In Search of Andraka in Spain’s Beautiful Basque Country

Euskal Herria, Basque, Spain, Espana, Zarautz, Andraka, Bizkaia, Vizcaya, Guipuzkoa, driving, Bay of Biscay, Samsung Galalxy S7

One of the reasons for my recent trip to Spain, as I shared in an earlier post, was to see the ancestral lands of my Mom’s family in the Basque region of Spain (Euskal Herria in Basque).  My Mom’s last name (Andraca, in Spanish) is the name of a home that existed a long time ago where the family originated near Bilbao, Spain in the province called Bizkaia (or Vizcaya or Biscay).  We wanted to see the place but it was only one of many places we had in our roughly-sketched family tree (which also included the neighboring province of Guipuzkoa).  So, since we were not going to just one place, we decided to take a full day and just drive around these two provinces and take in the landscape of Spain’s Basque country…

All the towns in our Basque country…

Our family tree shows a lot of ancestors coming from the provinces of Bizkaia and Guipuzkoa, two of the Basque region’s provinces.  Many of their last names are the names of villages or towns spread about these provinces.  And, when not, we know which towns they came from.  Places like Bergara, Gorliz, Lekeitio, Ondarroa, Azpeitia, Azkoitia, and others feature prominently in our family history.  We definitely would not be able to hit each and everyone one of these due to time limitations and would only stop at a few even if we passed by them.  But it is not like we would have discovered unknown cousins (first, second or even fourth) – our ancestor who came from Spain to Cuba got to Cuba in 1800 so too far in the past for any real connection with living descendants of his own ancestors…

Zarautz – Beach town

We left San Sebastian, our base for a couple of days, and headed west following more or less the coast.  We had no set plans of where we would stop along the way.  One of the first places we passed caught our eye and we decided to see if we could find parking and get out and walk around some.  This place was Zarautz, a beach town of about 20,000 15km (9 mi) west of San Sebastian, that felt like a very livable place, not just a beach town for visitors.  (The town connects to San Sebastian and Bilbao by train so even if one is not driving there, one can get there on public transport.)

Euskal Herria, Basque, Spain, Espana, Zarautz, Andraka, Bizkaia, Vizcaya, Guipuzkoa, driving, Bay of Biscay, Samsung Galalxy S7

The beach

Euskal Herria, Basque, Spain, Espana, Zarautz, Andraka, Bizkaia, Vizcaya, Guipuzkoa, driving, Bay of Biscay, Samsung Galalxy S7

West end of the beach

The beach was long (I read it is about 2.8 km long; the longest in that coastline) and we could certainly see how it would be an appealing tourist destination.  The beach was not packed and it may be that it was likely already the end of the season (but finding street parking was impossible still!).  We sat in the plaza above the underground parking deck and looked out at the beach and ocean.  My Mom, uncle and I decided to walk down to get our feet wet by the waters of the Bay of Biscay as maybe our ancestors did somewhere up or down that coast many centuries ago…

Euskal Herria, Basque, Spain, Espana, Zarautz, Andraka, Bizkaia, Vizcaya, Guipuzkoa, driving, Bay of Biscay, Samsung Galalxy S7

Mom and uncle walking to the water!

Euskal Herria, Basque, Spain, Espana, Zarautz, Andraka, Bizkaia, Vizcaya, Guipuzkoa, driving, Bay of Biscay, Samsung Galalxy S7

16th century Palacio de Narros from the beach

Euskal Herria, Basque, Spain, Espana, Zarautz, Andraka, Bizkaia, Vizcaya, Guipuzkoa, driving, Bay of Biscay, Samsung Galalxy S7

Conveniently located to wash one’s feet after stepping on the beach

Euskal Herria, Basque, Spain, Espana, Zarautz, Andraka, Bizkaia, Vizcaya, Guipuzkoa, driving, Bay of Biscay, Samsung Galalxy S7

My sis and uncle enjoying the view

More Basque coastline

We both reluctantly and eagerly got back in the car.  Zarautz was worth staying but we had a key objective for the day ahead…  We drove from Zarautz past Getaria (another great-looking coastal town) and, somewhere around Zumaia, turned inland on the road.  It was disappointing to leave the beautiful coast because, as you can see, it was beautiful.

Euskal Herria, Basque, Spain, Espana, Zarautz, Andraka, Bizkaia, Vizcaya, Guipuzkoa, driving, Bay of Biscay, Samsung Galalxy S7

Yet another great beach west of Zarautz by Getaria

Euskal Herria, Basque, Spain, Espana, Zarautz, Andraka, Bizkaia, Vizcaya, Guipuzkoa, driving, Bay of Biscay, Samsung Galalxy S7

Nice curvy road bordering hills that face the water

Euskal Herria, Basque, Spain, Espana, Zarautz, Andraka, Bizkaia, Vizcaya, Guipuzkoa, driving, Bay of Biscay, Samsung Galalxy S7

Basque coastline beauty!

A phenomenal Basque lunch

We kept driving and after a failed attempt to reach Lekeitio (there was some festival that weekend with all roads leading to it blocked of – very disappointing as it was high on our list), we went inland.  And hunger was hitting… During a routine bathroom stop at a local bar in the town of Ereño (between Lekeitio and Bermeo but inland), my Mom came and told us the place had a restaurant and it had customers (my cardinal rule is to never go into an empty restaurant in an unknown town…).  The place was cozy, on the ground level of a 2- or 3-story building (can’t recall).  It was Restaurante Jatetxea Atxoste.

Euskal Herria, Basque, Spain, Espana, Zarautz, Andraka, Bizkaia, Vizcaya, Guipuzkoa, driving, Bay of Biscay, Samsung Galalxy S7

The place we had lunch at in Ereño

It was SUPERB.  The thing I liked the most is the one I did not take a picture of:  the fresh cod sauteed with spinach.  It would be the single most delicious dish I had in the entire trip!  But captured for posterity were the red beans and the rice pudding which were excellent.

Euskal Herria, Basque, Spain, Espana, Zarautz, Andraka, Bizkaia, Vizcaya, Guipuzkoa, driving, Bay of Biscay, Samsung Galalxy S7

Rice pudding dessert

Euskal Herria, Basque, Spain, Espana, Zarautz, Andraka, Bizkaia, Vizcaya, Guipuzkoa, driving, Bay of Biscay, Samsung Galalxy S7, food, red beans

The red beans – I could just have ate them all!

I always prefer the small mom-and-pop places where, though service may not be stellar, the food typically is.  Great find, Mom!!

Driving through history:  Guernica

After lunch, on our way to Andraka, we made it a point to drive through the town of Guernica which suffered a massive air attack during Spain’s Civil War in 1937 by Nazi Germany, a bombing that lasted about 2 hours.  Picasso captured the pain and horror of that moment in history in a famous painting named after the town.  There is a mural in the town center matching the painting.  We did not plan to get out of the car but I did snap a quick side photo of the mural…

Guernica, Spanish Civil War, Basque, Spain, Gernika, bombing

The mural

Guerica, Gernika, Pabo Picasso, Guerra Civil, Spanish Civil War, Spain

Guernica by Pablo Picasso

The main event:  Andraka

Andraka is not a town by my definition; not even a village, just some homes laying around (a few under construction) and a restaurant right by the road.  But it has the typical European signs announcing the ‘town’ and letting you know when are leaving the ‘town.’  If there was an original home from over 200 years ago that could have been our ancestros’, we did not see it; and that really didn’t matter that much to us.  After a quick walk around an old, abandoned house and snapping a couple of pix by signs that said “Andraka,” we got back in the car and continued on our drive, satisfied we had gotten to that area of Bizkaia where the last name Andraca originated for our family…

Andraka, Bizkaia, Basque, Vizcaya, hamlet, ancestors, family history, Spain, travel

How the area of Andraka looks

Andraka, Bizkaia, Basque, Vizcaya, hamlet, ancestors, family history, Spain, travel

The old home taken over by vegetation

Andraka, Bizkaia, Basque, Vizcaya, hamlet, ancestors, family history, Spain, travel

My uncle

Andraka, Bizkaia, Basque, Vizcaya, hamlet, ancestors, family history, Spain, travel

Mom, sister and yours truly

A truly unique and fun experience to have shared with loved ones!

 

Great Drive Series – 17-Mile Drive in California

Pebble Beach, 17 Mile Drive, California, Pacific, Cypress Point, ocean, sea, algae, travel, drive, scenic, photo

I have been to San Francisco once or twice for very short visits but have not gone further south than the airport.  That last year when I went to visit friends in San Jose, California. Even though the visit was only a few days, I wanted to see the famous coast in the area.  Additionally, I was hoping to see legendary Silicon Valley and just to get a sense for how this part of California feels.

Leaving San Fran – Caltrain!

I left San Fran on a Wed afternoon by taking the Caltrain down for the hour ride to San Jose for $9.25!  Note that the hour ride is for the “express” train that makes less than half a dozen stops between the two cities.  The express only runs at peak times which in the afternoon means from 4 PM until the end of rush hour.  I killed some time at the station to avoid taking the non-express with all the annoyance that that would bring with all the stops.  The 4PM was not packed but was pretty well “attended” with commuters from school-aged kids going home to worker bees heading back home.  The train is a double-decker so plenty of space.  Except I did not find a spot for suitcases so I had to place it on the seat next to me.  Maybe that was better as it was with me the whole time?

Caltrain, train, transportation, travel, San Francisco, California

The only photo I have related to the train… sorry! And the shades were given to me at the conference.

17-Mile Drive and Pebble Beach

I am not a golfer but I knew, of course, about Pebble Beach.  To be honest, I really did not know where it was.  At least I had heard of it.  But I had never heard of 17-Mile Drive.  We left San Jose and drove through eucalyptus forests and passed by sand dunes as we approached Monterey.  Monterey has an awesome aquarium but I preferred to add Carmel to the itinerary so the aquarium will be for another time.

Pebble Beach, 17 Mile Drive, California, Pacific, Cypress Point, ocean, sea, algae, travel, drive, scenic

The drive through the eucalyptus forest

Starting on 17-Mile Drive

Upon entering Monterey (or its outskirts), we took a left hand turn to enter the route that would take us to 17-Mile Drive.  We hit a gate where we paid $10 for the right to enter “The Drive”.  The drive seems to be in private property, hence they get to charge for driving through it.  It is not a park but the setup looked like one.

map, Pebble Beach, 17 Mile Drive, California, Pacific, Cypress Point, ocean, sea, algae, travel, drive, scenic

The route of 17-Mile Drive

There are quite a few stops along the way by the ocean which is quite nice.  You can get out of the car, eat something, walk on the beach, or watch the sea otters (or perhaps a whale?).

Pebble Beach, 17 Mile Drive, California, Pacific, Cypress Point, ocean, sea, algae, travel, drive, scenic

The Pacific Ocean roaring against the rocks; we saw some seals

Pebble Beach, 17 Mile Drive, California, Pacific, Cypress Point, ocean, sea, algae, travel, drive, scenic, photo

Instead of boring you with the actual shot, how about 2 of me getting ready for it??

The water is frigid so there will not be any swimming but I had to dip my toes just to feel it!

Pebble Beach, 17 Mile Drive, California, Pacific, Cypress Point, ocean, sea, algae, travel, drive, scenic, photo

Into the cold!

Cypress Point

The most spectacular stops were Cypress Point Lookout and Pescadero Point.  The place was first spotted (that we know of) by a European as far back as 1542.  Over 200 years later, a missionary gave Cypress Point its current name.  Supposedly the cypress tree growing on the rocky point is like 250 years old – they are trying to get it to stay alive until 300 (according to the sign).  Wonder what they plan to do if it gets to 300.  Chop it?  It sure makes for a beautiful sight.

Pebble Beach, 17 Mile Drive, California, Pacific, Cypress Point, ocean, sea, algae, travel, drive, scenic, photo

The Lone Cypress

During the drive we ran into Cypress Point Club and latter the Pebble Beach courses.  What a setting for golf!  Not that I play but if I did…

Pebble Beach, 17 Mile Drive, California, Pacific, Cypress Point, ocean, sea, algae, travel, drive, scenic, photo

Cypress forest native to the area

I did not get to snap any good shots of these so I will leave you with some “sea art” from the Pacific coast:   no one does it better than nature!  From here we went on to Carmel and visited its famous Mission – you can read about that part here!

Pebble Beach, 17 Mile Drive, California, Pacific, Cypress Point, ocean, sea, algae, travel, drive, scenic, photo

Marine vegetation imitates art?

Pebble Beach, 17 Mile Drive, California, Pacific, Cypress Point, ocean, sea, algae, travel, drive, scenic, photo

My favorite shot

It is neat when travel unexpectedly shows you something you had no real understanding of – or perhaps even knowledge of.  This visit qualifies under both – an unexpected enjoyable side trip!

 

Save

Save

Save

Great Drive Series – Along the Columbia River in Oregon

Portland, Columbia River, Oregon, Multnomah Falls, gorge, scenic, nature, outdoors, Samsung Galaxy, photo, travel, scenic drive

Oregon has been a place I have always been wanting to go.  When the opportunity to go on a business trip to Portland arose, I was thrilled.  Though I was not able to append a weekend on either end of the business trip to get to explore more, I did have a Sunday afternoon and the hours after office hours to check some of the area.

My favorite part was driving along the Columbia River Gorge.  I had not read up much about the area before going and it surprised to discover there was a gorge along parts of the Columbia River, near Portland.  I discovered it by looking outside my seat window as we were close to land in PDX.  I was very lucky to have picked a window seat (I am a serial aisler) and that it was on the right side of the plane which not only afforded me the opportunity to discover the gorge but also to see Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Adams.  (Clearly, the airplane’s window was a little dirty and, seemingly, so was the air right above – notice the brownish line killing my clear view of the top of Mt. St. Helens).

Mt St Helens, Mt Adams, Columbia River, Columbia River gorge, airplane view, travel, photo, Samsung Galaxy

Mt. St. Helens on the left, Mt. Adams on the right; the Columbia River and the gorge in the middle

Mt St Helens, Mt Adams, Columbia River, Columbia River gorge, airplane view, travel, photo, Samsung Galaxy, Portland, Oregon

Close up of the mountains (and the window smudge!)

Getting to the Columbia River Gorge from Portland was very easy.  Just take I-84 East.  To visit the most famous of the waterfalls, Multnomah, one doesn’t even really have to get off the interstate:  there is a parking area in the middle of the interstate (a rest area) and a tunnel under the lanes to get to the waterfall.

Portland, Columbia River, Oregon, Multnomah Falls, gorge, scenic, nature, outdoors, Samsung Galaxy, photo, travel

At the top of the photo, you can see the rest area

But it is nicer to get off earlier (at Troutdale or Corbett) and then do the scenic route, passing other waterfalls along the way.  The scenery is beautiful.Portland, Columbia River, Oregon, Multnomah Falls, gorge, scenic, nature, outdoors, Samsung Galaxy, photo, travel Portland, Columbia River, Oregon, Multnomah Falls, gorge, scenic, nature, outdoors, Samsung Galaxy, photo, travel Portland, Columbia River, Oregon, Multnomah Falls, gorge, scenic, nature, outdoors, Samsung Galaxy, photo, travel Portland, Columbia River, Oregon, Multnomah Falls, gorge, scenic, nature, outdoors, Samsung Galaxy, photo, travel

The first main stop is phenomenal:  Vista House on the Crown Point Scenic Corridor.  You enjoy great vistas up- and down-river of the Columbia River from this high vantage point.  I wish I had been there for sunrise or sunset (or both) – bet the view would have been even better!Columbia River, Portland, Oregon, gorge, Vista House, nature, outdoors, travel, Samsung Galaxy, photoColumbia River, Portland, Oregon, gorge, Vista House, nature, outdoors, travel, Samsung Galaxy, photo Columbia River, Portland, Oregon, gorge, Vista House, nature, outdoors, travel, Samsung Galaxy, photo Columbia River, Portland, Oregon, gorge, Vista House, nature, outdoors, travel, Samsung Galaxy, photo Columbia River, Portland, Oregon, gorge, Vista House, nature, outdoors, travel, Samsung Galaxy, photo, vista

After Vista House continuing eastbound, a series of waterfalls come before getting to Multnomah Falls, the tallest falls in the state.  There are several trails available to get out and walk.  I reserved my limited time to go up the Multnomah Falls which rises over 600 ft.  Multnomah, falls, waterfalls, Oregon, Columbia River, gorge, scenic drive, outdoors, nature, travel, photo, Samsung Galaxy

I did the round trip up and down in slightly less than an hour.  It is nice they numbered the switchbacks going up but it certainly made me anxious to get to the last one – I’d rather not know how many I have left!

Latourell Falls on the left and Multnomah Falls on the right

Latourell Falls on the left and Multnomah Falls on the right

Multnomah, falls, waterfalls, Oregon, Columbia River, gorge, scenic drive, outdoors, nature, travel, photo, Samsung Galaxy Multnomah, falls, waterfalls, Oregon, Columbia River, gorge, scenic drive, outdoors, nature, travel, photo, Samsung Galaxy Multnomah, falls, waterfalls, Oregon, Columbia River, gorge, scenic drive, outdoors, nature, travel, photo, Samsung Galaxy

Multnomah, falls, waterfalls, Oregon, Columbia River, gorge, scenic drive, outdoors, nature, travel, photo, Samsung Galaxy

At the top of Multnomah!

Multnomah, falls, waterfalls, Oregon, Columbia River, gorge, scenic drive, outdoors, nature, travel, photo, Samsung Galaxy

Yikes, close to the edge!

I do wish I had had time to go to the coast and visit the Lewis & Clark National Wildlife Refuge.  I enjoyed reading the story of Lewis & Clark a few years ago and would have enjoyed seeing where their journey ended where the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean.  Next time!

Great Drive Series – A Switzerland Sampler

Interlaken, Switzerland, travel, tourism, Alps, ice cold blue, Canon EOS Rebel

When I worked in Paris many moons ago for 6 months, one of the neat weekend trips I took was a rather rushed visit to Switzerland.  More than anything, we just wanted to leave France.  Having visited Heidelberg and worked in The Netherlands during that period, we opted to go south:  Switzerland (or Schweiz or Suisse, depending on which language you prefer).

We left work, grabbed our backpacks, and rode to the car rental offices in Paris to get our car.  We decided all this within i a day or two from leaving so had no big plans nor hotel reservations anywhere.  All we had identified was some target cities based on the easiest drive-around route.  This was when the Internet was not yet matured so even if we had had the time we would  not have gotten too much info on what to see and do.  So drive we did.

That Friday night, we overnighted in a French town named Besançon, a town of about 200,000+ residents, somewhat east of Dijon, and not far from the Swiss border for all practical purposes.  The town had an old casino which we thought we’d check out except it was all very smoky and we pretty  much just walked right back out, opting for dinner at some non-descript café before going to our small hotel to rest for the night.

The next morning we crossed the Swiss border where we had to buy a permit to drive in Switzerland.  I am not sure if that is still needed but make sure you find out before driving into the country.  We felt that to aim for Geneva would put us to far west and that we would have to backtrack on the same road to head eastward so we opted for passing on Geneva (much as it is definitely worth the visit).  We drove straight into Lausanne as our first stop though we made it a quick one to get info on the roads (i.e., get maps).  We spied the headquarters of the International Olympic Committee facing Lake Geneva, no doubt paid for by money the sponsors of the Olympics pay the IOC for their monopoly.  It looked like quite a pleasant city to live in, I must say.

Lausanne, switzerland, city, lake Geneva, travel, photo, Canon EOS Rebel

Sitting on the northern shores of Lake Geneva is Lausanne

Since we learned that Bern (Berne) and Interlaken were really the must-sees in the western half of Switzerland (we were not going to have enough time to explore the other half in one weekend AND return to Paris on time to show up at work Monday AM), we decided to not spend more time in Lausanne. The map below highlights in yellow the route we decided out which would take us close to Zurich but with no time to spend there, and would have us exit Switzerland at Basel, thereby minimizing backtracking in our route.

Switzerland, map, route, driving, Bern, Lausanne, Interlaken, travel, tourism

Instead we took off and decided the best route was along Lake Geneva (instead of heading back north of Lausanne and along Lake Neuchatel) where we were rewarded with views of the lake on one side and views of vineyards on the other (who knew!) before turning inland to head to Switzerland’s capital, Bern.  The weather, as you may notice, was not the best for awe-inspiring photography (as you can tell) but the sights were still beautiful.

Swiss, vineyards, Switzerland, Alps, drive, driving, travel, tourism, Canon EOS Rebel

Some of the many vineyards we drove by along Lake Geneva

Swiss architecture, Switzerland, Alps, drive, driving, travel, tourism, Canon EOS Rebel

THE narrowest steps I have seen, right by the road and NO handrail!

clock tower, Switzerland, Swiss architecture, drive, driving, travel, tourism, Canon EOS Rebel

Clock tower

Swiss architecture, Switzerland, Alps, drive, driving, travel, tourism, Canon EOS Rebel

Typical Swiss home along the shores of Lake Geneva

We arrived in Bern and sought the tourist information office – which you could count to be well-organized being a Swiss operation.  And it was!  The young woman helped us find a place to stay in the center of town – nothing fancy needed, just a clean bed and bathroom.  We checked in but immediately took off to our main target:  Interlaken.

The drive to Interlaken (“between lakes”), as the name alludes, requires you to drive along a lake.  The road was curvy and fun to drive.  We arrived at Interlaken and walked around, admiring the beautiful town and setting, with the ice blue waters flowing between Lake Thun (Thunersee) and Lake Brienz (Brienxersee) going right through town.  We found a neat spot to eat at and enjoyed a great late lunch admiring the view.

Interlaken, Switzerland, travel, tourism, Alps, ice cold blue, Canon EOS Rebel

Beautiful part of Interlaken

After some more walking, we headed back to Bern (wishing we had not found a hotel yet in Bern so we could stay at Interlaken instead… ) to have dinner and see some of the town.

Bern, Berne, Switzerland, view, vista, photo, travel, tourism, Canon EOS Rebel

Looking back towards Bern on the road towards Interlaken

The next morning we continued our drive (which took us back past Interlaken; the dreaded re-tracing of a route…) on our way to Lucerne, another Swiss town on the shores of the same-named lake.  We parked, walked around town, had lunch and started the long drive back to Paris.

One thing about driving in Switzerland is that there are never ending things to admire whether they be structures, lake, our mountains. You could say we barely scratched the surface on this beautiful country – clearly there are other great driving routes awaiting but for one weekend’s worth of sampling, I am pretty pleased!

 

Great Drives Series – Around Bordeaux

Chateau, Sahuc Les Tours, Sauternes, Graves, Bordeaux, France, travel, wine, vin, countryside, travel, photo, Canon EOS Rebel

I have done a couple of trips into Bordeaux where I have explored the region by car.  There really is no better way to explore the diversity of the region (and its wines!), which may seem at first to be more homogenous than it actually is.  To venture inland, near where Bordeaux runs into the Dordogne is to see a totally different Bordeaux than you may see in the Médoc.  To drive around Sauternes is definitely different than going to Saint-Émilion.

Bordeaux, landscape, vista, France, photo, wine, travel, Canon EOS Rebel, great drive, countryside

Beautiful countryside in Bordeaux

sunflower, Bordeaux, France, travel, photo

Fields of sunflowers dot the landscape in parts of Bordeaux

Both times I went were in the pre-GPS era but that did not make it difficult to drive around.  A good map (and a good map reader somewhere in the vehicle) is all you need to be able to explore this area without too much trouble.

Bordeaux, chateau, signs, driving, France, wine, travel

Plenty of markers/signs help the visitor find their way around!

St. Julien, Bordeaux, large wine bottle, wine, bottle, photo, travel, Canon EOS Rebel

With helpful markers like this one, you know you are in wine country!

One of our stops was the Château Ducru-Beaucaillou where we were taken on a private tour of this grand winemaker (through which I would run the next day when I ran in the Bordeaux marathon!).

Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou, Bordeaux, Medoc, France, winery, vineyard, chateaux, wine, photo, Canon EOS Rebel

Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou (I would run right past this spot the next day!)

If you are somewhat interested in wine, there will be plenty for you to do and explore. The town of Saint-Émilion is one of the gems of the region.  Walk around but climb up to the top of the town.  There are cafés up there too and nowhere better to be when the sun sets, glass of wine in hand – of course!

St. Emilion, Bordeaux, French town, France, sign, vines, photo,Saint-Émilion, Canon EOS Rebel

The way to Saint-Émilion!

St. Emilion, Bordeaux, French town, France, sign, photo, Canon EOS Rebel

Always remember where you parked in a new town! In this case, a nice map at the town entrance helped!

St. Emilion, Bordeaux, French town, France, view , photo, Canon EOS Rebel

View from the upper part of Saint-Émilion down to its main square

We enjoyed some of the big (and seemingly more commercial) chateaux but we also loved to more “rural” areas on roads less traveled and discovering the smaller vineyards and winemakers.  Some of the information offices and hotels had displays full of cards of the many chateaux in the area such as the one below.

wine, Bordeaux, France, card, chateau, travel

It was one of these cards that led us to discover a gem of a château in SauternesChâteau Sahuc Les Tours.

Chateau, Sahuc Les Tours, Sauternes, Graves, Bordeaux, France, travel, wine, vin, countryside, travel, photo, Canon EOS Rebel

The beautiful Château Sahuc Les Tours

The owners even sat down with us to share a bottle of their Sauternes and spent a good hour chatting with us about every topic that could concern French and American alike (they spoke excellent English).  Sauternes (in the Graves area), if you are not familiar, produces a sweet white wine bearing the same name made from sémillon, sauvignon blanc, and muscadelle grapes that have Botrytis cinerea (or “noble rot”) which concentrates the sugars.  We got to see the grapes up front as they began to look like raisins.  But don’t let the thought of rot keep you from drinking this wine!

Sauternes,  Botrytis cinerea, noble rot, wine, grapes, Bordeaux, Graves, Semillon, photo, travel, Canon EOS Rebel

Before and after…

That was such a good experience that I returned 7 years later to that chateau – and to my delight, one of the owners was there and, though she clearly could not remember me, realized I really had been there before as I recounted some of the things they had told us the first visit.  Connecting with locals in a real way is one of the rewards of venturing out and exploring this world!

sauternes, grave, Bordeaux, France, winemaker, photo, travel

The friendly owner of Sahuc Les Tours with a delicious bottle in hand

So while this post is about great drives, let’s not forget that this drive is about wine!  Cheers!

wine, Bordeaux, France, travel, photo, Canon EOS Rebel

A beautiful wine in Bordeaux

 

Great Drive Series – Frankfurt to Maastricht

Germany, drive, church, mountain, river, photo, Canon EOS Rebel,

Among the many ways to travel and explore, few things beat driving around yourself, whether it be Tuscany, New Zealand or across the U.S., there is a freedom that comes with being on your own, able to stop at will for a photo, to rest or… to relief yourself (yes, I said it …).

I have done some great drives and I thought I’d start a short series on these drives and, hopefully, hear back from you on your own favorite drives along the way.

Today, I share my drive to/from Maastricht, The Netherlands and Frankfurt, Germany over a dozen years ago.  I was in Frankfurt for business for a few weeks and decided to visit a college friend who was an ex-pat in Maastricht.  I rented my car in Frankfurt and made my way, in about 3 hrs, to Maastricht on the famous autobahn.  The autobahn between some cities in Germany fails to meet the wild expectations we have in the U.S. about fast speeds as there is too much vehicular traffic on some of the routes.  But some parts of the route I took where free and clear just for me.  That and along the Mercedes-Benz upgrade they gave me were the perfect pairing for a FUN drive.  On the outbound leg of the trip, I drove northwest towards Bonn and Cologne (Köln) on the A3 and then west on the A4 past Aachen straight into Maastricht.  I wish I had had time to explore Aachen, having been a residence of Charlemagne and where many Holy Roman Emperors were crowned back in the day.  For that matter also Cologne and Bonn.  So much too see and so little time…

Maastricht, Frankfurt, drive, map, A3, A4, autobahn, Germany, travel

The outbound route I took

On the way back I took a different route based on my friend’s suggestion as the landscape would be much more rewarding.  It was indeed!  I don’t recall the details of the route (which cut at some point across the incredible Mosel River) but maybe someone will recognize some of the locales from the photos and let me know more precisely where I went through!

Germany, drive, church, mountain, river, photo, Canon EOS Rebel, Germany, drive, mountain, river, photo, Canon EOS Rebel, Germany, drive, mountain, river, photo, Canon EOS Rebel,

I highly recommend taking the “road less traveled”.  In this case, not the A3!   Western Germany, near the border with Luxembourg and France, is simply a beautiful place to visit, explore and drive.  Get lost, take your time, and sample this area!

 

%d bloggers like this: