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Our Amazing European Christmas & New Years; 5 Weeks!

Our Amazing European Christmas & New Years; 5 Weeks!

Feb 2nd, 2013, 08:13 AM
Join Date: Aug 2004
Posts: 1,137
Looking forward to this as we're starting to think about a Christmas trip to Europe this year.
rosetravels is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2013, 06:07 PM
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This was just two nights to meet up with the kids and have a look around the Christmas markets and old town Munich in the winter. As it happens dh & I will be back in Munich in April! Yep planning another trip, this one’s been on the go for a couple of years.

So we wandered from the hotel into the main square, it was SO cold but just lovely. People were wandering, eating shopping etc lots of folk ice skating. We got a quick bite to eat; wiener schnitzels all round. We headed out to all have a drink together and found a great beer hall; unfortunately I was getting worse, so another early night for me.

Woke the next morning with my eyes all but swollen closed, very achy and feverish, GREAT but we spent the day exploring the markets, eating sausages and ice skating at the rink in the main square. Such a great setup with the balcony bar for watching, everyone enjoyed it so much, we even got to meet up with Becs brother inlaw who happened to be in Munich for a skiing trip. So we all had dinner together at an Italian place across the road from the hotel, great service, beautiful food and they treated us like regulars. The only trouble was I was getting really sick!!

Jumped in a cab the next day and headed out to the airport to meet up with the driver who would take us to collect our hire cars. As I said previously this was all included in the coupon I bought, we were really ‘encouraged’ when we arrived at the airport and there he was, waiting for us, short drive to the parking lot to collect the cars. The drive to Mayrhofen was only about two hours, but we did stop a couple of times. Once to have a bite to eat in an AutoGrill, had to show boy Sam how great they are ;-). When we pulled into our hotel, we were so happy, it was exactly what we’d hoped for and the greeting was just lovely. And I think the day just spent in the car 'resting' was helping me, although I was pretty yucky for most of our stay here, I had definitely improved.

So next will be our 5 days in the snow over Xmas.
aussiedreamer is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2013, 06:12 PM
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Hoping to hear that your health continued to improve.
cathies is offline  
Feb 3rd, 2013, 03:14 AM
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still here aussie - keep it coming!
annhig is online now  
Feb 3rd, 2013, 05:39 AM
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How fun, despite flu. Best wishes to the young people!

nzsl, I'm sure you've posted your questions elsewhere, but we very much enjoyed our own three week, Paris/London vacation with daughters over the recent holidays, lucked out with the weather. I like vacations where you can get to know a few places well.
stokebailey is offline  
Feb 3rd, 2013, 11:10 PM
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www.gutshof.cc is the hotel we stayed in and I still can't believe the inclusions we got, so I'll copy & paste them to let you know. We bought 3 coupons but before I did, I emailed the hotel for confirmation of 3 rooms. They were so lovely, they held 3 rooms while I purchased the coupons. They could not have been more helpful, the whole way through the process.

• Rooms available are Romantic Room, Double Classic Room, Family Room, Studio Gruenberg, Studio Penken
• Arrive to a bottle of French wine, fruit platter and CD of traditional Tirol tunes in your room
• Enjoy daily breakfasts and afternoon snacks for two each day
• A four course dinner for two every night
• €150 Minibar voucher
• VIP transfer from Munich airport to the hotel "Park and Fly" where a hire car awaits you for your drive to the hotel (190km)
• Enjoy use of your hire car for the duration of your stay
• Get a €300 Voucher for treatments at the on-site Beauty Centre
• Admission to Swarovski Crystal Worlds for two people
• Two mountain bikes available for use during your entire stay
• Enjoy full access to resort facilities including swimming pool with mountain views, Bio Sauna, Finnish Sauna, Aroma Showers and Turkish Bath

So we got all of that for $900AUD (approx €670) per coupon, we still can’t believe it, as everything was exceptional. The food was just amazing and we had 3 big eaters with us and they couldn’t get through all that was on offer and the spa treatments were really amazing.

We spent the first night in the village which was a 5-10 minute lovely walk away from the hotel, or you just had to jump on the free ski buses, just having a look around and the skiers amongst us hired the necessary equipment for an early start the next day. When we got back to the hotel there was a small hill (okay it was a mound of dirt) in an open area and we all took turns using boy Sam’s snow board as a toboggan. I’m sure to anyone watching we must have looked a bit nuts, but for us Aussies who rarely see snow this was so much fun.

All but dd Sam & I skied but we had a ball, we’d go up in the chair lifts to the top of the mountains and spend the morning, have lunch with the skiers and then relax or shop in the afternoon. Xmas day was a strange one, we all met for breakfast in the hotel, then the skiers headed off. Sam & I slept in, rang friends back home had a wander around the village and then met the others up the mountain for a lovely lunch. Bec bought Sam & I a toboggan, so we slipped and slid down a few slopes, such fun.

The weather was crisp and clear and on Boxing Day we were greeted by the heaviest snow fall we’ve ever seen. So pretty, you couldn’t stand still for too long or you would disappear in a sea of white. Just beautiful and it made it even more perfect. The scenery up on the mountains was just picture perfect and amazing.

We had to leave quite early on our last morning to get back to Munich for our flights. But we didn’t factor in the time it would take us to chip all the ice of our cars, there was ice everywhere. Go figure, we even enjoyed that!!

So we drove back to the car park and were taken to the airport, the ‘kids’ to return to London and dh & I were off to Spain for the next adventure. 17 days in a motor home with no plans, just the way we like it, we’d never used a Motorhome before, so we knew we were in for a few surprises...........all of which were wonderful.
aussiedreamer is offline  
Feb 3rd, 2013, 11:19 PM
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Oops forgot to mention, that I was feeling myself again by xmas day, thank goodness. But as it happened everyone else took turns with getting the flu, while we were away. Must just be the radical change in weather.

Sorry nzsl, I forgot to comment on your plans. I like the longer option C BUT the reason we chose to do our driving part of this holiday in Spain was based on the road conditions in Europe at that time of year. We've come 'unstuck' before, noticeably in a blizzard in Austria a couple of years ago and we swore 'never again'. We've driven a lot in Europe and loved it, but would never plan a driving holiday at xmas time. The drive from Munich to Mayrhofen was on well maintained freeways. Dh was a little nervous on the return due to the ice, but it was okay. Certainly wouldn't want to be on any smaller road ways.

Hope that helps?
aussiedreamer is offline  
Feb 4th, 2013, 09:41 AM
Join Date: Feb 2006
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We bought 3 coupons but before I did, I emailed the hotel for confirmation of 3 rooms. They were so lovely, they held 3 rooms while I purchased the coupons>>

sorry aussie, have you already let us into the secret of these magic coupons?

sounds like a great hotel, and a real bargain.
annhig is online now  
Feb 5th, 2013, 06:07 PM
Join Date: Sep 2007
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Only a person who has never done it before would find scraping a car free of ice to be fun! I've had far too many winters of it! Glad you had a good time though and I'm enjoying your report immensely.
ParisAmsterdam is offline  
Feb 8th, 2013, 06:15 PM
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I'm enjoying your report also.
Pegontheroad is offline  
Feb 9th, 2013, 01:10 AM
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I will get back to this ASAP........been busy organising the next adventure (the Russian Visa Application, sure is a complicated process) & also planning "2" engagement parties
aussiedreamer is offline  
Feb 12th, 2013, 09:12 PM
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17 Days in a Motor Home driving around Spain & Portugal

Our flight to Madrid was via Paris, it worked out the cheapest way, direct flights were over double. But having said that, it wasn’t a problem, we only had about 30minutes wait, perfect really just time for bathroom visit and a coffee. On arriving into Madrid we opted for a cab, I’d done some research on other means, car services, cabs trains etc. But for €47 a cab worked best for us, from memory it took about 30 minutes and we both enjoyed the ride in, especially once we were in the city.

Our hotel for this one night was Room Mate Mario mario.room-matehotels.com/index.php/en please don’t let the name or the ‘funky’ website put you off this hotel. Just fantastic, location was amazing and customer service second to none. I only booked a standard room for this one night and admittedly it typically was on the smaller side, certainly not the smallest I’ve seen in Europe but for our one night it was perfect, great bed, fantastic shower and a window you could open. On our return I booked a suite, more on that later.

So we dumped our stuff, grabbed a map and off we went, this is when we ‘discovered’ what a great location it really was. Literally 2 doors from Plaza Isabel II and the metro stop Opera, so we walked and walked, falling in love with Madrid with every step. Beautiful buildings, restaurants we couldn’t wait to try and finally after exhausting ourselves stopped off at Mercado de San Miguel for dinner. So much fun, after a good look around we settled in at one of the tapas bars and had the first of many tapas, paella & Rioja (yum, my new favourite redwine).

After a great sleep, we packed up and grabbed another cab this time back towards the airport to the depot for collecting our motor home. It was so cold but quite sunny, I can’t recommend this hire company enough. So helpful, nothing was too much trouble, the guy who dealt with us was the only English speaking staff member. He was about to go on holidays and gave us his phone number in case we needed anything, we didn’t, but comforting to have. mcrent.eu/motorhome/motorhome-rental-spain/Motorhome-rental-in-Madrid.html

So off we went, basically heading north, we thought we would make San Sebastian our first stop. We arrived quite late, it was about 7pm but we’d called into a supermarket and stocked up. So had a lovely potatis Tortilla and salad for dinner in our ‘new home’. The ride to this first campsite was ‘interesting’ to say the least. We somehow managed to miss a turn on leaving town and ended up going up the mountain on what can only be described as a goat track and it was dark. My heart was in my throat but dh loved every second of it. We were both pleasantly surprised when we actually found the place. www.campingigueldo.com Utilised the great facilities and caught up on laundry and generally settled into the van and the free wifi was a lovely surprise, we stayed here two nights. We used the Alan Rogers camping guide for most of the trip, which gave a detail review and we knew ahead of times if the site would be open at this time of year. We only had one night on the whole trip where we slept ‘on the street’ but that was because we chose to but more on that later.

The next day we caught the bus that stops outside the camp ground and headed into San Sebastian for the day. Fell in love with the place, just lovely, we wandered around the beautiful streets watching all the ‘beautiful people’. Found the old town and spent the afternoon wandering from bar to bar tasting tapas, some of the best we had were here. Ended the day by calling into a great supermarket and picked up some amazing ready made fish stew and a bottle of Rioja ;-) and caught the bus back. Just a really great day and we both loved going back to our little house.

Next we head to amazing Santiago de Compostela………..
aussiedreamer is offline  
Feb 13th, 2013, 02:13 PM
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nice to have you back here, aussie.
annhig is online now  
Feb 14th, 2013, 02:50 AM
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Enjoying the trip report looking forward to the next instalment.
aussie_10 is offline  
Feb 17th, 2013, 10:07 PM
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I'm back, I do love completing these t/r's but boy they can be time consumming but I've never 'not' finished one, so I will press on.......

I have now run out of journal entries and am relying on notes I scribbled on our map and I see that the next day was our long driving day. We left San Sebastian and headed towards Satiago de Compostela, not sure if we’d make it in one day or not but we did. We called into Santander not really knowing what to expect but my notation is ‘ugly port city’, maybe we didn’t give it enough time. Next we stopped into the coastal town of Gijon, we found a great park by the water, so we parked and had a great walk around this pretty town. We had lunch at Bella Vista on the terrace looking out to the Bay of Biscay, pretty perfect actually. My notes here say, ‘amazing prawn salad’ and I do remember it was yum. We then drove onto SDC and found an ‘okay’ camp ground, they weren’t terribly interested in us as it was NYE, in fact on leaving we had to pay by pushing some money under the door of the office and we couldn’t find anyone, we stayed for two nights.

We woke the next morning to rain, a lot of rain, so we utilised our water proof gear from Austria grabbed our umbrellas and found the local bus. Unfortunately as it was so wet and the bus was so fogged up we ‘missed’ the stop for centro and ended up staying on for the whole route but that was okay. A lovely backpacker then told us to just stay on and he told us when to get off, so we found our way into the old town. By now we along with half the city had ‘ditched’ our umbrellas in a bin, the wind and rain were incredible. I really wish I’d taken a photo of one of the bins, they were all full to over flowing with broken umbrellas. The only bright side to this terrible weather we got to see the beautiful cathedral without the usual crowds. We, were really happy to find ourselves inside the church for the midday mass. Now we aren’t religious at all but it felt really special and the lone nuns singing was spine chilling, just beautiful.

On leaving the cathedral the small tourist train was just about to depart, and it looked dry in there, so off we went. So glad we did this, as the weather wasn’t getting any better and at least we got to get an over view of the city. When that was over we were ready for somewhere warm and cosy for a late lunch. I think this was the find of the trip but I’m sure the fact that it was warm, dry and very welcoming added to that feeling, www.restauranteportafaxeira.com. It was full of people, locals mostly at a guess and the food was amazing.

So we headed back to our camp ground on the bus, we’d seen a large shopping centre close by. So we got off there and spent a couple of hours. The walk back to the park was wild, the wind was blowing the rain in sideways, so glad we had on our waterproof pants and jackets. That was really the only rain we saw on the trip, so no complaints.

We spent the next two days in Porto, we loved this place, we wandered all over the town and found our way to the water front. Again due to the time of year it was lovely and quiet and thank goodness the sun was now out. We had our only really bad meal of the trip at one of the too touristy places on the waterfront. But the view was amazing and of course dh decided we would just have to take a walk on the amazing bridge, Ponte Luís I over to the monastery. It really was a great walk and the views were fantastic.

Next we headed to Lisbon, stopping in at Nazare for a lovely walk around, so happy to see some older ladies dressed in the traditional dress. Below is a quote from the guide book which explains this dress;

In the old days, women would sit on the beach waiting for their fishermen to sail home. To keep warm in the face of a cold sea wind while staying modestly covered, they'd wear several petticoats in order to fold layers around their backs and legs. Even today, older and more traditional women wear short skirts made bulky by several petticoats. The ensemble is completed with house slippers, an apron (embroidered by the wearer), a small woollen cape, head scarf, and flamboyant jewellery including chunky gold earrings (often passed down from generation to generation).

We found a great camp ground a few km’s outside Lisbon with a bus stop just outside, this place must be really busy in the warmer months. There were restaurant’s small shops etc, very handy for forgotten supplies. We immediately got on the bus and headed into the city, enjoying every second of the 20 minutes or so it took us to get there. It was dark by the time we got into the city, we just wandered around the old town enjoying the sights and sounds and we knew right away we enjoy spending the next day exploring this city. We stopped in at the beer museum which has a lovely restaurant and had a lovely meal, before catching the bus back noticing that there was a small looking café/bakery that was packed with people each time we passed, even lining up to get in. We both wandered what it could be, it was too far from the city centre to be overly touristy, so we both decided then and there that the next day we would get off the bus and check it out……….

oh we are so happy we did.
aussiedreamer is offline  
Feb 24th, 2013, 11:38 AM
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oh, i love a cliff-hanger....
annhig is online now  
Feb 24th, 2013, 06:09 PM
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ha ha annhig, wasn't deliberate but thanks for sticking with me.

We spent a great day in Lisbon exploring this lovely city, using the funiculars & elevators to get up to the hilly sights in the city. Beautiful views of the city and it was a perfectly sunny crisp day for wandering the narrow, winding steep streets. We particularly enjoyed the area around the faculty of medicine in Campo de Santana and looking at the many monuments & plaques at the statue dedicated to the Dr who worked with the poor in the 1800’s. Apparently some locals think he can still perform miracles, it was very moving. There was also a nice park which we both enjoyed wandering around. Dh really enjoyed watching a group of local playing cards, they were not so impressed with me trying to take a photo of them!!

We used a local bus to get back down to area of bustling Praça dos Restauradores where we had an amazing lunch at Restaurant Pinoquio, YUM. Dh had the baked fish, I again could not resist the paella and again I was not disappointed, it was amazing. It was lovely sitting outside watch the world go by, but just as much fun looking at the display in the restaurant window………..the best way I can describe it is there were three net bags hanging on hooks full of clams, but in amongst the clams and coming out of the bag was a huge groper BUT better still out of the gropers mouth was a huge squid. It was disturbing, amazing and wonderful all at the same time. I have a great photo of it that I love.

After more wandering we headed back to Praça da Figueira where our bus would leave from. Dh decided to wander off looking for some Port wine and I decided enough was enough, found a lovely coffee shop and sat in the square as the sun was going down, enjoying my espresso and people watching. We finally got back on the bus and headed ‘home’. But when we got to ‘that spot’ again we just had to get off the bus.

Turns out the attraction was 'Pasteis de Belém' the bakery that has been making the beautiful Portuguese Tarts with the same recipe, since 1837. We were so lucky to get there at just the right time of day, late afternoon, as the line wasn’t too bad. I bought of box of 6, which barely made the trip home on the bus; they were fresh from the oven, flaky and gooey and just divine, what a great place.

It was a great drive the next day down to the Algarve region to a small village called, Carvoeiro which is near Lagoa. This is where our friends from London have their Villa; we’d arranged to meet them in Lagoa and then followed them down to the villa as apparently street names are few and far between. What a little slice of heaven, http://www.homeaway.co.uk/Portugal/A...iro/p16382.htm please if you are looking for accommodation in this area, contact the above site and please feel free to tell Paul that ‘Deidre’ recommended it. We had a wonderful two days here, our host had arranged for some local friends to come to the villa and we had a beautiful dinner, followed by drinks by the pool and lots of frivolity. It was really lovely to catch up and just relax for a while in luxurious surrounds. Unfortunately they had to get back to London the next day, we took up their offer to stay another night and catch up on laundry etc. just a great couple of days.

Next we are off to Morocco………….
aussiedreamer is offline  
Feb 25th, 2013, 03:23 AM
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Hi Aussiedreamer,
What a terrific yarn! I'm really enjoying your trip ... And would kill for one of those luscious tarts to go with my tea just now

Coincidentally, I was in Germany for Christmas & New Year too. Fell in love with it and would go back in a heartbeat.

Thanks again for a most interesting & entertaining read. Looking forward to seeing where else you meander.
Bokhara2 is offline  
Feb 26th, 2013, 12:40 PM
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I've been quietly following along with your trip report and thrilled to read about your Portugal experience. I'll be there in May and just now starting to get into my "serious research" mode! I can't wait to try those pastries!
LowCountryIslander is offline  
Mar 2nd, 2013, 04:48 PM
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I'm back, I always promise myself that I wont drag this tr out, but I've done it again. Sorry, but we've had one engagement party, one to go and we are off to Europe again in 6 weeks, so lots of planning still to do.

Thanks for following along, LowCountryIslander you will love the tarts, make sure you map out which bus to catch from the city. We think it was 714 from Praça da Figueira.

We set off the next day with no real route in mind other than we had decided we would attempt to visit Morocco. Dh had decided he wanted to see Cadiz, so we called in, it didn’t go too well. Started okay, found a park near the beach but we were a bit far from the cafes etc, so we drove along the esplanade trying to decide which cafe we would stop at. The road suddenly got quite narrow and in a couple of places there were huge industrial rubbish bins, yep, we did it, we side swiped one. Oh dear it did make a huge racket, so now we had ‘everyone’s’ attention and dh was crabby at himself, so with me with my arm out the window holding the now hanging side mirror and the tension in the van rising, we headed out. Stopping out the road a bit (my arm was aching by now) to have a look at the damage. Phew, apparently those mirrors are designed to come off, it merely snapped back into place. But neither of us wanted to head back in, so on we drove. It really was the only thing that happened with the van, apart from a few tree scratches from low orange tree branches in Seville and the hire company were fine, no loss of deposit.

So we drove onto Tarrifa, which appeared to be the place to checkout boats to Tanger. Found a great camp site on the water just out of town, we got our first glimpse of Morocco here, it’s only 15kms across the water, we felt we could just about walk there on low tide. Drove into Tarrifa town and had a wander around, quite a nice little place, has an interesting old town but it’s mostly dominated by the huge ferry terminal. As it was low season not all the booking offices were open so we just wandered into the first one we came upon, I’d guess that they are all much the same. We couldn’t decide whether to just get a ferry ticket over and wander around on our own or join a tour. We went with a tour, which worked really well, I really don’t think we would have seen anything or learnt anything in such a short time on our own. We nearly paid a bit extra to have a private tour but the guy insisted it was really quiet and it would be a big group, so funny, it was just us.

So we bought our tickets for the next day, had tapas in the main square, went to a local grocery store and headed back to set up for the next two nights. Dh went for a huge walk along the beach, it was a lovely afternoon. We caught a cab into Tarrifa the next morning to catch the ferry, it was a good trip across, most of it was in the line to have our passports stamped on board. We were met on the other side by our guide, an elderly gentleman with perfect English. Although there were a couple of obligatory stops at certain shops it was really good. He wandered around the winding streets telling stories, I’m sure we would’ve got lost and missed so much. We wandered through the “Kasbah” quite surreal to be there. The tour included lunch in a ‘traditional’ (read touristy ;-) ) restaurant but again it was fine and considering we only paid about 50 euro (which is cheaper than the ferry ticket on its own) for the tour it was great. More wandering and looking in shops, very nearly talked ourselves into a beautiful carpet, but common sense did prevail, so I settled on a lovely Tangine. A good day and we are glad we did it as we were so close but I’m sure it wasn’t a ‘real’ look at Morocco on our next trip our travelling companions are spending 4 nights in Morocco before we meet up, I will be interested to hear what they have to say.

Next, We Love Gibraltar...............
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