Snow picnics and frolics – embrace the winter in Germany

First of all I feel I must apologise for not having an awesome picture of a snow picnic! 🙁

You see guys, it happened like this. We were on our way to the zoo – we were stuck for something to do and thought, why not – but there was a traffic jam on the highway into Frankfurt so we got off at the B8 to Königstein in search for a place to stop for coffee.

We went towards Große Feldberg, which is the highest of the Taunus Mountains at 878m, and as we drove higher up into the mountain we noticed the snow get thicker on the ground until 15 minutes later we were surrounded by this magical winter wonderland!

Mario in the snow

We took a walk. The snow was the deepest I (who has never done a ski season) had ever experienced. It was up to my shins. Awesome. The animals had to wait. Frolicking in the snow became the flavour of the day. I even made a video. Check it out 🙂

deep snow

view from the feldberg

top of feldberg

snow

A snow picnic spot…or what?!

The German felsenmeer – it’s rock climbing but not as you know it..

It was a sunny day so my boyfriend Mario suggested we go climbing on rocks…
I thought he was getting confused with his English (being German) so I said “Don’t you mean rock climbing?”
It turned out that he actually meant what he said. We spent a bright morning climbing and scrambling over rocks at a felsenmeer, in the town of Reichenbach, which is something of a geological wonder.

rocks

I mean look at all of those rocks! Where did they come from?

felsenmeer closeup

Without going into a full blown geology lesson I can tell you that no one put them there and that their existence is the result of a type of weathering that happens when water gets into rock and turns into ice, thus expanding and breaking up the rock. Some people however will tell you that two giants had a fight and started chucking boulders at each other and kept on going until they created the “sea of rocks”, which is what felsenmeer actually means in German.

If you live in the southern hemisphere and you are going to travel to the north going to hang out at a felsenmeer is something you should try because these rock formations only exist in the northern part of the world and mostly in places like Iceland.

This one has boulders as big as trucks to trek over but if you don’t fancy climbing there is a woodland path that trails alongside.

Mario1

I would describe this felsenmeer as a play park created by mother nature –  pretty cool non?

We decided to climb from the bottom to the top for more of a challenge. Mario hopped from one rock to another without a care in the world. He can get to the top within an hour.

Abena1

I, on the other hand, was like a Bambi – all shaky legged and not knowing where to put my feet. It takes me twice as long to conquer the felsenmeer on a good day. I wouldn’t even attempt it if the weather is wet and the rocks are super slippery. Having said that, neither would Mario.

Good thing is there is a snack bar at the bottom and a restaurant at the top! We had no idea about the opening times of them so we took a picnic.

Feldberg11

It turned out to be a pretty awesome day and cheap too. It was a two hour drive from Frankfurt on the A5 in the direction of Darmstadt and Mannheim. We got off towards Reichenbach. Parking was just two euros and there was no charge to get in. I can’t wait to go back and give it another go 🙂

My well planned day trip in Gran Canaria was an epic fail! Here’s what happened…

The night before the ‘ill fated trip’ I checked the map of and found a route through the pretty towns of Arucas and Firgas and on to the highlight, which was a picnic in the forest beside the famous natural sight that is Roque Nublo. All of this is the north of the island, which is famous for its gorgeous mountainous terrain.

I woke up early and packed a picnic, warm clothes, yoga mats, blankets, a frisbee and some books. I had everything I thought we could possibly need. We set off in our hire car in good time and I knew my itinerary was going to please the whole family but there was something I didn’t take into consideration – those sheer drops along the mountain roads are certainly not for the faint-hearted and made for some tense moments, bad moods and arguments.

gc map iha

See look a the map. My idea was to take the highway from Maspalomas along the east side of the island up to Arucas, bypassing the long drive up through the mountains that lie in the middle of the island. The mountain route takes 3 hours but the highway takes about one hour so I thought, lets get to Arucas and then travel down through the mountains. See how lovely Arucas is. Everyone was so happy…

Arucas cathedral

The beautiful cathedral next to the car park leads onto the historic streets, which are lined with coffee shops and boutiques.

Arucas street scene

houses arucas

arucas cultural centre

arucas me and mario

arucas tower rum

Oh, and guess what? Arucas has a rum factory that does free tours and tastings. We tried about 10 different rums. The one aged 14 years put that smile on my face. My favourite, and the bottle we bought, was the toffee rum. I am so excited to splash that over some good quality vanilla ice cream. Yeah baby!

arucas rum drinking

Rum tasting before lunch!? We had little choice because factory is open from 9am to 2pm (click here for more information)

arucas tasting

arucas rum barrels

My thoughts were ‘I’m on to a winner here’ as we walked around with the tour. It was short and sweet, like the rum!

arucas rum pics

Lots of Spanish celebrities have been there and have put their mark on the aging barrels. It was so cool to see.

arucas rum barrel

arucas rum mario and me

I hadn’t even tasted the rum yet and I was feeling pretty awesome!

firgas water

I did a check. The whole family was happy and ready to move onto Firgas. We only needed a short half hour stay here because the main sight is the Paseo de Gran Canaria. It’s an artistic monument that pays tribute to the different towns of Gran Canaria with plaques lining a water feature.

arucas plaques

Further up are plaques on the ground representing all of the islands that make up the Canaries.

Tejede1

The next stop was what I was most looking forward to. The drive past Tejeda into the pine forests next to Roque Nublo where we would have our picnic and chill out for the rest of the day. As we drove higher my ears popped and the landscape gradually looked more green. We were so high we could see for miles. I thought it was breathtaking.

We made it to Tejeda…

Tejede

Pretty isn’t it? In the distance you can see Roque Nublo. It looks like a finger pointing towards the sky.

The drive to this point is impressive. Narrow mountain roads lined with blossoming almond trees. A treat. True wanderlust but when you look straight down all you can see is cliff edge and a sheer drop into the wilderness…

Rock noblu

The aim was to go higher but the whole family was NOT in agreement. It was too scary so I took the decision to picnic here and then head home afterwards.

You know those moments that are not funny at the time but you laugh at them afterwards? This was one of them. We thought the quickest route back was southwards on the mountain road past the famous Roque. I should have thought we would have to go all the way before going down. OMG, I was clenching my bum cheeks too. The road was super windy and right on the edge of the mountain and it went on for at least an hour. I thank goodness that my boyfriend Mario is a very skilled driver but, if those mountain roads put you or anyone you  know in a panic, don’t travel from Tejeda south towards Maspalomas, unless of course you want tears at bedtime!

5 cheap things to do in Vinci, Italy

Wine tasting at Doccia al Poggio in Vinci

Wine tasting at Doccia al Poggio in Vinci.

One: Go wine tasting at Doccia al Poggio vineyard.

We didn’t know we had a good thing, when it came to drinking wine in Vinci, until we left.

Look at me enjoying that bargain wine! It was a moment of innocence when we wandered into Doccia al Poggio vineyard, which is located next to the camper parking place we stayed at. We had no idea it was going to be the cheapest wine-buying experience of the whole trip.

The lowest price red was 2.50 euros, there were a few other reds at 3.50 euros, Chianti at 6 euros and the priciest bottle was a dessert wine at 12.50 euros. In comparison to the entry price of about 15 euros for a bottle of wine in the Chianti region, this was the holy grail: this was paying what the locals’ pay.

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2. Dinner for two for under 10 euros at La Monna Lisa.

At 5pm locals, construction workers, mums and children and students, queue at this pizzeria to get their dinner. It was the only place with a buzz in the small village so we decided to eat there and we were so glad we did. We bought some decent slices of capriccosia, salami and margherita pizzas ranging from 1.50 to 1.80 euros each. What topped it off nicely was the local vino rossi at 4 euros a bottle and the pretty outdoor seating surrounded by aromatic herb boxes.

The museum is a pretty cool day out

The museum is a pretty cool day out

3. Visit The Leonardo da Vinci Museum – it’s a full day out for 10 euros!

When it comes to museums and art galleries, Tuscany has them at every corner. Some are awesome and keep you amused for days while others are small, poky and leave you feeling totally unsatisfied after you get to fumble around for 15 minutes and realise there isn’t not much to it. The Leonardo da Vinci Museum in Vinci sits in the middle of these types.

I loved it because it has so many places to visit, the museum itself, an art exhibition in the Church of Santa Croce, Conti Guidi Castle and also Leonardo’s birthplace, which is 3km away.

This means, for the 10-euro cover charge, you can make a day of it by first going to the museum, castle and church, in the centre of Vinci, and after that take a picnic and cycle or hike up to the birthplace of Leonardo da Vinci.

We walked around the exhibitions, which included real models of designs by the great inventor, and then we went on the challenging cycle up the hill and through the olive groves to his home where we were rewarded with a movie that helped us really get to know Leonardo da Vinci and, as it was 6pm, we enjoyed a gorgeous sunset after.

Mario loved the Vinci countryside

Mario loved the Vinci countryside

4. Explore the countryside.

Vinci is a scenic town (actually it’s officialy a city) that is surrounded by olive groves and vineyards and has remained more or less the same as it was when Leonardo da Vinci grew up here. This means it is awesome for mountain biking. It has steep hills that will get your heart racing – going both up and down them – and amazing views. We took the track, which directs tourists to Leonardo da Vinci’s birthplace, and came across The Hill Of Art sculpture park, mysterious abandoned farmhouses and plenty of fruit trees along the way.

We found a place to park the mobile home for free

We found a place to park the mobile home for free

5. Stay for free in your mobile home.

The last thing you want to do after paying for petrol to travel to and around Tuscany in a mobile home is also pay for camping. Some camping places can cost as much as a hotel room (50 euros) so our aim was to find free camper parking all the way.

Area Comunale Via Girolamo Calvi 50059 Vinci (GPS N 43.78088,  E 10.92857) is one of those places that costs nothing to park and has all the facilities we needed – waste water and chemical toilet discharge and fresh water – for free. To make it really special it has gorgeous views of the countryside.

A great stop off with free mobile home facilities in Vinci, Tuscany

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We needed water and disposal desperately and we found this great camper facility (GPSN 43.78088,  E 10.92857) at the entrance of Vinci, opposite Doccia al Poggio Farm and next to a tennis club. It is surrounded by vineyards! Perfect.
Leonardo Da Vinci was born just outside Vinci so cycling into the centre to have a coffee and visit the museum is a must!
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