Sunday, October 20, 2013

To the Mosel Valley for the weekend

This past weekend Colleen and I took a trip to the Mosel Valley. I had heard about the region from colleagues and decided to check it out myself.

To get there we rented a car on Friday evening from Sixt. I've had challenges with Sixt in the past, with them switching cars and saying that the new car is the "equivalent". (A Skoda does not equal a BMW. Not even close.) So I called ahead to ensure that the 3-Series BMW that I'd booked was what I'd be getting. They confirmed that that was what it would be, so I was happy. When I arrived at Sixt and they asked for my address they looked concerned. I asked what the problem was and they said that the car they had could only be rented to non-residents of the Netherlands. Since I spoke English they had assumed that I was a tourist, so now they were going to give me a Kia instead. This was very not-cool, since I was wanting a nice German car to drive the autobahn. Fortunately, they were able to find a work around through me giving them a Canadian address. We got the 3-series GT version, which was very nice, and we took off.

The wheels for the weekend. A nice ride.

We left on the Friday after work. Being October it was dark before we got out of Amsterdam. It was a 4 1/2 hour drive to get to the town of Cochem, but the BMW nav system is good and we had no issues other than a little rain which forced us to slow down a bit. Colleen had booked the hotel that day, and the gentleman who ran the hotel had asked us when we would arrive so he could ensure he was still up to welcome us.

We were staying at the Hotel Zur Schoenen Aussicht, which is a nice place just outside of Cochem. The rooms weren't particularly modern, nor were they very cosy, but I'd still recommend the place. Our hosts were welcoming and happy to assist us, doing their best to speak a bit of English. The room was big, with a terrific view of the Mosel River. It had a balcony, and if we'd gone in the summer it would have been a wonderful place to just hang out and enjoy the view. Plus, it was a terrific value. We grabbed a beer from the bar to take up to our room and retired for the evening.
Our hotel. The balcony would be great in summer.
Church beside hotel.
The castle in Cochem.

The next morning we woke up and had breakfast in the hotel. A basic European breakfast of bread, meats and cheese, with a boiled egg to warm things up. Nothing fancy, but pleasantly served.
After that we spent the day driving through the valley, visiting various little towns. I used the word "cute" to describe far too many of them, but it's an amazing area. Romantic little hideaways, many of which are relatively untouched over the last few hundred years. And vineyards everywhere. Anywhere you could plant a vine someone already had.
Beautiful villages along the river.

Wandering the back alleys.
We got as far south as Trier, which is a nice city with a pleasant historical district. We visited the market, which was somewhat disappointing. Frankly, it's just not as interesting as the many small towns that we passed on the way there. However, we did have lunch at the Wirtshaus Zur Glocke, which was very nice. I had a roasted pork, but more importantly I ordered a side order of brussel sprouts, made with lots of bacon. The 12 year old Stefan would have been horrified at this move, but they were absolutely amazing.

A side order of brussel sprouts.
A good lunch in Trier.
After lunch we drove back up to Cochem. We stayed on the roads beside the river, which is certainly the long route, taking about three times as long, but is a great drive. That evening we had dinner in Trier at the Ratskeller, which is in the cellar under the old town hall. (Visit the link for a proper history.) The ambiance of the place is terrific, although my bratwurst were not fabulous. They'd been cooked a little long and were a little more chewy than they should have been. We also had the cheese plate, which was delicious. And, of course, more than a couple of servings of the local riesling. Go for the dry - it's still incredibly sweet.

OK Bratwurst. Just OK.
The next day we got up and enjoyed another nice, simple breakfast at the hotel and headed home. I love driving at a good speed on nice German roads. But as soon as we hit the Netherlands the rain started and the speed limit dropped to 120. It's not terrible, but it feels so slow after leaving the land of the autobahn.

It was a great little weekend adventure. I haven't heard many people in Amsterdam talk about going to the Mosel Valley, but it was a terrific break and not too hard to get to.

No barber. But a good hair cut all the same.

To follow up on my long ago post about the challenges of finding a barber in Amsterdam - I did eventually find one. Just up the street from the barber shop mentioned in my prior post is the Knipperette. This is a one woman place run by Sanna. She's a charming Dutch woman with her shop just a block away from her home. She's always got a great sense of humour, she serves a very good cup of cappucino, and she does a good job with my hair. As I get thinner up top the sides tend to poke out, and Sanna knows how to cut so to postpone that unfortunate scenario for as long as possible.

She's hard to get ahold of and she works by appointment only. But if you're in Amsterdam and need a good cut give her a call.