Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Euro Road Trip: The Beginning

We just returned from our 2017 European Road Trip and I want to document it before these effervescent memories slip through my mind like bubble water in cupped hands. The fun of travel - the deep joy of it, for me - is not simply in arriving at a destination. I love in equal measure the anticipation (research, planning, packing, sleepless nights of goofy grinning that we get to do this!), the journey with all its twisty roads and wild surprises and intensely beautiful experiences, and just as much, the savoring of it all after we return home, treasuring up these times together. This blog is part of the savoring, of stitching the adventure securely into the fabric of our family so that we never forget all we've seen and how far we've come, together.

Since I'd been to this region before, I knew where I wanted to go, and I needed a car to do it - I'm an off-the-beaten-track adventurer, avoiding crowds, tours and urban sprawl whenever I can. I chase after hygge (a word I learned on our trip to Scandinavia, roughly translated "cozy"/"quaint"). So I cobbled together this itinerary - 2 weeks, 5 countries, and the people I love most.
Let's have a closer look:
I didn't know if we could pull the funds together after I had quit my job - the source of my travel funds - as I returned to being a full-time mom. But we found some amazing deals on plane tickets, and the trip ended up costing half of what we had expected to pay... and so, with a divine wink of abundance, off we flew to Frankfurt!

I'm going to do a post for each leg of the trip. And if you prefer live action to photos, the uber cool music videos the kids put together are on YouTube at the links below:

GERMANY by Lorelei & Gryffin
FRANCE by Lorelei

I'm so grateful for these music videos, all put to the tunes from our vacation play list!

Now that we've covered those details, let's begin from the beginning! We flew from KC to Atlanta to Frankfurt, with one iPad and two phones with French SIM cards for making travel arrangements/checking in with lodging, but the kids were unplugged. No technology. From the start, they were busy doodling and reading and creating worlds from their imaginations. It was grand!
We're on our way!
After arriving in Frankfurt, we picked up our car and made a quick 1 hour drive to our first night's lodging in Bacharach on the Rhine.

See that castle in the background?

That was our home base.
Burg Stahleck was converted into a hostel, and for under $100 total we got to stay the night in this "Hogwarts" castle and enjoy a hearty dinner and breakfast, all included. What a deal! The drive through the hills and cliffside parking was a bit treacherous, but oh-so-worth it.
Before checking in to our castle, we took a Rhine cruise between Bacharach and St. Goar - the whole area is dotted with castles, and...
the Loreley! Lorelei was named after this spot, where legend holds an alluring siren (mermaid) sings and mesmerizes passing sailors, wrecking their ships. I first visited the Loreley when I was 16, and fell in love with the name. Mark and I came back to this spot in college, and I knew that one day I would have a daughter named Lorelei.
 Those flags mark the hill upon which the Loreley sings her killer song, and as we passed by, the cruise ship blasted the folk song on the speakers. This girl felt pretty special.
 And just about everything in St. Goar bore her name!

After exploring St. Goar, we cruised back to our home base in Bacharach and searched everywhere for a place that offered a late lunch. Europe closes down mid-day, to their credit: they value rest and life balance. However, it took awhile to discover a place to eat, and we were hungry! 
 Finally, we settled in for lunch!
 After a small stroll taking in Bacharach's beauty...

 ... we drove up to Burg Stahleck, and settled in.

This was our view from the castle!

 After dinner, Gryffy and I went on long sunset stroll down through the village.

 Aren't the windows magical?

 We stumbled upon a darling creek with mossy stone bridges hugging it all around.

 And in the distance, vineyards everywhere growing Bacharach's world-famous Riesling.

 Then back up we hiked to that castle on the hill...
... and our room, tucked behind the castle tower and through this door (where, by the way, about a hundred German schoolchildren were vacationing on field trip, with whom we shared meals and courtyard games). Our huge room was lined with bunk beds - all ours! - allowing us ample space to rest up before tomorrow's border crossing into my favorite region of Alsace, France.
To be continued...

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