Time to get away from winter.
What better than a group bike ride from Miami to Key West to avoid the snow and cold? Last January, we went to Florida after the New Year to get away, and it was cold! This year, farther south, we found the weather not just sunny, but also warm. Our ride was expertly organized by Charleston Bicycle Tours. It was fun for both of us, and it was like summer all day and night on the Keys.
Bonnie, a fellow traveler, put a video together of the ride. It summarized well our travels, with the exception of our not seeing the park at Dry Tortugas on the last day. Enjoy: https://youtu.be/iNhEnM1tvBw
Our first ride was about 24 miles and went from Coral Gables to the Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park at the end of Key Biscayne. We were happy to walk up the 112 steps to the top of the light house at the park. The ranger was good to only allow a few people to go up and down at a time as it was narrow on the circular steps.
Our first key was Key Biscayne. In order to bike the Keys, our tour centered three rides from Marathon Key. So, after our lunch in Miami we were driven with the bikes to Marathon Key for our first of three rides from the middle of the Keys. We did enjoy the Florida tradition of viewing the sunset each night as we stayed in the area.
Our stay on Marathon Key was well done. We were driven out and rode 40 miles back to our hotel.
We started near the big stone crab and enjoyed the views along the way. Despite me and another rider having two flat tires on the ride, we still had a great time. It helped that instead of changing the tire, I was given a different bike. I rode three that day.
The pictures do not do justice to color of the water.
It was great to ride the bike path and not just along the side of the road. We were pleased that several miles were on the path along the road between the Keys. It was enjoyable when we had some shade on the bike path. As you know, trees create shade along path but also sometimes break up the path making it harder to ride. We also rode along the road.
My favorite bridges were the ones with a separate bridge for the bikers. I believe they are locally called fishing bridges, and we saw plenty of people fishing from the bridges, including a lot of pelicans perched on the bridges hoping to get to the catch before the fishing line did.
We enjoyed riding on both sides of the road as the path changed sides periodically.
As the journey got close to Key West (the end of the road for our travels) we occasionally were riding against traffic. For me, this was the first time since I was a young child that I was riding opposite the traffic and it was really a different experience for me. I guess I am used to riding along the same side as traffic. The best part of our direction, regardless of the side of the road we were riding on, was that the wind, which was strong for most of the ride, was generally at our back. The few times we rode into the wind it was a different experience.
A ride on Big Pine Key and to No Name Key was fun. We liked the dollar bills all over the No Name Pub. We learned that the pub is on Big Pine Key and not on the key called No Name. We also had the opportunity to visit the Florida Keys Wildlife Society. We saw one Key deer on our ride and learned a whole lot more about them and other wildlife at the visitors’ center. One of the things we noticed is that the Key deer are smaller than other deer. As a group, we came up with the saying, “In Texas everything is bigger and on the Keys it is smaller.” I just watched the deer and did not get a picture of the deer.
A few lessons learned.
- The sun will find anyplace you did not properly apply sunscreen prior to the ride.
- Stop and re-apply sunscreen during the ride.
- Snacks and water make for great combinations on a long ride. The ocean breeze is great at your back.
The Key West Museum of Art & History at the Custom House. We really thought this was a good museum to visit and was a good representation of Key West. The museum was a recommendation from our guide. The building alone was fun and interesting. The many exhibits were well done and we thought Guy Harvey Sketches of Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea” that went up the main staircase and was great to read and see come to life. The museum has a Civil War exhibit about the Keys, the railway and the impact of the railway on the Keys. Outside of the museum they had several life-like works of art that we at first took for people.
The Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory was a great end to the day of biking around Key West. The trees in the conservatory were alive with all the butterflies. It was amazing to see so many in one place at one time. When we walked in, we could only say wow at the beauty. Well worth the admissions price to visit. We were surprised by the two pink flamingos walking around oblivious to us and the butterflies. They were a good addition to the butterflies.
The Key West Hemingway house and Museum was good to see, although we just passed by to look and did not stop in. Hemingway apparently put Key West back on the map and was the number one tourist attraction for many years.
Mile Marker Zero on US 1 and Southernmost Point were highlights of the journey. We had told others of our pending trip and the Southernmost Point was mentioned by them frequently. It was fun to have our picture taken here. Everyone in line for the point was polite, and several people waiting took pictures for others who were ahead of them. It was great to see people getting along. The Mile Marker Zero on US 1 was not as popular, judging by the lack of a crowd at the marker compared to the line we waited in at 8:30 in the morning at the Southernmost Point marker.
We also saw roosters everywhere in Key West. They are apparently a thing in Key West and protected as well by local law and custom. Some of our fellow travelers could hear the rooster call early in the morning; we were glad they were not outside of our room.
We took a side trip on our non-bike afternoon to kayak in the Atlantic and through several mangroves. The Blue Planet Kayak company rented us a couple of kayaks and gave us a map to explore. We are sorry we could not make the timing on their tours. We really enjoyed paddling through the mangrove and we even saw what we knew were crabs that looked like spiders climbing the trees. While we were out on the water we heard before we saw fighter planes from the near by Naval base.
Riding across the 7 mile bridge, twice, was fun. The first time was going across to Big Pine Key, and the next day we rode across again on our 50 mile ride to Key West. The side for bikes was wide and I was able to get up to a pretty good speed on the bridge with the wind at my back. I did miss my bike clips and the dropped handle bars when a big truck passed. Seeing trees grow out of the railroad bridge that is no longer in use and the color of the water was surprising. This is the longest bridge I have ridden on, although not the tallest.
Sunset cruise was the right introduction to Key West on our first night at the end of the longest day of riding (50miles).
We had our end of the week sunset dinner on Sunset Key at the Latitudes restaurant. It was a wonderful sunset and we all enjoyed the delicious dinner with our friends from the week of bike riding.
The paintings on the waterfront brewery were really interesting to look at. We thought we were at an aquarium and were surprised that a brewery would undertake such a great art project. Next time we are in town we will have to take a brewery tour.
Key Lime Pie contest –after dinner on our last night we had a key lime pie judging contest. I think all our friends at home would have enjoyed it. My choice for the number one pie came in second place. They were all good and we had fun.
A ride is better with friends. Thank you to all who rode with us; you were great company and help on the ride and during the week.
Key West was an interesting and tourist friendly town and we had a good time exploring. It was better as a group at night as a lot of people are on the streets. I am glad our guide knew the way to go.
We had some really good dining experiences along the way. I did not take pictures of the meals. We really liked the tapas, a bunch of small dishes that the group shared. That was delicious!
The view from the last night’s dinner overlooking the beach with the palm trees and the open air was not just a good meal but also a good experience.
We biked over 150 miles during the week. Our longest ride was 50 miles in one day. We did not break any speed records; our goal was to enjoy the surroundings, and we did.
We all want to see our 90th birthday and celebrating with family makes it fun. I asked my Mom about lessons learned as I wanted to know the secrets so I too can make it to 90. My Mom is happy and friendly and generally does what she wants with who she wants to do it with. That being said, she still claims not to have any secrets to tell so I have none to share.
So, how does a newly minted 90-year-old party? We played some cards, went for walks and played shuffleboard. And just who do you think one most of the card games? You guessed it, the lady of the day!
We went to a fun restaurant in Bentonville called the Holler, where they allowed us to bring in our own birthday cake. We used two shuffleboard courts and had a fun time playing. Mom did well on the courts.
We did enjoy the Walton Arts Center and saw a very good performance by the symphony of Northwest Arkansas. We really appreciated the talented pianist Andrew Tyson playing Chopin with the symphony. One benefit to living in a retirement area is that they arranged a bus to transport us down to the symphony and back. That made the travel very nice for all of us.
Be nice to everyone. Take care of others and keep the house clean. The lake looks inviting, but it is cold in the winter!
We did not go bike riding on this trip. I flew through the Atlanta airport on the way home. It was great to see the city getting ready for the super bowl. I did enjoy the festive atmosphere and was sorry I could not stay for the game.
We spent our time after Christmas in Colorado. It was exciting for us to spend time with our kids in Colorado Springs.
We did get out for a few hikes and planned more, but the weather became too cold to hike for more than a few minutes in the mountains. The next time we visit in the winter, we will plan on snowshoeing or skiing or both.
One of the early lessons we learned was that an investment in micro spikes makes a big difference on icy trails. We did not have any on this hike, but the kids did. After hiking 2 ½ miles up over 700 feet in snowy 16-degree weather, we decided we should get some as well. We did enjoy our first hike in the mountains and the trail, although with ice patches, was manageable.
Our elevation started at 6500 feet above sea level, much higher than normal for us and went up from there to the top of Mt. Cutler (over 7,200feet). And yes, it was cold!
Our second hike was colder than the first from the start as we climbed up Raspberry Mountain.
We started the hike at 9,500 feet above sea level and went for over 5 miles reaching the peak at over 10,500 feet above sea level.
The hike started at 30 degrees and grew colder; the hike ended over three hours later at 9 degrees as the sun was setting.
I was happy to be the owner of new micro spikes, as my footing was secure on the assent and decent.
We chose to get this hike in early in the visit before the anticipated cold front came into the mountains; it worked. Although at times our warm clothes were sometimes too warm, we were better off with the many layers we had on the hike.
It was good that we went when we did, as we spend a few days indoors playing cards and enjoying our new years celebration.
Enjoy what nature has to offer—make snow angels
Trip by the numbers: We hiked over 8 miles and had an elevation gain of almost 2,000 feet. Not too bad for a couple who live at almost 900 feet above sea level visiting Colorado.
No bike rides in the cold and snow.
On the road again! A trip on the Kentucky Bourbon trail showed us that sampling the product is enjoyable. We began our tour at Maker’s Mark Distillery and then went to Bardstown, Kentucky, where we stayed at the Bourbon Manor. The Bourbon Manor is a well decorated Bed and Breakfast and our hosts treated us very well. This was the first time I had traveled with a group of adults. It was a blast! Thank you Lisa and Eric! You did a great job planning and setting the group up for fun.
The food at the Bourbon manor was delicious, and their apple desert for breakfast was as good as advertised. Sitting around in the evening with friends was wonderful. Another favorite place to eat was the Rickhouse Restaurant in Bardstown. Although finding it was tricky in the dark, the steaks were worth the visit.
We all strolled around Bardstown and were entertained by the lively arts and small businesses along the main street. The snowmen outside of the art show led us to spend some time inside experiencing the local art. It was very interesting to see the spinning wheel display and see how good several of the area artists are at painting.
We even ran into Smith’s CPA firm, which was funny as one of our friends is a retired CPA named Smith. Of course we had to get a photo of Smith & Company CPA at the shop. It is great to be retired and see a thriving town of hard working people.
Oh, the weather outside is frightful! We were happy to be taking a distillery tour as the weather turned colder. It snowed while we were touring the Maker’s Mark Distillery. This was an agreeable, light and fluffy snow that only stuck to the grass and did not come down when we were driving.
At Maker’s Mark we had a delightful tour of the facility—the grounds are very pretty. We liked the bridge over Whisky Creek. In addition to the tour, our group signed up to learn how to make mixed drinks, of course with Maker’s Mark. We are not going to make a bourbon bottle chandelier but we liked the one at the restaurant at Maker’s Mark.
After the tour and the snow, the highlight for many of us was dipping our own bottle of Maker’s Mark in the red wax. This is the symbol of Maker’s Mark; we were happy to try to get the most drips on our bottle of bourbon. I think Julie from our group managed the most drips on her bottle.
We learned a lot about distilling and storing the bourbon. For example, the US Congress recognized the popularity of bourbon when, in 1964, when they designated bourbon as a “distinctive product” of the United States. Both chambers passed the Senate’s version of the concurrent resolution, which ensured that bourbon was made exclusively in the United States. The act indicated that bourbon must be at least 51% corn, distilled no more than 160 proof, aged in new white oak barrels that have been charred inside and age for no less than two years, although more than four is better. Bourbon must be stored at no more than 125 proof and bottled no less than 80 proof. Most bourbon (95%) is made in Kentucky, although it does not have to be made in Kentucky, just the United States.
In addition to the Maker’s Mark tour, we visited Heaven Hill, Willett and Woodford Reserve distilleries on our trip. Each one was different and they all had a good story to tell. The bourbon trail in Kentucky is an excellent tour. We could have seen several more distilleries, but even retired travelers have limited time.
One of the fun facts we learned on the trail is that there are today in Kentucky two barrels of bourbon for every person living in Kentucky. That is a lot of bourbon!
My Old Kentucky Home, you know the state song of Kentucky? Well, we had a terrific tour of the historic home located in Bardstown. Yes, this is the historic house that Stephen Foster wrote the song about. The house was all decorated for Christmas and our lively guide even sang the state song for us all. Some of us (not me) joined in for some of the words. No photography was allowed inside, but it was a fun tour!
A few lessons learned.
The story of bourbon is one of reinvention. After prohibition, many entrepreneurs took a gamble on bourbon. With the slow aging process it does not produce revenue for several years. It does produce for the state of Kentucky and the federal government tax revenue every year.
Traveling in a group is entertaining. We will do another trip with friends in the future. We are so thankful for our friends. We had more fun than we could have imagined on the trip.
We all enjoyed the experience of mixing drinks. We are looking forward to our next get together to see if we remember what we learned in our mixing class at Maker’s Mark.
- Visit to an abbey—the fudge was great. They even had bourbon balls.
- Viewing the historic Kentucky distilleries was fascinating. We learned something new in each one and the bourbon tasted different as well. My favorite distilleries were the Maker’s Mark and Woodford Reserve.
- The press was at the Heaven Hill location as they announced the expansion of their visitor’s center to three times the current size. Of course the tour talked about their rick house fire although it was not prominent at the visitor’s center.
- We were very impressed with the current center and will look forward to the expansion when we visit the next time.
The bourbon trail was not a biking trip. I am sure we will get a biking trip in again in 2019. Even the bike at the Bourbon Manor had some snow. It was cold during our visit in November.
My travel to Arkansas was supposed to culminate in the semi-annual square 2 square bike ride with my sister. Over 1,900 riders were signed up and ready to go. The ride was scheduled for Saturday morning and although it rained all day Friday, Saturday looked clear.
I received a call from the ride organizers at 5:30 on Saturday morning that the ride was cancelled as several of the tunnels were rained out from the day before.
My sister rode anyway, riding around the tunnels, unlike about 1,899 other riders. I took the opportunity to drive back home.
I am happy to say my sister and I did a tune up ride at Pea Ridge National Military Park. We have been to the park before. It was a good ride, some hills and no traffic! The ride was not too long, a good almost-8-mile loop around the park. The focus of the park is the Civil War battle at Pea Ridge. The stops along the way reveal Civil War history and the two-day battle. If you have not been to the battle site, it is worth the stop. Over 26,000 soldiers struggled in Northwest Arkansas in the battle that would decide the fate of Missouri.
I enjoyed riding the Razorback Regional Greenway Trail in Northwest Arkansas. I only took one ride during the week along the trail and this trail is part of the square 2 square ride. I wanted to re-familiarize myself with the trail. I expected to be riding that weekend the same course with hundreds of others and I enjoyed a less populated trail ride.
I was able to take advantage of a new disc golf course near my mom’s house. My mom joined me on the first round and I did another “solo” walk around the course while I was down for the visit. I had played golf (with a ball) on this same location years before with my family. The old golf course was a 9-hole course. I can see that I hit the golf ball much further than I can throw a disc. It was fun to play the new disc golf course. The designers of the course had a good idea and layout. I enjoyed teeing off of a golf tee pad to hit, I mean throw my disc.
A quick stop in St. Louis and another bike ride on Grant’s trail was a warm up for the ride I was expecting to do in Arkansas. I enjoy the ride along Grant’s trail and found the balloons along the route to be a fun addition. I am looking forward to riding the expansion coming next year as well.
On a prior trip to St. Louis I was able to visit, along with my wife and in-laws White Haven, Grant’s home (also a National Park) in St. Louis. Grant’s trail, where we like to ride in St. Louis, goes along the home. It was great to walk around and learn more about this famous Civil War General and President.
When I got back from my travels south, a friend of mine from India was in town and we got to spend a nice day together in Cincinnati catching up on old times.
Before going to Arkansas I had a visit from a college buddy and we enjoyed Cincinnati and Cleveland play baseball
I also have been able to take in a local hike or two and get back to the local Arboretum to see how the plants are doing. It is good to get out and hike among the trees and flowers.
Since the organizers of the square 2 square ride cancelled their ride, all riders were allowed a “substitute” 30 mile bike ride in order to receive their medal.
I was happy to ride with my wife on the Loveland bike trail in Cincinnati to complete my Arkansas ride. I receive the medal in the mail and I will look for another time to ride the trails.
A few lessons learned:
Take a chance and ride when you can. I was all ready for the square 2 square ride and was disappointed not to be a part of that ride. I did go on several rides the week before. It was enjoyable to be outside riding the different trails even though I did not make it for the event.
Keep your mind busy. Here is a look at the jig saw puzzle table. My Mom works on puzzles daily. When she is all done, she donates the used ones to a local charity.
Enjoy the area where you are. The Pea Ridge bike ride was a last minute thing. It was enjoyable for the scenery and that the only other traffic on the road was a few others on bike. We had the entire park to ourselves. This was better than a simple bike path because of all of the history and stops along the route.
When a friend calls up to say hi, have them over or spend the day with them. Local plans can wait.
Trip by the numbers: Here is a picture of my substitute 30 mile bike ride. It could have been in Arkansas and I did the ride in Ohio. The result was the same—I had fun riding.
It must be time for another ride!
One of kids got into a new kind of event, the Spartan race. We had never heard of the event and wanted to support our son. We thought the best way to experience a race would be to volunteer for the race. Of course we did not want to actually run the race! So, we took the officials training and became volunteer course marshals for two different Spartan races.
Our first trip to Perfect North in Indiana was in July, even though it is not too far from our house in Kentucky. Perfect North is a ski slope and one we have avoided until July. At least we went as officials.
The good news for the racers is we had an hour long training class on how to be an effective course marshal. We had a great time monitoring our obstacle during the race and could see our son competing as our obstacle was near the end of the race.
This Spartan race has several types of obstacles that required crawling, climbing, pulling, and lifting. All they are missing is a bike ride. Of course the stadium event had a stationary bike obstacle.
Some of the obstacles at our races were:
- Barb wire – crawl under barb wire.
- Rope climb – climb a rope.
- Hoist – lift a weight with pulley system.
- Multi Rig—This is the event we monitored. This is similar to the monkey bars we had as kids.
Our son and his friends did well. He was so excited to see us that he ran the race twice, and we got a chance to see the second run with his friends from the gym. It really is a community event.
Since my in-laws live in St. Louis, we joined our son for his Stadium race as course marshals in Busch Stadium. We saw more of our son on this race as we could see him run by and then hit some other activities.
It was really fun to be inside working an event at Busch Stadium. It is different from watching a baseball game. All of us said walking (or running) onto the field was a highlight. It must have been hard to run up and down all of the levels of the stadium. I clocked over 7 miles walking just as a volunteer.
The stadium race had many of the same obstacles as the Sprint. It did not have water based obstacles. We again monitored the multi-rig and one other obstacle later in the morning. The multi-rig is a challenging event; the Spartans make it look easy.
The views throughout the stadium were great. We enjoyed being able to walk around before and after our volunteer shift.
We again participated in training and were treated to the behind the scenes view of the stadium. Of course things are dark at 5:30 AM when we have to show up on race day. We did get to view the press area and walk around the entire stadium prior to the race beginning at 7 AM.
Spartan race organizers want to encourage people to become active. They are looking to make that activity a way of life. Having now met several competitors and officials, we see that there is a community devoted to that mission. The race is a way to have the athlete held accountable to themselves and put pressure on their training. I have found that if you do not have a goal, you do not get serious about the training, in business or in other pursuits.
We are certainly proud of our Spartan!
We went to Colorado Springs to visit with our kids who recently moved into the area. The views from their house are amazing. I can see why they enjoy living out in this area. We spent more time with the kids and some of the boxes than we did sightseeing.
One of our highlights was hiking at The Garden of the Gods Park in Colorado Springs. The free park is awe inspiring. I was in the park about 8 years ago and it is a must visit when you are in the area.
We enjoyed hiking along the Ute trail in the mountain biking area. The magnificent red rocks are jutting out of the ground are quite the contrast with the rest of the mountains in the area and the green vegetation along the trails.
The beauty in this area is so different than our home state. It was wonderful to see. After our hike on the Ute trail we hiked around the main area. We followed the good tenants for getting acclimated to altitude, not over doing it on the first day or two, limiting alcohol and drinking plenty of water.
Our other big hiking adventure was in North Cheyenne Cañon Park. If you go in the summer, it is probably best to avoid Saturday or Sunday visits as it was crowded when we went. We had to park away from the main parking area, which was fine for us as we enjoyed hiking up to catch the visitor’s center and the starting point for the trail up to Helen Hunt Falls.
The hike up was beautiful.
The visitor’s center was fun with a map where hikers noted where they were from.
This is another park owned by the city of Colorado Springs.
From Helen Hunt Falls we continued our day by hiking up the Seven Bridges Trail (although we only made it over 3 of the bridges). We found ourselves in the middle of an ultra-marathon (they were running 50 miles). Our kids had read a comment online about this trail that you should dance over each one of the bridges and do a different dance for each. That was fun and I am not posting the videos! We also managed some non-technical boulder climbing after bridge #3.
We went bouldering. The kids have been enjoying a local past time, climbing rocks. It is fun to do so indoors in a controlled environment and even outside. Our daughter and daughter-in law enjoyed the outdoor rock climbing as well.
We will be back before too long and have more to share. We did hike over 10 miles and I rode a bike one day 5 miles in the neighborhood. We also recycled boxes and helped out around the new place in Colorado.
I managed one bike ride in the neighborhood. I had not ridden in an area with wild cactus plants growing before this ride.
I only managed 5 miles, but it was a fun 5 miles after I put the bike together and got it in working order.
We will be back soon!
Our visit to Germany and Austria took us from Frankfurt to Munich (and a side visit to Shloss (castle) Neuschwanstein) and then to Austria visiting Salzburg and Vienna. We had our travel expertly organized and managed to stay in the center of the old town in all of our city visits. Thank you Kayla! That was a real plus in seeing the cities on foot. We did take part in walking tours in every city except Salzburg, where we took a bus tour.
We expected the countryside in Germany and Austria to look like farmland and the towns and cities only to have old historic buildings.
We did not expect sand and surfing. We now think that parts of Germany and Austria want to live on a tropical island. In Frankfurt we visited the Palm tree (Palmen Garten) garden; in Vienna we noticed several biergartens along the Danube Canal had sand and beach chairs for their guests. In Munich we watched kids surf in the English Garden.
Frankfurt or as it calls itself, Frankfurt am Main
Frankfurt Germany was the first and last stop on our travels. We arrived early for our bike boat adventure and got acclimated to the time zone and the culture prior to the bike ride. We really enjoyed walking along the Main River and noticed that the people of Frankfurt do as well.
Our walking tour guide shared that apple cider was the drink of Frankfurt; the ones we tried were very good. I also had beer; it was Germany!
We were surprised to learn that many of the “old” buildings in Frankfurt were rebuilt in the 1980’s in the old style, replacing buildings destroyed in WWII. The buildings did not look new and we were happy they were rebuilt to look as we expected. Of course some of the buildings were modern; Frankfurt had many skyscrapers, in contrast to many of the cities we visited. Frankfurt is the financial capital of Germany so it was nice that as a part of the walking tour we stopped by the stock exchange, one of the largest in the world.
When we visited the Palmen Garten we were surprised to see an extensive palm garden inside the city known mostly for banking. We did not know that you could grow palm trees in Germany, let alone all of the uses for palm trees we learned about on our tour. We enjoyed the variety of trees and flowers in addition to the palm trees. It is worth a visit if you are in Frankfurt.
Munich or München
After our bike tour we took the train to Munich. For us, Munich had a “big city feel.” Of course we had just spent a week biking through small towns. We recalled our visit to Frankfurt, and the city of Munich appeared to us as a more urban setting. We loved the statues and the plazas. A lot of history in a small area.
We spent several hours walking around Munich and discovered the English Garden and did see people surfing. On our walk we visited the place where the Octoberfest takes place as well as taking in several great looking buildings and local scenery.
A big part of our being in Munich was the proximity (about 110 KM) to Schloss (castle) Neuschwanstein. Our bus included Neuschwanstein, a visit to the town of Oberammergau, and Linderhof Palace where King Ludwig II lived prior to moving into Neuschwanstein.
The view from a nearby footbridge on the way to the castle does not begin to tell of the beauty of castle Neuschwanstein. We enjoyed the hike up to the grounds, and even with scaffolding on the main entrance the castle was breathtaking.
Neuschwanstein was impressive on the inside as well. Of course the castle only housed the king, and he lived there for less than one year. The inside was impressive and well worth the visit. No photography was allowed inside the castle. I guess it takes a king to build a fairytale castle.
We enjoyed the surrounding property of the castle and had great views from the walk up as well as from inside the castle itself. The “old” castle that the king grew up at is also on the grounds.
We enjoyed the stop at Oberammergau. They have been putting on a Passion play for almost 400 years, with the next one coming in 2020. You can buy tickets now. The town began the plays in 1634. All of the actors and actresses are members of the town. The town puts on the play as a result of a vow made by the inhabitants of the village when they were spared from the effects of the plague. We had fun visiting this town and trying on some traditional head wear and, of course, eating some ice cream. We were pleased to walk around the theater. I am sure the Passion play will be a great production in 2020.
Linderhof Palace was our third stop on the tour. This was a smaller place than Neuschwanstein and almost as impressive. I am really glad we stopped here for a visit. I especially liked the magic table and the fountains outside. You will have to see it for yourselves. No photography was allowed inside; take my word for it, the inside was impressive.
Our international travel from Munich to Salzburg was just another train ride. There was no pre-check of passports prior to boarding or a checkpoint along the way. The Europen Union has no restrictions on travel between countries once you are in one of the countries. One of the tenets of the EU is people traveling freely throughout most of the continent.
We learned that Mozart was not Austrian; he was from Salzburg, which was an independent (non-EU member…) country when he was born. We enjoyed eating chocolate here; Mozart balls are a favorite. We also enjoyed staying in a 700-year-old hotel in old town Salzburg.
Yes, we did take the Sound of Music tour. We sang, we laughed and we loved it! Now that we are back home, we are watching the movie and excited to see the places we visited on our tour. We also noted that our tour guide in Austria was in one of the anniversary shots about the tour groups in Salzburg.
We left Salzburg all too quickly and headed by rail to Vienna.
As Vienna is so much bigger than Salzburg, with about 25% of the population of Austria in its borders, we rented bikes to explore more of the city. It did rain on us on the way back to the bike rental location, but we had a great time riding the streets anyway. There are over 1000 KM of bike trails in Vienna; as a result, it was easy to ride in the city. The highlight for me was riding along the Danube Canal and seeing the Danube River.
We enjoyed the music of Vienna, the churches, the palaces and the monuments. We enjoyed running across Mozart references as well as statutes of other composers.
Our hotel was centrally located in the heart of Vienna’s district 1 on the Stephansplatz. We could view the church and square during our breakfast. I miss that view.
We managed to walk to the Riesenrad (German for Giant Wheel), the 212 foot tall Ferris wheel at the entrance of the Prater amusement park in Leopoldstadt. We saw that it is one of Vienna’s most popular tourist attractions. It symbolises the second district in Vienna as well as the city for many people who live there. We did not take a ride on the Ferris wheel, although it looked like fun. When we walked by we noted several people riding in the wheel.
- I received my MBA from Webster University, way back when…seeing a Webster University building in Vienna was fun and not expected.
- We were impressed by the trains and the speeds. We noticed the one from Salzburg to Vienna went almost 200 KPH (124 MPH). Trains were a great way to get around.
- Learn to linger over dinner or any meal, especially when you are with someone. We enjoyed the Vienna coffee house and lingered as long as we could. This was the only spot we found you could get a “free water and refills.”
- Beer in Germany and Austria is less expensive than soda or water … lesson: drink beer with meals!
- When we went to Vienna we learned a lot about the ruling families. The one lesson that struck me was that the Habsburg dynasty won territory by winning hearts through intermarrying its family across Europe and not wars. A marriage to Napoleon was also accomplished by the dynasty. Unfortunately, they took more care with the Lipizzan stallion’s blood lines then their own. A visit to the stables housing the stallions was interesting as well.
- The city of Vienna earns money by renting rose bushes to inhabitants for five years in their beautiful Volksgarten (Peoples’ Garden). This sounded to me like a cool idea raising money for the city as well as keeping the gardens beautiful.
- Try the local favorites. I loved the Schnitzel.
- Pay attention to the train numbers and not the destination city. On one of our first train trips, we sat by the area that had the city of our final destination listed on the board. We discovered when the train left an “hour early,” that we needed to re-think what we focused on in order to board the correct train. All of the information we needed was on our tickets and the signboards, once we knew what information was important.
- Ask locals where to eat. Our walking tour guide in Vienna suggested we try Manner chocolate. We found it to be delicious. We also enjoyed eating the rich Demel chocolate.
We found the best place to have a sausage was at the “ Bitzinger Wurstelstand Albertina.” The sausage was awesome. We enjoyed the Käsekrainer sausage, which they assured us was the most popular and we agreed after we tasted it! We are thankful for our guide steering us to places we may have otherwise passed over.
Our travel followed these three simple rules:
- Move and exercise. Each day we hiked in the cities.
- Find peaceful, beautiful surroundings. We stopped and smelled the roses, admired artwork, enjoyed singing and watching the river flow by.
- Meet different, interesting people. We enjoyed all of the people we met and were amazed at how similar and different we all are. Singing with a group of strangers on the Sound of Music tour was a highlight.
- We rented bikes one afternoon. It was a great way to see more of Vienna. We rode about 11 miles.
- Hiking/walking totaled about 7-10 miles on most days around town. We managed over 25 in two days of walking in Vienna.
We biked along the Rhine and Neckar Rivers in June on a Bike and Boat Tour, and it was an unforgettable experience. The tour we decided to join was a beautiful cycling and cruise tour which explored the famous valleys of the German Rhine and Neckar Rivers. I have heard that on a cruise ship you gain about 10 pounds in a week. I get it; the food was great! If you are able to combine the cruising with bike riding in Germany, you may stay about the same weight, although it will be a close run thing.
We left the boat each morning on our seven-day cruise for a ride up the river bike paths. The boat then sailed upstream to meet us at the next planned stop. The boat was a floating hotel where we slept, had breakfast and dinner as well ask some fun. The boat did not travel on the river at night as we were at a dock. Being docked at night allowed us to explore the quaint towns and villages after dinner. The barge, or cruise ship, had 61 bike riders and was pretty full (seven open riding spots) as we went on our way. The boat was clean and comfortable; we enjoyed our time on board.
Castle Watching—don’t blink and miss one along the river…
We began our first riding day with a two-hour boat ride from Koblenz along the Rhine passing through the beginning of one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. We then rode on the trail and saw more than 40 castles and fortresses and many wine villages along the way. There were too many castles for me to even attempt to photograph.
You have to see it in person to understand just how impressive each view is as you stop or ride by. We did walk up to a few castles and explore the ruins. Being on top of the castles, we realized why they looked so imposing from the river as we had a great views from the top and could easily make out people, cars and boats along the river.
Vineyards on the Rhine River—we passed several vineyards and took an evening tour.
This was much different than our trip to Napa Valley and biking. The vines are on a hill from the top to the river. We learned that the wine that comes from the plantings at the bottom is the cheapest in quality and the wine at the top is the best. Makes sense! We enjoyed magnificent views. The wine was excellent, along with the grape juice that they began our tour with.
Quaint Towns and Villages
Each town reminded us of why we wanted to come to Germany. We took advantage of walking tours and our stay at all of the towns along the way.
One of our fun stops was spending the night at Heidelberg. In Heidelberg we managed to climb to the top of the Heidelberg Castle and walk along the Old Bridge. We also walked the end-to-end mile long pedestrian shopping street. The university dominates the old town and was fascinating to view and experience.
The variety of flowers, shops and museums was fun to experience. Like the castles, it is too much to show here, you need to go see it for yourselves.
Each town along the way had several characteristics that made them unique as well as part of what we expected to see along the river. We saw a variety of architectural styles of churches; most were massive and ornate, and we wondered how the local people could afford such a building or buildings as well as build them so long ago.
We ate at several ice cream shops, and spent time looking at the souvenirs (crafts) along with sampling some of the local food and beer. We even went by the Dr. Carl Benz Museum.
Rivers and Locks
With its many castles lined up on the hill tops, our tour along the river was full of Rhine romanticism. Our guide told us the story of the river bend and how it inspired the famous poem “Lorelei.” Kim tested the waters at the point mentioned in the poem.
We enjoyed the peaceful river and views from the banks of the rivers and the towns. These made for great spots for a break or to eat a picnic lunch. Next time we will bring a blanket or rug with us.
The Neckar River had several locks; we rode over some and saw ships, including our barge, go through the locks. It was a fun experience. The locks have apparently prevented some of the flooding that was prevalent in the area along the Neckar River.
- Stop and enjoy the scenery.
- We were not in a race, and with a seven-speed bike we were not breaking any speed records.
- The initial part of our journey from Koblenz on the Rhine was loaded with castles; almost every bend or turn on the river had one and sometimes two. I do not know about you, but I do not see castles daily on my normal bike rides.
- At each stop we would walk and explore the town where we were parked for the night. Dinner ended on board about 8 PM and it was light until about 10 PM. We needed the walk after so many good dinners.
- Anyone can ride along the Rhine. Of the 61 riders, we were on the young end age wise. The route was mostly flat, with some inclines that were easily overtaken with the e-bikes. The e-bikes were a popular option with the travelers on the barge. We did not ride e-bikes.
- Trail riding is a good way to get outside and see the countryside. Some of the views were hidden from the road and others were a short bike ride into town for an Eis (ice cream) or a Bier (no translation needed).
- Make friends. We sat each evening with the same group — a couple from Argentina and a couple from Australia. We enjoyed the conversation with our table companions as well as those from the group that we met on board and along the way.
We ran across a new WWII monument noting the American army crossing the Rhine River—just put up in 2017.
- We rode for six days, about 150 miles total. The planned mileage for the bike tour was less, as we explored and enjoyed the area.
- In the towns at night we walked between 5-7 miles and enjoyed exploring the towns.
I have been asked if we would do the bike tour again. Of course, yes! We would likely pick another tour to explore a new area. We really enjoyed the support and the tour. Thank you to Lyn and John who shared their bike adventure in Europe with us prior to our booking the trip in December.