Vacations that Broaden our Horizons Part 4


Each step of this trip was planned to maximize the best use of our time. We wanted to take in the most delightful sights in each town without running from each tour and feeling like we were on a schedule that would wear us down.

Our next town which was two hours away from Luzern was Laufenburg Switzerland. I had not heard of any of our friends going to this town, and so we were in full discovery mode.

We arrived late morning in Laufenburg Switzerland having escaped Luzern just as they were having a marathon race that closed off the whole town.

Nancy and I had a wonderful breakfast at the Bacherei Konditorei Cafe. The item we’d had a thousand times before (but never like this) was executed beyond belief… hash brown potatoes. The potatoes were so light and airy they just melted in your mouth. Each bite was a delicious overture to the next.

Farm fresh eggs with bacon and those amazing hash browns was the perfect introduction to this little town close to the German border. A six story stone clock tower you could drive through was the gateway to this charming borough. We parked our rental car and decided to explore.

The hotel wouldn’t accept early walk-ins and so we explored the town.  We found a stone bridge that connected the Swiss part of Laufenburg with the German Laufenburg. We walked for a couple hours and ended up crossing the bridge looking below to the Rhine river.

Stone homes, churches and castles adorned the foreground as we ventured to a Greek restaurant just across the bridge on the German side. Apparently Napoleon had split the town in half with each half located in two different countries.

We were still full from breakfast but decided to have a dessert and coffee at Griechishes Restaurant Athen. We had a delightful chocolate mouse cake topped with a persimmon and grape leaf. Also on the plate was a home-made vanilla ice cream lightly sprinkled with a chocolate sauce accompanied with whipped cream. Two lattes finished our respite from hiking the cobblestone streets, the perfect sugar rush to propel us to the church at the top of the hill overlooking the Rhine.

The view from the church was fabulous. We viewed the Rhine across thatched roofs adding a certain old world feel to the spectacle. Walking down the steep hill and through most of the old downtown of German Laufenburg was another step back in time.

Exactly at three o’clock we called the hotel to let us in and give us the key to our room and the outside door. The staff member was very gracious. The room was very big and the bonus was the view. Two large folding windows encased in wood opened to a unimpeded view of German Laufenburg, the bridge, castles, and churches which reflected in the mirror like water of the Rhine.

We had a bottle of wine at sunset that was purchased in the Burgundy region of France. The lovely Meursault chardonnay embodied the richness, smoothness, and quality of our experience. That night we ventured over to the German side of Laufenburg.

We had spied another Greek restaurant on the German side of the Rhine river. Nice and light dinner fair complimented a view of the river and a courtyard filled with exotic flowers which took the scene from beautiful to magical.

That night we walked back to the hotel Mokka and our room overlooking the Rhine. We needed our rest as the next day we planned to drive to the Rhine Falls. The Rhine Falls (Rheinfall) is breathtaking beauty and the largest plain waterfall in Europe. The falls are located on the High Rhine at Neuhausen am Rheinfall Village and just below Schaffhausen in the north of Switzerland.

The falls were about an hour from Laufenburg with a drive that provided a wonderful view of the meadows, farms, and streams along the way. The parking at the Rhine Falls was easy to navigate. The walk along the paths were easily marked which led us down to the base of the falls across the river and slightly downstream.

I can’t tell you what a sensory experience this was. To our right was a stone building perched as a sentry to the boats leading tourists to the falls. A tall rock acted as a stairway to a perch directly to the right of the falls as you are facing them. Above the falls and to the far right was a train track and above that a fairy tale castle.

Laufen Castle is a castle in the municipality of Laufen-Uhwiesen in the Swiss canton of Zurich. It is a Swiss heritage site of national significance overlooking the Rhine Falls. The first documented reference to the castle dates back to the year 858 when it was home to the Barons of Laufen. With the falls, castle, and of course the Rhine river this was a spectacle I will never forget.

We had dinner that night on the German side of Laufenburg. This was a Chinese restaurant with a mountain of food accompanied with our favorite beer and wine. We stumbled back to our hotel looking to get a good night sleep for the longest drive of the trip to Oberursel Germany near Frankfurt Germany.

Next will be the final segment of this expose on our European vacation.



Vacations that Broaden our Horizons Part 3

wine pairing pazaz bakeware

After a two hour drive from Nyon Switzerland we ended up meandering around the hills of Luzern with our destination being the Royal Luzern Hotel. Even the locals didn’t know the hotel was open as it had apparently been closed for the last few years.

Negotiating the curvy roads with construction obstacles made our destination even more desirable. When you work for something it makes the prize that much more worth while. The GPS  led us to the front side of the hotel and a convenient parking place less than a block away. I suggested we leave our luggage in the car until we figured out how far we had to drag those suitcases and of course the wine.

The guest services person was very kind but wanted to put us on the first floor, which wasn’t going to fly. She ended up putting us on the third floor with a room that had a balcony overlooking Lake Luzern. The view was spectacular and the hotel ended up being in a very convenient location for us to walk to town.

We meandered around the town looking for a good lunch place.  With our GPS leading us through back allies and eventually to a little Pizzeria we finally landed. I didn’t know we were on a tourist main thorough fair. We did enjoy seeing the hordes of tourists being dropped off and following the guides down the street literally feet from our table.

As we looked at the menu (which also included pastas), we ordered wine and beer. I remembered that a pizza maker once told me that water was the key ingredient to making great pizza. Well, that person was correct as the water in Luzern is considered the best in the country and possible the world.

The combination vegetable pizza was out of this world. This was the perfect introduction to the cuisine of Luzern. After the lunch, which was very filling, we simply drank a bottle of wine on our balcony and called it a day.

The next day I scheduled a one hour tour of Luzern to give us a better idea of the history behind this beautiful spot nestled in the alps of Switzerland. We started the tour at the convention center on a sort of motorized rickshaw that took us through the cobblestone streets. Our destination was the stone walls the Romans built surrounding about a quarter of the city of Luzern. The stone walls also had turrets you could climb for a better look-out point to appreciate the expansive view.

Dotted around the city of Luzern are over two hundred water fountains. The water is so fresh and delicious it really adds to the interactive experience. The guide then took us to the wooden bridge (the oldest in all of Europe) dating back to the fourteen hundreds. Stepping back in time in Europe is such a wonderful feeling, and there certainly isn’t a more beautiful place to feel this than the town of Luzern.

The guide took us to the street we had seen all the tourists gather and walk. At the end of the street was a reflective pond with lily pads and large boulders surrounding a cliff which had the most beautiful carving of a lion. This was the “Lion of Luzern” representing soldiers that never gave up and fought to the death. What a spectacular tribute finished in the eighteen hundreds to honor the Swiss Guard that was massacred in the seventeen hundreds. We never would have seen this incredible work of art without a guide taking us to this magical place.

For lunch we had a beautiful meal at a small Italian restaurant that looked out to Lake Luzern, the waterfalls, and the reflections of Gothic churches. Next we were off to explore the streets of Luzern on our own.

It just so happened that this was market day. All the vendors were out in full force with the goods and goodies that promoted the spirit of the town. Nancy and I were excited to purchase a hundred grams of Fontina cheese (a locally made cheese). The Fontina cheese is a semi-hard cow’s milk cheese exhibiting nuanced flavors of hazelnut and creamy butter. Perfect with chardonnay.

We hoofed it back to our room to eat Fontina cheese and drink our Meursault (chardonnay). After that incredible sensory experience, soaking in the landscape on a perfectly sunny day, I was ready for a nap.

The restaurant I had made reservations for was called “The Old Swiss House”. So, that night we followed a path to The Old Swiss House which was  located near the pizza restaurant we had eaten at the previous day. We had a clear path in mind as we set out for this wonderful restaurant.

The Old Swiss House features an all female staff dressed in traditional Swiss garb adding to the ambience. Our table was decorated with rose pedals and hearts for our anniversary. Silver show plates and crystal glasses adorned the white table cloth in a booth I had requested.

The champagne was a perfect compliment to our food choices as we enjoyed a bottle of Veuve Clicquot.  For our appetizer course Nancy had a pumpkin soup and I had a salad with a home-made vinaigrette. Our entrees included a veal with a mushroom marsala sauce and potato pancake while Nancy had the braised beef with cream spinach and boiled potatoes.

The dessert was prepared tableside. The Crepe Suzette was expertly assembled and flambeed by our server. The dish echoed essences of lemon peel and orange peel, Triple Sec, and Grand Marnier.

I knew this would be a great restaurant when on my way to the bathroom I saw on the wall an autographed picture of the 3 Stooges. What better judges of cuisine than the 3 Stooges?

Next stop in this series of vacation memories is the small Swiss town of Laufenburg.


Vacations that Broaden our Horizons Part 2

After Paris we reserved a space on another train to take us to the capital of Burgundy, Dijon. Over the course of my short life, the Burgundy region of France was another must see to check off the bucket list. You see, in my humble opinion, the Burgundian wines are some of the most delicious in the entire world. Primarily I’m talking about Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

Well, we arrived and had lunch at this wonderful French restaurant, Brasserie Des Beaux- Arts. The lentil stew with bacon, cheddar cheese and fresh herbs was fantastic served with an AOC Rhone wine, Chateauneuf -du- Pape. This rich Rhone wine is made with Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre.

After lunch it was off to our hotel, Hostellerie du Chapeau Rouge. Located in the heart of Dijon, close to statues, fountains, and ornate stone buildings, this was the perfect location. That night we went to the Darcy Hotel and had a very special dinner which included for me, escargot. Nancy was a little put off by the snails being so close to her on our dinner table, but she quickly forgot about that after the second glass of wine. Nancy had the best steak I’ve tasted in years cooked a perfect medium rare.

The next day would be one of the highlights of the trip, a tour through the Burgundy region of France. This, as I mentioned was on my bucket list. The tour started near the square in Dijon. Driving past the legendary vineyards of Gevrey Chambertin, Clos de Beze, La Tache, Batard Montrachet, and Nuit Saint George really put my vision of what this would look like to the substance of actually being there.

In the early 70’s my first introduction to Burgundian wines was a taste of Chateau Corton. I fell in love with Burgundian wine from that first sip. That is when I declared my allegiance to the Burgundy region of France.

As fate would have it, this would be the first vineyard we went to. We tasted the 2018 Corton estate wines. This was epic as 2018 is going to be (based upon weather and yield), one of the vintages of the century.

We then experienced a wonderful lunch in Beaune. Beaune is a walled town at the center of Burgundy surrounded by the Cote ‘d’Or, famous for its pinot noir. After lunch and a bottle of 2020 Gevrey Chambertin we went to a tasting room that also acted as a facilitator for the most famous wines of the region. 

In an adjoining room to the tasting room were the fermentation tanks of some of the world famous pinot noirs. I spotted a steel fermentation tank holding what we had just enjoyed, only a later vintage of Gevrey Chambertin.  There was a hose attached leading down to a century old cellar that housed 60 gallon barrels of this wonderful wine. We witnessed the topping off of the barrels containing this luscious wine. This was certainly a fantastic view into another aspect of the wine making process. 

After our all day tour we had an excellent dinner in the square of Dijon. Next I rented a car and Nancy and I were off to our first of three stops in Switzerland. Our destination in Switzerland was Nyon.

Nyon is a town I hadn’t heard any of my friends venturing to. The quaint little town is located on the Switzerland side of Lake Geneva. I secured a reservation at the Ambassador Hotel which is located near the center of the village of Nyon.

We had a nice leisurely drive to a small diner located on the outskirts of Nyon. The diner/Pizzeria/Grill called “Le Col” was a combination of Bar, Restaurant, and Brasserie. We had to try the Fondue as that was one of the most famous dishes in Switzerland. They used a Fontina cheese with sourdough bread, vegetables, and dried cured meats. Of course I had to order a bottle of Sancerre (a sauvignon blanc) to compliment the flavors of this wonderful cheese entree.

When we arrived it was pouring rain and there was only one other table occupied in the restaurant. This always makes you a little nervous, however we did arrive early, around 11am. We were seated in a timely fashion and served quite promptly. The servers did not speak very much English but certainly more than the French or German I spoke. Amazingly they got the order correct.

Soon after we began eating the restaurant filled up with local patrons and workers enjoying their lunch break at apparently the best restaurant in town. We could confirm that both the service and food were exceptional. This was the perfect culinary introduction to Switzerland.

Navigating the many roundabouts and the 42 letters in every sign we managed to find our hotel. The concierge/ manager was quite helpful and accommodating. I had requested a view with a balcony and he gave us one of the best rooms in the hotel, room 318. I was blown away by the view!

The famous castle of Nyon on the right, Lake Geneva straight ahead, and the village of Yvoire in the background. This was a breathtaking introduction to Switzerland. I thanked the manager profusely for giving us such a beautiful room for our anniversary.

We unpacked, bundled up, and drank a bottle of Meursault on the balcony, literally drinking in the panoramic view. That night we had an amazing dinner at the “Clef D’ Or” restaurant in the town of Bursinel located about thirty minutes from Nyon.

The menu was a hunting menu which reflected some unusual choices. I had the Sweet Breads (a gland in a cows throat) which were like the most delicate veal you’ve ever tasted. Nancy had the chicken supreme which was equally well prepared. We enjoyed a bottle of Croze Hermitage 2016 with the primary varietal being Syrah. Delicious!

The next day we were off to the village of Yvoire which I had discovered in my research. This was a little village across Lake Geneva in France. We boarded the ferry boat and were treated to a spectacular view as we were launched to our destination and the cove of Yvoire.

The village of Yvoire is considered one of the most beautiful villages in all of France. Most of the buildings are made of stone dating back to the 1500’s. The three hundred inhabitants are blessed to live in this village with most of the buildings encased in different varieties of beautiful flowers. Restaurants, pubs, gift shops, and residences dot the landscape.

We had lunch at La Creperie d’Yvoire. This was the best Crepe experience Nancy and I ever had. We had a spinach, Gruyere cheese, mushrooms, and a very light beurre blanc sauce that finished the dish perfectly. I had a Stella beer and Nancy had a chardonnay. After spending the afternoon in Yvoire we ventured back to the ferry and then to our room.

That night I drove to the town of Geneva (in a driving rain storm) for dinner at the Hotel d’Angleterre, a five star hotel. Our dinner reservation was at their flagship restaurant,  “Windows”. Suffice it to say… don’t always believe the hype. The dinner sucked!

Anyway, next stop Luzern.


Vacations Broaden your Horizons


A man once said, “It’s a small world, but I’d hate to paint it.” Running into people (when you’re abroad) that are from your state, or even your town makes you think of the above phrase. I believe in most cases its the energy you promote that acts as a magnate to bring those people into your sphere of physical space.

Many times what you hear about certain countries and their people can be affirmed or denied when you simply travel to those destinations. Then what you find is that the connection between cultures seems so much closer when you actually visit other countries.

I’ve heard, “Paris is a dirty place.” It wasn’t. “The people in Paris are rude and condescending.” Again, not true. I find that if you go into foreign countries with the intention of being a good person and respecting their laws, then usually the best will come of your interaction.

I’m no expert by any means, as I’ve only been to Europe one time. However, I pride myself with extending the hand of good will as an extension of how we should act in another country.

Nancy and I were truly blessed to have organized our trip in such a way to learn and experience the most we could in a short period of time. Of course this was based on what we enjoy and what would be the most dynamic use of our time.

Our trip began in London, at the International Heathrow Airport. Wonderful posters of the Queen’s Guard in full-dress uniform of red tunics and bearskin hats was the perfect introduction to England. Then we took to the subway with the destination, Piccadilly Square as our target. We meandered around attempting to follow our GPS to Chinatown where our first lodging was.

Nancy found the well hidden door that led to our four flights of stairs and our Air B&B. Before we found the door we had a little Dim Sum so that we could gather our strength after our nine hour flight from Denver.

London was fantastic. We took in a number of historic sights as we had booked a tour which included but was not limited to, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, King Charles residence, St. James park, St. Paul’s Cathedral, The Tower of London, The Tower Jewels, a boat cruise down the Thames river, and High Tea at Harrods department store, and finally, the Borough Market . We also went to Abbey Road, the Abbey Road gift store (of course), and wandered down to have breakfast at the area of London known as “Little Venice.”

Our best dinner on the entire vacation was at a restaurant in the SOHO district of London, called “Clos Maggiore.” Certainly one of the most romantic restaurants I’ve ever been in. The decor was perfectly paired with amazing food and a wine list of 122 pages. Excellent service was provided by an exceptional server, Gilles.

Next we were off to Paris by way of the Eurostar Train. The train goes under the English Channel to Paris in just under three hours. Arriving in Paris was another bucket list place to visit. We stayed in the Latin Quarter of Paris to be close to restaurants, wine shops, and other convenient places of interest.

The wine shop provided a very nice selection of Burgundian wines. We purchased a couple Gevrey Chambertins and Puligny Montrachets to drink on our balcony overlooking the expansive views of Paris.

Our first restaurant in Paris was “The Petite Prince” located in a quaint alley down a cobblestone street. The rain gently fell as we relied on our GPS to navigate to the correct destination. With only a rudimentary knowledge of the language and absolutely no directional aptitude we arrived at our destination (allowing an extra 20 minutes for the inevitable wrong direction and the U turn).

It was a strange local habitat which apparently wasn’t too popular with the locals. We had a fairly good dinner which included Foir Gras, Onion soup, and less then memorable entrees. However, the dessert was memorable as they flamed a creme brulee (strictly for entertainment purposes).

The next day we had a magnificent gourmet lunch cruise down the Sein River. The food was quite good paired with wonderful  French wine enhancing the once in a life time views, which included the Eiffel Tower. That’s when it became abundantly clear… we weren’t in Kansas anymore… Toto.

The last day in Paris we enjoyed a tour of the Louvre with a guide that knew one descriptive word, “scrumptious”. Seeing the Mona Lisa and the statue of Venus di Milo were certainly a couple of the highlights of this educational and enlightening tour.  Putting the guides lack of descriptive terms on the back burner, this was another bucket list must see that we were able to scratch off the list.

This will be a three part series of our trip to Europe. I’d like you to fully grasp the spirit of our journey as we explored some of the most beautiful, iconic, and historic sights in all of Europe.