By Elena del Valle, photos by Gary Cox
Frankfurt was our gateway to Germany's Black Forest
Earlier this year, my husband and I had an opportunity to visit the famed Black Forest and nearby areas of southwestern Germany. We were pleased to discover several small family owned and managed hotels, part of the Romantik chain of 200 independently owned and managed hotels and restaurants in 11 European countries, offering comfortable and modern accommodations including some with spa facilities. We were especially delighted with the friendly and welcoming hosts and their staff, striking scenery and outstanding foodie havens we visited during our two-week drive through the countryside.
Although neither of us speaks German we had visited that European country in the past and were confident we would have a pleasant trip. In past trips to Germany most of the business people we encountered spoke some English so we were surprised to discover that once we veered off the urban core of Frankfurt, English was scarce. So we made do with our few phrases of German and many smiles. Almost without exception locals made us feel welcome with their warm and friendly attitude. Whether it was fellow guests, staff or strangers in public areas someone was always willing to listen to our broken German and communicate with us.
A quiet area at Bollant's Spa
Petit fours at Passione Rossa
After landing in Frankfurt and picking up our spiffy German rental car with heated seats (it was late winter/early spring and definitely cold) and global positioning system (GPS), we headed to the village of Bad Sobernheim where we spent two nights recovering from the jet lag and being pampered with good food and spa time at the Romantik Hotel BollAnt’s im Park, Bollant’s Spa at at BollAnt’s im Park Romantik Hotel and Vital Spa and Passione Rossa restaurant.
Jörg Glauben and Birgit Neumueller at Tschifflik restaurant
We also visited the Romantik Hotel Landschloss Fasanerie on the outskirts of the town of Zweibrucken near France. Once again we took advantage of the property’s spa services and sampled its outstanding local and continental cuisine. Before leaving we had a gourmet dinner at the well known Tschifflick.
The lobby at Residenz am See in Meersburg
A delicate fish course at Casala
Behind the scenes at Residenz am See
From there we headed south through snow covered mountains to Meersburg, a small and picturesque village with cobblestone streets on the shores of Lake Constance. We thoroughly enjoyed our brief stay in a penthouse suite at the Romantik Hotel Residenz am See, one of our favorite properties during the trip for sheer friendliness, a well appointed suite and delicious food. While we were there we attended a German pastry baking class in German. With the help of our small group of fellow students and the pastry chef’s interjections we learned a little and had a fun morning baking delicious regional and German treats. Meals at the hotel restaurants including dinner at Casala Restaurant, were outstanding!
The Romantik Hotel Sackmann Spa pool
One of the delicious dishes we tried at the Restaurant Schlossberg
From there we returned to the Black Forest to the Romantik Hotel Sackmann in the municipality of Baiersbronn. We especially liked the hotel’s riverside location, gourmet restaurant and fabulous spa facilities.
We would recommend the region to scenery, spa and gourmet food oriented friends and acquaintances willing to venture to areas where English is not commonly spoken. As an added bonus this part of Germany offered great value for money compared to urban areas in Europe.
By Andrea de Gosztonyi-McRae and Doug McRae and photos by Andrea de Gosztonyi-McRae
Ek Balam pyramid
Tucked away in the jungles of the Mayan Riviera in Mexico, Coba and Ek Balam are ancient Mayan ruins that are only just being discovered. As majestic as Chichen Itza, these two archaeological sites are only just coming into their own.
Ek Balam is Mayan for black jaguar and was built between 600 and 900 A.D. Excavation of this site was started only eight years ago and it is very much a work in progress. At 480 feet long, 180 feet wide and 96 feet tall, the pyramid is the grandest of the restored buildings. It is believed to have once served as a palace for court officials, on their long trek from Tulum to Chichen Itza. We found the strenuous climb to the top, over uneven steps and in the hot sun, was well worth the effort. A stunning view of the region lay at our feet.
Coba is Mayan for ruffled waters and lies deep in the jungle. A mile long walk through a luxurious shaded path took us to a clearing where the largest pyramid in the Yucatan Peninsula is located. Bicycles or rickshaws were also available at the entrance. At 136 feet high, Nohoch Mul, big hill’in Mayan, is spectacular. We found the strenuous climb up to the top amazing but the climb down was more difficult as we had to step sideways over the uneven rocks. One of the most interesting aspects of Coba is the fragments of colourfully painted murals that can still be seen there. Click here for more about our visit to Coba and Ek Balam.
Article by Andrea de Gosztonyi and Douglas McRae and photos by Andrea de Gosztonyi
The beach at the Sun Palace
Our view on the beach
Winter in Quebec, Canada can be quite harsh and so, to get away from the cold and snow, we decided to spend a week at the all inclusive Sun Palace hotel, Cancun in Mexico. This is the only couples only resort we found in the Cancun area. We were treated like special guests at the hotel, a member of the five star Palace Resort Hotel chain. The service and the food were five star all the way!
Upon our arrival we were offered cool towels and a glass of champagne. This set the tone for our week. From the moment we walked into the resort the hotel staff were friendly, polite, and accommodating all the while respectful of our privacy. The food was excellent. The breakfast buffet selection was vast and plentiful. Local in season fruit were in abundance. All our dinners were a la carte. We had the choice of dining in the Grill, the Italian, the Thai or the Mexican restaurants.
Our room at the Sun Palace
Our room, overlooking the ocean, was large and bright. A bottle of wine and a bowl of fruit were waiting for us on our desk. All room service was also included in our package. The beach was soft and white and the ocean was a stunning turquoise blue. The Sun Palace Couples Only Resort was the perfect location to warm our winter weary bones!
By Elena del Valle
Photos by Gary Cox
The Romantik Hotel Relais de la Poste in Alsace
We arrived in La Wanzenau, a small town just north of Strasbourg, one of France’s easternmost cities, on a cold and rainy day. Soon after we arrived we took shelter from the weather at the Romantik Hotel Relais de la Poste, a family owned hotel in a historic building with a gourmet restaurant on the ground floor.
It took us slightly longer than we expected to reach the village due to the slow traffic caused by heavy rain and we missed lunch by five minutes. Since most of the town was closed down for the afternoon the hotel staff was kind enough to offer us a snack. A few minutes later, they served us a shared deli platter of yummy cold cuts, cheeses and green salad in the ground floor lounge (the restaurant had closed).
We reached our second floor room via a small elevator or a narrow staircase which led to a quiet circular foyer with doors all around. Beyond our door, Room 18, the 250 square feet of private space where we spent the night, had putty color carpeting and eggshell color textured walls.
Room 18 at Romantik Hotel Relais de la Poste
The bathroom in our top floor room
I imagine the room had been updated from the original many times since the construction of the building in 1789. The modern looking room had two single beds set together and against a colorful velour and satin covered headboard. Small white wood night tables framed the beds. In front of the beds, three comfortable armchairs, a wood armoire, mini refrigerator, and built in wood table with a flat screen Loewe television made up the living section of the room. There was also a balcony facing the main part of the building and adjacent street. We enjoyed stepping out to see the area although because of the chill air we returned quickly to the warmth of the interior area.
Dinner was an elaborate affair in the hotel’s gourmet restaurant where we had a three-course menu. We sat in a handsome glass enclosed terrace and were looked after by a young and pleasant waiter. Following the amouse bouche, we had home made goose liver foie gras au torchon, a goose liver dish, served with warm brioche bread and local sweet wine. The main course was a stout codfish prepared with chorizo, white beans and a delicious savory seafood broth. Three wonderful cheeses, a blue, Munster and Swiss Gruyere aged two years, followed.
Our cheese course at the Relais de la Poste restaurant
Our main course at the Relais de la Poste restaurant
Dessert at Relais de la poste
Dessert consisted of a variety of flavors in a sampler platter including banana ice cream with a cookie spoon, a creme brulee mini tarte, and a small tarte tatin. We completed the meal with the obligatory cappuccino and herbal tea and walked out pleasantly satisfied.
The Romantik Hotel Relais de la Poste (21, rue du Gal de Gaulle 67610, La Wantzenau, France, Tel +33 (0)3/88 59 24 80, www.romantikhotels.com/La-Wantzenau or email@example.com) is one of 200 independently owned and managed Romantik hotels and restaurants in 11 European countries.