Jdomb's Travels http://jdombstravels.com Adventure Travel With a Glass of Wine Wed, 23 Jul 2014 15:13:14 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 The Art of Gnocchi Making (And Recipe) http://jdombstravels.com/castelfalfi-rosso-toscano-cooking-school/ http://jdombstravels.com/castelfalfi-rosso-toscano-cooking-school/#comments Wed, 23 Jul 2014 15:13:14 +0000 http://jdombstravels.com/?p=56195 Jdomb's Travels

It’s practically a crime. I’ve lived in Italy for five years and had never taken an Italian pasta making class. The wonderful team at Castelfali, a Medieval Tuscan town that had fallen into neglect and was recently restored into a 2,700 acre resort, thought so too. They promptly invited me to attend their Castelfalfi Rosso …

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It’s practically a crime. I’ve lived in Italy for five years and had never taken an Italian pasta making class. The wonderful team at Castelfali, a Medieval Tuscan town that had fallen into neglect and was recently restored into a 2,700 acre resort, thought so too. They promptly invited me to attend their Castelfalfi Rosso Toscano Cooking School and experience all that the new Tuscan resort has to offer.

Castelfalfi Rosso Toscano Cooking School

Chef Michele Rinaldi mashes potatoes for gnocchi

At Castelfafli Rosso Toscano Cooking School, you won’t learn to cook with just any Italian. The cooking school and La Rocca castle restaurant are under the leadership of Michele Rinaldi, a young chef from Bergamo who earned his first Michelin star in 2011, at just 27 years old. Chef Rinaldi himself taught me how to make gnocchi, so theoretically I should now be able to whip up a home made gnocchi of Michelin-starred standards. I have yet to try to the recipe at home, but it was surprisingly easy and not too time consuming that I am going to give home made gnocchi a try.

The recipes at Castelfalfi Rosso Toscano Cooking School vary depending on what is in season and what you are most interested in making. Class offerings include everything from traditional Tuscan recipes to sweet Italian cakes and desserts. Gnocchi was a perfect choice because it is the most typical type of pasta served in the Friuli Venezia Giulia, the region where I live.

We started by peeling potatoes and getting them in to boiling water because they need to cook until soft. While the potatoes boiled, we made a beef and mushroom sauce for our gnocchi.

Beef and Mushroom Sauce
Straccetti is a typical northern Italian type of sauce with beef that goes over pasta. Use this sauce for potato gnocchi.
Servings Prep Time
8portions 15minutes
Cook Time
1hour
Servings Prep Time
8portions 15minutes
Cook Time
1hour
Beef and Mushroom Sauce
Straccetti is a typical northern Italian type of sauce with beef that goes over pasta. Use this sauce for potato gnocchi.
Servings Prep Time
8portions 15minutes
Cook Time
1hour
Servings Prep Time
8portions 15minutes
Cook Time
1hour
Ingredients
Servings: portions
Instructions
  1. Braise the onion in a little bit of olive oil.
  2. Saute the strips of flank steak and then add them to the onion.
  3. Add red wine and simmer until evaporated, then deglaze the pan with some veal broth.
  4. Saute the mushrooms and set aside.
  5. Simmer the sauce gently for 30 minutes and then add the mushrooms. Simmer for 30 minutes more, for a total of 1 hour.

While the beef and mushroom sauce simmered, we made the gnocchi. It was quite easy to made and has just a few ingredients. Chef Rinaldi schooled us with his chopping up of the dough in to nearly uniform sized gnocchi.

Potato Gnocchi
Gnocchi are soft pasta made from potato, flour, egg, and cheese.
Servings Prep Time
8portions 1hour
Cook Time
2-3minutes
Servings Prep Time
8portions 1hour
Cook Time
2-3minutes
Potato Gnocchi
Gnocchi are soft pasta made from potato, flour, egg, and cheese.
Servings Prep Time
8portions 1hour
Cook Time
2-3minutes
Servings Prep Time
8portions 1hour
Cook Time
2-3minutes
Ingredients
Servings: portions
Instructions
  1. Boil the potatoes until soft. Drain.
  2. Mash potatoes with a potato masher.
  3. Make a well within the mashed potatoes and add the flour, ricotta, eggs, parmesan, salt, and nutmeg.
  4. Knead the dough and roll it out into long strips.
  5. Chop the dough into pieces for the gnocchi, generously dusting the pieces with flour.
  6. Drop the gnocchi into boiling water in small batches. When they float to the surface, remove them and add to the sauce to saute. (See beef and mushroom sauce recipe.)
  7. Grate some Pecorino cheese on the gnocchi and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.

Of course, after your cooking class you get to taste the fruits of your labor. You’ll enjoy the meal – with Castelfalfi’s own wine from their vineyards – on either the terrace overlooking the Tuscan hills or in the castle bistro. Our gnocchi, plus the gnudi and biscotti we made, were delicious. My Italian nonna would have been proud!

Know Before You Go

  • Cooking classes last 3 hours and are followed by lunch with wine.
  • Reservations are required and should be requested at least 4 days in advance. Reservations can be made by emailing info@castelfalfi.it or calling +39 0571 891000
  • Castelfalfi is easily reached from Pisa or Florence by car.

Disclosure: I was a guest of Castelfalfi in order to bring you this story. As always, all opinions are entirely my own.

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Drivers…and Jennifer…Start Your Engines! http://jdombstravels.com/richard-petty-driving-experience/ http://jdombstravels.com/richard-petty-driving-experience/#comments Mon, 21 Jul 2014 14:01:12 +0000 http://jdombstravels.com/?p=56105 Jdomb's Travels

I’m not a NASCAR fan. Truthfully, I’ve only been to one NASCAR race and that was because Tim got free tickets for volunteering at Phoenix International Raceway. And anything else I know about NASCAR is based on (a probably not very accurate) Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. But I like fast cars and …

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I’m not a NASCAR fan. Truthfully, I’ve only been to one NASCAR race and that was because Tim got free tickets for volunteering at Phoenix International Raceway. And anything else I know about NASCAR is based on (a probably not very accurate) Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. But I like fast cars and really, who wouldn’t want to drive a NASCAR if they had the chance? The Richard Petty Driving Experience lets you do that just: the team puts you behind the wheel of a NASCAR with a right seat ride along instructor helping you rumble around your favorite track every step of the way.

Richard Petty Driving Experience at Daytona International SpeedwayWhere else better to drive a NASCAR than at Daytona International Speedway, home to the Daytona 500 which is the most prestigious race in NASCAR. Though if you can’t make it to Daytona, you can still get behind the wheel of a NASCAR at more than 20 different tracks across the US.

Richard Petty Driving Experience

Robert is smiling now…but will he still be smiling after I’ve raced?

My poor instructor, Robert, had to deal with me behind the wheel. While I had an easier time sliding in through the window in true NASCAR driver fashion than the men revved up about their Richard Petty Driving Experience, I was shaking like a leaf. I was so nervous that I was going to look like a fool, be slower and more cautious than everyone else, or worse yet get in an accident. To top it all off, the Travel Channel was there with a crew filming Anthony Melchiorri drive for an upcoming episode of Hotel Impossible. I definitely couldn’t be the that travel blogger who crashed on the Travel Channel. Robert sensed my nerves right away like the pro that he is and eased my worries.

In case you were wondering, only about 10% of Richard Petty Driving Experience drivers are women. And like Michael J. Fox when he raced, I needed padding behind my back in order to be able to reach the pedals. I felt like i was following in Danica Patrick’s footsteps. She was the first woman to ever have her name up on the famous “Pole” at Daytona and now my name was hanging up there. Mocking James Franco’s sexism faux pas, our Grand Marshal yelled over the mic “Drivers…and Jennifer…Start Your Engines!”

It only took a lap or two and I had the feel of both the track and the car. It’s challenging because the car is designed to pull to the left and if you don’t pull to the right, you find yourself drifting. Daytona also has the third steepest banking in NASCAR at 31° (the banking is so steep that the paving equipment had to be anchored to bulldozers which were anchored to the top of the banking just so they could pave it without rolling down the incline!) Rookie drivers like me want to stay in the middle so you don’t go too high and flip or go too low and flip. Probably much the narrow roads of Italy that it took me a while to get used to driving, the track was much wider than it felt when I was flying around Daytona International Speedway between 130 – 140 MPH.

Richard Petty Driving Experience “Let’s give it some more gas,” Robert would encourage me and I’d press down to go just a little quicker. He patiently coached me the entire way guiding me with when to turn, when to accelerate, and when I needed to adjust to the left or right. Though I definitely wouldn’t be beating Colin Braun’s record lap at 0:40.364, my fastest lap was a respectable 1:12.12 at a top speed of 135 MPH (217 KPH).

When it was time for my checkered flag and I finally coasted my race car to the white line I started from, I felt great. The nerves were long gone, left somewhere around lap 3 or 4, and I was ready to take on another 8 laps. I felt like I could jump back in and top my fastest lap. But that will have to wait for the next time I get behind the wheel of a NASCAR.

Want to see how I really did? Check out this video recorded by the folks at Richard Petty Driving Experience to see me behind the wheel.

Know Before You Go

  • Richard Petty Driving Experience offers both ride along and drive experiences. The Rookie Experience is $449 – $549 depending on the track.
  • You’ll have a better racing experience if you can drive stick shift, though push starts are available for those not experienced with stick shifts.
  • Closed in shoes and socks are required. Race suits, helmets, and safety pieces are provided. If you’re racing in summer, I recommend wearing cool, comfortable clothes underneath your race suit. Shorts are allowed.
  • Photos and your video are available for purchase. There is also a special seating area for friends or family to watch you race and they can bring both cameras and video recorders. Drivers cannot bring video or cameras in to the cars for safety reasons.

Disclosure: I was a guest of Richard Petty Driving Experience and all photos and videos were provided in order to bring you this story. As always, all opinions about the racing experience are entirely my own.

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You Know You Love Me – XOXO, The Empire Hotel http://jdombstravels.com/the-empire-hotel/ http://jdombstravels.com/the-empire-hotel/#comments Wed, 16 Jul 2014 14:36:29 +0000 http://jdombstravels.com/?p=56041 Jdomb's Travels

I’ll admit it – I’m a Gossip Girl fan. When Sex and the City ended, I was aching for something to replace it. Gossip Girl had many of the same elements: fashion and New York City as characters themselves. And “The Empire Hotel”, Chuck Bass’ hotel and Upper West Side home, played its own role. …

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The Empire Hotel

Many Gossip Girl scenes and the opening party in Sex and the City 2 were filmed here

I’ll admit it – I’m a Gossip Girl fan. When Sex and the City ended, I was aching for something to replace it. Gossip Girl had many of the same elements: fashion and New York City as characters themselves. And “The Empire Hotel”, Chuck Bass’ hotel and Upper West Side home, played its own role. The chic neon sign was a regular and the gold and black lobby the scene of many parties in the series. Though Chuck’s suite only exists on a TV set somewhere, The Empire Hotel is a very real NYC icon.

Both Gossip Girl and Sex and the City have served as my guides to the city with where to see and be seen. Like Carrie Bradshaw, I even tried the flying trapeze for a story. So I was excited to stay at the Empire Hotel, one of New York City’s oldest hotels on my latest visit to the Big Apple.

The Empire Hotel

Photo courtesy of The Empire Hotel

The History

The Empire Hotel is truly a New York City icon. Originally just seven stories, the building was first erected in 1889. Herbert DuPuy purchased the building and tore it down to replace it with a fifteen story building and in December 1923 The Empire Hotel opened. It was topped with its red neon sign reading “Hotel Empire”, which still stands on its rooftop today. The hotel was completely untouched and left in its original state until a refurbishment in 2007.

Location

Though first impressions make it feel like The Empire Hotel should be located in the trendy Meatpacking District instead of Lincoln Center, New York’s Fashion Week designers like Rachel Zoe (who’s hosted her Fashion Week runway show at the hotel) and Gossip Girl have changed that perception. On 63rd at West Broadway, the hotel is an excellent location that is still close to tourist attractions yet away from the Mid-town crowds. I easily walked from the Theater District back to The Empire Hotel is just 20 minutes and it is only one block from Central Park. I’ve stayed all around Manhattan and this was my favorite hotel location yet.

The Empire Hotel pool

Photo courtesy of The Empire Hotel

Amenities

The hotel’s draw is definitely its design. Stepping in to the lobby is like stepping in to a swank 1920′s style jazz club all done up in gold, black, and plush fabrics. Soft lighting and music from the lobby bar set a sexy mood.

The 12th floor is home to another swanky rooftop bar and lounge with a fireplace and a retractable roof so that the party can keep pumping even in the rain. The views over Lincoln Center and Central Park are spectacular and the sleek bar offers up signature cocktails.

Guests won’t have to impersonate someone as Samantha impersonated Annabelle Bronstein when she found her lost pool pass to the Soho House in Sex and the City. There’s a plunge pool perfect for lounging around on a hot NYC summer day on the hotel’s 13th floor. There’s a pool deck menu with both food and drinks so that you don’t even have to steal away from the rooftop pool for a bite to eat. The pool is open seasonally from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

Other amenities include a gym, though the location is excellent for a run in Central Park on a nice day. You can even bring your posh pets because The Empire Hotel is dog friendly.

Ed's Chowder House

Clam chowder, spicy mussels, and strawberry shortcake

Ed’s Chowder House

The Empire Hotel is home to Ed’s Chowder House, which is like having a little bit of the Hamptons right in Manhattan. There’s a chowder bar that serves up lobster rolls, chowders (of course), steamers, and the like. Or make a reservation of the sea shack chic dining room for a selection of the day’s fish, lobster, and other shellfish. There is also a raw bar serving up a selection of oysters, because what sea shack wouldn’t? Try the pre fixe dinner menu with a starter, main, and dessert for $42.

Stand room at The Empire Hotel

Standard queen rooms are around $299 per night

Rooms

The rooms were perhaps my only dislike about the hotel. They standard rooms are small, even by NYC standards. But I kept in mind the age of the hotel and with a desk, a king size bed, and a wardrobe to stow away my luggage there was plenty of room to move about comfortably. The bathroom is tiny, though the large rain shower made up for the lack of space a bit. And there was an outlet in the bathroom, which is something that drives me nuts when there is not. How’s a girl supposed to blow dry her hair without an outlet in the bathroom?

Overall, the my room was looking a bit worn but The Empire Hotel has a floor-by-floor renovation planned to start later this year. For the location and price, which I think is definitely reasonable for NYC, I’d certainly stay at The Empire Hotel again.

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Doing Barrel Rolls in a Bi-Plane Over Hoover Dam http://jdombstravels.com/sky-combat-ace-hoover-dam-tour/ http://jdombstravels.com/sky-combat-ace-hoover-dam-tour/#comments Fri, 11 Jul 2014 11:51:23 +0000 http://jdombstravels.com/?p=55999 Jdomb's Travels

I’ve seen Hoover Dam a hundred times. We made the drive out there and did the Dam Tour with every visitor we had over the course of the five years that we lived in Las Vegas. But I’ve never seen Hoover Dam like this – upside down while strapped in to the open cockpit of …

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I’ve seen Hoover Dam a hundred times. We made the drive out there and did the Dam Tour with every visitor we had over the course of the five years that we lived in Las Vegas. But I’ve never seen Hoover Dam like this – upside down while strapped in to the open cockpit of a bright yellow Waco Classic bi-plane. I’m flying with Sky Combat Ace, a company that offers extreme aerial adventures over the Las Vegas desert, and it is AWESOME!

Sky Combat Ace Waco Classic

“Tex” and “Bubbles” are bad ass

Richard “Tex” Coe, expert aerobatic pilot and owner of Sky Combat Ace, is a former Air Force fighter pilot. He was even stationed at Aviano Air Base in Italy, where Tim is stationed now. Part of his job was a pilot for incentive flights, a program the US Air Force has to offer individuals who show exceptional performance in their duties, a flight in an F-16 fighter jet as a reward for a job well done. Tex saw how these guys would be on a high for hours after their flight and when he separated from the military, he wanted everyone to be able to experience that thrill. Sky Combat Ace was born.

Sky Combat Ace

Ready to go!

Sky Combat Ace does have Extra 330LCs, which are essentially a lighter version of an F-16, but Tim would have killed me if I went dog fighting before he ever did. (Hello Air Force, the man deserves an incentive flight already!) So I chose to have a different thrill ride in Sky Combat Ace’s Waco YMF-5C Classic. It’s an open cockpit bi-plane that was built in 2001, but modeled after the same design as the 1938 original. I’m more of an Amelia Earhart than a fighter pilot anyway.

The experience begins with a safety briefing that covers all the scenarios that could happen. It’s geared toward the dog fighting experience, but is entertaining with some video clips of how previous customers have reacted to the g-force. Apparently 9 gs is enough to make the average person without fighter pilot training pass out! But not to worry, Sky Combat Ace has an impressive 100% safety record thanks to the top-notch expert pilots with you every step. The briefing wraps up with selecting your callsign. I let the group of guys doing the dog fighting as a bachelor party pick my callsign and I ended up with the cutesy “Bubbles”.

Sky Combat Ace

Taking off from Henderson Executive airport

Ever had the thrill of the wind whipping through your hair while cruising in a convertible? Well, imagine the thrill of flying around in a convertible airplane. We were soon flying over Boulder City, the historic city that came to be during the construction of Hoover Dam. As we flew, Tex gave me a little tour pointing out the expansion of the Las Vegas valley over the last couple of year.

Hoover Dam

Amazing view flying over Hoover Dam

But the real highlight is seeing Hoover Dam in the most awesome way possible. We circled the dam and then we did loops, in which you are completely inverted at the top of the loop, and barrel rolls. Bet you didn’t think that cute little yellow plane could do that, did you?

The guys from the bachelor party were still there when I got back from my aerials stunts over Hoover Dam and they couldn’t believe that the Waco Classic could do loops and barrel rolls either. I got a bunch of high-fives and secretly patted myself on the back that I didn’t lose my breakfast. Heck, I’m still raving about what an awesome experience Sky Combat Ace was. This is a MUST do on your next trip to Las Vegas.

Know Before You Go

  • The Waco Hoover Dam Tour is $499 per person with aerobatics. Video and photos are available for purchase from your experience.
  • The Top Gun Experience is $599 per person. Video and photos are available for purchase from your experience.
  • Complimentary transportation is available.
  • Have a light breakfast and drink a lot of water before your flight. You can also take a Dramamine if you’re concerned about getting sick.
  • If flying in summer when even early morning temperatures can be scorching, dress comfortably in light clothing to keep as cool as possible.

Disclosure: I was a guest of Sky Combat Ace and photos and videos were provided in order to bring you this story. As always, all opinions and rave reviews are entirely my own. This is seriously an awesome experience you must do!

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A Slice of New York at Pizza a Casa http://jdombstravels.com/pizza-a-casa-pizza-school/ http://jdombstravels.com/pizza-a-casa-pizza-school/#comments Tue, 08 Jul 2014 14:29:17 +0000 http://jdombstravels.com/?p=55963 Jdomb's Travels

Visit the Empire State Building? Been there. Stroll through Central Park? Done that. If you’re looking for something different to do on your next visit to New York City, the head to Pizza a Casa Pizza School in Lower Manhattan. There’s nothing like a New York slice (it’s a NYC food icon, after all!) and …

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Visit the Empire State Building? Been there. Stroll through Central Park? Done that. If you’re looking for something different to do on your next visit to New York City, the head to Pizza a Casa Pizza School in Lower Manhattan. There’s nothing like a New York slice (it’s a NYC food icon, after all!) and self professed pizza nerd and owner Mark Bello will passionately teach you how to make your very own at home.

Pizza a Casa Pizza School

Pizza a Casa literally translates to “pizza at home”

Mark and his wife Jenny, operate Pizza a Casa Pizza School from a cozy store front on Grand Street, just a few blocks from Little Italy and some of my favorite NYC foodie stops. The shop itself is fantastic with pizza icons covering the checkered red and white wallpaper and exposed brick walls. The front of the shop sells a variety of pizza making tools from stones to Mark’s favorite pizza cutter, which is dangerous for a kitchen gadget addict like me.

Measuring the ingredients for dough at Pizza a Casa Pizza School

Measuring out the ingredients for dough with a kitchen scale

Measuring the ingredients for dough at Pizza a Casa Pizza SchoolBefore long I left ogling the pizza making tools behind and got down to the business of pizza making. We started from scratch and made our own dough by mixing flour, water, yeast, and a bit of sugar. Though the classes are kept to small groups, if you’re short like me you might not always have the best view. Mark thought of that though, and his cameras help everyone to easily see his technique as he instructs on the tv monitor. Smart!

He’s also got some videos he plays (and which are included in the DIY Pizza Pie iPad app if you want to learn Mark’s recipes and can’t make it to NYC for a in-person class) and that helps him to make the rounds to check on his pizza making students.

Making dough at Pizza a Casa Pizza SchoolAfter the dough rises, we gently peel it out of the container and quarter it. Each student makes four pizzas and you’ll definitely have some left to take back to your hotel with you (it makes an excellent late night snack!). Now it’s time for soft bongos, Mark’s special anybody-can-roll-out-pizza-dough technique. “People are usually most worried about putting a hole in their pizza dough,” Mark tells me. Not to worry. If a hole happens, just stretch the dough over it and press down to fix it.

We mix up a surprising simple, yet delicious Secret Sauce that takes just 60 seconds to make. Met with a few raised eyebrows, Marks proves it by setting a timer as he mixes up the sauce. I’d tell you what’s in this 60-Second Secret Sauce, but then I’d have to kill you. Just kidding – the sauce recipe is also in the DIY Pizza Pie app and in the recipe and instruction booklet every student takes home.

Margherita pizza at Pizza a Casa Pizza School

My margherita pizza comes out perfect

As I pick out my toppings from the topping bar, Mark reminds us that less is more. Heaping on toppings just makes the dough, well doughy when it comes out of the oven. We start out with a margherita with fresh Alleva Dairy mozzarella, 60-Second Secret Sauce, fresh basil, and a drizzle of some extra virgin olive oil. I use the wooden pizza peel to put my pizza on the stone and in just about 7 minutes, my pizza is ready.

The awesome thing is Pizza a Casa’s ovens aren’t a special pizza oven no one can actually afford at home; it’s your average oven that you can pick out from any appliance store. “I chose a regular oven because it gives people confidence that they can really take these recipes and make a perfect, piping-hot pizza at home,” Mark explains to me.

A New York slice at Pizza a Casa Pizza School

A New York slice

Of course I had to also make the New York slice with mozzarella, 60-Second Secret Sauce, pecorino cheese and their homemade sausage (recipe also included in your take home recipe booklet). The margherita was delicious, but the New York slice was my favorite.

Know Before You Go

  • Pizza a Casa Pizza School offers a hands-on class, couples class, and private events. Check their calendar for availability. Classes last 4 hours.
  • The hands-on class is $165 per person and the couples class is $295 for two people (spouse, partner, or even your BFF welcome).

We were guests of Pizza a Casa Pizza School in order to bring you this story. As always, all opinions about the course itself and delicious pizza are entirely our own.

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The Adventurer’s Guide to Gothenburg http://jdombstravels.com/adventurers-guide-to-gothenburg/ http://jdombstravels.com/adventurers-guide-to-gothenburg/#comments Sun, 06 Jul 2014 15:38:29 +0000 http://jdombstravels.com/?p=55890 Jdomb's Travels

Gothenburg is home to a buzzing cafe culture, world class restaurants, and all the museums that New York, London or Paris could hold for a culture seeker looking to quench their thirst . But Sweden’s second largest city also boasts an enviable list of urban adventures to be had, from a vintage roller coaster to …

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Gothenburg is home to a buzzing cafe culture, world class restaurants, and all the museums that New York, London or Paris could hold for a culture seeker looking to quench their thirst . But Sweden’s second largest city also boasts an enviable list of urban adventures to be had, from a vintage roller coaster to canals perfect for exploring by kayak. This often overlooked city break destination is perfect for an urban adventurer looking for an active day followed by an evening at Gothenburg’s trendiest restaurants and a luxe hotel to call home during your holiday.

Things To Do

Kayaking in Gothenburg1. Kayak Gothenburg’s Canals

Gothenburg was once surrounded by a moat and a seven meter tall defensive wall. These days nothing of the wall remains, but the moat still surrounds the old city. One of the most unique ways to take in Gothenburg’s architecture and green spaces is from the water. Head to Point65 for a guided kayak tour of the city. You’ll appreciate the slight spray from other boats in the harbor as the summer sun shines overhead. Then it’s a totally different world as you glide into the quiet canals.

2 hour guided city canals kayak is 199kr per person at Point65. Multi-person kayaks are available for 2 – 4 people.

2. Segway Around the City

Gothenburg is easily enjoyed traversed on foot. But add two wheels and the ability to zip along up to 20 kilometers per hour, and now touring the city’s sights is an adventure. Put the pedal to the metal – er, lean forward to go faster – and cruise along the river and through the old town. There are stops for photo ops and you’ll probably be photo worthy yourself as you speed by tourists and locals.

A 1 hour guided city segway tour is 395kr per person at Segway Adventures.

Universeum 3. Get Scientific at Scandinavia’s Largest Science Center

Universeum is 9000 square meters of fun. With a tropical rainforest where you can spot monkeys and toucans that roam free, a huge aquarium with sharks and rays, and an interactive science center where you can have a brain scan or see what it feels like to defy gravity, there is truly something to entertain the young or young at heart.

Universeum Science Center is open daily from 10am – 6pm. Admission is included with your Gothenburg City Card or is 230kr per person.

Gothenburg Haga neighborhood

The Haga neighborhood

4. Haga

Haga is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Gothenburg and its charm makes it easy to see why both locals and tourists gather in the pedestrian street Haga Nygata. Well-preserved wooden houses still dot the neighborhood, which is filled with vintage stores, design shops, and cafes perfect for a fika (Swedish for coffee break).

Stryro Island

Stryso Island

5. Bike the Islands in the Gothenburg Archipelago

Easily reached by public transportation in just an hour’s time from the city, you can head out to the islands and an entirely different world. In just 13 minutes by ferry, you can arrive on quiet and car-free Stryso. Stop by Pensionat Stryso Skaret to rent a bicycle from the friendly owner Ola. The island is easily biked from end-to-end and there are plenty of photo worthy places to stop and snap a photo. You might even see some of the tiny island’s many deer.

Pensionat Stryso Skaret is open year round and is also a quaint place to stay overnight or for a few days on Stryso Island.

Volvo Museum6. Tour the Volvo Museum

The Volvo brand was born in Sweden and one of Volvo’s factories still resides in Gothenburg today. For car enthusiasts, and definitely for Volvo Overseas Delivery customers, the Volvo Museum is a must see. The museum helps visitors time travel through Volvo’s 90 year history with everything from the classics to race cars. Don’t miss the Volvo Ocean Race exhibit, which will surely be of interest to thrill seekers with video clips of the sailors that defy death during the annual race around the world.

The Volvo Museum is open Monday – Friday from 10am – 5pm and Saturday – Sunday from 11am – 5pm. Closed June 20 and 21. Admission is 60 SEK for adults and 25 SEK for children or 120 SEK for a family ticket. Admission is free to Volvo Overseas Delivery customers.

7. Ride the Best Wooden Roller Coaster in the World

The Balder at has been voted and won the title of Best Wooden Tracked Roller Coaster in the World. When it debuted at Liseberg Amusement Park in 2003, it featured the world’s steepest drop on a wooden roller coaster at 70 degrees. It is a prefabricated wooden roller coaster with the pieces snapped together like building something out of Legos, giving riders the thrill of a wooden roller coaster but a ride nearly as smooth as a steel one.

Liseberg is open late April – early October. Admission is 415kr per person for the all-in-one pass.

Gothenburg Styr & Ställ rental bikes

Styr & Ställ rental bikes

8. Cycle Around the City

With 60 stations and 1000 bikes, it’s easy to find a Styr & Ställ bike to explore Gothenburg at your leisure. The first 30 minutes of use is free on every bike, no matter how many bikes you use in a day. Grab a bike and use the cycle lanes to explore Gothenburg from the port to the parks and everything in between. Pop in to one of the many bakeries and pack the basket with a picnic, perfect for enjoying while dangling your feet over the canal.

The first 30 minutes of use is free on every bike. The second half hour costs 10 SEK, the third costs 20 SEK and then it costs 40 SEK per half hour or a 3-Day Pass costs 25 SEK.

Where To Eat

Bhoga Gothenburg

The 4-course menu included scallops, sweet breads, spring chicken, and dessert

1. Bhoga

Michelin-starred Bhoga feels like being invited into someone’s home. With just a dozen tables and one communal high top, it feels more like friends socializing in a trendy dining room than it feels like you’re at a restaurant. Chefs Niclas and Gustav design their Scandinavian food to be simple and with clean lines, much like the modern and clean lines of the decor. What’s particularly interesting about the menu is that all dishes are priced the same, taking price point out of the equation. Of course, if you still can’t decide what to choose, there is a 4-course tasting menu that changes weekly.

Bhoga is open Tuesday – Saturday from 6pm. Reservations required.

Restaurang Kungstorget Gothenburg

Pickled salmon with dill cream at Restaurang Kungstorget

2. Restaurang Kungstorget

Located right in the heart of the city, Restaurang Kungstorget translates to Restaurant Royal Square. The plush velvet chairs, rich purples and golds, and foot traffic practically drooling over your food certainly make you feel royal, but the Swedish home style cooking brings it all back down to earth. Restaurang Kungstorget is a perfect spot to stop for lunch between the many urban adventures sure to work up an appetite.

Restaurang Kungstorget is open Monday – Saturday from 11:30am. Reservations recommended.

Cuckoo's Nest Gothenburg

Cuckoo’s Nest

3. Cuckoo’s Nest

Gothenburg’s old shipyard is now home to the Lindholmen Science Park and the very hip restaurant Cuckoo’s Nest. We loved the vibe with scientific equations scrawled across the glass, a plane flying overhead, and apothecary tables. The chef whips up experimental creations like an elegant baked salmon with wasabi or more casual bites such as the chipotle burger. And the menu is all organized scientifically, like a periodic table of elements. It’s definitely a fun and quirky atmosphere!

Cuckoo’s Nest is open for lunch Monday – Friday from 11:30am and for dinner daily from 5pm. Reservations recommended.

Pensionat Stryso Skaret

A delicious smoked fish to start our 3-course dinner at Pensionat Stryso Skaret

4. Pensionat Styrsö Skäret

Dinner with a view is an understatement as the lovely Pensionat Styrso Skaret sits just high enough on a hill for a beautiful view looking out into the archipelago. Run by husband and wife team Ylva and Ola, the atmosphere is as relaxing as it is friendly. They have a garden where the chef picks herbs and vegetables and the freshest fish from local fisherman is served. The menu changes daily depending on the daily catch and what is available at the market. Ylva can recommend wine pairings and just sip and sit back to enjoy the evening.

Pensionat Styrso Skaret’s restaurant is open in the summer. Check their website for times and to make a reservation.

Barabicu Gothenburg

A sampling of Barabicu’s spin on American barbecue

5. Barabicu

If the line winding down the street with people patiently waiting for a table is any indication, Gothenburg’s trendy new bistro Barabicu is the place to be and it is well worth it to book a table during your stay. Barabicu puts a trendy Swedish spin on American barbecue. We had crab tacos, fig and bacon flat bread, a burger, and pork shoulder. Delicious! And you’ve got to go to bar and watch the bartenders, or rather mix masters, strain cocktails. Drinks are serious business at Barabicu.

Barabicu is open for dinner Monday – Saturday from 4pm. Reservations highly recommended.

Radisson Riverside GothenburgWhere To Stay

Even the most adventurous travelers love a luxe place to relax and a sauna to ease those aching muscles after a long day of biking and kayaking. The new 4-star design Radisson Riverside in Gothenburg’s old shipyard is perfect. We loved the custom designed wall paper, funky design elements, and rooftop sauna and hot tub. We had a magnificent view as the sun set and the bustling city was just a few short minutes away on the easily accessible buses or trams. Free wifi and an ample breakfast rounded out our reasons to love this city design hotel.

Gothenburg City Card

We don’t always think city cards are a good deal, but unlike many that only offer you a discount for the city’s attractions the Gothenburg City Card gets you entry into all of Gothenburg’s attractions. Free parking (excellent if you are picking up your Volvo) and unlimited travel on trams, buses and boats (this includes the ferries out to the archipelago) are also included. One to three day passes are available.

 

Win a Trip to Sweden

Disclosure: Our trip was provided by Visit Sweden and Volvo as part of the #WestSweden and #inaVolvo campaign. As always, all opinions about the experiences, restaurants, and accommodations are entirely our own.

 

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In Case of Emergency, In Case You Need It http://jdombstravels.com/ice-in-case-of-emergency-campaign/ http://jdombstravels.com/ice-in-case-of-emergency-campaign/#comments Wed, 02 Jul 2014 15:13:48 +0000 http://jdombstravels.com/?p=55853 Jdomb's Travels

No matter whether traveling or just at home, we hope we’ll never need an “in case of emergency” contact. But things happen and in the last few months following our car accident, we’ve had more and more questions about what to do in such situations when abroad. We’ll bring you a whole post dedicated to …

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ICE Campaign

Our car was totaled

No matter whether traveling or just at home, we hope we’ll never need an “in case of emergency” contact. But things happen and in the last few months following our car accident, we’ve had more and more questions about what to do in such situations when abroad. We’ll bring you a whole post dedicated to driving abroad and tips for what to do when you break down or are in an accident abroad soon, but as Americans head in to one of the busiest road trip weekends in the US I thought I’d share an important tip. Have you heard of the ICE In Case of Emergency campaign?

The ICE campaign, short for in case of emergency, was started by British paramedic Bob Brotchie in 2005 after he’d tended to too many patients with serious injuries or in shock who could not provide details of who the paramedics should contact following their accident. Vodafone, a big mobile carrier throughout Europe, also conducted a study and incredibly findings showed that more than 75% of people carry no details of who they would like telephoned following a serious accident.

Until two months ago when we were in a car accident that left our car totaled and I had to go to the emergency room in an ambulance, I hadn’t thought about carrying in case of emergency contact details either. Luckily, Tim was with me at the time of the accident and was mostly fine. But what if he hadn’t been and I’d be injured more seriously and incoherent?

By entering the acronym ICE – for In Case of Emergency – into your mobile phone’s contact list, paramedics or emergency responders can easily locate the name and number of someone who should be contacted in an emergency. If you have more than one contact name you can use ICE1, ICE2, ICE3, and so on.

The ICE In Case of Emergency campaign is now known around the world and the acronym is effective in many countries where you travel. Even if you aren’t driving, things can still happen no matter whether you’re traveling or at home and it can save you and your family a lot of grief to simply enter your ICE contacts into your mobile phone.

For security purposes, many mobile phone owners now lock their mobiles, requiring a password or pin code to be entered in order to access your device. This hinders the ability of emergency responders to access your ICE phone list entry. You can get around this and many device manufacturers have provided a mechanism to specify some text to be displayed while the mobile is in the locked state. The owner of the phone can specify their “In Case of Emergency” contact and also a “Lost and Found” contact. For iPhone, you can download the ICE Standard app (free) that displays your information on your locked screen. Another free option is to add your ICE information to your wallpaper, which will display when the button is tapped. One important tip: Make sure to place the text somewhere it won’t be obscured by the time, date, slide-to-unlock bar, or any other lock-screen elements. I’d also recommend a back up plan like putting a slip of paper with your ICE contacts in your wallet or handbag just in case your mobile phone dies or is lost.

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Afternoon Tea at the Mandarin Oriental Lobby Lounge http://jdombstravels.com/afternoon-tea-mandarin-oriental-new-york-lobby-lounge/ http://jdombstravels.com/afternoon-tea-mandarin-oriental-new-york-lobby-lounge/#comments Tue, 01 Jul 2014 16:07:23 +0000 http://jdombstravels.com/?p=55833 Jdomb's Travels

While the ritual of afternoon tea is certainly very British, Britain isn’t the only place to enjoy the centuries-old tradition. New York’s luxury hotels know that sipping tea from bone china and nibbling on dainty tea sandwiches is the best relaxing and luxe way to spend an afternoon in the Big Apple. And now place …

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Mandarin Oriental New York Lobby Lounge

There’s not a bad table in the Mandarin Oriental New York Lobby Lounge

While the ritual of afternoon tea is certainly very British, Britain isn’t the only place to enjoy the centuries-old tradition. New York’s luxury hotels know that sipping tea from bone china and nibbling on dainty tea sandwiches is the best relaxing and luxe way to spend an afternoon in the Big Apple. And now place in Manhattan does it better than the Mandarin Oriental New York, with sweeping views over Columbus Circle and Central Park West through the floor-to-ceiling windows in its Lobby Lounge on the 35th floor.

After my last afternoon tea at the luxurious Ritz-Carlton Berlin where a tea sommelier helps you choose your tea with sniffing boxes, I must admit that I was bit disappointed to select from a menu. I’m certainly no tea sommelier, but with as much time as I spend making loose leaf tea at home and sniffing plenty of it at tea shops I chose a tea that was as delicious as I imagined from the description.

Afternoon tea Mandarin Oriental New York

Homemade scones and jam

Soon the first course arrived. A plate a freshly baked scones lightly dusted with powdered sugar were placed in front of me. They were accompanied by a homemade blueberry jam, orange marmalade, and Devonshire cream. I didn’t even open the jar of orange marmalade, which I normally love, because the homemade blueberry jam was to die for.

Tea sandwiches at Mandarin Oriental New York

A selection of tea sandwiches

The tea sandwiches came next and they were like little works of art. There was a pinwheel of pumpernickel with smoked salmon, egg salad on a checkerboard brioche, vegetable and goat cheese terrine, and radish, watercress and cucumber on a brioche. The great thing about the sandwiches is each contains locally sourced and organic ingredients. I love that the Mandarin Oriental New York supports local farmers through the use of the locally sourced ingredients.

Sweets at Mandarin Oriental New York

A tower of sweets

While the scones and tea sandwiches were delicious, the pièce de résistance is the tower – yes, A TOWER, of sweets. I asked my server which was her favorite of the selection so I knew where to start. “The chocolate marquise!” she enthusiastically declared. I’d save that one, along with the chocolate chai macaron for last. My least favorite of the sweet treats was the coconut green tea tartlette, but only because I’m not a huge fan of coconut. And, just in case you were wondering, both the macaron and the chocolate marquise were little bites of chocolate-y heaven.

Pot of tea empty and every last crumb from my tower of sweets devoured, I sadly tore myself away from the fabulous view and said goodbye to the Lobby Lounge. It had been a wonderful and leisurely afternoon tea experience that I highly recommend.

Know Before You Go

  • Afternoon tea is served from 2:30 – 4:30pm daily in the Lobby Lounge on the 35th floor.
  • Reservations are required and afternoon tea is $48 per person.

Disclosure: I was a guest of the Mandarin Oriental New York in order to bring you this story. As always, all opinions are entirely my own.

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Un”wine”ding at the Ritz Carlton Chicago Spa http://jdombstravels.com/vinotherapy-at-the-ritz-carlton-chicago-spa/ http://jdombstravels.com/vinotherapy-at-the-ritz-carlton-chicago-spa/#comments Wed, 25 Jun 2014 14:52:46 +0000 http://jdombstravels.com/?p=55756 Jdomb's Travels

The health benefits of wine are undisputed. Red wine – in moderation, that is – has heart-healthy benefits and doctors say that the antioxidants even help prevent heart disease. The early Europeans were ages ahead in documenting the grape’s health benefits. Greek physician Hippocrates even used wine to treat patients in the 4th century B.C. …

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VéraisonThe health benefits of wine are undisputed. Red wine – in moderation, that is – has heart-healthy benefits and doctors say that the antioxidants even help prevent heart disease. The early Europeans were ages ahead in documenting the grape’s health benefits. Greek physician Hippocrates even used wine to treat patients in the 4th century B.C. But it’s not just drinking wine that is good for you; wine is good for your skin too. Thanks to some cheeky college students that commented on wasting the antioxidants in discarded grape seeds on a tour of the Château Smith Haut Lafitte winery in Bordeaux in 1990, the husband and wife team Mathilde and Bertrand Thomas began to experiment and vinotherapy was born.

Though the word “vinotherapy” might conjure up images of popping the cork on a bottle and sharing it with girlfriends while you dish about man troubles or maybe lounging back with your favorite reality tv show and a glass of jammy, comforting red, vinotherapy is actually a technique used by spa experts that incorporates wine by-products into treatments. Scientific research has proven that grape seeds, skin and stems are rich in phytophenols and resveratrol. Wine by-products are also soothing to the skin and promote anti-inflammation of the skin.

The Ritz Carlton Chicago offers manicure and pedicure vinotherapy treatments and my feet and hands were practically begging me to try these treatments out after a few weeks of kayaking, canoeing, biking, flying trapeze, and race car driving had left me with blisters and calluses. The Ritz Carlton Spa came to my rescue and had me relaxed just minutes after my arrival.

Ritz Carlton Chicago Spa

Ahh, vinotherapy!

With my feet soaking in a wine-infused foot bath, a heated neck wrap soothing my aching muscles after way too many hours of trying to nap on planes, and a glass of bubbly in hand I could have gone to sleep in that chair. My pedicure included the usual: removing my non-chipped polish, trimming and shaping my nails, and pumice-ing off all the ick that comes with tons of walking and active adventures. But beyond that, as I nibbled on chocolate dipped strawberries and sipped my champagne, my technician applied a wine-infused scrub that smelled amazing and followed it with a masque that left my feet and legs ultra soft.

She didn’t even make me get out of my uber comfy chair and move over to the manicure table to do my manicure. I continued to kick back and relax as my nails were filed, my hands and arms massaged, and finally painted. It was two hours of pampering that was quite possibly heaven in a chair.

Crab and corn lollipop at Deca Ritz Carlton Chicago

Crab and corn lollipop with secret house sauce

All polished, my vinotherapy continued as I headed one floor up to the Ritz Carlton Chicago’s roof garden restaurant deca for lunch and, of course, wine. Overlooking the Magnificent Mile, the rooftop terrace was the perfect place to continue a relaxing afternoon following a morning at the spa. High above the bustling shoppers and rowdy World Cup fans viewing the USA game on Millennium Park’s big screen, it was like another world and easy to forget you’re in a busy city like Chicago. In no rush and with nothing else on the calendar (for once!) for the day, we leisurely nibbled on crab and corn lollipops with “secret” dipping sauce. They were like cake pops but made of crab cake instead. These were nicely paired with a rosé wine.

Bratwurst sliders at Deca Ritz Carlton Chicago

I don’t know what “angry mustard” is, but it is delicious on this bratwurst sliders!

For our entrees, I had the bratwurst sliders at our waitress’ suggestion. Great suggestion! The sliders each had a piece of bratwurst sliced in half and were topped with aged Wisconsin cheddar and cucumber kimchi. I was a bit skeptical of the kimchi when ordering, but it was a perfect pairing for the bratwurst and not at all the typical Korean kimchi I was expecting. Delicious! The other thing I had considered ordering was the Wagyu beef burger and my sister-in-law got it. Messy but delicious she described it. The burger is topped with a braised short rib and a big fat onion ring. I took a bite of the short rib and the meat practically melted in my mouth. Both the sliders and the burger were wonderfully complimented by the Valentin Bianchi Malbec.

Trio of ice cream sandwiches and bucket of bonbons at Ritz Carlton Chicago

The whoopie pie & strawberry ice cream sandwich is to die for!

A trio of ice cream sandwiches and a bucket of ice cream bonbons arrived for dessert. Though I loved the presentation of the bonbons – they come in a tiny pail that looks like Oscar the Grouch’s garbage can and have dry ice poured in to make a smoking effect – the ice cream sandwiches were my favorite of the desserts.

Between the vinotherapy treatments at the spa and lunch at deca, it was the perfect way to un”wine”! Book your own vinotherapy treatments at Ritz Carlton Chicago.

Disclosure: Our vinotherapy treatments and lunch at deca were provided by Ritz Carlton Chicago in order to bring you this story. As always, all opinions are entirely our own and were in no way influenced by fabulous wine-infused foot, leg, and hand massages or sinfully delicious food. Okay, well maybe a little!

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Hiking Germany’s Ancient Beech Forests http://jdombstravels.com/ancient-beech-forests-of-germany/ http://jdombstravels.com/ancient-beech-forests-of-germany/#comments Mon, 16 Jun 2014 17:48:56 +0000 http://jdombstravels.com/?p=55635 Jdomb's Travels

When I think of the ancient inhabitants of Europe, I immediately think of Attila the Hun, the Vikings, and the Romans. But before even ancient Rome spread its empire, beech trees covered the continent. Though most of the forests were cut down to make way for Europe’s famous cities like Berlin and Prague, Germany is …

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When I think of the ancient inhabitants of Europe, I immediately think of Attila the Hun, the Vikings, and the Romans. But before even ancient Rome spread its empire, beech trees covered the continent. Though most of the forests were cut down to make way for Europe’s famous cities like Berlin and Prague, Germany is still home to some 4300 hectares of sprawling ancient beech forests. The five Ancient Beech Forests of Germany, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, provide a unique glimpse into the original landscape of Europe.

Ancient Beech Forests of Germany

Grumsin Forest

There are a total of five ancient beech forests of Germany. If you have just a day to explore them like we did, head to the Grumsin Forest in Brandenburg’s Schorfheide-Chorin biosphere reserve. It is just an hour’s drive from Berlin and a diverse mix of sprawling forests and open countryside; the deep valleys and prominent peaks of the Grumsin Forest are a testament to the impact of glaciers in the last ice age. At just 2.3 square miles, it’s easy to wander the various hiking trails and explore the various lakes, bogs, and ponds between the towering trees all in just a day’s time.

Altkunkendorf, Germany

Altkunkendorf, Germany

The church in Altkunkendorf

You can just plug Grumsin into your GPS and it lead us to the forest, but if you want to pick up a map with trails marked head to the Tourist Information Point in Altkunkendorf. Blink and you’ll miss this charming village, but it is worth a stop to pick up information about the area and for a stroll around the town. You’ll also find free parking here and can start your hike or bike ride on the trails from Altkunkendorf.

Ancient Beech Forests of Germany Ancient Beech Forests of Germany Ancient Beech Forests of GermanyThere are plenty of lovely spots with picnic tables to enjoy a picnic lunch you’ve brought along and if it’s warm enough, to take a dip in the various ponds and lakes. You might even find some row boats for rent for a row out into the lakes. The quiet trails offer beautiful spots to just gaze out and soak in some tranquil moments. It’s romantic, really, which is probably why the only others we encountered were couples easily strolling hand-in-hand.

Gut Kerkow Steakhaus

Gut Kerkow Steakhaus

Picnicking isn’t the only option. If you have a more voracious appetite from hiking or cycling the trails, head to Angermunde, a town of around 10,000 set amongst the ancient beech forest. Here the residents live with respect and dedication to protecting the land and agriculture is done in accordance with such. We wandered into Gut Kerkow Steakhaus, which has a fascinating history of its own. It was first mentioned in the 16th century and was lost from its original owners in a game of cards to the Knights of Kerkow. It changed hands throughout history, but became a farm in the 1930s and has been ever since. The cattle are all raised on the farm and grains, vegetables, and more are farmed. It doesn’t get more farm to table than this charming restaurant and inn.

Our day at the Ancient Beech Forests of Germany was definitely a wonderful escape from hustle and bustle of Berlin. These gorgeous and atmospheric landscapes are worth renting a car for the day to see.

UNESCO_Logo-150x150

 

This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. For more info click here.
You can see all the UNESCO World Heritage Sites we’ve visited here.

 

German National Tourist BoardDisclosure: Our UNESCO Natural Sites and Proud Cities trip was hosted by the German National Tourist Board in order to bring you this story. As always, all opinions about the places visited are entirely our own.

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