

On our descent, we came across a very familiar, tiny chapel on the mountainside. There are loads of them dotted around the mountainside, but this one we recognised with good reason. We’d been to it on one of our previous snow-shoe walks with Sepp Lintner, an old family friend. We finally arrived at the Zottahof and, you guessed it, it was closed. The main Summer season was till a week or two away!! Oh well, onwards!!

We finally arrived back into the village just as a funeral was taking place for a local who’d passed away three days earlier. It was an incredibly moving experience with most of the village community attending to pay their respects whilst following the coffin around the village in a procession led by the brass band. Family, community and tradition are central to everything that goes on in the village and we felt very privileged to be part of it. 

After a quick shower and change we headed out for a pre-dinner drink at the Jakober.  Many of the locals were still around and we were lucky enough to bump into a few old acquaintances. Adi Moser (the registrar who had married us), Sepp Lintner and Frans Larch (who runs one the ski schools). There were plenty of other faces we recognised and it was great to see a smile back at us in recognition. A few beers and a Wienersnitzel later, were headed back to the apartment and a rest before tomorrow’s walk.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Arrivederci Italia- Guten Tag Austria

Although new adventures await us over the next few days, today marked the end of our Italy experience as we were heading off to Austria. With the German influences in Lake Garda, this transition would be smoother than we’d imagine. We’d both grown very fond of Italy, particularly the Tuscan lifestyle and were sad to be leaving. Having said that, we were moving on to a very special place in our hearts, a small village in the Austrian Tirol called Alpbach, where we were married 4 years ago. 

Another beautiful sunny day waved us off from the tranquil waters of Lake Garda and we were back on the road again.  Three hours of driving took us through more lush, green mountain passes and snow covered mountains. We soon passed seamlessly into Austria where my first mistake was to say “Grazie” to the Toll lady, oops!!   It wasn’t long before we started spotting signs for familiar Tyrolean towns and villages and then finally, Alpbach. 

Arriving into the village, it was just how I’d remembered it, but this time so much more beautiful. This was my sixth visit to Alpbach (and Sonja’s 14th) but my first outside of the ski season. You can instantly tell why Alpbach has won numerous awards for its picturesque appeal: Lush, green mountains sprinkled with snow left over from the winter, wild spring flowers grow on the meadows, beautiful flowers line the balconies of all the houses, bell-ringing cows roaming the hillside. It’s truly like something out of a fairy tale. In 1958 a local law was passed decreeing that all new houses in the village be built in the same traditional style as all the others. This has ensured that Alpbach has kept its individual Tyrolean look intact where other villages have failed. It really is a place time forgot.  

Our apartment had stunning views overlooking the village and mountain across the valley. Seeing snow left on the mountain top and the gondola in the distance we felt like donning our ski kit and going for a board, but not this time. We went for a stroll around the village taking it all in. With the sun still beaming down on us, each corner we turned took us back to previous visits and to memories of our wedding. The village was very quiet (being out of season) but that’s how we wanted it. To have it to ourselves, just for a few days.

After a shower and change, we headed into the centre for our evening meal. The Romantik Hotel Boglerhof, where we held our wedding reception beckoned, but not tonight. Tonight we kept it simple and went to one of our favourite places, the Jakober. A bar/restaurant that has been serving Alpbachers for hundreds of years. This is where we held our pre-wedding party. Without even looking at the menu I ordered the Tiroler Grostl. Bacon, onion, potato fried up with a fried egg on top. Healthy it is not, delicious it definitely is. When in Rome as they say. Sonja couldn’t resist either and we both tucked in with a local beer to wash it down.
Off to bed feeling so pleased we’d chosen to return to this lovely place.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Giro D'Italia

Am I dreaming? Looking out at the incredible lake views from our balcony, I was presented with blue skies, lush green mountains and a warmth that made me smile. The holiday is back on track!! With the Italian Cycling competition, Giro d’Italia, kicking off in the morning and a lovely mountain walk planned, we headed off to breakfast with a skip in our step. As we passed the prosecco table (as we had every morning) we decided today was the day to indulge. Two large glasses of bubbly to help wash down our salami, cheese and bread etc.

After breakfast we dashed down to the waterfront not wanting to miss the start of the race, got a great view on a bend in the road and sat,  waiting with anticipation.   We waited and waited and waited. Two hours to be precise! We got the time slightly wrong, but hey, who’s counting, the sun’s out! Besides, both of us were enjoying the view of the many athletes cycling past in their stream-line kits!! Eventually about 200 cyclists headed off past us and started a hill stage up the mountain.  A sight to watch which made me think of sleeping with a super model: Well worth waiting for, but over all too quickly!

As the crowds and back-up  teams faded away, we set off away from the town centre in search of a waterfall Sonja’s mother had mentioned. The other reason for this mini adventure was to check out the Hotel La Limonea. This is a huge hotel complex that both Sonja and her parents have stayed at in the past and currently has been on the receiving end of some damning trip-advisor reviews.
We found the waterfall which, as promised, provided magnificent views of the lake. We then had a sneaky look around the hotel.  It is massive, dated and full of rather old, German residents. It could be something quite special and probably once was. It is located in the best spot on the North side of the lake and has some spectacular views.  A good project for someone though!!

To fully make use of the day’s glorious sunshine, we headed back to the hotel and hit the pool. Well, not strictly the case. The pool was too cold for anything more than a toe dip. We did however read our books on the loungers and kind of feel like we were doing the pool thing.

After a quick shower, we cracked open our very own bottle of bubbly and sipped away on our balcony whilst nibbling nuts and playing backgammon. Our delightful evening was completed by another delicious meal at our local restaurant (where we watched Chelsea play) and a sensible half litre of wine this time! A fantastic day was had with the most welcome return of sunshine.

Monday, 21 May 2012

The Blogging Rain!!!!!

So, the plan for yesterday was to chill, read our books, do a few blogs and re-charge. Everything went perfectly to plan, apart from the fact somebody forgot to let the sun in on it. We woke to find rain galore. No need to go swimming to get wet! Also, “Who’s stolen the mountains!?” we asked. For our gorgeous mountain views across the lake had turned into mist, cloud and greyness.

 Still determined to having a relaxing day, we spent it catching up with some blogs in the hotel bar, reading and moaning about the weather as only Brits do! For dinner, still raining, we ventured an impressive 50 metres up the road and had a quick beer and pizza before having an early night and watching a movie.  Living the dream!!!
We struggled to get out of bed this morning. Not just because it was so cosy and luxurious, but because it was also bloody raining again. After a late breakfast, we hopped in the car and headed south around the lake destined for Sirmeone and all the towns before it.

At this point the rain was not too heavy and the windy, lakeside roads were a real joy to drive along. We were looking forward to a coffee and wander around Sirmione. However, not long into our journey, the rain got harder and harder and our smiles got lower and lower. Our dream of coffee and strolls, slowly turned to dreams of returning home and getting back into bed. We battled all the way to Sirmione and then, having run out of motivation, decided to drive back home. We’d not seen Sirmione properly but at least we were safe and dry. The high point of the drive was stopping off at a lakeside cafĂ© / restaurant / hotel just outside of Limone with spectacular views of the lake. We had coffee and Tiramasu to lift our sprits before returning to our hotel and a hot bath.

With the evening came clearer skies and a moment of optimism. We headed off into town with promises of parties, music and entertainment (all part of tomorrow’s Giro D’Italia race). We decided to eat at a restaurant that tempted us on a daily basis and unfortunately it wasn’t as good as it appeared. Maybe just because of a few bad menu selections, maybe due to the lack of atmosphere or maybe because the staff had as much personality as a dead fish. Or maybe a combination. Un-perturbed, we headed off down to the promenade in search of the festivities. There were none. Well, one load speaker playing music, but nothing else. Probably the rain killed it off!!!

We headed back for bed and dreamt of sunshine and warmth.