August 13, 2014

A Family's Fairy Tale Vacation in Europe

If you follow me on Facebook, you probably saw pictures that I posted from a client traveling through Germany and Switzerland earlier this summer.  They had a great time, and gave me permission to share some of their Facebook posts and text messages. 
“We took the advice and did the castle drive along the Rhine…We must have seen 20+ castles. Very cool for the first thing we did.”

Castle on the Rhine

 “We got to Heidelberg around 5 pm. The staff is really great. Every room is a different themed suite.  It's a short walk across the bridge to old town where the food and shops are. It's a beautiful little town. There were fireworks our first night on the bridge celebrating the end of the 30 year war.  Yesterday we spent about 6 hours touring the castle. We learned a lot about medieval times and castles. The history is amazing. Everything is so old!”

Beautiful buildings in Nuremburg

Rothenberg ob Der Tauber is a beautiful small town out in lush green hills that is stuck in the medieval times. The village walls, towers, homes and shops were all intact.  It wasn't bombed during any wars so it survived as is. The history there is incredible. We took a walking tour of the town given by a funny town watchman. They had some great museums with fantastic medieval artifacts. It was amazing.”

Rothenburg ob Der Tauber

“It took a few hours to drive to Aying. It's a small village off the beaten trail. It's famous for its Ayinger brewery (I'm not a beer drinker and even I liked the beer).”

“We had a fantastic day at Salzburg. We walked around the entire city. Walked up to the castle and had lunch. [My daughter] wanted to see as many Sound of Music sites as she could. We got in four before we had to leave....The Abbey, the do-re-mi stairs, the Von Trapp house and the 16-going-on-17 gazebo.  It was fun searching through town for them. There were so many churches that it seemed like they chimed all day long. “
Sound of Music gazebo
"[My daughter's] in heaven...the view from her bed, yes that's right, not just the room, her BED!  Cinderella's castle!"

Neuschwanstein Castle
“The Glacier Express ride from St Moritz to Zermatt was beautiful.  It was raining when we arrived so we didn't get to see the Matterhorn til this am. What an amazing site. We have a room with a gorgeous view of the Matterhorn. We took a train up to Gornergrat, another peak across from the Matterhorn. It was about 30 degrees this am but it warmed up by the afternoon. It was a gorgeous day!” 

The Matterhorn
One of the highlights of their trip was the day spent with Ueli Summers, an 80 year old farmer from Grindelwald who spent his life working as a private mountain climber guide.  He escorted them from their hotel via rail to Jungfrau, aka “The Top of Europe.”  
At the "Top of Europe"

Walking through a glacier

I want to point out that Switzerland is a bit more logistically challenging than Germany, in that many towns can only be accessed by train, which is a problem if you are driving a rental car!  I did not want my clients to backtrack to pick up their car, so my Switzerland partner came up with the perfect solution:  she sent over a driver to pick up their car and move it to the parking garage at my clients’ final destination, where they picked it up a few days later.

Train to Jungfrau
On any vacation, but especially an extensive trip through Europe, one expects a few snafus, but happily everything went quite smoothly.  My clients did need to scramble for backup transportation to Paris when it appeared the French rail strike would disrupt the final leg of their journey.  But my wonderful partners in Switzerland worked with my clients to make sure they were covered.  Fortunately their train was not cancelled and they arrived in Paris as scheduled.
It’s important to consider not just the price, but the quality of the suppliers, and the value of having a reliable contact at your destination just in case something goes awry.  Go ahead and travel independently, but don’t be on your own!  

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