Şirince

Şirince is a little town near Selcuk known for its wine tastings. The idea is to visit for the day. Maybe do some shopping, maybe try some wine.

Şirince is where I was almost kidnapped. I joke but I was once again in an uncomfortable situation. I agree to a wine tasting at an outdoor bar. I try to be nice and smile. I am told the building is old and there is some old decor upstairs. I agree to go see it. Then it gets uncomfortable. There is no one else up there. The guy wants to sit up there with me and drink wine together. Because I am uncomfortable and don’t want to give him the wrong idea I tell him I want to go back down. I drink my glass of wine on the lovely patio downstairs but quickly because I don’t want to stick around any longer.

Downstairs at the wine Lair

I do not have the knack for tasting. I walk into a tasting room and are given many to taste. I guess I am supposed to walk out at that point because what am I going to do with bottles of wine; I leave for Cappadoccia the next day. But I feel guilty. Even though there is no markings of expectation of purchase for the tasting (that I can read) I feel quilty and awkward. I am talked into buying two bottles after the insurance that the airline will allow them (note: it is a lie). I drink as much as I can while I am still in town…is my first travel hangover coming? The other bottle I secure in my backpack to bring to Cappadoccia. I needed more weight in that backpack like I needed a hole in my head.

Actually loving a Chardonnay and a Merlot, go figure

I meet a Turkish girl and her Swedish Fiancé. They are marvelous. They notice I am alone and converse with me. I end up spending the afternoon chatting with them instead of wandering to more tasting rooms. It is just what I needed when the only interaction I have had in days is the unwanted advances of Turkish waiters. Truth be told I am mostly ok with being alone but I have been lonely. These are what another traveler friend refers to as backgetters (visit her website, it is inspiring). I soak up her knowledge on everything related to Istanbul (I plan to return) and then we wish each other well. I hope I meet more people like this during my travels.

Port tasting in Porto

My visit to Porto has been very pleasing. It is a nice relaxed city and to top it all off Porto has Port.

Port is fortified wine made in Porto but the grapes are actually grown in the Douro Valley (not too far away).

We stopped by some tasting rooms one afternoon. The tasting rooms are actually across the river from Porto in Gaia (you can walk across a bridge or take a water taxi to get there).

I saw a recommendation somewhere for Augusto’s so that was our first stop.

Augusto’s port is not distributed and can only be purchased in the tasting room. It is a small family winery.

We had a tour and a tasting. Money toward the tour can be used toward credit for purchases.

They talked about how Port was made and we got to taste a couple different ones.

Of course they get you just buzzed enough to make bad decisions. We didn’t end up shipping anything home (super expensive) but I did purchase a sampler of different ports. I spent the next few evenings trying to finish them off so I wouldn’t have to take them on to my next destination.

After that we stopped at a newer hip tasting room: loud music and crowded. No tour but it was fun to taste some others.

We might have stopped at one more bar that night to try one more. Maybe. You know, bad decisions :).

A couple days later I was still in Porto on my own so I visited one more winery.

I really enjoyed my Port time in Porto.

View of Porto wineries

The rhine vineyard hike

The Rhine Vineyard Hike

Or what I like to call it, “when Carlos tricked me into hiking 13 kilometers (8 miles), mostly uphill.”
More on that later.
The Rhine Valley is beautiful and known for its romantic boat cruises.
The Rhine river was an important transportation river for trade and whatnot. Seeing the opportunity, many set up castles and villages along the river to “tax” the boats that would pass by. It all seemed a little robber-baron/extortion like; but with out that happening, none of these cute little villages would have been formed around the castles.
Also prominent in the area is vineyards on steep hills. The grapes are used to make the village wines. We decided to dedicate some time to hiking through the vineyards. The forecast for the day was overcast and rainy. We decided to grab our ponchos and go for it.
Preparing for the hike was kind of hard. The maps we saw at the city center weren’t too helpful.

Map example

Most pick a town and do the circular trails from the town. But we wanted to take a trail from town to town and no maps really mapped that out clearly. We decided to google map it out before we left and determine that the next closest village was 4 km away and determined it was a good distance for me. We also dipped into the tourist office before we left to get some not so helpful maps. Finally we stopped at the grocery store for snacks and water. Due to the expected rain I decided to leave my DSLR back at the hotel.

Not really helpful

We had a hard time finding the start of the trail because there was construction going on around the trail head and an odd donkey path sign. We finally found what we were looking for and started up the stone stairs. We ended up going down the path of the trail that is basically part of the town loop to get to where we wanted to go. We could have started left, the slow glide uphill or right, stairs after stairs after stairs. We started right of course. Not on purpose, at least on my part. At least it gave us a great view of the town from this lookout point.

4 km into the hike, close to the next town, we realized the town we were heading to was not on the train route. If we walked to this town then we would have no idea how we would get back to ours (other than walking back the way we came).

At some point we decided the only way was forward to the next town on the train route – 8 more km away.  All while following the handy red wine trail signs and random chicken signs. I also thought I heard dub-step off in the distance. Skip the hike for mid day dance party? I never did really determine where the music was coming from so we just moved on.

It was lonely since not many others took this trail. And we did have some rain. But the light mist was welcome since it wasn’t enough to make things muddy and kept us cool along the way.

The views were beautiful

Pretty steep vineyards. I later find out they have a machine to help with this.

At some point my bladder wasn’t waiting anymore. There wasn’t much area to go “in the bushes” but no one else is around so I went to some brush. The only time we saw some serious hikers (only 3) it was only minutes after I had my bathroom visit. Whew close call!

So basically the up and down and pure distance of it all was more challenging than I was prepared for. I took many breaks and pushed through but times like in the picture below made me upset that we had to keep going down the mountain just to climb back up. The views were really amazing and I am sure I would have been singing a different tune if I was in better shape.

See that road across the way, we just went down it

Just when I thought I could go no more we reached the road that went down into the town Oberwesel. We walked by a couple where the woman was having a meltdown. Did her husband take her on a 12 km hike and her legs gave out? Who knows, I am just surprised it wasn’t me. I am known to have a meltdown or two when I am exhausted. This time I was good, tired, but good. We almost got tricked to hiking longer when we saw trail signs pointing uphill toward a castle. I send my husband to check it out and indeed it was trickery, the trail took us away from the town we were heading.

When in town we wandered around a bit aimlessly looking for a place to get a meal since we couldn’t handle any more walking around for a little while. After some back and forth we settled on a nice meal at the highly rated Historische Weinwirtschaft. It is located in the oldest half-timbered house of Oberwesel. The decor was very old world romantic. I definitely recommend it for a nicer meal if you are in town.

Fried blood sausage and apple slice on mashed potatoes

Pork loin in chanterelle cream sauce and spaetzle

After our meal (and wine) we stumbled back to the train station and took the short train ride back to our town. One would have thought we would just go back to the room and call it a day but it was still totally daylight out. The long days of Germany (5 am sun rise and 10 pm sunset) definitely threw us off. We decided to have a beer at the local Brauhaus.  Kleines Brauhaus is a beer garden in an old carousel. We had just enough energy to try one or two of their beers then go back to the hotel to pass out.

Creepy mannequins in the lobby of the attached theater. You had to pass by these guys for the bathroom.

Links of Interest

In German all the wine routes:
RheinBurgenWeg Touren

The hike we ended up doing:
https://www.outdooractive.com/en/long-distance-hiking/romantic-rhine/rheinburgenweg-11.-etappe-oberwesel–bacharach-nord-sued-/2807779/

Overview of the region

Arriving on the Rhine

After the delays at JFK we arrive in Frankfurt the next day but closer to the afternoon. While the first day is usually jet lag day, I did have hopes on getting in some adventure that day. A train is the way to go from the Frankfurt airport to the town we booked for the next couple days, Bacharach. I had done some train schedule research but due to our delay we missed the train I wanted to catch. Europe is pretty easy to get around but it is never simple the first couple times you try to figure out the trains. After maybe missing one more train, we finally figure out the ticket purchase booth (Hint: It needs a chip card with a PIN number – that excludes my regular credit card since I never get pins for my traditional credit cards).

The pension was going to pick us up at the train station but due to our late arrival I decided it was too much trouble to try to coordinate the pickup. Pension “Im Malerwinkel” wasn’t too far uphill from the train. After a tiny bit of map confusion we found our cute German home for the next couple days.

We took some time to decompress and then decided to go out and get trail information for the next day and get some bottle waters (since we are always of need of water). We soon find out that this cute town has closing hours and they are at 5-6 pm. Pretty much every store, tourist office, and miscellaneous place is closed by that time. No waters for us! We force ourselves into the tourist office just as it was closing and we didn’t find very helpful service. We decide to let the lady leave and try again the next morning. Fortunately our hotel had a honor bar where we could purchase waters, sodas, wines and beers. We took advantage of that amenity during our stay!

Fortunately the restaurants are open past 6, but don’t remain open too late. We decide to do the fancy dinner the first night since you never know how busy and tired the following evenings will be. I picked the fish menu. It started with a trout consommé  soup, followed by a almond crusted trout and finished with a dessert. I was pretty pleased with the first night’s dinner at the Rhein hotel’s Stueber’s Restaurant.

We wandered around the town a bit more because even though it was close to 10 pm and the town was almost a ghost town, it was still so damn light out. Ultimately sleep won against the light and I chose to wind down the night with a view outside our window with a bottle of wine from our hotel honor bar. Time to get a good night’s sleep for some hiking and sightseeing the next day.

Biltmore

During last summer’s trip to Asheville we took a day to explore the Biltmore estate. It was a great way to spend the day and the weather couldn’t have been better (most of the day anyway). I thoroughly enjoyed touring the house; my favorite was touring the server’s quarters and the kitchen area. Sorry no pictures inside were allowed (although I was just about the only one following the rules). The estate area is vast and has magnificent views of the mountain range nearby. While you are there be sure to tour the gardens and greenhouse at your leisure. It was a real treat as well.

After touring the grounds we drove over for our Biltmore winery tour and a free wine tasting. Most of  the wines made there are drinking wines. There weren’t too many that I wanted to purchase but the ones I did were in the $30-50 range!! We did pick up a couple mid-range bottles to take home and I since I wasn’t driving Itreated myself to the Biltmore premium wine tasting :).

 Later on we met up with our friends and had dinner at their local mexican joint Nachos and Beer (yes that is the name). The tacos and side salad I ordered was delicious and a great size for the money. They also have local craft beer on draft. I can see why this is one of their favorite places to take the family.

My friends husband was nice enough to watch the kids for the evening so my friend could come with us to try some local breweries. More about that later……

Tuscany: Florence Day 1

Upon my two prior visits I have always wanted to visit Florence. When I took humanities in college, many of the great works I learned about resided in Florence. It was the center of Renaissance and the beneficiary of many wealthy and talent residents in its past.

We stayed at the Il Ghiro Guest House. It was centrally located and not far from the train station. It wasn’t fancy but it was clean and we had a private bathroom. It only got a bit noisy at times but that is what to expect from hostels. The highlight of our evenings was coming back to our hostel and seeing “gypsies” that we had seen begging earlier in the day with sad eyes. In the evening they had beers and were all smiles.

We started our first day climbing the 414 steps of the campanile (or bell tower) of Florence’s famous Duomo.

From the top we had great views of the Duomo and Baptistry.

Look down the middle….

Also below we saw a parade go by.

And how can I forget these great views of the city.

After the bell tower we wandered around town a bit and stop to look at some statues.

Fountain of Neptune

We happened upon a flag fight.

The best part of the day is when we were there the same time as the Florence Wine Event. We decided to take part.

Carlos demonstrating the proper way to carry around your wine glass. Why don’t they have these bags at wine events in the USA?

And as the day comes to a close we head back to our hostel for a good nights sleep. Ciao!