Saturday, September 21, 2013

Castles of Luxembourg: Bourscheid

Naturally, as our day went on, our castle visits became briefer and briefer!  As I recall, we encountered GPS issues at this point, and a few of our crew were flagging and in need of a snack or coffee.  I was sympathetic but not empathetic, as I tend to forget about food and drink when I'm on a mission!

Yet, we were all determined to complete our loop.

All this to say, I feel like I'm stretching the premise a bit on these last few posts.  These final castles warrant a second, close-up visit sometime soon.

On our rambling, backroads hunt for Bourscheid Castle, we stumbled across what appeared to be a campsite with a sign that included the words "café" and "panorama."

We quickly swerved into the driveway.

Found it!  Great setting, eh?  And that's as close as we got, folks.

the promised cafe
and a bonus playground break, in which the 5 and 7 year old immediately wedged themselves into the baby swings until Dad came to the rescue
From this point we could have hiked down to the castle, and we also discovered a car park (wow, I sound so European!) right next to it on our drive down the hill, and I believe there's also a bus stop nearby?  At any rate, we'll be back.

Closer view of Bourscheid Castle here.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Castles of Luxembourg: Beaufort

Beaufort Castle is another ruin dating back to the 11th century.  It is open to the public to tour for a fee (including a torture chamber), but we chose to just admire and move on this time. 

B) Bourglinster C) Larochette D) Beaufort
One cool thing about this castle is you're just driving along on a main road, when you come round a bend and it's suddenly just there.
There was a path leading out away from the castle that looked as if it would make a pleasant hike. 
found a frog
We got as far as this big rock.  So not very far.
Dads climbing big rocks - always a hit with the kids.
More info on Beaufort Castle here.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Castles of Luxembourg: Larochette

The second castle on our tour sits on a promontory above lovely Larochette village, about 25 km north of Luxville.
and there it is
Here's a quick reminder of where we are:
B) Bourglinster  C) Larochette
I guess the 11th century was a good one for castle-building, because it's the estimated original construction period for Larochette castle, too.  But this one really is "just" a ruin, except for the restoration of one of the family houses (partially visible in in the pictures above).  The castle achieved ruin status beginning in the 16th century when struck by a fire.  
nice grounds
As this was still early in our castle journey, we were game for the inexpensive self-guided tour (or self-guided wander is really more like it).

One of the fun things about ruins is climbing around on them.  This picture needs more climbing kids.
So you're wandering blissfully, peacefully through the castle grounds, appreciating the construction intricacies, admiring the views, reflecting upon history, medieval times, feudalism, when you casually glance to your left and...

Wait for it....


ACK!  And it's life-sized. 
Soon to be followed by...
the hubby, one would presume
The restored manor was filled with "interesting" modern art as well.  It's a shame, really, because the interior was pretty nifty otherwise.  I mean, I like art as much as the next gal, but why couldn't they just let the castle be interesting just by being a castle?  Wikipedia currently states the manor is filled with period artwork.  Yeah, not anymore.  Perhaps it's a temporary exhibition.  One can hope.

The well.  We like looking down these. 
sometimes a ruin needs a little help to keep it from becoming more ruined
We spotted a path leading up to the castle, presumably from the village, and another little tower flying the Luxembourgish flag across the valley (you can barely see it in the photo above) with some people out on it.  Those might be fun hikes to go back and try in the future.

Maybe we'll call ahead about the art next time.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Castles of Luxembourg: Bourglinster

My parents are currently in the UK visiting my mom's family, and then they're on their way to Paris for a few days.  From there they'll take the train back to Lux, and we'll have a long weekend with them before they head back to the States.  Quite a trip, eh?

On our last day with our rental car, after our trip to the Alsace, we planned a little driving tour of some Luxembourg castles and the surrounding countryside.  Vianden is Luxembourg's most well-known castle, but there are quite a few more--supposedly around 100 in all!  We chose a handful that looked interesting and would make a small route, easily covered in a day.  Below is the route we took.  Actually, just pretend it's the route we took.  Between wrong turns, closed roads, detours, and outdated GPS maps, the real route was a bit more spaghetti-ish.
A/G) Luxville -> B) Bourglinster -> C) Larochette -> D) Beaufort -> E) Bourscheid -> F) Esch-sur-Sûre

Our first castle was in Bourglinster, just a few kilometers north of the city.  It's part really-old-castle (circa 1100), part quite-not-as-old-castle built on top of those ruins, and part just plain ruins.  There were a couple of restaurants inside, but not available to tour.  Still, we had a grand old time exploring the grounds. 

my folks at the entrance
look closely and you'll spot my dad's pink shirt on a restaurant terrace
Behind and to the left of James is a large stone that looks like a face.  This is  also a good view of the new castle built on top of the old one.
going underground
Aw, aren't I precious?
winding our way around
almost back
eating our picnic lunch in the courtyard
We all loved this little castle.  We were practically the only ones around so it was quite peaceful, as well as small and manageable.  You can read more about it here and here.

Stay tuned for more Luxembourg castles!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Route des Vins, France

The semi-famous Alsatian wine route winds through several semi-famous rustic villages and vineyards in an area semi-famous for its white wines.  The first I'd heard of it was thumbing through the Rick Steves' France guidebook my in-laws left behind for us.  But between the six of us on this trip, only my mom and my husband even like wine.  My dad and and I don't drink alcohol at all, and neither do my kids, of course.  So we weren't up for a wine tasting tour this time, but we thought we'd at least drive through and check it out on our way back to Strasbourg from Colmar.

Here are the towns we drove through (or by):
B) Kaysersberg C) Bennwihr D) Riquewihr E) Zellenberg F) Hunawihr G) Ribeauville
Having spent most of the day in Colmar already, we were pretty toured-out and didn't stop in many of the towns.  In those we did, we just jumped out of the car for a couple of quick photo ops.

But I think we're starting to get a handle on the the whole Rick Steves thing.  If he barely mentions a place, or doesn't mention it at all, it's usually right up our alley.

His book had one sentence on Zellenberg.  We caught sight of this tiny hillside village out our windows and decided to find our way to the top and get out for a walk.  No one around, and spectacular views.

We said they could touch the grapes but not pick them
We found out later that Pete ate one!  Naughty!
Our two wine drinkers
These folks must have  quite a view
Mr. Steves also had a short paragraph on Hunawihr and its fortified church.
It wasn't until we got home that we realized this was on the front cover of our Lonely Planet guide:

This means we win, right?  Touring France = conquered.
Most of the other towns sounded or looked lovely, but very busy with tourists.  But I'm sure they're worth visiting, and we wouldn't mind leading a more in-depth wine tour... 

Come, all ye wine-tasting friends!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Colmar, France

We spent one day of our Alsatian mini-holiday driving an hour south down to Colmar and then back up to Strasbourg via the Route des Vins.  Here are few shots of Colmar, near the south end of the wine route.
Not quite what you were expecting?  Bartholdi, the sculptor who designed Lady Liberty, was born in Colmar.  This mini-version greets you as you drive into town.
On to "old town"...
hat shop
  Maison Pfister from 1537.  Many of the buildings in town had these dragon scale type shingles (on the towers here) in green or red.  Better photo of this building here

more tarte flambée across from Maison Pfister.
And across from that, really super extra good ice cream
the main churches were both surrounded by busy parking lots 
The most famous and picturesque area of Colmar is called Petite Venise.  So here are some picturesque pictures:

I love how "I am an American Tourist"  Pete looks.  Baseball cap, backpack, polo shirt, Rick Steves guidebook.  Rock it!
Colmar verdict: mixed.  Beautiful, but overrun with people and cars.  Specifically, many of the most picturesque spots were the worst for motor traffic infestation.  We took refuge in the pedestrian-only areas the best we could, but we spent most our morning trying to avoid being run over.  We might opt for the small boat or train ride if we came again.  And we should have left the scooters in the car, as there weren't many breaks from the cobblestones.

Still thinking about that ice cream, though...