Strasbourg - August

For the second part of our summer holiday, Jules and I took a trip to Strasbourg for a city break. We passed through a couple of years ago whilst cycling in Alsace, but thought we'd spend a bit longer seeing the sights and exploring.

The Covid-19 measures were in full force, with certificates being checked everywhere, but everyone was polite and friendly about it.

We stayed in the Hôtel Les Haras, and we were very happy with both the hotel and the location. The staff were very welcoming and friendly and the hotel itself has a lovely courtyard - perfect for sitting out and relaxing in good weather. It's a very short walk to the Grande Île and the Cathedral but the hotel itself feels quiet and secluded.

Street in old town Strasbourg with the cathedral in the background. Wednesday

We had a fairly easy drive to Strasbourg, and found the hotel with no trouble at all. After a friendly check-in we wandered into town, taking in the sights of the canal and the cathedral - all very pretty.

We stopped for a glass of local wine in a laid-back bar in Place du Marché Gayot before stumbling across Chez Yvonne were we were lucky enough to get a table (well, we were eating significantly earlier than the locals!). After dinner we continued our stroll around the old town, wandering through Petite France before retiring to the hotel very happy with our choice of city break.

Thursday

After a relaxed breakfast in the hotel we headed out to do a little shopping and sightseeing. Jules managed to persuade me to get on the tourist train around the Neustadt, which was better than I feared and actually quite interesting. The addition of the audio tour was good, providing significantly more interest than just looking at the buildings.

For lunch we stopped at Café Broglie - where we made a good choice of a small cheese platter and a glass of wine, although I was slightly envious of the steak tartare on the next table which looked excellent. Suitably fortified we headed off shopping and even managed to find some smart trainer for Jules.

For an apéritif we headed back to Place du Marché Gayot, and ended up eating in La Table du Gayot - Jules had a very good foie gras, and I had a very tasty salad. All in all a successful day in town.

Friday

After breakfast we headed into town in search of some local food markets. Place Broglie was the most successful, and we picked up a few bits and bobs to take back, and generally enjoyed wandering around. We also found a local delicatessen where we picked up some more cheese and sausages as well as some local wine to take home.

We stopped for a surprisingly good crêpe in La Crêpe Gourmande - excellent despite being in the middle of the tourist zone. After lunch, we popped down to the Historique Hospices Strasbourg to look at the oldest wine in a barrel (I'm not sure how good it tastes these days, but they didn't offer us any) and to pick up a couple more bottles to take home. We relaxed for the rest of the afternoon in the hotel courtyard - perfect in the sun with a book and a drink.

For dinner we got slightly dressed up and went to the hotel brasserie - I had an excellent foie gras, and Jules had a very good steak. A lovely way to finish off a very relaxing and pleasant city trip. I suspect we'll be back in the not-too-distant future....

Schwarzwald - August

For the first part of our summer holiday, Jules and I headed to Schwarzwald for a 6-day walking tour from Titisee-Neustadt to Radofzell on lake Constance. The route broadly follows part of the Querweg for the duration, winding through the Wutach gorge, and then through woods, fields, and well-kept pretty villages for the latter stages.

View over forests down to Titisee in Schwarzwald. Monday

We arrived to a very warm welcome at the hotel Hochfirst in Saig, and almost immediately walked back down into Titisee. We stocked up on Landjägers and cheese at the Metzgerei in town which turned out to be a great plan since we picnicked on many of the walking days. Suitably victualled, we stopped for the obligatory Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte, and then headed to a beer garden to sit in the sun by the lake.

We ate dinner in the Oschen restaurant in Saig - grateful to have made a reservation on arrival at the hotel. The food was very good; Pfefferlinge and spätzle for Jules and pork medallions and spätzle for me. Delicious, but certainly not a light meal!

Tuesday

After a good breakfast we headed off for the first day proper. The route started by climbed fairly steeply but only for 200 m and then meandered through quiet pine forests with lots of pretty foxgloves and ant hills. We stopped for a quick break in a little forest hut Hierabrunnen before continuing on the Beerwaldhauptweg (one of us was amused).

We lunched at the bottom of the hill in Gasthaus Blume in Kappel. Again, very friendly service, and they managed to fit us in for a bowl of soup despite being very busy with a big group. The highlight of the lunch was a brief tour of the very pretty garden next to the gasthaus - obviously a lot of work for someone!

After lunch we dropped into the Wutach gorge (henceforth to be named the Gorge Of Doom and the Path Of Certain Death owing to the warning about sheer drops and precipitous cliffs). We made steady progress along to the point where the Gutach becomes the Wutach and broadly followed the course of the river. The path has quite a lot of ascent and descent as it climbs the sides of the gorge many times along the length.

We made steady progress to Schattenmühle and found the gasthaus which had a reassuringly large beer garden. Overall it was a long-ish day of 23.4 km with 450 m ascent & 750 m descent which took us 6 hours 40 including an hour stop for lunch and a couple of breaks.

In the evening we relaxed with a well deserved drink and a good choice of roast vegetables and a salad for dinner. We tried the local cocktail - a "Wutachteufel", but weren't that impressed. We should test it on the Gileys sometime - they seem to like these things.

Wednesday

We had a good night’s sleep in the peace and quiet of the hotel. Everything was a little rushed in the morning for breakfast with lots of walkers trying to head out, but we avoided all that by eating late and then setting off after everyone else. The route for the day continued along the Wutach Gorge of Death, where there were more people around generally, and very interesting striated rock formations on the walls. It was a day for waterfalls finshing with a great view of the large waterfall in Blumberg.

We arrived at the hotel Hirschen to another very friendly greeting to finish off a day of 21.8 km, 495 m ascent and 455 m descent which took us 6 hours 30 - including a picnic lunch and breaks.

In the evening we strolled into town for dinner. Jules vetoed the first three bars, but we eventually settled on the Restaurant “Romantica” - a strong entry for the most inappropriate name ever. We ignored the locals for one beer then went next door to the Chinese for dinner. We made the mistake of going back to Romantica for the hausgemacht ice-cream.

Chomp monster Thursday

The new day came with a change of scenery - the rolling hills of Schwarzwald replacing the gorge and river walking of the last two days. This was also the warmest day so far - bright and sunny for the whole day with good views en-route.

The path climbed fairly steadily to the lookout point above Blumberg where we could see back to Hochfirst and even Saighoch. From there the route wound down and around small woods and working fields. The farmers were working hard to bring in the crops in the good weather, but Jules was more excited by the schinken display on the outskirts of the village.

The restaurant in Randen was unexpectedly open, and we stopped for a drink and then a little further on at the Blaustein (it was more orange-grey to my eyes) for a picnic lunch, which was very pleasant. By this point we were very pleased that we had stocked up in Titisee before heading off walking - that was definitely a good decision.

We arrived at the rather lovely Biebermühle in Blumenfeld to finish off a good day of 20.3 km with 550 m ascent and 700 m descent which took us 6 hours 10 all in. We spent the early evening relaxing in the restaurant by the waterfall underneath the old mill wheel. We stayed for dinner, and the restaurant was obviously known locally and well frequented. Once again the service was very friendly.

Friday

On Friday we got our first glimpse of Lake Constance in the distance, although we couldn't make out Radofzell with confidence. It was a hot day for walking, although there was some shade en-route which was quite welcome. I finished 2.5 litres of water over the course of the day, which was about the limit of my carrying capacity.

We stopped for a picnic lunch overlooking the distinctive volcanic hills dotting the countryside. In the early afternoon we dropped into Engen and had a brief walk around the very pretty old-town before retiring to a café for an enormous cake for Jules and an ice coffee for yours truly.

Refreshed and slightly cooler we headed off on the last short leg up the hill to the modern hotel, which was a bit of an eye-sore on the hill. It was a slightly shorter day at 17.7 km with 570 m ascent and 490 m descent and took us was 5 hours 10 including lunch and two breaks but not including the stroll around Engen.

View over corn fields and hills near Tingen Saturday

We set off under a completely blue sky and with a hot day forecast. The first leg was to retrace our steps back to Engen and out the other side, where we saw a very old but working tractor. Leaving Engen we declined the ascent of Hohenhewen owing to the heat and a relatively long day still ahead of us.

It was a day to watch the farmers continuing to gather in the harvest - a team of vehicles including a combine harvester, mower, a baler (which we nicknamed the Chomp Monster), and supporting vehicles were working a number of fields in the area, and we saw them many times throughout the day.

We planned to stop for lunch in the shade of a ruined castle, but were chased off by mosquitoes and pressed on hastily to find a car-park with a little shade but enough breeze to deter the little devils. After a brief stop we pressed on to the hotel at Hohentwiel where we were grateful to arrive and refresh. Overall the day was 23.2 km with 665 m ascent and 725 m descent and took us a total of 6 hours 25 minutes.

Sunday

We set off from the hotel at a faster-than-expected pace - being chased down the hill by mosquitoes which I'm sure were waiting there for unwary walkers. It was a bit of a morning for getting bitten - which meant that our pace through the woodlands was slightly faster than relaxing, but the situation improved in the afternoon.

We made Steisslingen without being eaten alive adn after stopping briefly for a coffee we sat in the church grounds and ate our packed lunch (despite the temptation of a döner pizza after many days of eating healthy vegetable platters for dinner). The weather started to turn as we finished eating and little while after setting off we had our first rain of the holiday. It was a bit of a welcome relief after a few days of walking in the heat, and only lasted about 15 minutes so was quite refreshing.

We descended the path of nettles to Stahringen and from there it was one last leg onto Radofzell to finish the walking part of the holiday. The last day came in at 25.0 km, with 415 m of ascent and 530 m of descent and took us 6 hours 50 minutes all in.

After getting changed and putting our walking kit outside on the balcony of the room we headed back into Radofzell for dinner in Omas Küche - which was quite well reviewed for traditional Schwarzwald food. J had Rösti and I had schnitzel with bergkäse spätzle - both of which seemed to disappear quite quickly!

The story of the holiday would end there, expect for the fun on the train going home the next day. The train was waiting for us at Radofzell, the sign on the platform confirmed that it was the correct train but when it pulled out of the station 5 minutes early it became apparent that it was in fact the previous train, only delayed. After a brief panic thinking that we were going non-stop to Karlsruhe it turned out that the first stop was at Singen which was also our intended interchange. We laughed about it eventually...

Spiez - April

Very keen to get out of the house for a short break Jules and I headed over to Spiez on the Thurnersee for a few nights away. We deliberately chose the week after Easter in the hope that it would be a little quieter and to give us a proper break after a slightly hard Q1 in lock-down.

Spiez schloss viewed across the harbour. Small boats in the foreground

The days broke down as follows:

Monday

We decided to head off early on Monday to make the most of one of the forecast-good days with a walk. We had a fairly easy journey over to Spiez and arrived a bit before lunchtime. The chosen route was the "Rund Wanderweg Spiez", which was a well-marked route around the outskirts of the town, and taking in the local views and sights. The route heads around the harbour underneath the Schloss before following the lakeshore along to Faulensee. From there the path climbs up to the Seeholzwald underneath the Niesen, where we stopped for a bite of lunch. Suitably refreshed we continued on around the back of Hondrichhügel and past the Stauweiher and up to the Spiezberg before looping back down into town. This was the first outing using the SwissTopo app. The initial verdict was that it's quite good for planning (once you get the hang of it [cough], and not bad for tracking, but the stats aren't right compared with a Garmin watch and MotionX GPS on the same phone.

Arriving back in town, we checked into the hotel Belvédère, first impressions being a good hotel and a lovely room. After freshening up we took a stroll into town and had a bargain Aperol Spritz for only Fr. 5! Dinner at the hotel was a surprisingly good four courses, with a glass of the excellent local Riesling. Exhausted from the day we collapsed into bed and fell asleep despite the storm which blew in overnight.

Tuesday

We woke up to a dusting of snow, but bright blue skies. We decided that it would be a good day to head into Thun, to do a bit of shopping and to try to visit the Brauerei Thun. We were a little distracted en-route by a shopping centre, but had a very successful visit including some much-needed outdoor kit [cough]. From there we headed into Thun for a wander around. The centre of the old town is very pretty, with the Aare running through canals and old wooden bridges, but it was a little cold to spend very much time outdoors. We did manage to find the brewery, only to be told that they didn't actually sell beer, and so we left empty-handed. Overall though it was a very successful day out, with better weather than we had expected.

Dinner at the hotel was once again very good, we were both impressed by the food (in particular the truffle butter - rapidly becoming a favourite of mine) and the service.

View of mountains across the Thunersee Wednesday

We woke up to even more snow, and after another good breakfast we headed off for a stroll around Spiez town. We found the vineyard for the local Riesling which we'd been enjoying the last couple of days, but failed to find the Thunerbier in COOP. The less said about the Bea centre the better - we wouldn't recommend going. In the afternoon we managed to go for a short run along the lakeside - a bit hard work after all the dinners, but felt a bit better for it. In the afternoon we enjoyed a glass of bubbly in the Captain's bar before another excellent dinner.

Thursday

We got up fairly promptly and after a good final breakfast we packed up the car and slightly reluctantly checked out. We decided to go for a short-ish walk on the way home, a circular walk around the village of Aeschi. The weather was once again very kind to us, with spectacular views over the lake and the surrounding mountains. The only slight complication was yours truly forgetting to change shoes for hiking boots, which partially contributed to a slip in a muddy field. Hilarious for everyone who wasn't me!