Archive for Cozy Hotels

July 30

There’s no experience quite like spending the night in a castle high on a bluff above one of Europe’s prettiest river valleys. Recent guests of ours had this experience and for some, it was a repeat experience. Susan brought son Nick back for a second European Focus Private Tour and this time, four people who had never been to Germany before came along for the adventure.

Recent guests on the "drawbridge" to Schonburg Castle.

One of Susan and Nick’s favorite places from their 2008 trip was Burg Schonburg above Oberwesel between Bingen and St. Goar. We were able to get rooms last minute at the castle, and the experience was one to remember as rainshowers and rainbows were observed from the crag where this 1,000 year old castle stands proud and strong. It wasn’t always that way. The castle, like many along the river, was destroyed various times in the 17th and 18th centuries. It was rebuilt in the early 20th century by a New Yorker by the name of Rheinlander, who then donated the partially restored castle to the town of Oberwesel. Then in the 1960s and 1970s the castle was transformed into a 4-star hotel with each room and suite completely unique. Antiques fill the many rooms of the castle and a deluxe four-course dinner is served in the evening. For those desiring a true medieval experience, Schonburg is the place!

The only way into the inner courtyards of the castle is through this narrow opening, barely wide enough for a golf cart to pass through. Nick and Trevor get ready to storm the castle.

The Rhein and Oberwesel from the castle ramparts

Sandy checks out the trundlebed in the suite she shared with a friend

A rainbow after a summer shower

Travel and Experience Germany in October

Friday, August 13th, 2010

Bacharach on the Rhein River is one of the stops on this wonderful autumn tour

October is a fine time of the year to experience Germany small group tours. The kids are all back in school meaning the roads are not as congested with holiday travelers. The air is crisp and clear, the nights are cool and the days are usually sunny and mild. Trees are still green with just a hint of color signaling the approach of winter. (But not yet!) There are also wonderful foods to enjoy including mushrooms, new wine and onion cake.

Enjoy Germany’s hamlets and small towns on this private tour offered for October 14 to 26, 2010. (Dates are flexible by a few days)
Here’s where your guide, with 21 years experience in traveling Germany’s back roads, wants to take you and up to four others:

Miltenberg am Main, Upper Franconia. After arrival at Frankfurt, we stay two nights in one of Germany’s most authentic and interesting old towns just an hour away from big-city Frankfurt. Guests enjoy rambling rooms in one of Germany’s oldest inns, established in the 12th century and rebuilt in 1590. While in this area, we sightsee in the nearby Odenwald Forest including the little town of Erbach with a castle full of fascinating collections gathered from around the world in the 18th century by a benevolent Count.

Bamberg and Coburg, Bavaria. We make a lunch stop in Bamberg, one of Germany’s prettiest small cities. Wander along “Little Venice” and have a “smoked beer,” plus see one of Germany’s oldest cathedrals built during a time when there were only “barbarians in the woods,” beyond this small town established by the Catholic Church to bring religion to this area. Later, we arrive in Erfurt, Thuringia. Two nights spent in the medieval town of Erfurt, where the only intact medieval merchant bridge still stands. What is a merchant bridge? Come along and find out, plus discover one of Germany’s tiniest breweries and of course, drink what they produce.

The Saale-Unstrut region is one of the most northernmost wine producing regions of Europe. We spend a day and a night exploring the pretty valley of the Saale River and spend the night in a traditional inn where, of course, the local wine is the focus of the menu.

We then continue into the Erzgebirge Forest, where you can shop for Christmas presents in the woodcrafts region where German “smokers” as well as the famous “pyramids” are made. We stay two nights in a country inn where the food is the star attraction. Wake to the smells of pine forest and breathe in the fresh, crisp air. People used to make entire vacations out of coming to this “Luftkurort” region.

Traveling south, we arrive in the old city of “Castra Regina,” established under the reign of Marcus Aurelius in the 2nd century. The pleasures of Regensburg are many, including narrow medieval lanes with interesting shops, a massive and impressive cathedral, a 14th century stone bridge spanning the Donau and an old sausage kitchen built to feed the workers who built the bridge. Guess what? We can eat sausages there, 700 years later! We stay a night in the heart of the old town.

Winding up our stay in Bavaria we make a concession to mass tourism and visit Rothenburg ob der Tauber for two nights. This may be one of Germany’s most popular cities, and for good reason. It’s magnificent, with a tall wall, towers and houses dating back more than 400 years and more. This is also the European home base of European Focus, and your guide will show you the insider’s view of Rothenburg and surroundings.

We travel east past Frankfurt to the Rhein River Valley and a two-night stay in lovely Bacharach, where we sample Rhein wine, eat sauerbraten and yes, visit a castle dating back more than 700 years. We also explore part of the nearby Mosel River Valley.

This 11-night exploration of Germany is priced according to a full load of five people. Families, couples or singles who know one another encouraged.

All-inclusive price per person: from 3,950 Euro
Does not include airfare.
Does not include trip insurance, which is mandatory for all European Focus Private Tours.

What makes this tour special: Micro-group, or private according to your wishes. As few as two people may book this Germany group tour, although the cost will be more. We travel by the back roads so that guests can see the real Germany, and not traffic and trucks. Authentic hotels, great food and drink all included. No “surprises,” no hidden fees, no tipping!

This tour will sell out fast due to pent-up demand and the exceptional price for such an exclusive adventure. If you’re interested, contact us today.

[email protected]

Take your time on this easy-going escorted tour of Germany

Explore Germany’s little-known areas, hamlets and country lanes on this exclusive, slow-paced tour for the Dog Days of Summer. Now available for last-minute booking for August only.

Castles, Country Inns and Historic Guesthouses of Germany
Micro-Group Tour
No more than five persons

Day 1: Arrival at Frankfurt Intl. Airport. We drive an hour to the riverside small town of Miltenberg am Main, where guests stay the night in Germany’s oldest inn. Lunch at a beer garden (of course, we’re in Bavaria!) and then free time until dinner at a brewery with excellent and typical German dishes. (Historic Guesthouse)

Day 2: A meandering drive down the Romantic Road to Rothenburg ob der Tauber for a two-night stay in Germany’s best-preserved ancient town. Yes, the tourists will be here, but Rothenburg is well worth the stop. Lunch along the way in the pretty town of Weikersheim and a visit to the town castle and gardens, laid out to imitate the French style of Versailles. (Castle, Historic Guesthouse)

Day 3: Free time to explore Rothenburg, shop and visit one or more of the excellent museums. Dinner tonight in a country inn with fabulous (and very large) schnitzels. Tour the town with the Nightwatchman tonight, a fascinating look at the unique history of this walled town, you’ll learn the secret behind its amazing preservation.

Day 4: A meandering drive down the Romantic Road with an overnight in Ulm. We stop and visit Nordlingen along the way. This town was built in the middle of an ancient crater caused by a meteor slamming into the earth millions of years ago.

Day 5: We drive east to the prettiest corner of Germany, Berchtesgaden, for a two-night stay at a luxurious country inn with both indoor and outdoor swimming pools, fitness room, spa and much more. The views are heavenly. (Country inn)

Day 6: Salzburg, Austria sightseeing and time for shopping.

Day 7: Beautiful alpine drive over to Schwangau, Germany via Innsbruck. We stay the night in the shadow of King Ludwig’s Neuschwanstein.
(Country Inn)

Day 8: To a town not many Americans know – Meersburg, located on the shores of the crystal-clear Bodensee. We stay in an inn built in 1605 and enjoy a self-guided tour of Germany’s oldest castle. (Historic Guesthouse, Castle)

Day 9: Across the Black Forest we drive and up to the hamlet of Gleiszellen for two nights at a small inn featuring fantastic food and local wines. We’re surrounded by vineyards here, and our innkeepers are winemakers as well as excellent cooks and hosts.

Day 10: Heidelberg daytrip and back to Gleiszellen for the night. Heidelberg is a lovely small city, full of picturesque lanes and squares and with an historic university going back to the middle of the 14th century. Oh and lest we forget, there’s also a hulking castle ruin! (No, we’re not going to drag you into every single castle we see)

Day 11: To the majestic Rhein River Valley for a two-night stay in Bacharach. Guests will enjoy watching village life from their private balconies at a grand old hotel we’ve been using for more than a dozen years. On the menu, sauerbraten! Yum! (Castle, Historic Guesthouse)

A recent guest - she's on her balcony at upper right - taking in the view of the marketplace of Bacharach

Day 12: Exploring the nearby Mosel River Valley including Beilstein where we have lunch with a view. A highlight of the day will be our guided tour of medieval Burg Eltz, the best-preserved castle in this region and one of the few from the 14th century to have never been sacked or destroyed.

Day 13: Home from Frankfurt Intl. Airport.

Minimum number of guests: 2
Max: 5

Trip openings for August. Price supplied on request.

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Kudos to the Schmales Haus in Ulm, Germany

Friday, September 25th, 2009

Bob Whittemore, Michael Heide, Betty Whittemore

Bob Whittemore, Michael Heide, Betty Whittemore

We stayed at the Schmales Haus (Small House) in the Fischerviertel (Fishermen’s Quarter) of Ulm, Germany the other night. It was the second time at this tiny B&B in Ulm’s most picturesque, enjoyable quarter. Host Michael Heide gave up his job selling insurance more than a decade ago to take care of his young children. “I wanted to watch my son grow up, and not in snapshots,” he told us at breakfast. He and his wife sold their new house and moved to this 300-year old one, restoring it and turning it into one of the nicest B&Bs in southern Germany. Not only are the rooms very comfortable with the sound of the fresh water stream outside, but he also makes one heck of a set of scrambled eggs. Anyway, current guests Bob and Betty Whittemore enjoyed their room with the view of the old brick bridge spanning the “Blue River” which courses through the old mill district. Michael is a Harley enthusiast and loves his annual trips to the USA where he rents a hog and cruises the Wild West among other places. He also owns a Harley which he keeps in Ulm. His physician wife also rides a small Sportster but dreams of a “Fay Boy.” A wonderful, warm way to start a new journey around Germany. The Schmales Haus has just three beautiful, comfortable rooms. Breakfast is gourmet and served in a tiny dining room next to rooms 1 and 2. For more information, contact the owner directly at [email protected]
View from Jim's room

View from one of the rooms

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Monday, June 15th, 2009

The view from the Connor Pass on a morning full of sunlight and clouds on the Dingle side. The heavenly sight nearly takes ones breath away – literally – it’s freezing up there! Below, the view a few minutes earlier from our lodge, the classy “Greenmount House,” which is without a doubt the finest address in Dingle.

Kenmare, County Kerry

Thursday, June 11th, 2009

Downtown Kenmare

Downtown Kenmare

We’ve been headquartered in the lovely town of Kenmare for three nights. “Little Nest” is what this place is called in Gaelic. The name fits. The town, designed by Lord Shelburne in the 1700s, fits snugly into the surrounding rugged landscape. Designed as an “X” the town features many small boutiques, a slew of pubs and excellent restaurants. For the life of me, I don’t understand why travel writer Rick Steves recommends the “Landsdowne Arms” as his #1 pick of a place to stay. It’s gross and in the middle of the busiest intersection in town. Where European Focus brings its guests shall remain a company secret, known only to those who have the good taste to select us as their guides! (OK, a little hint. It was built by Lord Shelburne and it is the oldest house in Kenmare. See photo below for an idea of how gorgeous this place is)
Exquisite Comfort in Kenmare

Exquisite Comfort in Kenmare

Hotel Raumland a Great Home Away from Home

Sunday, May 31st, 2009

Hotel Raumland features a great garden

Hotel Raumland features a great garden

We’ve stayed two wonderful nights at the peaceful Hotel Raumland just outside of Bad Berleburg, in the Siegen-Wittgenstein area of central Germany. The hospitality here has been fantastic. We’ve eaten all of our meals here and each has been more special than the last. Starting with fresh asparagus with a schnitzel on our day of arrival, followed that night by some of the best cream of tomato soup I’ve ever had and a delicous, fresh salad for dinner. Breakfast was served at our reserved table by the window with a great view out over the forest and hills in the distance. Lunch today featured a generous portion of pork with mushroom gravy for Marie along with “rosti,” a kind of hashbrown preparation. I had the Sunday Special, which was roasted pork and beef with veggies and two soft and very tasty Polish dumplings. Above all, the friendly staff and owners of the hotel have made our brief stay very memorable.

Sunday lunch

Sunday lunch

Things to do and see in this area include Bad Berleburg with its charming old town and castle, nearby slate mine which one can visit, a couple of very old churches (the one in Raumland dates from 1200) and nearby towns of Marburg, Dillenburg and Herborn are all worth visiting. The hiking and biking in this region are famous all over Germany, on the “Rotthaarsteig.”

A lovely lunch in Gleiszellen

Friday, May 29th, 2009
Asparagus with cooked ham and hollandaise

After the shock of Karlsude, I figured we deserved a good lunch experience. We drove about 40 minutes to the west of Karlsrude to the “Suedliche Weinstrasse,” and the hamlet of Gleiszellen. This is one of my favorite spots in all of Germany. The Gasthof zum Lam serves fantastic food in any season, but now it’s “spargelzeit,” and we were both primed and ready for some white asparagus.

Friendly Isabelle took care of us on this bright and sunny day. We were served about eight long and tender spears of asparagus with hollandaise sauce, new potatoes with butter and parsley and for Marie, a small schnitzel. I had the cooked ham. It was all accompanied by some of the local wine produced by the Sven-Erik Ball family, who own Zum Lam.

We enjoyed our leisurely lunch and for a few seconds, talked about what the bus tourists are eating right now. “Beef or chicken?” at an anonymous rest stop where they don’t get to meet the owner or have a fine Riesling produced from the vineyard just up the hill.

Guiding tours in European for over 20 years