GORGEOUS HOME, WONDERFUL EXCHANGE PARTNERS, LOCATION ACCESSIBLE TO AN AMAZING NUMBER OF EUROPEAN JEWELS – THERAPY FOR THE SOUL!
When we arrived at the beautifully decorated suburban "château" outside Frankfurt, we knew we had made a perfect choice. Catherine and Christian's French/German background made us feel as if we had stepped into a brochure for a Provencal guest house built with comfortable German precision. Their home is bright and airy, breezy linen curtains, beautiful French antique pieces and a conspicuous lack of clutter. Every room has walls of windows, each with a vista of the French garden – lavender bushes falling over stone paths, pink roses wildly entwined with taller shrubs and a quilt of geometric beds with white roses symmetrically filling the low boxwood hedged borders. The large, green lawn has a wonderful area where one can relax at a table under the trees or it can be a great play area for families. It is evident that this has been a happy home base for their family of 6.
Bad-Homburg is the town nearby. There we shopped, walked the park and spent a day in the curing waters of the historic spa. We people-watched from sidewalk café's (peering over our cappuccino and strawberry cream pastry!). The local grocery store is huge, user friendly and provided us with delicious meats, cheese and crusty warm bread.
And that is just the beginning! What a great location to explore far and near. There is something for everyone, from day trips to overnight stays, walks in the nearby forest or cycling the many great cycle paths through the parks. Catherine had compiled a wonderful list of possible places to visit, a great selection of recommended restaurants and café's and comprehensive details on anything we may have needed to know.
The fascinating city of Frankfurt was a 30 minute train ride away. We joined a "Frankfurt on Foot" tour and were given an insider's walk around a great city, and along the Main River. We ended with our own walk across the bridge to a tree-lined street in the historic Saxenhausen area, where we had lunch at the Adolf Wagner restaurant – a great German experience. The historic university town of Heidelberg is also an easy drive from our great "home" in Friedrichsdorf/Frankfurt.
We drove to the Mosel River Valley and visited Burg Eltz – a castle recommended by travel aficionado Rick Steves, as one of the most authentic and beautiful in Europe. We cruised the peaceful Mosel River and also did a day trip to the Rhine where we enjoyed a short cruise, exploring the geranium-drenched postcard towns - Bacharach & St Goar – at each end of the cruise we chose.
The Mercedes Benz factory at Sindelfingen was high on the list for one of us at least, and it became part of a 3 day circular trip. This included Baden-Baden and the Black Forest – home of cuckoo clocks, Black Forest cake and so much more. Spectacular drives between pine covered peaks, mist swirling over & around the distant hills, and wildflowers framing each photo became an intoxicating cocktail. This was peppered with stops at villages where cobbled town-squares and really old ladies walking home with shopping bags, gave us glimpses beyond life as we know it. Staufen, off the beaten track south of Freiburg, was an absolute delight.
We drove along the picturesque Bodensee lake shore, across the border into Austria (a non-event in the new European union) and stayed at Reutte. This is a small, little-known town (until Rick Steves mentioned it in his travel book as a best kept secret – now no longer) and was a great base for visiting Oberammergau, taking a spectacular cable ride to the snow sprinkled summit of Zugspitz (rivals the Alps) and enjoying Neuschwanstein castle. The trip back to our Frankfurt home was along the Romantic Road, stopping at Dinkelsbuhl and Rothenburg, all phenomenal Kodak moments!
On the days at home, we celebrated summer evenings in the garden with wine and warm German "brot" and cheese. As the sun bathed the comfy couches in the living room, it was easy to feel relaxation seeping in.
Catherine and Christian could not do enough to make sure that we would be comfortable and would be able to take full advantage of our time in their home and in Germany. They were caring, helpful and generous with their advice, information and answering all our questions.
Our stay in their home was a memorable 2 weeks and will always be a highlight of our travels.